What's the least amount needed for a glimpse of high-end sound? What gear would such a system include?

What's the least amount needed for a glimpse of high-end sound? What gear would such a system include?
Less than $1000
20% (43 votes)
31% (67 votes)
25% (53 votes)
8% (17 votes)
5% (11 votes)
More than $5000
10% (22 votes)
Total votes: 213

We all have to start somewhere. What would <I>you</I> recommend to someone assembling a first audio system, and how much would it cost?

walkertm's picture

Most Non audiophile wan't a sytem that sound nice. Like it or not there is a lot to be had for a thousand. With companies like Creek, NAD, and Paradigm.

jdvano@hotmail.com's picture

dvd player w/digital out $180 AMC DAC 8 D/A converter $100 from Audio Advisor jbl hls 610 speakers $200 AMC 3020 integrated amp $200 TOTAL = $680

Al Marcy's picture

DVD player, used tube amp, Edgarhorn #2 midrange horn with Fostex FE-127 drivers.

Joe Hartmann's picture

I would have to include a turntable and cartridge which would be over $2000 to start. That means a phone pre amp $8000 seems to me to be a start

chrishladky@webtv.net's picture

For a first system I would recommend what I use for my second system: a 30W Rotel integrated amp, B&W CDM1 Special Edition speakers, and any CD player around $300. Total cost: $1700.

Mike Healey's picture

First off, it depends on who the listener is and what he/she will play on the system. Fans of acoustic folk music will be interested in equipment that has a different sound signature than fans of symphonic music, heavy metal, or hardcore techno. If your tastes are eclectic, like mine, you'll have to look for a system that is a satisfying all-rounder. It's okay to listen to equipment that costs more than $1000 per component, but you can still assemble an excellent system for $1500–$2000. If you buy a system that meets your needs, you can always enhance it later with equipment that exceeds your needs. The challenge is to create a system in which all the components work well together. I'm still saving for my "first" (and perhaps only) system. I'm looking for a two-channel integrated amplifier (preferably with phono), bookshelf speakers (more accurate sound for less money than floorstanding speakers), CD player, cables, interconnects, and stands. My first additions to the basic system include a system rack, surge protection/power supply, and a new turntable/tonearm/cartridge. The system I am interested in creating will probably cost about $3000, so do as I say, not as I do.

Tom Fox's picture

$4001–$5000, or as much as they can afford. I would suggest that the person decide how important music is to them and how much they will spend, and then phone a dealer and let the dealer demo a system for that amount. The next step is for the dealer to demo a system approximately 30% more expensive and let the person decide if the extra quality of the more expensive system is worth the extra cost. Saves upgraditis later.

Christopher Gillespie's picture

B&W 601 pair, Marantz CC4000OSE, Arcam Alpha 9 Int Amp...

James's picture

A pair of B&W DM-302 speakers with a Rotel, Creek, or NAD integrated amp, along with an inexpensive CD player, will plant the seed for future high-end upgrades.

Kenneth Kirkpatrick's picture

Okay, first off, buy used gear. I would start with a used pair of Vanderstein 1Cs (two-way floorstander). I would look for a used late-'70s, early-80s receiver. A nice Marantz or Yamaha with 80Wpc or more can be found for $250. Then I would look for a used Rega Planar 3 turntable. A nice CAL single-disc CD player can be found for around $300. I would use OCOS speaker cable if possible. Some used TARA Labs interconnect for the CD player. A Disk Doctor record-cleaning system would be nice to go along with used records. The system cost should be around $1500 with $500 left over for used LPs and CDs.

Bob Haddard's picture

Unfortunately, good sound doesn't come cheap. Although the $1000+ interconnect is not necessary to attain a true high-end system, I'm afraid that no matter what you do, it will cost over $5000 to get the sound that one would want. As far as equipment, even going with a decent integrated will set you back over $2000. Ditto for speakers and that's without wiring and source components. Unless you already have a good-sized record collection, a digital front end is in order, at a cost of around $1000 for something that won't need upgrading in a month. But there is a way around this money-pit called audio. Read the reviews in old issues of the audio mags, get a good idea of what you want and can afford, cruise the net, and buy stuff used. You'll get much better sound than could be afforded by buying everything new. It just takes a little research and work on the buyer's part. And then you have a hobby instead of a negative balance. And you also may enjoy it.

Adam Hammer's picture

Whatever they're comfortable spending! We audiophiles must encourage and nurture the novices, not scare them off.

Priya N.  Werahera's picture

At least $3000 is required to assemble a first audio system. Should spend $1200 for speakers (Thiels or Vandersteens), $800 for an amp (Rotel or Bryston), $300 for a preamp (Rotel or Adcom), $500 for a CD player (Ah-Tube, Rotel, Pioneer), and $200 for cables and interconnects. There is a lot of used equipment available, and, with Internet access, your chance of getting better-conditioned used gear is extremely good. You may be able to save few bucks here.

