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DaveD
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Sub $1000

Hello... this is my first post. I have a question to ask and do so with a certain amount of fear and trepidation...

I'm looking for a best 'bang for buck' system for playing CD and DVDs in the sub $1000 range. When I say 'system', I mean amp, speakers (2.0, 2.1, 5.1, anything), CD/DVDP, the lot.

I realise this is a high-end type forum, but owing to financial constraints, I'm still hoping that there may be some advice from experienced audiophiles for the price-range I can afford.

Has anyone had good experiences with the Bose 3.2.1 Series II DVD Home Entertainment System, for example. That is about my upper limit, price-wise.

Cheers,

David

PS a reasonable inbuilt headphone amp would be nice too

tandy
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Re: Sub $1000

Welcome Dave! Your question is a good one. Possibly good used gear one can find at Audiogon might be a place to start. I would also check around the forums and ask. and
Sometimes one can get hints at what is really a good bang for the buck through the strings.

Cheers.

Jim Tavegia
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Re: Sub $1000

These won't last long but this is what I would do and have done.

At www.JR.com go buy a Harman kardon HK 3380 for under $200 with usually free shipping. The higher wattage HK3480 is usually about $265 if your budget can handle it.

My friend Walt Liederman at www.underwoodhifi.com has some Triangle Titus and Comete's on sale right now. Snooze...you loose. Buy the Comete's. With the money you have left buy yourself as good a CD/DVD player as you can.

Later on buy your self a sub woofer as the HK has sub out. A starter JBL sub from J and R will work. You will be quite pleased with this $1K system and the Triangle Cometes will give you something to build on later when you upgrade your amp. The OPPO DVD player last reviewed may be where you want to go if video is important. You can even be listening to SACD in 2 channel for a while.

This may not be high end, but there are plenty of people out there listening on less. If you are close enough you can even run the sound from your computer in and have some fun that way as well.

PS The HK's have decent tuners and, yes, some of us old farts still listen to FM when it is as good as some NPR stations can be.

Option B: If you have friends that could loan you an old receiver and CD/DVD player I would listen to the recently revised B and W 603's that the old version got a big thumbs up from Phile. They are $1K a pair floor standers but now were are talking some excellent sound. You would not be replacing thoses for a while for sure.

Jim Tavegia
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Re: Sub $1000

To prove to you I am no snob about such things... I have in one room of my house and old Sony STRDE-185 100/ch stereo receiver with an old DVD Panasonic player and my 25 year old $275/pr JBL L-15 book shelf speakers (6" woofer/1" Aluminum dome tweeter) I have replace the woofer foam surrounds in them once. They still sound pretty nice.

I have my Winegard FM only outdoor antenna hooked up to it and listen to NPR often on it. Since I have a point of reference being able to play a 7' Steinway B grand at least 3-5 times per week at church I have a good idea what a great piano sounds like (I also own enough of JA's piano recordings to know as well) and my JBL's do a good job of rendering a very decent piano sound.

No, it is not class A or B, or probably C Stereophile rated, but understand that in 2007 the audio bar is exceptionally high. This is a Bose Wave Radio killer if there ever was one for the same money.

I would bet that this same rig with the $300 Epos 3's would sound just as well. The newer Sony STRDE-197 is the same reciever for $150, it is just that the HK receivers these days are worth the extra money.

rmeyer52
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Re: Sub $1000

Hi Dave...I am new to the world of audiphile audio having just spent $5,000 on a new system that I love. Here is my advice....first..stay away from the Bose "system" it is premium priced and although it is a good system I think you can do a hell of a lot better. I for example, have the Denon S-301 system in my family room and it sounds great (you can check out the system at Denons website). I recently changed out the speakers that came with the system for my old Thiel .5's and it made a hell of a difference.

Try not to let your budget limit your listening pleasure. I know we all have to live within our budgets but what I found is that I started to add components I was limiting myself to my listening pleasure because I had a certain budget in mind. After doing a lot of research I settled on the Arcam Solo CD player ($1700) and the Paradigm Studio 100 speakers ($2500) and it's one hell of a system for my needs.

Above all follow this rule: Listen to the system first and ask yourself "I am settling for just good enough or do I want to make an investment". I have a collection of well over 1000 CD's and to me my new system does the artists that I listen to justice.

Monty
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Re: Sub $1000

You could put together something entirely musical if you are sticking with stereo and have a small room. As features are added at this price, the musicality takes a hit to make room for the other stuff. Also, as the room size increases, so does the system requirements.

You could approach it from several different positions. You could go the used route and stick with stereo and get a very nice sounding system...if everything arrives in good shape and as described. That's the route I would take given this budget. Hey, we've all been there.

