Here's a challenge:a class A sound system for less

You may have heard the finest systems in show rooms or in expos or in a friend's house, those system's that cost well over $50,000. So you know the sound I'm talking about...... But can you get this sound for less? Name the system and components that make up a system that brings the sense of you are there experience but cost much less. Let's set the limit to $10,000. Name the components and speakers and cost, even used prices could be used since the components most likely are available here on agon. Let's see who could come up with the best deal.
Toshiba sd9200 (~400used), Polk, or Kenwood XM or Sirius receiver (~200new), with digital out to a ARC DAC 5 (~450used), with XLR output to and Audio Experience Balanced line stage (~1000new) with balanced output to a Forte Model 4A (~600used) to a pair of Martin Logan SL3's (~1500 used) totals about $4150. Add shipping and various cables, and I beleive you come in under $5000. Should sound great, and, there are lots of room and finance possibilities available for other options. Happy Listening
I'm not going to get into recommending a shopping list, but a good strategy would be to plan on what's called "nearfield listening", a fancy term for "sittin' real close", like in studio control rooms (which is where the whole 'studio monitor' thing came from).

You still can't skimp on the front end stuff, or cabling. The better, the better. But you can get really high-end monitors for a great deal less (a lot of speaker cost is in the cabinets!) and of course a high quality integrated amp should get you a really good system.

A side benefit of nearfield listening is that room size (large or small) and acoustics (good or bad) have less impact on what you actually hear at your listening position (BTW, were talking not more than 8 feet away from the speakers +/_)
The Hardway; (Equivalent to Meitner Kharma Lamm)

Lake Contour w/Digital input---$6000 (functions as DAC & X-over)
(2) Audio Refinement Multi 3----($2000)

Cambridge Audio DVD Azur 540D ($400)

Custom Eton 11.2 3 ways with Hiquphon tweeter upgrade ($1600)

The Easy way ($10K, better than your milkshakes :)

Focal SM8's with matching DSP Subwoofer,
Cambridge Audio 640H Music Server (digital out only)

These are shockingly good systems (no not kidding) I know because I own them they both compare very well to my ATC Anniversary 50 /ATC SCA-2 pre and Meridian system which costs 4 times more

I agree with you! If you can keep your system to a nearfield setup, you can build a great sounding system for WAY under $10,000. Heck, I'll bet you can build a great sounding system for under $3000 if you buy used.

I have a nearfield setup using a high quality CD player w/volume control connected to a pair of inexpensive mono-block amps and quality monitor speakers. Personally, I think it sounds better than any $50,000+ system I've heard in a dealers showroom. It is a different sound, but I like it. It is very intimate and it matches my musical taste.

Most expensive systems I've heard in showrooms had bloated midbass that sounded way too fat to me. Now, I'm not saying my "more intimate" presentation perference is right, I'm just sayin "I prefer it".....


most 50k systems don't sound much different than 10k systems. synergy is the thing...not the dollars spent. going used is always helpful to save money on gear and have more to spend on the music.
No you cant, and believe me cuz I had tried. When an audio company introduces a new product into the market, they have priced it accordingly to their overall cost. You wont see the same parts or build quality inside a $1000 component vs. a $5000 unit so naturally they would not sound alike.
And the same thing would apply to cars, clothes, houses, etc...
can you elaborate what your experiance have been with various speakers for near field set up.. is there some pro audio monitors that work well for audiophile taste?..
thanks for replys

I wasn't really referring to studio monitors. I was using the term "monitor" instead of stand-mount or bookshelf speaker.

Currently my speakers are Reference 3A MM DeCapo. They sound very good in my nearfield setup. I've also used many other quality stand-mounts in a nearfield setup and had good results with nearly all of them.


"most 50k systems don't sound much different than 10k systems"

Ummmmmmmmmmmmmm, NOT! If such observations are being made at trade shows, this is hardly a place to make such judgements. And if this is happening at a dealer showroom, it does not say much about that dealer's competence; I'd look for another dealer.

I think Nsgarch is onto something to cut down on the cost of the system and shift the focus to max'ing out the front end. As I have recently learned from a local audiophile friend, sitting nearfield is actually quite a cool experience. You do indeed hear some details that were not so clear before and I have to assume much of this is room interactions.

It can't be done, but...a stunning sounding system at $10,000 used is still very good... if you play your cards right.

Here goes:

Apogee Duetta Signatures.................$2,000
Rogue Audio 150 tubed monos..............$2,500
Audioprism Mantissa tube preamp..........$1,500
Counterpoint Dac 10A, UltraAnalog card...$500
Good transport of your choice............$600

Comes to $7,100....leaves $2,900 for cables and tweaks of your choice.

