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Starting (almost) from scratch

strapped for cash

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Aug 17, 2009
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I'm looking to build a stereo system from close to scratch (budget £1,000 - 1,200).

My Teac PD-H600 will feature in the new set-up, as this remains my favourite ever audio purchase by some margin.

I'm looking to add an amplifier, speakers, and new speaker stands if necessary, and possibly a turntable (I'm considering a pair of turntables at a later date to break out my early '90s vinyl collection, so a single turntable isn't an immediate priority).

Aside from being bombproof, the Teac produces a wonderfully organised and revealing sound, the subtleties of which leave me grinning years after purchase. I won't be using the CDP as a transport, so a digital only amplifier is not an option.

I'm looking to build a system that majors on the Teac's qualities, so detail, balance and organisation are required, along with an articulate bottom end, with a sound edging toward warmth while minimising fatigue.

I like my neighbours, so quality at relatively low volume levels would be beneficial.

Finally, my stated budget is a maximum (I don't have to spend this much, though maybe I'm being unrealistic).

All advice is much appreciated. *smile*
 
Feb 18, 2015
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I think you should look to possibly getting a pair of active speakers along the lines of acoustic energy ae1 active and a small pre amplifier to hook up your cd player and later on the turntable.....best bang for your buck for that kind of money.
 

insider9

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Sep 20, 2016
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The budget is a very realistic one for second hand system with money to spare. Of course you could spend all of it should you wish but it's likely that if you're careful and not in a lot of hurry you'll build a system that will compete against ones worth many thousands brand new. This is how I'd suggest approaching this.

Regardless, this will be important whether you go brand new or second hand.

Please can you let us know the following:

- What are the dimensions of your listening room (length, width and height)?
- Which wall will the speakers be positioned against?
- How far apart and how far from listening position?
- Is this room just the listening room and as such do you have freedom to move speakers clear of walls and move listening position should it be necessary?
- Will there be any restrictions from your partner (if you have one) to the looks of gear? Not saying cosmetically damaged, but big and perhaps with unusual shape.
- Will you be able(do you want to) to use any acoustic treatment?
- Are you considering any for of DSP?
- Where are you based and access to what brands do you have?
- What system have you had/heard before that you liked and what did you hear about it?
- What music do you mostly listen to?
 

strapped for cash

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@Mark, thanks for your comments.

I have no principled objection to active speakers and it's certainly something to consider.

@Insider, thanks also.

Many questions there and since I can't use the quote facility, I'll do my best to answer from memory.

I have no problem with second-hand kit, if a few anxieties regarding durability.

Aesthetics are a factor -- no ugly boxes will be allowed and some aesthetic/acoustic compromise will be needed. This probably limits second-hand options.

The same is true of acoustic treatments -- soundproofing may be OK, but any solution would need to be sympathetic to decor.

Regarding room size -- this is where things get even trickier. I could outline current room dimensions, but since I'm looking to move in the coming year, they become largely immaterial. This is the start of a research exercise, whereby I shortlist options, audition, and build a system in the new place. Maybe my enquiry is premature!

Ideally I want a dedicated hi-fi room, though again I can't specificy dimensions, or wider acoustic properties.

Positioning speakers away from a wall is no problem, and I'd look to make the room as acoustically-neutral as possible, with the above caveats in place. (I guess I'm not leaving you much to work with!)

Concerning musical taste, well, that includes everything from early '90s hardcore (the vinyl element), to Credence by way of Jefferson Airplane, to classical film scores, to '90s grunge, to Radiohead, to name a few well-known examples. I guess dance, rock and classical, by way of loose summary.
 

CnoEvil

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Aug 21, 2009
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Hi Strapped.

My suggestion is almost certainly totally wrong, as it doesn't meet any of your criteria....but I can't help myself.....and it's what I'd get if I wanted a "back to basics" system. It majors on sounding great and can easily be upgraded in the future.

System: Linn Sneaky DS + LS50s / R100s; or Q Acoustics Concept 20

Downside:

- Over budget

- No TT can be used

- Requires NAS and CDs to be ripped

- This is a 2 channel system only....and nothing can be plugged into the Sneaky.

- It replaces your existing TEAC (but should be in a good way)

Upside:

- Simple system that sounds like an expensive hifi system.

- On paper, The Sneaky amp doesn't look powerful enough...but I've heard this system and it is fine at sensible volumes.

- Very upgradeable in the future, as the amp in the Sneaky can be turned off, so it can used as a Source.

- As a Source, the Sneaky can compete with very expensive CDPs

Due to cost and the need to rip your music, I am fairly certain that it is not a runner....but if I have tickled your interest at all, it would cost nothing to go to a Linn/Kef dealer and hear for yourself. I'd be very surprised if it didn't surpass your expectations by some margin.

If you love how it sounds....you might be able to get the system ex-dem or second hand, (there is little to go wrong with either component), preferably from a dealer. I'm not advocating using a dealer to dem, with no intention to purchasing anything from them.

