What is your favorite budget audio component?


Just wondering for the sake of curiosity and general sharing and education among audiophiles, “What is your favorite budget audio component?” And as a bonus, “Why do you consider it budget and why is it good?” 
Since budget might be relative, I would say audio gear like MBL, Wilson MAXX speakers or anything ultra high end should not be considered.

2psyop
VPI HW-16.5. Your music library is a more valuable possession than the gear made to reproduce it, imo. If that library includes LP's, you NEED at least a vacuum cleaner. The 16.5 is a real good one, at a price affordable to all.
Good question.

My immediate response was “what’s the budget”?

But OK…. I’ll go with $1,000 as the limit.

Are we supposed to name drop here or merely pick out the generic item or device?
I’ll go generic.

Of all the things I’ve bought the most thru the years for under a grand over and over, it has to be ‘receivers’. Either 2 ch or multi ch as time passed, but it was always the first link in the chain.

They always trickled down into another room somewhere.

They offer immense flexibility and possible arrangements. Often decent ones can be had for well under a grand. $700 to $900 lands some pretty decent tech in just one box.

Besides that, I’d say headphones.

Yeah, I'd say Grado 225e headphones, $200. Not good enough for me but for youtube listening mostly okay.
Next would be $5000 used previous generation Gryphon Diablo integrated amp with or without phono. Great value even if not exactly inexpensive.
I have a few right now. Parasound ZDAC, NAD D 3020 integrated. Fiio portable headphone amps. The UFO USB DAC (unreliable, but sound good!)

Best,

E
And this is something that might be an ultimate bargain.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZ8YIow9m2s&t=289s
I should also throw in Monitor Audio and Focal, especially when they show up on closeouts. :)

Best,

E
Spica TC-50 speakers. Audio Refinement electronics. 
Pioneer PLX1000 TT with a Denon 103R. Sounds as good as multi-kilobuck TT's and cartridges!
CAMBRIDGE AUDIO DACMAGIC - a great upgrade to a cheap CD player and a versatile component to boot.
If we keep it under $1000/component:

APPJ PA0901A ($189) - this miniature SET integrated amp (3.5 wpc) is a marvel at it's price point. Price/performance is off the charts.

Bluesound Node 2 ($499) - this streamer does so much right it supplanted my well-appointed Mac mini. I don't miss the endless rounds of Apple updates breaking something.

Omega Super 3i Monitors ($695) - what more can be said about these single-driver speakers that hasn't already been said? The high sensitivity (94.5) makes for a nice match with low-powered tube amps. An absolute steal at this price.

This is the core of my current system and I'm as happy with the sound quality as I've ever been. Amazing what can be had for so little cash these days.

Bluesound Vault 2....amazing value and performs well beyond its asking price.  
Buying used makes for many a budget audio component.

The original Audio Alchemy 'DAC in a BOX' I bought used on Ebay for $50. I pair it with a Schiit Vahalla headphone amp. Of course I use a M2Tech Hiface USB/SPDIF converter when using computer. 


My Wild Burro Betsy open baffle speakers
Mac 1900 receiver. $400...900 depending on condition.
@mesch I just got rid of mine when I sold my Yamaha disc changer on eBay...

That was definitely a good DAC!

My bargain - my class D monoblocks. ICEpower 500asp modules, quality connectors, nice case.. $600 for the pair.
October 2016, Anthem I225 Integrated amp - $900. From Parts connexion with new Mundorf AG Capacitors. 1 year warranty. Still have the original Blue Nichicon Capacitors.

New 1.5 meter Cardas Golden Reference Power cable and (1) pair- New 1 meter Cardas Golden Reference XLR interconnects for 55% off, also from Chris at Parts Connexion- $800 all in shipped.

N
If the rest of your system is a good match and you only have 1 source, the Lightspeed passive LDR pre-amp is "stupid-good" at about 1/2 kilo-buck!  Not quite as good as my 20X price actives, but surely a bargain of the century.  Used Vandersteen 2ce sig speakers.  McCormack DNA 0.5. Used Merlin TSM monitors.  
Canare starquad microphone cable for interconnect.

TransFi air bearing tonearm.

Plitron isolation transformers.
Adcom GFA555 new in the 80s
PSB X2T Floor Standing Speakers.  More than budget, these are all about value. 
+1 on the Adcom GFA-555.  Considering recapping.   Biamping a pair of Vandersteen 2Ci speakers.   Thinking of getting a GFP-750 
I'll second the ZDac from Parasound. It really shouldn't be as good as it is :-). Also if you're a DIY'er, you can make some crazy good power cables using Oyaide Tunami cable. 
Jelco 750 tonearm.
BLE Design power cables on eBay.
Belkin AV20302-06 RCA interconnects. 
Albert Porter Ports AC receptacles.




