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Let's get this started! A few very good but inexpensive items.

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  • Let's get this started! A few very good but inexpensive items.

    Having initially pursued the high-end/high-priced gear from the time I graduated college (the Acoustat Monitor speakers I had back then cost more than my car at the time), I gave up on that in 1987. Since coming back to the audio hobby in 1997, I have focused on cost effective, budget oriented gear, both for myself and in terms of what I write about (initially for Listener magazine, and for Positive Feedback since they launched online). Since no one has posted in this topic yet, I figured I would get things rolling.

    Here’s a short list of a few items that I think are exceptionally good, and play way above the competition in their price range. In no particular order:

    Elac Debut F5 speakers ($559/pair) - these get so much right I haven’t heard anything close at anything near their price point. Biggest issue is they need a little extra power, and may be too revealing for some of the low cost electronics they are likely to be paired up with. Unless you are looking to spend a thousands dollars or more, these are my go to speaker recommendation.

    Tekton Lore ($999) - If you are looking to spend a thousand dollars on a pair of speakers, these high efficiency floor standers are my first choice. Surprisingly deep bass (measured into the mid/low 30s in my room) and an extremely dynamic presentation puts them ahead of the competition. I’ve used everything from 5 watt tube amps to 200 watt solid state amps, but it’s about the character of the amp, not the power. These do not sound like typical small, budget audiophile speakers, but play music, all types of music, with authority, and an expressiveness that only a well done high efficiency design can do. After a few years of daily use, I still get excited every time I sit down to listen

    Ampsandsound chip amp ($600) - If you have high efficiency speakers that can run off of 25 watts, this amp will give many amps many times their price a run for their money. Good chip amps don’t sound like anything else, but seem to get the best parts of other technologies without their their problems. Stunning with Tekton or Zu Audio speakers.

    iFi iPhono ($425) - Mike Fremer was right in his review of this phono stage (of course). Might not be as dynamic as some of the much more higher priced choices, but does little wrong, and can handle pretty much any cartridge you throw at it. Very flexible.

    Morrow Audio MA1 interconnects ($49.95/meter pair) - These single strand solid core cables are a serious starting point in the world of real, high end cables. I replaced Nordost Solar Winds with these throughout my system, and love the detail and clarity they serve up. An ideal budget reference.

    You may not be interested in any of these, but if someone asks about a starting point, or about setting up a system at reasonable cost, keep these in mind.
    Steve Lefkowicz
    Senior Associate Editor at Positive Feedback
    -
    Analog: Linn LP12 (MOSE/Hercules II), Ittok, Dynavector 19a, iPhono2; Pro-Ject RPM-1 Carbon, Sumiko Pearl, iFi iPhono.
    Digital: Samsung 300E5C notebook, JRiver Media Center 26, Tidal HiFi and Qobuz Studio), iFi iDAC2, iFi iUSB3, iPurifier2.
    Electronics: Burson Conductor Virtuoso, DIY switch-box with TKD 10K pot, Antique Sound Labs MG-SI15DT-S, Burson Timekeeper Virtuoso, Jolida JD1000P, B&K ST140.
    Speakers: Tekton Double Impact, Tekton Lore, Magneplaner .7, ELAC Debut2 B6.2, Debut F5 and Debut B6, Emotiva Airmotiv B1, Sound Dynamics 300ti.
    Interconnects: Morrow Audio MA1, Vermouth Audio Black Pearl, Nordost Solar Wind, Audioquest Evergreen
    Speaker cables: Morrow Audio SP4, Vermouth Audio Red Velvet, Nordost Solar Wind, Nordost Flatline, Audioquest Q2.
    Digital cables: Straightwire USB Link, Aural Symphonics Digital Standard xxv USB, Belkin PureAV.
    Accessories: Sound Organization turntable shelf, Mondo racks, Pangea Audio Vulcan racks, Pi Audio Group Über BUSS, Monster HTS2000 power conditioner, Sound Organization speaker stands, Pangea Audio speaker stands, Kinetronics anti-static brush, Pro-Ject VC-S record cleaner, Spin Clean record cleaner.
    Headphones: Schiit Valhalla amp, Meze Audio 99 Classic and 99 Neo, Beyerdynamic DT770Pro, 1More Triple Driver Over Ear, 1More MK801, 1More Triple Driver IEM

