Help me put a system together for under $1k.

I am trying to come up with a system for around $1k for my son's room. He is of the age where music is really starting to interest him and he loves to discover different types of music. My goals are to put together a system that would sound on the warm side with none of the cheap stereo nasties like sizzling highs and muddy bass. Thin sounding system would be a turn off as well. I would rather sacrifice the bottom and top end response for a better balanced, relaxed and musical system that would play any kind of music and be enjoyable for hours on end of listening. Due to the budget restraint, it would have to be an integrated with bookshelf speakers. CD player and possibly an inexpensive turntable would be nice too as an alternative to using Ipod for playback. I have been eyeballing the Epos ELS3 and Cambridge Azur 640A, am I on the right track so far? Your input would be appreciated!
I think that an NAD integrated would create the sound you are looking for rather than the Cambridge.
On the other hand the Cambridge line has just been updated with new DVD players and upgraded CD players. The discontinued ones can be had cheaper.
Another speaker line to look at is Celestion. THey work well within their low-cost price range. THey do not give you the last word in high frequency resolution or low frequency extension. They are not difficult to listen to for hours though. THeir biggest floorstander retails for $600.

Good luck!
Um, Dad? Don't be a dinosaur. An iPod or equivalent will almost certainly be his primary source--if for no other reason than that downloads are probably the best way for a kid "to discover different types of music." As for the turntable, a decent one will chew up a third of your budget, and really constrain speaker choice as a result. Does he even own any LPs? Has he any real interest in spending his weekends scrounging the used bins? (He's unlikely to be shelling out premium dollars for new vinyl anytime soon.) Does he listen to the radio? If so, you should be thinking receiver, not integrated, despite the audiophile preference for the latter.

In short, I think you're asking the wrong people about this. You should be asking him what he wants, what he's interested in, what his goals are (as if he had any, right?).

And whatever you do, don't pick out his speakers for him. It's his ears, not yours, that matter.
I agree. ask your son. Chances are he knows what he wants and what will work in the life he lives in. The best place to start is with respect.
An Onkyo Ipod dock ($100), and he will have better sound than a budged cd player as long as he uses Apple lossless file system. Then the new Outlaw two channel receiver ($600) that just got a rave review in Stererophile, and has an USB input so your son could stream music straight from his computer. An then look for used NHT SB-3 ($350), and I think you got a system that a teen would be proud to crank up and show off to his friends... but would also sound great.
Good luck,
give him the 1k and let him figure it out. otherwise he learns nothing, and you have the fun. even if he winds up with junk...its HIS junk. the learning experience and decision making are whats important here.
If a straight up, good old-fashioned, two channel stereo is what your son wants, I see in the clasifieds right now a Rega Brio integrated amp for 300, a Rega Planet cd player for 300, and Rega Jura speakers for 400 (no affiliation with any sellers). Would be a great sounding system and the unusual and cool looks might really appeal to a young man.
How old is your son, and is it his desire or yours that the sound characteristics are as you describe? My son is 16 and I constantly amazed and impressed at how into music he is - all sorts of different genres, constantly telling me about new bands he has discovered, etc. But he just listens on his computer. That said, he listens basically every minute he's home and has never once complained about bad or fatiguing sound.

That said, if I was buying a $1K system, I'd keep it simple and buy a Linn Classik and the best used speakers I could find with whatever I had leftover after that purchase. Good tunes in a compact space.

There are quite a few decent performers made by the major mid-fi manufacturers that are definitely worth considering and will give your son not only good sound, but also some advanced connectivity options that more traditional hifi equipment will not.

I started by going to J&R Music's website. For your budget, you can put together quite a system ...

Receiver: Onkyo TX-SR 573 for $300. Nice touches are an XM ready tuner and easy hook-up for iPod.

Speakers: Polk R50 Floorstanders for $250 (reduced from $650)

CD/SACD/DVD player: Onkyo DV-SP502B for $250

Your total at this point is $800

Add a turntable by going to KABUSA's website ...

Turntable: Technics SL-BD 20 complete with PMX-01 preamp and cartridge for $200.

For cables, I would stick with either Radio Shack's mega cables or go to Signal Cable.

A lot of equipment for a grand and it would be new.

Regards, Rich
I have been into HIFI since before my son was born, he is 13 now. He grew up listening to the "good" stuff on my system and watched the component come and go over the years as my system evolved over many years. He knows what a "good" sounding system sounds like and like any other 13 year old would like to have a system of his own in his room which is normal and part of growing up. You know, imitating adults with possessions and things he can call his "own", completely understandable to me. I am dedicating $1k to this project of his first system. He understands that his system is not going to be of the same quality or "high" price as mine but we both also know that you do not necessarily have to spend tons of money to get great sound, just have to put a system together with properly chosen components that have synergy and without the obvious or glaring MID-FI shortcomings. That's why I specifically mentioned the parameters I am trying to accomplish with this system in my initial post, because in the long run, it will be enjoyable to listen to. Again, I am looking for a smooth sounding system without bloated bass, harsh highs or very prominent or "forward" midrange. Giving up a little of the bottom octave and the very top for a smooth sounding system is perfectly acceptable and preferable to both of our tastes in sound. Thanks for your input and keep the suggestions coming!
Maybe this is cheating but an Eastern Electric CD Player with Audio Technica Headphones might be found used in the price range you are describing. 6 moons review.