Just to give you an idea: ATM. On Ebay: Sneaky can be bought for 650GBP; R100 for 425GBP; Concept 20 for 189GBP
 

strapped for cash

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Thanks Cno. *smile*

Much of what you suggest undermines my "building on the Teac" philosophy, though perhaps I'm being too dogmatic. (It's a sublime piece of kit, hence my stated approach.)

As (historically) more of a videophile than audiophile, I'm hoping to draw on others' expertise. On that basis I wouldn't rule anything out, so your recommendations are certainly valued.

As per my above post, this is also a medium-term project -- there's time to research, audition and reflect on options.

The Concept 20s have been on my radar for a while, though I'm yet to hear them. The ebay price seems very reasonable, though as I understand it, I'd need the dedicated stands to hear them at their best.

Much to ponder....
 

insider9

Well-known member
Sep 20, 2016
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Not to worry. Never too early to do research. Without knowing the room size it'll be hard to suggest anything specific. In my opinion speakers should be matched to the room, amp to speakers.

For the time being have a look on eBay/classifieds especially speakers close to you that are collection only. Look for unusual things that are likely to go for peanuts. Even "undesirable" brands made at least one great pair of speakers. If anything comes up research, ask if you could demo and bid. There are bargains out there.

Most people would be shocked with the sound quality on the budget. In regards to durability, look for well taken care of units as these are unlikely to have been abused. My current pair comes from late 80's and works to spec.

If you're unfortunate but buy cheap the risk is minimal. Many of the old speakers are worth as much or sometimes more in parts than as a whole. So even if a drive unit failed you're likely to have your money back. Unless you found something you really liked the repairs will be well within your overall budget.

Either way risk/reward ratio is way in your favour.

Edit
And where abouts are you based? There may be someone from close to you who would be willing to let you have a listen to your system.
 

CnoEvil

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Aug 21, 2009
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My suggestion undermines almost everything you were looking for!

Bear in mind, that Linn dropped their CDPs, as the humble Sneaky out-performed all but their CD12, which cost 12k...and it's performance was not that far away.

I only suggested it, as it should be a quantum leap over what you have. I take the approach - Do it once, but do it right....and have it easily upgradable, just in case.

A demo would easily make up your mind, one way or another.
 

strapped for cash

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@Insider

Without going into boring detail, my aim is to downsize. Having paid off a good chunk of my mortgage capital, I'll be moving somewhere more affordable. The goal is to buy outright, work fewer hours, spend more time with family, breathe a little.

With that in mind, any kit is unlikely to inhabit a large room (think 3-4m squared, or something in that region).

If you see anything second-hand that's worth a look, please let me know, unless you'll be bidding yourself. *smile*

Regarding your edit, I'm in the East Midlands.
 

strapped for cash

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CnoEvil said:
My suggestion undermines almost everything you were looking for!

Bear in mind, that Linn dropped their CDPs, as the humble Sneaky out-performed all but their CD12, which cost 12k...and it's performance was not that far away.

I only suggested it, as it should be a quantum leap over what you have. I take the approach - Do it once, but do it right....and have it easily upgradable, just in case.

A demo would easily make up your mind, one way or another.
And the suggestion's very much appreciated.


When I say starting from scratch, I'm not talking simply in terms of kit.

Much of my knowledge on the audio front (which was never that extensive) is obsolete, and perhaps I'm too attached to the Teac when newer technologies and options offer comparable/better performance.

It's possible to sell the Teac on and put the money toward a complete overhaul. Maybe I'm sentimental, though you've probably got a sense of just how much I love the PD-H600.

The name Teac hardly sets audiophile pulses racing, but it's worth checking out a few reviews if you're unfamiliar, all of which I agree with in spades.

I may need some persuading, though as you say, an audition will certainly help me decide.

EDIT: A large caveat to the above is that I have a substantial vinyl collection, a good proportion of which is unavailable on any other format.
 

CnoEvil

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strapped for cash said:
And the suggestion's very much appreciated.

When I say starting from scratch, I'm not talking simply in terms of kit.

Much of my knowledge on the audio front (which was never that extensive) is obsolete, and perhaps I'm too attached to the Teac when newer technologies and options offer comparable/better performance.

It's possible to sell the Teac on and put the money toward a complete overhaul. Maybe I'm sentimental, though you've probably got a sense of just how much I love the PD-H600.

The name Teac hardly sets audiophile pulses racing, but it's worth checking out a few reviews if you're unfamiliar, all of which I agree with in spades.

I may need some persuading, though as you say, an audition will certainly help me decide.

EDIT: A large caveat to the above is that I have a substantial vinyl collection, a good proportion of which is unavailable on any other format.
As always....I have an answer....if you like what you hear with the Sneaky....and as always, it is more expensive. It can be purchased ex-dem for around 1400GBP.

There is a product called a Sneaky DSM, which sounds a bit better due to having a more powerful amp. The joy of it is, that you can make it the "media hub" of your AV and 2 channel system....as it has HDMI connections (as well as Optical/Dig Coax) and even has somewhere to connect a Sub.

It also has an Analogue In, which means a TT can be connected (with an external Phono Pre).

