System building -budget $15,000

My friend and I are trying to put together a system with a budget of $15,000 as per request from another friends wife as a 50th birthday gift for her husband. The guy who will eventually own the sytem currently uses run of the mill components and is not really an audiophile. The wife is very keen that something nice should be put together which is simple to use even by her as she also likes to hear music from time to time.

The current list inclues following short listed items but not yet final. We are looking for some pointers in the right direction as far as matching the amp and speakers are concerned. The only other thing we will add is a CD player.

The list includes the choices as follows:


Porac D25 or D38
Kef Reference 203


Jeff Rowland Conceto Integrated
Mark Levinson 383 Integrated

What do you guys think about the choices and what is a better match in terms of speaker and amp from the list above. Those who are familiar with either speakers or amps listed above should know better, so if you own either equipment please share your own experience about how you went about auditioning any of the above equipment and what sounded better to you in terms of matching.

Any input would be be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.
You should go to a local A/V boutique go through this excercise. If this person is not into gear currently, the system better be easy to use. The best way to get that is to have a local firm install the system and do all of the pre-programming so that one button starts, switches, and stops things when desired.
Those are all very nice components and well chosen for a 2-channel sound
system for music. I'm not familiar with the specific speakers you chose
though, and therefore would likely go with something I've had more
experience with. Speakers should be tailored with several factors in mind:
Synergy with the amp, size of the listening room, and musical listening
preferences. You may want to list those things to get a bit more tailored
responses here. The integrated amp option will simplify things, absolutely,
and I think is a great choice where amplification is concerned. The Rowland
amp looks fantastic too, if he is into appearences beyond the black-box look.
Don't skimp on that CD player as your front end is extremely important, and
a good system like you are assembling is going to reveal the weakest link(s).
My only question to you is this; if this person is not an audiophile, is his wife
sure he's going to appreciate this level of performance, or even hear or
appreciate the differences? Not everyone does. If not, or if there is any
doubt, you can certainly assemble a VERY rewarding system for MUCH less
money and put the balance towards something else. There is a poing of
diminshing returns in the wonderful world of high end, where the differences
in components become rather subtle. I'd question whether the lucky birthday
boy can hear the difference between a $5K system and a $15K system...or
even cares if he does. Is this the type of person who is going to sit down in
the sweet spot and listen for hours, or is this a system that will be played as
more of an ambient system with most listening done while walking around
the house doing other things. If the latter, I'd question the level of
investment here. Not that it isn't a spectacular gift. Just a thought.

This is one lucky man! BUT....thats a big budget for a guy who is not a confirmed audiophile. My suggestion is to get a decent 2.1 channel HT system with a plasma and a universal player instead. If this guy likes it and gets into the audiophile thing, the wife can let him upgrade/expand later as that may be part of the fun.

If this guy was already an audiophile I'd say go for it.

I went through this very same thing with my sister and her husband. Ended up with a sweet tv, 2 channel Bose system (not my choice...honestly) and a universal player instead. Dude loved it.
Thanks guys for the input.

Bundy: agreed auditioning is one way but the components selected make it difficult to go to one shop for auditioning.

Marco: The speakers selected for the reason that my friend is familiar with Proacs sound and thinks very highly of them, the Kef were my choice as I already own the Kef Reference Two. The person who will have this system may not be having a good or even decent system but sure appreciates music reproduced from high end system as they frequently pay visits to others friends homes and are most of the time exposed to good systems. My friend who is helping it put together has the Alon Adriana's being driven by Cary 2A3 amps, Wadia CD player and TNT turntable (to be upgraded to Graham's soon). Between the two of us we basically want to put together a simple but very reliable and flexible system. The integrated amp is chosed as both of them can be upgraded if needed in future. The system will definitely not be used for background listening. They may not be into high end now but sure enough they know what is high end when they listen to one. The room is fairly decent size where a floorstander can easily be accomodated so that too is not a concern, we have done the pre feasibility after which we arrived at the short listed components.

We will certainly not skimp on the front end, one player that we did consider was the Arcam 192 but that is yet to be decided.

As far as Musical preference goes, they listen to variety of music which includes but not limited to Jazz, Classical, Soft Rock, contemporary from the 60's and 70's.
I don't know if you can determine this without asking him, but the first thing we did before buying anything was to audition one tube system and one SS system at a high end audio dealer. I knew what I liked going in, but we needed to find out what my wife's preferences were. Had I gone ahead and assembled a SS system, I would have had to sell it all and start over. Choosing between the two (or a hybrid amp) may not be an issue with your friend, but it is for many listeners.
Happy Birthday to your friend. That is a wonderful present!
B&W Nautilus 802's $5700
Krell FPB 300Cx $4700
Cardas Golden
Reference bi-wire speaker
cables and interconnects $1700

TOTAL $12100

That leaves $2900 for a cd player and dac.
Excellent system, all bought used here on Audiogon. If he doesn't like it, sell it all at no loss.

Tim Reed

Thanks a lot, but the idea of buying a birthday gift means you buy brand new and not second hand, it would look foolish on anyones part giving a present which is second hand. :)
Speakers: Egglestonworks Fontain II $5500
Integrated Amp: McIntosh 6900 $4500
Subwoofer: REL Strata III $1200
CD Player: Music Fidelity SACD Player $1400
Cables $600
Power Conditioner- Shunyata-2 $400
Music- $1400 gift certificate to
Total $15,000.... happy husband- priceless
I'm sorry. I thought that you were talking about the best system for the money, not the best new system. I bought my son a 1996 NSX. New would have been $80,000. For what I spent on the used NSX, the best that I could have bought for the same money new, is a Ford Mustang. BTW, my son thought that I was anything but foolish. I've bought alot of gear on Audiogon and I have yet to buy anything that was distinguishable from new (except for the price). Also, with your budget and the gear of which you speak, You don't have much allowance for cables and IC's. Buying cheap there is worst than using a walkman as a transport. I spent years and alot of money to get the system that I now have. It is incredible. I just gave you the answer to a fantastic sounding system in seconds, that took me years to put together. Truely one of the finest sounding systems that I have ever heard. They mesh wonderfully and that is the hard part. Getting all the peices to flow together. I didn't read antone elses post that said, I have that system and it's great.

I apologies if I have wasted your time. I was just trying to be helpful. I guess that I am one of those people where quality is much more important to me than something new. Especially when something new sometimes takes months to break-in and start sounding good.

No need to apologise, you were being helpful for sure. Please accept my apology if I offended you in any way, as I just realised going through my own post to you that it was not very politely put.

I respect your opinion and appreciate your taking time to come back and post that message with a nice explanation. I value everyones opinion here, if it does not work in this post it may serve its purpose otherwise. Your suggestion is duly noted.

Thanks again for your input.
You're Welcome.
One other thing to budget for is a decent rack for the equipment if your friend doesn't have one.
Mcintosh tube MA2275 Integrated + Sonus Faber Cremonas.

Tubes for a newbie? I think that might be going overboard, we do not know if the guy will eventually become an audiophile, he is 50 already, the likelyhood of him seriously getting into hifi is very small. Anyway, what you suggested is, I am sure a great match and both highly regarded components.

We prefer solid states to bottles, don't forget bottles require additional warm up times to sound good.