Coming out of the blackhole called work...retirement

Hello All

I have just retired and emerged from the mud of work that encompasses everything and acts light a blackhole for hobbies and enjoyment. Now that I am seeing some light I want to upgrade my 70's something stereo to something I can really enjoy. I read in a post from long ago about a preamplifier called a George Lightspeed. It was Australian, quality sound according to the posts and cheap. Is this something I want to consider or must I look at products in the thousands or 10's of? 

128x128Ag insider logo xs@2xamg56
There are plenty of affordable hifi components on the market from several manufacturers. I am not familiar with the one you mentioned but I think an enjoyable system can be assembled with a reasonable (meaning not astronomical) budget.

What do you have now, what are you hoping to achieve, and how much are you willing to spend?
We are in a Golden Age of affordable gear so NO you don’t need to spend big bucks to have great sound...
But we do need to know several things besides budget.What types of music do you listen to mostly,how big is the room and how loud do you listen..What is the rooms acoustic signature,lively/bright(lots of reflective surfaces),highly damped(lots of stuffed furniture,heavy drapes,thick carpet)or something in between?Do you need a Phono stage?Can the speakers be pulled out from walls and boundries or need to be close to walls?Do you want floorstanding towers or stand mount Monitor style speakers
Off the top of my head with no other intel I say a Streaming Based system with an all Tube Control Center/Amplifier like my Quad AV-One and the best speakers you can afford...All in 1 box solutions have surpassed the need for separate preamps and amps with manufacturers like Ayre,McIntosh,Mark Levinson and other heavy hitters supporting the consolidation...
Ok, thanks freediver. That's a heap to consider. We are building a new house with one room (about 5m x 5m x 2.4m) for my music room. I can have free reign as far as sound proofing and preparing for the new equipment. I have 400 records and a turntable, albeit old, a JVC Quartz Lock direct drive, so a phono stage is a yes. The rest, I haven't a clue. I suspect I will be budgeting between $50k to $100k for a decent system but I am still trying to absorb as must information as I can. I have heard that Ayre preamps are good, but expensive unless one is available second hand. Streaming, yes, I have a NAS with 10,000 tracks on it that I listen via a PC and DAC/Senn HD800 phones. The big stuff is something I need to get my head around.!
Get out and listen to as much gear as you can. What else are you to do while you wait for your house to be built? Congratulations on the retirement!

Even though you can afford a $100k rig, you might find that $20 or even $15k worth of gear is just as good to your ears. The systems that receive BOS awards are often near the $20k range. If I had a $100k budget, I'd spend a few $000 in road trips to demo as much as I can. You have the time and the scratch, you don't need advice here. Listen for yourself. are speaking of the Lightspeed Attenuator, by George, who goes by the name here of georgehifi. 
@amg56...btw, welcome to the 'Gon, and congrats on your retirement. With that much money available, and a new house to be built, I would pay attention to the room build, for example : reinforced walls, floor and ceiling, dedicated electrical, and room acoustics. 

Thank you all so far. I have been browsing the various posts and note that all (most) really know what the equipment specifications are. I also note that there is a lot of bagging happening (friendly I hope). This does not help a person such a myself (HiFi ignorant, well not too ignorant...) get an opinion of elements making up a system. I cannot believe the mounds of metal that disguise turntables. I have browed dozens of floor mounted speakers each 2m but range from a couple of thousand to... well I need to be a movie star or own an oil well to consider one for my study let alone a humble dedicated music room.

I guess music is personal as my 70's system has been to me. A small/medium upgrade will seem like a transformism, or crud.

Welcome! amg56

Best advice is to visit dealers/retailers and listen, listen, listen to the gear.

There is no substitute for your own ears. Enjoy the audio journey.

Happy Listening!

You might want to spend time going through the Virtual Systems by room size and get an idea how we here on Audiogon have set up different rooms/systems...

Thank you freediver. I assume you are what your avatar represents. I tried until my ears blew. That was the end of that and scuba.

It doesn't omen well for an accurate assessment of each HiFi element. No wonder my 70's gear still sounds the same. crud.....