Unfortunately won't be something he can play for the gang when they come over, but hey - that's what your system is for right? Will give you the sound you are looking for and a good start he can build on later if he likes.

Finding the quality you want under $1000 is gonna be tough IMHO. Not sure I agree the ipos will meet your sound quality requirements.
I'll go with what I know. I picked up a used NAD 320bee int here ($300) last year for my 2nd system, and it should do just as asked: smooth, balanced sound at a reasonable price. A can't miss, IMHO, and should last through the college years.

I added a Sony 9000es sacdplayer at $450, which is a killer player. Does dvd also, which may add to the enjoyment. A Sony 222es would sound great also, and cut the cost while adding a carousel.

Speakers? For me, JM Reynaud Twins do the trick, but they may be a bit refined for a kid, and push the budget over $1K. Were I shopping in the $300 range, I'd be awfully tempted by the Epos, but there's been a lot of good recs on the small Infinity speaks as well. They carry them at Best Buy IIRC, so you could take him there and give them a listen.

TTs, I'd look for a nice used Technics, Pioneer, Denon, etc, and see if he takes to the vinyl. It would also be a useful way too teach setup, etc.

Have fun, and I hope your son appreciates what a great dad he has.
I agree with the posts above saying that dont decide for him, its not a very good start point.You could do a speaker an amplifier list(to reduce the spectrum) and take him to audition. So he can decide by himself. The process will be fun and will let you know what he really wants or needs.
What does your system consist of? If you dont mind.If you and your son do share similar tastes maybe people here could make suggestions of components that share similar characteristics, or even comparable components at a reduced price. its just a thought
Again, I am looking for a smooth sounding system without bloated bass, harsh highs or very prominent or "forward" midrange.

Keep in mind that it's your choice of speakers, more than anything else, that will govern this. You can buy awfully cheap electronics today that entail relatively little sonic compromise, so budget according. As for speakers, to each his own, but be sure to include in your comparisons one or more of the following brands: Energy, Paradigm, PSB, Infinity, JBL. These are all companies with a very particular approach to good sound (and some solid research behind it) that makes a good standard against which to judge the rest of the market, especially in the budget category.

I'll second the Technics turntable recommendation above. It's not high-end by any means (and definitely upgrade the cartridge), but it's a p-mount unit, which means it'll be easy to set up (good for a kid), and it won't trash his LPs--so he'll still have them to listen to when and if he decides to upgrade.

Finally, as the guy who started the "ask your son" trope, let me say that it wasn't my intention to give you a hard time. It's just that we regularly see posts about what to buy/recommend for a "friend," which turns out to be an exercise in foisting one's own hobby/priorities on somebody else. I meant to warn you away from that, though your follow-up post suggests you weren't falling into that trap. My apologies for any suggestion otherwise.
Does he already have a computer?

At work my Apple G5 is connected to a Swan M20L satellite/subwoofer set up that sounds decently good using iTunes as my music source. Swan speakers are known for being "midrange first" in design, so that ultimate extension at both is slightly sacrificed so a full-bodied midrange comes through very nicely. The sound is natural and dynamic. The subwoofer has a built-in amplifier for the sub and has stereo outs that feed the satellites.

At work my friend set up a dedicated computer/music server which can play 63 continuous days of songs through iTunes without repeating a single one. Plus, a computer running iTunes gives your son the ability to explore new music genres via the online iTunes Store.

I bought my Swan sat/sub unit on Ebay for about $170. Used in conjunction with an existing computer or adding an iPod for $300-400 would make for an affordable, musical system that won't have the family running for cover every time 50 Cent starts bumpin' in the Candy Shop.
NAD L 40, JM Labs 705, you know the rest.
A new kit, the Swifty, which I've never heard, might be a good start.

