The perrenial "Recommend a decent but not overly expensive stereo" question

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My boom-box is dying and I don't see any real point in having it repaired. I'm thinking about buying a real (or almost real) stereo instead of just replacing it with a similar boom-box. How much would it cost for a decent amplifier, CD player, and pair of speakers, and can you recommend some models? ("Tyra Banks. . . Luba Shumeyko Hegreeakers. . .") I think I want to get away from the multi-disc CD players, because they do annoying things (at least the cheap boom-box varieties I buy).

arthritic hand golden fist (RSLaRue), Thursday, 14 December 2006 02:51 (fourteen years ago) link

If you're looking to avoid annoying CD players, I would urge you to run away, fast, from Harman Kardon products.

A Radio Picture (Factory Sample Not For Sale), Thursday, 14 December 2006 08:53 (fourteen years ago) link

Do you have a DVD player? What's your budget?

walterkranz (walterkranz), Thursday, 14 December 2006 20:35 (fourteen years ago) link

I have a cheap DVD player. Budget? Hmmm. I squirm when it gets down to the nitty-gritty. I guess I would like spend no more than $1,000. I can't really afford that, but I figure I will need to spend more than I did for my current CD player, which was like $300 something.

arthritic hand golden fist (RSLaRue), Thursday, 14 December 2006 20:42 (fourteen years ago) link

does your DVD player play cds?

sexyDancer (sexyDancer), Thursday, 14 December 2006 20:44 (fourteen years ago) link

Do they even make single disc CD players these days?

Alex in SF (Alex in SF), Thursday, 14 December 2006 20:49 (fourteen years ago) link

I mean even single DVD players are kind of hard to find IIRC from the last time I priced stuff.

Alex in SF (Alex in SF), Thursday, 14 December 2006 20:50 (fourteen years ago) link

I've never tried playing a CD in my DVD player, but then, it wouldn't be hooked into anything but the TV (and I don't want that).

Single disc? Maybe they don't make them. I hate my current one because when if I ever do use the second tray, it keeps going back to it to look for a disc when I go back to using tray 1. Then it takes a while for it to get out of that habit. (What the actual rules are that it's following, I don't know. I just have an anthropomorphic pseudo-understanding of it.) And it makes an annoying racket when switching trays.

arthritic hand golden fist (RSLaRue), Thursday, 14 December 2006 21:34 (fourteen years ago) link

100 - all-media player
300 - reciever
600 - speakers

sexyDancer (sexyDancer), Thursday, 14 December 2006 21:48 (fourteen years ago) link

I bought a pair of Polk bookshelfs 15 years ago and I still use them. Since then I've gone through about 3-4 low-mid-ish Yamaha receivers. They like to die suddenly after a few years.

sexyDancer (sexyDancer), Thursday, 14 December 2006 21:54 (fourteen years ago) link

Disc changers always break. Single disc boxes are the best IMO. I'd say the cheapest/best solution is to use your existing DVD player as your CD player (or if they need to be in different rooms, buy another $100 DVD player) and then buy some nice powered speakers like these and a volume controller like this. That way you get a really simple setup for around $600 and you don't need an amp.

walterkranz (walterkranz), Thursday, 14 December 2006 22:04 (fourteen years ago) link

Plus if you do have all of this set up near your TV and you're using your DVD player as the CD player you get the added benefit of your DVD sound coming through your stereo rather than the cheapo TV speaker.

walterkranz (walterkranz), Thursday, 14 December 2006 22:06 (fourteen years ago) link

That volume controller wouldn't allow me to adjust the bass though, correct?

arthritic hand golden fist (RSLaRue), Thursday, 14 December 2006 22:18 (fourteen years ago) link

Yeah true. You wouldn't have tone and balance controls like you would on a receiver. No headphone out either.

walterkranz (walterkranz), Thursday, 14 December 2006 22:21 (fourteen years ago) link

avant garde decisions

sexyDancer (sexyDancer), Thursday, 14 December 2006 22:22 (fourteen years ago) link

I could put a DVD player with a receiver though?

arthritic hand golden fist (RSLaRue), Thursday, 14 December 2006 22:42 (fourteen years ago) link

I bought a pair of Polk bookshelfs 15 years ago

weird. i've been through several stereos too but my PolkAudios are still kicking, just fine. got them in like '92 or something.

obi strip (sanskrit), Thursday, 14 December 2006 22:45 (fourteen years ago) link

xpost: seems like most recievers available these days accept all sorts of signals, video, audio, analog, digital, etc, etc.

sexyDancer (sexyDancer), Thursday, 14 December 2006 22:48 (fourteen years ago) link

"I could put a DVD player with a receiver though?"

Almost certainly.