Well that was easy...oh thats right, I own most of that stuff already!...well no wonder I'm so happy, I'm a hell of a card player.

We seem to have drifted from the original question a bit but in a positive direction. I found the benefits of nearfield listening by accident when we moved into an apartment temporarily. I still have a dedicated listening room but man is it tiny. Speakers are 5.5 ft apart, ears are 6.5 feet from speakers. This sounds wonderful.
My only disagreement with previous posts is the need for monitor speakers. I tried Von Schweikert, Totem and Acoustic Energy. None of these gave me the sound I was hopong for so I got out the trusty Meadowlark Kestrel Hot Rods and am enjoying the sound. Of course if you lolumook at the Kestrels they are a two way monitor on a column.
We're moving into a new home in a few weeks and my wife is wondering why I'm choosing a small room for my system when others are available.
hey thanks to all, I'm here to learn and I welcome the advice and experience of other goners.
AND HEREEEEEEEEEEE 's my system!!!!! tada
Merlin vsm speakers.........$1500. used
Sim audio w-5 amplifier....$2500. used
Sim audio p-5 preamp......$1600. used
E.A.R. phono stage(silver)$ 900. used
Clearaudio satisfy arm.......$ 000.------ won at Home Entertainment
...............................value..$ 500. used------- show in n.y.c.
Grado satin? cartidge........$ 000. gift
value.................................$100 used
vpi TNTI with 5 Motor lead platter(mark I bearing I believe)
........................................$1300. used
For a total of $7900 used of course!!!! not so bad and all my interconnect wires made by me!
I am in heaven,,,, my advice to all -------GO VINYL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Think about your placement constraints. Speaker and listener placement have as much to do with what you hear as the speakers you buy and more to do with imaging and sound stage. Speakers not designed to be placed near a wall will have bloated bass. Placing them on the wall will give your singers chest colds. If you don't have 4 or 5' to the wall behind the speakers you might look at in/on-walls or horns. If you can't sit reasonable close (like 8') you might look at horns or planars that are more directive. You want the same distance behind you. If you can't do that you're going to loose the speakers to the room and might do better with headphones.

Given at least 16x12' where the speakers can be 4' off the front-wall and 2' off the side walls and your chair 5' off the back wall start with Siegfried Linkwitz's Orion package at $7800 - $8400 depending on finish, including the required 8 channels of amplification (with a spare four channels for multi-channel or sub-woofer use) and all cables. Power tools and a soldering iron can be used to knock $4000 off the price tag.

If the Orions aren't to your tastes, you might look at other small makers that don't have the large vendors markups. I read an interview with a prominant designer who lamented that a $8000 MSRP let you use an $80 midrange. Nice midranges that run double that can be had in speakers half that price when you don't have distributors and dealers inflating the selling price to 10X parts cost.

Add an economical remote controller preamp ($500 new from Rotel) and CD player with a user interface (changer or single disk) that suits your tastes. As long as the engineers have done their job (Sony's will have. Some boutique companies put marketting guys in charge of circuit design and fail) the equipment won't make a difference in the sound. What you hear can vary due to expectation biases and placebo effect.

If you have hardwood floors you should invest in a nice rug placed to cover the first floor reflection.

Spend the left over on CDs which suit your tastes.
I agree with Jaybo all the way
I've heard a pretty good array of $$...$$$....$$$$ systems, ie "the $50K" kind you are talking about and was disappointed.
I mean I couldn't wait to exit my friends house/show room.
It was like gawddd aweful. Wouldn't pay half what they are asking.

Here's mine
New Jadis Orch Refer......... $2100
New Cayin 17 cdp ......... $1K(includes ship from china)
New Thor's kit......... $2K(includes ship)
Used Zen interconnects........$300(my $5 rat shaks sounded just as good, so was not necessary)
Thick speaker wire from home Depot ...$20 ($1.00/ft)


Savings of $45K
But I have my eye on a few expensive upgrades in the future...
Amp $3500
Speakers $2800
still under your bloated $50K "system".
Here is a thought onnear field experience. Why not just sit in your car with a nice stereo system?
Some are actually quite good sound.

There is one thing not measure by $50K or $10K or $1K is the fun factor. As long as you enjoy it, it doesn't matter how much it cost.

i.e. my TT setup cost more than my two systems combine excluding the TT itself. But that's the main piece of equipment most critical to me which it allows me to enjoy the best possible LP sound.
Interesting thread. I listen nearfield, and to tell you the truth, I don't know how my system ranks compared to other systems, as I don't have much experience with good audio. I put my system together actually by accident. Meaning locally I found quality items and put them together to make a system. I think I have done pretty well on a very small budget. It sounds great to me anyway, and all of my audio and non audio friends comment on it often. These are the prices I paid and all components have been gone thru if neccesary to bring them up to spec by a local audio guru.

