I need your advice on system for a non-audiophile

While I am sure this type of thread may have been posted before, I'd really like your input on this. At the risk of sounding like an out of touch audiophile, I simply have been away from the lower end market (e.g., the Best Buy scene for audio) for so long that I really don't know if I can be of help to a work colleague who asked for my help in buying a new "stereo."

My colleague told me she has a "crappy Sony system" that really doesn't sound that good and would like my suggestion for buying something new. I suspect its an older cheap rack-type all Sony system. She tells me it has "5 tiny little speakers."

I asked her to tell what three things are most important to her in this new system and here is her reply:

1. Sound quality that is clear

2. Not small system, but not too large. My house is really small so I don't' want a system that takes up all of my free space (she has seen my 300 pound Rockports and triple wide loaded SRA rack so she may be thinking about that when she worries about a system taking up all of her "free space.")

3. Price, between $700 - $1,000 if possible.

Any suggestions? Thanks
A good start would be to look at something like the Audio Advisor or J&R site. Buying used would be the better deal by far but it took me 30 years to get a friend of mine to try this so I doubt if it an an option. Units that are being discontinued in favor of new models are often sold at big savings. NAD units are often good buys, hard to be specific as what is on sale often changes. Audio Advisor has a return policy if she doesn't like the sound. Just some random thoughts.
Is a turntable in her future? If not a reasonable CD player, integrated and speakers, monitors/bookshelf should be able to be managed within that range. Or maybe an integrated with a CD player, have no idea if such a creature exists but knowing marketing, it probably does.
Also limits the interconnects and space.
Thanks Stanwal and Uru975. I am sure she doesn't want a turntable. I agree that a unit like a used Linn Klassik or Arcam Solo might be nice but it wouldn't leave her any funds to purchase the speakers.

I could possbly try to buy the stuff used for her on A-Gon but I'd worry that if the equipment failed she might not want to fuss with unwarranted repairs (not to mention wanting to shoot me).

If she just wants 2-channel and new equipment(warranty,return,etc.) this is a pretty decent system (see below).Available (authorized online sales) from DMC Electronics.The NAD stuff is free shipping(possibly can get the speakers shipped free also,ask).The PSB's are front ported so placement options are not as critical(shelf,table,stands,etc.).Throw in an extra $50.00 for decent cables and you are done.The NAD and PSB stuff work together well.Now,if you can talk her into buying used,there are lots of options.I have no affiliation with DMC Electronics,just thought of them because I have browsed their website.Good luck in your search.

NAD C315BEE integrated $349
NAD C515BEE cd player $299
PSB Image B25 speakers $319 pair
Total(equipment) $967
I like Tpreaves' suggestion; I had not realized you could get the Image speakers for so low, otherwise I would have suggested the Alphas or Betas from PSB. Only other brand at the entry level I'd suggest would be Marantz, and you might want to get a receiver rather than an integrated, if your friend is in an area where a tuner would be useful.
listen to her system first before advising her to spend a penny. if she has a 'boyfriend', don't go there.
I've set up dozens of systems over the years. Just did an Arcam Mini-Solo with Usher 520 speaks and 24" massed stands and was quite amazed. Truthfully, I didn't think it would have as much soundstage, resolution and dynamics as it does. Simple, clean and unobtrusive.

Of course to hit the $1,000 mark we would be talking used.
NAD L-53 DVD/CD/tuner/amp is listed for $375. That is a respectable unit for the money and would pair nicely with Paradigm, Axiom, Usher or any number of decent monitors.
The all-in-one units certainly are appealing because of the simplicity of setup and their compact size but the risk is that if there is a problem with any part of the unit you're out of luck.

I had that experience with the NAD L-53 in a setup for my daughter with a pair of the Usher 520's (nice speakers, by the way.) There was a transport problem with the first unit, which meant replacing the whole unit under warranty after considerable delay, then the transport in the second unit began to act up, as well. After having that one sit at the NAD repair facility for almost four months I finally gave up and replaced it with a Pioneer Elite integrated and a DVD player as source.

I haven't heard them but the new Cambridge Audio Sonata series of components look attractive for a use like this. They're very compact and Cambridge has a good reputation for sonics.
I did something similar for a friend - although I spent a bit more money. I bought a pair of Spica TC50s on Ebay (there is a pair for sale on Augiogon) and complemented them with older Linn electronics. The Spicas are wonderful and not space hogs visually or physically.
Seeing is believing. Best you see/hear the room, existing system before making a recommendation. The statement of 'clear' leads me to think the issue is just not the equipment.
i vote with sfar and recommend avoiding the nad combo units, which from my experience are quirky and unreliable. the cambridge sonata receiver and dvdp are nice, small form factor units (easily available around $600); add some of the above-recommnded monitors like psb image or perhaps rega r1/rs1, canton gle or energy rc and you're in business.
WOW! Thanks to all of you for the great suggestions. I have to find out if she needs a tuner or other source other than CD. I like the NAD, Marantz or Cambridge integrated idea but it may have to be a receiver.

