Finally saved 3000 what is a good setup.

After year trolling this website and saving I have finally earned 3K to spend on a system. Currently I am using some old Sony studio speakers my friend gave a few years back but now its time for a change. I am firmly in the digital camp and have been using a Squeezebox for the last few years and have transferred much of my collection onto a hard drive. What I need advice how to split 3000 between a set of speakers and an integrated amp or power amp (my setup now and use the digital volume on the SB).

To help with suggestion, my living room in going to be my main setup. The room is 18 X 14 X 10 with carpeted floors. I have room to spread these puppies at most 8 - 10 feet apart. I don't care if their monitors or floor standers but cannot be panel. I am married and my wife, who is also into music, would not like something that will dominate the household.

Heres a little about me. I am a studio musician and teacher by trade. In addition, I listen to all types of music, considering I am exposed to so much different types of music at the studio, and regularly go to live concerts to see a wide variety of music. As such, my idea deal speaker is true to the source without adding too much, makes me feel like I am actually one of those live concerts, is realistic, and just disappear. I know for many bass is key but I like honest bass not the exaggerated bass that so many speakers produce IMO.

So what you think. What would be a good combination?
Hmmm. There is an ocean of speakers out there. You need to get around and here a few to get a feel for what you like.

The Zu speakers are very live and dynamic sounding, can be placed against a back wall, and are efficient so you can run them using a SET tube amp, etc ('s-high-effici).

LSA makes nice sounding speakers and a good integrated that is affordable ( and (

I would also look at a decent little dac for the squeezebox:
Slightly over your budget at $3350, but here are a pair of Gallo Reference 3.1s for $1650:

Mate those to this Butler Audio hybrid amp for $1699:

This will give you a world-class speaker/amp combo that should work marvelously in your room. The Gallos are exceptionally good speakers. And the Butler amp will drive them effortlessly and with great authority.

Google these items and you will see that they are universally priased for their exceptional sound and build quality. My HT setup sounds terrific using a Butler TDB-5150 to drive my all-Gallo suurround sound setup...

Rlwainswright, I have heard both the Gallos and Butler amps, and I concur.
Hmmm. I'm thinking maybe Merlin TSMs or Vandersteen 2ce sigs (either around $1.3-$1.4K) and a nice tube integrated. There are lots of tube integrateds for $1500-$1600.00. If you want to watch the classifieds and are prepared to move quickly, I think a VAC Avatar would be great choice, but it might push you a a couple of hundred over your target price. I would strongly recommend getting away from the digital volume control on the Squeezebox; you are losing resolution if you attenuate it more than about 3 dB and it gets significantly less resolving as you go down from there.
I used to own the Merlin VSMs and I thought about the monitors too. It depends on what kind of bottom end he warns. The sp tech monitors would be on my list as well if you could find a pair
Actually, I want to try to buy everything used here on Audiogon to maximize my savings. I have a buddy who has brought a lot of equipment here and they look brand new.

Swampwalker: Good point on the digital volume control.

Thanks for the advice so far everyone. I am not a bass head overall but I do like to listen to organ music, which I heard is a challenge for many speakers, if that gives you any ideas.
I also like organ music. Currently I own a pair of TSM-MXr speakers, which continue to amaze me. I have a sub for the low notes!

We all tend to like what we own. There are some great choices out there, but if tonal excellence and image/soundstage are important for you, the Merlin's are a good pick.

3k is plenty to put a nice system together. Have fun!

I would get a nice integrated amp as the backbone of your system. Like a creek destiny or sim audio 5.3 or a krell 400ix then figure on a set of speakers that will work well with a 100 or so watts of solid state power like a Dynaudio x12 or Revel M20. Add a 500 range DA converter and your in budget.