2 McIntosh MC40 tube monoblocks - $600 pr.

Altec Lansing Model 17 604-8G duplex studio monitors- $150 plus a $96 for a new HF voice coil.

Sansui 1000A - used as a preamp- $200

Marantz CC65se CD= $20

Thorens TD160/Linn Basik/ Denon 110 HOMC- $220

Total- $1226

I doubt it would compare well with a 50K system, or even a 10K system. I wouldn't know since I have never heard one. But I think it might surprise a few folks, anyway, I would like to think it would.

Tubes, Altecs and vinyl make me smile.


Nearfield listening is great for me, since my music room is small.
This is not class A, but an enjoyable system neverthless.

1) Computer as the source - less jitter like an upscale piece.

2) Sound card upgrade to M-audio 2496 audiophile ($89)

3) Old marantz receiver 2270 ($250 ebay)

4) Athena speakers as-b2 ($170)

5) Sony sawm500 sub ($150)

6) DIY belden cables ($50) : google for info on the web

This system sounds especially good on female vocal music - had me dancing for an hour, so I decided to put it in my gym system.

If you hook this up to a TV, with your favorite exercise DVD, you won't know the pain of exercising, 'coz you are enjoying the sound so much.

For under a grand, you can both enjoy the music, and stay healthy and trim...
CURRENTLY posted on 'Gon (AND assuming no issues for these used components):

Source: Sony DVP NS 999ES w/ Modwright Signature Truth mods $1550;

Preamp: DIY Hi Fi Supply Django (factory assembled w/S&B transformer and silver wiring) $895

Amp: Atma-Sphere M60 MKII.2 monoblocks $2275

Loudspeakers: Talon Khorus X $4000

Total cost (less cables) = $8720

I've owned the ModWright Sony. The Django and Atma-Spheres are my own ads (sorry, both are sold). I use Atma-Sphere M60 MKII.3s (w/Speltz Zeros - show up used on 'Gon for $250 or so) to drive a pair of Talon Firebird Diamonds with beautiful synergy.

There are dozens of great ideas, but this combo would be WAY good for the cost.
regarding the nearfield listening discussion above: I'm not sure if there hasn't been this level of discussion on A'gon previously, or if I just missed it. I frankly thought my rooms were already set up in nearfield; but I decided to experiment based on Nsgarch's comment in the first reply above:

(BTW, were talking not more than 8 feet away from the speakers +/_)

I have 2 "reference" systems in different dedicated rooms. One room is 14x22, with Totem Mani-2s driven by B&K M200 Sonatas (4 of them biamped), Musical Fidelity pre. My seating position was about 12 ft from the Totems which are 4 1/2 ft from the wall. I moved my seat in 2 ft so I'm now 10 ft from the speakers (measured from divers to my ears). The result was a profound improvement in the definition, and depth of the sound stage. My next step is to try to move my seat closer still, but that requires more significant furniture mod's, so I need to find time for that.

The other room is a larger, irregular room with the main section being a virtual square 16'x16', and another smaller square section 12x12 off-set on one corner. I have Von Scheikert VR4gen III's driven by Conrad Johnson dual MF2100s in vertical biamp, and a Dared tube preamp. The VR4s are set up on a diagonal line on one corner, about 3 1/2 ft from the wall, and my seating position was about 13 1/2 ft from the speakers. I moved my seat 3 ft closer to the speakers with similarly profound results as the other room. In this room, I anticipate I'll have to reposition the VR4s closer together as I move my seat in still more, but will continue to experiment.

A few additional points I would make about this change: 1) both of these systems sounded wonderful before I made the change, and I had spent a great deal of time and care in optimizing the speaker placement. I simply didn't consider moving my seat that close previously as it seemed counter-intuitive to me. 2) ALL I have done so far is move my seat closer. I haven't tried any further tuning of the speaker position (ie moved them closer together), 3) In both rooms, even though they're not exactly small, the repositioning of the seating solved some "arangement issues" I previously had and make the rooms more aesthetically appealing as well as sonically appealing.
At CES 2006, Positive Feedback's Dave and Carol Clark reported on some of the products AAA Audio had on display. From the AAA Audio room: "An Original CD-2008 MK II HDCD/CD player, Dussun V8i Integrated amplifier, Tetra 306 loudspeakers┬ŚMSRP is $8500 for a KILLER system."

