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Old 01-06-2007, 05:24 PM   #1
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Help me plan a stereo system

So I'm a huge music buff, and it's pretty embarrassing to admit I listen to music at home on a dinky little Aiwa shelf unit.

I'd like to put something "real" together - components, real speakers, you know. Where do I even start?

I don't have the money to buy top-of-the-line, and I'm in an apartment so there's no point in having 15 kinds of speakers that make the windows rattle.

Can you help me piece together a stereo system that will make my music sound good without putting me in the poor house?
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Old 01-06-2007, 07:14 PM   #2
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Do you have an idea what your budget is? Below $1000? $2000?

I went through this about a year ago and ended up going in stages - got the receiver and speakers first, then a sub and center channel (my speakers double as my movie surround system, too). I think I ended up spending around $1500 for the whole shebang.

If you're going to do music only, then a decent stereo receiver should run you under $200 (this one is a good starting point).
I'd recommend a cd changer, and you should be able to get one a decent one for about $150 (here's a 5 disc for $166, here's a 300 disc for $154)

So that puts you at about $350, and I think you should spend at least that much on the speakers themselves. You should go to some audio shops in the area and just get an idea what you like and don't like. Even some of the high end stores have lines that are surprisingly affordable. Off the top of my head, some good-but-affordable brands to look for are Paradigm, Axiom, PSB, Aperion & Epos. I'd stay away from Bose - waaaaay overpriced for what you get.

But recommending a speaker is a hard thing to do since everyone has different preferences in their sound. Some like a nice warm sound, some want to hear every last detail they can, etc. I tend to like things very detailed but also with a bit of warmth. I'd suggest making a cd with songs you know well, and go audition speakers. You'll soon find out what you like and what you don't.

I personally love my speakers - Axiom M3. They're a helluva speaker for the price - very nicely balanced, good detail, good bass, and they look nice, too. Though they are kinda large for a bookshelf speaker. Here's a pic (before I got my sub and center channel) to give you an idea:



If you were to go that route then you should be able to have a nice system and keep the cost under $800.

Hope that gives you some ideas!
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Old 01-06-2007, 07:55 PM   #3
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Thank you, Diemen! I'm looking for music only and at least now have an idea at what I'm looking at, price-wise.
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Old 01-06-2007, 09:49 PM   #4
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Receiver and left and right channel.

Then go for a sub.

If you like your neighbors you'll get speakers on stands like above picture as they prevent vibrations from carrying through to adjacent apartments.
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Old 01-06-2007, 10:09 PM   #5
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A sub is something I could just add on later, right? As long as I have a left and right channel speaker (on stands, because I'm a polite tenant ), I'm at least able to play tunes, right?
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Old 01-06-2007, 11:24 PM   #6
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^Yeah, you can add the subwoofer, center channel, and surrounds later. Just make sure the manufacturer makes it, because you'll want the same brand and model as the left/right channels.

Here's a photo I took 3 years ago (new at the time) of my home theater system (minus the surround speakers):



I overdid it with the speaker size and got complaints
Spend most of your money on a good pair of bookshelf speakers. Another good brand is Totem Acoustic.

For reviews, a good site is:
http://www.ecoustics.com/
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Old 01-07-2007, 12:05 AM   #7
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Also, if you want to eventually upgrade to surround sound (i.e. subwoofer, center, surrounds) make sure to get a surround sound receiver. It costs only slightly more than a stereo receiver. Yamaha, Denon, and Onkyo are all good.
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Old 01-07-2007, 12:41 AM   #8
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Thank you all for the great suggestions!
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Old 01-09-2007, 12:26 PM   #9
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Another good manufacturer of speakers is API.

www.audioprods.com

The Energy line is traditionally the mid priced/featured line from this Canadian company.

Because you live in an apartment, I would avoid buying a Subwoofer. Low frequencies travel much farther than mid and high frequencies. As a result, you will never receive full value from the sub and you'll piss off your downstairs neighbors who will receive the value of your sub.

For amplifiers, I'd recommend Parasound. Yes, the prices can get up there, but they do produce very reasonable mid-fi equipment. A high quality amplifier not only provides more evenly distributed power to speakers, it also makes the speakers (regardless of price) sound better.

You can usually find pretty good deals for Parasound gear on EBay. Have a look into 2 channel Amps and a 5/6 channel preamp (you can then add more amplifiers later).

www.parasound.com

CD Players are a dime a dozen. If possible, visit a traditional mid-fi audio store in your local city/town with your favorite disc, and do some comparison listening. Most stores have rooms designed specifically for the quick set up of audio equipment.

If you have an experienced sales representative, he'll be able to help you find where the deficiencies are in every part of the audio set-up.
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Old 01-09-2007, 02:47 PM   #10
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Good to know, Chile. The sub, for now, is out. Thanks!
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Old 01-15-2007, 05:30 PM   #11
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I'm so torn. I was thinking that I should maybe just stick with a good-quality shelf system until (or if) I ever get out of apartment living.

Then I looked at Diemen's set up again and thought, "that looks doable."

If I get a receiver and speakers, I could theoretically plug my TV into the receiver and listen through the stand-alone speakers, right? That might be the selling point for the stereo components over a shelf unit, but I'm still waffling.
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Old 01-15-2007, 06:06 PM   #12
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Yup, that's what I've done. Although to be fair many shelf systems have aux inputs that would let you plug in the audio from your tv, too. But a receiver would let you do that, and a cd player, and a dvd player, and your vcr, and your iPod...etc, etc.

I think the real selling point of stereo components is sound quality. There is a huuuuge difference in sound quality between my speakers and any shelf system I've heard, and my speakers are really quite affordable.
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Old 01-15-2007, 06:16 PM   #13
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Yeah, I was looking at those speakers you linked to, and they're very reasonable, price-wise. If I go that route, I'll likely have to buy a better/bigger TV shelving unit, and rearrange my living room, since the set up wouldn't work the way I have it now. (Stupid wall of windows!)

As much as I love music, I'm not really an audiophile, and I've been fairly pleased with the sound I get from my modest little shelf system. But the CD player is working less and less frequently, and it's time to get something else. Maybe I'll see what my tax return looks like this year before making my final decision.

Thanks again - you've been really helpful.
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Old 01-15-2007, 06:17 PM   #14
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DENON is super awesome.

that's all.
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Old 01-15-2007, 06:40 PM   #15
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Duly noted, thanks!
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