Alex in SF (Alex in SF), Thursday, 14 December 2006 22:48 (fourteen years ago) link

polk audio speakers thirded.

both my denon and onkyo receivers have done me well.

t0dd swiss (immobilisme), Thursday, 14 December 2006 22:56 (fourteen years ago) link

The phono pre-amp stopped working in my Denon amp after about 12 years, but they're cheap to replace or maybe you don't need one, other than that they do last well. I wouldn't recommend getting a (cheap) Denon CD player though, mine was crap and wore out fast.

Colonel Poo (Colonel Poo), Thursday, 14 December 2006 23:30 (fourteen years ago) link

You can get a really nice sounding stereo for $1,000 for sure. To my knowledge the only single-disc CD players now are high end; all the cheaper ones are also DVD players or multi-disc. My suggestion, having bought a couple in the last couple years, is to make sure & get one with a display that makes sense for CD players (the track number and time are easy to read). I bought a Sony DVD player at Target for around &70 that seems solid. Before that I had a Memorex DVD player with a funky display and I could never tell what track I was on. My dream is for a DVD player that can read folders in MP3s and display tags.

If you go all the way to $1k, the 100/300/600 radio mentioned above looks right. Wish I had that to spend!

Mark (Mark R), Thursday, 14 December 2006 23:46 (fourteen years ago) link

I don't, I'm just pretty irresponsible.

arthritic hand golden fist (RSLaRue), Friday, 15 December 2006 00:43 (fourteen years ago) link

I might just buy another cheapy CD player. It just seems kind of stupid to have to keep replacing them every few years. And why do they bother including a cassette portion when they never work right (i.e., start to eat tapes early on and don't making even halfway decent tape to tape copies)?

(I will keep in mind the display issues. I was wondering about track skipping and that sort of thing, but that should really be an issue I guess since a DVD player is already set up for that.)

arthritic hand golden fist (RSLaRue), Friday, 15 December 2006 00:48 (fourteen years ago) link

If you want to spend less, this Infinity bookshelf for $200 got a great review in Stereophile a couple years ago. A $200 receiver and you're in business -- will definitely sound better than an all-in-one:

http://www.stereophile.com/standloudspeakers/404infinity/

Mark (Mark R), Friday, 15 December 2006 00:54 (fourteen years ago) link

CD player = buy a SONY!!

amplifier = in my opinion the best cheap amps are made by ONKYO. get a dedicated audio receiver as opposed to a surround A/V receiver. if you want to go secondhand you can usually get nice NAD components in the 40-W range for around $300 (that's what i have).

speakers = for about $500 you could get a pair of magnepan mmgs ... believe the hype, they're *awesome*.

i've heard you can also get nice harmon kardon speakers in that price range as well.

vahid (vahid), Friday, 15 December 2006 00:55 (fourteen years ago) link

I bought a sony dvd player at costco two years ago that plays mp3 cdrs for $60. It has worked wonderfully. I only wish it would read dvd mp3 discs. Maybe it can, I dunno. I've tried it once and it didn't work.

Also, a yamaha 6.1 receiver (which I'm really happy with) and some mid-priced jbl surround speakers. Recently, I've been plugging my ipod through the receiver and haven't looked back since. I'm very happy with my set up.

I can't quite remember the exact price of the reciever...maybe it was around $320. And the speakers were $140...again bought from costco.

van priest (van smakk), Friday, 15 December 2006 01:22 (fourteen years ago) link

vahid, do those speakers require that you play things at a pretty high volume to really benefit from what's unique about them? (I keep my stereo at a moderate level since I'm in an apartment, although this one actually lets me get away with more than my old one did.)

arthritic hand golden fist (RSLaRue), Friday, 15 December 2006 01:28 (fourteen years ago) link

I mean, I realize detail is going to be lost if the stereo is turned down too low, regardless of what speakers you are using, but I'm wondering if those speakers would be worth it for the sort of pretty conservative volumes I keep my stereo at.

arthritic hand golden fist (RSLaRue), Friday, 15 December 2006 01:29 (fourteen years ago) link

Always heard that ribbon speakers were kind of fragile and hard to drive, but curious to hear a pair.