I'm taking a serious look at the V8i integarated from the Dussun. 250 watts per channel, dual mono design. $1598
Bartkofan,More people need to put systems together like yours.This is the future of high end value.Kit speakers,direct purchases from manufacturers and use of cheap cables that still sound good.Well done!Why pay exhorbitant retail mark up and inflated pricing due to advertising costs when you dont have to.
And in this light did I mention Supratek!

Jtgofish, most people here have money, and feel no need to look at a kit. In fact I'd guess 20% of the members here change out their speakers every 3 to 4 yrs.
Look at all the used speakers on the Gon.
I'm interested in the Tyler's and my have to drive to his showroom to see what his Seas' are all about.
I hope to give a report.
I trust no ones ears but my own.
But you're right a kit offers you best value, and you get to see how the Xover is designed, even if you don't know what all the components mean.
And you get to see exactly what the drivers look like, most speaker manufactures have the drivers locked in palce so that you can't remeove them and see how cheap they are.
Order 1 of Seas' Excel, midwoofers, the W18, just so you can see what this gem really looks like in your hand.
Then you can resell it on ebay for 25% less.
Also Tyler has some customers around the country who offer home demos of their Ty's, I emailed the one in jackson Miss, but received no answer, so not sure whats uo with that.
I would never ever buy a speaker unless I heard it on my amp first.
BIg expensive ads, and audio "reviews" are absoluetly nothing to me. Some offer no showrooms, or local dealers. Like the Theil. "oh they are the don't need to listen before buying" And other such nonsense.
Only judge based on listening with my amp and my cdp.
I paln to visit Tyler in a yr or 2.
Will post some comments.

Yes I did buy the Thors w/o a demo listening. always exceptions to the rule, but I knew 99% these are the speakets I would be most happy with. And it paid off.
But don't go on what I say, do the test listening for yourself.
If anyone is near Baton Rouge, look me up, bring your amp
The only "complaint" i have with the Thors ,a s they are a MTM design, is the too much midrange, abit too forward, and lacks a tad of the deep bass.
Which is why I want to haer Ty's design with the W22 (8 inch, 3 way) and W26(10 inch) 3 way.
However woth a 3 way there may be less of the seamless image I get with the Thors.
Besides the Ty's with the W26 go for like $4500, and they weigh a ton. Mine weigh 80 lbs each.
I pd $2K includes ship.
I might be able to boost the lower hz's by a heftier amp, making it un-necessary for the big Tylers. Most classical does not demand deep bass, only for the cellos and timpini.

ph is


Baton Rouge
Jaybo's quote: "most 50k systems don't sound much different than 10k systems."

That is an interesting assertion, but perhaps tells more about the person saying that then about audio.

What I mean is that- depending on what aspects of a music reproduction you care about - you may be able to build a 10k system that sounded as good as a typical 50k system to you. If your sonic priories are things like inner resolution, imaging, etc, then you can do this for not huge $$$

However, if you are like me and have different sonic priorities, Jaybo's statement is a complete untruth. For reproduced music to interest me it needs to be HUGE. Massive attack, dynamics, major soundstage, strong transients. This is what I like.

Try as you might, but you simply cannot have Wilson MAXX (used) + Atmasphere sound in a 10k system. Something like a VR4JR and a plinius amp would for sure have a very pleasing sound.... but it is not a well thought out 50k sound, and it never will be.
Visiting back to post a new system with some of the old:
Still have:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, merlins $1500
New used amp:,, Conrad johnson premier 4 $300
new used preamp:,,,,, audio experience a2se $750
phono stage:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, JLTI $1000
Turntable most parts used:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, tnt $7500 including all those motors, outer rim, sds speed control, plc, lead shot, flywheels, extra platter as flywheel, bla bla bla, but hey it beats some pricier tt!
Total cost======================$11,050. Just a bit over $10,000. But really worth it! What really took it over the mountain was me getting into tube components, this is pretty close to the best I ever heard, and as for all the other rooms I heard they just don't compare!
Mr. P: I was totally charmed by your old/new/used system choices. As I visualized what you had put/kept together, the (very rare) thought came over me, "Gee, I'd be interested/curious what that bunch of stuff sounds like!" -- I consider that (probably) my highest complement ;-)

What was fun (for me) was that the combo included NOTHING I would have thought to select. I know all of it, but probably none of those pieces would have registered with me as I scanned the used equipment pages here on AgoN.

But starting with the Merlins, as I read down your list, I was going, "Hmmm that's an interesting choice! Hmmm . . . . " And all taken together, it makes a weird kind of sense. Very creative! So how does it sound? You din't say nuthin' 'bout cables ;--)
How about this...

