Good Stuff Cheap

I thought maybe a thread like this may be useful. How about a listing of equipment that's cheap and performs WAY beyond expectations. To qualify, the item must be under $500 (new or used)for an electronic component and under $100 for wire. Try to include comparisons to other equipment.

I'll start off with the Musical Fidelity X-Can Version 2.0. Not as a headphone amp but as a pre-amp! I was noticing that some headphone amps can double as a pre-amp and the X-Can sounded pretty good thru my cans so I went to Radio Shack, got an adapter and ran the headphone output into the rest of my system.

Oh my! Detail, warmth, dynamics and musicallity like you read about. All for $250....NEW! Replacing the standard wall wart with the MF outboard power supply ($195)tightened things up even further. Looks funky with the "alien rectal probe" coming out the front, cables attached. It only has one input, but man does it sound good! As good as my Transcendance & Rogue 66.
The B&W 300s impress me. I own an older set--$250 retail. The new ones are supposed to be significantly better. These speakers have good clarity, are reasonably neutral, and have amazing bass for such a small package. The molded plastic cabinet is pretty ingenius too. It's cheap and reduces cabinet colorations, by having the back portion with no flat surfaces. What have I compared it to? Well Epos EP12 and B&W 600 and several in wall speakers (Niles and Parasound--don't know the model number). The 300 is not better than the Epos or the 600, but it is better than the in wall speakers. I'm using them to replace one pair of in wall speakers; it's in a location where cosmetics are not a concern. The 300s are not even on stands and and are against the wall and they still sound very respectable.
A power cord for AC, now long discontinued, the Tiffany TPC-60. Came with Hubbell clam shell three pin wall plug and Hubbell IEC . The last of these I bought, I found by running a want ad at Audiogon and other audio sites. I paid $75.00 each for the ones that were offered. This power cable is as clean as an Audioquest, and nearly as warm as Purist. It is not the ultimate in resolution, but has excellent mid bass and good deep base. The highs are faulty only by omission (rather than hash), and has good depth and a wide soundstage. Certainly a bargain at $75.00.
There is a guy named Matt Kim who sells DIY ICs, digital and power cables. His stuff is really great for what he charges. He always has dutch auctions
I'd nominate the Syn. Res. Master Coupler at a used price of about $150 to $180. Right now I see there are a LOT of them for sale here on Agon. But what that tells me is that it is an extremely popular power cord with many "out there". I use them on all my components. Craig
I can also recommend Sonic Frontiers SFL-1 pre-amp that can sometimes be found used for under $500.-- good features and excellent sound quality. I used one for years, and then sold it for $475. here on Agon. Craig
CAL Gamma DAC. Bought direct from CAL for $99. I know its obsolete, but so am I. Great addition for my CD player until all the digital technology debate settles down and prices on hardware and software come down. Regards.
Vandersteen 1B's are available for <$ 500 used, as is the older NAD receiver I have, powering them quite nicely. As I have auditioned them against B & W and a slew of other speakers/amps in this price range, I can say they are a true audio bargain. With a Linn Sondek LP-12 as the front end, and the $ 5.50/ft solid silver Tributary speaker cables(good bass and detail), you can really hear what this speaker/receiver combo can do, and it is holding its own in this fast company. It actually is more enjoyable than my extensive HT setup downstairs, at least with vinyl. And the HT system has about $ 10,000(new) worth of separates and speakers. (Yamaha DSPA1, Adcom GFA6000, Toshiba SD5109, PhaseTech cabinets out the yin-yang). My feeling is that the 1B's(or 1c's if you must) are a more successful design than the Vandy 2's, except maybe the 2CE Signatures.
Another bargain, for HT, would be the Adcom GFA 6000 amp I am using, which again is under $ 500 used, and will deliver
all the high current juice you will probably need, especially if you run powered subs( a must for HT IMHO).
Some otherwise good HT amps/rcvrs need help from a separate power amp and this is a cost effective solution. It runs very cool as well. Tight midbass and all around control is excellent. I heard 3 and 4,000 dollar HT units from Marantz, Denon, Yamaha, etc. which were simpering underachievers compared to the effect of going pre-out to this unit. The GFA 7400 is also great, but probably harder to get under $500. But that's HT.
Kinda like playing high-low, isn't it? I'll go low. Pass and Seymour L1 LeGrand outlet, $10. Compared to a standard wall outlet there is a clearer and cleaner image. To quote Dave Barry, "...I lost 17 pounds in 5 minutes without excercise and I feel great". Of course, he was writing about the book, "There Are No Electrons".