Amg56 - nice car. Be careful not to overspend. An unscrupulous dealer can see you coming a mile away. You do not need to blow 6 figures on this. You need more records! 
Welcome to the site amg56.
Enjoy the journey and don't be in any hurry to make a purchase.
You got some good advise from individuals that posted above.
My humble advice is don't approach your acquisitions as a component by component and look for the best in each category. Approach it as a "system " from the get go and then buy the components either gradually or all at the same time according to your budget. One word of caution I have for you is most "expensive " components will sound excellent to you when compared to your old system but be patient and decide on the total system before buying the first component. Good luck.
Since you are now retired and presumably have some free time get out and start listening! Where are you located? Any good dealers or Audio Shows in your area? Consider you're basically starting with a blank sheet of paper so go slow take your time listen and if you can do it right the first time. And + 10000 to what kalali says it is a system and it takes some care or expert advice or trial and error or all three to get that right! Good luck and happy retired listening!
Heck, you are get out and go to some audio shows where you can see and compare a lot of gear in one place and then begin to develop a feel for the type of sound you will enjoy most in your home audio system with the types of music you listen to.  There are many excellent systems posted on this site that achieve their qualities differently based on the preferences of the owner.  Price point is not as much a differentiator as achieving the sonic qualities you value most.  Choices are many such as large SS amps and dynamic speakers, horns with lower-powered amps, single driver speakers, many varieties of tubed amps and preamps, digital vs. analog, and more.  You need to develop a feel for what sonic qualities you value most and then consider gear that will get you there.  How do you want to interface with your music...through a computer, vinyl, CD, or a combination.  Don't neglect thinking about things like ergonomics such as large or small, easy or fidgety, warm-up time or leave it on all the time, and heat generated.  Go to some shows, check out some gear, ask some questions here and have fun.
Congratulations on your retirement.
You have received some very good advice from various posters.
I am in agreement with mitch2  in that you need to decide what type of sound and system you want. Definitely you need to get out and get exposure and attending an Audio show is an excellent ideal.

As mitch2  said you need to hear all varieties amplifiers (tube,transistor, class D, low power and high power). There are many choices available in terms of speakers (and there are many!). In fact each category of audio component will offer an enormous number of choices.

Get the needed exposure to High End Audio products. Since you re Building a new home seek expert consultation regarding the listening room, this is of paramount value for you. You have a very generous budget and can construct a superb system at that level. In my opinion you can spend less and still develop a superb sounding system.

The key point is get out and listen to all manner of audio equipment and develop a sense of what you want your system to sound like.
amg56: Congrats on retirement! Question: Are you married? If so, how does the Missus feel about loud music playing while she is trying to watch Dr. Phil? Maybe you should consider really good headphones? P.S. Where will you reside? What kind of music do you listen to? Makes a difference in kind of speakers you'll need.
Since you re Building a new home seek expert consultation regarding the listening room, this is of paramount value for you.

In particular, you might reconsider the 5m x 5m dimension. A square room generally invites the most standing waves. Find some odd dimensions or get all Golden Ratio for example.

It would also be worth your time (and fun!) to spend a weekend at an audio show.  Unless you are in a major city with good brick-and-mortar options, this is the only way to hear a lot of things and find a frame of reference for the kinds of gear you like and don't.  Unless you're spending a half-million dollars, your system will involve compromise; hearing a number of rigs is the only way to understand which compromises you are happiest to live with.
Congrats on your retirement.  Retirement is not as good as people say... it is much better than that.  You have a great opportunity here to put together a very satisfying system.  As others have said; a combination of audio show attendance and visiting audio salons with some of your favorite recordings in hand should help you begin to discover what direction to go in crafting a system.

As others have said, it is not about the money invested but rather the care in assembling components that play nicely together!  In the end, the system has to satisfy you. Go with what sounds like "music" to you.

Enjoy the journey!

This can be a bit daunting if you have been out of the audio world for a while.  I would start with your room first and make sure it is well designed.  You can avoid a lot of problems by spending some time and money there. 

As others have said you have an opportunity to put a "system" together instead of piecing components into a whole.

Trust your ears.  Specifications are rather meaningless. 

Consider the support of the dealer and the company that manufactures the gear.  If you have a problem can you really get something fixed?

If you are careful, you can put a really nice system together so visit as many dealers and shows as possible.

Congratulations on your retirement.  I retired 7 months ago and I have been upgrading both my systems.  Have fun and do not forget to listen, listen.
@goose   +1  Good point about getting gear that can be repaired when necessary.
I just retired too 1/1/18.  You have been given good advice but with 400 albums I would also focus on your vinyl collection.  Is your turntable in good shape? Cartridge? You also need a high quality phono stage to get the most out of your records.  There are some quality integrated amps that have built in DAC’s, & phono stages.  Your speaker selection will also dicate the power needed to drive them.  Solid state or tube?  If it was my money I would listen to as much gear as possible before buying.  I would also select my speakers first and then figure out what to drive them with. 
@amg56....this is not an attack, but at your age ( over 50 I presume ), have your hearing checked. I do, every 18 months or so. Your sound room, as I mentioned prior, is the most critical component. Much good advice above, as, to finding out what you want a system to deliver to you. Be patient. Enjoy the journey ( never ending in many cases ). Find an audio club in your area ( if there is one ), and participate. This is another good way to get your ears wet.
I will add to the chorus: Find a local dealer that you like, and listen, listen, listen before you leap.
re the OP:

It’s always good to remember, or discover, that the etymology of the word ’work’ is rooted in descriptives for slavery.
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Go on some road trips to some audio shows around the country or the world. You will be able to talk to different dealers and will probably work out some demo time in your house. Or, you can team up with some manufacturers like PS Audio that gives you weeks of in-house usage and if you don’t like a component, they will take it back
Welcome to retirement! 

If you’ve been out of the loop for awhile, you may consider taking your time and wading in slowly.

Technology has changed somewhat, for instance: streaming music, powered home speakers, room correction technology, etc. I’m amazed at the sound quality from relatively compact setups. Of course if you like the idea of traditional components, there are plenty. My point is there are likely options you may not be familiar with. 

I would guess most all are represented here to some extent with valuable expertise to boot-

Hope you enjoy retirement!

Congrats, you're gonna love it as long as you have a hobby. Audio is a great one. Been retired since 1/1/2010 and been offered jobs left and right. Turned them all down. Nobody wants to agree on my terms. I'm still in process of getting to nirvana in the audio world. I'm close but............. they keep extending the rabbit hole. Welcome to the hole.

Great for you!!  Enjoy the roller coaster ride now.  The 70's was very good and I am close behind you.  I am in New Jersey and a buddy of mine is on the hunt for better sound.  He has been on craigslist and a few other places and has found so many older but very nice speakers for sale locally.  He has been dragging me out and around to go hear them in the $2K price range.  I have not ventured out like this is a very long time but the journey he has taken me on has been really fun and we have met a lot of very nice people we did not know before.  We recently heard Von Schweirket VR5 SHEs?s, Alon Circe, Vandersteen 3A sigs, Quattros, Audio Physic Armanti, ProAc 3.8s, 70's TDL transmission lines, B&W 801 S3s, and a bunch of other speakers that were once considered very good in their day versus the current model of speakers that cost so much more today.  What a blast.  So like someone else mentioned already, take your time, go meet some nice people in your area, and enjoy the ride!

Happy Listening.
been retired a wee bit over a year now, Nirvana
sleep deprivation takes time to burn off
you need more than one expensive hobby, the AMG may suffice !
get out and listen to live music
no benchmarks will have you chasing your tail
plus live music is in itself a hobby
find a dealer you can trust
who understands synergy
finally fix the square room
there is a lot of good info on web on designing a great sounding room
enjoy !!!!!!!

Welcome AMG.

Life begins at retirement - at least, it did for me. I could not afford the system I wanted - so I began to build my own equipment. Consider DIY - it's far more rewarding than just buying stuff.

Now after 15 years of DIY, I have an ESL system with DIY electronics and DIY air bearing turntable and DIY cabling. Could not touch it for $100,000 new retail.

Several posters have suggested visiting audio shows. Good idea. I also suggest that you consider buying direct from the manufacturer, where feasible. With your budget, you can afford to travel a bit for auditions, and take in a concert as a bonus. Cases in point: Trans-Fi for turntable and tonearm, Soundsmith for cartridges and preamp, K&K Audio for kits and advice. I use the TF tonearm - I have two of them, and don't think they can be touched for less than 5x the price, and maybe not at all.

Why manufacturers? Price, obviously. But also, VERY few people will bother to set up an analogue system to anything near its potential. The manufacturer is your best bet for determining that potential.

Be sure to audition exotic speakers like ESL's or big Magnepans before you buy anything.

And, I suggest, spend a maximum of $500 on cables until you have your system at a good place. Then try out new cables using your current sound as a reference. I use microphone cable for interconnect at $1 / foot. Exotics work no better. In my system. In my opinion.

If you live near Seattle, why not stop in for a listen?

My 2c from someone who did what you’re doing 8 years ago.

I had last built a system in the 80s and it still works fine. But I decided to see what was around after 25 years of no spare time, now having a nice new very large room (actually a heated garage) to play with in a new way.

