Hi voodoochild i think the most crucial piece that you will buy is your speaker. I would spend at leat 50% of your budget on that. You have been looking at b&w speakers they work well may be try paradigm or foacl.
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Just my suggestion - for what it is worth.
If you already have some speakers, spend about $1000-1500 on a good used tube amp on audiogon. The amp is a major part of the system. Buy a decent yet inexpensive CD player like you are already looking at and then save up for whatever speakers you are looking at. If you don't have a preamp, look for a CD player with variable output (especially if it has volume control on the remote control) or buy a low cost passive preamp if you can't find a CD player with variable output. It is better to buy a good amp that you will be satisfied with than to use a lesser quality integrated. If you really want a solid state integrated (I prefer tubes) then look at something like a used YBA Integre or perhaps a Krell integrated. Lots of great choices on audiogon and if you search the forums you can probably find lots of good information on recommendations for integrateds if you don't like my idea of buying a tube amp. If you have the option to listen to equipment before you buy it, listen first.
FYI - you won't typically get deep bass from bookshelf speakers like you will from tower speakers. If you want bookshelf speakers, you may need to add a subwoofer (another subject altogether) to get the bass you are looking for.
If you are considering stand mount speakers, a subwoofer will likely be in your future. Pick an integrated that has both preamp out and main amp in jacks - Rotels don't - NADs do. Buy as many watts as you can afford. Speakers and the room have the largest impact on the sound of a system.
Note that subs add much more than just bass.
I am providing you with several viable systems within the price ranges you suggest ($2000 to $4000 USD total). My preference is to go for a balanced system with a quality source. The theory being you want to avoid garbage in, garbage out from the very start.
System 1: $2048
Rotel RA-1062 integrated $699
Rotel RCD-1072 CD Player $699
B&W 685 Bookshelf speakers $650/pr.
Total cost: $2048 plus tax, cables and stands
This is not a bad system you have put together on paper. The Rotel electronics are fairly neutral and the amp is powerful, if a bit sterile sounding. The B&W 685's sound great with strong bass and smooth treble - a whole lot better overall than the model 602/603's they replace. If you are not putting these on a shelf, you would need to spring for stands. You could probably find the electronics used and get into the system for considerably less than retail price given here.
System 2: $2174
Cambridge 640A V2 Integrated Amp $600
Cambridge 640C V2 CD Player $600
Cambridge 640P Phono Stage $169
Dali Ikon 2 Bookshelf Speakers $805
Total cost: $2174 plus tax, cables and stands
This system would be in my mind a bit better than the Rotel/B&W system in terms of resolution, musicality and PRAT. I think the Rotel's are a little heavier duty build compared with the Cambridge electronics, but the Cambridge stuff offers more power, more and better DACs and a better phono stage compared with the Rotel's. The Dali's are great sounding speakers too.
System 3: $3244
NAD C372 Integrated Amp $999
Rega Apollo CD Player $995
B&W CM1 Bookshelf Speakers $1000
Bellari VP129 Tube Phono Preamp $250
Total cost: $3244 plus tax, cables and stands
This system would be well rounded and a little more analogue sounding than Systems 1 or 2, but with a great deal of authority provided by the 150W/ch NAD. The B&W CM1 speakers are really special with incredible bass and articulation for their size and price. Very cool looking boxes too.
System 4: $4069
PrimaLuna ProLogue Two Integrated Amp w/ phono stage $1574
Cambridge 840C CD Player $1395
Dynaudio Audience 52 Bookshelf Speaker $1100
Total cost: $4069 plus tax, cables and stands
This would be my favorite system with the PrimaLuna tube integrated. Don't know what turntable you are using, but this amp and speaker combo together with vinyl is just terrific. Not a big rocker. But sweet, sweet sweet with plenty of bass to go around.
System 6: (blow your budget)
Musical Fidelity A5.5 Integrated Amp $3000
Musical Fidelity A5.5 CD Player $3000
Revel profile M22 Bookshelf Speakers $2200
Total cost: $8200 plus tax, cables and stands
This system would rock your socks off with more authoritative bass than you could imagine from bookshelf speakers. You could probably find some M22's and previous models from MF, the A5's, for thousands less than this price.
In fact, you should try to get all of your gear used on Agon or other online source. These systems are for your consideration put together from components I have heard and liked or owned before. you could mix and match pieces, but don't scrimp on the front end.
My first question is: what type of music do you listen to? and at what volumes?
If you are a rocker (or like big orchestral music, etc), then something like the B&W 805's would be fine, but try to get the Signature series - they have much better bass...also, when getting standmounts, they're typically less efficient so you have to make sure your amp is up to it...maybe something like a bel canto integrated (s300iu has a USB port!) - this setup, with a cdp like the rotel, could be had for around 3-4k i'd imagine (although the signature nautilus will be expensive and hard to find)...
If on the other hand, you're into 'small' music, chamber music, acoustic, jazz, vocals, etc...you may want to check out some full-range single driver speakers with some nice tube gear...Cain & Cain abbeys, with a nice tube integrated like the Dared 2A3 (for sale here) and a CDP would cost ~$2500 (plus cables), and would sound awesome...
So, it really depends what you're into and what you're trying to achieve...if you can, join a local audio group and listen to a few systems (Audiocircle is a good place to start?) The most crucial place to start is with this analysis of your needs, wants, and musical tastes...then do some research to see what people here (with similar interests/tastes) are listening with.
Knownothing, awesome feedback, much appreciated.
My listening ranges from Black Sabbath, A Tribe Called Quest, David Brubeck, Joni Mitchel and everything in between.
It is hard working within the budget boundaries since I am fresh out of undergrad, but it being forced to be creative has made this an enjoyable process. The feedback from everyone has been more than I expected! Thanks!
Glad you might find this information helpful.
One correction, the price quoted above is for a new PrimaLuna ProLogue model one integrated with phono stage, not the model two as stated above. The model two has a little more power and therefore head room than the model one and a little better bass for about $300 more new. Don't be deceived by the 35 and 40 W respective power ratings for these tube integrated amplifiers, those watts will sound more like a solid 50 - 60W or more of solid state power in practice. Both of these come up from time to time on the used market.
A PrimaLuna based system would definitely be better for Brubeck than for Osborne, but it can get out of its own way when asked and the bass is tighter than typical for a budget tube amplifier, especially the model two. Another nice thing about the PrimaLuna and why I recommend it for people starting out in hi fi is that the amp automatically adjusts the bias on the tubes, so it is one less thing to fuss with. You could still role the tubes later if you are so inclined.
Good luck with putting your new system together. You might want to be driven to some degree by what is available on the used market since you can get some much more equipment value for your money there.