My instinctive response would have been to be snarky, but as I get older I am trying to be a more pleasant person.
Simply put: the average person wouldn't know good sound if it jumped up and bit them in the ass. Aside from miserable recording quality, compression and the Loudness War, virtually no one under the age of 35 has actually listened to uncompressed (>= 16/44.1) music on a halfway decent system. Long ago a rite of passage for a young man was to get a kickass stereo. At best, we now have kids "upgrading" their headphones to a pair of Beats.
When this average person - who doesn't know any better - walks into Best Buy whatever system that is playing in the Magnolia room is automatically the best thing he's ever heard, no matter how good, bad or overpriced it is. He doesn't know about tubes, high-efficiency speakers, or what a DAC does or why he needs one. He doesn't know what FLAC or ALAC mean, nor does he know why they are better than the compressed files that allow him to put 3,000 songs on his phone.
I think that this is a great exercise. There are collectively thousands of years of listening experience here with users who have spent (and often wasted) millions of dollars on audio equipment.
If I were starting over from scratch, I would choose Omega speakers are ones that for the price are least compromised, accommodate the greatest diversity of equipment, and which are unlikely to be the limiting factor in the signal chain. Rob's imposed limitations were based on reality: we need a source, an amp, and speakers to play music. All of us have a computer and at the very least can stream music. We can cobble together wires and can make do with whatever stands we have or can make. $1,500 pays for a modest vacation or a darn good starter (or end game) system. $3,000 buys you a nice road bike or a significant step up. $10,000 requires you to make a lot more choices because you are less limted.
That being said, this is the orderI would approach this:
- Buy a pair of Level 1 Omega Super 3XRS and cheat and spend the extra $100 to get an NAD D3020 Scrounge some cheap wire. For most people this will be all you need. ($1,600)
- Buy a Decware Super Zen Triode Select. Run this off the preamp output of the NAD. Add a decent ($100) speaker cable. We are now up to $3,000.
- Replace the NAD with a decent DAC. A Halide DAC HD runs about $500. We could always sell the NAD for about $300 or so, but we'll assume we're keeping it for another use. We can also upgrade to Zenwave speaker cables now ($300) for a total of $3,800. At the same time we can add some higher end music playback software ($200) for a total of $4,000.
- Add an Omega Deepomega 12 in Level 1 finish ($1,500). We have now spent a total of $5,500 and have a simple system that will destroy most "audiophile" systems.
- We can now contemplate the Next Step: we have $4,500 to get to the $10,000 mark. This will depend on your preferences, but for me it would mean adding another DeepOmega 12 ($7,000 total) and the $2-3,000 DAC of my choice (I'm not shopping in that price range so don't have any current preferences) and if I have money left over would upgrade cables. Alternately, we could subsititute Alnico XRS speakers for the Super # XRS and spend less money on a DAC or even stick with one subwoofer. AT this price range personal preference becomes a significant factor, as does the secondary market.