if you were to throw a ton of dead presidents at just about anything one can or should be able to come up with a high quality strong performing top notch, result.

but what if your angle is to squeeze the most out of coins and cupons and piggy bank savings. just how far might you get with real world budget constraints holding the whip of accountability in the pastime of audioland?

using your system building experience, noteable auditions, and or imagination, let’s jot down on ‘paper’ what you think, or indeed have put together that should be or is, an enjoyable, engaging, stereo rig for the least investment.

For simplicity sake, please use just one source. analog. Digital. Streaming.

although there is no real dollar amount being targeted merely try to provide good ideas on minimally invested rigs which likely or do exceed entry level outfits audio performance.

naturally, show your component choices and their overall cost.

Looking forward to reading about your various 2 channel outfit builds either practical or imagined which adhere to pedestrian rather than provocative investments yet possess the attribute:

“its hard to turn it off, once its turned on”.

thanks to all.
My system is what I consider outstanding poor man’s high end, but it’s exactly what I like to hear and what I think it should sound like, so depending on what you like...YMMV. It’s important to please your own ears. I’m all about clarity, natural sounding subtle detail without sibilants, open, spacious, soundstage, separation, and quick transients. I want to hear the hall, and feel like I’m there. I was exposed to some amazing high end systems expertly setup that I couldn’t come close to affording, but I loved the sound and mimicked that as best I could with the budget available. Not all of my components can even be purchased now, but I think tubes and vinyl is the best way to achieve that engaging realism I seek, and there are some really, really good performers that are reasonable that sound far better than average mid-fi components. I’ve owned some really good solid state amps, but none have floated my boat like a good tube amp, and vinyl still offers that resolution I look for that I’m don’t quite get from CD, though I do own both.

- The Wharfedale Denton 80th anniversary speakers are on sale for $500/pr (50% off)., and are extremely well balanced, high resolution, neutral, smallish speakers. (for a larger room, more deep bass, I’d add a decent low cost powered subwoofer like the and Dayton SUB1200 for < $150, and would keep the crossover point low, and the gain down) - If you want to stretch the budget for larger speakers - The Wharfedale Evo 4.4 Towers are $1500/pr. Speakers are very subjective - I’d also listen to Elac, Rodgers, PSB, Focal, Paradigm, Spendor, or Harbeth.

- VTA ST-70 - 35 watts per channel in ultralinear mode, or 20 wpc in triode - kit to stretch your budget, or assembled if you can’t/won’t solder. Absolutely the finest sounding, best built amp anywhere near this price range. Excellent clarity, dynamics, and soundstage. An incredible upgrade from the original Dyna ST-70 that was very good. It’ll hold it’s own against many amps over $3000. You can pick your tubes to tailor the sound. $800-$1300

- Audio Technica LP-120XUSB with the VMN95SH shibata stylus (or VMN95ML). $425. This is the new and improved version, and offers the most advanced stylus profile in this price range, thus the best chance of getting really highend sound from a modest deck. The arm is decent and is perfectly matched with the cart, the motor is quiet, the platter benfits from some help from an upgraded slipmat (cork, rubber, cork/rubber, leather, etc), the external RCA jacks allow for cable upgrade, and the nude shibata stylus is stunning. You can add a record weight for increased mass. Many audiophiles look past this deck, but it’s a true sleeper that’ll more than hold it’ own.  Better tables exist, but for a lot more money and offer diminishing returns.

- Schiit Mani phono preamp - $130s

- Cables and interconnects to suit - suggest SWK cables, and Monoprice 12 awg OFC cables in bulk - terminate yourself (< $60 and are as good as any well marketed brand names I’ve tried.)

$2500-$3000 for a system I could listen to as my main system for years.

Thank you for the insights. very nice rig.
I dig tubes too, though SS with tubes has a strong attachment still.
This is one of the configurations I've had in my computer room system (I've since replaced the Vincent).

Vincent SV-237 integrated $1,250 (second hand)
Harbeth P3ESR SE $1,050 (second hand)
MHDT Labs Orchid $750 (second hand)
Onkyo DV-SP205FX SACD player approx. $130 (second hand, required a $20 step up transformer)
SVS SB12-NSD $400

In some ways, this system rivals or betters my main system, which costs many times more than this system.  
TAKE YOUR TIME (wait for the luck of the Irish)


USED (with caution)

If using PayPal, have seller send you an invoice for the goods. If you just send money without an invoice, you have no protection from PayPal.

Talk to your credit card company about their help, even consider taking an advanced card level with yearly fee for a while, get ’extra’ protection, then buy, then, next year drop back to prior level or keep it.


SPEAKERS are primary,

I would look for used, returns/full refund accepted, then the only risk is return shipping.

So, used speakers: only ones I could drive to, pick up, get home in one day, and then if a bust, return in one day, no shipping to/from needed. Many people will meet you half way, or at least drive 1 hr toward you.

Seller might even let you hear them at his place. Tell seller you will be wearing a mask and gloves of course. Or, pick up at the end of a driveway, transfer money with a 6 ft stick!

I agree, that AT120 turntable is quite good, I had one for years, I used my cartridge, the new optional cartridges/stylus is a great move up.

When pricing cartridges, remember, average life of advanced shapes increase, so figure the cost per 50 hours for true cost comparison

Avg. Life chart I found:

150 hrs conical.
250 hrs elliptical, (+67% longer than conical)
400 hrs MicroLine (ML), Shibata, ..(+60% longer life than elliptical)
500 hrs SAS (+100% longer life than elliptical) (+25% longer than ML).

And don’t forget, advanced shapes equates with less wear to LP grooves, and, less Tracking Weight equates to less wear to LP grooves

FEATURES list prior to components
FUTURE Considerations NOW


Play good speakers with any damnnnn thing, replace each piece as you get lucky