Best Budget system? $500-$750 tops

Partially out of curiousity and partially because I am pondering this myself for a second set-up, can a moderately musical system be set-up for $500-$750???


(cabling, stands etc. would be above and beyond)

Here's my submission:

I first heard a pair of Kirksaeter Silverline 60's at a local dealer and was impressed for their size and price, they were also modestly paired with a Pioneer Elite A35r integrated amp and multi-disc CDP (forget model). There retail price is $850, however I've seen them go on here for more like $300. So...

CDP - Pioneer Elite DV-45a $240
Integrated - Pioneer Elite A-35r $165
Speaker - Kirkseater Silverline 60 $300

Total - $705

How musical that system is is questionable, but for the price I beleive it would be musically tolerable. In my case the system would be background and entertaining only, so I think it would perform pretty well in those functions.

So, what's your BUDGET system look like?
Both NAD and Cambridge Audio crossed my mind as well. I was surprised how good the Kirksaeter's sounded on the a35r amp though! And the DVD capabilities of the Pioneer would allow me to add a small plasma at a later date if I wanted to. I guess an all-in-one 'L' series unit from NAD could do the same?
Get a classic receiver (Marantz 2230, etc) for $130-150.
Add a used pair of Soliloquy 5.0 monitors and stands
for $450-500 and your choice of inexpensive CD player.
I'd go in a different direction. using new components:

CD: Panasonic DVD player ($80)
Amplification: Onkyo TX-8211 stereo receiver (seriously) ($200)

That leaves you $220-$470 for speakers, and lots of options. I'd recommend listening to whatever Paradigm and PSB have in that range, even if you ultimately decide you like something else better.

As for the (un)conventional choice of a stereo receiver, it's not perfect, but the cheapest NAD integrated is double the price, which really cuts into your options speaker-wise.

The Pioneer integrated is good if you can still find it (I think it's discontinued), and you might do better with a used integrated, but I wouldn't spend more than $200 on one for a system like this.
I've been thinking about this for a while to as I'm considering it as a system for my father...

Epos ELS-3
Toshiba 4960 (whater model thats getting the raves on AA)

Might be possible to swing it as all new gear for that price or maybe consider used and get some decent cables/stands.

Seems silly to think I'm considering speaker cables that retail for twice what this system would cost.
I second NAD and PSB; if you can find any Clements di series speakers, I'd recommend those, too. Don't forget cabling--how about mag wire/Speltz Anti-Cables? I have heard great things from trustworthy opinions.
I would suggest a Marantz/Psb system. You could buy a Marantz PM-7000 B stock Integrated for $349 at and a Marantz CC-4300 B stock CD player there for $129. You could then buy PSB Image B-25 speakers B stock for $299(the redone PSB Image 2B) at Great reviews on the speakers. Great inexpensive system.
I agree with Pabelson, but did you know you can get a factory refurbished TX-8511 for 189.95? It has 100w/ch., that's for you Jh2os
How about an iPod and good pair of headphones? Use AIFF or Apple Lossless for importing, then add integrated and speakers later.
I have a both a perreuax 200i reference integrated and a panasonic sa-xr50 that I use with my kirksaeter silverline 220's. While the perreaux has a much larger soundstage and musical presence, the panasonic for $220 with digital in sounds very detailed and can power my 5.1 system in the next room. At low or high levels of sound their is incredible detail and lack of distortion. Depends on what type of system you like-a warm or detailed sound. The panasonic with the kirksaeters, axioms, swans, rockets, or for a different sound some vandersteen model 2's. DVD player look for something like the toshiba 3950 or 3960 that people rave about on the asylum for $50 from amazon. Should easily be able to do that for under $800, I did a fosgate surround system based on the panasonic for $575 total and it outperforms my 9000es sony separates.
My recommendation (all new):

Onix A-60 ($299 b-stock at
Sony DVP-NC875V - 5 disk/SACD($150
Epos ELS-3 ($300 new)

Of course these can be purchased on the 'gon for less.

Some used speakers worth considering are:
Magnepan MMG ($350-400 used)
Triangle Titus ($350-450 used)
My system would include (1)New Panasonic DVD/CD 5-disk player, (2)New Tannoy Fusion 1 Spks., (3) An older 1980's model Sony "Legato" Int. amp or receiver. IC's would be Wireworld Oasis 3 or AQ Diamondbacks and spk. wire would be either Kimber 4 VS or Straightwire "Quartet." (4) 20" Stands would also be needed. Easily done for under $750.
I bought a Tivoli sytems as a spare a few years back and have been very pleased with this purchase.
Its not the last word in detail but has a very pleasing full sound and looks great to boot. It even fits well within your budget and you don't have to mess around with trying to match different components!
denon dcd-1800 (older 2nd gen processor) with headphone volume control.

grado sr-80 headphones

The absolute value king today (IMHO) is the Sharp SD-EX111 all-in-one combined with a decent pair of speakers. Check out this amazing thread at AudioCircle:

I own a quality 2-channel system and a separate HT system. Based on my personal experience, I could live with the Sharp if my finances dictated a reduction in audio spending.

