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.
How about Snell type C with Tandberg 3012 integrated to begin with? It has a decent phono stage and can be found here or on ebay for $300-350. I saw Snells on Audiogon a few times for about $700 asking price plus shipping. Then you would have about $900 left for the rest. That's not bad.
Unless you already have a bunch of albums, I wouldn't advise spending much money on a vinyl rig. Regardless of what the vinyl junkies say, the budget tables, preamps, cartridges and associated platters, counterweights and all that jive is miles away from high quality sound reproduction compared to even modestly priced digital playback like CD. Taking that road on a tight budget is not going to yield long-term satisfaction. The hard truth is that although vinyl can sound amazingly good, it ain't cheap to accomplish and the budget stuff ain't it.

If you intend to spend your money on downloaded media for the forseeable future then I would suggest you concentrate you funds on the things that matter in the digital to analog world. To what extent each component deserves attention depends on a lot of factors like how loud you listen to music, the size of your room, will a home theater be involved and many other factors.

If you can't properly locate your speakers in relation to your listening position, little else matters. Start with your speaker location and your chair and work your way back to the gear. Speakers need room to breathe and they need to be sized for the room they will be used in and the electronics that will be driving them.

Within your budget, the best route for the best sound for the money is a digital based system.
Totem Arro's can be purchased for $450-700 used. Great imaging and midrange sound. Hopefully, you already have a computer. Get a DAC c a preamp- I like my Burson HA-150 which has been out long enough to be available used. Add a Squeezebox touch. Outlay is $1500-1600 at that point. Then look for an amp. IF you have a smallish listening room, you'll be very happy as a starter system. You can easily upgrade w/o much depreciation. Alternately, consider active speakers (I have no experience with these- thus can only say consider). The selection here is much smaller and even more so if you're looking for used ones.
I just wanted to follow up on how much I would need to spend for a record playing system to notice the difference. I have been wanting to get into vinyl for a while now. I think it is certainly fine to exclude the record player from the $2000 budget.

But how much would I have to spend on a system to make the quality of vinyl anything close to what the enthusiasts rave about? Would I need a better system all around than what I am looking at or would I just need to spend more on the turntable?

It seems that most individuals who have very expensive systems always seem to love vinyl and have it as a vital part of their listening experience. Let's say for $2000, all I had budgeted was speakers and amps. I bought the best I could for that price.

Then let's say I spent $500 on the best used turntable I could find. Are you saying this wouldn't be worth it? It wouldn't yield the type of audio quality that vinyl enthusiasts love?

Putting aside the current discussion, what would be a decent budget for a system designed for vinyl?
You can get a very credible vinyl system without spending, relatively, too much money. Say, a used Rega P3 ($450), a used Project Tube Box ($300) and a new Dynavector cartridge ($425). It would take a lot of money to beat this combo...