Try MITerminator 2 Interconnects -- $80.00 for a 1 meter pair. They can be purchased mail order from Audio Advisor. Want to save EVEN more money on wire?? Then try the MITerminator 3 Interconnects for just $45.00 for a 1 meter pair. These interconnects (both the MITerminator 2 and the MITerminator 3) are routinely being offered for 50% off of their suggested MSRP's everyday. And if you were to allow me JUST A LITTLE more leeway, then I am inclined to include to the MITerminator 2 Speaker Cables also. These are being offered at the Audio Advisor for just $120.00 for an 8 ft. pair. I have tied my whole system together using this stuff and I cannot say enough about it. The overall sound of my system is VERY clean and VERY clear. Their is plenty of resolution in the mid band, expansion in the soundstage, depth and space well into the stage itself, with a more open top end and conceivably, more extension and tightness in the lower registers. It sure makes my $550.00 list price (but I bought it used for $250.00) Adcom GFA-545 Mk.II power amplifier sound more like one that costs about $2,000.00. After hearing this stuff time and time again, it makes me wonder why do people continue to spend as much money on wire to tie their systems together as I would spend on a decent used car. I just don't get it.

Regards to you, 1953.....

If You can find a used Forte amp(the 1a or the 4)I am only talking about the 50 watt class A model.You can probably get it for around 500 bucks,absolute steal,very high end sound.The Aegis One's(small minimonitor),I have a pair,for 300 bucks new,you can't go wrong,excellent little speaker.
MAS (Music And Sound) Silver Black amd MAS Silver Grey Interconnects. These are made by Stu Wein in Pennsylvania. He made the high end digital cable that use to come with the original Wadia DAC. His cables were also recommended in Stereophile back then. He now auctions his current cables new on eBay. You can also purchase directly from him. The Black Interconnects go for around $50 to $55 usually for a one meter pair. I have tried them and they were compared well against to the Van Den Hul D102Mk3 Hybrid and pretty close the Nordost Blue Heaven. The Silver Grey cables tend to go for around $80 and were even better. His Blue model cables go for around $25 and are as good as cables like Kimber PBJ in my opinion. He also makes a couple decent power cords.
I have to agree with Krelldog and have said this many times before. The Forte' amps are excellent for the money and smoke far more expensive units with ease. If you look around, you can find the 1's for as little as $325 with the others typically going for at least $100 more than that. For the record, i'm speaking about the model 1, 3, 4 and 6, as these are all that i've owned. Can't speak for the 5 or 7's, although the 7's should be fabulous ( monoblock versions of the 4's ) and the 5's shouldn't be any type of a slouch. Like anything else though, they do require system matching for optimum performance. I know of no other line of amps that i could recommend so heartily for the money. Just keep in mind that these are NOT "slam" type amps, just very sweet, airy and musical. Sean
System Audio Speakers-any of them.I own the 950 mini towers,as a second set.(Primary speakers are Alon II).
If you are objective you have to admit that Audio is a business of diminishing returns like no other.
Classe 70 amp. Very musical, beautifully built, and will drive all but the most demanding loads. Usually goes for around $500.
Well, I was going to add the Forte 1a amp to the list but somebody beat me to it! The Paradigm Studio 20 speaker is wonderful for the money and can be fetched for around $300-400 for the pair. On the wire side of the equation, good old Audioquest Midnight speaker cabling can be had for under $100 for short lengths and the Wire World Aurora power cord will slide in under $100 for a 2M length.
I'm on a roll now. The Vandersteen 2W sub ~$500. For front end stuff : Cal Icon MKII CD player, Pioneer DV-05 DVD/DAD/CD player and Sota Comet table - all for under $500 each.
I'll have to second the Classe' 70. For the used price you can't find another that is close.

