Do they still call them HiFi's?
November 30, 2011 10:18 AM   Subscribe

Looking for a small "bookshelf" style hi fi unit. I have recently moved to the US from Australia and had to leave my great little hi fi behind. I am currently playing my CD's through a borrowed portable unit that sounds like a tin can and have been hunting for something better.

I really just want a small unit as I don't have much room, with a good solid sound, while I'd love a Bose level quality, just something with good rich sound. It needs to play CD's, have a radio and a cassette tape player. Ability to plug in a turn table at a later stage an advantage. I don't have an iPod so a dock is not necessary. I suspect I will have to to second hand to get what I want which is no problem.

I do not have any idea about a lot of US brands so would love recommendations on brands and models to look out for when I hit the pawn shops. Also ideas for places to look for new units other than Best Buy like stores as the people there keep trying to push iPod docks onto me and don't seem to understand why I want to keep my rather large CD collection (damn kids get off my lawn).

I've seen this thread, but it seemed more UK based and after a more extensive system than I am looking for at the moment.

Any help appreciated as hubby has offered to get me this for a Christmas present, if I can just figure out what I want.
posted by wwax to Technology (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A few years back I bought a Sharp XL-MP130 bookshelf system as a Christmas gift for my parents who had much the same needs as you. I was so impressed with the sound, I bought the same unit for my bedroom after Christmas. This unit has a cassette deck and a 5-CD changer, plus auxiliary inputs.

Wal-Mart carried them, so there should be no shortage of them secondhand. Cost about $150 new. Oh look, here's a refurb at for $113.

N.B. To plug in a turntable you'll need a preamp, or to buy a turntable with a built-in preamp, as this unit doesn't have phono inputs.
posted by kindall at 10:53 AM on November 30, 2011

I'm pretty happy with my Tivoli Audio Model Two.

I added the subwoofer and CD player. No official cassette option, alas.

I'm not using the CD player (connect to a squeezebox, instead). PM me and it's yours for the price of shipping.
posted by notyou at 10:57 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

You may want to reassess your needs. Finding a mini system that plays CDs is easy. Finding one that also play cassettes will be more difficult. Even going back 10+ years to the last time I bought a mini system, cassette was not often included.
From the look of things, it appears to me that iPod connectivity has been added to most models.

I definitely understand your desire to keep your CDs; I'm the same way. Unfortunately (or fortunately) almost everything is moving towards iPod, especially with mini systems.
The iPod is simply too convenient. Consider though, that with iTunes you can rip your CDs at different bit rates so they will sound more like a CD. You can even rip in a lossless format that will sound as good as CD.

As for places besides Best Buy, see if you can find some independent home audio/video stores. Realize, however, that many of these will offer products that will be well into the Bose level pricing, but much better quality*.

Some brands that I like include:
Sony for lower priced, good value
Denon for higher quality options
Cambridge Audio

*note - I'm not a fan of Bose. In my opinion they are over priced. You can always find something better for the same price range.
posted by nickthetourist at 11:02 AM on November 30, 2011

If you're looking used, some older brands you could look for are Zenith and RCA/Sylvania. They haven't made audio equipment in awhile, but back in the day were solid in the home market. Denon has been making "HiFi" for ages and their stuff can usually be found at used audio equipment stores. McIntosh is top notch but even used their stuff is expensive. Most of the other brands would be familiar to you - Pioneer, Sony, Panasonic, JBL, Onkyo (I think they're sold in AU?).

I would consider the Radio Shack (Realistic) and Sears brands not so desirable, although their high end stuff back in the day was made by "serious" HiFi manufacturers. At this point in time, it might be hard to tell what was top of the line and what was crap, though.

Unfortunately, cassette players are gaining in popularity with the "trendy" crowd, so depending on where you're living you might be dealing with a bunch of college kids wanting the same thing you want. Try craigslist or google "used audio equipment" for your area to find a shop that will let you try out something before you buy.
posted by fiercekitten at 11:47 AM on November 30, 2011

We have this cute little SONY system with MD. It's been boxed up for years because we prefer to use headphones and now do so with an Apple TV. PM if you're interested.
posted by R2WeTwo at 12:51 PM on November 30, 2011

A few years ago I had a Phillips with your required features; it sounded good. Only complaint was it made a little "clack" sound changing CDs.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 6:16 AM on December 1, 2011

Other brands to look for on the used market:

Also, see if there are any audio shops in your area that specialize in used/vintage equipment. Sometimes you can piece together a system for a reasonable amount.
posted by nickthetourist at 9:10 AM on December 1, 2011

amp wise, the nuforce sets look pretty slick and they are tiny.
posted by ouke at 3:36 PM on December 1, 2011

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