To be honest, I really don't like doing this for this type of user (it's not helping a friend I dislike but the "expectation" that I am an "expert" in this market). I worry that what she thinks is "good sound quality" may be different than what I would think $1,000 should best be spent on. The problem is getting that friend with an untrained ear to be able to ariculate what she is looking for. The difficult part is the potentially different meanings two people, not in the same hobby, may ascribe to the terms or words used to describe their preferences.

It may seem I am over-analyzing this but this is for a bright 50-something work friend/colleague who really is looking to me for help but is who also not as able as she would normally be in defining exactly what she is looking for (except what you see above).

Too bad she has "tiny little speakers" she is not that happy with as I could have just told her to buy Bose Acountimass!!! LOL!
One thing you could do, if there's one around that you trust, is take her to a brick and mortar dealer that has some entry-level components like the ones mentioned above. That way, you can let her hear for herself and determine if that's the sound she likes. I have done that with quite a few non-audiophile friends in the past, and all of them are still quite happy with their systems 10 years later. The key to this is a dealer that you trust; I'm fortunate enough to have a few in the area that meet that criterion.

The SADDEST part about your great advice is that it never entered my mind because the brick & mortar guys are so rare these days. BUT, we do still have a few in the Detroit metro area (we may not have jobs or viable auto manufacturers right now but we DO have a few audio dealers still kickin).

Thanks for turning the light on for me.
Personally, if she already has a receiver but doesn't care for it any more, I'd think she might want to stick to that sort of thing.

They do afford one a lot of flexibility.

I'd say go with an Oppo player like a 980 so she can play any disc she wishes. $175 new. I do like mine a lot.

A close out on an Onkyo HT receiver in the $400 rang or so would be really nicee

A pair of NHT, PSB, Phase Tech OR Canton speakers for 200-300. Maybe even Totem Arroe ?

Blue Jeans cables to fill out the wires.

the Oppo 980 I have connected to my Sony ES rec is a good fit.... the ES line in Sony used to be a very good line, the Onkyo is the more musical of the two IMHO, but the Sony ES has the edge over the HT aspect.

Setup is easy and once done she can just point and shoot.

The receiver option will allow the use of a tuner, the cable box, the multi format disc player, CD, DVD, TV, and about anything else she might want to add later on... sources, amps, more speakers, sub, etc.

Most of my friends equate loud with good. Big bass, big sound. Few if any care to see into the music very deeply. All of them especially the women, want a simple and easy access too, hence the one player thought.

Buying speakers used isn't especially harrowing or troublesome, especially if they're 2 way monitors, they pack and usually ship very well. Depending on the weight, a receiver too shouldn't be too much of an issue, if it has orig packing. this method could allow her to step into the HDMI class and there's little simpler than using HDMI interfaces... plus it's a help against future proofing her system.

Those itty bitty speakers can be used as surroubnds by snipping off the RCA connectors and adding some #12 spool wire... or larger. I used Vampire #8 with great results for a long time. Violin! A decent HT setup too! Well.. an HT setup anyhow.

She gets the whole magilla that way… music and movies for around a grand!
My first system was 1K and almost exactly what tpreaves describes (though with the equivalents of 13-14 years ago). If I had it to do over again I'd do the exact same thing.

NAD integrated, NAD CD player (if she wants them to match; Oppo if she doesn't), and front-ported monitors for ease of placement (I used the KEF Q15--a fantastic speaker with a lovely midrange that sounds good all over the room, available used for around $200). That setup kept me happy for 10 years, till I started upgrading.

NAD's entry level amps are great and easy to keep as a foundation if she wants to upgrade later--and very reliable. A C325BEE would be about $300 on the 'Gon, and might be better long term than the C315BEE new. The C515 player is supposed to be quite good, though in that price range it's probably the one thing I'd want to buy new for the warranty. Cables from Markertek are a good cheap option, too.

Having owned Marantz and NAD at that price point, I'd strongly recommend NAD on build and sound quality.
I,m helping a non-audiophile on the cheap.She wants to stream inter-net radio .Also has 500cds.Download all cds.I used a mm .audio card$120,a used pass/pre(axiom$85).kg4,s$150,supra speaker cable$12.Ive 2 outlaw2200s. amps,Incredible sound ,used$400.gainclone,rotel ,many amp choices .I didnt hear anything near to what I,m listening to now,for pennys on the dollar.No computer?apple tv,squeeze box.i saw 2375marantz for$30 on craigs/list A great sound for under a grand.who knew?Good luck
Consider the Bose Wave unit with the integral CD player, tuner, and speakers if you are concerned about space yet want a more full-sound experience. It's not audiophile but you may find it quite satisfying at this time.
Is the wave unit even made for sound ?My Mom was given one free(wave unit) from a happy client.She wondered what she had done to piss him off.He did include the reciept,Back it went
Maddoggy, Not sure what you're mom had or what your asking or implying.

