Help Allocating Budget for entirely new Stereo/Theatre Setup


Unregistered guest
I am new to the forum, but it looks like a great place. I have a question, and not sure there is an answer. I suppose I would consider myself about to enter the low-end audiophile space. I have an extensive music collection and absolutely love it, but have never had funds to put toward "good" equipment.

So, now I am about to build the combo listening space/home theatre in my basement. I expect a 70% music, 30% movies split in the space. Thus, I am looking for a musical receiver (7.1), quality single disc CD player and speakers. At this point I only want to do front, rear, centre and sub - 6 pieces. I own a Panasonic progressive scan DVD player, which I will re-use for now for the movies. I also want to have two existing Paradigm Titans upstairs powered by the new receiver.

I do not listen to music at high volume. Nor will I listen to movies at high volume. I need equipment that shines at lower volumes. I expect most of my listening will be 2 channel. I would rather err on the side of music - more money spent on fronts, CD and "musical" receiver, as opposed to sub and rear speakers, which will get less use and to me, provide less value.

So, the question is: with a $4000 total budget for equipment, cables, power conditioning, etc. how do you allocate that money across the things you need? Ie. how much to receiver, how much to CDP, how much to fronts, etc. Is there some kind of guide for this?


Silver Member
Username: Petergalbraith

Rimouski, Quebec Canada

Post Number: 328
Registered: Feb-04
Keep in mind that you will want to replace the electronics in 5 to 10 years due to new features constantly coming out. You might keep good quality speakers for over 30 years; I have. So budget with that in mind. (I also think you get more bang for the buck from speakers, and some people are raving about cheap all-digital amplifiers these days.)

Also, for movies, the center speakers is the one that gets the most content so don't skimp on it or you'll be disappointed. You might even try getting three identical speakers for the front (or as close to that as you can get).

Bronze Member
Username: Edster922

Abubala, Ababala The Occupation

Post Number: 24
Registered: Mar-05
$4000 is MORE than ample for what you're talking about...more typical of what you call "low end" is closer to around $2000 actually.

The first step is to go out and listen to as many receivers and speakers in stores as possible just to get an idea of what type of sound you like and are satisfied with, and what's available at what price range. (Just remember that room accoustics and positioning is at least 50% of the ballgame so everything sounds different in a shop than at your home.) Then I would try to order online for the best savings.

With your apps and budget, here is how I would personally allocate the money:

1. Speakers, L/C/R

2. Receiver and/or separates

3. Subwoofer --- a quality one is actually MORE important if you're doing 70% music, it allows your front speakers to concentrate on mids and highs which they were designed to do best, while being fast and tight enough to fill in the low end which also gives your receiver/amp a break power-wise.

4. Dedicated CD player --- normally I'd say just use something like a cheap retail Toshiba 3960 ($50) but with your budget you can afford to splurge on something better

5. Rear surround speakers --- go cheap if you're going to be doing mostly 2-channel music, spend a little more if you ever plan on going into SACD or DVD-A surround music

6. Speaker stands --- proper speaker placement is ESSENTIAL so good stands are an excellent investment

7. Cables and power conditioning --- as little as possible no matter what your budget...go to the Speakers section, there is a thread called "Top 10 Audio Lies" with a link to a very interesting article you should read first

If I had $4K here's how I would spend it:

1. 3 Ascend Acoustics CMT-340s across the front, 3 Ascend CBM-170s for surrounds, and Hsu VTF-3 Mk2, $2000 shipped using the System Advisor page on their website. If you don't see yourself getting into SACD and DVD-A then instead of the CBM-170s you can use cheaper speakers like the Polk R15s for surrounds, 4 of them should run you about $200.

(Ascend is an Internet-only speaker manufacturer with a massive paper trail of glowing reviews by both consumers and pro reviewers (Google them); they offer a 30-day return policy so you just pay for return shipping in the unlikely event you don't like the speakers, about $120 in this case...still a lot cheaper than most specialized audio shops' restocking fees if they allow non-defective returns at all.

