Hey..... You go first. Then I get to criticize. The winner is the last person to suggest a phono stage.
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IMHO, speakers "deserve" the most $. (Why do I feel I just painted a huge bull's eye on my chest?!). You have an excellent turntable and no CD Player yet, so I assume that vinyl is more important to you than CDs. Next would be an integrated with a good phono stage that provides a good match to whatever cartridge you have. The integrated will give you more sonic value for the $ spent than separates, and thereby allow you to have more $ available for your CD Player, preferably with a digital out. You did not mention ICs so I am assuming you already have them. Down the road you can then add a separate phono stage and a seperate DAC.
Audio Research SP-15 $1,500 to $1,800 includes a nice phono and is all you will need for preamp, do not pay $2,000 for this preamp, even though it was $7,000 new. Magnepan 1.6 speakers, prices should come down as tons are being sold to buy new 1.7s $1,000. amp Forte 4a $500 great little high current amp.
I agree on the integrated amp vs separates in this price range. I would spend about 1K on cd, 1.5-2K on integrated amp, and 2-2.5K on speakers. If you are willing to sacrifice the lowest octives, you are going to get better sound per dollar out of stand mount speaker's, although the Maggie's suggested above are a great audio bargain. All suggestions are just rule of thumb, and most rules can and should be broken in pursuit of better sound.
If you like Rega then stick with it. An Elicit, used if you can find one, or a Mira (integrated instead of separates for $$). Saturn CD to complete the Rega stack.
For speakers, honestly, I'd go with Dali Mentor Minuet. Sound MUCH larger than they are. Could probably find some floorstanders for the money left, but you hate to scrimp on quality at the speakers. Maybe you don't get the absolute bottom octave, but the rest is in spades. Can always add a sub later when budget allows.
Should have a little left over for cables, nice pair of stands, etc.
Thank you everyone for your posts! I have received a lot of personal email as well and it seems that the majority of responses suggest spending a majority of money even as much as $4K of $5K on the speakers. With a decent P7, and a "best buy" integrated amp already, I will strongly heed this advice and upgrade further after the speakers.
Now.... perhaps the next question will be what's the best pair of speakers for $5K. I listen to mostly classical, piano, strings, jazz, blues, and a spattering of classic rock.
Thank you all for your responses and advice. Please keep them coming!
You will get better help if you tell us a few more things - what integrated are you using, room dimensions, speakers on the short or long wall, how far apart from each other, how far from the back wall can the speakers be, how far from the speakers to where you will sit to listen, monitors or floor standing, how deep do you need the bass to be? Carpeted or hard floors? And a tougher question but quite important - What "kind" of sound are you looking for?
I would go a different direction and spend a fair amount on the cd player and electronics. Someone has already mentioned staying with Rega for the complete system, and there's a lot of merit in that. Another package that comes to mind with a lot of capability and good reputation for sound quality per dollar is the Quad 99 series. The 99 CDS, 99 preamp, and 909 power amp would eat up about $3500, still leaving room for the very good Quad 21L speakers. If at all possible, visit a number of dealerships, discuss your sonic priorities, room size, placement issues, etc., and let them demonstrate systems they think would meet your needs.
Questions about your space, taste and current amplifier are critical.
Rega and Quad ideas are excellent.
Before going all in for speakers, here are some suggestions for a balanced system within your budget.
Used system from Agon right now:
-Primare D30.2 Reference
-PS Audio GCPH
-Sim Audio Moon 3.1SE
-Gallo Reference 3.1.
-Musical Surroundings Phenomena 2
-Vandersteen 2ce Signature II.
With more information about your circumstances, recommendations for $5K speakers will be easier and more productive.
I would get the best Arcam integrated and CD-player I could afford along with the Vandersteen 2Ce. I would also look at the PSB or Paradigm speaker lines for alternatives to the VS. I agree with previous posts that at this price point I would look to an integrated, unless you choose speakers that could be driven by 35 watts. In that case, I would get a Goldpoint Passive Volume Control (New $400 w/2 inputs), a Creek phono stage and Music Reference RM10 MkII (New $1,950) amplifier and sensitive speakers. I use a Lightspeed Attenuator ($450 - single input) with the Music Reference and it is a SOTA combo in the context of much more expensive combos I own and have owned.
You've now asked two questions, and here are responses in reverse chronological order:
1) Speakers for up to $5,000/pair. Assuming you have a medium to large room, Vienna Acoustics Mahler (app. $4,000/pair used) or Dynaudio 3.3 (app. $3,000/pair used). The Mahlers need a good solid-state amplifier to control their multiple bass drivers. The Dynaudios likewise need a good solid-state amp because they are 86 db. efficient. Both do really well with orchestral music (and the massed strings found in such music). The Dyna's are the more accurate speaker, but the Mahlers are also compelling because they are colored in a pleasing way. The Dyna's go loud, and the Mahlers can go very loud, cleanly. The Mahlers have an especially high-quality finish. The Dyna's are the better speaker, but if you listen to a lot of orchestral music, the Mahlers are great (and they're fun on rock/blues 'cause they go loud as hell).
2) System for $5,000. My proposed system is closer to $6k, but it's the price of glory:
CD player: A used Rega - app. $600.
Preamp: Audible Illusions 3A - app. $800 used. Contains an excellent phono stage. Absolutely must be left on 24/7 due to lack of soft-start (this preamp quickly destroys tubes if it is regularly powered up and down). Dual volume control (i.e., one for each channel) and no remote will annoy some people, but extreme performance for the money. Like most tube equipment, if it breaks, any decent tech can fix it, and usually cheaply.
Amp: Bryston 4B-ST - app. $1,100 used. Good sound, pretty powerful, won't break, and you can easily sell it if you move on to something else.
Speakers: Dynaudio 3.3's - app. $3,000 used (see above).
Cables: Cabling is really important. Kimber Hero interconnects ($100/pair). If you can stretch the budget to allot $800 for speaker cables, Kimber Select 3033 (outrageously good for the money).
With the exception of the preamp and the model of Kimber interconnects (I used Kimber Select, but the Hero is quite similar), I have personal experience with the above systems. I have oodles more money in my current system and while it's a lot better, I could live pretty happily with the above.
Hope this helps and good luck.
If you are now talking about spending up to $5000 on speakers instead of several components, I would definitely look into Merlins. The latest TSMs (maybe even with a decent, inexpensive sub for just a little more bottom end) would be terrific. Another idea would be used VSMs. I believe, from years of experience with Merlins as well as other speakers, that the TSMs and VSMs are two of the most accurate, enjoyable speakers made. That makes upgrading from there so much easier!
I second the Magnepan 1.6's; or, if you can stretch the $$$ and your room is large enough I would go with a good used pair of Magnepan 3.6's (IMHO, they are better in every way than the 1.6's or the 1.7's for that matter)...
A used NAD C275 BEE stereo amp will surprise you on how well it can drive a Magnepan and it sounds exceptional (especially for it's relative low cost used - about $750).
Any reasonable priced tube pre-amp; you want tubes in the rig somewhere.