what to TURN to when starting $1000 budget

besides telling more bad jokes


Originally I posted this question on yahoo. Someone that uses this site recommended that I post it here instead which, will allow others with experience to answer it. Here is the typical question.

I started to read posts on turntables (MANY of them) and I cant help succumbing to the confusion of everyone contradicting every bit of advice. Someone will say this model is good and then another post or comment will attempt to discredit the feedback claiming it to be incorrect, seems to be no end to the cycle. Others will say new products are great yet others say the vintage makes are far superior because of belt drives and and various other reasons. I dont think I am alone with this experience of frustration specifically regarding turntables as there is quite a bit of equipment that we the reader cant really listen to and judge for ourselves half the time. Thus we are rendered helpless in a sense to just take advice yet as noted above its a circle of confusion. Therefore I need your/someones "professional experience" to set me straight. My goals are to find a set up that produces great sound for a cost around 1000. Is there an official resource on this forum with lots of experience in high end audio equipment or at least someone that has experience where I can ask the questions I need answered like, should I buy all the pieces separate and put them together or buy a table that is set up already. Is it possible to get more for each dollar if you by each part separate or not. After a purchase I would like to listen to the music. What exactly do I need eg pre amp and such. Who can recommend an a to z set up with the budget restrictions that I gave and by all means if there is something that costs a little more than that but makes a large difference in quality recommend it to me. Also can someone explain where to buy or what brand to go with for each. Each piece of equipment makes up the quality of sound but is there a main piece or a top three to invest in that will be the cause of the majority of the effect. Lots of questions but it just seems like nobody from the stores that are close to me know what they are talking about which I expected in the first place however, the customer representative in the sound department should know where to refer you. I would be very grateful if anyone with actual experience (Hands on not just repeating what they read, suggesting what looks cool or what is trendy) can lend their insight and teach me what is what. Thank you!
Are you looking for a entire system or just a analog source ?

Good Listening

Well, I wanted to see if it was possible to put together a system for $1K. There is no way to do this without buying used equipment IMO, so I searched for todays offerings both here on AG and of course Ebay.

I read from your post that you want to play Vinyl so a integrated with a decent phono stage is needed, the absolute first one that came to mind is the NAD 3020, had one of these many many years ago, luck was theres a very decent looking one on Ebay right now for $275.

Speakers are hard to suggest since I know nothing about your room size etc, but I think its safe to recommend the Pioneer bookshelf designed by Andrew Jones, they go for about $130 per pair. I heard these at a Show last year and thought they were exceptional for their asking price. I would like something with a little more bottom end extension, but there the budgetary restraints.

For a turntable I searched a few options, first I looked a Denon Direct drives like the good old DP57 and DP62, they must have become popular again because asking prices are on the rise. Also looked at a few Musichall tables but nothing to fit within the budget. I did find a nice old Pioneer table looked in nice condition, had been recently serviced and fits within budget $225

For a CD player i looked first at Oppo, but pricing took high, then searched here on Audiogon under CD players and a nice looking Emotiva popped up, don't know much about it but scanned a Stereophile review. Asking price is $325

So $955 later and heres a system you have $ 45 left for a spool of speaker wire and a pair of interconnects. With shipping charges you may run a little over budget.

NAD 3020

NAD 3020 Integrated $275

Pioneer Speakeers

Pioneer SP-BS22-LR $130

Pioneer Turntable

Pioneer PL 510A $225

Emotiva CD Player

Emotiva ERC2 CD player $325

Best of luck and let us know what you eventually end up with

After 40 + years of audiopiling , if was starting over I 'd buy a decent headphone amp , I can reccommend the Rega Ear which shows up on here for about $150, a used pr of Sennheiser
or AKG headphones and the best source I could get for whats left of a grand.

A 1K "can" system can, and usually does, sound better than a 10K speaker based system.

All jokes aside thats what I'm taking to the old folks home which might be any time now.
Paragraphs are your (and our) friend.
Wisdom from Schubert. It's a long journey, so take your time, enjoy the ride, and look to the future. The goal near term is to hear your records in something approaching excellent fidelity. With your budget, there's not room to make a long-term system that does everything and is also great sound. That's OK, because you've got to start somewhere, and there are great ways to start within your budget that also keep the longer term in mind. Try this idea:

Little Dot Mk. 2 tube headphone amplifier $140.00
Grado SR 80i headphones $100.00
Project Debut Carbon turntable with Ortofon cartridge $400.00
Cambridge Audio 651 phono preamplifier $225.00
Interconnects (2 sets) $100.00 (or less)
-----------Total $965.00

This plan is based on new prices. Used, you can do even better. When you have more thousands to spend, keep the headphone amplifier, headphones, turntable, and phono pre. These are all good sounding items and will likely hold you for a while. Add a decent integrated amplifier and loudspeakers.

Good luck!
Fun challenge...here's an option (all new from Amazon):

Marantz PM6004 Integrated Amplifier - $399.00 (Amazon)
Rega - RP1 Turntable - $450.00 (Amazon)
Grado Prestige Series SR125i Headphones - $150.00 (Amazon)

Total - $999.00

Keep your eyes open for a pair of speakers in the future.
I agree with Schubert that a headphone system provides great sound/dollar. I have a pair of AKG701s with headphone amp and they sound wonderful. Based on your post, I don't believe that is what you are looking for. Here goes one person's opinion on a speaker based system:

Marantz makes a great budget integrated amp. Look for the PM5004 or 6004. They both have phonostage. There is a new version out (the 5005, 6005 series) so the 04 series are discounted making them a great deal. Try Amazon or go to Music Direct online.