I wrote about buying one here: http://docs.linn.co.uk/wiki/index.php/Sneaky_DSM
 

strapped for cash

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Thanks Cno

This is where things get tricky, given what I need the system to do (I appreciate you said as much in your first reply).

This'll be in a different room from my AV system, which is an entirely seperate beast.

As a result there's no need for HDMI, or a subwoofer. And while I recognise that the world is moving toward digital high resolution, I'm unlikely to spend large sums updating my existing sources, or paying for streaming services. This makes me very retro, I know (or cutting edge, given vinyl's phoenix-like properties).

I also get how frustrating it is when you offer advice that seems largely overlooked. I have the same issue when friends and family ask about video technology (which is where my knowledge lies).

I explain in careful detail what they can get for their budget, and why a particular option makes sense, only for them to buy something else that offers a comparatively poor return.

With regard to my proposed stereo system, I think there's a particular fit, based on my existing source material. There's also a firm ceiling when it comes to budget.

None of this means I'll dismiss alternatives, though a turntable connection's pretty essential. *smile*
 

strapped for cash

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Elliott Leishman said:
The Elacs db5s for the cost of them where amazing...

My main stereo speakers are 30 year old...
Thanks Elliott; I'll definitely investigate.

Of all potential second-hand system components, I'd feel most confident of speakers in terms of durability, as long as they pass initial inspection. This may help shave a little in terms of budget.
 
Oct 12, 2016
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If your interested in the concept 20s check out elac debuts range.

I liked the concept 20s but thought they where a bit ugly and meek in sound. Wouldn't be great at low level listening.

The Elacs db5s for the cost of them where amazing. I'm not great at describing what I hear but they where warm, dynamic and had good imaging. I also felt like they didn't try to force bass on songs as have found alot of speakers have become like beat headphones where they just focus on bass.

For active speakers check out reviews of Yamaha nx-n500. There in your budget with money to spare for other components. I was very close to buying and might try look at excuse to buy them in the future.

I would focus on the second hand market for amp and turntable, if done right you can get alot more for your money. Check out whathifi's award winners of the last few decades and also hifi choice magazine at the back they have a bit on classic hifi gear.

My main stereo speakers are 30 year old but still kick most speakers arses.

*Edit* meant hifi world not hifi choice
 

CnoEvil

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strapped for cash said:
None of this means I'll dismiss alternatives, though a turntable connection's pretty essential. *smile*
There is no point in having a decent record collection without being able to hear it.

The best budget amp that I've heard with a decent Phono Stage, is the Rega Brio R....though I find Rega Speakers a bit "Meh".

...and as for advice being ignored....I tell everyone to hear a Linn DS, so no worries there.
 

strapped for cash

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Cheers Cno

A cursory investigation's got me pretty excited by the Rega. That'd leave £550-750 for speakers and turntable.

My only worry is that I'd be buying blind (or deaf), at near the rrp, from an unknown ebay seller. I've no idea where I'd audition one.

On paper the Rega looks promising, though.
 

Blacksabbath25

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Sep 20, 2015
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Have you thought about buying a Teac Ax 500 its Teac's reference range there is one on peter Tyson site it's in the sale was £845 now £399 but it does not have a phono input but you could buy a separate phono box for it when your ready to buy a TT but it will go with your Teac cdplayer size wise but you can blow all of your budget on just a TT easily .

and your still got to buy speakers , cables , speaker stands and then the TT it's self

does it matter if the amplifier is a bigger box then your cdplayer as I no your cdplayer is half the size of a standard box ?
 

strapped for cash

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Blacksabbath25 said:
Have you thought about buying a Teac Ax 500
Thanks, that's not a bad call.

I wasn't concerned with brand matching, but a quick read up's got me interested.

So that's a Rega and a Teac on the amplifier shortlist.
 

insider9

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Sep 20, 2016
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strapped for cash said:
@Insider

Without going into boring detail, my aim is to downsize. Having paid off a good chunk of my mortgage capital, I'll be moving somewhere more affordable. The goal is to buy outright, work fewer hours, spend more time with family, breathe a little.  

With that in mind, any kit is unlikely to inhabit a large room (think 3-4m squared, or something in that region).

If you see anything second-hand that's worth a look, please let me know, unless you'll be bidding yourself. *smile*

Regarding your edit, I'm in the East Midlands.
Sounds good. I'll let you know if I see anything worthwhile. As far as bidding goes I have 3 pairs of very capable speakers I'm happy with. If anything I'll be looking to move on two of them as it seems like a waste.

You're not that far from me by the way. I'm in South Yorkshire about about an hour's drive from Leicester where I used to live. If you ever go that way let me know. I always have coffee and sometimes cake might be able to give you a quick demo of what can be achieved on a budget when buying second hand.
 

chebby

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I could help you maybe, but no trading allowed online, so will need mods to exchange our email addresses with your permission.

No built-in phono stage though.
 

strapped for cash

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Thanks Chebby, but I'll politely decline.

It's fair to say we don't get on. Maintaining safe distance seems prudent in my view.
 

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