Not a Bose system, not yet a component system.
February 16, 2015 6:19 PM   Subscribe

So, I'm thinking about replacing my beloved-but-aging Sony bookshelf stereo in the living room with something more modern (the thing still has a cassette player, for chrissakes). Help me find something in between a pricy collection of components and a crappy all-in-one?

I have put together component systems before, but I'm not up for spending $1000+ on a bunch of different stuff just to be able to listen to records and CDs. This is NOT for a home theater, it's audio-only.

Here's what I'm looking for:

- 2.0-2.1, unless wireless speakers are finally a thing. (my current system is 4.0 and while I like the idea of music filling the room from the sides, it's not crucial if theres something comparable)
- Multi-disc CD changer
- EQ settings
- Phono input (unpowered or line)
- at least one iPod/line input separate from the phono.
- (potentially) Bluetooth input for streaming
- Good quality speakers for clear, neutral-to-warm reproduction
- $500 or under

...or is building a component thing the way to go at this point? I know Onkyo and Marantz have relatively affordable receivers, but I'm not sure how much it'd cost to put together a 'solid but not ridiculous audiophile-grade' system in 2015.
posted by softlord to Shopping (7 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I did this recently (except mine is also my A/V system and I had a CD player). I bought whatever Yamaha receiver that was at Costco and two relatively inexpensive Polk floor standing speakers. I think it sounds great and for sub $500 is going to probably sound about as good as anything else at that price point. With a Yamaha or equivalent receiver and the Polk speakers, you should have enough left over for the CD player. There are numerous stereo forums where folks geek out over this stuff, you can always ask your question there too.
posted by fieldtrip at 6:54 PM on February 16, 2015

Consider giving your local pawnshops and Craig's lists a spin. If you keep your eyes peeled for the right manufacturers, you can easily put together what I would consider a nice stereo for <$500. Good luck and have fun!
posted by stinkfoot at 7:10 PM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Kind of a side note, for my "mid fi" system (~$1500) I bought an external bluetooth receiver, like this one. It's an option over looking for a receiver with bluetooth, which I don't know to be really common. These days the music played on my system is 90% pandora/soundcloud/youtube off my phone running through bluetooth, and the rare 10% FLAC source files running off my USB DAC.
posted by MillMan at 9:13 PM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite] has a good bit of quality used for good prices; and with seller ratings.
posted by buzzman at 9:39 PM on February 16, 2015

I just bought a Sonos system, and I'm quite happy with it. Good wireless (not bluetooth), decent control over basic EQ, and compatible with just about any music service or device. You can stereo pair them if you want (which I don't bother to do since I'm never going to get decent stereo separation in my general listening environment. Then again, I'm fussy about stereo fields since I mixed on Genelec nearfields for years in my home studio). The system has a line in and leans toward the warm side of the EQ and performs well at low to medium volume. Also, you can get two of them for under $500 - I got a series 3 and series 5 for just about that much. They are also highly portable, and you can have the speakers operate independently, e.g., one in the kitchen playing Led Zep and one in the living room playing Miles.

The only downsides I've found is their operating system isn't very intuitive, and they get muddy sounding at high (90db+) volumes even with the loudness disengaged. A further downside which has nothing to do with the system itself is that having speakers in multiple rooms playing the same song can lead to a weird delay effects and harmonic artifacts. I mention this only because the system is extensible, so one can become tempted to put speakers in many rooms.

Of course, this presumes you move your CD collection to an i-thing or some other wired storage device. Other than that, fits your bill, I think.
posted by digitalprimate at 1:09 AM on February 17, 2015

I did this a couple years ago – I already had some decent speakers, my cheap little Philips system died, and so I went shopping for a receiver. I settled on a Pioneer receiver; they're really versatile as far as different inputs go. I believe they have one that's Bluetooth compatible, mine isn't, as I didn't need it. The sound is wonderful, especially at the price (I paid 200€), clear and full across volume ranges. I have it hooked up to my PC, my RaspberryPi running raspbmc so I can use my Android stuff over WiFi as remote controls (phone/10" tablet/4" tablet), and if you can believe it, a cheap old portable CD player I got in college 20 years ago that still works. (I do need a new one, just waiting on the budget and seeing what new schmancy things come out meanwhile.)
posted by fraula at 2:19 AM on February 17, 2015

For my bedroom, I bought a Pyle standalone amplifier (about $50), a pair of speakers from Goodwill, and a Bluetooth adapter. It's not audiophile grade or anything, but it's cheap and it can mostly hide behind the bed.
posted by chrchr at 4:17 PM on February 17, 2015

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