The Bose Wave Music System sells for around $450-$499 on the internet. I have 4 audio systems with one being the monster in my sound room.

I don't own the Bose Wave but friends do (mainly in their gormet kitchens). The musical reproduction from this little unit is rather amazing.

A long time ago as an entry-level marketing person in NYC I had a Bose (minus the CD since there were no CDs at that time except for something SONY was working with) in a small apt. in Chelsea. It fit the bill rather fine in that space; rich sound, very compact, very affordable.
agree with Sit.....my wife is in love with her wave, and that is a good thing....the 'allison' twins and i do our own thing without mrs jaybo.
My Mom had a wave.Free.But I had put a cheap nad receiver.with paradigm atoms with a sub.Pretty nice sound.The sound coming from the wave was poor ,in comparison.Having nothing to compare the sound against it may sound pretty good. Coudnt fool mom.Yugo, the car.It had 4 wheels,engine,all the components that make a car were there.Yea the wave .I see and hear the ads and my question is, is this a product for the masses.In my question I may be implying that Bose only is gimmicking selling.If you like the sound ,great.Some will,many dont. this of coarse is IMHO Good luck
no disrespect to any boseophiles out there, but $499 for that wave system doesn't strike me as good value, esp. when you can get a comparable product from, say, crosley or sharper image for a hundred bucks or so. now, i fully concur that, purely from a design perspective, the bose is very impressive, and i recognize that there's a whole class of affluent consumers who value portable, cool-looking designs. what you'll never convince me of is that the thing sounds good--i've actually a/b'd my doltish brother's wave system against my $79 philips-boombox-with-megabass-and-discolites and there was no real comparison--the boombox had scads more detail, presence and dynamic range. now, i genuinely admire bose's genuinely masterful marketing strategy--on a certain level they're deserving of their success. however, like most of us i feel this odd compulsion to keep the audiophile torch lit, and i would never personally steer someone i liked away form the path of good sound.
I'd have to hear your remarkable philips boombox because it is quite difficult for me to believe your comparison with the Wave. I'm no "Boseophile" and have never owned one. I've been around them and have friends that have them at home and at their businesses. I've been in large NYC ad agencies where the creative directors have had them in their offices for quick sampling.

I stand firm about it being a value for the sound one can achieve on it. I'm not steering anyone in the wrong direction here. By the way, I'm a career marketing guy who understands quite clearly the difference between quality vs. some company trying to sell one on quality.

What is the model of Phillips boombox you're referring to? I might get one for my younger daughter for her bedroom.
she has seen my 300 pound Rockports and triple wide loaded SRA rack so she may be thinking about that


Watch out! It sounds like she might be after you...a guy packing a pair of heavy Rockports with a triple wide rack.

I'd recommend something like an audioengine 5 with s8 sub, an airport express an Apple iTunes account and let he play music using airtunes. That is the future. Only issues are microwave oven or 2.4 Ghz wireless telephone interference.
sit: since yo uasked, i went down to the basement to check. my particular piece of sonic nirvana is the philips pwb-c798/17 and it's quite the jewel of the disco. in fact, i regard this multi-function, brightly-lit unit as the finest exemplar of audio engineeering extant--something i would hold proudly against the "high end" crap so futiley touted on these very pages. i'd rush to ebay and buy several before word gets out.

I went to Moms today a remembered ,I told her about a cd BE THERE ,speaker demo.It sounds incredible.she wanted to listen on her bose 2.1 computer set up.She thought it sounded incredible,through her bose.Your ears will tell you.Great Marketing.
Tivoli RadioCombo, amazing sound for such a small system, stylish (WAF of 10) and within the price range stated.

My wife wanted a new clock radio for Christmas with a CD player or Ipod jack. So of course the audiofile in me gravitated to the Tivoli system it sounded great and looks even better. But unforutnately with the CD player and clock radio it started to be a little to much budget wise. I ended up getting the Squeezebox radio instead. (I am not sure that this really relevant).

My mom on the other hand went out a bought a Bose Wave system for my father, to my chagrin. It is really anoying to listen to, Boom, Boom, Boom...

So once again Tivoli
Is her system really that bad, maybe she should just try replacing her 5 tiny little speakers first.

so what happend?

did she get a system, speakers, or just spend it all on shoes?
No response from Fmpnd :. shoes!