A Thousand Dollars

Stephen has challenged me to build a system with just $1000.

I need to think fast. My requirements for the system are loudspeakers, preamp/power amp, phono stage, turntable, CD player... Shit. $1000! That's it? I'll use the 2008 Buyer's Guide data and see what I can do...


System A
Pro-ject Debut III: $299. Check out that blue finish!
Vincent PHO-111: $150
Sony PlayStation SCPH-1001: $40 (average price as observed from eBay). The PlayStation isn't just for playing Tony Hawk, although you could.
Cambridge 340A: $329
Paradigm Atom v.5: $250

Total Price: $1068. Not too shabby. Let's see what else we can do.

System B
Music Hall MMF-2.2: $400
Bellari VP29: $76
Oppo DV-970HD: $149
Tangent AMP-50: $259
Epos ELS-3: $329

Total Price: $1213. Another source option would be the KAB Transcriber Turntable at $489. This player includes an internal phono stage, but I think that if you want to stay completely away from that $1000 marker, you have to remove a source. Let's try a purely analog system.

System C
Rega P1: $350
Music Hall MPP: $120
Trends TA-10.1: $149
Infinity Primus P252: $229. Floorstanding speakers with relatively higher voltage sensitivity and lower recommended power, which is perfect for the Trends amp.

Total Price: $848. If you want a CD player, just switch out the Rega and Music Hall MPP with an Original A8s CD Player at $400, and now your total price is $778!

System D
Apple G5.5 30G iPod: $249
Red Wine Audio iMod: $249
22G Cryo iMod Cable: $110
Audioengine A5: $349. The key to this whole system is the Audioengine A5s. You can use the CryoDock cable to plug it in directly to the 1/8" audio input on the back of the speaker, or you can buy the more expensive $380 RCA iMod cable, but we're trying to stay in budget. Also, the A5 is powered and has a front panel volume control, so we don't need a preamp. Plus, when your iPod starts getting low on battery, you can charge it with the A5s.

Total Price: $957

System E
Headroom Total Airhead: $99
Apple 30G iPod + Red Wine Audio iMod upgrade + Cryo iMod Cable = $608 (see above)
Grado SR125: $149. Considered one of the best values in hi-fi, use these cans at home through the Total Airhead.
Etymotic ER-6i: $149. Use these when you can't carry around the Airhead. Also, the 125's open-back design makes it hard to listen in public without your fellow commuters hearing your music as well. Made specifically for use with the iPod, the ER-6i has enhanced bass and increased sensitivity. They also isolate the noise so that you can listen to your hi-fi even in the noisiest places.

Total Price: $1005

Ariel Bitran's picture

I also purchased the Etymotic ER6s, and I'm considering that Pro-ject Debut III. Can't beat that price.

Erik Bobeda's picture

Great systems, Ariel! I've put off the turntable for now ($$$), but I like your inclusion of analog gear in the budget. I might need a pair of Grados soon because I think my Shure E2c 'phones are compacting the wax in my ears. I'm currently using that stuff you drip in your ear canals to dissolve the wax to see if that helps. I'll have to do some listening tests. I wonder if trips to the audiologist are covered by insurance...Make sure you hear the Rega before you pull the trigger on a Pro-Ject! :)

Ariel Bitran's picture

I have heard the Rega, and I definitely need to listen to the Pro-Ject first. I had a pretty shoddy experience with the Rega my first time as you will learn in an upcoming blog.

Ariel Bitran's picture

But the next time I listened to it, it was excellent and warm.

Erik Bobeda's picture

It wouldn't surprise me if your problem was cartridge-related, as the OM-5E is the weak link on that table.I'd get a P1, but I'd have to throw on a glass platter and a Bias, at which point it would be wiser to save for the P2, which is my intention.A fortunate part about auditioning those two tables is that they are fitted with the exact same cartridge, so you will be able to readily attribute differences to the other components. I suspect that any superiority in the P1 will be due mainly to the arm. Sounds like you'll be having some fun in the coming weeks! Good luck and let us know which contender seizes victory!