Building a complete system for $25,000 with emphasis on music

default -- Sun, 02/22/2009 - 18:04

 Building a complete system for $25,000 with emphasis on music
I read R. Harley's High-Performance Audio Systems and visited several high end audio stores but would appreciate some help.
I went to a store to listen to Maggies and ended up listening to Hansen Knights powered by Classe. Very impressive but also expensive. The floor models were offered at a rather substantial discount but it was too early in the process for a decision. I have also listened to B&W 802d's, 803d Focal Electra 1037 Be and Micro Utopia Be.  Maggies don't agree with my wife and my room. I have B&W ccm80's rear speakers in my ceiling for surround. I am considering Mac MC205 for amplifier but am concerned that it is not sufficient power for the mentioned speakers. I am considering Integra DTC 9.8 A/V processor but think it will not satisfy my 2 c music requirements. I am also considering Anthem D2 with P5 Amp and Parasound A51 amplifier. I am struggling with how to get  2 channel performance. I have a Pioneer 60" Elite TV with a Pioneer BDP-05FP Blu Ray.  I am assuming I will buy a center channel to match the left and right and I will buy a sub woofer after I figure the rest of this out.

Anonymous (not verified) -- Mon, 02/23/2009 - 13:11

Frankly, I think you should really concentrate on the idea of a truly good two channel system.  My set-up is based on Krell components, pre-amp, Sacd player, and power amp, with Kimber balanced cables, and B&W 804s speakers.  My audio dealer has a very similar set up in his store, and I found the sound to be absolutely first rate.  The only thing I would like to do is upgrade the speakers to 803Ds.  However, I must say that with high rez formats, it sounds quite good, and then I have a surround receiver, plus other equipment for surround sound. 

Glenn (not verified) -- Mon, 02/23/2009 - 22:17

 Thank you for your help. 
Is your surround sound running through your pre amp?
I read that the 803ds sound best when provided with 300-400 watts. Any thoughts?
Do you think a McIntosh MC205 (200 w 5 ch) would be a good choice for amplification. I can get one a little cheaper.

Robert Harley -- Mon, 02/23/2009 - 15:03

Before looking at specific gear, you should define your system. Are you absolutely certain you want a system that will do double-duty as a stereo and home theater? I ask not to discourage you, but so I can offer better advice. I have had a dual-purpose system for quite some time, and needless to say, the presence of the theater-playback cannot degrade the two-channel performance in the slightest.
One way to build a dual-purpose system with uncompromised two-channel performance is to buy an inexpensive controller and a high-quality two-channel preamp that has a "theater bypass" mode. Another approach is to buy a very high-quality controller that has very good performance with analog input signals (and a setting that allows analog input signals to be routed to the output without A/D and D/A conversion). Which way you go depends on how demanding you are about two-channel performance.

zackolson -- Fri, 03/29/2013 - 14:01


I've read many of your reviews and suggestions and found them to be spot on.

I am trying to build a system that does double duty (50% 2.1 Channel, 50% home theater, 5.1). I don't want to skimp on the stereo listening, but am willing to sacrifice on the HT performance.

I've blown through my budget so am looking to save money where I can. I'm hoping you might have a suggestion that is an alternative to buying a new preamplifier with a HT Bypass (the obvious solution).

My current equipment is:

Apple TV as the transport (some lossy some lossless files stored in itunes, looking for an add on like Pure Music to improve SQ) via Toslink (to be replaced by a mac mini connected using USB) > Current Preamp is a Peachtree Decco2 (I also have a Peachtree Nova with HT bypass that i found used, but found it to be too bright in 2 channel mode. Odd as it has the same preamp section as the Decco2...perhaps its the synergy voodoo some folks believe in) (I am considering the Mcintosh D100 as the final upgrade if I can find a workaround to HT Bypass)> Mcintosh MC402 for two channel > MIT Tmax speaker cables into my B&W Signature 800's (these speakers killed my budget :). My sub is an Earthquake Supernova 15" which is connected via RCA cables connected to a Y-splitter out my preamp's preouts.

My home theater AVR is an Onkyo 876 which I expect to be the preamp for all 5.1 channels, but only power the rear channels, and maybe the center (I have an old NAD 150wpc bridged to 300WPC now powering my B&W signature HTM).

