So, as a sibling to my other thread concerning my potential new audio system (here: http://forum.stereophile.com/forum/showflat.php?Cat=0&Number=9282&an=0&page=0#Post9282),
I also need some info/advice/encouragement/etc concerning the componentry I'm looking at.
Originally, I was sold on the Arcam stuff I looked at, preferably the Solo (integrated amp/tuner/cd player in one box), or the comparable amp/cd player separates. I was really impressed with the clarity of the sound (and, along with my fiance, wooed by the stylish looks of the "Solo").
However, it's expensive stuff for my budget. The solo would be the most I could pay, ~$1600 (I've had to sell off qute a bit of stuff around the apartment to make all of this work).
The separate components (amp and cd player) from Arcam are a ~$100 cheaper.
There are some other brands, though, that are cheaper that I've been impressed with in the past from friend's systems. Cambridge Soundworks is one that leaps to mind, and the Azur 540 series amplifier and cd player are considerably cheaper than the above named Arcam gear (and would make the decision to go with more expensive speakers a little easier). I won't have the ability to a/b these things back to back, so it's hard for me to tell how different the quality really is between the brands, based on the different rooms I'll be testing in, different speakers, etc. I guess I'm fishing for expert advice. Anyone have any experience with both brands/systems? Anyone willing to throw out adjectives about timbre between the two systems?
I'm not really sure how to shop for components. Until a few years ago I thought that all cd players read and reproduce the same data from the disc and speakers are the only thing that makes a difference. As you can see, I'm pretty green when it comes to stereo electronics. That said, don't hold back on technical stuff as I'm a bass player and a gear head when it comes to bass amps, speaker cabinets, etc.
Also, I've heard good things about NAD and Marantz gear but have had few chances to play with them.