how much would you say a good set up cost

ok, we all have gear, but now days, what price do you think you have to spend to have a real good system. not over kill, just good equipment, good sound stage. all around mid to mid high. I'm saying at least 30-35 thousand gets you in that level. I was talking the other day with some friends and we never put a price on our gear. you always get this piece now then that later. but have you ever sat down and figured out just what you paid for your system. I was shocked when i did it.
I would venture to guess alot out there dont really want to think about how much they have spent (not invested) in their present system,that includes myself..I say your ballpark figure is correct(maybe a little on the low side) if buying on the used market.I guess it also depends on what you listen to and how much you really demand in the system
Your question will elicit a wild array of responses as to what is necessary to spend to get "a good set up". Your comment about sitting down to figure out what is in your system and being shocked when you actually tally it up will resonate with a large number of people.

I'm betting that with a Bottlehead Foreplay preamp, a pair of Bottlehead amps, a DIYed DAC from someone like twistedpear, some DIY cables made from good recipes, and the Altec Model 19s I just picked up for speakers for a second system, and then a bunch of room treatments (and probably a decently large room), one could do extremely well (with a fabulous soundstage). One would not get the be-all-and-end-all of systems (probably lacking in lowest octave, maybe a bit less revealing than $100k of world-beater amps and speakers) but I'm betting it would get the job done admirably. That would probably set you back $3-4k depending on how much you spent on the DIY cables, DAC, and how you got your speakers. If you were willing to build full-range speakers off freely available plans on the web, you might do your speakers a bit cheaper.

Buying all of the above used would not cost any more than $4k I bet.

My main system has less than your number invested in it (assuming the less expensive of the two vinyl setups and using DAC as pre) and while I love it, I expect I could great sound for less outlay. I am in the process of putting a second system together for a country house, and am trying to see how cheaply I can get absolutely first-rate music reproduction. So far, the above-mentioned Model 19s are accompanied by temporary stand-ins for amp and CDP (EAR 859 amp and Sony SCD 777ES) but am thinking others (though the EAR 859 might be cheaper than the FP set-up now that I think about it), and a DIY DAC of some sort.
If your lucky you purchased good stuff before pricing took off...

3k speakers...preamp 800....amp 800..CD player 1500 tuner 1200.......that was 20-30 years ago and it still cuts the mustard.....though some has been re-capped. I have spent 5 figures on tube amps....oh well it's only money.

My advice vintage or used...
Oh yeah, vintage system from 3-4K, they sound very good, maybe a different coloration than todays' one, less transparent and detail freak but somehow more natural. As far as modern design: a used active ATC 100 or 150 or PCM loudspeakers, atc or bryston preamp, apogee dac and teac transport, and you may have better sound than a 100k system.
$2000. Used Rega CD, used 47 Labs integrated, Vandy 1. Very satisfactory.
Maggie MMG's $400
TADAC tube DAC $900
Parasound 2200 $700
AppleTV $330
Outlaw LFT-1 Sub $400
Kimber 4tc/Hero/Toslink $200
PS Audio Quintet $300

Total $3230

That's a very good system I put together for my boss, sounds fantastic by any measure, and it's very easy to use.
I just went over the spreadsheet that I keep to track my Audio (net) spending, and my current set up (excluding the LCD TV monitor) is at $16k, and it's a v good system by any measure.
3 to 5 k anymore then that ,well thats a whole different deal
Well, I would imagine the term "very good sounding" is probably very subjective and am sure most everyone that is in this hobby will say their system fits that bill. And I am no exception.

I have less than $2000 in my mostly vintage system.

Pair of McIntosh MC40 amps ($600)
Altec 604-8G Model 17s ($150)
CJ PV-10A preamp ($500)
Technics SP25 TT with ATP-12T arm ($60)
Denon 103R ($150) lightly used on Agon
Cinemag SUT ($160)
Marantz CC-65SE CD changer ($20)

The Altecs are nearfield monitors and I haven't done any room treatments. All is hooked up with inexpensive cables and wire.