Mark (Mark R), Friday, 15 December 2006 01:38 (fourteen years ago) link

rockist, i have a technics receiver that is good/cheap/easy and their stuff will last you forever. i think i even bought it in philly at nathan munchnick's which is a horrible store but i am lazy and it was close to home.

i have boston acoustic bookshelf speakers that were also reasonably priced and i really dig the sounds they get out of small speakers(i would buy bigger ones, but the room they are in is small so there is no point right now). they have a range of sizes and prices. (i'm also really happy with the boston computer speaker system i bought. they sound really good and were very cheap.) their stuff will also last you forever.

unless you are an audiophile, most mid-range cd players are fine for home use. sony is fine. they are cheap too.

you could have a serviceable system for 500 or 600 bucks.

scott seward (121212), Friday, 15 December 2006 04:28 (fourteen years ago) link

rockist - actually it's like mark says. it's very hard to get them to sound LOUD at all, and they tend to sound best at medium-low volume. OTOH because they don't put out very much bass they do tend to get drowned out a bit more than box speakers by things like showers and dishwashing. also they are probably the worst ever for "i'll put on some music and go in the other room" because you have to be in front of them to really hear what's going on.

i have a studio apartment so they work out nicely but the issue of finding a place to put the damn things is definitely an issue.

vahid (vahid), Friday, 15 December 2006 04:39 (fourteen years ago) link

Yeah, those things are huge. Don't you have to put them pretty far out from the wall as well?

walterkranz (walterkranz), Friday, 15 December 2006 04:46 (fourteen years ago) link

Weighting 100/300/600 is stupid - shit in, shit out. 600 dollar speakers are gonna be wasted on a 100 dollar source. I have a £200 CD player, a £300 amp and £200 speakers.

For me the most important part of the set-up is the amp. I have a Cambridge Audio Azur 640A V2 which is absolutely phenomenal, and inproved the whole system massively when I upgraded to it from a £140 Denon that I'd had for years.

They key things are to pick a budget (and STICK to it), research brands and models, and then GO AND LISTEN and compare. Take your favourite CDs, book a slot at a hi-fi store, and test stuff. Buy what you like the sound of best.

Sick Mouthy (sickmouthy), Friday, 15 December 2006 11:06 (fourteen years ago) link

ihttp://img.photobucket.com/albums/v236/njsouthall/Headphones%20and%20hi-fi/IMG_6155.jpg?t=1166181073

Rack, speaker stands, headphone amp, limestone slabs etcetera optional.

Sick Mouthy (sickmouthy), Friday, 15 December 2006 11:11 (fourteen years ago) link

Weighting 100/300/600 is stupid - shit in, shit out. 600 dollar speakers are gonna be wasted on a 100 dollar source. I have a £200 CD player, a £300 amp and £200 speakers.

Disagree. Improvements as you go up the price scale with digital sources and solid-state integrated amps are fairly subtle, improvements with speakers are huge. I've struggled to discern a difference between a £200 Pioneer and a £2,000 Teac/Theta combo through Wilson Benesch speakers; replace the WB speakers with (still very good) Sonus Fabers at a third of the price and the whole world collapses into grey mush (at least until you adjust to the SFs). Even entry-level electronics are fairly decent now; speaker technology has moved along at a much slower pace, however. Cheap boxes sound cheap, regardless of what you put through them.

Having said that, 100/300/600 is a little lob-sided.

£250 Squeezebox/£300 integrated amp/£450 speakers would be my favoured way of spending a grand thesedays (I'm guessing the price of the Squeezebox, they're $250 in the US). And don't go mad on cables - Maplin's low-end branded stuff is fine.

Michael Jones (MichaelJ), Friday, 15 December 2006 12:06 (fourteen years ago) link

i think i even bought it in philly at nathan munchnick's which is a horrible store but i am lazy and it was close to home.

I can't remember if they are still open. I had a co-worker who seemed to be a bit of an audiophile (has a huge classical music collection--not that those two are necessarily synonymous) who thought that store was great.

arthritic hand golden fist (RSLaRue), Friday, 15 December 2006 12:16 (fourteen years ago) link

What's a squeezebox?

Sick Mouthy (sickmouthy), Friday, 15 December 2006 12:50 (fourteen years ago) link

Also, my other audiophile Guru (haha, that's what I refer to you as, Jonesy, to my girlfriend!) swears blind on biasing towards source and stepping down on amp and again on speakers! Yet another audiophile buddy of mine concurs on amps being most important! Horses and, indeed, courses...

Sick Mouthy (sickmouthy), Friday, 15 December 2006 12:51 (fourteen years ago) link

Never understood how the speakers couldn't be the most important part of the equation (but I'm all ears). Moving air has to be a bigger engineering challenge than passing along an electric signal, it would seem.

Mark (Mark R), Friday, 15 December 2006 13:07 (fourteen years ago) link

It's about whether or not your amplifier has the necessary power and control to work those speakers though - on a technical level there are numbers and shit to consider, impedance and ohms and stuff. Speakers with low sensitivity aren't gonna really shine if the amp can't deal with them - I'd been thinking my Tannoys weren't great until I got the Cambridge, when suddenly they seemed astonishing cos finally they were being driven properly.

Sick Mouthy (sickmouthy), Friday, 15 December 2006 13:12 (fourteen years ago) link

Saying that, I am now thinking "what would a pair of B&Ws sound like with this?", and the only reason I'd want to upgrade my CD player is because of it's temperamental turn-on routine.