Ayre AX-7e (Used) - $2050.00
Ayre CX-7e (Used) - $2050.00
Ayre P-5xe (Used) - $1700.00
Green Mountain Audio Callistos (Used) - $1600.00
Purist Audio Design Musaeus XLR (x2) (Used) - $600.00
Purist Audio Design Musaeus Speaker (Used) - $300.00
Martin Logan Dynamo (x2) (Used) - $1000.00
Technics SL-1200 mk II (Used) - $400
Audio-Technica AT-150MLX cartridge (New) - $300

Total - $10,000.00
Give me digital room correction below 100hz and any good monitor (Maggie, Ohm, Merlin TSM, etc., etc.) over the mega-bucks loudspeaker of your choice. With a pair of good subwoofers, you're looking at $2.5K to $5K for your full range loudspeaker system. In many rooms - certainly including my current one - bass response will be just as deep, just as clean, and much, much smoother at a fraction of the cost. Choose your monitor carefully, and the differences over the rest of the frequency spectrum (with the exception of max SPL if you need to go there) -IMHO- will be dwarfed by the improvement in the bass.

Just MHO.

For sheer musical enjoyment, and forsaking the "last octave" pursuit, this is the system I'd put together:

All used equipment:
Jean Marie Reynaud Offrandes - ~$2,500
Jean Marie Reynaud Magic Stands - $250
Audiomat Opera integrated - $3,000
K & K Audio Phono Stage SE - $1,500
Townshend Rock Reference turntable w/ Excalibur tonearm - $3,500
GARROTT P77i with MicroScanner II stylus( the classic is back! ) - $500

Ok, Ok, I went over by $1,500 and didn't even get cables. Tough call where to shave money, I guess it would have to be on the Townshend. But, damn that really is a reference level component.

I'm gonna have to put some more thought into this to make the $10k limit.
For sheer musical enjoyment, and forsaking the "last octave" pursuit, this is the system I'd put together:

All used equipment:
Jean Marie Reynaud Offrandes - ~$2,500
Jean Marie Reynaud Magic Stands - $250
Audiomat Opera integrated - $3,000
K & K Audio Phono Stage SE - $1,500
Townshend Rock Reference turntable w/ Excalibur tonearm - $3,500
GARROTT P77i with MicroScanner II stylus(the classic is back!) - $500

Ok, Ok, I went over by $1,500 and didn't even get cables. Tough call where to shave money, I guess it would have to be on the Townshend. But, damn that really is a reference level component.

I'm gonna have to put some more thought into this to make the $10k limit.
All used:

Cary Cinema 5 - $2800
Cary Cinema 11 - $1800
Gallo Ref 3 - $1800
Mapleshade bases for Ref 3- $800
Linn LP-12 CFiber SC & AB, Ittok II - $1400
Ortofon Kontrapunkt B - $1000 from Japan
Whest PS.20 - $1000
Anthem CD-1 - $650

Total $11,250

Zone 2:
Galante Rhapsody - $1000
Anthem AMP-1 - $400.

Both sound wonderful to me. Main area very detailed, zone 2 has that organic tube sound.

I can't see spending substantially more unless I built a dedicated listening room. The room is the limiting factor for 95% of us in my mind.
Thank you for the compliments.
It's hard to put into words the sound this system is producing.
What I am experiencing is; what feels like so much a live sound especially at low volumes in which I am hearing lots of depth as though there is no back wall, instruments sound like they blossom, lots of separation, instruments sound so natural, full sounding bass yet distinct and accurate, delicate and high resolution.
My system never sounded this good and it was already a very good system.
I am awaiting my audiophile friends to confirm this.
I'd be terribly tempted to do something like:

MacBook Pro as lossless source which I won't cost out cause it is sitting here (you will have to decide if that is cheating, but I'd own it in any case)

Lavry DA11/Benchmark DAC1 $1500
Quicksilver Mid Mono $2000
Harbeth Super HL5 $5000
DiMarzano M-Path interconnects and speaker wire $400

Those prices are new prices too -- I'd probably actually look for used Manley Snappers rather than the Quickies and still sneak in below $10,000. And it might not be the last word in anything, but how many things is it going to do wrong? (Besides not play vinyl, which does pain me but...)

You'll lose some of the detail available from the source, but you'll be able to listen to most everything. Big bass slam? That's about the only thing you might miss, but only if you are the sort of listener who really needs that to be the heart of a system (and nothing wrong with that, but it ain't my style).

And if I needed to save money, well I know my Proac D-Twos will be sticking around here for a long time yet and that's great by me...