Stephen Curling's picture

Quality comes at a price but if you look hard and long you can find quality gear at good prices.

armin paya's picture

Here's what you need: -used ADCOM power -used ADCOM pre -used CAL-Lab cd player -Inexpensive pair of B&W

Michael Agee's picture

NHT Super Ones or PSB speakers, NAD CD player & Receiver, Music Hall Turntable, Grado Cartridge, Sennheiser 580 'phones, basic Audioquest interconnects.

Kepi's picture

Creek 4330 Rotel 951 CD Paradigm Atom Good sound for barely a kilobuck.

GARY SMITH's picture


John Mallon's picture

My idea of a starter system would be: a good amp, speakers, and CD player. This would cost under $1000, even buying some decent cables. My first audio system, which I bought about 20 years ago, cost me about

tom's picture

No comment

hanque-WI's picture

crown amp mcintosh preamp soundcraftsmen eq ev moniters dual turntable phillips cd

Patrick Taylor's picture

In college I got my g/f into high fidelity with an NAD 40 amp, basic Rega 2 'table, and a pair of (don't laugh) Bose 301 speakers. Generally, I don't think Bose is audiophile material, but the 301s were the only thing in both price range and size that would work. The whole thing was $1100 and was really very listenable.

cnjgumby@hotmail.com's picture

While a fine system can be purchased for under $2k,the new enthusiast also has to seriously consider the steps of fine-tuning his/her equipment and environment. It's a hard task for a dealer to convince a new customer that a well-"tuned" system will always sound better than a more expensive system that hasn't been carefully assembled. Mr. Scull's "Fine Tunes" pieces at the end of past issues of Stereophile have been of help to me, and I've pursued this hobby for 28 years or so. The dealer where you buy can often be just as important as what you buy.

Robert Moore's picture

The lowest-cost system that still provides high-end performance is based on headphones and a dedicated headphone amp, a decent CD player, and a good interconnect like the LAT IC- 200. This can all be obtained for $1000–$2000.

Harold, hgunther@euronet.nl's picture

This is a trick(y) question. If you aren't "trained" in listening to audio gear, a real high-end system might be a disappointment; for beginners, it is like an acquired taste. I would start a beginner with no help at hand on the NAD L40 Music Sytem for less then $1000. A glimpse of high-end does include a Magnepan (MMG), a VPI Jr./Grado TT combo, a nice Adcom or NAD preamp/amp, cables, and a cheap CD player (Sony). This all can be yours for less than $2500, I suppose. The alternative is to find or befriend an audiobuddy and cautiously enter the used-gear domain. If you must play CDs, think of getting a Sony SACD (XB940) player instead of the VPI turntable. High-end of a sort can be realized for about $2000 and up.

Steve Cuskley's picture

For just over $1000, search Whe web for this combination of used pieces: AMC 3030 Integrated amp ($350–$400), Spica TC50 speakers ($250), Marantz 63 or 67 CD player ($200–$250), speaker stands ($100), cables ($200). The Spicas absolutely LOVE the AMC, and the AMC has the one indispensable feature that every beginner audiophile can't live without (and every veteran wishes he had): tone controls!

David L.  Wyatt, Jr.'s picture

You can do it for under a thousand if you choose used gear. But that has drawbacks: dealers don't want to audition the stuff, and finding a local seller of something you want takes a lot of time. So I'd say a hair over a thousand for speakers, stands, integrated amp, and a budget CD player. I'd stretch that to $1300 and get a tuner if you live in a place where the FM can be good, like my Columbus, Ohio home. After all, a tuner is perfect for hearing new stuff and casual listening. We could go cheaper if I had a receiver to recommend. Though they symbolize mid-fi, it should be possible to make one, and maybe someone like NAD already has; I just haven't bothered to audition any. A receiver would lower the cost of entry considerably, allowing the buyer to listen to music while saving for a decent CD player.

Rob Cornelson's picture

I would start with a CD player/integrated amp combo from NAD or Rotel, throw in a pair of Paradigm Atoms with SB-90 sub, Kimber PBJ and 4VS cables, and you have a nice place to start! With tax, I figure the price to be right around 2 kilobucks, even less if you find it used!

Richard H.  Araujo's picture

Rotel, Adcom, NAD, Paradigm, B&W, and other such companies have been selling outstanding products for incredibly low prices, especially compared to "high-end" gear, for years. You can get a great system for less than one thousand dollars, and for two thousand you can get one that will sound incredible and leave you enough for other trivialties, such as food, shelter, and clothing.

Harold Roerts's picture

Any thing less then $5000would only lead to disapointment. Th comprises necessary in a lesser system just resultin a strue midfi sound.