Best Speakers on a tiny budget.
January 26, 2010 9:46 AM   Subscribe

Best HiFi experience for <=100€.

I'm looking to replace my crappy Logitech 2.1 System (X530 used as 2.1) with something a little nicer.
My use case is pretty simple: Music coming from a Macbook. I sometimes watch tv-show and listen to podcast but I don't really care how they sound. Music is the #1 Priority. I listen to Rock, Folk and Electronic Music.

I'd be open to any kind of Setup, but it must be around 100€. if you have a killer idea for 150€, that might also be okay. I know that this is a ridiculous budget for a stereo system, but I don't have more.

I have come to the understanding that the best thing for music is 2 speakers and an amp or a USB DAC (because i'm only using the Mac for audio output.).
I'd be willing to do some serious ebay digging (due to my budget), but the problem is, that I don't know any good speaker brands and wouldn't know a good deal from a cheap china product.

Also keep in mind that I'm german, because speaker makers seem to be very local and often don't export their products from the US for example.
posted by kall to Technology (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: P.S.
I have one of the Macbooks that does spdif optical Audio out, if that matters in my price range.
posted by kall at 9:49 AM on January 26, 2010

I purchased this soundbar, which if you want to buy new, is probably a good way to go. I'm rather impressed with the sound quality, and am looking forward to adding a subwoofer when I can find one within my price range. Otherwise, my usual recommendation is to scan the classifieds for a used, older high quality brand (Denon, Onkyo, etc) stereo receiver and speaker set.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 10:00 AM on January 26, 2010

The VSB200 linked above takes SPDIF Optical (toslink) Stereo PCM input, and I am outputting said PCM from my TV to the VSB200. Works nice.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 10:01 AM on January 26, 2010

Best answer: I would recommend the M-Audio AV30. The AV40's are great too, but I'd recommend getting something cheaper and properly building out your system when you have the funds..

I doubt you can find a decent USB DAC + speakers for your price range.

Also, soundbars suck for music.
posted by wongcorgi at 10:08 AM on January 26, 2010

Best answer: Go old school - tried and true stereo receiver/amplifier + stereo speakers. Surf Craigslist (do you have that in Germany?) or local pawn shops/thrift stores/garage sales/etc for used or older stereo equipment. You'd be amazed what you can find for next to nothing.

Case in point: Last week I picked up a set of Cerwin Vega High Efficiency Design speakers (200W RMS @ 4ohm) that retailed in the 80s for ~$675. Got 'em for $10. The foam surrounds on the 12" woofers are beat but that's a half-hour job with a $20 kit off eBay.

I also picked up a late-80s $500-retail Sony stereo receiver on Craigslist for $50. Can do 190W RMS @ 4ohm (so it'll work nicely with my new CVs :)) and has a host of nice features and great audio specs.

Deals like this are all over the place. Stereo equipment just doesn't hold it's value on the used market unless it's *super* high-end stuff. 100-150eur can get you a killer setup.

You'd be much better off with GOOD used equipment like this over new stuff that is just average. I would go with a set of big 10-year old stereo speakers (with good specs of course) over a modern sub-$100-new bookshelf system any day of the week. Just Google whatever you find for reviews (audiokarma, etc) and specs to make sure it's a worthy buy.

The USB DAC thing is all well and fine but it's unnecessary until you've got speakers that are good enough to notice. Start with a good stereo amp and quality speakers and you'll be amazed how good your laptop can sound :)
posted by sprocket87 at 10:50 AM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

Take a look at this incredible review. Seriously, choose this as your amp:

You should easily be able to link up this killer with some speakers - follow their recommendation - and still bring the whole thing in for well under $150.
posted by roryks at 12:37 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

I recently purchased the M-Audio AV-40s, and I'm quite satisfied.
Punchy but not overpowering or muddy bass, clean mids and highs, and vastly superior to my previous speakers (Interestingly enough, I also was replacing logitech X530s).

I debated seriously between the M-Audios and the Audioengine A2s, but ultimately chose the M-Audios based on the fact that they reviewed quite similarly but the M-Audios were about 60 bucks cheaper (caught a deal on Amazon).
posted by namewithoutwords at 12:38 PM on January 26, 2010

The Audioengines get great reviews but I just want to say that I have the A5s and I'm not wild about them. They're a huge step up from the Dell 2.1 speakers I had but I find the A5 bass to be kind of shapeless in that super low notes on a piano don't really sound like a piano (I'm talking about the Johnny Cash American recordings type stuff) Also, the midrange is totally buried. Maybe I'm expecting too much, though.
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:50 PM on January 26, 2010

@roryks - the T-amp is impressive for its size but it's not without drawbacks. A little bit of Googling reveals a lot about it. I'd put my money into a more powerful, standard, used stereo amp.
posted by sprocket87 at 1:46 PM on January 26, 2010

Response by poster: Doing a little bit of searching, would a device from the Denon PMA range a good choice as the amplifier? I've seen a lot of 770's and 4xx's and also 95's for sale, but i'm really clueless about those things, so would any of these be a good choice?
posted by kall at 2:24 PM on January 26, 2010

When I was living temporarily in a small flat in Switzerland a few years ago I bought a pair of Logitech Z-4 for something like 120 CHF. I thought the sound quality was excellent, especially for the relatively low price. (Currently on for 69 euro)

Even though they're also made by Logitech, the sound quality is supposed to be better than the X530. The Z-4s use a different speaker design that had really nice tight bass and crisp treble.

I think the fact that Logitech has been selling the same model unchanged for 5 years while many other models have come and gone says a lot of good things about this model.

The DAC isn't going to be worth it in your price range. The output on Macs is pretty good as is.

If you go the used route, I think you're not going to hear much difference between Denon/Onkyo/Sony/Yamaha etc. receivers as long as they're not ancient.
posted by kenliu at 5:40 PM on January 26, 2010

Seconding sprocket87. Go oldschool. I was looking to buy some speakers a while ago and in the end I got a pair of Pioneer HPM-100s for 20 bucks. I already had an amp (nothing special) so that was all I ended up paying, and they sound great. There are tons of cheap used amps available as well. Just see what's available near you then check google to see if it's any good. The main drawback to a lot of this older stuff is that it takes up more space, so if that's not too much of an issue, go for it.
posted by benign at 6:58 PM on January 26, 2010

keep in mind that both the AudioEngine and M-Audio speakers mentioned above are powered speakers and don't require an external amp.
posted by namewithoutwords at 4:55 AM on January 27, 2010

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