So, here's the update for my cousin.
Greg is a painter by trade, so I hit him up and asked "Do you do side work?" and his response was, "What have you got in mind?". From there, we were off to the races.
I've got a couple K in work I need done around the house, some staining, a little painting and help acid etching and sealing the garage floor. This reset his budget and opened us up to a ton of opportunities. I mentioned to him with his original upgrade, it sounded as if he was moving to the next level of audiophilia. He said that's what he's looking to do, so I knew what my task was, replacing his Sony HT integrated with a decent integrated, adding a decent phonostage and rolling in as many accessories as I could fit in the budget.
After a fair amount of research, I narrowed the integrated's search down to the Rega Brio, the Peachtree Deco Sky, the Rogue Sphinx and finally a Yaqin MC-100. On the phonostage, I gave him a couple choices in an EAR 834 (knockoff) on eBay which with some quick mods should sound pretty good and the Graham Slee line. The other upgrade that was a must is replacing his Ortofon Red with something that will dig a bit more detail out of the grooves. For that I settled on the AT VM750SH which uses the Shibata stylus.
So, after a ton of deliberation, Greg settled on the Yaqin, the Slee Era Gold, the AT cart and we were able to squeeze in some fair cabling and a DeZorel power conditioner (that I basically gave him). These will be driving the Aperion Audio 6T floor standers.
The Yaqin, though not super high end, has lots of room for mods to improve the sound. There's been a boatload of these sold and it's got a fairly decent reputation for being reliable. I told him, if it breaks, either Mike Missel or myself can fix it, so no worries. He just needs to feed the beast new tubes every few years. It's a PP KT88 that does 60W in pentode mode and 30W in triode (or so they say). More than enough to drive the crap out of the Aperion's.
We talked about doing something digital and gave him a few options but he said he's pretty well dedicated to vinyl. So, we've got another valves and vinyl convert in our midst!
He should be pretty darned happy with this system. I'd think, maybe with a few mods down the line, he'll hang on to this system for a bunch of years.