My dilemma is that I am actually pleased with the cheaper Peachtree Decco2 as the preamp/DAC for the 2.1 channel system. It just works. I've auditioned the Mcintosh D100 and wasn't blown away. I know that I can buy a Peachtree Grand Pre (for $3500) with HT bypass, but am disappointed the way the Nova sounds. I can dig deeper and spend $4500 and buy a Mcintosh C48 with HT bypass, but based on my finding with the D100, I wouldn't expect to be blown away beyond the Decco2.

What "workaround" would you suggest (if any) for integrating a two channel preamp that doesn't have HT bypass without sacrificing the signal path on the 2.1 system, and not having to unplug anything. (I am aware that I can simply use the analogue inputs on my preamp from the AVR, but I want to avoid two volume controls to have to dial in each time).

Is there an external device you'd recommend that would keep me from having to pony up big bucks for a new 2 channel preamp with HT Bypass? I want the sub to be powered in both systems for what it's worth (currently, I have the AVR setup with no subwoofer and the R&L main speakers set to "Full Range" so the preout going to my sub can siphon off the low frequencies. Xover on sub set to pull anything lower than 80hz).

Any other advice is welcome as well.

Glenn (not verified) -- Mon, 02/23/2009 - 22:10

Mr. Harley,

Thank you so much for your reply. I am grateful for your help.
I like the idea of a cheaper processor with a good 2-channel amp as shown on page 12 of your book “Introduction to High-Performance audio Systems.” I would like to compare that to the option of using a good processor.

I think I am demanding about 2-channel sound. I am not trying to impress anyone with a fancy system. I just want music to sound real. I don’t want to get tired of listening and I don’t want to feel like I compromised. I am 54, put 3 kids through college and want to invest in a system that I will enjoy for a while.  20 years ago I bought Maggies with Denon PMA 500v and DCD 1300 CD player. I enjoyed the natural sound and affordability provided by the maggies and would consider them again if they worked with my decor and wife. 

I live near Albany, NY and visited a local store, a major audio store in NYC and a small audio store in Poughkeepsie. I realized I needed to learn more so I bought your book and subscribed to TAS.

I set my budget based on the thought I would spend around $10k for speakers as 40% of the budget. (When I first began this process last summer I was thinking about B&W 803d). I can afford more but thought that seemed like a good budget.  The local audio dealer carries B&W and McIntosh. I listened to 803d and 802d powered with MC402. It sounded nice but I wasn’t blown away. The room was not set up well for listening. Plus the MC402 would not serve as a multichannel amp for surround sound. I am also concerned with matching the amp to the speakers. Articles about B&W suggested the 803d and 802d need 300-400 watts and an amp that does not accentuate the mid/high range. The Mac and Classes seemed to match that description. I started looking into equipment that would power those speakers. It just kept getting more complicated to narrow things down. That’s why I sought out your help. I know it’s a personal decision and I know you told me not to focus on specific gear but I want to get some nice sounding music in by living room.  I am planning to listen to a pair of Diva Utopias that are available for about $9,000 per pair.(They are supposedly discontinuing the model) The potential problem with this opportunity is they don’t have a matching center channel. Although I care more about 2-channel sound I want my surround sound to work well.

Hope you can help.

lenwfl -- Fri, 10/16/2009 - 15:43

Unless you're really into movies having lots of surround sound (e.g., Die Hard), a center channel and sub-woofer is unnecessary, adds to the expense, and gains very little. If music listening is a priority (you listen exclusively to music without any distractions), spend the bulk of your budget on a great 2-channel system and augment it with modest AV components - that's what I've done ( I've found to obtain really good stereo everything is important (speakers, pre-amp, power-amp, CD/SACD player, cabling, room acoustics, system setup, power conditioning, resonance control starting with a really good rack). As someone else in this forum said you have the benefit of living near an area where you can audition almost everything - take advantage of that geography. NetFlix affords me the opportunity to watch a couple of movies almost every week, but most of the movies I watch are story oriented. I don't use a center channel and my front speakers provide centered and stable dialog and plenty of dynamic range including a great low end - ceiling mounted rear surround speakers add all the realism necessary, So while I enjoy movies, music listening is my passion!