Sick Mouthy (sickmouthy), Friday, 15 December 2006 13:13 (fourteen years ago) link

I have Alesis Monitor Ones and they sound great. I think you can get a pair for like 100 pounds.

Euai Kapaui (tracerhand), Friday, 15 December 2006 13:14 (fourteen years ago) link

The Squeezebox.

Yes, there is a question of system synergy and component matching to consider but I think it's overstated a bit wrt modern separates; unless you go into the realm of electrostatics, there aren't many speakers around which are that difficult a load or too many solid-state amps too weedy to drive them.

Agree with Mark. The electronics inside a CD player or an SS amp - even the near-audiophile-grade stuff - have become ridiculously cheap and abundant inside the last 10-15 years; one could say that speaker crossovers have benefited from this too, but I doubt the magnets or drivers or enclosures are any cheaper to manufacture/test than they were a decade ago. Accurate electromechanical devices tend to be expensive (see also: cartridges, though economies of scale play a part there); laser transports, reconstruction filters, etc are not.

It was only with the advent of the Linn Sondek in the '70s that the GIGO concept really took hold in audiophile circles (Ivor T of Linn would play the LP12 through a transistor radio in order to show how much better than the competition it was and how relatively unimportant the speakers were!); prior to that people always concentrated on the speakers. As they should, in my opinion.

Michael Jones (MichaelJ), Friday, 15 December 2006 13:24 (fourteen years ago) link

How much of your listening is via headphones, Nick?

Mark (Mark R), Friday, 15 December 2006 13:27 (fourteen years ago) link

A fair whack, but I now have a different system entirely for headphones. Here comes a picture!

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v236/njsouthall/Headphones%20and%20hi-fi/IMG_6162.jpg

That CD player is my old Marantz with the dodgy analogue out, so I added a DAC (the top box on the left) so I could use the headphone amp with it. It's in another room for comfort reasons - I like to recline on a load of cushions on my bed when headphoning!

Ignoring iPod and Portapros (which get about 1.5 to 2 hours a day during my commute) I reckon between 30 and 50% of my listening is with headphones. I have four pairs - two for the iPod (Portapros and SAhures for isolation) and Grados and Sennheisers for "home listening".

God this is so geeky.

I'm looking at speakers now thanks to you guys, in the knowledge that I have a £275 bonus coming next week. It's not worth being castrated by my girlfriend though.

Sick Mouthy (sickmouthy), Friday, 15 December 2006 14:08 (fourteen years ago) link

I've got this great rationalization thing going: I'm going to need to start saving money for some big ticket items and for relocating in the next few years, so I should spend money on a stereo system now while I "have" it.

arthritic hand golden fist (RSLaRue), Friday, 15 December 2006 15:06 (fourteen years ago) link

Another question that I didn't see -- do you want Home Theater? At this point only the higher end receivers (starting around the level of NAD) focus on two-channel for strictly music.

I also disagree with Sick Mouthy regarding electronics. It seems he is getting his information from audiophiles who deal with a different galaxy of price ranges. If they've got loudspeakers beyond the $2,000 to $3,000 range (not including center and rear surround), then audiophile types turn to electronics to squeeze out incrementally higher quality.

I'm happy with what I did. My 14 year-old Sony HT receiver died last winter, as did one of my Infinity speakers. I wanted to focus on getting nice speakers and worry about a big receiver upgrade later. So I got a Yamaha HTR 5730 used on eBay for a mere $65. I tell ya, I couldn't be happier with it. It's powerful, versatile, and sounds far better than I would have imagined. I've had my eye on the Harman/Kardon AVR 645, because I like the sound of H/K, and it has a USB input, and the remote can control the playlist on the computer via Musicmatch, iTunes and other software. Its release was delayed a good ten months, and they've had some QC issues with the 635. I'm waiting to see how this batch turns out. Sound quality gets more consistent good marks over Denon. With my trusty Yammy, I can sit it out 'til next year, wait for the price to drop to $700.

I have a Sony 5CD carousel that's worked fine for 13 years. I see no problem with carousel players. But it is best to get those new with warranty, since they do break more often than receivers.

For speakers I had space considerations. With my apt, I have to have the speakers close to the wall, so they had to be front driven, with a small footprint to fit in the spaces available. Had I had more space, I would have gotten the Wharfedale Evolution 40. I made a few excursions to area listening rooms to check out Paradigm, Monitor, Def Tech, Klipsch and Rega. Rega are famous for their turntables, but I saw some speakers featured in some audiophile magazine as a best buy -- Rega R3, for $800 for the pair. I love 'em! With their looks, they're gf/wife friendly too.

