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Speakers

Here's a few complete audiophile-grade stereo systems, priced from $759

The Audiophiliac puts it together a few different ways, with turntable and/or digital stereo systems.

I started thinking about assembling a few high-performance systems for around $1,000 a few weeks ago when I reviewed the ELAC B5 ($230/pair) and B6 ($280/pair) bookshelf speakers , and soon after, the Klipsch RP-150M ($335/pair, with free shipping) bookshelf speakers. All three speakers offer unprecedented sound quality for the money.

A NAD C-316BEE ($380) stereo integrated amplifier would do a great job with any of these speakers, but that amp lacks digital inputs. The fix is straightforward: add the Schiit Audio Modi 2 Uber high-resolution digital converter ($149). The Modi 2 Uber sports USB, optical, and RCA digital inputs and plays tunes from your computer or tablet. Pair this digital converter with the ELAC B5 speakers and NAD C316BEE, and the total retail price will be $759, $809 with the ELAC B6 speakers, or $864 with the Klipsch RP-150M speakers.

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Clockwise from upper left, U-Turn Orbit Plus, Klipsch RP-150M, Schiit Modi 2 Uber, NAD C 316BEE Steve Guttenberg/CNET

The C-316BEE/Modi 2 Uber combination will handily beat the sound of any comparably priced integrated amp with digital inputs. These systems will not only rock your world, they will also sound seriously transparent with acoustic music of all types. In small to midsize rooms as large as 400 to 500 square feet bass will be plentiful, so there's no need to add a subwoofer for music. If you also want to play movies subs aren't mandatory, but sure, dropping another $329 for the Hsu Research STF-2 sub would be worth considering.

If you're heavily into vinyl, omit the Modi 2 Uber and add the U-Turn Orbit Plus belt-drive turntable with a Grado Black1 phono cartridge ($309 for the turntable and cartridge), and a Schiit Audio Mani phono preamp ($129). That system would, depending on the speakers selected, run a bit over $1,000, and if you're equally into digital, add the Modi 2 Uber to the system.

I listened to the system with the U-Turn Orbit Plus long after I finished writing the review because I was having such a good time! Later on, I upgraded the turntable's sound when I popped on the new Grado Reference Platinum 2 phono cartridge ($350, review in the works), which further improved the sound.

My point is, this system -- in any of the configurations mentioned above -- will deliver audiophile grade sound, and if down the road you crave even better sound, affordable upgrade options are doable.

Who says audiophile systems are always crazy expensive? These systems prove otherwise.