Project had the Debut III ($300) and the Debut Carbon($400), both complete with cartridge. Shipping TTs can be a problem when buying used online. Again try Music Direct or Needledoctor online.

The Pioneer SP22BS are a great deal for the $130 asking price. To do better would cost ~3x as much. There are many good speakers in the ~$350 -$500 range. I am hesitant to make a recommendation at that price point. The thing about speakers is that they contribute the most to the character of a system. When one is just starting out one usually is not sure of ones true preferences. My thinking here is to buy a quality budget pair, enjoy the music, explore the marketplace and upgrade speakers later and experience your system all over again. Same is true for headphones.
Headphones always a good way to start on a budget.

Otherwise, an existing computer as source with integrated and decent quality monitors in general is a good way to go to start. Add a sub or subs later if needed.
I'll second Mesch, I have a pr of AKG 701'a as well I like.
Another great phone is the B&W P3 at $200 new.
Grado phones are very popular, great rock phones but a little rough and ready for acoustic music IMO. Their model 80 is a great buy as well.
Just went through a major project reading up on latest and greatest headphones and related technologies and listening to various ones I could find access to.

In the end, I found the same old stand by lines to offer best sound and value IMHO. AKG, Sennheiser, and Audio Technica mainly.

Many others were OK but nothing special.

Like home audio, having a suitable amp to drive various models is a key, but does not take much to drive most phones well compared to speakers.

Audeze were nice but pricey. Hifiman offered a unique product for good value.

Grado, Polk, PSB, B&W, V-Moda, all OK, nothing special though better Grados can compete.

Would have liked to hear newer phones by Focal but no chance so far.

Stax still sound fantastic, but very pricey these days.

Lots of different aspects of comfort and features to help distinguish phones beyond ability to merely sound very good, which most decent phones do.
I have some suggestions.

VINTAGE is the only way you can do this, putting together an entire system with new components at those prices will be impossible or simply not worth it. I am assuming you have space, if not some things change adjust as you wish.

Klipsch Heritage (Any)...$300-$2000
think heresy for now

Dynaco A25...$50 dont pay much more
Mission Bookshelf $100-$400
JBL (rules = blue + old), but Shhhhhh its a secret

Heathkit AA 151...$100-$400 (buy new tubes)
this one is integrated and with phono section
The phono is not great but will do for a time

EIco HF XX ...$200-$600
This one is also integrated with phono, also buy new

Scott integrated 2xxx ....(more money)

Class T amp... $15-200 (yes $15 not $150)
If you speakers are efficient enough (i.e/ something
from the list that is 95db or more. Try a class T
amplifier like the dayton DTA-1 or a trends. It sounds
unbelievably good with high efficiency speakers. These
need an external phono

NAD...$100-$500 ( not my fav but also good integrated w/
phonos a lot of the time)

Cambridge...$20-$600 (also not my fav most of them are
integrated but no phono)

Marantz PM series $200-$1000 integrated with phono and
again not my fav.

Phono: (If Needed)

Buy an old receiver, OLD, make sure it has a good
phono section in it by reading on the google
machine. Then use this old trick. Plug the turntable
into it, and use the tape out, take the tape out into
your amp/integrated pre-section. BANG, you have a
phono stage many times better at handling RIAA than
the typical stand alone CRAP made today (in your
price range).


Thorens, think thorens...$50-$400
maybe the TD-160

Old technics 1200...$variable


This is the bad part, on the budget you have to stick to MM and perhaps used. the good news is there are tons of mediocre/mid fi carts that are much better than you would expect.

Grace f9...$do not know anymore but if you find one in decent condition BUY IT

Audio Technica 440 MLA...$cheap

Ortofon 2m Red ...$100 (new)

Sure M97...$100 (new)

Cables/Wire: DIY, think Mogami, Canare. Should be able to get off cheap if you DIY.

CD Player:

Do not buy one...just kidding.

PS1.....$10-50 (You can try a PS1 Model SCPH 1001, I dont listen to CDs much, but it is nice.)


Headphone out of you laptop running Jriver....$50 for software and the cost of the laptop is sunk. If you dont have a laptop, but one of those and forget audio, you will thank me for it.

that is the best I can do for about a Gee-Note. Depending on what combination you chose, the tubes used, condition and you ability to do some little tweaks. I think you can get a half way decent sound, provided that you dont mind having an eye sore in listening room. Good luck, I would love to see what you end up with and how you like it.

But do keep one thing in mind, this will ABSOLUTELY not be the last $1000 you spend on audio. This is the beginning of a slippery slope. The sickness has already set in, since you are posting this...and it may not be too late to run away now while your wallet is still full.

Best of luck with you new system. Enjoy!
I've heard this combination and they sounded a world class.

Mt. Rainier speaker - $800

Yamaha CA810 Integrated amp. - $150

Sansa Clip Media Player. - $25

So much potential for upgrades with no waste of money.
Alex / Wavetouch
Take a look at my Semi-Vintage office system. The total cost was higher than your $1,000 budget, but if you substitute a vintage integrated amp or receiver for the Roksan integrated you should be able to get something similar for less than $1,000. The total cost not including the Roksan was $906. You could spend a less on the retip and have $200 for a vintage integrated amp (Kenwood)

$357 Kenwood KD-500 Turntable incl. Premier MMT arm and cartridge.

Roksan Caspian INT Amplifier

$250 Sumiko Alchemist mkIII Cartridge
Stage 2 retip by Soundsmith, but you could get a Denon for less or retip for less.

$120 Rotel RQ-970bx Preamplifier

$179 Fried Products A/3 Monitor

Good luck with your system