Another one I would have considered had I been able to listen to them was the Mordaunt-Short Avant 908i. Same design principle as the Rega, with the bass woofer on the side, sparkling reviews. I like what I've read about the center and surround speakers too. They're currently available for $700, definitely worth checking out.

$700 + $100 for used receiver, $100 for cd player, voila. Later you can upgrade the receiver and add surround speakers when you can afford it.

Fastnbulbous (Fastnbulbous), Friday, 15 December 2006 17:13 (fourteen years ago) link

I should point out that, although I subscribe to the theory that you should spend the big bucks on the speakers, that's not how my system evolved (I ran out of money and space, basically).

My source:amp:speaker ratio is actually 2:4:1; and that source and those amps could happily do justice to anything up to a 2:4:8 ratio, I reckon. But, unless I win the lottery or I sell my kids on eBay, it ain't gonna happen.

Michael Jones (MichaelJ), Friday, 15 December 2006 17:31 (fourteen years ago) link

I agree that the bulk of your money should go into speakers. Another reason for this is that a lot of people are upgrading to 5.1 surround and getting rid of perfectly good amps and receivers in the process. If you don't mind buying used and scouring ebay you can find perfectly good amps really inexpensively. As for the source, for a setup under $1000 I don't think there's going to be the huge difference between CD players that there is between turntables.

I still think that powered speakers could be a good way to go. This focuses the bulk of your money on the best amp/speaker combo you can buy. If your only input source is going to be a CD player there's really no reason to have a big old receiver with switchable inputs, a radio tuner and all of that crap. And in my opinion the need for tone controls goes away if you actually have some decent sounding speakers. And with with a little extra cash you can add a powered subwoofer which generally has it's own level control, so there's your bass control!

walterkranz (walterkranz), Friday, 15 December 2006 17:58 (fourteen years ago) link

My own system is unusual though I guess. CDs and mp3s played from my computer through a DA (metric halo) into a passive volume controller (not that NHT unit though) into a Hafler p3000 amp and Event 20/20 speakers which are by far the weakest link. Vinyl comes in through a cheap old Technics table and a cheapo phono preamp, into the AD converters and back out through the computer with everything else. This means I'm listening to vinyl digitally! But the bonus is I can record anything I'm listening to at any time. The downside (or is it?) is that my wife can't figure the system out so I have to control all of the music in the house.

walterkranz (walterkranz), Friday, 15 December 2006 18:01 (fourteen years ago) link

I like my Onkyo amp/receiver a lot. Also am very happy with my Paradigm speakers. My 5-disc Sony changer works fine after 7 years.

sleeve (sleeve), Friday, 15 December 2006 18:51 (fourteen years ago) link

Is that Bose suggestion a joke? A good place to research opinions is at Audioholics forum. Just don't mention Bose, heh.

Fastnbulbous (Fastnbulbous), Friday, 15 December 2006 19:06 (fourteen years ago) link

no highs, no lows,
the customer testimonials video on the site is hilarious, tho

sexyDancer (sexyDancer), Friday, 15 December 2006 19:28 (fourteen years ago) link

people have mentioned buying used amps, but everyone seems to be assuming new speakers. my entire system is used. bought mostly through http://www.audiogon.com/

NAD 2600A amp for ~$250, B&K Pro10 Sonata preamp for ~$250, MSB Link I DACs for ~$150 each, and Vandersteen 2ci speakers for $450 ($1200 or so new [a decade ago]). most audiophiles take good care of their stuff. of course, it's best in the rare case that you can check them out first. i was fortunate in that respect with the speakers, but everything else i bought sight unseen and have been happy with.

W i l l (common_person), Friday, 15 December 2006 22:17 (fourteen years ago) link

Dudes (mainly Jonesy) I am seriously considering new speakers and have in the region of £300 to spend, perhaps a little more (payrise and Xmas bonus). They would be my last "upgrade" bar a new job and loadsamoney for a longlong time. I am thinking of models by B&W, Kef and Quad, and leaning towards the Quad 11Ls. What say you? Tomorrow I shall scout around local dealers and see what's what.

Sick Mouthy (sickmouthy), Thursday, 21 December 2006 09:39 (fourteen years ago) link

The Kef iQ5s are a consideration if found discounted.

Sick Mouthy (sickmouthy), Thursday, 21 December 2006 09:44 (fourteen years ago) link

B&W - solid, reliable, don't make anything else
Kef - spoiled their copybook with some zingy-sounding budget boxes in the early '90s but I think their Uni-Q technology has matured now
Quad - known best for their electrostatics, don't know much about their boxes

Thing is, I don't read the hi-fi press any more so I don't know what's around. Ruark and Epos used to do very nice standmount speakers around the £300 mark, but the former certainly seem to have abandoned that part of the market. All you can do is try to do home trials of display versions of the above in your own room (in-store speaker demos are a bit useless); most good stores should let you borrow speakers for a full-RRP swipe of your card. Ah, but you're in the remote southwest, aren't you? Was this going to be an internet purchase?