KingKo Audio KA-101 amplifier and CD-301 cd player.
I own the CD player and it is superb! I also love the amplifier, but already own too many and my wife is stopping me from getting this one...
Prices are fair and the quality of the equipment easily outperforms far more expensive gear.
http://kingkoaudio.com/en/pages/KINGKO-AUDIO.html
Linn Classik with Kan speakers ($500+200 used nowadays) sound very "Linn"
Pono player ($300+) in balanced mode with under-100Ohm headphones does not require hp amp, if not for the stupid shape I would have recommended it to all my friends :-)
You guys go ahead and listen to all that stuff, I'd rather stick to my Grado phones and tape deck. We are talking about audiophile budget components not grandma budget components.
My latest purchase, Audeze LCD-2 headphones are really quite fantastic.  I have never owned a really good pair of headphones before.  Now that I have a baby asleep, my hifi sessions are limited :-(
The headphones are opening up a new mode to listen to music!
The Chord Mojo portable headphone amp/dac is another budget favorite.  Though these may be budget cost items to an audiophile, one must note that $1,550 for headphones and a headphone amp is rather exorbitant. 
@inna +1!!! I am Senn guy otherwise this is the Way! R2R or Nak cassette deck? With tapes recorded off LPs, nothing beats that to my ears! But the price of admission is kinda $$$!! I mean for the newbies with no access to dad's stereos
Grace GDI-IRDT200 internet tuner. $175 new. Tremendous bang for the buck.
L.
sevs, it's Nak 682ZX. Studer project is in the future, I hope.
Yamaha A-S801 Integrated Amp ($899).   Good sound, flexible, built-in 32bit DAC.

Sonos Connect ($349) with Deezer Elite subscription ($20/mo).  Easy 16-bit FLAC streaming.  35mil+ songs.

One of the things I really like about Audiogon forums is you learn about gear you'd never heard of or considered.    Based on this thread, I now might try the Omega Super 3i monitors in my second system.  Thanks Audiogon!






Forgot to mention one of mine, Magnepan MMGs at 599$ new. Really a great way to get into Hi-Fi without spending 1k$+. Let’s face it we don’t all have tons of cash for our audio systems. Why not explore budget gear that shines and many, many people can enjoy?
BTW I had noticed Parasound and Bluesound mentioned. Two great companies putting out affordable stuff. I would like to add Schiit Audio. The DACs are very good indeed for the money spent.
2 related components:

Magnepan Unitrac 1 tonearm @ $300 for a demo in 1984
Dynavector MR23 cartridge re-tip @ $179 on the same day

I finally was able to extract everything there was to hear in my vinyl collection.  My first DV had been a revelation on with an old Rega 202 a couple of years earlier, but VTA on-the-fly with the Unitrac made me realize just how big a deal correct vertical geometry is.

effisher-
I had wondered about that VTA on-the-fly tonearm?? That must be a GREAT bargain at it’s price for analog listeners. Awesome addition to the list.
Here's one - the Wand family of tonearms -- from less than $500 and up, great solid unipivot design but built like a tank, easy to mount and fully adjustable. The Wand+ bested an SME-IV in my setup, highly recommended
https://designbuildlisten.com/
Your would be hard pressed to find a better budget pre amplifier then the deHavilland UltraVerve. Kara Chaffee the designer and yes she makes them by hand, and yes she can adjust the output to match for your amplifiers. 
As all of her products she lets the tubes do the talking and simply brings out the very best in them, noise free, big sound. 
http://www.dehavillandhifi.com


oops forgot these....

OK. here’s something everyone can afford and should have in their rigs or available.

1. Herbies Audio Labs – “Iso footers” – a series of three small poly or rubber bases in which small one inch round balls can be set and used as isolation devices. Excellent results for light to medium weight items. Not recommended for any heavy weight stuff like big 100lb. plus amps.

Great for things under say 60 lbs or so, like CDP, DAC, line stages, receivers, tuners, PLC, Disc spinners, Personal confusers, etc. these came originally with solid wooden balls and or solid semi hard poly balls as the two options. Fascinating value. Incredible idea.

The ‘ball’ itself changes things most. I preferred the Ebony over the ‘poly’.

$20 ea. $60 for a set. When they were available.

2. Wooden block footers or varying compositions. Teak, Ash, Ebony, Apple, Maple, Cocobolo, Zebrawood, Myrtle, Mahogany, etc.
Used as a set of 3 all being the same types as footers for any components aside from loudspeakers, of course.

