Instead of buying everything now I would build on it for a year or so then you could possibly have a reference system without breaking the bank. What would be the budget for a years time? By doing this you would be way ahead of what most of us had done. Buy-sell buy-sell buy put in closet then sell. Me, I buy put in closet dont sell and piss off wife! Are you sure you want to start someone you really like down this path?
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First of all, set a realistic goal. You aren't going to turn your friends into audiophiles. (One or two might one day turn themselves into audiophiles, but encouragement/pressure from you will not do the trick.) Your goal should be to get them to better sound than they have now, whatever their budget is.
That means: No tubes. Tubes are for committed audiophiles, not for people whose friends want them to be audiophiles. Ditto any other non-current technology (except a turntable if they already own a bunch of vinyl). Keep it simple.
You say they already have an Onkyo receiver, and I'm sure they already have a DVD player. So speakers are the key here. How powerful is the Onkyo, and what speakers do they have right now? And what are they (or you, if it's a gift) willing to spend?
Why don't you ask your friends what their musical goals are and go from there? Since you aren't going to impress them with any of the electronics that you might think of and they won't hear the difference anyway, start with the speakers that will best meet their tastes. It is the speakers that is going to make or break their system!
Chazzbo, Here is a giant killer. Nuforce 9.02 or 8.02 amps.
These are mono blocks and are a new technology. If I were to start anyone down this path this is the first place I would go. I do not use a tuner with these and would not suggest it unless you can run a seperate antenna away from the amps. Giant killer is an understatement! You can find these used and get a great deal. All the Nuforce products are unbeleivable for the price. It all depends on what you are looking for and a price range. Signal cable is also a good buy. The cd player is going to be a big key here. I use an upgraded Denon 2900 right now but we are talking about $1500 but plays like a 10k player.
Aiwa was one of the best mini's out there. Too bad Sony bought them out and eliminated the company. One way to get rid of the competition but Sony is the worse product. If you ever heard the Aiwa XR-EC12 properly setup you might be impressed for the $140 price tag. It won WhatHiFi's award for best mini in its class.
But that's the problem. The audiophile marketing "game" is to promote certain brands like Rotel as "audiophile" quality. So all the online and print mag's review NAD, Rotel, Cambridge which are pretty much junk (although I haven't heard them all) compared to Monarchy pro-70 ($618 new) or pro audio amps.
Do you really think Stereophile would ever review such equipment and open the eyes of their readers to the REALITY of hi-end? That modest "non-audiophile" stuff can compete with much more expensive "audiophile" branded stuff? NAW, gotta keep that aura of hi-end alive. The audiophile market drops 50% in 2 years so maybe the message is getting through. Sure Pass beats Sampson Servo 170 but it should at 100x the Sampson's price of $169.00.
Purely MHO, but once this audiophile stuff gets into your head, you loose reality about price vs. performance and most non-audiophiles have not been bitten by the bug and therefore have a more rational viewpoint on the situation.
I'm just putting this viewpoint out there as food for thought and don't expect people to agree with it.
I recently put my lowly Denon UD-M31 mini up against Mac 240 power amp (better than the 275) and tube pre. The Mac sounded a little better but the owner said he could happily live with the Denon had he not bought the Mac stuff. Agree with this or not, this is the viewpoint of most people out there.
Onkyo is really bright and annoying BTW.
I would keep it simple, here are three ''system recommendations, along the old ,'Good' ''Better'' ''Best'' method employed by Radio Shack 2O years ago ! Taking into account the goals of an ''inexpensive'' system of course:
''Good'' A NAD 320BEE integrated, Cd 541i cd player, and a pair of vinyl-clad speakers from Warfedale such as the now-discontinued Diamond 9.4, a nice floostander with serious sound for the money, performing above it's price point.
''Better'' Same integrated and cd player, PSB Image T55 speakers tower speakers - You are in B&W territory now for less money.
''Best''...for the money that is although this is now getting pricey... Arcam a-85 integrated, a steal for the price, Shanling cd-payer, (your friends WILL be impressed) , and the Polk Audio LSi 15 speaker, an incredible value in my book, with the superb and refined Ring Radiator tweeter found in much more expensive speakers, plus they look nice and sound huge and will fill the house with glowing sound. The Polk LSi series - forget the Polk name - put many higher prices speakers to shame. Check them out... Good luck!