Funnily enough, I'm helping the Pinefox buy a separates system at the moment, so maybe YOU could help ME!

I'm thinking something along the lines of:
Pro-Ject Debut III turntable
Denon DCD500 CD player (or NAD T514 DVD player or perhaps just a £100-150 Sony DVD player)
Pioneer A109 or Marantz PM4400 or Denon PMA355 amp (all have phono stage; Marantz/Denon have remote control too)
Acoustic Energy Aegis Evo One speakers

With cables and stands, should be under £700.

Michael Jones (MichaelJ), Thursday, 21 December 2006 12:32 (fourteen years ago) link

(Sorry, you did say "local dealers"...)

Michael Jones (MichaelJ), Thursday, 21 December 2006 12:32 (fourteen years ago) link

I have a £200 CD player, a £300 amp and £200 speakers.

-- Sick Mouthy (njsouthal...), December 15th, 2006.

temporary enrique (temporary enrique), Thursday, 21 December 2006 12:36 (fourteen years ago) link

Point?

Michael Jones (MichaelJ), Thursday, 21 December 2006 12:45 (fourteen years ago) link

(Are you saying SickM is just going to recommend the same system to the Pinefox that he has himself?)

Michael Jones (MichaelJ), Thursday, 21 December 2006 12:47 (fourteen years ago) link

(Because I was kinda hoping he'd auditioned and maybe dismissed some of the above gear and I'd be interested to know his experiences.)

Michael Jones (MichaelJ), Thursday, 21 December 2006 13:00 (fourteen years ago) link

There are two decent stores in Exeter, Gulliford (formerly part of Audio Excellence) and Sevenoaks, plus a Richer Sounds (where I got my amp [which I will admit I didn't demo, but due to the nature of the upgrade it was a pretty safe bet]). Of course what they stock and what I can borrow to test is a different matter.

I've got an old Pro-Ject Debut turntable which is terrific, although massively underused (less than 100 LPs vs 1,500+ CDs to choose from), so I'd vouch for the III. You can get a version of the III with a built-in phono too, which seems like a smart idea to me.

My amp before the Cambridge was a Denon PMSA250SE which lasted me for years and was fine, and is still fine now with a mate of mine. It was only 30watts though but presumably the 355 is more?

I don't know the Pioneer or Marantz. The Cambridge Audio amps seem to be the most highly-praised entry-level and low-mid level stuff at the moment, and I'd certainly vouch for mine (hence thinking about getting new speakers).

Speakers is more interesting, cos Wharfedale have been winning awards left right and centre for budget ones lately, and Q Acoustics released a model called 1010 a few months ago which are meant to be small but absolutely great. This is going off reading about them though rather than hearing. I'm imagining Pinefox won be listening to banging techno and hiphop so some small, controlled units like that might be right up his street.

Sick Mouthy (sickmouthy), Thursday, 21 December 2006 14:08 (fourteen years ago) link

i have a cambridge audio amp and wharfdale speakerz.

i got them in richer sounds almost exactly 10 (ten) years ago. obviously they are doing well, longevity-wise. i have nothing to compare them to. they were not cheap back then, but definitely a good deal.

temporary enrique (temporary enrique), Thursday, 21 December 2006 14:31 (fourteen years ago) link

Oooh, Jonesy - this might be an interesting idea for Pinefox - http://www.superfi.co.uk/index.cfm/page/moreinfo.cfm/Product_ID/2125

That's my CD player with the matching amp. Couple of hundred for speakers, hundred and thirty for turntable, and stands and cables should bring it to around £700.

Sick Mouthy (sickmouthy), Thursday, 21 December 2006 15:00 (fourteen years ago) link

Thanks for the input, chaps.

I did see that NAD combo on the Superfi site but then started to wonder about waiting in for the delivery vs going and buying it yourself; I think PF might prefer the latter. Also, NAD amp is without a phono stage, so that means the pricier (and rarer) Debut III Phono. Buying them separately might be a little too expensive.

Anyway, your mention of Kef set me thinking...thinking and walking, actually, to Tottenham Court Road, where I saw the very lovely Q-Compacts for £130. So they're a contender (as are the Q1s, if I can find them). Discovered that both models above the A109 in the Pioneer range (A209r, A307r) are remote-control and still within budget; chap in one store recommended the Wharfedales or B&Ws with the Pioneer amp, chap in another store recommended the Q Acoustics (which seem tiny!). Both warned me off the Missions, funnily enough. TCR has at least three potential one-stop shops, where PF could get everything he needs - but can you try before you buy?

