First off -- Hi! This site is simply amazing, thank you all so much for your wonderful input. So, here we go -- I'm poised with a meager student's budget to start building my first 'real' audio system... hurrah and huzzah. But, sadly, I'm very very confused about which components I need and which I don't... maybe a little advice would be in order?
I'm a New York City-dweller about to move into a new New York-sized apartment. Sad (I know), my listening room is 11' x 14' where the speakers are against the 14' wall, with multiple reflective surfaces and as an apartment volume levels will have to be kept on the lower end to keep from being kicked out (and to save my hearing for the next 50 years ;-))! The nature of the room is such that whatever speakers I purchase will essentially (if not directly) be forced into corners. Not, ideal, I realize but we work with what we have available.
Unfortunately, price is also a bit of a limiting factor (student). All in all I have roughly $2k to spend on speakers and non-source components, which is where my confusion begins. My source is a gigantic media server (htpc) I built a year or so ago with a terrabyte of wavPack lossless audio (ripped stringently by EAC from the original sources) and with a 24bit 96khz coax/toslink out. Where my confusion comes from is attempting to decide which components I need (in addition to speakers) to fulfill my needs -- DAC, amp, Master Clock, receiver, etc? As the story goes, it takes a decent source to get a decent sound out of good speakers so I'm pouring through various books and articles attempting to decide which components I need for the sound with the highest clarity (given my price range and low-volume / spatial concerns) and which ones are more or less unecessary to drive a low-volume high-clarity source. However, the more I read the more confused I seem to get.
There are receivers with digital in, receivers without, dac's, master clocks... do I need an amp if I already have a receiver for low-volume listening, etc?
Sonically, what I'm looking for is a similar (though not as great budget considering) experience to this: one of my audition recordings was recorded with a single studio mic and an instrumentalist with a cowbell is walking through the space as he strikes it -- on a friend's $20K+ system I can track the movement of the instrumentalist in almost perfect three dimensional space from left to right, up and down as he raises or lowers it, as well as the depth of where he's standing as compared to the microphone. I know I'll never get that close with such a shorter price bracket, it is that type of soundstaging (is that the right word for it?) that I am distinctly interested in.
Also, just to add more fuel to the fire, I'd -really- like a setup where (via the receiver, I imagine) I could pipe the same music that's playing in my listening room to my second favorite room in the house -- my kitchen. Now the kitchen does not need to be anything close to a sonic paradise and the audio can (and should) be the same signal in both cases -- I have some cheap 6" speakers lying around that I was just going to wall-mount in the corners, so, if I'm correct, that would be a receiver, thing, right? But does that mean I need to get a 4.1 capable receiver or is there such a thing a dual stereo? Oh, and (not priority -- I watch 1 a month and listen to music multiple times daily) in the few instances I watch a dvd in the listening room (the one that also has the tv) should I downmix to stereo at the media server level or at the receiver?
Thank you all so much for your attention and assistance in educating the foetal 'philes like me! It's really appreciated.