envious (not verified) -- Mon, 02/23/2009 - 23:05

The key thing you mentioned is that you were not blown away. You have owned very good gear for a long time, so your expectations are naturally high. At the price range you are in though, you should be blown away. Since you have been out of the market for a long time, my advice is to shop around - alot.
You are in NY, so you have acess to nearly everything. Take some time, focus on 2 channel for say, 15-20k of your budget, enjoy weeding things out and wait for the ah-ha moments to hit you. Once you have the 2-channel the way you want it, then you'll know your budget for the HT gear to compliment the system and you can shop for these pieces. At this point, this part should pretty much fall into place. And yes, with this budget the HT part of the system should wow you as well. Trying to buy it all at once forces you to juggle too many factors and sucks the enjoyment and confidence out of the whole process.
Happy shopping!

envious (not verified) -- Mon, 02/23/2009 - 23:20

1 more thing - since its been a while and your system will be dual purpose, listen to a couple of good subs early on to see if you like the sound. REL and the new small JL subs are of a quality that didn't exist when you bought your last system. Listen to a $5-7K set of standmount speakers with a pair of great subs ($5k) and see if you prefer this to passive 10k speakers you've heard. This will be decisive one way or the other. If you like this set-up, it will change the amp you choose and saves you looking for a sub to fill out your HT later.

cbetz -- Fri, 04/26/2013 - 10:09

I think that those are good recommendations for the sub options. I also think its important to look into a sub at this time, put it all together at once when possible. Obviously budget restrictive, but do your best. Salon 2's are my favorite speakers for music. Obviously well out of most folks' budgets, but you should listen to them! Home Theater Systems

Cemil Gandur -- Tue, 02/24/2009 - 04:18

Another one to look at is the Anthony Gallo new Ref speaker, I believe it's called the Reference 3.5. It made some beautiful sounds at CES.
I am using the Ref 3.1 in my movie room, with their center, sides and sub (they make a couple of models for those, I am using the top-of range ones). The 3.1 is an excellent speaker, with a wide open sound, and no box colorations, very similar to Maggies. Fyi, I've lived with Maggies for 14 years. In non-ideal show conditions, the new 3.5 seemed to be a significant improvement on it.
I am using Arcam amplification/processor in my movie room to good effect. The Arcam has a 2-channel switch that bypasses all the internal processing stuff for optimum stereo. You could also find better (and more expensive) models from the known high-end brands.

Robert Harley -- Wed, 02/25/2009 - 12:09

I agree with "envious" that you should be blown away by the demo, particularly at your level of investment. A dealer demo is a good way of sorting out the great dealers from the mediocre ones; if they don’t deliver fabulous sound in their showroom, it’s unlikely that they can deliver fabulous sound in your home. Keep looking.
Now that I know more about your priorities, I highly recommend the idea of putting most of your budget into a two-channel system and adding multichannel playback via a separate controller, center and surround speakers, and subwoofer. The subwoofer will be driven by the “SUB OUT” jack from the controller, and be used only for theater playback. The JL Fathom series is a great choice; I haven’t heard the f110, but it’s a scaled down version of the f113 I use as a reference. I suspect that one f110 will delivery plenty of bass extension and impact (a single f113 shakes the listening seat). The REL subs are also excellent, although they excel at blending with main speakers rather than delivering high-impact bass on film soundtracks.
It’s a good idea to use a center speaker that matches the left and right speakers (same manufacturer) so that the front soundfield is continuous. A good test is to listen to pink noise through the center and then the left or right speaker and judge how close they are in tonal balance. The AVIA Guide to Home Theater test DVD has specialized tracks for this purpose. The surround speakers are less crucial, particularly if you use sidewall-mounted dipoles.

Glenn (not verified) -- Wed, 02/25/2009 - 22:40

 As follow up to my previous lengthy statement/question, are Arcam AV9 or Anthem D1 pre-amp processors capable of high quality 2 channel audio? Is it better to consider them than the 2 channel plus processor configuration I described previously?

Glenn (not verified) -- Wed, 02/25/2009 - 22:26

  Thanks to everyone who replied. This is the first time I participated in an on line forum and It's nice to know there are people who will take time to help someone they don't even know. 