I've had a lot of expensive cheap and mid priced systems and I have found that no matter the quality of the front end gear or speakers you can't get by with a cheap amp. A good integrated amp like the ones mentioned will work with a variety of speakers and can be left on so your system is ready to rock at any time. If you are more of the type who only likes to sit down and listen at certain times and it appeals you could consider tubes. I like to have my systems on all the time so tubes don't appeal to me. Ive had many tube amps and personally the sound wasn't worth the hassle.

You should be able to put together a fantastic system for 3k.
pre amp: usp 1
Cd: ERC 2
Amp: XPA 2
Speakers of your choice.... w/the Emotiva setup you're goanna get awesome SS setup with 5 year warranty and 30 days in home trial. They even have speakers, and the quality is great, don't let the price fool you, they're direct re seller.

Good Luck :)
Used Benchmark DAC-1 Pre or HDR + the best powered studio monitors (ie. Mackie, Dynaudio, etc.) you can afford with what's left.
Pick the PSB or Paradigm speaker that tickles your fancy and suits your needs. There is no better bargain in speaker audio today. Buy used for an even better deal. Get an integrated amp. There are any number of them under $1000 used such as Dussun, Jolida, Cambridge Audio. Set a price limit and get the best used one you can find. Now you have about $1000 left over for a source. While I hate digital and only listen to vinyl, you can pick up a decent combo player and dac such as an Oppo, Cambridge Audio etc. Worry about cables after you have all the rest together and you see how much money you have left. Or go vinyl and pick up a used VPI Sota or Rega.
Greetings fellow A'goners & Happy New Year to everyone!Aldres,with $3 K you can have a KILLER system...IMHO you would ABSOLUTELY love Dynaudio speakers...Trust me,listen to a WELL broken in pair,driven by either an ALL TUBE Integrated Amplifier(40-50 wpc @4 ohms will be perfect)or one of SimAudio's integrated amps fronting a decent Multi Disc(will play CD-DVD video-DVD Audio & SACD) DVD Player & you'll be in audio heaven...As the differences between modest & good sources & cables is MUCH smaller than the differences between modest & good amps & speakers you should put the majority of your funds into your amp & speakers...PS...Please do NOT listen to anyone who screams Dynaudio's need lots of power to sing,I have lived with a 40wpc ALL Tube integrated amplifier & Dynaudio Focus 140's for the last year & they are a match made in heaven!!!
With the Squeezebox as a source, the Emotiva XDA-1 is a no brainer at 248 delivered.
It also acts as a preamp with remote.
This D/A unit competes with stuff costing 1200+ and then some.
I happen to really like mine a lot and I tried a few things out before buying it.

Check out the silver iris speakers Darrel builds. You cannot find anything near the cost at their level.
Play with your favorite amplifier.
A spud is all well and good if you don't want to crank it up, but they run out of power too fast for me.

If you went this route, you would have money for a very nice used tube amp...since, if you did the speaker kits yourself, you would not be into it for 1000 dollars including cable.

That would leave 2k for an amp!
There's a pair of Totem Arros on sale here for $875. The sound they produce belies their small size, They image beautifully. Read up on them.
Topline CA 840a at huge discount new::It has at least one set of balanced inputs for forward thinking.

Pick up a set of used Vandersteins 2c......
Well, as far as speakers go, there was a guy on ebay last night selling a pair of Monitor Audio RX-1s for under $400; but you'll need to convince him to ship.
If you have a PC or Laptop I would use that as the source. Then buy a something like a Cambridge DacMagic a good integrated amp and spend the rest on you speaker. My budget would be:

USB DAC $500 (Dac magic, W4S Dac1 etc)
integrated amp $1000 (Sugden A21or PrimaLuna if you like tubes)
speakers $1500 (easy to drive speakers)

Or you could even go for active speakers and a DAC with a volume controll. There are many many options.
I'm relatively new to this, but what I've come to believe is that the biggest challenge is in finding components to have a synergy among them. Having gone through what I have to build my own system with hind sight being 20/20; I think that if I had it to do all over again, I'd start with the speakers and try to stick to the used market here on audiogon.