    http://www.audionirvana.org/forum/ti...ounding-system

  • #2
    Hi Steve, and thanks for the recommendations as this is the market segment that I'm always looking at. SOTA gear (price-wise anyway) is out of my reach, but I'm a firm believer that lower-cost pieces can get you to a level that is truly satisfactory and doesn't have to leave you longing.
    Dynavector DV20x2L MC cartridge - Genesis G7.1f speakers - Marantz Reference PM-KI-Pearl Int. Amp. - Oracle Audio Paris MkV turntable - Various Morrow & Valab/King cables

    Comment


    • #3
      Denon 103R MC cartridge. Around $300 and an excellent performer given the right arm (because of its compliance) and phonostage/SUT (because of its 0.25 mV output).

      Click image for larger version

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      Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
      Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
      ________________________________________

      -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
      -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
      -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
      -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
      -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
      -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
      -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
      -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
      -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
      -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

      Comment


      • Guest's Avatar
        Guest commented
        Editing a comment
        Yes, plus one on the Denon 103R.

        And, with its study cantilever, it's great for learning how to do cartridge set up.

      • EdAInWestOC
        EdAInWestOC commented
        Editing a comment
        If you want to start a long term love affair try sending the 103R to SoundSmith for a high end retip. Forget trying to preserve the sound character of the 103R because the Denon 103R is a very good generator being held hostage by an aluminum cantilever and conical stylus. The 103R isn't bad but it can be much better with better "wheels".

        You can opt for any of the higher end retip options on the 103R including the boron cantilever and line contact stylus all the way up to the ruby cantilever and the optimized line contact stylus. Personally I prefer a boron cantilever because I have found that it has a more neutral character. The Ruby cantilever is very good too but it has a slightly "harder" sound compared to a boron cantilever.

        I have retipped a number of Denon 103 cartridges with my favorite being the 103D. The retip job results in rather dramatically improved sound. The retipped 103R will not be a world beater but the quality of sound will be much higher than many expect possible.

        Many cartridges hide a nasty high end peak behind an aluminum cantilever but the Denon 103 series are not one of these. You can get very high quality sound fairly cheap by going the 103 retip route and you may find that it outperforms much more expensive cartridges.

    • #4
      I second the 103r

      I would put these on the list

      LH Labs Geek Out 1000 USB dongle DAC. Is it just me or does "Dongle DAC" sound like a porn parody of a Disney character? Oh well.

      Lehman Black Cube. When a new vinyl guy enters for recommendations for an affordable P-S somehow this is always on the list and deservingly so. AFAIR MM only so watch out for cable capacitance and of course head amp or SUT when going MC.

      Verbatim cables. Once hand made by Paul Garner who disappeared from the face of audio earth, he made crazy good cables out of surplus copper ribbons meant for USN radar traffos. The few I know of who found some on AGon or eBay swear by them like I did. Speaker cables were the star of the show, the ICs were good but not as great as the cobras the SCs so resemble.

      B&W 302 they couldn't play loud, they couldn't go low but within limits had tone reminiscent of LS3/5as. Made of light wood and a plastic wedge diffusor for the rear panel, they were cheap as hell but to me sounded better than the 601s of the same era from the upper midrange on up.