The second route would be to buy new and go ahead and live with the sonic compromises and get all the features you might want. We're talking the mid-fi, home theater stuff that won't do anything very well, but will do everything that you might require for the amount you can spend. This would be the "disposable" type of system that you would simply scrap and start over as your financial means improve.

The third option would be a musical system of budget components. Something like NAD or Cambridge Audio electronics and PSB speakers. This wouldn't be a bad place to start at all. Your speakers would probably benefit from adding a subwoofer at some point, but the system would be very easy to live with until that time.

DaveD
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Re: Sub $1000

Thank you for the replies... and the detail. Very generous. I'm looking into all suggestions - have to get up to speed on the components mentioned. The Denon sounds like an easy solution, but at $3000 Australian dollars, I'd have to spend quite some time saving (the $1000 limit was in USD, which translates to around $1250 AUD). Thanks again!

jackfish
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Re: Sub $1000

Harman Kardon HK3480 $230
Oppo DV-981HD $230
Infinity Primus P362 $375
Total $835
Some left over for shipping, cables and power conditioning.

smejias
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Re: Sub $1000

Hi Dave.
Welcome to the forum, and thanks for a great question. I've been exploring options for a sub-$1000 system, too, so this thread is also valuable to me.

At some point, I'd love to discuss that fear and trepidation you mention, but for now, I hope you'll hang out a bit and have some fun.

As for your question, while all of the replies you've received so far are filled with good ideas, I'll echo Monty's third option. In fact, I've been listening to a $279/pair of PSB Alpha B1s. For that price, they are absolutely great, offering vivid, immediate, emotional sound with all sorts of material, and especially piano music, I've found.

That would leave you with around $700 for electronics, and either NAD or Cambridge could take care of that for you. A company called Tangent also comes to mind. I haven't listened to their gear yet, so you should take this particular recommendation lightly, but if I were shopping at this price point, I'd certainly take a look at what they offer. They even offer a complete package including tuner, integrated amp, CD player, and speakers for under $1000.

So, you have lots to consider. Looking back at your original post, I see that DVD is important to you. The Oppo player, then, seems like a great choice. Both the Oppo and the PSB speakers were reviewed in our May 2007 issue.

DaveD
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Re: Sub $1000

The "fear and trepidation" came from not knowing whether a 'sub $1000' thread would be appropriate for an audiophile forum. I read a 'budget system' thread that spoke of figures far higher.... so, you know. I'm glad to find that there's good gear to be had for less, and that it's no embarrassment to discuss it :-)

Thanks again for the helpful suggestions. I really had no idea where to start, but already things are shaping up.

The PSB Alpha B1s ($435 AUD), Cambridge Audio Azur 340A ($475) and perhaps the OPPO DV-981HD (approx $400) looks like an elegant combination.

My only complaint might be that the Cambridge amp wouldn't allow for the later addition of a sub. But then, I could still upgrade, instead, to fuller range stereo speakers later, I guess.

Also... probably a dumb question given that some of your worships have recommended it... does the Oppo play regular CDs? I've seen DVDs and SACDs mentioned... but perhaps the greater includes the lesser?

DVD picture quality isn't a big requirement for me. Thank goodness I'm not a videophile also! at least not yet. Ideally, I'd love to own the MiniMax CDP, and would be happy with pretty much any old DVD player, but the MM might be a little down the track, financially. The Oppo looks really good!

I looked into the HK3480. Would you believe it retails here for $800? Perhaps eating into the budget too much... although the additon of a receiver would be nice; but not absolutely necessary.

Thanks once again! This is fun.

DaveD
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Re: Sub $1000


Quote:
My friend Walt Liederman at www.underwoodhifi.com has some Triangle Titus and Comete's on sale right now. Snooze...you loose. Buy the Comete's. With the money you have left buy yourself as good a CD/DVD player as you can.

Jim, thank you for the heads up on the Comete's deal. I'm tempted, but perhaps too wary of possible mishaps with international shipping. I hope to find local suppliers of gear as far as possible.... of course I failed to mention in my first post that I live in the land of Oz!

Cheers.

jackfish
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Re: Sub $1000

You can always add a sub with speaker level inputs by just running speaker wire from your B speaker outputs to the sub speaker level inputs. In addition, a sub with line level inputs can be added through the tape out outputs on your amp. So you could easily add a sub to the Cambridge amp.

The Oppo DV-981HD plays audio CDs, HDCDs, SACDs, and DVD-As. Plus it is a very good upconversion DVD player with Faroudja DCDi.

I would also check out the Infinity Primus line available in Australia. The Infinity Primus 150 is $400/pair, the 250s are $700 a pair retail. You might be able to find either discounted.

http://www.stereophile.com/budgetcomponents/404infinity/

Jim Tavegia
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Re: Sub $1000

Just don't cheap out on speakers to buy better electronics. At the $1500 or less level I like to spend close to 70% on speakers as that can make the most difference. The Cambridge or NAD gear may be better than the HK receivers, but cannot make up for lesser speakers. The HK receivers for the money are very nice.

