Budget (less than $3K) System Photos

Hi Folks:

I am starting this thread because I think it is our duty as fellow audiophiles to get other folks interested into listening to good audio. With that in mind I was hoping we could have a system photo thread showing systems that have been assembled for less than $3,000 in total. Why $3,000? My thought is many folks will spend at least $3,000 on a fun vacation. I tell many of my friends that they should consider spending that much so they can listen to really good audio everyday at home or at work for the rest of their lives.

I will start this thread with my relatively humble office system with a total cost of $825. It consists of a pair of ADAM F7 monitors I bought from Guitar Center used for $350, sitting on top of IsoAcoustics Isolation stands ($180), fed by my computer using a combination of an Audioquest BitFrost ($50) and Dragon Fly Red ($225) with a cheap RadioShack RCA cable ($15). I am not including the cost of my office computer in this system as it is something I used every day for other purposes.

Google Photos

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The other reason I choose $3,000 as a limit is a person can get these babies from Kef. I think it is hard to beat this all in one solution for $3,000. I am thinking that PS Audio could assemble something similar in the future to compete with the folks at Kef.

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This a wonderful topic. It should be of good help to many.


Love the idea of this thread too. My second system in the bedroom. I listen to this during work hours from the main living area and it sounds fantastic. About $2300 all in.

  • Bottlehead Stereomour II Integrated with a whopping 3.5W/channel of SET magic
  • Madisound BK-16 single driver kit speakers with upgraded Fostex driver
  • Audioengine B1 bluetooth interface with DAC
  • Primary source is my iPhone
  • Latest additions (>$3k now): My PS Audio PWT and Schiit DAC
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I don’t have a current picture but the system my son has in the shop is a Sprout 100 (I think I paid $700 for it) driving a set of Tekton Electrons that I bought new for $1800 a few years ago and an old 12" Polk powered sub that was a few hundred back in the day. No fancy cables or anything and it is a nice system.

I also have a “second” system that is just a pair of LS50 W2’s but it also has a pair of SVS3000 micro subs so the total is way over $3k. The LS50’s by themselves are a really nice simple solution for streaming and we also use them as front channels for the TV in that house.

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Pair of used Raidho X1, ex-demo Cambridge Audio CXA81 and a REL S/2 that was in the loft missing a grill that suffered a cigarette burn when we were on holiday. My server was there anyway, so I used Roon Player via usb, but could have used my iPad or my phone. Just over £3,000.

Took up space and lots of wires, I now have no wires at all. The sound part of this system was designed by Lawrence Dickie (B&W and Vivid Audio), Trevor Wilson (Naim Mu-So Qb2) and a couple of other ex-B&W engineers. Each unit is 75w Class-D, 24/192 DAC and multiple streaming services. I use Amazon HD and Innuos 2.0 via uPnP. Cost £1,200.

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@minnesotafats - What’s that device between your left speaker and laptop? It’s got some sort of spiraled cord attached to it. :innocent:

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I feel like part of this conversation should also discuss the pros/cons of the Used Audio market. For someone ready to stick more than a toe into the audio world, used gear as we all know can help obtain higher end gear for the price of new lesser gear.

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Got one of them …

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Bluesound Powernode, KEF Q350, REL HT1205, Pangea stands, Blue Jeans cable.

Agreed. There also are some reliable vintage alternatives…hope to see all makes and models from folks.

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I’ve heard these and I’m looking for an excuse to buy a pair! They sound terrific!

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I checked out the LS50 wireless for a friend, and based on the incredible online admiration, was underwhelmed by the treble extension. Could have been the environment, a noisy Best Buy store in Woodbury, MN. Said friend bought Apple HomePod Minis, with which she is entirely satisfied and certainly exceeded her Oontz (!) Bluetooth speaker that looks like it cost $1.83 to make.

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Great thread, and even better intentions! And I agree with vkennedy that it’s important to include a discussion of the used market, given that it’s possible to achieve superior sonic results on a tight budget – and also because it’s an important way for the global audiophile community to connect. Audiogon and US Audio Mart operate very differently from eBay!

Anyway, with that, I’m proud to present my new office system, located on the 18th floor of a building in Midtown Manhattan. Not shown is a 10 inch Velodyne subwoofer that is probably really annoying the lawyer who sits in the office just below mine.

  • Decware Trapezium Desktop Monitors ($700, but bought used for $500)

  • IsoAcoustic Aperta 200 isolation stands ($250, but given to me as a gift from my father-in-law in exchange for an elaborate home-cooked Japanese dinner consisting of miso Chilean sea bass, miso soup, sautéed bok choy and mash potatoes)

  • Audioquest Rocket 11 speaker cable (8 feet leftover bulk bought used for $35, then terminated with banana plugs from Blue Jean Cable)

  • Wadia PowerDAC 151 (generally available for about $850 to $950, but purchased for $400 – score!)

  • Locus Design Cynosure USB cable ($3,000 at the time, but it was given to me by a very generous audiophile friend when he got a much fancier and costly cable)

  • PS Audio AC12 (bought a fake one for $400, but then PS Audio busted the scammer and sent everyone a real one. I will never forget that act of kindness and generosity – thank you, Paul!)

  • Audioquest PowerQuest 2 ($200 from Amazon… boring!)

  • Velodyne CHT-10 subwoofer ($500 in 2003, but permanently borrowed from my father-in-law who thought it was broken and bought another sub. It wasn’t – he just incorrectly installed the high-level speaker connection.)

Total cost (to me): $1,535

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Bedroom system.

Polk Hampden speakers. (discontinued, but you can still find them for around $100 on eBay/Craigslist. I love these, and have four pairs of them throughout the house. Sunroom, utility room, etc… I think my kid might have taken a pair to college, tho.)
Chromecast Audio ($35) … Roon endpoint
Optical into Topping D50 DAC (< $200-ish used but, really, you don’t need this. The chromecast has its own DAC, which is probably just fine for the Polks.)

So, it’s really a sub-$150 system.

Thinking I MIGHT pick up another Raspberry Pi and send it into the Polk’s USB input, instead of the chromecast. Just for grins.

Then it’s a sub-$250 system.

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Every kid heading to college should at least have a system like this.

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$2k separate system that I listen to during summer thunderstorms when all of my more serious gear is unplugged from wall.

Bluesound Powernode 2 streams Tidal; Triangle Borea BR02 speakers; Sunfire SDS 8 subwoofer; modest conditioner (W Audio) and cables (Blue Jeans, Pangea) hidden behind the other sub.

Doesn’t sound bad for the 10-15 days per year I need to use it to sleep like a baby and not be without music : )

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Desktop system for near field listening. Harbeth P3ESR speakers (second hand $1500), Bluesound Powernode 2i (can be found new for about $1000), BK P12-300SB-DF sub ($500). Bought using sterling, but with the exchange rate on a good day it all scrapes in around $3000. If you buy the speakers new then it is significantly over-budget :frowning:

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