Solve this fun puzzle

How would one select components to begin a new 2 channel system. Do i start with speakers, amps, preamps, or transport. Lets say i start with speakers, how do i now which amp to use. Is it possible for me to miss the perfect combo if i dont audition them all. There are just too many variables. lets say i had 5 choices for each category, that easily over 100 combinations. To narrow it down and to let you guys help me with suggestions i am currently looking on how to spend $900 on used market for the complete system for my apartment. A cd player will be my only source, so i favor amps with volume controls. Please help. Bye the way i live in Birmingham, AL, there aren't much auditioning options available here.
If you are starting from scratch, find a dealer you feel you can trust, but don't forget to use your own ears! I really don't think an entry level audiophile "wannabe" can put together a system from the miriads of used gear out there!
While Docroc speaks the truth, newbies do have to start somewhere and $900 ain't gonna buy diddly at a dealer. Even a Good Guys or Best Buy. So let me stick my neck out a bit. Given the limited budget you'll want to look for an integrated amp OR a CD player with a volume control. That equates to fewer cables and components. If you don't already have a CD player be sure to get an "all-in-1" (i.e., not a separate transport and DAC). I'd suggest a CDP with volume control and a non-integrated amp as it provides more options for future upgrades. As for speakers, consider monitors as they'll offer the best quality. A sub woofer could be added later to extend the bottom range.Took a quick look here in the Classifieds and it is possible to put together a system for $900. There was a Creek integrated and Marantz CDP that both have good reputations. Saw several speakers that might pair with them as well. BUT not knowing your musical preferences AND not being intimately familiar with the listed components and how they would interact with each other in YOUR room I'm not sticking my neck out any further. If you see a combo that looks interesting feel free to post a query on them as someone may well know how they would match up. Be sure to include info on your musical tastes and listening environment. Good luck!
The second post is says alot right. For that price range it is pretty simple: a pair of mini-monitors, a cd player, and an integrated amp (I'm not sure if a cd with volume and a power amp is necessarily better, I think it depends more on the specific components whether one arrangement is better than the other). You can do it for $900. The marantz cd-63 and 67 are classic cd players, I don't know how good they are compared to some of the newer stuff in the past few years, but one of those players at a used $200-$250 is good. NAD electronics are always worth looking at in that price range too. Some kit speakers might be a good way to go, like Emerald's at about $300 kit form. I can't think of any integrated in your price range off hand outside the creek's and NAD's. I got my sister some entry level Rotel pieces as demo's from a dealer $207 for the cd player and $207 for the integrated,and then bought a pair of minimonitors at half-off for $400 instead of $800 list. A little pair of Epos used might have a nice sound. has the biromod wharfedale diamond 7.2's at only $259 pr. you may want to check out. For you $900 though don't start investing in tweaks, you'll get more for your money investing in those three components.
Sorry, I didn't address the question specifically, as far as selecting between the three there's no hard-n-fast rules. For $900 all you can do is distribute the money more-or-less evenly between the three and just see what comes up. As soon as you start spending less the $200 on a piece your creating a weak link or imbalance in the system; I mean a $170 pair of speakers on a nearly $500 integrated may not give the best sound attainable for that total sum. In the end it depends on the specific components though.
There are two schools out there on where to start assembling a system. I personally started at my speakers and am matching back into the chain. Others feel that you should start at the front end and work towards your speakers. Really, at the end, you want to end up with a system that sounds good to your ears. You will find some awesome recommendations in this site. The most knowledgable folks are at this site. I know this probably wasn't any help to you. I wish you luck in your search... it's a blast!
What kind of music do you listen to ? Size and shape of room ? Volume level that you like to listen at ? Do you ever plan on adding sources such as a tuner, tape, TT, etc... ? Any size or placement constraints on speakers ? Sean
If I had $900 to spend used. Cambridge Audio D500 CD Player +/- $250. B&W DM301 +/- $175; Integrated Amp choose either Cambridge Audio A3i, NAD C320, Rotel RA970 +/- $250; (We are up to $675.) Onkyo Integra Tuner (T4015/T4017/T4057) $50; MIT Terminator 3 Speaker Cables $75; Nordost Solar Wind Interconnect for CD player $75; Straightwire Chorus cable for tuner %25.. Total $900 probably +/- $50.
Good call Sugarbrie. I was thinking either b&w, nht or the paradigm. But b&w is probably the best bet. As far as were to start I guess that is personnel preference. I start with speakers myself, spending as much as I can on the speakers and upgrading as the cash comes in. Good luck Pete
CORRECTION: The B&W speakers are DM302 (not 301). You could also opt for the Cambridge Audio CD-4SE the D500 replaced.
I agree with joysjane that you will get many good recommendations from knowledgeable people on this site. Sugarbrie has made a good call. You also may consider the Sherwood Newcastle cd-980 for a cdp. It has dual 20 bit Burr-Brown dacs and can be had on the used market for $175-$225. There is none listed on Agon or Ebay right now but one may come up soon. Just another alternative. Good luck
Very interesting posts and well thought out. I've always believed in starting with the source first, get the source right and follow it down through the chain to the speakers. The old garbage-in/garbage out school of thought. Although I haven't heard all of the CD players listed here, the Marantz units are well regarded and reasonably priced and would likely be a logical candidate. I have used Cambridge CDP's in the past, but had a lemon so I won't comment one way or another on the Cambridge; many others have had great success with Cambridge Audio. Plenty of CDP's to consider...As for amplification, I'm a NAD fan in that price range(a NAD3020 integrated @ $200 should be considered) although you may consider a used Creek or Rotel as well. Is a tuner section important to you? If so you need a receiver rather than a integrated amp, perhaps a used NAD7250 (I picked up one for $175 on eBay)? I agree with Tom, I've yet to find a better budget speaker than the B&W DM302. To summarize, $250 per component, and leaves you a few bucks for stands and wire. Welcome to quality audio! Jeff
Used Dahlquist DQ10s - about $300, Used Acoustat TNT200 power amp on Audioweb for $200, Used Chase Technologies remote control preamp for about $75 used. $575 so far. If you pick up a cheap enough CD player, you may have enough for a modest powered sub. And we're talking real Hi-Fi here. One of me audiophile daughters has a similar system and it's dynamite. Don
I'm in the same boat and I'm happy to see that on my own I've assembled from the components mentioned above. I started with new B&W 302's, purchased spontaneously. I realized I then had to get a back end that would do them justice. I spent hours and hours researching and settled on a used NAD C340 amp and used Cambridge D500 SE CD player. The CDP was damaged in shipment so I have yet to try it out.
If I were to do anything different, I would probably move up the B&W line and buy something used in the 600 series. The next step is probably to get a sub woofer with a high pass to take some of the load off these poor 5.5" drivers.
Speaker setup is very important to make the whole excercise worth it. Good solid stands are a must, you can mess with spikes and stuff from there.
Without testing myself, I am inclined to agree with those that say swanky speaker cable and interconects only make a psychological difference and are indistinguishable from Radio Shack Gold ICs and 20 gauge speaker wire from the role at Home Depot in blind listening tests.
I won't argue that high priced wires might be out of place in a $900 system and that the money would be better spent on upgraded components. In most cases there won't be a high enough level of resolution to justify the buy. Adding in that the listeners's experience is limited only reinforces this opinion. The Rat Shack ICs are even a good suggestion. But 20 gauge speaker cables? Yowser that's small! At least use 12 or 14 gauge speaker cables! It's also available from Radio Shack and isn't expensive at all.
The Magnapen MMG's used, about $400 to $425, would be really good for a system in that price range too.
Spend more money on speakers. While it is true in general that source components are vital to good sound, let's face it, at $900 you can't afford to be too picky. At this price level I believe you get the most bang for your buck by putting it towards speakers over electronics.

