Ah, now the tricky bit... Here I'm just going to list a few systems that I've heard and could happily live with (as a second system :-) ...).
If you intend to upgrade it makes sense to put most of your cash into one component then making the upgrades elsewhere. If on the other hand you intend this to be a one off purchase it's probably better to go for a more even split.
First the vinyl systems:
Here I just can't ignore the LP12, and I'd go the whole hog and blow the budget on an ITTOK (stop press! Linn no longer have spares/support for the ITTOK - but who cares...).
You are quite likely to get a serious cartridge thrown in for free, see how it tracks inner grooves, as otherwise it's worthless... With 400GBP gone the speakers are going to have to be cheap and I have to say I'd be happy with MS10's and disappointed if I paid more than 40 GBP.
Then a patient wait for the Cyrus 1 that I know will be out there for 60 GBP. This set up would play real music and the easy first upgrade would be to buy serious speakers, though to better the MS10's in anything but bass you'll need to spend a lot.
If you are happy with the bass limitations then save up for the Naims...
For a balanced vinyl system? A Systemdek or AR legend with a Rega arm for 150 GBP.
An Arcam Alpha 3 or better (100 GBP) and a pair of the Mission 753's. This lot will produce a much more laid back and easy sound than the other, but will pack a punch in the bass and go much louder.
The former will give a better soundstage and basically sound more hi-fi, but the latter might be easier to live with in the long term.
Now for CD's... If you see this as the first rung of a long ladder then go and listen to a Naim pre-power and see if you like the sound, and more importantly whether you can live without it. I'd go for a 42.5/110 (350GBP).
Then seek out the budget CD player of your choice, 75GBP will buy something like a Marantz CD42, then if you're into rock buy the Heybrook HB 1's, Classical you're probably better off with the MS 10's, leaving enough for an old Thorens TD150 ;-)
For a balanced system, the Pioneer A400 (150 GBP) and the Mission 753 (250 GBP) just ask to be put together, the control of the former matching the bass slam of the latter. This leaves 100 GBP for the CD player.
For 100 GBP you'll be spoiled for choice, my personal inclination would be to something like the Marantz CD 52II which is easy to find and has the relatively refined top end and warmer presentation that the Pioneer needs. Replacing the CD with a 100 GBP LP player will also work a treat...
I can see the brickbats coming "what about this?", "a real speaker needs bass" etc etc. All I can say is that any of these systems in a really good room will confidently improve on a 5000 GBP system in a really bad one, and think of all the records/CD's you can buy with the difference.
Copyright © 1999 Geoff Husband - http://www.tnt-audio.com
How to print this article