I am sure it would sound different than a $16K system. But I doubt the owner of the $16K system is any happier with his system than I am of mine.
PK Modified Quad 57 Speakers $3900.00
Quad Classic II Mono amps 2190.00 Demos from Underwood
Quad QC 24 P preamp 1000.00 Demo "

Source and cabling of your choice, how about a Shindo modified 301 System for a total investment of less than your total budget of $30,000.00

Or a Rega P5 MM setup for around $10,!
I'm sorry, but with All Due Respect, it is a sort of meaningless / nutty question.
Compared to 99% of the world, I am wealthy. Yet, I have what around this 'neighborhood' is quite a modest system.
My neighbors think I'm crazy....they all have HTIB!
Maggie 1.6's retail for about 1800$
PS Audio GCC250 retail for about 3500$
CA 840c retail for about 1500$
Cabling / mostly BlueJeans maybe 200$ w/mogami XLR
HSU sub retail for about 500$
PS Audio Soloist outlet for about 200$
Home electric upgrades nearly 600$
OPPO 981DV 250$ delivered! bargain
Panamax Power conditioner 1000$
Room treatments (DIY) 500$ planned budget

Ok, so I've spent FAR more than I thought I had. It's like giving blood....a drop at a all adds up.

The point? Depends.
1. How deep are your pockets?
2. How do YOU perceive price / performance ratio?
3. How influenced are you by 'keep up w/joneses?'
4. What is your level of obsessive /compulsive behavior?
5. Do you swap / buy / sell major equipment more often than 2x a year? (my system was stable for close to 20 yrs)

Remember, it's not a compulsion, it's a hobby....or is it the other way around?
A lot depends on what is meant by "a real good system. not over kill, just good equipment, good sound stage." The word "good" is highly subjective. Any Yamaha, Denon, Sony, Bryston, Mcintosh, B&W, Paradigm, ATC, etc. equipment will be good equipment - this is particularly true for the first three companies as their resources so outstrip the specialty companies that it costs little extra to ensure good equipment and the risk to their reputation precludes manufacturing junk.

As to the sound at all but the highest listening levels, my listening experience is that there is very little difference between a $2000 system made up of a budget CD player, monitor speakers, and a receiver (yes a reciever) and a $50,000 system. The differences are almost entirely in soundstage and accuracy and those I have found to be 99 percent dependent on the speaker. So, a good digital system can be had for $2000 a slightly better system for around $20,000. After that the returns are extremely small. But, of course, the hobby aspect tends to drive the system up but that is a different type, although very legitimate, type of return. Finally, the status aspect is completely dependent on cost, but also is a different type of return.
System Price = ego
I think it is very possible and reasonable to have a decent system for $2000-3000.

I have spent a whole lot of money in this hobby only to learn that you don't have to spend a whole lot of money to get good sound.
10-17-08: Blindjim
System Price = ego
That sums it up pretty well.
I had 30 k invested.. I was able to achieve far more ergonomic, better frequency response, and better performance all together after understanding more principles of the game a few years later and now having only 6,000 total invested :-)

Plus you just feel far better about yourself when you sit there starring at a couple of amps that cost you 1 fifth the cost over others that don't sound better. So it all depends on how dirty your willing to get your hands, and how many little risks your willing to take to get you there.

If you have money to burn and it makes no difference and this is not the route to take, because its a long one.

By the way I would never consider at this point from experience spending more, because I know for my personal taste it will not satisfy, this is just "Audio" its actually not that difficult nor is it anything hi tech involved quite honestly.

There is ultimately no specific cost to pinpoint this optimal performance level you seek, it will vary quite a bit from personality to person.

I will add this final note(maybe a hint) most of the big money necessary would be spent into a great room.. Those don't come cheap at all.. And can at a minimum set somebody back anywhere from 500 to 15,000...
Undertow beat me to it. I'd agree that the room is potentially the most expensive, most often neglected and critical links to getting great sound from any system. Everyone has their threshold of both investment and discrimination of investment/improvement ratio. Comparing to others doesn't really make much sense - there will always be those with both more and less invested and who are happy as clams or frustrated with their lack of synergy. That is reflected already in the range of answers here and on other similar threads. I like Lincoln's answer to a similar question: when asked, "How big should a man's legs be" he responded, "Big enough to reach the ground."
I agree with Musicnoise, once you get past the crap stuff from the box stores and into nicer equipment, you are paying huge sums for that next 1% better sound. Generically, I think about $2000 thoughtfully spent gets you a very good sounding system. Everything after that is just small incremntal improvements. It is fun to mess wit the stuff though.
It all has to do with your state of mind.

I could probably put together a HOME SYSTEM for $6K that I'd be happy with...for at least a few weeks.

After spending decades involved in CAR AUDIO...unsuccessfully, I'm currently satisfied with my factory BMW H/K stereo. Just need to add iPod connectivity.