If I understand the advice correctly I should be looking for something like-
System 1
 A) Speakers- a pair of floorstanding full range speakers like the Anthony Gallo REF 3.1 suggested by Zeb, Maggies, B&W 803d or 802d, Hansen Knights, Focal Diva Utopia or Revel Salon2.  Revel would be nice but it drive up the price of the whole system.
B) A 2 channel pre-amp like- Arcam FMJ C31or Parasound JC2 that have theatre bypass mode. 
C) Amplifier like Parasound A21 or McIntosh MC402. I feel like more power is better.
D) CD player like Rotel RCD-1072, Simaudiio Moon CD-1 or Cambridge Audio Azur 840c.
To expand for HT add to the above 2 c system-
A) Speaker-Center channel to match with floor standing choice above and sub like JL f112/113 or REL sub.
B) Amplifier-3 channel amp for Center and both rear surround speakers or a 5 c amp with adequate quality power to drive the 2 channel floor standing speakers.
C) a processor such as Rotel,  Integra or Arcam.
My confusion relates to how to power the 2 c with enough “quality” power while powering the center and rear with adequate but less expensive amplification. Also I think the center speaker could use higher quality amplification so maybe 5 c is the way to go. I know I have to pick the speakers before I pick the amp(s) but I am trying to develop a strategy that provides flexibility with speakers.
System 2- Per “envious” look into stand-mounted speakers with sub instead of floor mounted.
I am listing products I read about in TAS and other sources so I can create a budget and find dealers who can help me put a system together and perhaps introduce me to some other products.
Thanks everyone for your help. I hope I can return the favor someday.

Anonymous (not verified) -- Thu, 02/26/2009 - 09:16

You seem to really be planning this out.  That is a good thing.  I only have space for one system so I use it for both 2ch and HT. Your list iabove is pretty much on the mark.  I suggest that you split up the amps.  I have a 2ch and a 3ch running my system.  They are a Bryston 4b-st and 5bst.  The 4b-st runs my JM Labs 1027's and my 5b-st runs my cc901 and surounds.  My source is an Esoteric DV50s that I use for audio and video.  I use a Halo C2 as my preamp for music and HT.  IMO, you should get something like you mentioned before, a good capable HT preamp and a nice 2ch preamp with a HT bybass option.  Regariding your follow up question(which I just read :) ), yes the Arcam is supposed to be a very good preamp for music.  Now for me, since I have an Esoteric player, I run my stereo music in bypass mode.  BTW, my sub is the Seaton Sound SubMersive one.  I really like it very much.  Good luck :).

Glenn (not verified) -- Thu, 02/26/2009 - 22:07

Thanks. I appreciate your input.

Robert Harley -- Thu, 02/26/2009 - 09:55

Your list looks good. I suggest less expensive amplification for the center and surround speakers, such as a two-channel amplifier and a three-channel amplifier. Some companies make modular amplifiers so that you can buy as many channels as you need. Krell just introduced a slim monoblock amplifier (Steven Stone is working on a review) just for this purpose (five of them side-by-side are the same width as a conventional amplifier).
As for more power being better, you should match the amplifier output power to the speaker's sensitivity. I'm driving my reference system with 100W monoblocks and the amplifiers are never driven anywhere near clipping. That's because the speakers have a sensitivity of 95dB. Remember that every 3dB increase in speaker sensitivity is identical to doubling the amplifier power.

Glenn (not verified) -- Thu, 02/26/2009 - 22:16

 Thank you.
I will watch for Steven's review. I will try to select speakers then move forward from there.  Do you mind telling us what your reference system is?
95db sounds very efficient. 
One of the responses to my questions suggested Anthony Gallo Nucleus Reference 3.1. Thoughts?
Thanks again for your time.

Robert Harley -- Fri, 02/27/2009 - 15:40

You can see my reference system in this thread:
It is Wilson X-2 Series 2 speakers, Spectral electronics, a Classe SSP-800 controller (reviewed in the next issue), and MIT cable.
I haven't heard the Gallo, but those who have speak very highly of it.

Glenn (not verified) -- Sun, 03/15/2009 - 20:44

 Impressive system. I'm glad you are able to enjoy such a wonderful set up. 

I visited another dealer this weekend.  I listened to B&W 803D, 802D and PSB Synchrony One with Meridian 808.2 CD player, VTL 7.5 pre amp and VTL mono blocks.

