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.

Aip Nugraha's picture

Analog/turntable has the best price-performance ratio for budget audiophiles.

S.  Chapman's picture

If this mythical would-be audiophile were a classical music or jazz fan, I'd recommend an SACD player. For less than $1000, SACDs provide performance equivalent to or better than all but the most expensive CD rigs. And I'm talking about two-channel SACD, not multichannel.

Daniel's picture

I would suggest a computer (which can do the job of a disc player anyway), plus two external hard drives (one for storage, one for backup). With enough storage space, you can rip the digital part of your record collection to a lossless format and have it all at your fingertips for easy access. External USB DACs are becoming more common, giving a computer user an upgrade path that can deliver big improvements even at modest prices. After that, the next step I'd recommend would definitely be a turntable.

Dave!'s picture

Oppo. Done deal! Even though music severs are cool and sound good for the most part, it just seems like you always go back to the old CD player.

Bill Eames's picture

Disc player - They are getting better at lower prices, for example Marantz SA8003 ($1000).

Edmunds's picture

21st century out there, man!

billy's picture


j gosling's picture

Music Servers. Clearly the future. Flexible. Allows upgrading to incorporate outboard DAC and wireless multiroom system with Sonos or Squeezebox.

Derek's picture

An iPod Classic 160Gb and a Wadia 170i. Put your music (losslessly) on the iPod and, with the Wadia, you can feed a good quality DAC with a very high-quality digital source. And, bonus, you can take the iPod with you when you leave home. Allied to, say, a Benchmark DAC or a used Bel Canto DAC3 you're looking at a true high-end source for around $1800-2500. You can even skip the preamp with the Bel Canto or the right Benchmark.

Keith J Suppe's picture

We are dragged kicking and screaming into the digital abyss, the music server/PC provides quantity, while quality can be be maintained with FLAC. Mate this with anyone of the absurdly inexpensive USB DAC SET amps and decent monitors and you have liquid vocals, imaging an unlimted source of music, the ability to game or surf the WWW or listen to almost any song on the planet. You can also research this topic. Now consider 1-terabyte HDDs are as low as 125USD. Its a big-brainer (a no-brainer is for $1k+ chip-amps). PS beware of chip-amp options for your music server playback.

Carter's picture

For a budding audiophile the CD player remains the value leader. Something like the NAD C542 CD player will provide entry level audiophile sound and leave room in the budget for amps and speakers which are the most critical components in a beginning system. It has $1,000 sound for half that price. That being said, vinyl seems to be the current gateway drug into the addiction that is audiophilia. One wishing to avoid such addiction should probably just say no to something like the recently reviewed Rega P3-24 turntable. A single experiment with such a seductive and mind altering experience can produce long lasting behavioral effects. In the end stages of their addiction vinyl junkies have even been known to experiment with the potent vacuum tube, some even going so far as to spend the rent money on intoxicating NOS Mullards or worse a matched pair of Tung-Sol single plate 2A3s. Yikes! The prudent listener will avoid such temptation and stick with the safer CD paired with solid state amplification.

Rastanearian's picture

You can use a Sonos ZP-90 with just the desktop controller and find a used high-end DAC from Theta, Wadia, EAD, or maybe PS Audio? This will keep you close to the $1000 mark. The rest of the system would have to grow substantially before this front-end would need to be upgraded.

Elprior's picture

iPod: Incredible price/quality ratio (as long as you forget about MP3s).

D Nash's picture

if it has to be a player you simply cannot touch this one under a grand: Oppo DV983H.

Mark's picture

Really, the best audio you can get is going to come from a turntable. If you are going to build a serious system, even on a budget, a turntable needs to be the first thing you buy.

Miner's picture

A used Rega P3/24 with TTPSU and you will understand the vinyl lover's resurgence out there. The bug will bite you, hard.

Aaron Bartley's picture

Depending on your listening preferences you could either: A) Struggle to buy one LP or CD at a time or B) Utilize the staggering amount of media available through such services as Pandora and the Live Music Archives online. I'll let others argue tonearms vs DACs. I'd prefer to listen to the music!

Larry's picture

Marantz SA8001 SACDP

Dennis's picture

If they are a true budding audiophile, they need to start art the top of the heap instead if settling for the lessor formats only to be wanting more and end up there anyway. Also if you keep your standards high, then the rest have to come up to you, and the "dumbing down" of America and audiophilia will cease.

rajeev's picture

High resolution uncompressed music with a nice sound card.

Austin Kuipers's picture

CDs will never disappear, sales may drop, but they will never go away, at least in our lifetimes. I happen to love vinyl, but as much as I love it, I know that most new music isn't and will never be pressed onto vinyl. New Ipods will most likely be made within a few years that wont support the same codecs as before, computers are better, but still limited by technological progress. CDs currently offer pretty much all of the music available.

BILL CRANE's picture

As there are no true high-end disc players below $1000, I would select a very good universal player. The Yamaha DVDS2700 at $999.95 is the overall winner here in audio, video, and reliability. If one’s choice is vinyl, then the answer is easier. Music Hall has the best values in turntables, so under $1k is the MMF-5.1 for $895. It comes with a Goldring GL2200 cartridge already installed and aligned.

Patrick from The Netherlands's picture

Concentrate on music not on IT, codecs, dust, scratches.

Matt's picture

Get an oldish second-hand Laptop (like a G4 Powerbook) that will be a dedicatedmusic player, uncompressed files in iTunes and good DAC (like the Apogee Mini DAC), and you have something that will match CD players costing well over $1000—and you can listen to Internet radio, Internet tv . . .

Douglas Bowker's picture

A turntable, because it's fun, will encourage the newbie to go try out used recordings on the cheap, and beats all comparable equipment for the same price. The back catalog, used or new, is virtually endless, and there would a bunch of older audio enthusiasts ready to help out as they got started.

Jim Tavegia's picture

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 a great place to start—using only AIFF or WAV files. The other option is a Jolida JD 100 tube CD player and a pair of Grado 125s or 225s.

Johannes Turunen, Sweden's picture

Save some money and by a CD-player from Cambridge. Maybee Azur 740C

jeffjazz's picture

Convenience, best sound for the buck easiest to set up than turntable.

Kirby Vancouver Canada's picture

Why a turntable? Because anyone who knows crap, knows that without a good source, anything down chain means nothing! If you listen to music,I mean really listen to music, than you know records rule! Right Mikey