At WORK and in my HOME OFFICE a $90 Klipsch ProMedia powered sat/sub system hooked up to my computers gets the job done quite well.
If you can't put together a fantastic system for 30k it requires a lot of missteps, not that you couldn't have a mediocre system with that much money into it (you can). But I agree with the general tenor of the thread that with 10K or less you could (expecially buying used)put together a very formidable system, especially if you know what you are doing with matching a speaker and amp. If you have been around the block with this hobby, you can do so easily. Without that experience or the advice of a good dealer or experienced friend, you can chase your tail in this hobby and spend a whole lot more without getting a system that will satisfy for the long term.
I suspect 10k is doable. Right off the top of my head I can think of used Merlin loudspeakers for $4500, and a used Ars-Sonum integrated amp for $3500, and a used Rega Apollo CD player for $700. $8700. Leaves $1300 for wire and power cords.

If analog is also in the cards, then $10k would be tough, IMO.
Just to clarify I had a 30k system that could and would trump some up into 100 k in systems... We could go on and on all day, I was simply stating that you can be happy at many levels lower than some state or maybe think is possible. So you are correct...

And I only threw my example out due to the original poster that started the thread was saying 30 to 35 k seemed to be some kinda magic #... If I was to do it again yep your right I could EASILY put together a no nonsense 30 k very optimal system just as easily as one for 3 k..

But I would not be happy having that much invested no matter how good it was now that I have found the important part of the equation that all audio beings lose sight of at some point in this hobby, and it is not the fancier, the prettier, the bigger the better approach which was my only point, however that having a connection and "feeling" from the music every time you turn your system on..

"For that sensation it is priceless, for everything else there is Mastercard."
Undertow, what comprises your $6k system?
Several un-explainable and un-purchaseable equipment :-) Well of course it all started as somebodys gear, and ended up with just their original name tag on it in the end, Mainly just all highly customized pieces and specific pieces ordered and altered with the best of the best to effect the important aspects of the electronics, cables and room itself. Nothing special just done right from the ground up this time vs. trying to match everything, there is always tradeoffs.
I see.

Doesn't sound like something the average Joe could do with off-the-shelf components.

Congratulations to you, though.
Exactly correct :-)_ And trust me I don't say that to be pompus, and Hell I don't know much, but learned a lot if that makes sense. But I can say for somebody to pay someone that does have a clue on some of this stuff and do it right would cost as much as some just buying the next level of component, which will re-sell of course better un-altered in most cases.

Thanks, and it is a lot of fun, and of course takes a ton of patience with good direction... Kinda like building a custom house, you need to decide who you want to make that real special faucet on that bathtub!
Tvad's 10k system (Merlin,Ars, Rega) would be very, very good and comparable to most anything out there except for full range bass - but that system combo is one I would hghly endorse for bang for the buck.
"...except for full range bass" is the sticking point with most sub $10k systems, IMO.

Perhaps a pair of Audiokinesis Jazz Modules or Klipschorns driven by used Atma-Sphere M-60/MP-3 and a $1k CD player...
$30K or so seems about right for an entry-level High-end System.

My current rig sounds great @ $31.4K
Krell SACD Standard MK3: $6K
PASS X1: $5.9K
PASS X250.5: $7.5K
Wilson Sophia: $12K

I had a tough time trying to get to this level of performance for less.
$30K is ridiculous as a minimum startup figure given the qualifications of the original post for what a 'good system' revealed, IMHO. One can get a damn rewarding system, especially on the used market for under 5 figures. I'd reiterate that a bad room can ruin both a $3k system or a $30K system or a $100K system. I mention that as many folks see the room as outside of the "system". View it as you may in or out of the chain, and as high or low in the hierarchy as you may think; it can make or break a system.
The answer to this question is much simpler than most want to make it. A good set up costs just a little more than you've already spent. Any disagreements?

All kidding aside, a decent system can be built for $2-3K, though it will have sonic limitations. I believe a VERY good, full range system can be put together for around $6-7K which includes all the electronics, accessories and basic room treatments. To hit this price point requires buying used AND waiting for the right deals to come up. But it can be done, though what is "good" is quite relative.

As has been said ad infinitum, one of the most important elements is the room involved. Making the wrong room work is a pricey proposition which will skew anyone's pricing guesstimate.

Nothing earth shattering here, but I literally spent several years pondering this very subject in detail. After a long hiatus I'm putting the finishing touches on a new (but all used) system, so have a lot of recent experience from which to draw. For whatever that's worth.
I think the most important thing is determine one's audio aesthetic.

It takes time, and a lot of listening to systems and research.

Once one identifies with a philosophy of reproduction, then it becomes easier to determine how to achieve that within ones budget, expectations, and room size.

Just a few of the multitude of categories that come to mind are planar systems (which excel in room coupling), SET/single driver systems (which value coherency above extension), large scale dynamic systems, tube/triode (including OTL) systems (harmonics and fluidity), Horn based (dynamics), mini monitor (image specificity), all digital (including room correction for flatter in room response), etc.

