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.
For a digital source, I do recommend using the computer; however, don't exclude hard copies. You can find a really good multi format player for $200 or less. There is almost always a Denon 3910 on eBay for ~$200, and the 2200 can be had for less. The 3910 sounds pretty damn good (for the used price), and is a favorite of modifiers. You'd probably have to spend $500 to beat it.

If you want tube gear, I suggest hunting down a Dynaco ST-70 and PAS-3. You may want to eventually get a PAS-3 regardless as it makes for a sweet sounding phono stage if you don't want to use it as a pre in the future. If you want to get solid state gear, older Sumo and Adcom gear would work for now and can easily be found on the cheap.

For speakers, once you have some components ready, you may want to just order a set of Magnepan MMG's. I believe they're $600 factory direct, and they offer a 60-day money back in-home trial. It's certainly worth checking them out if you don't mind shipping them back if they're not for you. Otherwise many of the other suggestions are good. You may also want to consider just picking up a set of Advent Loudspeakers. You should be able to find a good condition set for $250, and they sound pretty damn good. A non-working set should be <$100 and the refoam kit should be less than 20.

For cables, I'd just start out with stuff from Blue Jean Cables. They're pretty good and much cheaper than anything else out there.
You have waited for a long time to have a good system, and you want serious stuff. That's not Rega or Pro-Ject. You want either Technics direct drive turntable or Nottingham belt drive. Within your price range Technics 1200 with tonearm should be realistic. Moving Magnet cartridge will cost you about $350 new. I would get Goldring 1042, directly from the UK. Some like Audio-Technica 150 and Grado.
Used, used, used, from the 'gon'. For a digital source try the sony 595 changer often available from sonystyle for $60. Turntables that must be picked up, no shipping. Amps, try cayin. Speakers, try Polk.
IMHO, unless you already have a decent vinyl collection, you'd be better off spending the bulk of your $2K on speakers and amplification, etc., and reconsider analog when more money might become available.
Check out Emotiva, They’re Direct Seller to public you can read about their gear here. Their amps are incredible and can drive any speaker. If I were you, I’d go w/Emotiva’s gear, you’ll get matched products with 5 year warranty and good resell value. Their stuff is on sale right now so you got extra saving. Go w/ system #2. And spend some Money on speakers.
By the way, their interconnectors are on sale too and they’re of good quality.

You can setup a pretty darn amazing system for very little cash:

System 1: $1437
Pre Amp: USP 1 - $369
CD: ERC 2 - $369
AMP: XPA 2: $699 (very powerful amp, will drive anything on the market)

System 2: $1336
Pre Amp: USP 1 - $369
CD: ERC 2 - $369
AMP: 2x UPA 1: $299 each (very good mono blocks, will drive most speakers with ease)

System 3: $1027
Pre Amp: USP 1 - $369
CD: ERC 2 - $369
AMP: UPA 2: $289 (This is pretty budget, I’d stay away)