It would be bad to spend too much of your budget on freight/shipping. You are right that makes no sense.

Monty
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Re: Sub $1000

I can see where living in OZ already has a built-in shipping cost for the products you mentioned. Even at the exchange rates, you're paying for transportation costs that are a little higher. I suspect that is going to be a factor with just about any gear not made in OZ.

Before deciding on anything, consider your living situation first. Apartments and deep bass are not going to happen so you can save your money on getting really low end extension...for now. The stuff you mentioned would work great in a smallish room, say less than 4 meters squared or so. If your room is larger than that, the speakers and amp might need to be bumped up a little.

I tend to agree with Jim to the extent that if you have the room and aren't in an apartment, I would probably try to stretch a little more on the speakers...the B-25, for example.

Also, you really need to do a little light reading on proper speaker placement to see if you have the room to start off right. A little reading on that subject will help make the gear choices easier. Just google "speaker placement" or something like that and read a few articles.

smejias
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Re: Sub $1000

Jonathan Scull makes speaker placement fun in his first couple of installments of Fine Tunes.

DaveD
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Re: Sub $1000

Yes... I'm in an apartment with a fairly small living room (around 4 x 2.5m) It should be interesting trying to place the speakers in optimal positions... probably impossible, I'm thinking, given other necessary furnishings in that room. Still, we do what we can.

I've found that the (now erstwhile) Australian distributor of PSB is no longer supplying them. It seems we shall be a PSB-less continent :-(

On the other hand, while the supply of the latest generation Alphas are drying up here, I've found a place that has the previous series. They have a pair of Alpha Ts... does anyone have anything to say against them, before I have a good listen???

Cheers.

soundboy
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Re: Sub $1000

I've a couple of under $1K systems in the making....

Cambridge Audio A500 stereo integrated amp $250.00
Energy Connoisseur C-3 bookshelf speakers $300.00/pair
Sony DVP-NS500V DVD/SACD/CD player $180.00
Standesign BB-75 24" metal speaker stands $ 80.00/pair

TEAC A-1D stereo integrated amp $180.00
Oppo 970HD universal player $150.00
Monitor Audio Bronze B2 bookshelf speakers $250.00/pair

All above components were purchased new from authorized dealers. I also just purchased a brand-new NOS (new old stock) Sony TA-S7 stereo integrated amp from the early 90s For $200.00 and Sony will honor the factory warranty. I am thinking of getting rid of the Cambridge Audio amp and substituting it with the Sony. Or I can just pair it with my spare Sony SCD-CE595 5-disc CD/SACD changer ($150.00).

Poor Audiophile
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Re: Sub $1000


Quote:
The "fear and trepidation" came from not knowing whether a 'sub $1000' thread would be appropriate for an audiophile forum. I read a 'budget system' thread that spoke of figures far higher.... so, you know. I'm glad to find that there's good gear to be had for less, and that it's no embarrassment to discuss it :-)

Hi Dave & welcome! As someone who is limited money wise, I can understand where you're coming from. I'm a new subscriber to the mag, but I've been snooping around & posting on these forums for about a year now. Looking at the ads & reviews in the mag I thought that maybe I was way out of my league! While a lot of of the gear in the mag costs more than I make in a year, I've found everyone here to be friendly & helpful even though my posting name "gives me away". I posted 2 questions concerning the June issue 2 days ago & Wes Phillips & John Atkinson(Editor)have already posted replies! I really appreciate it especially as I'm sure both men have busy schedules. There is indeed some good gear to be had in that budget! Anyway, again welcome & enjoy! Larry(Poor Audiophile)

DaveD
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Re: Sub $1000

Hello... Poor Audiophile, Soundboy and friends.

Yes, they're definitely a polite and helpful bunch here.

Thought I'd place a status report re components purchased:

NAD C325EE integrated amp
Denon DVD-1920
Krix Apex III floorstanders

The NAD and the Denon are new, and the local hifi guy gave a really good discount from the RRPs. He also threw in a high quality interconnect (if that is the right term) and some good quality speaker cable free of charge. If anyone lives in Melbourne I recommend the guys at Soundair in Caulfield.

The Krix were old demos from another store, reduced from $1100 to $450. I went in there to buy bookshelf speakers, but came out with these, very pleased. They sounded just wonderful in the shop - silky and natural with a surprising amount of bass for their size. I believe they were run through a tube amp.

Now... and here is my only niggle: in my living room with all the pieces together the system sounds to my ears a tad bright. Can this have anything to do with speaker placement? I would have thought placement had more to do with bass issues, clarity, soundstage etc. Perhaps the only answer is to roll off the treble a little. I doubt that it is the amp or the speakers. I fear it may be the Denon. I didn't spend much time demoing different DVD/CD players, as there wasn't much room to move in my price range.