Each represents a divergent path to achieving ones desired results. There are many price points that can be hit in each of these schools of thought.

And it becomes easier to research and weigh people's comments against one's known values, rather than just assembling components and hoping they will lead to long term satisfaction.

Personally, for me it was first hearing ESL63 USA's that catapulted me into the high end. Once I knew what type of system I wanted to assemble, it became possible to do just that within what I had to spend.

I can't do large panels anymore due to current space issues, but perhaps when I do have the room, I'll know clearly how to go about it.
10-18-08: Emailists
I think the most important thing is determine one's audio aesthetic.
Aesthetics play an enormous role. Visual aesthetics also.

There are several systems below $10k that I could envision sounding very,very good, but the size, shape and overall appearance of the loudspeakers makes them non-starters in our home.
Like alot of folks here, I would say you don't have to spend anywhere near 30-35K to put a great sounding system together. If you buy smartly, it can easily be done for under 10K. My brother put together a system that only cost him about 4K, I think.
I think Tvad recommended two excellent combinations that would be very rewarding (Merlin/Ars Sonum or Audiokinesis/Atma-sphere)at the 10K level used - those combos would beat a lot of 30k systems IMHO.
Around here we have a saying regarding water craft…. “A boat is a hole in the water in which, you throw money.”

I believe it appropriate enough to consider a parallel here, “An audio rig is a hole in the living room you throw money into.”

Yep. It’s all ego. Case in point… of the rigs listed here and the figures pointed too…. Are prime examples enough. How many gave their ‘paid for’ prices, or their “MSRP retail” prices?

I never kept a running total on the expenses I’ve made to attain the sound I wanted… in fact. My heart couldn’t stand it. At some point, I reassessed my goals and started getting OK with what was on hand, instead of chasing a myth. My myth being something akin to a point just past perfect.

I got so caught up in things that I was buying stuff I didn’t need, with money I DIDN’T HAVE, to IMPRESS PEOPLE I HADN’T EVEN MET YET!

On the whole, ROUGHLY SPEAKING, I’ve thrown $29K or so in what’s on hand now. Total. For everything in all 3 systems including projector, receiver, 120 inch screen, etc.

Not counting what I did to enclose my room and redecorate it… add another $8-10K there. I’ve a bit further on to go too. Perhaps a Remington, or a Monet.

Only my Sound Anchor amp & speaker stands plus my Oppo DVD player were paid for at MSRP. That were some of my best moves though, given price to performance. On some other’s I paid quite close to retail.

I spend more time listening to my $3K BR rig than I do my main one, by a long shot. I think I enjoy each about the same.

Loudspeaker size IS important… as was said. I found it quite interesting, and as well, very frustrating, picking out the most recent speakers that are living here now… rent free by the way! There must be thousands upon thousands literally. The herd gets culled very quickly when cost, esthetics and electronic temperament are examined more closely however.

My bucket still has a small hole in it and more duckets will be cast into it, albeit, not much more.

, then there’s one of my fav sayings, “If you’ve only one ear, stereos are half off.”

It is a heck of a lot more expensive to create a nice high end video system for the visually impaired. Maybe I should have thought about that a mite longer before it’s undertaking…. Guess I’m stil a bit short sighted. ;-))
hopefully guilt sets in when you're about to overspend. the actual amount may vary, but if 'music' really rules your life,and not equipment, the odds are you won't have to spend much at all. 'never spend too much on an amplifier'-quote from a large advent brochure
oh, just in case ..all new...dual turntable(auto rules), onkyo integrated(if it was german it would be 3 grand), ohm micro walsh tall(real bass and no friggin stands), any garden variety front load cd player(no cd players are that good,or that bad)...3500 bucks total (give or take).....hey, you're ready to go up against many of the 100k rooms at any, fill your house with records and cd's......there are lots of other combos as well.
$30 > $35K does seem about right for a new (not second-hand) near-reference stereo system. This range seems to be the current sweet-spot for tier-one rated components, based on today's new retail pricing. The good news is, that if done right, there is very little sonic-incentive to go much beyond this range, at least from what I have heard.

I don't think that most people today consider a $30K Rig a "show off System", as some here have mentioned, not at a time where $100K Home Theater Systems are par for the course, at least among the professional class - as I would imagine most of us here belong to.
I don't think that most people today consider a $30K Rig a "show off System", as some here have mentioned, not at a time where $100K Home Theater Systems are par for the course, at least among the professional class - as I would imagine most of us here belong to.

