As a frequent reader of this magazine, and a few others, I note that Stereophile and other publications have bestowed their annual awards for Best of 2009, Editors Choice, etc.
I feel that Stereophile should include at least some recommended systems from its various contributors once in a while-- December being a particularly appropriate time. John Marks recent series in the Fifth Element is a good start, but there is a significant audience that could be well served at something short of the recommended buy it once bit right threshold of approximately $12K (especially this year). John's suggestions are a good start.
I might suggest that the collection of talent put together some recommendations in this forum based on the following criteria: Small Room, Medium Room, and Large Room and in three price ranges Under $2000, $2000 - $5000, and $5000 - $10,000. This should include cables.
For the cash strapped audiophile, I will throw out a combination that I think is especially well-suited to getting a younger generation involved in the hobby. I bought a similar system on a lark for my office, and I have been pretty impressed with the sound quality and fit and finish offered for the money.
Cambridge Audio 340A integrated amplifier $349
Cambridge Audio 340C cd player $349
Cambridge Audio 340T tuner $229
Cambridge Audio iD10 iPod dock and accessory package $89
Cambridge Audio S30 stand-mount loudspeakers $219
Monster M350i interconnects approx $45/pr
Monster Z3 reference speaker cable (available online for $75 per 10 ft pr)
Throw in power cables from a small manufacturer such as Zebra Cables or Signal Cable along with a Salamander rack and you are still in for less than $2000 with great upgrades available for very little money such as a Musical Fidelity V-Dac or a Cambridge Dac Magic.
I'm pretty certain that a lot of teens or people in their 20s would love a system like this, be able to afford it, and never go back to lo-fi again. Plus, the inevitable upgrade-itis will set in. A good thing for all of us.
Of course, I am sitting here trying to put together my second real system for my main listening room having learned many of the lessons mentioned in John Marks series. I moved the little Cambridge system in while I make my purchases, and I am enjoying it at least as much as the several times more expensive system that is in the process of being dismantled, sold, and rearranged.