Looking for first system advice

I'm looking at entering the world of hifi components and am looking to spend 2-3k for a 2 channel system with speakers, amp, pre-amp. Looking for a place to begin, I spent some time in audio stores and without a certain starting point other than that listed above, started listening to speakers and really liked the sonus fabers that I listened to. I'm just looking for recs on "beginner" systems or components/types of components that would work/would not work (tube vs ss etc) with these speakers. I also listened to some martin logans that sounded pretty good. I'm not sold on either or these two brands so any help would be great.
I'm sure I'll get flamed for this advice but here it is anyway. The two speakers you mention both need seriously big amps to drive them. Big amps cost big money. Here's my equation for musical bliss on a budget.
Start with very simple, crossoverless speakers. They can be relatively cheap, sound unbelievable, and are a cinch to drive. Examples might include Omega's, Cain and Cain Abby's (ALERT...I'm a friend of Terry Cain's, but I still love his speakers), or maybe even a Reference 3A DeCapo (2 way but only a cap inbetween woof and tweet)
Now you need an integrated amp of only 10 to 30 watts...there are lots of cool things out there now (both ss and tube) for $500-$1000. All that's left is a CD player (or table) and one interconnect ( I highly reccomend the Chimera Labs stuff..fairly cheap and comes with a money back guarentee).
The problem is that you'll have a hell of a time finding any of this stuff to demo in a store, so you have to do your research and you'll have to take a chance on some stuff, but in the end, you'll be miles ahead. If I can point you to any of this stuff let me know...glad to help.
PS Let the flames begin.
Buy the best CD player that you can justify. It will establish what the rest of your system has to work with. Buy from stable, highly regarded manufacturers. For tube equipment, Jolida will be hard to beat. You can get an integrated amp, tube CD player, floor standing speakers, appropriate cabling, and an AC power screen for less than $3k. Also, consider a Sound Organisation stand for 250.00. Proper set up is essential to getting the best sound for the money. For solid state gear, consider Arcam electronics. For speakers, consider Focal / J.M. Lab. An example line up could be: (1) Jolida tube CD player @ 900.00, (1) Jolida integrated amplifier @ 750.00, (1) pair of floorstanding J.M. Lab speakers @ 850.00, (1) pair of Nordost speaker and interconnect cables @ 250.00 and (1) Audio Power Industries "Pack II" AC power screen @ 250.00. These are list prices. If you find these on Audiogon, you will pay alot less.
So are you throughly confused yet? There's a bagillion ways you can go here. And I seriously doubt you're goign to take anyone's blanket advise and run with it!
My suggestionis to find a pair of speakers you find you like the sound of, with the music and volume you like, and buy those, used or new(better deals on used, by far). Then, add amp, pre and source, as well as IC's, wire and Conditioner/tweaks, whatever. You might consider something that's driveable by integrated.
The guy above is pretty right regarding the Logan and SFaber speakers needing big amps mostly. You might try high end models that are good with tube integrateds, or ss integrateds, and start from there.
Here is another possibility:

--Magnepan 1.6,about $1200 used,including shipping
--16g heater cord for speaker wire from the hardware store
--Adcom 200 watt amp,either a 555 or a 5500, about $500,used.
--Bottlehead "Whole Deal" preamp,300 dollars and four or five hours of labor.
--Nad 521 rebook cd player as a transport,200,used
--Scott Nixon dac,about 250 dollars.
--enough acoustic fabric wallpaper to paper the wall behind the Maggies, 100 dollars plus install.
Let me amend my previous advice. Don't pay 250 for the Scott Nixon dac if you get a Bottlehead preamp. Instead,go to Nixon's web page and just get the circuit board and wire it into the preamp circuit ahead of the selector switch. Sorry about the oversight.
I absolutely agree with Brooks. It is much less expensive to buy good quality low powered amps than to buy good quality hi-powered amps. Of course, that means the speakers must be fairly efficient.

I like some of the speakers that Brooks mentioned and I would also suggest the Athena 3-driver floorstander (can't remember the model no.) that is currently available from AudioAdvisor for $349 shipped!! It is 92-93 db efficient and could probably live with an amp of only 5-30 watts.

I personally own the Reference 3a MM Decapo speakers that Brooks mentioned. I power them with a 3.5 watt/channel 2A3 based tube amp and get plenty of volume.

You might be shocked at the sound quality that can be achieved with a simple (Integrated amp, CD player, speakers) system based around a low powered amp and a pair of relatively efficient speakers.

My $.02 worth..................


My first piece of advice for you would be to go listen to equipment at stores other than Tweeter, Etc. Nice enough stuff, yes, but far from optimal listening environment, and very limited selection. However, this is what I'd do for 3k, for classical music.
Speakers: Vandersteen 2Ce Signature (about 1600 dollars)
Amp: Rotel RA-1070 integrated
CD player: Rotel 1072
Interconnects: Kimber Kable Hero
Speaker Cables: Kimber Kable 8TC
Power Chords: Poth Audio Greenman (x3)
If you buy used, you'll be able to pick up some of the nice stands for the Vandersteens (not required), and you'll have a rocking system. Rotel and Vandy have great synergy, though not the most "audiophile approved" brand.
Here's a pretty forgiving, highly musical combo:
Spendor S3/1p ($1400/$800 new/used, 88-89dB/w), a decent new integrated from NAD ($500?) or used Audio Refinement Complete ($600) and the NAD C541i/542 ($300/400). Add some Canare Starquad speakercables, Blue Heaven ICs, maybe my DIY PCKits (oops!), and those nice Plateau steel 23" stands ($200) and bliss out around $3k. But first I'd spend serious time demoing speakers IN YOUR ROOM, and indeed avoid all lowish efficiency monitors (like the 83dB/w Spendor S3 I purposely substituted with its 1p big brother). So find the speaker that works well, then get a decent newest-design CDP, then an integrated powerful enough to power said speakers bass response IN YOUR ROOM.
And have fun, cause it may take awhile....
I appreciate everyone's advice. Couple of questions: what are "crossoverless" speakers? Also, can anyone give me the dumbed down story on the relationship btw speakers and diff amps. Ok, so I understand that say martin logans will need a bigger and, thus probably, more expensive amp. how do I know which speakers need more power and how do I know if s certain amp has enough juice to maximize the speakers.