He changed the CD player to progressively less expensive models with a noticeable difference in sound quality. I was surprised at the significant difference this made. I was almost like listening to different speakers.
Of the speakers he had available, I liked the 803ds. I liked the 802ds but I think I have to draw the line somewhere. He suggested that the 803ds may be better for my room based on a picture I showed him as he thought they might be "warmer" than the 802ds.
His  recommendation for electronics to match the 803d’s was: 
Preamp- VTL 2.5 with phono. (Can you comment on how this might compare to Arcam FMJ C31 or Parasound JC-2). I have not seen VTL 2.5 evaluated in TAS.
The price was just under 3k with the phono stage. Based on your book, I like the idea of tubes in the pre-amp. I don’t want to be playing around with my equipment, I want to use, it so the idea of tubes in the pre amp that need only periodic replacement appealed to me. I have to make another visit to listen to the proposed set up, obviously the main test of desirability, but it sounded like a good plan based on the B&Ws. He also suggested I consider the Bryston BP26 preamp which unlike the VTL is solid-state.

Amp- Bryston 4BSST 2c @ 300 W/C.

CD Player- Meridian G08 $5,000! (Alternatives?) Definitely made a difference. I preferred the PSB Synchrony Ones with the Meridian G08 to the B&Ws with the Rotel RCD-1072. Found that to be interesting. I mentioned the Cambridge Audio Azur 840C as an alternative but did not get a warm reception to that idea. He seemed pretty straightforward to me but he does not sell Cambridge Audio. 

Turntable-Rega P1

A/V Receiver –Use my existing receiver or replace mine with Rotel RSX 1550 that would run through the pre amp on a bypass mode that operates with a switch on the front panel of the VTL 2.5.

It sounded reasonable that I could use my existing HT receiver to power the center and rear while the Bryston powered the L and R. I could also consider the Bryston 6BSST if I want to provide better amplification to the center channel which in this system would be the B&W HTM3.

I listened to the Gallo at a local store. Unfortunately the electronics were not an appropriate match and they sounded terrible.  The salesman agreed that they needed to change the pre-amp and amp. I will listen again when he makes the changes.
Someone else suggested the Mac MC207 and biamp the L and R speakers (also 803d). Thoughts?
Overall it was a good visit.  The advice I have received in this forum has been a great help.

Ogenec -- Fri, 02/27/2009 - 21:01

My basement system is used equally for music and movies. I use the Simaudio Stargate controller with the matching Aurora multichannel amp (200*7). I use the Esoteric DV-50 as my music source, and the PS3 as my Blu-Ray player. My set-up is getting a little long in the tooth, as it has no HDMI inputs. But as far as playing music is concerned, it's wonderful. When playing CDs or SACDs on the Esoteric, I put the controller in 7.1 Bypass mode. And my speakers are pretty efficient, so the Aurora's 200 watts drive them quite well.
 I guess my point is, I don't think you need a separate preamp and controller combo. You can get something like the Denon pre/pro and matching amp ($15,000 retail). The amp has 150 watts into 10 channels, but I think you can reassign so it outputs 300 watts into five. Reviews have been superlative -- read the one on Ultimate AV as an example. (Simaudio has a new ne plus ultra pre/pro and multi-channel amp, but they are outside your price range.) As for speakers, I would get something from Audiogon. You can pick up $15-$20k speakers for circa $10k. Like the Revel Ultima Salon. That's your budget right there.

Atul Kanagat -- Wed, 03/11/2009 - 09:26

Have you considered the Usher Dancers? Full disclosure requires I let you know I have an interest in MusikMatters, the importer/distributor. In my opinion, Gallo and Usher are the two to beat in terms of price-performance.

Glenn (not verified) -- Sun, 03/15/2009 - 20:49

 I will check them out. Thanks.
I listened to the Gallos but it wasn't a good audition since the electronics didn't work well. The dealer will be making some corrections and I will try again.
I am definitely shopping around until I find what I like.

GuyDebord (not verified) -- Tue, 03/17/2009 - 19:19

I would first set an incredible 2 channel system and here is what I would do:
Speakers: Reference 3A Grand Veenas (8,000)
Preamp: Lyngdorf DPA-1 (4,500) this one enables you to crossover in stereo, and since its a digital processor it gives you many many possibilities for adding an external surround processor in the digital domain
Amp: Halcro MC20 (5,000) lyngdorf and Halcro match perfectly, plus with Halcro you could already go for 3, 5 channel amplification
Source: Slimdevices Transporter with duet controller and a NAS or mac mini (2,700) A wonderful music streamer, superb high res DAC with the best user interface (excluding soloos) , service and internet streaming features (rhapsody, digital radio,, etc). Music streamers are the future and sound incredible....
A/C: PS Audio Power Plant Premier (2,200) A must have.
Sub: JL f112 (2200)
Cables and Rack: So many options.....
Keep in mind that the prices I put are retail prices, you could save a lot if you shop smart, if you really want to do HT since the beginning, look for the Halcro ssp180 processor and match it with the MC20...
good luck

Robert Harley -- Wed, 03/18/2009 - 12:02

I don't have experience with the Arcam preamp, but the Parasound JC-2 has been widely praised. The system your dealer recommended seems like a good match.

