HiFi on a Budget

Discussion in 'The Watering Hole' started by Amin Sabet, May 19, 2013.

  1. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    Looking for some advice from my fellow music lovers here.

    Mike Johnston of TOP recently had a post about some relatively affordable equipment, promising great sound for $600 plus an iOS device of your choice. Assuming a budget of $600 or less, does anyone else have any recommendations? I'll probably be mostly listening to Spotify 320kbps streaming via an iPod touch.

    Links to Amazon and B&H for recommended gear would be appreciated. I'm looking to make a purchase soon...
     
  2. redington

    redington Mu-43 Regular

    140
    Apr 28, 2012
    I'd strongly suggest some Paradigm speakers and a basic stereo system from Onkyo or Harmon Kardon or something.

    It would offer some flexibility for down the road. I have some old paradigm titans and an Onkyo tr 8255 (something like that). I have an old airport express, some iOS devices and my Numark turntable hooked up. I think I paid around $500 for all that stuff altogether.
     
  3. dornblaser

    dornblaser Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 13, 2012
    Chicago-area
    David Dornblaser
    I have the Audioengine A5+ speakers, plus an Air Express feeding their D1 DAC. It is a really nice small room/computer room set-up in your price range.

    For the next step up in price, I heartily recommend: Computer Audio - USB DACs - Integrated Amplifiers | Peachtree Audio

    For serious streaming music, consider MOG. It is a noticeably better.

    - David
     
  4. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Promit Roy
    What type of configuration are we talking about? For a simple iPad dock type setup, the Jawbone Jamboxes are very good. For a PC, Klipsch or Altec Lansing speakers do a good job, or you can go to studio monitors like the Audioengine mentioned above.

    If we're talking about a full blown 2.1 home audio setup driven off a receiver, there's such a huge array of options that I don't know where to start... Energy speakers are popular as a low cost option, or a good step up are the Andrew Jones designed Pioneer speakers.
     
  5. kwalsh

    kwalsh Mu-43 Top Veteran

    775
    Mar 3, 2012
    Baltimore, MD
    If you think it appropriate for your listening the reality is the absolute best quality for price is in headphones. Budget maybe $100 or so for a headphone amp and $300 or so for the headphones and you'll have something that easily trumps a multi-thousand dollar loudspeaker system.
     
  6. cmpatti

    cmpatti Mu-43 Veteran

    263
    May 8, 2011
    Berkeley, CA
    I second Mike Johnston's recommendation. The Audioengine speakers are really quite good for the price, especially considering that you don't need an amplifier. I also second the recommendation to try MOG. You can experiment with outboard DACs, but I wouldn't spend a lot of money until you do some rigorous blind testing. My own tells me that the choice of DAC is about the least critical part of the audio chain.
     
  7. Luke

    Luke Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jul 30, 2010
    Milwaukee, WI
    Luke
    whatever you buy, buy it and enjoy it and stop even thinking about anything else. $600 on a music system is like shooting with whatever camera you were using right before you started your first camera forum. And if you get too into it, you'll end up with $600 interconnects.
     
  8. rklepper

    rklepper Mu-43 Top Veteran

    733
    Dec 19, 2012
    Iowa, USA
    Robert
    I am still using my 30+ year old Mark Levinson with 28 year old Infinity RS 1B speakers. I have connected my iTunes, but still the same old system. :)

    So I am not much help.
     
  9. wildwildwes

    wildwildwes Mu-43 Veteran

    456
    Jun 9, 2012
    Brooklyn, NY
    I also second the Audioengine speakers. Great deal, although a little soft and rolled-off on top... Really, if you can spend a bit more, you'll be able to realize much better performance. If you're up for it, have a look at my website: High-End Audiophile Systems, Personalized Service - Home

    good luck! (and let us know what you decide on)
     
  10. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    Amin,

    If you want to do more research, then Head-Fi Head-Fi.org - Headphone forums and reviews for audiophiles used to be the place (although I "rehabilitated myself" after finding a beautiful tube pre-amp a number of years ago). Two places that have catered to audiophiles over the years that I previously patronized are Headroom HeadRoom: Headphones: Full-Size, In-Ear, Wireless, Noise Cancelling, Headsets and Todd the Vinyl Junkie (who used to work at Headroom) High End Audiophile Equipment| Complete High End Systems| Todd The Vinyl Junkie| TTVJ.

