After seeing Ken's recommendation in another thread of only using a 1k as beginner and then reflecting on his wisdom. I have to say that after thinking back to my own journey into sharpening that I'm in total agreement that if you are unsure if sharpening will be for you just get a good 1k stone to start. I have recommended hard splash n go stones for beginners before and I think I may now be even more entrenched.
I'll try to keep my thought process as concise as possible, but forgive me if I get bit long winded.
I started out, way back when, with a King combo stone and never got the results I was looking for. That's not to say that the King isn't a good stone because it is. However, as a new sharpener I expected it to cut much faster than it did and as a result jumped from the low grit side to the higher grit side way too soon. Having a single stone eliminates the desire to jump ship too early. Another issue with combo stones is cross contamination, i.e. getting coarse grit on the fine grit side is always a potential hazard.
To me the beginner stone is easy to use, produces good results quickly, is budget friendly and teaches good habits. To this end stones requiring soaking FAIL. Sure, once your experienced and looking for certain results soaking is a tolerable inconvenience, but for the beginner anything that takes you out of the moment of is not ideal. Time and desire are fleeting, it is important not to be taken out of the "I want to sharpen" moment by soaking times. Splash and go stones also dry faster so there is less concern about accidently putting a stone away wet and finding it cracked the next time you go to use it. The stone must cut fast, in my mind there isn't a 1k stone that cuts too quickly to recommend to a beginner. New sharpeners are often impatient to see results of their work, I know I was, the faster they get results the better. Producing similar results each time you use the stone is important. Playing in the mud is fun, but mud manipulation is another variable that changes stone characteristics and ultimately distracts complete focus, from where it should be, on proper technique. Soft stones are a bit more forgiving in that you can get away with being a little less perfect in your angle consistency... However, they will have a tendency to gouge if you wobble. A hard stone won't gouge and let you know quickly if your angles are consistent with some shiny and some dull spots along the edge. From someone that learned the hard way, trust me when I say it's easier and less frustrating to learn good technique from the start than to relearn later. If you want to go to softer or muddy stones later on in your own sharpening journey the transition is much easier once you have developed proper technique. Keeping a beginner setup budget friendly is important. A large investment up front can be intimitading and prevent a beginner from ever taking the leap. A lower price tag also leads to the user feeling less pressure to produce results. The higher the cost the more pressure there is to produce. Feeling pressure causes tenseness, which is simply not conducive to sharpening. Sharpening should be relaxing and enjoyable, you will often hear members talk about their own unique "zen state of sharpening". Don't forget sharpening is a journey. Take your time and enjoy the ride!
Now for my stone recommendations:
Shapton 1k glass - fastest cutting 1k(I have tried), works well on every steel, not as much physical feed back as some other stones, but has distinct audible feedback http://www.chefknivestogo.com/shgl10gr.html
Shapton 1.5k pro - Doesn't cut as fast as the glass, but still fast, works well on a most steels, has great physical feedback, better than the 1k glass or 1k pro(imo) http://www.chefknivestogo.com/shaptonpro1.html
Other items that are nice to have up front, but not required:
Stone holder - Some form of stone holder is nice. They keep your stone in place and the extra knuckle clearance is nice to have http://www.chefknivestogo.com/stoneholders.html
flattening plate - You can get by with just sand paper(make sure to wash the stone thoroughly after to avoid particles being left on the stone), but I would recommend putting your e-mail in to be notified when it's back in stock. They are easier to use, provide good results and will save you money in the long run http://www.chefknivestogo.com/140grdistflp.html
Magnifier - Really hard to actually see what is happening to the edge with one of these http://www.chefknivestogo.com/magnifiers.html