Musical system for under $2K?

My nephew stayed with us this past weekend, and was bitten by the "audio bug"...he now wants to put together an "affordable" music system for his appartment based around a CD player, an integrated amp, and a pair of monitor speakers. He listens mostly to classical and jazz, but also to rock from time to time. Any favorite combos? I'd prefer it if you limit your suggestions to systems that you own (or have owned) and that you have found to be musically accurate and satisfying over the long haul. His total budget, including stands, wire, and interconnects is just about $2000, and he is open to buying used if it helps him get more for his money. Thanks in advance for all your help. Deborah.
I haven't actually owned one of these (yet) but if I were doing this I would buy a DVD player instead of a CD player. I've listened to some DVD players that sounded pretty darn good, and you have the advantage of also being able to watch DVD movies. Some (Pioneer) have 24/96 digital outputs. I wouldn't spend too much on one, especially since this market is still evolving. Also, I would buy the DVD player new because they can have problems and a defective cheap one probably isn't worth fixing. For the amp and speakers, try to buy used stuff locally. The best route might be to find a local dealer that will work with him on this project. IMHO and experience, an audition of a piece of gear in the room that you will be using it in is worth 10,000 opinions on the Internet. Buying on the Internet is great and some good deals can be found, but a novice would probably be better off being advised by an experienced audio retailer. Being a young man, he is probably going to be attracted to billion watt amps and speakers with 30" woofers. I would urge him to buy the best quality that he can afford rather than the biggest - he'll enjoy it longer.
I wont hesitate to claim that "pound per sound" Linn's Mimik, Majik and Tukan will outperform ANY system at the same price range or even more...!USED even better deal! Read some reviews on the "soundstage", or better go and audition for yourself..all of these +cables less than 2K Good Luck! or Chow Chao...or whatever!
Cambridge Audio A3i Used (or A500 new) or Rotel (970-used or 971-used or 972-new) Integrated Amp; B&W DM602 or DM601 Speakers. Cambridge Audio D500 CD Player (or CD4SE used). Van Den Hul D102MkIII Interconnects or Nordost Solar Wind or Nordost Blue Heaven. MIT Terminator 2 Bi-Wire Speaker Cables (
Used is the better way to go. New or used, here is a short list off the top of my head... Integrated amps: NAD, Bryston, Audio Refinement, Onkyo, Denon, Jolida, Golden Tube, Creek, Linn. CD players: NAD, Cambridge, Rotel, Parasound, Denon, Dynaco, Marantz, Jolida. Speakers: B & W, PSB, Acoustic Research, Coincident, Paradigm, Energy, Mirage, Vandersteen. Wire: Audioquest, StraightWire, Kimber. My choice would be(ALL USED): Jolida 302(upgrade the Chinese tubes to Euro[if not done already] and power cord), Cambridge CD player, Coincident Triumph speakers, Audioquest Turquoise IC, and Audioquest Type6 speaker cable. Easily done under $2K. Awesome system for even someone much more "advanced" than a novice.
I'll agree with the first poster-from experience! My system: RCA 5223P DVD player (last years model, probably available if you can find it discounted into the $200-$300 area). I sold an Arcam Alpha 8SE (list price over $1000) because the RCA beat it handily (you can see my full review at Audio Asylum-I can't explain it but it's definitely true!). Audiolab 8000A integrated-now available on closeout from Artech electronics-$359 for a demo or $449 new (50-60% off and don't worry about reliability-mine is about 12-14 years old!) or you can go to the 8000S (remote control-no phono-supposedly better sounding-more flexibility for home theatre etc) for $439 demo or $549 new. Then buy a used Cardas Golden power cord for the amp-some posted on Audiogon for $200 right now. Interconnects-I bought a half metre Silver Audio Silver Bullet 6.0 off Audiogon for $150, have seen the Hyacinth go used $125 to $150-these are phenomenal cables for the money, alternatively you might check out Pure Silver Sound at $139 new for 1 metre. Then buy some used Kimber 8TC- maybe $100 or so for that. This leaves you about $750 for speakers (I'm using Elipson 1313 that sold at full retail around $2000 about 12 years ago and I don't think are even available, so I can't help you with speaker recommendations) and if you go for a reasonably priced floorstander, you can save on speaker stands etc. The Audiolabs should drive just about anything and you can choose your speakers to match your musical preference-ie. a slightly warmer sound or something more analytical. A cautionary note-I can't vouch for the new RCA DVD players, but the 5223P (if you can find one) sounds amazing if you connect decent stuff to it. It was a real shocker for me. And the Cardas Golden is mandatory on the amp! Put this all together and you'll end up with a system that can hold its own against systems costing 2-3 times more! I've compared down at my local dealer. My analog front end in use in the same system is a Michell Gyrodec with Premier FT3 arm and Ortofon MC 20 Super, so the RCA is up against some stiff competition!
