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Build me a $3,500 stereo system

Michigan Planner

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We are in the process of remodeling the den in our house and when it's all said and done, I want to get a new (or new to me) stereo system that sounds decent enough for the small space (the room is roughly 12.5' wide x 20' long with 9' coved ceilings) and will not break the bank.

I currently have no stereo in there right now (just use the computer speakers and iTunes when I want music in there now) but I want whatever system I get to have a turntable (for my ever-growing collection of vinyl) as well as a CD player. I'd also like to be able to hook my computer up to the system. I honestly don't care about being able to play radio stations, as the only ones I ever listen to also are available online or through iTunes or both.

Stuff doesn't have to be extreme top-of-the-line because A) I have other things I need/want to spend my money on and B) I will not use it enough to justify the higher expense.

Right now, I'm putting my budget for the system at $3,500+/-

I tried looking in some of the other threads like the What stereo(s) do you listen to? Want? thread but keep getting lost in the 100+ pages and am not SF iBaller status like some of you folks.
 

mlongano

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MrGoodBytes

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first I would have to ask what speaker arrangement are you looking for?

if its just for music, your probably looking at stereo? right?

are you looking for bookshelf speakers, floorstanding, in-wall?
 

Michigan Planner

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Originally Posted by MrGoodBytes
first I would have to ask what speaker arrangement are you looking for?

if its just for music, your probably looking at stereo? right?

are you looking for bookshelf speakers, floorstanding, in-wall?


If I can hook it up to the TV for movies and stuff, that's a bonus but not necessary. And yes, I am planning on stereo (unless somebody can adequately convince me that I should be going mono).

As for the speakers themselves, either bookshelf or floor speakers (or a mixture of both?) would work.
 

Artisan Fan

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I have a good one for you...

Zu Audio Soul $1,800 (you would likely get some free Mission speaker cables thrown in)
Peachtree Audio Integrated (Nova, iDecco) $1,000
Oppo 93 Universal player $499
Kimber Hero interconnect $200
 

A Y

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Generic advice first, then specifics.

Start with the speakers and build backwards from there because different people can have wildly different preferences for speakers. Once you have your speakers, get something that can drive them well enough for the room size and sensitivity of the speakers, and add on other features. You'll need a phono preamp since you're listening to vinyl, as well as a turntable. I'd spend the most money on the turntable and speakers, then the amp, then the CD source. Cables you can get cheaply without any loss of quality from many places, like Blue Jeans Cable.

I don't like DefTech speakers, but perhaps you might. Others to listen to include PSB, Paradigm, B&W, NHT, Revel Concerta --- they all have very distinct personalities. It depends on what's available near you or if you do Internet shopping, who has a liberal try-and-return policy.

For amps, since you don't need a radio, don't get a receiver. NAD makes good stuff, especially their integrated amps. A 356BEE with a phono preamp module should work well. Move up or down their range depending on how much power you need --- you will need less than you think. The connectivity of the amp lets you hook up other things, too like your TV or an iPod. Rotel and Arcam also make decent electronics.

One of the vinyl heads will have to advise you on the turntable, but Regas have been pretty good intro tables for many people.

Most name-brand CD players are good enough, but it doesn't sound like that's going to be an important part of your listening that differences between players will be a big deal. The Oppo AF suggested isn't available yet, and is a full-blown BluRay, DVD, SACD player, which may be nice if you need all that stuff.

So a sample system:

Revel Concerta F12: $1500
NAD 356BEE with PP375 phono: $1000
Rega P2: $545 (you may need a cartridge)
NAD C515BEE CD player: $300
Speaker cables and interconnects: $100

If you can spend a bit more, I'd get a better turntable, maybe the Rega P3, which is about $400 more. I think these are all MSRP, so there may be a modest discount available.

If you don't mind the risk of buying used, you can get better things for the same price, or the same things for significantly less.

Good luck!

--Andre
 

Artisan Fan

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I like most of Andre's comments but I would avoid B&W in this price range as they may be bright sounding.

I recommended the Zu speakers plus Peachtree Audio since it has great dynamics and with a horn speaker system you can drive the speakers more easily which allows for better quality rather than say a pricey higher powered amp with less quality. The Peachtree also is designed for playing iPods as well.

If you want a turntable with my recommendation look at the Rega RP1 which is around $400 before discounts, cartridge included. The RP1 is said to be as good as the P2.

P.S. The Oppo is in fact available as of two weeks ago if you registered on their email list. Reviews from users can be found on sa-cd.net.
 

Michigan Planner

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Thanks all for the advice so far. The rest of the remodeling will probably be done around the end of January or start of February and I don't plan on actually buying any of my stereo stuff until that time (unless I come across a great deal in the meantime). But this thread is already giving me a lot of food for thought on where to get started. Though I've always enjoyed listening to music, I've got thousands of CDs, a few hundred records and probably go to 50 - 75 concerts a year, I've never really been serious about how I listen to it. So this will definitely be a learning experience for me. Once I actually start purchasing and using the equipment, I'll be sure to post what I went with and why.
 

Artisan Fan

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Originally Posted by Michigan Planner
Thanks all for the advice so far. The rest of the remodeling will probably be done around the end of January or start of February and I don't plan on actually buying any of my stereo stuff until that time (unless I come across a great deal in the meantime). But this thread is already giving me a lot of food for thought on where to get started.

Though I've always enjoyed listening to music, I've got thousands of CDs, a few hundred records and probably go to 50 - 75 concerts a year, I've never really been serious about how I listen to it. So this will definitely be a learning experience for me.

Once I actually start purchasing and using the equipment, I'll be sure to post what I went with and why.


You will really enjoy any of these systems I think. The Oppo 93 will be available to everyone in the next week or so I believe.
 

Artisan Fan

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Douglas

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Andre's advice is very sound - you should treat it like gold. He knows what he's talking about and he's recommended a wide variety of stuff.

I couldn't possibly add anything meaningful to the equipment discussion, but a general word of advice:

LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN.

You sound like someone who is new to this, and frankly, $3,500 is a pretty stiff amount of dough to spend on anything, leave alone something you seem to know as little about as this. Spend the next few months trying to get in to demo as much equipment as you can. Demo equipment far beyond your price range, just to understand what's out there. For me, the most important thing I ever did when getting in to audio was listening to a set of $100,000 speakers on even more expensive amplification. It was a total revelation to me that music played on a stereo could ever sound that lifelike and real or have that kind of impact. You sort of need to have that paradigm-shattering experience at least once to begin realizing what you've been missing all this time. Then from there you can start to understand what you want to hear from your system, as they all have various tradeoffs. Only you can decide which preferences you have. And you have to do a lot of listening to figure that out.

Have fun, and good luck.
 

Artisan Fan

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Originally Posted by Douglas
Andre's advice is very sound - you should treat it like gold. He knows what he's talking about and he's recommended a wide variety of stuff.
You don't think my advice is sound as well? You don't think my past recommendations here have been high quality?
 

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