Glenn (not verified) -- Sat, 03/21/2009 - 18:53

Can you comment on the advisability of using a Macintosh MC207 with bi-amp to left and right speakers to power B&W 803d?

rossop -- Wed, 03/18/2009 - 20:25

I may be missing something but I am happy watching TV through my two channel system. I dont do many videos but the ones I do watch and all the movies I see sound good to me in stereo. Plus I can spend my money on the best two channel I can afford because the music is most important to me.I am running Focus Audio FS888s. I marginally prefer them over the B+W 803Ds I was going to buy. I bi-amp them with 4 Herron monoblocks. I also use the Herron #3 pre and 69db phono stage. I dont know how Mr Herron does it but you can leave these preamps on all the time. Something  I didn't think was possible with tube units unless you like to renew tubes on a regular basis. Sometimes I like to watch sport while listening to a cd or record. I can do that and get the best sound I can.
If someone can tell me what Im missing please do!

rossop -- Wed, 03/18/2009 - 20:25

I may be missing something but I am happy watching TV through my two channel system. I dont do many videos but the ones I do watch and all the movies I see sound good to me in stereo. Plus I can spend my money on the best two channel I can afford because the music is most important to me.I am running Focus Audio FS888s. I marginally prefer them over the B+W 803Ds I was going to buy. I bi-amp them with 4 Herron monoblocks. I also use the Herron #3 pre and 69db phono stage. I dont know how Mr Herron does it but you can leave these preamps on all the time. Something  I didn't think was possible with tube units unless you like to renew tubes on a regular basis. Sometimes I like to watch sport while listening to a cd or record. I can do that and get the best sound I can.
If someone can tell me what Im missing please do!

Mike19 -- Sat, 03/21/2009 - 13:48

Back in 2001 (before I retired and was still making a decent living), I put toghether a 2.1 channel system and a year later built a 7.1 system around it. Total cost was around $39,000 including interconnects, power cords and speaker wire, but excluding TV.
2.1 channel: (about $25,000)
> I pair Wilson Audio Cubs on custom Sound Anchor stands ($8,000)
> Sonic Frontiers hybrid tube preamp (with pass through for home theater and 2 preouts for subs) ($2,500)
> Sonic Frontiers tube amp (2 x 110 watts) ($5,000)
> Sunfire True Subwoofer ($2,500)
> Krell CDP ($3,000)
> Audience Au24 speaker wire, 8' pair ($1500)
> MIT XLR balanced interconnects (between preamp an amp and CDP and preamp) ($500)
> PS Audio 12 and 14 gauge power cords ($450)
> 2 PSA Ultimate Outlets (line conditioners) ($600)
7.1 Channel (about $13,700)
> a third Wilson Cub for center channel (put on top of TV) ($3,600)
> VTL 100w mono tube amp to drive center speaker  ($1,500)
> Rotel 7.1 preamp/processor ($1,300)
> MIT Link 100s to connect Rotel pre/pro to SF preamp ($150)
> Rotel 5 x 120w amp  to drive the 4 surround speakers ($1,700)
> 4 PSB floorstanding  T45s as the surround speakers ($1,400) 
> another Au24 wire for the center speaker , 4' ($500)
> Audience Conductor RCAs to connect Rotel preamp to Rotel amp ($500)
> Audience Conductor  speaker wire for surrounds ($500)
> Sony NS999ES DVD/SACD/CD ($1,250)
> a used Goldmund 2 meter digital RCA coax from Sony to Rotel pre/pro ($1,200) [ I still can't believe I bought that ]
> power cords - kept the  Rotel and Sony OEMs  'cuase I ran out of money!
I am sure you can put toghether a similarly configured system on a $20,000 budget and have satisfying stereo and surround audio.
For components, you might look at NAD, Rotel, Outlaw, Parasound and Emotiva. You could also get an integrated 7.1 receiver instead of a seperate surround pre/pro and amp(s). Even so, I do recommend a seperate 2 channel amp for the front L & R. The flagship models of Integra, Pioneer , Sony and Yamaha come to mind.
For speakers, there are many excellent brands that have 5 and 5.1 packages with front towers that are good enough alone for quality stereo. Paradigm and PSB to name just two. They have varying price ranges from very affordable to very unaffordable. I guess the problem would be auditioning speakers. My personal practice is to never buy a speaker w/o first hearing it.
Have fun!


