"Linn turntables are available on ebay for around $US1000. How important are cables and other connectors? I gather that any old cable from the 99cents store will not do?"
Check with your audio dealer first to see if they have a used Linn LP12 available. In any case, be sure to have an authorized Linn guy check it over and set it up correctly for you. A mid-price arm and moving-coil cartridge should bring a lot of musical nuance and inner clarity of both voice and instruments.
Interconnect cables and speaker wires are definitely important. Just don't spend a huge proportion of your total budget on them. One good brand that helps the clarity come through without shrillness or harshness is Transparent Audio. Again, check their website to see if there's a dealer anywhere near you. There are, of course, other fine brands of interconnects and speaker wire. Let your dealer guide you on this.
I discovered a long, long time ago that some audio components, especially (but not limited to) speakers, are geared towards rock music listeners. Bass ripples across the floor and kicks you in the solar plexus while high-hat cymbals smack you right between the eyebrows. Very exciting! What's not exciting is how a violin or soprano voice sounds on a system like that - excruciating! What you want is balance; the keyword is "neutral". Obviously, if your stereo exaggerates one part of the music it usually does so at the expense of something else.
Remember, you want to happily live with the sound for many years. Something initially impressive may be tiring to listen to at home. So give yourself time to feel confident in your choices.
Whereabouts do you live, anyway? If it's California, this web page may be a starting point to locate a good dealer: http://www.linn.co.uk/find_a_retaile...ion=California