Also, DIY inter-connects. I order whatever I feel like trying from Parts Connection and solder away. Usually, after they burn in they sound fine. Presently, I've been using a copper/silver/teflon, braided to WBT knock off. It cost me maybe $40 or less for 2-1 meter pairs. They have all kinds of cable and you can even make your own home brew- Cardis.

Grado Headphone amp=$300.00
Grado RS2 Headphones=$495.00

Handmade sandbox for my Well Tempered Record Player. (Which also isolates the motor). My cost was $00.00. I had an old 1/2" cabinet that I cut up and assembled at a friend's shop. It took me 1.5 to 2 hour. After I painted it, bought some foam insulation strip and filled it with sand the total cost was maybe $15.00 to $20.00.

Blank CDR's to back up mastered live music. .60 a piece and going down.

Used Rega Planet.

Used albums!!!!!

Properly set up room!!!!!

Late night with the lights out!!!!
I've seen several used Counterpoint amps in that range. That's a great buy if the mosfets are still working. Insert some older Mullards or other NOS tubes, and they can be very nice. The Pioneer Elite DV05 DVD players are selling for $400 or less used...they have excellent video and decent, musical audio (definitely better than most cheap CD players). I have a Studer A727 CD player that I bought for $250 about five years ago, and I still like it better than any player I've owned since (including a Denon 2650(?), Rega Planet, and Pioneer DV05). It's their old pro model from the late 80s or early 90s, and I'm sure it cost $3000-$4000 new. It's built like a tank, and has a very warm sound (much like a more refined Revox B226, with better parts, better bass, etc). I'm assume a new $2000 plus CD player would sound much better, but I haven't compared any yet. The used Revox B226 often sell for $200-$300 used, and I'm sure they're still much better than any new, similarly priced CD players.
Marantz 4240 4-channel amp, around $ 250 used. Killer.
This amp, a cheap table, medium cartridge and any four speakers is like Shaq w/any four players - a real team.

Haffler DH-500 255/ch for <$500 used.

Dahlquist DQ-10's, w/new driver surrounds or mylar caps.. They need juice though, so probably the Haffler at 255/ch is a good bargain match.

Music Hall turntables. Not bad for the buck, even new.

Ah!Tjoeb CD Players. Tubes added to a basic Marantz chassis that come up used for $ 300 to 400.

Jolida - any of their amps or cdplayer are tube bargains.

ELAD Morrison preamp - a clean, neutral solid state line stage, Class A sound for $ $ 700 to $ 800 new, should go $ 500 used if you can ever find one!
Houston GFP power amps (demo's about 5-600) is a great 60w tube amp with some features missing on the high-end spread.

Apt Holman Preamp - not the best in every regard, but an adjustable phono stage second to none anywhere near this cost. I have seen them for a couple of hundred used. Worth it just for the phono stage.

Cable bargains besides Tributary - Kimber 4TC or 8TC(used)
and Harmonic Tech(used) come to mind.

Spica TC-50 - modest bass but otherwise incredible if you can find some used. My sister has these and has kept them for over ten years. Buy a sub if you must, but they are magical all by themselves. Stands a must.

Allison One - used around $ 300. Unconventional classic that may overcome some room issues with its shape.

Hartley Zodiacs - $ 250/pr new (in '75)/used__?/ 10" 2-way bass reflex cabinets, around 33" that put most modern speakers to shame for smoothness, dynamics, etc. Wish like hell I still had them! What was I thinking!

Phillips GA212 turntable. New $ 250 in '75. 'Semi-automatic',(it stops at the end of the LP - that's it)
and was just a hair worse than the Connoisseur table it lost out to. Likes Shure Type III's or better, but tracks very well, and is gorgeous to boot. Another loss.

