This morning's exercise is simple - if all my stereo gear vanished overnight and I had only $1000 to buy a new sound system, what would I buy?
The first component, which I would build my system around, would be the $549 NuForce DDA-100 digital integrated amplifier. It's USB 2.0 compatible for computer audio use, in addition to two Toslink and one RCA S/PDIF coaxial inputs. I reviewed it for TAS and was very impressed with its sound and technology.
For speakers I'd opt for the $129/pr Pioneer SP-BS22 LR, reviewed recently by Neil Gader in TAS. I heard them at the 2013 CES, demonstrated by their designer, Andrew Jones. For a small-room or nearfield system, they deliver most of the music for very little monetary investment. If I had an extra $370 fall from the sky I'd spend it on the Epos ELS8 ($499/pr) that I reviewed for TAS in 2009. They're still really musical and can play loud enough to fill a medium-sized room when tethered to the DDA-100.
Speaker cable for the system would be a five foot-long run of Kimber Kable 8PR with bare wire terminations for $98.
Since the DDA-100 is an all-digital device, I wouldn't need any analog interconnects, but I would need some digital cables. For USB I'd go for WireWorld's Starlight USB A to B 1 meter length for $99. For S/PDIF cables I'd choose a 1-meter length of AudioQuest VDM-X priced at $55, and for Toslink I'd get a WireWorld Nova 5 optical cable for $45.
At this point I've spent $975. What would I do with the extra $25 of change jiggling around in my front pocket? I put it in my "room treatment fund" for acoustic correction for my room.
So, there goes a $1000 well-spent...