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.
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)
I wanted to ask about Magnepan speakers. Jazzerdave suggested I look at the MMG's. I have long heard about the raves that audiophiles have heaped on the 1.7 and 3.7. I have also heard that they represent some of the best values in audio. I haven't heard too much about their lower priced stuff though.

I know I cannot stretch my money to buy the 1.7's but I am open to their cheaper models. Could someone tell me how their lower priced speakers sound in comparison to other speakers of the same price? Is there certain types of music that are better represented with the maggies that others?

Would they work well with vinyl? Are they lacking in bass? I would like to go for Magenpan's but I need to know a little more about them first.

What types of amps would be advisable to use?

I am looking for a tube based integrated amp. Could you give me any more suggestions?

Thanks a lot.
As far as Magnepan goes, yes I would say they're lacking in bass. Even the 3.7's could use a subwoofer. Also you need a really fast sub to integrate it well. The MMG's need a subwoofer for the best experience; however, they're definitely a good introduction to panel speakers. The clarity and imaging will probably be better than anything you can find in a similar price range. I'd recommend solid state power amps and a tube preamp, but there are plenty of options. The TAD Hibachi monoblocks (solid state ~200W/ch into 4 ohms) would work well, sound more "tube-like" than solid state, and you could probably pick up a set on the cheap using up less than 20% of your budget. Essentially the MMG's are there to get you hooked on the Magnepan sound; they want you to start there and eventually decide to move your way up the chain. It's always a good idea to get a feel for the Magnepan sound for yourself, so search around for some reviews and try to find a nearby dealer or owner to audition something in the Magnepan line. However, if you can't find the opportunity to do that, I do suggest giving the MMG home audition a try. You could use them alone for a while, then eventually add a sub, and then after a few years move up to the 1.7's. Or if you don't like them, you just send them back and search for some more traditional speakers.