Just as fascinating results and each particular wood will introduce its own sonic flavor into the audio. Cut to two inches or so tall, by an inch to an inch and a half deep and wide.

As with the HAL footers, arrange in a triangle beneath the component to suit.

Usually, Free as waste cuts at wood working hobby shops.

Not a lot more if you have to buy a stick and cut it yourself at only 9 inches or less overall.

My EXP shows, the denser (harder) the wood, the cleaner the sound scape. As well, more pronounced or defined will be the leading edges of notes is often the realization. Shorter grain woods seem to add more color to the harmonic, like Mahog. Ebony for ex. Cleans up the images better.

And if all are cut the same dimensions, its an attractive addition to the gear on the rack or stands.
Removing OEM footers is optional.

I would never have believed it but years ago, another member sent me several sets of various wood types to try. I did. I’m sold on these things ever since. Absolutely remarkable… and FREE!! Great for outboard power supplies too.

This is said in spite of the fact I have iso footers like Black Diamond and Vibrapods, and other upscale cones, in house already.

I mean for freee… why not?

3. Female NEMA to Male IEC 15A 125VAC adapters for burning in power cords, and not burning up the system.

Connect to the pricey PC, plug into wall, plug refrigerator, freezer, fan or ??? into that and let it sit there for 10 – 14 days, then disconnect, and insert run in power cord into system. Leave alone and run rig normally for a couple days or so and either be impressed, awed or pack it up and send it back.

With a few, of these adapters you can run in quicker still more PCs using but one appliance..

But always a big savings on your pricey outfit… tubes… light bill, etc.



IFI  iphono2  great bargain for $500,

Sansui TU 717 / 919 Tuners amazing sound for next to nothing money ( add some new Caps and you have a giant killer),

Finale Audio tube amps are a wonderful sound for dollar deal.

Under $1000 I would say the peachtree nova 220se I got for $900. 220 wpc, dual mono design, ess dac, class a preamp. Stupid good for $900. The other is my Eastern Electric Minimax Dac Plus I got for $400. 
Wyred4Sound modded Sonos:CONNECT and Nordost purple flare power cord. The modded Sonos is a bit over or under $1,000.00 and the cord is another $75.00 or so.... depends on the sale. A bargain digital source, that I feel equals many more expensive streamers, and is not limited to Tidal. See DAR for supporting arguments and reviews. 
Used Klipsch Heritage speakers with Jolida integrated tube amp; awesome sound for under 1000.
Airpulse Model 1 powered monitors. $995 - on sale for $895 right now. Awesome Phil Jones designed speakers.
The Oppo 105 - surely the biggest bargain in Hi-Fi
Grado headphones.  PS Audio Sprout.  Spatial Audio M2 Turbos.  McCormack Headphone amp.  Spendor s3/5s.
Yamaha A-S500 Integrated: bought on closeout for $250, can compete with some $2K integrateds I’ve owned, all while doing it with a much lower noise floor.

Kef LS50s: recently bought a pair for the holiday price of $999. The reviews basically mirror my experience with these speakers so far.

Topping D20 DAC: a $120 Chi-Fi unit with a fluid, low glare sound. Not much different from my Line Magnetic 502CA.

Shure M97xe w/Jico SAS stylus (approximately $350): an all-around great performer with effortless tracking and very low distortion. Beats my $1000 cart that now resides in a closet.

Lounge LCR MK III phono preamp ($300): another component deserving of its widespread accolades.
Sonore ultraRendu network streamer is my favorite budget audio component.

I'm 99% into digital audio for almost 10 years now. Started with iTunes and Airport Express. Upgraded my amplifier and used several dacs. Sonneteer Alabaster with Metrum Octave and now Goldmund Job INTegrated. Differences were rather marginal however. 

Never thought a digital thing like a streamer would matter much. When I upgraded from Pioneer N-30 to Aries Mini stereo image opened up. Upgrading to microRendu with LPS-1 again was a big improvement. Blacker background and even more detailed imaging. 

A few weeks ago I received the Sonore ultraRendu. Before it was hard to imagine how microRendu could be bettered. But ultraRendu is a big improvement again. Micro details are more tangible. 

So when streaming get yourself a high quality streamer! It's definitely worth it.
Rotel RCD-1072 CD player: bought used for $350. Look, build and especially sound quality can compete with other used players costing 3 to 5 times. 
Sennheiser HD600's $300. Paired with a Schiit Valhalla 2 I am more impressed than with my $5000 speaker based system.