Think you guys are all on the mark.Just think about what choices we have now versus 50's through 70's.It's just that mass market with component quality will somtimes get you so far but not "quite their".On other hand think about small $300 or less speakers and what they can do these days.Told JP1208 from above he may still be talking to much $$$ with the Nuforce for the neophyte but for us companies like this aren a godsend.Like Quicksilver in tubes it's nice to have pricing for technology that doesen't completely insult your intellgence.The Nuforce is an :"analogue" amp with clever new switching that supposedly makes great sound.Think companies that have finally produced good Class D like PS Audio and Bel Canto as well as processors that don't cost a fortune like the DEQX maybe the way of future (and I am a tube guy!).,The NHT sub /Sat system that blew everyone away and got best of show at CES a year or two ago had digital amps but real bang was the DEQX processiong which takes all signals digital and analogue and converts them to analogue then squeezes best poerformance out of companents made these little 4" sattelites and compact sub sound Class A and HUGE!Digital amps by PS Audio,Bel Canto are finally sounding good and geting good reviews unlike a few years ago when digital meant @#$%&! sound.With DEQX your not talking about amps but processor and line stage (if desired they be combines).At $3,600 processsor not only takes over your speakers crossovers and does it's magioc but alos does room corection for a hell of a lot less than other companies who do insult you with their pricing.Now if all that tech can filter down to a $1500 system we may see return of racj systems but ones whick will put our curent sperates thast cost multiples.Buddy of mine just got the DEQX and made an biopolar( or would compressed frames of foam like actione like Quads and Maggies be omni-pollar?Never remeber that one)set up with coil drivers and ribbons and said he would have had to pay 5 times the price from a speaker company and still not get the room correction.For fun he made a 20 year old pair of Dahlquist 20's sound as good as a pair of Clas A Inifinty Preludes he had on loan.So things my be getting better for us and even our freiunds who aren't audio dorks get new technology like kevelar and metal drivers in the speakers they buy so if I think about it it is a lot beter than I used to be.Onward HO!!!!!!
A good minisystem will usually suffice.
What is the priority number one for these guys?
Ask them what matters most - the convenience of hanging a flat mininsystem on the wall(for instance), vs. the separates with each component being anywhere from 10lb to 20lb, requiring a bulky equipment stand plus the speakers that need a stand as well, wire that's hanging, etc....
then you'll have phone calls from these people asking you where the tone controls are because it is not enough bass and treble.
Then they'll be really unhappy to find out that music supposed to sound the way it was recorded and not the way they want to hear it.
So usually for these guys, a minisystem by B&O or Nakamichi is the perfect choice. That'll be the hi-end as far as most people are concerned.
Otherwise, leave it alone
inpepin is spot on--make sure you ask your friends, and not us, what they want from their stereo. I've helped a number of friends and family members with getting new stereos. Each one had different priorities, budgets, and restraints (though to be frank, sometimes my friends were able to articulate their priorities and sometimes I had to deduce them). Each of the resulting systems is very different. Everyone is happy and have told me that they listen to music a lot more then they used to. And to me, that's the true measure of success.
Good sounding cheap goods is the HK 3380 reciever.$350.They have a 100 watt as well for $450.Nice rounded tone for a reciever of this price adequate tuner (great if they can add $100 Fanfare antenna on thier house as high as possible either on eves or in attic.Then just cut them loose in store for small bookshelves.I think those who havent heard the little Infinity Primus or Polk speakers would be surprised.If it's a summer place little AR powered Partners and a portable CD with FM tuner can be used in any room and sounds good.Also a fine speaker for computers unless you want a sub and if so reufrbed Cabrideg Soundwaorks and Y splitter would mean deep bass in one room and portability,a bit more clumsy than a boom box but AR's have close to 30 watts and heavy metal enclosures.
Chazzbo, excellent suggestion. But you can get it for much less here:
HK 3480Z for $198.00
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