Bunsen Burner - to pre-heat your tubes.
Large bags of flour or rice - to reduce unwanted refractions
and dampen vibrations. Put on floor near equipment. Caution -Low SAF. Duh!
Zildjian or Paiste High Hat/Splash cymbals - will add that missing shimmer to your high end. :)
Nice post Prs123. I have owned the Hafler and the Philips and lived off and on with the Allisons for almost a year. Have to agree with you on these three, even down to the cartridge on the 212.
prs123 i agree with dekay - nice post. i have to disagree with the morrison elad recommendation though. i had one and didn't like it at all. i did an a/b with several preamps in its price range (used) and it was the loser just about every time. most notably it got stomped by an arc sp7 (ss full service preamp from the early 80s) although tied the overrated arc sp9 mkII. the morrison also has only two inputs. mine was numbered 350 or so and it was made about 5 months there aren't that many around. i've been seeing an unusual number of these for sale lately everyhwere i look on; audioshopper, audioreview, global audio mart... i can only assume the owners came to the same conclusion as i did. dont believe the posts at audioreview. i believe there is a reason for the exaggerated stats that i wont get into here.

speaking of the arc sp7 i think this is a great bargin (although hard to find). i sold mine for $250. stupid.

i also recommend for amazing bargains on tube preamps. at home i did an a/b with their lowest end model ($300) and the morrison and it wasn't a contest - all 5 picked the space-tech.
forgot to add acoustats on the menu. model 3s go for $400-$1000 used and are astonishing. they're big and extremely hard to ship so people sell them to locals for cheap.
I have seen the Well Tempered TT on this site go for as low as $500. The OTA kit could change your views on wire. What a Bargin!
Kublakhan - thanks for the heads up on the ELAD! The other components listed I have actually owned, or at least heard extensively.
I occasionally see deals on older Conrad-Johnson pre's and know this brand more by rep than by audition, especially the older models. Feedbback anyone?

It seems there are a lot of planar and electrostats around $ 500 or so used now. The acoustats, apogees, and even an occasional Soundlab show up. The caveat is that you must have good juice, low impedance capability and lots of muscle to do them justice, with very few exceptions. And some are notorious for arcing(yikes!). I have heard the acoustats and apogees in the past, Loved the acoustats on female vocals and small ensembles. Loved the apogees on orchestral(the big apogees that is), but that was with Rowlands pushing them, so kiss that budget goodbye.
Will a $ 500 Hafler do justice to those used ribbons? H-m-m-

BTW, has anyone heard the $ 250 or so new Dana 1's or 2's?
Are they still in business? Should they be?
prs good point about the acoustats which i should have mentioned. dont buy them if you listen to'll hate them. female vocals and small ensembles are definitely their strong point - but they're an 'oh my god' in that arena.
Speaking of possible overachievers, has anyone heard the Fluance speakers, specifically the SM938, which are going new for $ 270/pair on audioreview? With a 10" side-firing woofer, two 4" mids, and the ubiquitous 1" silk dome, they look like interesting knockoffs of several well-known names. The price looks too good, even at their
$ 400 'MSRP'. They state 89 dB sens, an 8ohm load and 38Hz low-end response. They have a narrow profile, like some NHT's, Proacs, and Audio Physics we know but are not angled for phase. I am guessing that they saved on bracing, damping,driver quality, and crossovers("oops, we're over budget, hand me the papier mache, bubble wrap, toothpicks, glue, staples and aluminum wire!"), but otherwise an intriguing buy for under three hundred new. They might even image and soundstage OK based on their design, and they offer another model that has a Nautilus knockoff tweeter on top of what is a very large four-way box(42"!) also under $ 300/pr. Hell, I spent more than that on cable, and I'm a notorious skinflint. The name Fluance bothers me though, too much like efFluence. :) Sorry, couldn't resist.
I guess one could buy these visually impressive bargains, and hide a pair of LS3/5 A's and a Sunfire Jr. to mess with your friends. Just a thought.