With hind sight being what it is and knowing what I know now, I don't think I'll ever buy another new piece of equipment.

Just an example (and I know this is ebay, but...) I found a pair of Monitor Audio RX-1s on ebay last night and they wanted under $400 for them. These are speakers that retail for something around $700 and they were just about new. And I just realized that I've already mentioned this above.

Anyway, my listening room/den is about the same size as yours. My system consists of:

NAD C162 preamp - ~$300.00. I probably paid a bit too much for it, but it was in really good shape.

Emotiva XDA-1 DAC - $250 shipped brand new from Emotiva. It is very flexible and a big bang for the buck, but I am admittedly auditioning other DACs right now.

Aragon 2004 amp - ~$500 from ebay. This is a beast of an amp and it sounds really good with my system.

System Audio SA505 speakers - $400. These things are tiny at around 10" tall but put out a BIG sound with a nice wide and deep sound stage and are not very picky about placement. I have mine on shelves in an entertainment center.

REL T3 subwoofer - $400. This unit is small and very unobtrusive and provides bass that is smooth and it keeps up with the fast little 505s.

Now just add your chosen source. I did a lot of swapping of components before I arrived at the combo that works for me. Like I said, in hind sight, I wish I had started with the speakers.

I now realize that if I had started with speakers that suit my tastes and space limitations, I could have saved myself a lot of component swapping.
Like Ddd1 has already advised you, get the best amplified studio monitors you can, e.g. Mackie, Dynaudio, Genelec, Focal, etc. If you still have some money left after buying the speaker get a DAC with an analog volume control, but IMO this is less important (you can always get one of those next time you have some money in your hands). Since you are a studio musician you are used to listen to studio monitors and you might fine the hi-fi/hi-end speakers disappointing. Very few hi-fi/hi-end speakers can play every type of music right and even fewer are able to reproduce the dynamic of live music realistically.

However, if for whatever reason, you would like to stay away from studio monitors, than get a NAD or ROTEL pre/power combo and the best speakers you can afford. Another good choice is a Musical Fidelity A5 integrated and again the best speakers you can get.

Good luck!
If it was me I would start off getting the best DAC you can find. Get a nice int amp and a good set of monitors. You can go in may directions. I have a nice Creek Evo and EPOS speakers myself. My sources are a PS1 and Rega table. If I using a squeeze box or other comp source the DAC would be the most important part of the system IMO.
I disagree with Billybob7088. DACs and CD players only get cheaper and arguably better, i.e. decently priced DACs and CD players are often comparable with older and very expensive units). With the speakers the trend is exactly opposite, i.e. new models cost more without being significantly better (if at all) than the previous models.
For my $3K, I would consider a Peachtree amp/DAC combo like this:

and a pair of Silverline Audio Preludes:

That will leave you $300 for cables, shipping, taxes, etc. You will need a decent digital cable. Try the Mapleshade:

For decent speaker cables, try Audio Art:

As a bonus, most of these are available with a return option, so if you're not happy, you can try something else. That excludes the Silverline speakers, however. But having heard them, I'd be surprised if you weren't happy with them, especially at their price. Of course, YMMV.
Get a pair of Shelby+Kroll Nano monitors, the woofer monitor and a tube amp from Jim Nicholls @ Jwn amps all for under $3000.00 and I guarantee your rig will outperform systems many times their price range
Parasound A23 amp, PSB Image6t speakers, spend rest on interconnects and cables. Or buy used and upgrade each to a21 and PSB Imagine or Synchrony. Good sound together.
do you want to try tubes? I would look hard at the Merlin's that are selling at 1850;one is a full range and the other is a monitor.
One more idea for a digital-centric system:

HK 990 Integrated Amp (with full digital bass management): $1600 (new, available on e-bay)
Magnepan MMG Planar Speakers $ 600 (new, direct from Maggie)

The remaining $800 goes to a subwoofer and source as you see fit.

