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Yesterday's post described an example of speakers and subwoofers we could easily afford in our quest to build an excellent music setup for $12K. If you go for the Vandersteens and a pair of RELs, you're at about $7K with only a little negotiating. That leaves us $5K to buy electronics, wires, and a source. There are more products to power speakers than there are speakers. Narrowing down the list can be daunting. Our task is made easier because most of what is available doesn't live up to our high standards of sound quality. Sad but true. We can also eliminate the fringe products like small wattage tube amps, and off-the-wall exotic solutions. These are fun to experiment with and maybe even what we want to give us the best synergy, but for our little series, we'll stick with the tried and true. Another narrowing device we'll use is budget. Of the remaining $5K we'll apportion $1K for the source and $500 for the cabling, leaving us a clean $3,500 for everything in between. Our requirements are rather simple. We need enough power for the speakers, adequate control for our sources, and uncompromised sound quality. Most loudspeakers we're likely to choose, Vandersteens, Magneplanars, KEF, B&W, Elac, get by with 100 Watts rms—real Watts, not peak Watts. We'll want to make sure our choice in amps can handle impedance swings. You'll be robbing yourself of musical wealth if your amp can't increase its power on low impedance dips by the speaker. Our simplest choice will be an integrated, but in my experience, there are very few integrateds at this price point that haven't compromised performance to meet the goal. (Begin rant) It's beyond me why separates manufacturers don't simply take the exact bits in separates and piece them together in one chassis for an integrated. When we eventually build the Stellar integrated, it will be just that - the exact guts from the amp and preamp placed together in one chassis. Duh. (end rant). Let's assume separates. My first choice is going to be Stellar, the amp and stereo preamp/DAC. Of course, I am completely biased because I love what we do. That said, there are other great choices as well. Emotiva, Parasound, and Schiit come to mind. A good resource is Stereophile or TAS recommended component lists. The magazines do a great job of sorting through by price and quality and you can read the reviews and call your dealer to try them. Tomorrow, sources.
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Paul McGowan

Founder & CEO

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