The Sharp is now sold out at, but many were purchased for $70-85 (yes, that's $75 for a digital amplifier, tuner, built-in CD player, pre-amp, aux inputs, and 5-way speaker binding post), so some will likely show up for sale here (at much greater prices based on supply/demand).

So, Sharp CD-EX111 (I paid $79 including shipping!) and a pair of Athena AS-F2 floorstanders ($399 at Audioadvisor) or a pair of Athena AS-B1 bookshelfs ($179 at AudioAdvisor). For as little as $260 total you have a real audio system that will scare the pants (if they wore pants!) off of many $1000 rigs.

Tis true, I tell you! It's a good time to be a jr. Audiophile!!


Reubent, I too have seperate 2-channel and HT set-ups, just looking for something for the LR on the cheap! ;)

I looks like you may have nailed it! I picked one up, now I just need speakers. Thanks! It should be interesting to see what this things got. For the price though, even if it doesn't perform, I'm not out much and it can move to the bedroom! ;)

The Sharp is very good for the price. It does take considerable time to break-in, so you will want to connect it in a way that you can play it a lot over a short period of time. Thankfully, you can use the tuner for this or connect it to a TV based system via the Aux input.

Mine got a lot better over a couple of weeks. Also, if you want to take it to another level, performs mods on this unit and they are pretty reasonable on pricing.

I hope to find a good home for mine somewhere in the house where it will get used. It's way to good to be used on a occassional basis.


You might want to consider the active Swans offered at

Plenty of $$ left over for your source, and cables, and stands, plus Swan quality [although they are made offshore].
A little different approach but well worth the mouse click.

If you are looking for a pair of really inexpensive speakers, I see that BestBuy has the Athena AS-B1 on sale for $119/pr. right now. I just bought a pair. Out of the box they are unoffensive and show some promise. I know this line of speakers has been pretty well reviewed over the last couple of years.

So, $200 for the Sharp and a pair of decent speakers. I don't think it can be beat!


I also bought a pair of the AS-B1's. Even at the price, I have to say I am disappointed in the sound.

My first quick impression was decent highs and lows, but was it missing something in the midrange? I had been using them for a week as low background in another room.

When I finally got around to comparing them side by side to my B&W DM302 ($250 retail), I quickly realized that the B&Ws sounded very balanced, and are in fact, an extremely good sounding economy speaker. The Athenas, in direct A-B comparison, sounded kind of nasal, honky and hollow.

Just my 2 cents. I wanted to like them, I had read the modest hype and they seemed to be finished nicely for the price and had nice big metal binding posts....but

(On the other hand, if you find they work well with your electronics, my pair is available. There are 3 pair currently on Agon, I'll make you an even better deal!)
Srbarnett, I felt much the same way, even though I only listened to them in BestBuy, I figured even a better set-up couldn't help these speakers. A totally unengaging sound IMO. I am enjoying the Sharp (arrived yesterday) though. I currently have it set up with my Aperion 522's, stolen from rear channel duty in the HT temporarily. I think I am going to try a pair of Totem Acoustic Dreamcatchers with it next.
Source first.
$325 EVS Millennium DAC 1
$75 some digital IC
$50 some transport, like my Marantz which was $50 used.
$50 used IC
$100 used headphone amp or DIY
$100 Grado SR 80 headphones
$75 Walker SST (a must!)
$2 commercial grade outlet
ca. $700

or with vinyl ...
$300 Music Hall MMF-2.1
$20 Dayton black chrome spikes (to defeat the music halls suspension)
$125 Hagerman Bugle RIAA battery powered
$100 used headphone amp or DIY
$50 IC
$100 Grado SR 80 headphones
$75 Walker SST (a must!)
$2 commercial grade outlet
ca. $700, less if you get these at a good price.

For non-headphones

$400 MG-0.5/QR or MMG used (or maybe Vandersteen 1C, 1B, 2Ci)
$80 Panasonic XR-25 (store demo)
$80 Whatever CD/DVD transport, probably Panasonic

But truth be told, I would just watch thrift stores, garage sales, and eBay and score some vintage gear.

Or maybe do some DIY fostex bookshelf speakers and get something like those $200 ASL wave-8s or wave-20s and something directly into the amps, like a PC, CD discman, mp3 player - everyone has something like that laying around somewhere.

The problem with this budget is how to you do SET amps at this price? You can't afford the IRON!