      LSA Integrated amp. Ah the amplifier of still unknown chinese provenance. A hybrid muscle integrated that for a while was sold through dealers then factory direct before being discontinued altogether last year, the ability to swap out the 6922s and a board layout conducive to modification (coupling cap swaps anyone?) made this a favorite tweaker unit. A pair modded by John Tucker (Exemplar), and later releasd as the LSA Statement, found their way to none other than Winston Ma's sancto sanctorum where they played for a couple of years. My dad still uses a statement with his VR-5 Anniversary loudspeakers to this day. Dad likes FIM recordings too. Coincidence?

      Musical Fidelity X-A50 run for a short time before Y2K the X series pretty much put MF on the map being really great for the buck. Perfect for a bedroom system with 2ways the sound was always pleasant. All Class A if I recall correctly the cylinder cases could run very hot. The hotter it got the better it got though so .....yeah, that about covers it.

      Comment


      • Long Live Analog
        Long Live Analog commented
        Editing a comment
        This is small world indeed. Paul Garner used to work for George Merrill at Underground Sound in Memphis. After George closed the store Paul opened a shop near University of Memphis called In The Groove where he made the Verbatim cables. I own some of the ic's and power cords. They're some of the best I've heard and own. After he left VSA he literally dropped off the face of the audio world. I asked George if he had heard from him and he said not in years. He was a cool guy for sure with a world of information. Sometime ago I was on the Oswald Mill's Audio site and there was a video of a listening session and there was Paul hanging with the group and digging the tunes. Go figure... If it wasn't him then he has a twin lol.

        I worked for a shop in Nashville that sold LSA. It's a sleeper line and sounds much more expensive than they cost. The Statement versions of the integrated amp and speakers are worth audition. One can purchase the amp and speakers for very little cash and have a good system. Fwiw my girlfriend has the LSA1's Statements and they're a sweet sound...

      • Guest's Avatar
        Guest commented
        Editing a comment
        Speaking of ribbon cable, Alpha Core Goertz MI2 copper speaker cable offers a lot for a little (<$125).

    • #5
      Has anyone heard the PS Audio Sprout?

      I guess people have traditionally looked at gear made in the UK when it comes to price vs. performance. Other options include Chinese gear but that scares me.
      Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
      Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
      ________________________________________

      -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
      -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
      -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
      -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
      -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
      -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
      -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
      -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
      -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
      -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

      Comment


      • tom_hankins
        tom_hankins commented
        Editing a comment
        A friend has one in his office with Jones designed Pioneer speakers. I think he paid under $700 for entire system with usb and speaker cables, and stands. I was suprised how nice it was.

    • #6
      Rogue Audio Sphinx integrated amp, NuPrime IDA-8, and Herbie's dots.

      Comment


      • #7
        I hate to sound like a broken record but the Gustard X20 DAC has amazed me at how good it makes digital sound.
        Marty

        Comment


        • #8
          Mogami Gold series pro XLR cables as ICs come to my mind.

          Comment


          • tom_hankins
            tom_hankins commented
            Editing a comment
            I used a long run of these for a while. Worth the money for sure. I preferred the Signal Cables, but both were great for the money.

        • #9
          Originally posted by Ki Choi View Post
          Mogami Gold series pro XLR cables as ICs come to my mind.
          I agree that Mogami cables are very good value for not much money. I like Mogami 2534 quad cable. Cables are easy to DIY, but if one wants to buy premade cables then head over to Amazon or Markertek and search for Mogami RCA and you'll find premade cables. The Amazon ones use Neutrik connectors while the ones from Markertek use Canare connectors, which I like better. Plus Markertek is cheaper. Worth checking out.
          ---Gary
          Analog: Scheu + Immedia RPM tonearm + Koetsu Black + Pass Xono or Threshold FET 10pe
          Amps: First Watt F7, HK Citation II
          Pre-Amps: CJ Premier 14, Threshold FET 10e, DIY 417a with output transformer
          Speakers: Horning Eufrodite, Reference 3A mm de capo
          Tuners: Sansui TU9900, McIntosh MR78
          Digital: i7 Server (Roon) + SSD, Sonore urendu + Mutec MC3+ USB + Berkeley Alpha Dac, Audiomeca Mephisto
          Power: Audience AR12, Torus Tot, DIY filters

          Comment


          • Guest's Avatar
            Guest commented
            Editing a comment
            Ah yep - Mogami 2534 microphone cable - that's the one for longer runs of XLR. I'm vaguely recalling RalphK turned me on to it.