1 more question and I'm sure I'll get a bunch of diff answers- If I can only stretch the budget on say 1 area, speakers, amp, pre-amp, cd. Assuming that at a later date I can upgrade other things, what makes the most sense to stretch on now?

I should have added before that I am definitely looking to buy used equipment (that is how I goet turned on to gon) as I feel I can get much higher quality equip for the same price.

So Suburuguru- you are saying that the spendor s3/1p which has 88 db/watt(from their site) is high efficiency but 83db/w is low? how much variance is there so I know going forward what is efficient and what is not?
Stereohp1973: I would say that if, in fact, you are planning to upgrade at a later date, you should find a pair of speakers that you absolutely love, then ask suggestions on what to drive them with. I'm sure that you'll find some local hi-end dealers around you somewhere, who will probably let you audition components in your system, once they get to know you a bit better. Speakers are definitely the most 'personal preference' component, so listen to everything, decide what you like, and find a way to fit it into your budget...
Sounds like you are at the "everything sounds better than what I've got stage". As exertfluffer said do some listening to everything you can find and try to find what you like best. Except for digital stuff, technology isn't changing all that fast. But there is a lot of variety out there right now and finding what's out there that suits your taste is important.
As you can see, most people here recommend a cerain brand because they have listened to lots of stuff and determined what sounds good to them. Otherwise you can get disappointed after you've bought your stereo. Chances are you may listen way more critically after you've bought your stereo than you did in the store. And find faults you didn't hear on first listen.
I'll throw out my preferences, maybe they'll be some help. I could not find floorstanding speakers for under $2,000 that I was happy with so I would suggest bookshelf monitor speakers. Here are good brands that represent a big variety in sound:
1)Dynaudio BM-5 ~$450.00(reputed to be better than "audiophile" Audience 52 version.)
2) Epos M12 maybe still on sale from Audioadvisor ~$650.
3) ELF 1.5 or buy 2 Jordan JX92s single driver and put them in premade, real wood veneer cabinet from www.partsexpress.com. This is better than the omega's I heard.
4) B&W DM 601 or 602 ($450-$600).
5) Monitor Audio Bronze 1 or 2 ($450-600).
6) CBM-170 for $328 delivered. This speaker is very clear and dynamic. People call it a home theater speaker because vocals and rifle shots are very clear. Definitley not as "musical" as Spendor, JM Reynaud, Acoustic Energy Aegis 1
7) KRK ST-6 ~$200.00/pair sold at Guitar Center which is a national chain.

After you find speakers you like, find suitable amp to drive them.
1973, since the dB scale is logarythmic, each 10dB increase corresponds with a 10x requirement in amplifier power...simple math illustrates that +3dB requires a doubling of amplifier power; also remember that +6dB corresponds with a doubling of "perceived" loudness, requiring 4x amplifier power.
Most conventional mid/woofers come in around 87-89 dB/w...simple phyxics of the motors' efficiencies and radiating surfaces. In order to coax a flatter, fuller bass response from smallish systems many designers have to "squash" the more sensitive tweeters' efficiencies in order to have a balanced system, relying on big power amps to make up the requirements to drive these "lossy" passive crossover parts (resistors, capacitors and coils). Thus wide bandwidth baby monitors like the S3/5, Dynaudios, etc., will necessarily come in at 82-85dB/W in order to have decently perceived bass response. The same drivers in the same volume cabinets can also be successfully manufactured with considerably higher efficiencies IF low bass performance isn't required...like in a system using sats and a sub. That's why you'll see small monitors also rated up near 88-90dB/w, since efficiency is usually rated at 1kHz...a very forgiving spec....
You can now surmise that if a SECOND mid/woofer is added, the overall efficiency of the same system will rise +6dB. If the tweeter's efficiency is already high enough to match the combined mid/woofs, then a very satisfying twin-woofer system can be had. Similarly, using either a larger box (especially vented), and/or larger, more efficient mid/woofer, will have the same effect. The easiest comparison I can offer are indeed the Spendors I referred to: the small 5" S3/5 sita at 83-84dB/w; the CS3 simply adds a second woofer in a larger, vented cabinet, extending bass response AND increasing efficiency to 88dB/w; the S3/1p uses a larger 6.5" mid/woof in a larger, vented box, with similar results, and contributes partly to why the S3/1p and SC3 are such a successful front "trio" in an HT system. Interestingly Spendor now has a "hotter" S3 SE with a different tweeter, voiced hotter, and presumably with a slightly higher efficiency spec. But almost everyone I know who's heard both in careful comparos prefers the classic S3/5. The SE is just too hot for 2ch stereo out on stands, and needs a sub, so to my mind is really for a brighter HT system instead of high end audio. As well, its price nearly equals the S3/1p, which is ridiculous. Hope all this helps. Ern
Get a Turntable and forget about all the digital stuff.