Anyhow, I am yet really to tweak the controls overly much or move the speakers around, so I will see how things go. As it is, I am relatively happy :-)

Thanks guys.

commsysman
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Re: Sub $1000

The OPPO 970 is pretty much a no-brainer for a low-cost system; it plays DVD, SACD, and CD, and has been recommended as product of the year by the Absolute Sound; at $150???....whoaaa...start there for sure.

Add a Cambridge integrated amp for $300 or so, and a set of EPOS ELS3 speakers for another $350 or so, and you will have a pretty decent-sounding system! It will sound so much better than what Circuit City or Sam's Stereo will sell you for the same money...well, you get the idea.

Check the Recommended Components in Stereophile for specific low-cost amplifier models from NAD or Cambridge.

Order the OPPO from their website; they only sell online.

(I have a $20k system, but I play the OPPO through my SONY 51" projection TV for casual listening and it sounds pretty good; the SONY actually has a fairly good amp and speakers built in....)

soundboy
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Re: Sub $1000


Quote:
Order the OPPO from their website; they only sell online.

For those in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can also pick one up directly at Oppo's office in Mountain View.

zfreiman
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Re: Sub $1000

Hi DaveD,
Looks like you made out very well! For your sound being on the bright side, try different interconnects and speaker cables. Does your local HiFi shop have some Demo Pairs to try out? And try turning your speakers off axis from your listening seating. You could also place a tube buffer between your amp and source unit. -Z

jackfish
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Re: Sub $1000

For an inexpensive tube buffer check out the Tubalizer.
http://www.audiodigit.com/index.php?section=81

DaveD
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Re: Sub $1000

Thanks for the suggestions. I don't know whether I'm getting more used to it, or that the amp is somehow burning in, but I'm more content with the sound now. To compare the quality of the CD player, I listened to some music from my iMac through a Metric Halo ULN2 (excellent DAC!), and it was very similar. So I've lost the urge to replace the CD player... thank goodness.

My system doesn't have much chance to shine anyhow since, due to the limitations of space, I've put the speakers in a corner of my completely untreated living room. It still manages to sound pleasing though.

Tube buffers will duly be looked into. I'd love to be able to test one.

Speaking of room treatment... were we?... anyhow: I've become myopic about wanting to try out the Acoustic System Resonators. A basic set costs more than my entire sound system, but I'd love to hear what they'd do for my living room. Probably be a few years before I could justify the cost... even then I'd probably have scruples about it!

Anyhow.. cheers,

Dave

jackfish
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Re: Sub $1000

Check out GIK Acoustics. I've got Tri-Traps and 242s.
http://www.gikacoustics.com/

ohfourohnine
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Re: Sub $1000

Quote "Tube buffers will duly be looked into. I'd love to be able to test one."

So far as I know, MusicDirect still has stock of the Musical Fidelity X-10 Tube buffer and their sales policy includes a 30 day return privilege if the purchased item doesn't satisfy your requirements. You might want to call them if you're really interested in trying that approach.

I've used one since they first hit the market - in various set-ups - and they work.

jackfish
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Re: Sub $1000

Everyone I've heard from, and from my own listening, indicates to get the best sound from the Musical Fidelity X-10 v3 tube buffer is to match it with the X-PSU power supply. That is $750 total. On the other hand the Audio Digit Tubalizer is $118 and I'd bet there isn't $632 difference in the sound between them. The Tubalizer also benefits from a better power supply, but those solutions don't cost $450.

DaveD
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Re: Sub $1000

This may sound naively enthusiastic, but I heard my first ever SACD a couple of days ago - one of Chesky's 'symphonies' - on the new system too... and wow! I was really amazed by the depth and realism of the instruments, and the 'width' of the presentation. Perhaps it was the quality of this particular recording. I bought it blindly just to hear an example of SACD. While I'm not a fan of this kind of music, the sound was just stunning... much better than any CD I've heard on my home system.

ohfourohnine
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Re: Sub $1000

You're right, Jackfish, about improvement that results from adding the X-PSU to the X-10, but it's not a night and day thing. I've not heard the Tubalizer, so I could only guess how it might compare with the X-10 used by itself. Even taking the X-10 alone amounts to a significant price difference, so the sonic difference would also have to be significant to make it worthwhile. Since you've been able to make the comparison, I'll take your word for it.

zfreiman
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Re: Sub $1000

Here's an interesting link to SACD vs DVD; http://www.avrev.com/equip/dvdavssacd/ If the SACD really got your attention, upgrade to an outboard DAC, or a true 24 bit player. There's some growing room before you jump over to SACD. -Z

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