        • #10
          Originally posted by GaryB View Post

          I agree that Mogami cables are very good value for not much money. I like Mogami 2534 quad cable. Cables are easy to DIY, but if one wants to buy premade cables then head over to Amazon or Markertek and search for Mogami RCA and you'll find premade cables. The Amazon ones use Neutrik connectors while the ones from Markertek use Canare connectors, which I like better. Plus Markertek is cheaper. Worth checking out.
          ---Gary
          Learn something new everyday. Thanks Gary.

          Comment


          • #11
            Gary don't get me started on DIY cables. If you think the Mogami is good you should try some of the Neotech cable. I will second the plug for Markertek, superb service and prices.

            Originally posted by GaryB View Post

            I agree that Mogami cables are very good value for not much money. I like Mogami 2534 quad cable. Cables are easy to DIY, but if one wants to buy premade cables then head over to Amazon or Markertek and search for Mogami RCA and you'll find premade cables. The Amazon ones use Neutrik connectors while the ones from Markertek use Canare connectors, which I like better. Plus Markertek is cheaper. Worth checking out.
            ---Gary
            Marty

            Comment


            • #12
              ELACs for sure. I have the little B4 units and damn! And having heard the new Auralic Polaris integrated (is $3800 affordable for an all-in-one dac, streamer, headphone amp, amplifier, preamplifier, phonostage) I would place that here. Oh, the Schiit Jotunheim DAC, preamp, head amp as well ($399).
              Dave Clark
              Editor and Publisher, Positive Feedback
              www.positive-feedback.com

              Comment


              • MylesBAstor
                MylesBAstor commented
                Editing a comment
                The ELAC integrated with their speakers sounded pretty good together at RMAF. $1700 or $1800 for the combo.

            • #13
              Pioneer PLX-1000 turntable. $699. Just add a nice Ortofon mm cart and you are set.

              Will run rings around most 2k tables


              Comment


              • Rust
                Rust commented
                Editing a comment
                +1 on the PLX. Picked one up from the Guitar Center. Get an extra headshell and it's simple to switch from a stereo to mono cartridge. Pushbutton speed changes. Pitch control for a certain Rolling Stones album. Hard to beat all of that for the money.

              • Dr.Ears
                Dr.Ears commented
                Editing a comment
                Does it require a phono stage?

              • Metamatic
                Metamatic commented
                Editing a comment
                Yes, it needs a phono stage.

            • #14
              Originally posted by MylesBAstor View Post
              Has anyone heard the PS Audio Sprout?
              I have a Sprout. Did the Kickstarter thing intending to use it for the kids room. Now it's going to be an office system when my new space is built out. Haven't listened too much but it pretty good for headphones and not bad as an integrated. Haven't used phono yet. Works well with Bluetooth devices.
              Tannoy Glenair, April Sound SET 50 monoblocks and LR phono, EMIA silver remote attenuator and Strain Gauge, Mono TT - AE 208 TT, Abis 1.2BCS arm Miyajima Premium BE, Stereo TT - Fairchild 750 Schroder Custom BA, Miyajima Kansui, Mac Mini w/ Roon, Bel Canto RefLink, Dac 3.5VB, Wadia 860x.

              Comment


              • #15
                Here's one that I bet you've never heard of. HiFiMeDIY.com has a whole line of Sabre DAC's along the lines of the Audioquest Dragonfly. They even have one that works with you Android phone. all for about $70. I use one on my computer desktop system, and have another to play back from my phone. Simply awesome, and cheap - cheap enough to just try it out.

                http://hifimediy.com/DACs/ready-made-dacs

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