In search of a sound system.
January 4, 2016 7:02 AM   Subscribe

Can you recommend a sound system to hook up to a TV, our phones, and that also has a radio?

We received some Amazon gift certificates over the holidays and want to spend it on a sound system.

Here are the three criteria that we'd like the sound system to do: 1. amplify the sound of our tv (a Samsung smart tv from a couple years ago; I imagine it would be wired); 2. play music from our iphones (bluetooth/wifi would be nice, but wired is ok); 3. listen to the radio (just a regular radio receiver; not listening through a phone app).

Some things that would be nice: surround sound for the tv area, possibly without a lot of wiring; remote control; a display that's not too flashy; ability to play a cd (or at least the possibility to add that at a later date); remote speakers in other rooms (just a guess that this must exist; it'd be nice to listen to music while we're in the kitchen); speakers and components that are not too big.

We'd obviously like nice, clear sound, but we aren't audiophiles at all. I know some people say Bose speakers sound muddy, but that's not something I can really hear.

I've always been bad at sorting through myriad choices with electronics and other equipment. Once I have something, though, I'm not afraid of tinkering or dealing with reasonably complex wiring, etc. I just hate sifting through all the marketing and specs.

What can you recommend, especially that's available on Amazon? We also have a Costco membership in case there's something great available there, but would rather use the Amazon money on this. Budget is up to $800; I hope that is more than enough to get this done.
posted by msbrauer to Technology (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You might go with something like this, but to be honest, the radio requirement is keeping you away from the best soundbars, which is probably what you want for the TV. I wasn't able to find any high-rated bars with an FM radio.

I got this based on the Wirecutter recommendation, and it sounds really great. There's a version without the rear speakers and sub if you don't want those.

If I were you, I'd maybe get a separate FM tuner that you can plug in to a soundbar. It looks like that Vizio does have RCA and 3.5 mm inputs.

You could spend $800 on like a Sonos or something, but for 'nice, clear sound' you don't need to.
posted by Huck500 at 7:49 AM on January 4, 2016

The Amazon Echo would do 2/3 of these things for you (well, okay, TuneIn radio via the internets), plus you can yell at it to flip a coin.
posted by NedKoppel at 7:54 AM on January 4, 2016

Yeah, I have an Echo as well as the soundbar, and I use the Echo for music and the soundbar for TV only. Echo is pretty rad, especially if you have Prime.
posted by Huck500 at 8:13 AM on January 4, 2016

When my parents had a similar question I recommended the Genevea Sound Labs All-in-one. It meets all your specs, including bluetooth and an FM radio with good reception. I prefer its sound and its appearance to those of Bose or Sonos speakers. You can get it on Amazon although it seems to be out of stock today. It has miniplug for sound in from your TV, and looks great, with a high-end glossy finish. The model M comes in under $600. The larger model L has bigger sound and RCA inputs but costs $1K .
posted by jcrcarter at 8:34 AM on January 4, 2016

Echo is pretty rad, especially if you have Prime.

Yep. If you buy the Echo, presume you're gonna subscribe to Prime. Just being able to bark out "Alexa, play Revolver" is worth the $99.
posted by NedKoppel at 9:04 AM on January 4, 2016

I just got an Echo for Christmas and after deciding to keep it (Thanks, Metafilter), I'm pretty impressed with it, too. So that + a sound bar is one route.

The standard "take all of my money and solve my problems" answer to this is Sonos, but that is really just for if one of your additional complaints is that you have too much money.

Another route is to just buy any ol' non-wireless receiver and speakers and add a bluetooth audio adapter; I have this one and it's quite good. So, you can solve for #1 and #3 of your "must haves" with a good receiver and add #2 with the audio adapter. I don't have any specific recommendations for receivers (if you have a good used stereo store near you, check them out), but you're looking for something like this or this, plus speakers. Other than the "remote speakers" and "small components," that also addresses all of your other additional "wants."
posted by Betelgeuse at 9:14 AM on January 4, 2016

(I think the consensus is there's probably not a single component that's going to do all of those things. At home I rock a Kenwood receiver I got for Christmas 20 years ago, and it amplifies the TV and the radio is nice, plus I have my robot the Echo which also pairs with my phone, though since I have Prime and Amazon Music I don't tend to use the phone much. Maybe find a nice analog receiver on eBay and a nice Bluetooth speaker or an Apple TV?)
posted by NedKoppel at 9:43 AM on January 4, 2016

I would say you just need to get a receiver/amplifier/tuner unit (maybe something like this) and speakers (surround sound if you want) and add a bluetooth unit to it, and a CD player if you want.

For your budget I'm sure you can get a good quality set-up. I have a regular inexpensive stereo receiver with a built-in tuner that my TV plays through, and these speakers. If I wanted to add bluetooth and a CD player I could. (I don't need those because I play music through my TV via Apple TV and Apple Music.)
posted by The Deej at 10:07 AM on January 4, 2016

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