There is also an Ascend owners' forum on their website where you can find info and possible Ascend owners in your area who'd be happy to let you come listen. I found these to have outstanding quality-to-price ratio, especially if you value accurate, clear and natural music quality.)

2. I'd go with either a Pioneer 1014 ($400 shipped) or Marantz 5500 ($600 shipped), and if you are not happy with their 2-channel music performance (esp. unlikely in the case of the Marantz) both have pre-outs so you can always add a 2-channel amp like the NAD C272 for an extra $500-600. However since you say you listen at moderate volumes you should be fine with either of those 2 receivers above, both of which do offer extra-room capability.

3. CD player: I'd look at for their modified Toshiba 3960, $450 shipped. Or you can buy the 3960 from for $50 shipped first and if you are not happy with the sound, you can send it in to them for modification.

4. Cables & interconnects: 12 guage HomeDepot speaker wire is dirt cheap and more than adequate, and you can look at for interconnects. For surge protection, a $44 Belkin UPC from is plenty.

5. Speaker stands: look at, and because locally there's usually a tiny selection and outrageous markups.

Sure wish I had $4K to spend on a whole new system, mmmm! : )

Unregistered guest
Thanks for the detailed reply. Peter's comment about keeping speakers for a longer period of time than other components intrigued me. I have not heard this perspective before. I have a friend with Paradigm Monitor 7s (2 channel music guy only) and they sound great to me. I have been a fan of the Titans that I do own. But, I hear very mixed reviews - many folks seem to say that you can get better at the price. The "recommended" system on the Paradigm site with Monitor 7s at the front would be about $2200 retail. Are these the types of speakers that last the long term?

What about upping the ante to the $1000 level in a receiver? NAD makes something I believe, though I have also read about quality concerns.

Looks like I have some listening to do. Thanks.

Silver Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 168
Registered: Feb-05
Good news, I was at Northwest Audio Labs (my friend owns the store)yesterday and NAD has fixed the hum on their AVR's. I listened to the T753 and is was as quiet as a Marantz. If you liked your friends Monitor 7's then that is a good place to start. I would suggest Paradigm Monitor 5's or 7's front, Mini monitors rears (much cheaper than the ADP's), CC370 center and the PW2100 sub. This is the speaker system that I have and it sounds outstanding. My friends store sells Paradigm and NAD so I have heard the above mentioned speakers with the NAD T753 receiver and it is excellent. Top off your system with NAD's C542 CD player and either the Marantz 6500 or the Denon 2910 universal player and you will be in music and movie heaven.

Bronze Member
Username: Edster922

Abubala, Ababala The Occupation

Post Number: 31
Registered: Mar-05

If I were buying retail speakers, Paradigm would probably be my first choice. However I'd still chance it on the Ascend 340s first...maybe order a pair and take them over to your friend with the Monitor 7s for an A/B comparison, would be very curious as to the result. The local guy who let me audition his 340s claims that they compete favorably with the Studio series; I don't know if this is true or not because I took one look at the pricetags of the Studio series at my local dealer and didn't even ask to try them out, LOL.

As for a $1000 receiver...well you're in luck, actually. Right now the Marantz 8400 which normally goes for close to $1300 is being sold at $900 on with full Marantz warranty. Or you can bid on it for a lot less if you want to wait 22 days for the outcome of the auction...I don't really understand how UBid works compared to eBay but in this listing the merchant lists that they have 339 units. Not sure if that means they'll take the 339 highest bids at closing time or what.

Unregistered guest
I will check out both the NAD and Marantz receiver with a variety of speakers this week. The thought of purchasing expensive equip over the net scares me a little. I have had past problems with lower price items on ebay and the like. Direct from a retailer, especially one well-known is slightly more appealing. I will keep you posted. Thanks for the thoughts.
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