    If you are primarily listening to streaming music through an iOS device, then you ideally need a DAC and either an amp and passive speakers, or a pair of powered speakers. For DAC's, Headroom's total Bithead has been a classic, and it is affordable. I currently have a Nuforce DAC, and it is a bit warm and colored in its sound presentation. They are a relatively new company, and have had some hit and miss designs these past few years, IMHO.

    If you are not purchasing an amp (and do not want a nice set of "cans"), then Audioengine speakers seem to be the most highly recommended powered speakers. You could also look at studio monitors at B&H Studio Monitors| B&H Photo Video . They have more choices than you could imagine, and most of them are powered (active).

    The big questions are the size of your listening room, and how bass obsessed you are. If you do not need thumping bass, then many of these speakers/monitors will do a nice job of delivering enjoyable sound. Personally, I find it hard for all but the most expensive systems to deliver good clean bass, but many folks value quantity over quality. The choice is yours.

    Good luck,

    --Ken

    P.S. As they say at Head-Fi, "Welcome to the forum! Sorry to hear about your wallet." :shakehead:
     
  11. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    I should have mentioned: I have a pair of headphones I like a lot.

    I just realized that I've never tried our TV setup downstairs for music. This is what we have:

    I got the above receiver and pair of speakers for $450 altogether when the speakers were on sale. I should probably try listening to some music through it before buying anything else. There's a $15 dock adapter to use an iPod/iPhone with that receiver. I'm sure I'm less picky than some here - it might just work for me.
     
  12. redington

    redington Mu-43 Regular

    140
    Apr 28, 2012
    Just remember - speaker placement and component matching can have an enormous effect. Play around before you decide that what you have isn't good enough.
     
  13. DeeJayK

    DeeJayK Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 8, 2011
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Keith
    Have you considered the Sonos system? For around $650 you can get a couple of Play:3s and a Bridge. Once you connect the bridge to your router, you just have to plug the speaker into an outlet and you'll have music anywhere in (or around) your house. You can control it all with your tablet or smartphone.
     
  14. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    Unless you are trying to solve a specific problem, like needing a portable system or a new system for your office, it is best to start it what you have and try to figure out what is, or is not, working for you. Your current set-up may be just fine for streaming music. Or perhaps you just need a DAC to process the signal from your iOS device and then feed it to your receiver? Pick a few pieces of music that you like and know somewhat well. Listen to them through your headphones, listen to them through your current system, and then listen to them through anything else that you can get your hands upon.

    While you will probably never want to hear those songs again, you will start to form an opinion as to how you want your music to sound from your equipment. Churning through audio equipment to make your system sound the way you want can be a brutal and expensive task if you do not know what you are looking for, and more importantly, how to possibly find it. And, a change is sound is not always the same as an improvement.

    Good luck,

    --Ken
     
  15. daimos

    daimos Mu-43 Veteran

    288
    Jun 23, 2010
    Ottawa,Ontario,Canada
    richard
    my vote goes to the ipod dock. your system already rocks, and
    you already have a headphone for me-only listening.

    i have an ipod-ready receiver. i can control play/forward/rewind with
    the receiver's remote.
     
  16. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    David, are you sure this is still true now that both services offer 320kbps streaming? Spotify sounds pretty good to me when set to the highest quality on their paid plan.
     
  17. dornblaser

    dornblaser Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 13, 2012
    Chicago-area
    David Dornblaser
    Yes. If nothing else, you can pick and choose music better with MOG. In terms of Spotify, why would any educated person choose to pick a music site that REQUIRES you to login in Facebook? Really? Social vs. Audio.

    Plus, the classic and jazz is much better on MOG.
     
  18. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    I thought that MOG also required a FB account to register. They did a couple of years ago when I considered opening an account. Have they changed that policy?

    --Ken
     
  19. dornblaser

    dornblaser Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 13, 2012
    Chicago-area
    David Dornblaser
    No, MOG does not require you to login with a FB account.
     
  20. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    Spotify no longer requires a Facebook login either. The only thing that bothers me about Spotify is that some of my favorite artists aren't on there. I assume this would be the case for any given provider though.