I found as others mentioned that affordability was amazing, and began stocking up. But with me it’s a hobby so I went for the next thing. I discovered digital products and did some now-so-easy research on the web, ending up replacing stuff with Minidsp stuff, learning along the way. And of course, in one of life’s ironies, the former software engineer finally realized that it all (well, most) could just be done in software. Duh. What I hadn’t known was the plethora of free apps available. I ended up with a new pair of computers (refurbs costing ~$400 total with pcie soundcards) taking the place of everything up to the power amps. It could have been just one computer, but my speakers are some 40’ from where I choose to ’work’ and to select music to play.

Before you run out and spend money on a pile of more conventionally-packaged stuff (e.g. preamps and other boxes), I suggest you do some research on making your system out of a computer (or two even). Want an equalizer or other ’box’? Download one or ten and try ’em. Steep sloped linear phase crossovers. Drawable EQ curves. Reverb. Echo. Compressors. Any effect you can think of. It’s a blast, it’s actually downright cheap and it sounds better too.
AMG, another thing - room dimensions. You are really close to cubic, and that's not good. I suggest that you look up University of Salford (UK) research into acoustics. They have done a lot of work on optimal rooms.
Acoustics Research Centre - the University of Salford

       Architectural and Building Acoustics

              Room sizing for studios
Buy some jbl 4350 studio monitors and some McIntosh tube gear and you’ll be right back where you left off and just as happy as you were in the 70s. You’ll be in it for 15-20k and it won’t lose value. Congrats on your retirement! 
There is no way you can meaningfully spend such big money and hope to just enjoy good sound. The problem as some have already said is the room. It is too small for full range reproduction and great dynamics, and it is square with a ceiling height that is about half the other dimensions. The biggest issue will be room modes that will give you a terribly boomy bass. So either do something about the room’s dimensions if you still can (or listen in another room) or design your audio system around the problems of the room.
In case of the latter:
1 choose dipole speakers without too much bass extension. Dipoles produce far fewer room modes. My personal favourites would be the Quad 28012 electrostats for the best that money can buy (and well within your budget).
2 use multiple small subwoofers to extend the response in the lower frequencies, but not too far down, and perhaps preferably dipole subwoofers like the Rythmik kits. See here for explanation:
3 perhaps use some bass traps and other room treatments, to the extent that you can live with them esthetically.
4 use a high end pre amplifier/DAC with room equalization to control both main speakers and the subs. My suggestion would be the DSpeaker Antimode X4 that will equalize both the main speakers and the subwoofers.

In addition you will also need a power amplifier. My suggestion would be the Quad QMP monoblocks for balanced inputs and a perfect match with the speakers (there are many affordable alternatives, although electrostats are not the easiest load so why make life difficult for yourself). For source material I am all in favour of an all digital system for superior sound quality and convenience. A multiformat player from Oppo will be excellent and allows you to play movies as well (just add a nice tv screen and you can watch opera rather than just listen to it). Streaming from the likes of Spotify, Tidal and Qobuz has also become a very convenient source for unlimited access to huge high quality music libraries or internet radio (by now equal or superior to FM radio). Sonos, Apple Airport Express and Chromecast Audio are convenient implementations, but so are more flexible mini computers like the mac mini, an Intel NUC or the Raspberry Pi. Why not digitize from your lp collection what is not available from a streaming service, and store it on a local hard drive?

WOW! Thank you all for your best wishes in retirement. It feels good to sleep in, well not having to get up at a certain time anyway.

For a couple of you commenting on my car, AMG are my initials. I wish I COULD own an AMG! I'll settle for a nice stereo system.

I will be perusing magazines, shops, forums absorbing from the learned. Mine you I spent half a day reading a topic on TC and Graphene. Apart from the overboard sledging (I am an Aussie), the technology is fascinating.

One to more forum subjects.... Adrian

Get a subscription to Stereophile and The Absolute Sound! I can also recommend the British mags HiFi News and HiFi World! Quality reporting and writing!
AMG, that's why you want to do DIY !

Who else is going to make an arm-board out of graphene film on a nickel matrix?
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Congrats on your retirement. I'm two years ahead of you and can tell you to simply take your time and don't rush into any major purchases and to audition as much as you can before committing. 

That, and mickeyb beat me to it: you really can't go wrong with the JBL suggestion. Take a look at youtube and check out kenrick sound and what he does with JBL speakers. You don't have to modify them like he does but it will give you a good idea of just how good those old designs still are. Happy listening.

All the best,
Congrats on your retirement.  In about 18 months I'll probably be joining you!
Congrats! I just retired January 2nd. So far,I’m loving life. 
Take your time and find something you like. That’s one thing you have a lot of now is time. You don’t have to spend a fortune, although it’s really hard to stick with a budget. There’s so much cool stuff out there!