Debut III is a no-brainer (extra £30 = variety of colours!). Couldn't find the AE Aegis speakers anywhere, so they become a little less attractive. Saw a sleek Marantz DVD for under £100 but it felt a bit cheap and the display was poor; the digital source remains the quandary.

It's not really my choice, any of this, so I'm rather getting ahead of myself...

(And, for you, Nick - I saw some very nice Epos speakers for around £350. Those Quads look the business though.)

Michael Jones (MichaelJ), Thursday, 21 December 2006 15:49 (fourteen years ago) link

I've noted the Epos. God knows if anywhere in Exeter will stock them! I think my choice may be KEF, KEF or B&W. Hmph.

Sick Mouthy (sickmouthy), Thursday, 21 December 2006 16:46 (fourteen years ago) link

I am being told very nice things about Monitor Audio Silver RS1s, at £350.

Sick Mouthy (sickmouthy), Thursday, 21 December 2006 19:17 (fourteen years ago) link

FWIW, the Pinefox system:

Pro-Ject Debut III
NAD Phono PP2/C521BEE/C325BEE
Q Acoustics 1020
Atacama stands
Ixos, QED, Profigold cables

The PF was rather nonplussed at the manual speed-change on the Debut III but even less impressed that push-button 33/45 carried a £95 premium (coming as it did only on a model also sporting a built-in Pro-Ject Phono Box; at that stage we were leaning towards phono-equipped Pioneer and Marantz amps and this seemed superfluous).

Anyway, we eventually found ourselves after about three hours, half-a-dozen TCR audio salons and many different potential permutations listening to Sandy Denny's North Star Grassman and The Ravens through the NAD gear and the 1020s; we'd already seen the NAD stuff elsewhere, been very taken with it but, mindful of the line-level only 320/325 and the slightly high price, had kinda ruled it out. Salesguy offered a hefty discount on the CD/amp pairing and then, upon discovering the 320 was out of stock in PF's preferred finish, suggested the newer 325 at the same discounted price (these TCR fellas are terrified you'll just go next door). Too good to refuse, even if it meant going upstairs and buying a separate phono stage. Also achieved the aim of getting everything in one place.

Did consider Kefs, B&Ws and Wharfedales but Sandy D sounded glorious through the Q Acoustics.

Now, I'd love to say that we set it all up and all was right with the world but...PF's lighting circuit fuse blew in his flat an hour or so after we got back, meaning I was working from the light of a single table lamp and, furthermore, I couldn't unsheath the bare wire from the QED speaker cables to save my life. Back at mine later that night, armed with a Stanley knife and a different approach, I stripped the cables back but it was too late then (PF lives a 30min bus journey away). We had listened to the rest of the gear through headphones, so we knew it all worked (what a pleasure it is to set up that Pro-Ject deck - a doddle).

I hope the PF calls me today and tells me how good Lloyd Cole is sounding...

Michael Jones (MichaelJ), Sunday, 31 December 2006 13:31 (fourteen years ago) link

My (cheap ass) DVD player is not even working a lot of the time, so now I need to go buy a new one of those, so I guess I might just do the DVD/CD player system thing, now I just have to choose. And it's not like I have a lot of money, but I'm just going to buy another cheap DVD player and another cheap CD player otherwise, so I might as well get something that's worth enough that I might take it and get it repaired.

RSLaRue (RSLaRue), Sunday, 31 December 2006 18:33 (fourteen years ago) link

Oooh, sounds (reads?) good, Jonesy! After a few hours with e.s.t., Jaga Jazzist and Polar Bear through the NAS/Cambridge/Tannoys I've retreated to Aimee Mann and Electrelane through my Marantz/Corda/Alessandro headphone rig.

Sick Mouthy (sickmouthy), Tuesday, 2 January 2007 22:02 (fourteen years ago) link

I almost played a Terry Durham track through the Copland/Audiolab/Heybrooks earlier but found spooning five scoops of Cow & Gate formula into a 160ml container rather more pressing. So, it's back to Musica Futurista and Koogs/Jerry The Nipper/Mooro's 2006 comps on the Samsung/Sony "rig" tomorrow morning on the bus.

(Should get to hear PF's system in all its glory Thursday night...)

Michael Jones (MichaelJ), Tuesday, 2 January 2007 23:53 (fourteen years ago) link

Whoever says speakers aren't the most important piece of the pie is insane. Your speaker design will colour the sound more than any other component in the system. A reasonable CD player and an appropriate amplifier should cost you about half what you spend on the speakers themselves.

Andrew (enneff), Wednesday, 3 January 2007 03:00 (fourteen years ago) link

I really don't know how to spell perrenial. I thought I had double-checked. Double letters kill me.

