Please Advise me on Building a System on a Budget

Hello everyone,

I am an aspiring audiophile who loves music but I have never had the money to buy any real nice equipment. I am looking to build a relatively nice system for the first time and I am on a budget. I am looking to spend only around $2000 on everything. I am looking to get everything used and I am willing to hunt on ebay and craigslist for bargains. I want to stretch this $2000 as far as I can. I have a few questions that I hope some of you experts could help me with.

Ideally, I need a pair of speakers, a preamp, an amp, a record player and some type of digital source like a cd player (or SACD player). I know that is an aweful lot to ask for on a $2000 budget but tell me what you think I could do.

One question I have been wondering is if it really makes sense in 2011 to spend big money on a cd player or SACD player. I don't quite understand people who are spending a thousand dollars on a top of the line NAD player or other unit. Wouldn't it make more sense to have a hard drive based unit or computer playing lossless audio files? Wouldn't that be able to produce the same quality audio but be more convenient?

My initial thoughts would be that I should have a PC with a solid DAC as my digital source (or hard drive based player) and then get a good record player. Does this sound reasonable? Or is there some reason why playing old fashioned CDs through a NAD or other device would sound superior? Also, would you recommend a SACD player? Of course, there are plenty of high resolution FLAC files that I could conceivably play from a hard drive unit as well.
Please advise on this.

What I was thinking of as far as budgeting was concerned is: Spend about $700-$800 on the best used speakers I can find. Spend about the same on the best Pre-amp/Power amp combination I can find. And spend the rest towards the rest, particularly the digital and vinyl sources.

The $2000 is not a hard and fast budget but I seriously do not have a lot of money and I want to get the best audio I can for a reasonable amount. I would rather spend more on the speakers and amps and maybe wait on a record player.

What can you suggest? Thanks. I look forward to hearing your suggestions.
Answers depend on the experiences of someone responding, and well-learned lessons. I suggest system matched components. By that I mean learning to appreciate reading spec sheets. For example, pro's have different output levels and amps have different minimum signal level requirements for full-rated power. Speaker's have amp rating specs to match-up. For digital sources like a transport, professional AES/EBU connections are the best I've heard. Yet, I have an OPPO 981 HD with very fine multi-disk audio/video playback abilitites, too.

Certain matched components, like processor/amp/speaker combinations seem to sound made for each other. Cables can be a daunting. I like and have all Mogami Gold. Analog and digital 75 ohm and 110 ohm can look very similiar, yet, sound way different. Order carefully and look for the cable identification.

I'm looking at adding vinyl playback, so, can't answer from good experience. When I do, it will be best system matched components, within reason.

The types of music you enjoy is important, too, because some well-matched system's seem best for certain music. Of course, the true musicality MoJo has to be experienced with your own well-known recordings. Also, check the system settings when demo'ing. "Flat" is often the best baseline reference point to judge the musicality MoJo with your ears. A "in-home audition" is usually best.
Alright, I'll give it a shot.

Zu Audio Omen (high efficiency speaker--will give you flexibility with amps--stunning dynamics without any shrillness) You might be able to get one for $1000.

Onix Sp3 tube integrated. (this is an amazingly sweet sounding tube amplifier, built like a tank, will drive the Zu's louder than is bearable) You usually see these going for $450 used.

Peachtree Audio iDac (this is a world class DAC, you can use your computer as a transport and truly enjoy your cd collection) You might be able to get one for $700 used.

I'm a bit over your budget, but I can guarantee you would not regret it...

Cheers & luck,

Hello, I am Geo'ndaLou and I just now (6:50 pm cst) saw a Mark Levinson power($750) amp in one listing and an Audio Research power amp ($625) in another separate listing here on Audiogone. I have NEVER seen these types of components listed so inexpensively anywhere. Either would give you KILLER sound for pennies on the dollar! I now use an Inspiron 1525 pc as my source, and it I am very pleasantly suprised at the quality of reproduction it supplies. I plan to auire a dac for about $1100.00 in the near future. There is a pair of Magnaplanars for $500.00 listed also, you can find a chinese headphone amp to use asa preamp here or on Ebay for around $200.00 or so. I use Canare wire extensively throughout my system, and it is vry neutral in character. Later you could get a good sub to flesh out the bass, but this would give you close to concert quality sound, just give the components at least a month to burn in. Hope this helps!
My System:
-Jolida 3000B tube preamp
-Jolida 3000A tube mono block power amps:200 watt/ch monitor amps
-Dell Inspiron 1525 pc: 4gb ram, 320 gb hd
-Kenwood 2001 tuner: had it since I was 17, it ain't goin' nowhere!
-Adcom 545II power amp, 200 watt/ch(4 0hm) : subwoofer amp
-Musical Design D-75 power amp, 120 watt/ch(4 ohm):alternate monitor amp
-Marchand Electronics XM-9 3-way electronic crossover
-Sound Dynamics 300 Ti 8in-3-way monitors: Treble frequencies
-Custom 15in ported subs: I could tell you who made them, but then he would kill ME!
Canare cable throughout: Killer!
MacMini $570 (MacMall)
Vandersteen 2C's 700 (lots to choose from)
Power amp 700

Lots of power amps to choose from, no preamp needed
8 mg of after market memory for Mac $50
I'd start with NHT Super Zero and subwoofer. Reviewed in Stereophile 2 issues ago. I would also look for a Naim Nait integrated. An Oppo or any descent Digital source a Rega RP1 turntable with arm and I believe cartridge Ready to Play. Interconnects and speaker wire are your choice.
The Naim has some of the best timing (rhythm and pacing) of any amp I know. If you need a dac you have the Scott Nixon Tube Dacs, the Rega Dac and Cambridge Dac and VDac from Musical Fidelity and some others that sound really good. The speakers should be your first choice I think.