Cheap home audio
April 28, 2017 12:38 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for speakers to play music in the house from a phone/mp3 player for under $50. Is there any better alternative than regular computer speakers?

I don't need need bluetooth (although that would be a bonus), multi-room, etc. Just basic, decent sounding speakers. It seems hard to beat the computer speakers' audio quality since they have the external sub, but it feels weird to use computer speakers for this. The other alternative seems to be portable bluetooth speakers like this, but I don't expect the sound to be as good as the computer speakers. Back in the day, we would just buy a boom box, and call it a day. Any other alternatives out there that I am missing?
posted by roaring beast to Technology (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you have more time than money, keeping an eye out at thrift stores can get you some nice older full sized speakers that people get rid of because of size rather than quality or functionality. You do need to be willing to wait for good ones to come along and test them before buying them, as they may also be being gotten rid of because they're damaged. Many speakers look physically impressive but aren't terribly better than computer speakers, so look up reviews as well.

Some Bluetooth speakers are as good or better than computer speakers, it really just depends on the model and how much you pay for them.
posted by Candleman at 12:44 PM on April 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'd go head over to your nearest speaker-selling retailer and give the low-end portable speakers a listen. There are a lot of options for portable/Bluetooth speakers at the $50 price point, but you would be the best judge of whether they meet your standard for sound quality.
posted by Autumnheart at 12:44 PM on April 28, 2017

In that price range computer speakers will be hard to beat. You might check out these Logitech speakers. The Wirecutter recommends them as a good budget pick.
posted by gregr at 12:46 PM on April 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's not audiophile quality or anything, but for the price the Amazon Basics Bluetooth Speaker has pretty good quality sound, can easily fill a room, and will be so much more convenient than anything you have to plug into your phone or mp3 player. The external sub, I admit, will give you better bass response, but for casual listening, Bluetooth speakers are great. And super portable!
posted by dellsolace at 12:51 PM on April 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

In that price range computer speakers will be hard to beat.

Yeah the Oontz is pretty good. I also have a JAM Replay which has surprisingly rich sound. The cool part is that I got it from someone who was getting rid of it on a neighborhood mailing list, so it might be worth trawling Craigslist or whatever your local buy/sell thing is to see if you can find one fr cheap. I'm not sure if the JAM speaker is great for $30 but it's awesome for $10 which is what i paid for it.
posted by jessamyn at 12:55 PM on April 28, 2017

We have several of the oontz angles kicking around the house and they're great (with surprising bass response!) - one even survived being thrown from a balcony onto tile flooring and wasn't worse for wear :) They aren't the primary speakers in our living room but are used in the bedrooms and while camping/doing yard work/etc.

I was surprised how handy it was to have a speaker to carry around, definitely a fan.
posted by AaronRaphael at 2:16 PM on April 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have the Amazon Basics Bluetooth Speaker and find it does exactly what it should. It's way better than the phone speaker, the Bluetooth does what it's supposed to, and the battery charge lasts for quite a while. It's odd but for years I resisted using anything Bluetooth on any of my phones, because it seemed too fiddly and annoying and unnecessary when I had perfectly good cables to do the same job already. But then last year, I finally went for it, and it's been fine. Not nearly as fiddly as I thought it would be (though a little bit fiddly).
posted by Mo Nickels at 3:22 PM on April 28, 2017

I have a UE Boom, which is triple your budget and known as a better sounding portable speaker, and for a Bluetooth speaker, it's really, really good. As a speaker period, it's kind of bad. I would go with the best computer speakers you can buy that include a subwoofer.
posted by cnc at 4:13 PM on April 28, 2017

Computer speakers are usually your best deal. (My pet theory about this is that once they're "computer" speakers, they're no longer in the boutique audio market, but rather the highly competitive and price-conscious computer market.)

I recently got a pair of these (Logitech Z200, ~$20) and I'm pretty impressed with the quality. There's no unwieldy subwoofer either, if space is a concern. Logitech in general make surprisingly good speakers (my main system is an old Logitech Z-5500 which has served me very well for ten years).

You'll pay a premium for Bluetooth.

I don't really recommend trolling thrift stores for audio equipment unless you know what you're doing -- anything actually decent is usually marked way up, at least where I live. (I say this as someone who likes to troll thrift stores for audio equipment.)
posted by neckro23 at 2:33 PM on April 29, 2017

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