Anyway, I decided I need something NOW as a stop-gap measure, so I went out and bought a $50 boom-box type thing, since I alreayd had in mind that I'd like to get something portable to take with me if I ever decide to resume practicing dance at my gym. (I never practiced at this one, just a previous one, and the space is not as inviting in the new one, for various reasons.) Anyway, I got it home and it would not play. At first I thought it might just be the CD I put in (which might have been made in Lebanon) so I tried something more mainstream, but no, just no response.

So tomorrow I think I am going to take it back and go stereo shopping, following some of the suggestions made above.

RSLaRue (RSLaRue), Sunday, 14 January 2007 02:04 (fourteen years ago) link

Actually it does work, I just neglected to remove a piece of cardboard in the CD player.

Sounds tinny. Can you believe it? $50 CD player that sounds tinny? I think I am still going to try to pull together a system (I like how I say it as though what I am looking for is going to be so complicated) and pretend I will use this one to take with me for practicing salsa at the gym or wherever.

Wow, it really sounds tinny when there's a big cymbal strike.

RSLaRue (RSLaRue), Sunday, 14 January 2007 19:49 (fourteen years ago) link

Can't find these Infinity Primus speakers around here, so I just ordered a pair (160s actually). Will report back.

RSLaRue (RSLaRue), Monday, 15 January 2007 17:01 (fourteen years ago) link

four years pass...

anyone have a recc for a combo cd player/ipod dock?

tylerw_sandbox, Friday, 30 December 2011 20:03 (nine years ago) link

I believe these all have iPod docks, but you'll want to double check.

Yamaha CRX-330 CD receiver, $300 MSRP ($250)
Yamaha DRX-730 CD/DVD receiver, $450 MSRP ($330)
Denon RCD N7 Network CD receiver, $600 MSRP ($444)
Marantz M-CR603 Network CD Receiver, $700 MSRP ($562)
Peachtree Audio Decco, $800 MSRP

Prices in parens are what I found via Google/Amazon/eBay at the time I wrote this in July: http://www.fastnbulbous.com/computer-audio.htm

Fastnbulbous, Friday, 30 December 2011 20:51 (nine years ago) link

hmm, thanks -- the first one is generally within my price range.
is there a way to hook up a turntable to it? sorry, i am clueless about a lot of this stuff.

tylerw_sandbox, Friday, 30 December 2011 21:00 (nine years ago) link

i mean, basically what I'm looking for is this:
a stereo system for my office (which is fairly small), that includes decent speakers, a CD player, a turntable and a way to hook up an ipod... whaddaya think, is it possible for under $500?
for some reason whenever i start looking this stuff up, i get overwhelmed/depressed. help me.

tylerw_sandbox, Friday, 30 December 2011 21:14 (nine years ago) link

Turn that frown upside down, shopping for gear is fun, plus you have a job where you can play records in your office, you bastard ;)

Audio Technica AT-LP60USB Fully Automatic Belt Driven Turntable with USB Port - $98

Yamaha NS-6490, 70 watts, $150 MSRP ($106)
or
Polk Audio Monitor 30, 100 watts, $200 MSRP ($70)

That should keep it under $500 total.

Fastnbulbous, Friday, 30 December 2011 21:37 (nine years ago) link

Normally I'd recommend better speakers, but unless you can lock your office securely, I would hate to keep too nice of speakers at work. You can always upgrade 'em. In the past I've spent as much as I can afford on the speakers, then upgraded the rest gradually.

Fastnbulbous, Friday, 30 December 2011 21:44 (nine years ago) link

:D
thanks. i'll check it out. it's actually for my home office (which I'll be spending much more time in in 2012).

tylerw_sandbox, Friday, 30 December 2011 21:48 (nine years ago) link

Get a bottom of the range Bose Wave music system. It will go a bit over your budget and there aint no i-pod dock, you use the audio jack. At least you will love it. I got one a few years ago for my kitchen. It cost me £450 but is worth every penny. The sound quality is remarkable for such a small system.

jigsaw jenny, Friday, 30 December 2011 22:07 (nine years ago) link

I know you are asking for something cheap. I believe you end up spending more on cheap shit. You go into an endless cycle of replacing cheap shit, whereas with a low end quality product you get value for money. Something that is more reliable, lasts longer and makes you happier.

jigsaw jenny, Friday, 30 December 2011 22:20 (nine years ago) link

and it sucks you off.

jigsaw jenny, Friday, 30 December 2011 22:22 (nine years ago) link

hmmm...
i was looking at some of those bose things. the all in one aspect is appealing, but I'm pretty interested in finally getting something decent to play vinyl on...i've got a ton of it, just haven't had a good system in years.

tylerw_sandbox, Friday, 30 December 2011 22:24 (nine years ago) link


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