Here is a great system for your price range, prices are for new equipment, PSB Image 2 speakers $300.......Attacama 21" speaker stands $99.....8ft Analysis Plus Oval 12 speaker cable pair $150....Musical Fidelity X-A2 integrated, 75w $700....Musical Fidelity A3CD player $1000....Analysis plus copper oval 0.5m interconnects $200.....Monster HTS200 power conditioner $125....grand total for new equipment is $2500 slightly over budget, you could get cheaper CD player but this MF A3CD based system will produce amazingly good sound, CD player quality will be most important at this budget level.......many of these items can be purchased from Audio Advisor online, Sam (yes I have heard all these myself)
Thanks for all the help so far. As I have no personal experience with DVD players, I found the advice offered by Bebo and Hdm to be very interesting, and worth looking into. And please, keep the systems comming, and the more specific, the better! Of course, I plan to enlist my favorite local dealers help too, but I wanted some first hand advice from people who have actually lived with a "small" system that they have found to be musically satisfying. Thanks again! Chow, caio,...forget it! Deborah.
I think the size of the room would be very important to know before suggesting a system I beleive that to be the most important factor in order to put together a system of any price in a small room you can save on power and speaker alone
Sorry about that Jules. I called my nephew, and he said the room is *about* 16' x 14' x 8', and he plans to set the speakers up along the long wall. Thanks. Deborah.
Deborah, I just downsized from seperates to take a break and save some money, and have been very pleased with my NAD and PSB setup. I use the NAD 317 Integrated ($600 from Soundcity)/80 watts -- great history behind the NAD integrateds. I then use the NAD C540 CD Player ($400 from Soundcity)it's 24/96 capable -- I have read there have been problems with NAD CD players of old, but this unit performs flawlessly. The speakers are the PSB Stratus Bronze speakers ($800 from Soundcity). The integrated gets better with time and the CD player is decent for the money. The remote controls the CD player and integrated, so it makes for a very easy setup. Good luck.
Believe or not there is an amazing pair of pioneer speakers designed by the old designer at KEF that sell for $350 with a nice pair of stands at worth a call. Allright the integrated is a Passion Audio Kit i11 36 watt EL34 based Tube amp, Take a look at and review in the Canadian UHF magazine $1100 this amp blew away my Audio Refinement. also at Put that together with the cambridge audio Cd $450 and some Analysis plus cables and you are done for a smudge over $2000.
Here's my bedroom system: Marantz CD65 mkII cd player; Creek 4240SE integrated amp; Alon Petites speakers; AudioQuest speaker wire and interconects. My advice is also to keep the first system simple with reliable components.
Audio Refinement Complete integrated (used, $700), B&W 602's (used, $400), Target Speaker Stands ($200), CD Player Rega Planet (used, $500), Audioquest wires. $2k all in, very musical...Jeff
just off the top of my head I would suggest a pair of magnepan mmg's a jolida integrated or used counterpoint sa-12 or 100 and a counterpoint 2000 or 1000, mit terminator 2 cables for speaker and interconnect and a rega planet cd player just a quick response I could think of a few more
Integrated Amp Choices: Rotel, Creek 4330, NAD CD Player Choices: Rotel 951, Rega Planet Speaker Choices: 3 flavors of B&W($250-600/pr., Epos Connections: Tara, Nordost Stands: Pickem' at $$100 Mix and match result: Sweet system for around 2K.
Speakers-Meadowlark Kestrel. Integrated amp-Linn Majik. CD Players-Rotell 955, NAD 502, Rega Planet. Harmonic Tech or Audioquest cables. Bottle of Discsolution. I have personally owned and lived with this system. Very musical and works well with many diffrent types of music, the Kestrel is espesially easy to set up and has excellent bass + no speaker stands. All easily available for under 2k used.
Thanks everybody. Today we listened to a great system at a friends house. Meadowlark Kestrel (Hot Rod), Jolida SJ502a, CAL 15, Audioquest cables. My nephew LOVED it. I told him that even if he bought used, he'd have to streach his budget to about $3000, and he might just do that. But he'd like to listen some more, which I think is wise. In case you have not already figured this out, I'm taking this on as a pet project. It's allot of fun, and I'll tell you, after hearing this system today, it made me wonder if my husband and I spend too much $$$ on audio. You really can get great sound without taking out a second mortgage! Keep the systems coming! I really appreciate ALL the advice, and we plan to listen to as many of these components as we can! Thanks. Deborah.
Ejlif...did you "modify" anything on your Majik? Well, i replaced the copper "jumpers" with AQ silver, and looking into getting API 313 power cable. I heard it's working good with Majik? Also, isn't Majik-Planet-Kestrel 'bit too "dark" of a "presentation"? Regards!