Bargain Stereo Component solution
March 3, 2005 12:06 AM   Subscribe

I'm moving into a new apartment in a couple of weeks. It's completely wired for sound and has a rack in a closet for components. I know nothing about components, but think it would be great to hook something up. Help?

There is also a connection for the television on the complete opposite side of the great room, so whatever solutions are suggested should keep that in mind. I haven't had a chance to look at the connections, but I'm assuming them to be kind of standard.

I don't want to spend a lot. I'm not a audiophile (obviously), I just want to enjoy having good music piped throughout the apartment.

Most of my music is currently in MP3 format, so a hard drive solution might be interesting. I do not listen to broadcast radio, but I don't know if that matters. CDs and MP3s is all I'm looking at here.
posted by FlamingBore to Grab Bag (10 answers total)
The best part about component systems are that, like a PC, you can upgrade parts independently of each other. I believe it is a good idea to purchase the best receiver you can budget and build your system around that.

-Home Theater vs Stereo? Home theater, assuming you will be hooking it up to the TV.
-Front Inputs - If you are going to plugging in your mp3 player or laptop, accessible inputs are a big bonus.
Remote- The problem you run into with component systems is you often have a dozen remotes laying around as different brands do not work together and you can never find the right one. Pick a reciever with a good RF 'learning remote' or buy one separately to handle everything at once. If you are planning to buy all components from the same manufacturer, it helps if they have a good reciever remote.

If you are mainly looking for music buy a bunch of small, cheap speakers for the other rooms, and either 2 tower speakers (music) or more of a satellite/subwoofer approach (watching lots of movies).

CD player - Just buy a brand name 5 or 6 disc changer and be done with this. Preferably the same brand as your reciever. Ive never liked 100+ CD jukeboxes myself. I can never find the CD im looking for and putting them in / taking them out is a chore.

Bring some of your own CD to a good audio store and take a good look at the different recievers, each company has their own style. Figure out what you like and then buy it online of course.
posted by sophist at 2:26 AM on March 3, 2005

Figure out what you like and then buy it online of course.

please don't. if you're going to do serious auditioning at a store you're going to be using their time and money. if you don't then pay for it, there likely to close down. good audio stores are hard enough to find as it is. so please consider paying for the service you use by buying from them.
posted by andrew cooke at 4:37 AM on March 3, 2005

Agreed with andrew cooke. Independent audio shops are one of the few stores left where you can really get to know the people working behind the counter, and get after-sale service above and beyond a warranty. They're great places, and you should try to support them if you can -- especially if you're going to be using them to help make your purchase.
posted by Jairus at 4:50 AM on March 3, 2005

posted by andrew cooke at 5:23 AM on March 3, 2005

If you care about sound quality, spend as much as possible on speakers and buy everything else cheap.
posted by fuzz at 5:51 AM on March 3, 2005

fuzz's idea is a great way to end up wondering why your $2000 speakers sound like shit. Don't neglect any part of your sound system -- it only takes one crappy component to ruin a system. Weakest link, and all.
posted by Jairus at 6:29 AM on March 3, 2005

It is all about the learning process. That is the advantage of component systems, change one thing at a time and see what happens.

The best beginner advice I got was "speakers and source". So fuzz is right, but quality masterings of recordings is just as important as your speakers.

I don't know how techie you are, but for me a PC is a central part of my audio system. It is a lot of fiddling though, even for people who like to fiddle.
posted by Chuckles at 7:07 AM on March 3, 2005

Don't get an all-in-one system. That's a way to spend extra on crap.

Don't buy Bose. That's a way to spend extra on crap.

You'll want a receiver, cd, and speakers.

For a receiver I'd look at Crutchfield -- some of the links here point there already -- and start comparing features. More or less any of the $200+ home-theater receivers will be just fine. Grab the one with the feature set you like, or whose looks you like, whatever. If you order from Crutchfield you'll end up paying not-rock-bottom prices, but you'd also be able to send it back if you don't like it (IIRC).

If the receiver is going to live in a closet, you should think about a receiver with an RF remote instead of an IR remote, so it'll work through the door/wall. This'll cost more. Alternatively, talk to the Apartment People about how they control stuff in the closet; maybe they have an IR repeater or something already set up.

If there are multiple sets of speaker jacks in different rooms, you might look at receivers with multiple zones, that can play different things in different zones.

CD: Doesn't really matter. You'll probably find life a little bit easier if you get one from whoever makes your receiver, like sophist says. When they're the same brand, the receiver's remote *usually* controls the CD player seamlessly.

You might think about getting a dvd deck instead of cd, not for the video so much as the expanded audio. Get one that plays mp3s, sacd's, dvd-audio, dts, all that good stuff. It won't cost appreciably more than a cd player, and can do more.

Speakers: find a store in your area that stocks some combination of Paradigm, Energy, NHT, PSB, B&W -- no doubt others can add to that list. Then tell them your situation and they'll help you. Unlike receivers or cd decks, you're better off going to a stereo shop for speakers.

Others: Creative and others make wireless widgets that play mp3s and other files on your desktop pc.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:21 AM on March 3, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks all. I should have mentioned that the speakers are staying, they are built into the ceilings and walls and the small Bose speakers in the bedroom are hard mounted into the ceiling, so I'm set there.

I do like the sound of a multi-zone situation. From the sound of it I'm looking at a minimum of a receiver and a CD deck. Yes?
posted by FlamingBore at 7:55 AM on March 3, 2005

Receiver, CD or DVD deck, and some way to get sound from your PC into the receiver if you want to do that.

If the closet has a network port, either Onkyo or Denon makes receivers with ethernet-in. Gateway *used to* sell a dvd player with wired or wireless network capability, but I don't know if they still do. If not, get some sort of wireless digital-audio thing. Creative makes them for the PC world, as do some other people, or get an airport if you have a mac.

So receiver and cd/dvd deck is the minimum, and also almost the maximum you'd need.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:40 AM on March 3, 2005

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