Responses from furiouslyadrift

What is the best system one can make under $5000
You could get Eminent Technology LFT-8 planar mag speakers ($2500 new) and a NuPrim IDA 16 integrated amp/dac ($2k new).Add a Lounge LCR phono preamp ($300 to $650 new) and your choice of turntable (I'd go vintage plus a good cartridge).Might go a... 
Spectron Audio Out Of Business?
That's a bummer. Those are darn good amps. 
Help me pick from my sub-$1200 shortlist
Oh... forgot.Also, the Philharmonitor :¬†http://philharmonicaudio.com/New%20Philharmonitor.html 
Help me pick from my sub-$1200 shortlist
Ascend Acoustics Sierra 2 (B stock). New for around $1200 shipped.Seas woofer, RAAL tweeter, bamboo cabinet bookshelf size. Pairs are matched to within .5 dbhttp://ascendacoustics.com/pages/products/speakers/SRM2/srm2.html 
Best Cartridge for $1000-$1350?
The Hana SL at 5g is right at the edge of a good match with that 16g effective tonearm according to Vinyl Engine: https://www.vinylengine.com/cartridge_resonance_evaluator.php?eff_mass=16&submit=SubmitThe Hana SL has a 20 * 10-6 cm/Dyne dynami... 
In search for speakers of "natural" sound
If you are going for accurate, open sound at un-amplified volume with orchestral range, I second the recommendation for Sound Lab's.Eminent Technology will get you most of the way there for a lot less money.It's hard to beat planars for quickness ... 
Best TT under $1k
The Pioneer PLX-1000 is a good deck. Any decent table will play fine as long as it is reasonably isolated and you make a good match with the cartridge. The cart resonance tool at Vinyl Engine is great for making sure you cart and tonearm are a goo... 
Best TT under $1k
A Yamaha PF-800 or PF-1000 is another excellent choice.I like them so much I have 3. Yes... I will be listing my spare soon (probably this weekend).They were meant to compete with Linn LP12's when they were produced in the 80's.Excellent belt driv... 
Speakers under $5000 maintained a reputation for quality sound over the last 15 years.
Ohm Walsh, JBL, Klipsch, another +1 for Vandies, SoundLab, Bowers & Wilkinson, Sonus Faber, Ascend Acoustics, Salk, Selah.I've owned at least one from except SoundLab... some day, some day