With a precut cabinet kit you'll be well within budget and the Vifa drivers are a proven item as witnessed by how many speaker manafacturers use them.
Wagzel, great suggestion on the drivers/cabinets! Might be a fun project to build speakers together with my son. I don't think they will sound that much worse than the entry level bookshelf speakers we are considering. Timf, my current system consists of Mcintosh 501 monoblocks, MCD201 CD player, Dynaudio speakers and in progress of upgrading/choosing the preamp. The various components that came and went were BAT, various Audio Research gear, Rogue Audio, Cary, Audible Illusions, Mark Levinson, AE DJH, McCormack, Bryston and Martin Logan/Totem/Soliloquy/Proac/Magnepan speakers. I have stopped "fidgeting" around since acquiring the Mcintosh gear, as I find it ultimately to my liking and preference. My family really enjoys the "Mac" sound as well. Trying to duplicate my main system will be difficult but were shooting for "similar sound" on a budget.
I recently purchased the CA 640A for a second system, after having such great success with their 540D DVD player. I was originally going to go with the Audio Refinement Complete integrated after hearing it a few years back in a Complete CD and PSB Stratos Monitor combo (now that was one sweet sounding budget system!). However, during Christmas, Audio Advisor was offering the 640A for under $400 bones, needless to say I pounced:) (just cked it's on sale again for $369) One note to remember, run-in time is a MAJOR consideration for this little amp. I replaced a nice but aging Carver amp/preamp combo and just about drop kicked the bloomin thing out the door after initial impressions. I held off because some amps can be like that, but after about 70 hours or so, it was like listening to a completely different machine. Bottom line...considering the modest investment, I am really quite pleased with it. Happy Hunting...
Far be it from me to make any suggestions on parenting, but when I wanted my first "stereo" ($400 box system when I was 10) my father said that he would match me dollar-for-dollar on any stereo I wanted. I scrimped and saved and did lots of token chores to earn the $200. The stereo sucked but I used it for the next six years or so and enjoyed countless hours of music. In fact my mom still uses it though only one channel works.

I still work my butt off to buy new toys (and pay bills).
Bignerd100, with all due respect, if I wanted that kind of advise, I would be asking for help on not My kid pays his dues with straight A's in school not chores, that's the direction I am pushing him in. There will be plenty of time for him to work his butt off for the rest of his life, hopefully he will be getting paid handsomely through power of higher education. That's what my parents did for me and so shall I do for mine. Now back to topic....
All appologies if my comment was out of line.
Just an anecdote. No criticism intended.

With responses like "give him the 1k and let him figure it out. otherwise he learns nothing" and "I agree. ask your son. Chances are he knows what he wants and what will work in the life he lives in. The best place to start is with respect.", it's no wonder the HIFI dealers are quickly going out of business being replaced by small home theater dealers which in turn are also going out of business. Pretty soon there will be nothing left but BestBuy and Circuit City. If this hobby is to have any chances of survival, it is our duty to teach the youngsters everything we know about HIFI, keep them involved and interested in music both current and of the past. It does not take much effort to go and buy any system off the shelf from local electronics store, but the rewards and memories of picking your own first system with your Dad and then enjoying the great sounding music for years to come are priceless. Don't you guys have any memories of your childhood where your parents actually participated in something that was important to you? Those memories do not fade away!
I think you're on the right track with your original ideas. The 540A integrated would probably be ok too especially as your son will likely be using his system in small rooms for years to come. I'm wondering if he might want a tuner. A lot of young people listen to radio frequently. If so a nice receiver along the lines of the Denon DRA-395 might be a good choice (there is a review in the product reviews you could check). I'd also consider a dvd player for a digital source. Most kids like video and the ability to play concert dvd's might be a welcome feature. A system like a Cambridge/Denon amp/receiver, Epos speakers and say a Pioneer multi-format dvd might be just the ticket and leave some bucks left over to get some starter source material too! Anyway I think your son is a pretty lucky young man and I hope you guys enjoy choosing and playing his new system.
In a 2004 Absolute Sound editorial entitled, "The industry that shoots itself in the foot," Robert Harley put together a musical system that was near your price range. Hope this helps you out.
This is REALLY good thread, Flyski. I was thinking to do the same thing for my son as well. My initial thinking is that as it has pointed already, the key thing is what he uses as source, iPOD & notebook. So everything must start from there. Has any one audtioned the Gini system designed with iPOD in mind with tubes? I have only seen it magazines so far but seems to be encouraging,and the looks are likely to be attractive to some one has a MAC and IPOD. Price?
Henryhk, I suggested something similar to what you did, but I don't think Flyski is open to that option. I think he has his mind made up on using traditional gear. Nothing wrong with that, but it completely ignores the state of modern electronics in today's society and most importantly what his son might want. One thing nice about the Gini is that the maker seems to deal in high end gear. Hopefully, the approach would be nicer than say if Logitech was making it.
Definately go with a Sonographe SA-250, Stereophile class B amp. Can be had for around $550 used and sounds spectacular! Match it with relatively inexpensive Conrad Johnson preamp. Can't go wrong matching Conrad Johnson products, as they offer tremendous synergy together.
I've got kids near that age. They absolutely love my Onix SP-3.It's a very well built, cool looking tubed integrated putting out 38 very punchy and fun watts per channel. You don't get a remote so that might be a deal killer but you can buy a new one for $600. If space is a problem, Paradigm Atoms would be nice and if space is not a constraint, you can find used ADS or something of that caliber for cheap. My kids come right out of the computer to their preamps and on to NHT MOO powered monitors. They love what they have but both would prefer to have an Onix and Zu speakers but Daddy's pockets aren't that deep.
Another important consideration is what he'll be listening to, and whether or not you want to hear it. My boys use headphones much of the time and I am always glad when they do.