Glenn (not verified) -- Sat, 03/21/2009 - 18:45

 Thanks for all the info. I appreciate your help.
Sounds like you have a great system.

lolligager (not verified) -- Fri, 07/10/2009 - 00:42

 I wonder if Glenn was has bought his system and if he was able to keep it within the budget that he had assigned.

Paulo (not verified) -- Thu, 08/06/2009 - 00:06

Nice discussion, I am also curious with what happened to Glenn...did you buy the system? what did you get after all?
I have just closed a deal on a system with close characteristics. I got an AVM50 by Anthem, an Anthem P2 for the stereo, an Anthem A5 for the center plus surrounds. Cables by Transparent, thicker for the fronts and center, plus a tbs super network for each one of these three to set the frequencies right at the speaker door. The speakers I picked after considering B&W, Revels and Paradignms were the Wilson Audio Sophia 2 for the fronts and the WATCH center channel by Wilson also. The CD I picked was the Simaudio Moon CD1.
I listened to the Sophias and I got blown away, " come il faux" , for something at their price level.
Naturally there is the rest of the system, the home theater, but I think the stereo is the real star in the show.

Laura (not verified) -- Thu, 10/15/2009 - 18:37

 Hello all,
I need help in figuring out what to use for surround sound processing on my current 5.1 system, I have had enjoyed home theater since the mid eighties and still have many of my original components that I am not wanting to part with...  (1985) Bryston 3b amp, (1985) Research SP-8 preamp, (1985)Sota Turntable with kisiki gold arm and talisman cartridge,(1998) Classe CD transport, (1998)Theta DDA converter, (1985)Nakamichi B-300 cassette deck, (1995)Marantz mono block, (1995) Hafler 120 amp, (2001) sony dvd player(basic lower priced unit) one pair of(1998) Martin Logans CLS IIz ,(1985) Velodyne ULD 15 subwoofer,(1995) Martin Logan Cinema center channel and a pair of (2001) Martin Logan wall hanging Script speakers, my speaker wires and interconnects are Van Den Hul golds, Randall Research interconnects, Van Den Hul interconnects, Some of their highest grade of Monster Cable interconnects and video cables on the video side, (1998) Barco Data 808S CRT Projector and a 104" screen.   
I have been using a (1990) sony surround sound processor, this is a stand alone processor with no pre amp/power amp,  This processor is no longer working correctly and unable to handle HDMI which I am planning on upgrading my barco projector to and getting a oppo DVD player for HDMI blu ray ability.
My question is how do I use my older preamp and amps that I currently have yet be able to get into the latest HDMI and surround sound processing now available? Most if not all of the surround sound processors have their own preamps  and that will not allow me to use my SP-8 for it's superior sound? IS there a similar stand alone processor that is HDMI/Blu Ray capable available? Or do I have to go with something that will not allow me to use my SP-8 anymore? What about using my turntable? Many of the processor/preamp units I have looked at do not allow me to use the turntable such as the newest Outlaw 997 that I have looked at.  Please advise all possible ways to give me the stereo sound I love yet upgrade into the latest video surround sound too, OH and I am hoping to keep it as close to 2k as possible for this surround sound processor

Steven Stone -- Mon, 11/16/2009 - 10:08

 Hello Laura,
You could get a DVDO Edge video processor for all your HDMI switching. It strips out the digital audio and has a coaxial digital output which can connect with your Sony processor.
You won't be able to use the latest Dolby EX sound formats, but you can set the Oppo player and your movies so they will send standard AC-3 sound to your processor via HDMI.
The Oppo can also be set to send a 2-channel down mix of SACD out via its analog outputs.

Steven Stone
Contributor to The Absolute Sound,, Vintage Guitar Magazine, and other fine publications

sound search (not verified) -- Mon, 11/16/2009 - 03:22

Any body heard of B & W Emphasis speakers

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