What would you recommend that a budding audiophile pick up as his or her first serious source component for less than $1000? Explain.

What would you recommend that a budding audiophile pick up as his or her first serious source component for less than $1000? Explain.
A turntable
15% (29 votes)
A disc player
36% (71 votes)
A music server/computer
34% (67 votes)
An iPod
6% (12 votes)
10% (20 votes)
Total votes: 199

With all the bargains in value-priced turntables and disc players available right now, what would you recommend that a budding audiophile pick up as his or her first serious source component for less than $1000? Explain.

Dylan's picture

A Benchmark DAC?

tonyE's picture

A PC computer with a good audio card, a quiet power supply, a quiet case, infrared keyboard/mouse/remote control, XP pro (not Vista), a remote network file-server (hopefully more 2TB or more) and a ton of vodka/scotch. You might be able to go the used Dell route on eBay, since audio does not require a lot of CPU power.

Enzo.'s picture

Piano lessons.

Bob D's picture

I'd buy a good CD player for around $500 and build from there.

Justin's picture

I love quality. Hard disc or flash memory cannot reproduce music like vinyl and Compact Disc do.

Paul J.  Stiles, Mtn.  View, CA's picture

I am recommending a disc player (maybe even a used high-end model) because to get and keep a budding audiophile's attention (and that means her/him spending some money), there has to be music available that the budding audiophile wants. Maybe later, the joys of vinyl can be introduced.

andrew's picture

Music servers sound better than disc players.

Cihangir Güzey's picture

One has to buy a PSP (Playstation Portable). It has very decent D/A converter which sounds excellent with well converted AAC (over 192kbps it sounds excellent and much better than anything else). It can use decent Sony Soundstage software (free on the web) to convert your original CD's to AAC at blazing speed. I don't even convert more than 192kbps due to its high quality (at that value with Soundstage, it is proven to convert much quicker and better than the official iPod software; sounds better than iPod by the way). Plus, it can play converted DVDs, you can play games, you can navigate on the web, you can add a camera, you can add a GPS module which will be useful while you are travelling with the remainder of the $1000.

Nate's picture

For most folks, a turntable is cumbersome and an iPod offers little in terms of quality playback. If you already have a PC, shell out the dollars for a really good sound card and play the entire library at the push of a button. While not the king of the hill for high-end audio, it will sound great, require fewer components (thus, it's cheaper), and still provide a resolution equal to that of a CD—or even higher if you go HD sound. Often these cards offer ample recording solutions for artists who have little more than a mic and guitar, which is a nice option to have. It can be fun recording at 192kbps. It leaves many options open if you are not set on one thing.

Alexander K's picture

I like that the iPod has the potential to output perfect digital data with minimum jitter at a relatively low cost. Besides if you do not own an iPod nowadays, you are not a true audiophile. It practically revolutionized the whole audio industry.

Bernard from France's picture

One way ticket to the past : Thorens—for emotion. Listening instead of hearing.

Jim Tavegia's picture

Jolida JD 100 CD player. Decent headphone output, but once you complete the rest of your system you will think there is less wrong with digital than really is. A remarkable $800 CD player. If you are going to use other digital sources and might need a better DAC, the the Quad CDP-2 would be the choice with all the numerous "digital ins" this player offers. The other option is a Jolida JD 100 tube CD player and a pair of Grado 125s or 225s. An 80GB IPod only makes sense if you have a computer and the Internet, but that and a pair of Grados up to the 225s would be another great place to start—using only AIFF or WAV files.

Ivan's picture

I use two Squeezeboxes coupled to two second-hand Arcam Black Boxes (with the Philips TDA1541 chip inside) and I'm very satisfied with that setup.

DavidSSS's picture

Records still sound best.

xanthia01@gmail.com's picture

It'd be a close call between an iPod and a music server. A music server ideally, but only if the budding audiophile was technically literate. If not, then the iPod with Wadia dock. What more could you want? It has convenience, double purpose (stereo and portable), and good sound.

Pradeep's picture

A disc player, for its quality and popularity.

Dustin Nash's picture

For a"'budding" audiophile, whom we may presume does not have a huge collection of music, the local library is the way to go. Either a computer/iPod setup or a good CD player/recorder is the best way to build a huge collection without spending money. Records are a great second step but for the beginner the iPod can't be beat. You can't bring a pile of records with you on the subway!

Brankin's picture

A Van Alstine Insight DAC, or if he's smitten by the vinyl bug, a Rega P2/P3 or a Nottingham Horizon SE turntable. Any of these will lead him down an enjoyable musical path for many years. Or at least 3 weeks, if he morphs in to the typical upgrade-happy audiophile!

Paul Luscusk's picture

A NAD 325 BEE woulds be a good place to start.

Mike Agee's picture

As much as I'd like to recommend a Rega 'table, arm, cart package, I think the availability of CDs (both in the market and probably on the budding audiophile's shelf) and unfussiness of playing them would have me suggesting a CD player, and based upon the performance of my Cambridge 840 it would be whichever Cambridge unit is priced just under $1k.

Nodaker's picture

I said disc player but the answer would depend a lot on the direction that person wanted to take, not the way I think he/she should go. I'd tell them to buy a nice DAC and an inexpensive player that way they could use the DAC for computer, player, Ipod extension, etc. The way audio is moving computers are the next big thing, no doubt. Buy a DAC and have it all. Probably a Benchmark or PS Audio or something. Even an Ah DAC Lite would be a good buy.

Neil's picture

Cambridge Audio 640C

MIJS's picture

For $300-$500 you can currently find new or used Marantz DV-9500s, DV 9600s, and DV-8400s. These high-end universal players have terrific audio capabilities and retailed for $1400 (DV-8400)and $2100 (DV-9500/9600) just a couple of years ago. It would take a long time (and lots of $$$)for the rest of his/her system to outgrow these players.

fritz peterson's picture

A Mac Mini. This do-it-all media server (combined with Bluetooth mouse and keyboard) does not become obsolete, provides a marvelous interface through frontrow, and will serve uncompressed files out its digital outs into your DAC/pre of choice. No need to go any further, until it's time to purchase a tube DAC. . .

Thomas Nielsen's picture

It is easier to find high-quality CD recordings and thus stay satisfied with the investment. Vinyl is harder to get in general and high quality specifically so. With downloadable music the problem is that there is so much garbage available and so little information as to what is what that you risk getting poor quality. With a CD player the risk of getting poor "pressings" is minimal and you are less likely to be disappointed.

Strelow's picture

Even though some people think vinyl is better, SACD/CD gets you a larger catalogue of records. Music servers would be better if they could match disc player quality at this price level.

Ward's picture

Mac Mini (server, $599), Airport Express (wireless digital audio receiver, $99), iPod touch (touch screen remote, and a source, too!, $229). Save the remaining $70 towards a good DAC as a future upgrade.

Tim K's picture

Best bang for the buck and a stable source. Want a different sound? Change out your DAC or amp without the cost of changing out your source.

Dismord's picture

I'm so glad you said "his or hers." Now that's optimism for you.

Bill Blank's picture

Music Servers are the future. CD appears on its death bed and vinyl, though enjoying a resurgence, is still very limited in selection. It will all be about lossless digital formats, what size hard drive, and what DAC you're using to feed your need.