That said, my first recommendation would be the Triangle Titus at $495. Personally I'd much rather have cheaper electronics running these than better electronics running any of the sub $300 speakers. The other no brainer would be a Creek integrated amp, which you may be able to get easily on the used market now since they've introduced a very popular new model and many may be looking to upgrade. Lastly, I'd try to find a used Rotel or Cambridge Audio D300 or D500 for a source. I'd worry about upgrading cables later and use what I had on hand or find some really cheap used stuff. It will have an affect on the sound but not nearly as much as skimping on one of the components. Same with stands. Best of luck.

Duh, I meant 20 gauge cable.
That and I have 303's, not 302's.
And that last sentence is a mess...
Looks like I shouldn't try to write and listen to music at the same time.
Fpeel is right about the cables, but only up to a point IMHO. You will notice a difference with cables, however a high resolution cables will reveal the short comings of the CD Player and Amplifier, probably with an increase in graininess among other things. I picked the Solar Wind to get to the $900 budget. It is a very nice cable for the money. In the Nordost line a Blue Heaven would work even better (and is $50 more used). Above that, any better cable would be too revealing. At the very least the Straightwire Chorus is a good cheap cable. If you go with bare speaker wire, get 12 AWG (or 14).
There is a Sherwood Newcastle cd-980 for sale on this site. The member's name is Noksmall. The price is $180.00 Go to audioreview for reviews.