What speaker set up is best for 120 gbs of mp3s and a two room apartment?
July 12, 2011 11:51 AM   Subscribe

What speaker set up is best for 120 gbs of mp3s and a two room apartment?

I have a 814 sq ft. apartment and an enormous mp3 collection. I'd like to buy some sort of stereo system to connect to my television that I can also hook up my ipod through a 3.5mm cable (bonus points if i can play my ipod (touch) wirelessly). I've also come into some vinyl records and I'd like to get a record player to hook up to the speaker system as well.

I also have a desk and computer set up in my bedroom with 8 year old $8 computer speakers. I listen to music and watch a lot of television on the computer I'd like to upgrade but I'm not sure how much money I should spend on computer speakers? Or does quality not matter as much since I'll be playing mp3s on them anyway (as opposed to, say FLAC or vinyl or something).

I also don't want to spend more than $500. What do I need?
posted by anthropomorphic to Technology (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Or does quality not matter as much since I'll be playing mp3s on them anyway (as opposed to, say FLAC or vinyl or something).

Properly encoded MP3s (320+ CBR, higher quality LAME VBR presets, etc.) should be indistinguishable from FLAC when just listening to them (FLAC is still better for re-encoding and archival purposes, obviously). And anyway just because you are listening to stuff that isn't necessarily high quality, you still want decent speakers to at the very least not make things worse.

Given your criteria I would suggest a soundbar system. You can get a good one for well under $500, they are compact which is good for small rooms that aren't really setup for a full home theater setup, you can usually hook up a bunch of different sources to one without needing a separate receiver, etc. It might be slightly overkill if you aren't going to use it for surround-sound stuff but otherwise it's the best option for a super-simple and affordable home audio setup.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:02 PM on July 12, 2011

I'd suggest the Harman Kardon Soundsticks. I bought their Soundstick II for my wife years ago--they're lightweight and quite portable if you want to move them between rooms, connect to devices by a 3.5mm jack, and I'm no expert but have no complaints about the sound. They were in the neighbourhood of $300 IIRC.
posted by Hoopo at 1:19 PM on July 12, 2011

I have audio systems all over my house.
Out of those I'd recommend a set of Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 computer speakers.
This system sounds better sounds as good and sometimes better than my Bose speakers connected to my living room sound system.
My computer is in one spot, my TV in another, and my sound system in a third. If I could bring everything together in one system for simplicity I'd definitely choose the Klipsch.
posted by No Shmoobles at 1:36 PM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Since you have iPods, I assume your music is in iTunes. If so, get an Apple TV to control the playback, and you won't have to mess with plugging in your iPods at all. ($99 or $85 reburbished form Apple.com)

As far as speakers, I don't have a specific recommendation, but if you want to run a turntable, you'll need a stereo or surround receiver with a phono input. You can find decent ones in a wide range of prices. Even a vintage unit from a thrift store would work. Then get the best speakers you can afford for the rest of your budget.

(For comparison sake: I use Apple TV and use an older set of Sony self-powered surround speakers hooked to my television, and I can play it plenty loud to fill my 3 bedroom house. In my office I have an old receiver I got from a thrift store for $10 and a pair of 80s vintage Allison 6 Cube speakers. I use a 3.5mm-to-RCA adapter plugged into the receiver's AUX-in and plug it into my iPod or computer. Sounds fantastic. Don't be afraid of older components if they are in good shape. Good sound then is still good sound now.)
posted by The Deej at 1:38 PM on July 12, 2011

if you want to run a turntable, you'll need a stereo or surround receiver with a phono input

Not necessarily, I've been seeing a lot of retro-styled portable turntables around lately that can plug in to your computer by USB and have 3.5mm headphone jacks. If the sound of those things is any good (I'm not sure), it would beat feeding the iPod into an older receiver--when I used to do that it would sound strange; I found it much harder to balance the iPod's output through the receiver than other devices like a CD player or tape deck. But yeah, the older equipment is awesome and you can get it on the cheap. I had a fantastic Marantz receiver for years, thing weighed a ton and had these little needles bouncing around to display the output levels.
posted by Hoopo at 2:27 PM on July 12, 2011

Also saying: you can get used vintage hardware pretty cheap. Sometimes there are issues with input levels, sometimes the components are worn out, some people might find the sound a bit on the warm and fuzzy side, but when it comes together it can be a beautiful thing.
posted by ovvl at 4:53 AM on July 13, 2011

Response by poster: i would love to get vintage stuff but i'm not sure what i should look for?
posted by anthropomorphic at 11:39 AM on July 13, 2011

Welll... for vintage stuff you kind of have to want to do it.

It helps to have some free time to lurk about the downtown used junk places. Then there is some trial and error in finding hardware that works, which involves experimenting with stuff that doesn't work. Speakers can be a real problem, because old speakers may often have one of the pair blown out, so you might want to consider newer speakers.

Vintage amps & receivers (amplifier with a radio tuner built in, both pretty common) tend to be brands like Marantz, Sansui, Pioneer, Technics, Yamaha, etc.

As mentioned, getting the iPod output into the vintage amp input can often be quite a bit of fuss. If the levels don't jive you will need audio specialist advice to make it work.

And of course, the vintage sound is not as crisp as newer stuff. It does have its own unique quality, which some people don't like.

So if you are still curious, just start looking around.
posted by ovvl at 8:35 PM on July 13, 2011

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