The VAST majority of people in this country (and certainly far greater on this planet) would most certainly consider those price ranges utterly absurd. Let me emphasize the word "VAST" as the ratio would be on a staggering proportion. I don't know what you mean by "professional class" but if you are referring to our level of income, I would maintain that you could isolate those in higher levels of income (in this country at least) and, though you may bring that ratio down a bit, I think you'd find that priorities are not even remotely resembling what you are intimating here..that is in looking beyond the demographic that makes up the tiny segment of folks posting on this specialty site. You are preaching to the choir here so you'll probably get plenty of folks agreeing, but out in the real world it sure doesn't prove out that way in my experience. I routinely go into multi-million dollar homes as part of my business. Audiophiles are a rare breed, even among the very wealthy. In over 25 years in my business and visiting countless people of all walks of life, people who put that kind of priority on audio/video gear are by far the very tiny minority. At least that's been my experience. I would also still contend that the threshold of investment where huge dollars yield very minor improvements is well below the prices you are suggesting. I'd qualify this with the contention that most people are not discriminating enough to either hear or care about such differences (obviously some of the present company would be excluded from that observation).
30 - 35K for a "near reference system"???? Spoken like a true retailer.
It's great to see someone has things in proper perspective. It warmed my heart on this Sunday morning.
What a ridiculous amount of $
I think that at 30-35k you could build a system that would be hard to beat no matter how much more you would be willing to spend, assuming you know what you are doing, but I still think I could come very, very close at 10K used, and could certainly put together an extemely good sound system for less than 5k, and as Jax2 suggests, even that amount of money would be considered innsane by most folks, but reasonable by folks on this forum. So to ansswer the OP, $5k should certainly get you a "good set up". The rest is fun and games that come with being into the hobby IMHO.
'the rest is fun and games' are correct sir. one only has to attend 'one' equipment convention or show to figure out that most of what the companies are offering is an odd exotic cocktail which has no more bite than most of what you find in what the hobby deems as beer budget mid- fi.
I agree with Elite - that to the many professionals (executives, Doctors, lawyers, etc.) that use this site, $30K is not an extravagant amount to spend on a good “new” Stereo System, but is rather quite realistic.

I too agree with Jax2 that outside of the Audiophile World, say to “Joe The Plumber” $30K is a lot of money to spend on a Home Entertainment System - and, that there are middle-class folks in this Country that are (or soon to be) hurting big time, and to whom a pair of good Speaker Cables is the equivalent of a month’s income. But, this is not the matter at hand on this “Site” – the pursuit of “state of the art”, and for the most part “cost no object” sound reproduction is - and with that said, I feel that the majority of us are on the same track.
My point to some extent is that while many on this site may be able to spend 30k, that even if you have the money -there is no need to spend that much for a very excellent system (I should talk). SOTA is an elusive idea to me, but I know that you can have excellent sound for 10k or less. For example, I think that the recommedation made earlier of Merlin VSMs with an Ars Sonum integrated would be more than impressive to most listeners, even experienced Audiogon folks - it is a very well sorted speaker with an amp practically designed to drive them - true, proabably closer to 10k used, but a pairing that a few folks with former 40k systems have come to own for reasons other than limited $$$. Cost no object doesn't always mean better sound (though obviously it can). I heard a few CNO systems at RMAF'08 that I would not want in my listening room compared with my more "humble" system. Experience and understanding how to put a system together is a very valuable form of currency.
The "room" should always be figured into the system cost (unless you're talking headphones). For most of us it's difficult to have a whole room devoted to audio which is kind of what you need. From my experience most speakers need to be pulled at least two feet from side walls and 4 feet from the rear wall. That takes up a lot of space. Then the room needs to be "deadened" using sound absorption materials (DIY foam blankets). From there a tube pre-amp and a 100 watt SS amp will make most speakers sound pretty good. I personally enjoy when the music sits between to 3' behind the speakers. That way I get a window into the music instead of it hitting me in the face. Anyway back to the topic at hand, spend the money on the room even if that means finishing a dedicated space in the basement. All in all I think you could spend $8-10K (room, speakers, pre-amp, source, amp) and have a system that should be enjoyable for years. If you already have a 12x16 finished room then you could cut that cost in half easily. That amount is based on finishing the room yourself along with buying mostly used gear.
I think it depends on what goal you are trying to accomplish is and the size of your listening room;such as being able to reproduce eric clapton laying down some tracks in the recording studio or a live presentation of a full philharmonic orchestra; 2 very different goals in which the equipment and cost of will very greatly in my opinion.
I guess you could look at it as therapy for what ails you.