Good micro stereo system?
August 6, 2008 9:00 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a cheap (about $200) and compact stereo system for my apartment. Mainly it'd be for playing CD's and streaming audio via my Airport Express. I'm interested in the Onkyo CS-315S, CS-325 and CS-415 units, but I can't for the life of my figure out what the hell the difference is. Does anyone know about these systems, or have any other recommendations?

I'm also toying with the idea of getting a cheap powered subwoofer, like the Polk PSW10, to go along with whatever system I get -- thoughts?
posted by DLWM to Shopping (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
A subwoofer is great, but your neighbors might not like it.

At this price point, it will be tough to find a place where you can do any critical listening to compare these and other similar gear. The best way to decide is by listening to the same piece of music through different systems. Whatever you get, speaker placement is also going to have a big effect.

Don't buy features you don't need -- these units have MP3 disc capability, but you'll be streaming those files. You could also play your audio CDs on the computer, so you don't really need a disc drive at all.

See what's on Craigslist in your area... I think for $200 you can get much better sound with vintage gear (receiver + speakers) from brands such as Pioneer, Harman-Kardon, Yamaha, Advent, etc. (Though this solution won't be as compact as the Onkyo.)

Here's an example of a receiver. The main things an older stereo receiver will not have are a dedicated subwoofer out and a remote control.
posted by omnidrew at 10:11 AM on August 6, 2008

Don't get a subwoofer unless you have stellar soundproofing or you're investing in its future. I was all happy with my new soundsystem, and the neighbours came by asking to lower my volume right after I started it. After a few more tests, we basically determined that the subwoofer would be heard even at its lowest volume, and it has not been used since.

To top all that, I've got great soundproofing and rarely if ever hear any sound from the neighbouring apartments. Bass just travels very well.
posted by splice at 10:26 AM on August 6, 2008

The three systems you list may not be different. Manufacturers sometimes issue model numbers to mark stupid things like different colors. Sometimes they use model numbers to specify that it is only sold through one retailer too.
posted by chairface at 11:16 AM on August 6, 2008

I agree that the subwoofer might encourage you to be a less-than-courteous neighbor, and that you'll probably get better—that is, warmer—sound with an analog system.

But if you take omnidrew's idea about using your computer's disc drive for playing CDs, I think the best option is a pair of excellent computer-type speakers to plug into an Airport Express. I've been using this kind of setup for a few years now.

I have Klipsch ProMedia 2.0 computer speakers, and I use them with an Airport Express. But I think Klipsch discontinued them and replaced them with the ProMedia 2.1. These, of course, have a subwoofer. They cost $149.
posted by D.A. Carlin at 11:26 AM on August 6, 2008

Onkyo's site has all sorts of detail on the 315 and 415.
posted by Neiltupper at 12:30 PM on August 6, 2008

I have a Tivoli Model Two with a Tivoli Model Subwoofer. This set-up cost about $400, but fills my small, one-bedroom apartment with clear and crisp sound.

I use my MacBook Pro to play discs and stream the mp3s via my Time Capsule. I rarely use the subwoofer due to the bass possibly annoying my neighbors.

I also think it's a good idea to look on craigslist and eBay for vintage components, there are deals to be had.
posted by vkxmai at 6:37 PM on August 6, 2008

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