Given a decent digital signal and a good sub, this will be a killer system. The HK will provide room analysis and EQ, it will cross the MMGs seamlessly to the woofers in the digital domain, it includes a pretty high quality DAC, and it has a quality power amp section that provides 150WPC. This will do complete justice to the MMGs, which are ridiculously good performers for their price tag - but present a dilemna in that they require a fair bit of quality grunt from a power amp. This will often (tho not always) result in a higher priced system than your stated budget. Since the MMGs lose steam in the +/- 50hz region, adding a subwoofer (which can be tricky for a planar design) to extend the bottom end further boosts the system asking price. However, the HK is (AFAIK) a unique (I don't use that word often in describing audio equipment) 2.2 channel solution to these problems. You might want to check out Kr4's recent review of the unit in Stereophile to get a full appreciation of the design.

The HK also has a few other nice qualities. It has dual sub outputs, so you can add a second sub down the road if you need/want. It also includes a built-in phono section and (I believe) the ability to bypass all the digital processing and send your "pure" analog (or digital, for that matter) signal to the MMGs (without the subs) if you need or want that functionality. However, this isn't a set-up designed to optimize analog performance for the $.

If you find the right subwoofer (A new 12" Rythmik - sold direct by Rythmik - will eat up the last $800, but it might be worth it if you already have a computer that you can use as your source), this solution allows seamless integration of the bottom 1 1/2 octaves to properly powered MMGs at under $3K. I've used a similar set-up with an Onkyo pre-pro and dual Rythmik 12" subs fed by a dedicated server and preferred that set-up to other, more traditional audiophile systems that I've owned at five times the cost.

Another benefit - the MMG and Rythmik are sold direct with in-home, money back privileges.

I'm sure that there are many good choices out there, and most will employ a more traditional audiophile's "minimalist" approach, but this is the way I'd go.

Good Luck.

I would get a used pair of Merlin TSMs and a used Music Reference RM10 MKII. If you live near Baltimore you can over and listen to this little amp with my Merlin VSMs - though the larger speaker in the line, you'll get a ver ygood idea of what the Merlin/MR combo can do - a great combination. If I wanted a bit more bass, I would look to a pair of Vandersteen 1 or 2s and an integrated SS amp of 50 watts or more (Rotel? Arcam? etc.)
My favorite "budget" speaker used to be the PSB Stratus Gold. Now, with direct marketing, the NHT Classic Three's and Four's are a bargain. Three's and a B-10d sub for $1100 (new). Stands?

Audiolab 8200CDQ CDP/DAC/Pre ... $1400 (new)

Lots of used amps in the listings under $1000.
i'd suggest a krell integrated (s300i or similar) and a pair of aerial 7b's. it's a set-up i initially started with and served me well for a 2 years.

thinking you should be able to do this at about 3000-3500 used. 7b's are great all around speakers but need juice to shine. the krell integrated amps have the power they need. the only caution i have is to stay away from silver IC's. they sounded a bit forward in this set-up imho.

just my 2 cents.
A few amps that caught my eye were a Classe 70 ($475), a Legacy (Coda... $800) and a couple McCormack DNA-1's. Except for the McCormacks, the other two have the option of XLR inputs which would be nice with the Audiolab.
go with fritz carbon 7 monitors and spend the rest on an integrated, krell is what i used, it'll be the best bang for your buck, the carbon 7's are giant killers
Mrkoven, good call on the Fritz carbon 7s. I own speakers which emply series x-overs and Scanspeak drivers, and they are the shizzle in terms of coherence and musicality. He would need a sub though to pull off deep bass (organ) notes since they only dip to 39 Hz.
I agree and back up the Fritz Carbon 7 recommendation. Something in the range of a Audio Refinement Complete integrated, a $350 laptop, inexpensive dac, alot of good cables without spending massive money and you have a very satisfying, very audiophile system.