Stereo Purchase Advice

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I think my stereo is fucked beyond repair, whenever I try to play CDs now it makes odd noises and tells me "no disc". That's okay, because I bought it used and cheap and I got a good year out of it.

Anyway if you were buying a stereo today, what would you get? The only requirement I have is that it be capable of holding/changing at least 50 CDs at once. I don't need a vinyl player, and not really a tape deck either -- just lots of CDs and an aux connection for my computer is fine. Also, my dorm room isn't too big so I'm better off if it isn't fricking huge.

Ian, Sunday, 14 October 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Have you cleaned the lens on the CD player?

Also, I had a Discman that did something similar. It turned out the motor wasn't even spinning up to spin the disc -- perhaps the same is true of yours. I found that if I toyed with it enough, whatever loose connection was amiss would eventually pop back into place.

Phil, Sunday, 14 October 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

A good year?!? I've had my 5 disc changer for 4 or 5 years and it started fucking up this summer. I had it cleaned for $30 and now it works better than ever. Perhaps you should look into something similar, to avoid buying a new one.

Josh, Sunday, 14 October 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

If I can butt in, I wonder if Ian's set-up is an all-in-one boom box thingy w/ a changer. In my experience, those almost always wind up skipping, and a year sounds about right. Different from a separate CD changer in a componant system, which I would expect to last longer.

We're almost 20 years into the CD age, so why is skipping still a fucking problem? This makes me angry. My turntable skips less than any CD player I've had (I usually buy cheap, tho.)

Mark, Sunday, 14 October 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

While were on the topic...I'm looking for a stereo at a higher level than my fucking Best Buy shelf system (which doesn't enjoy playing my cds anymore apparently), and I really couldn't spend more than a few hundred dollars. I only need to play one cd at a time, I'm not talking hi-fi or I have a chance?

Jordan, Sunday, 14 October 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Mark: You're correct, and I should have made that clearer in the post. It's a little Panasonic box with separate speakers that happens to nicely hold and manage 50 CD's. (It's the SA-AK95 and I couldn't even find it listed on the Panasonic website.)

I may take it in to get it repaired but it's been skipping on CD's for awhile now, the last straw in my annoyance being when it started skipping on a brand-new straight-out-of-the-box Ayia Napa compilation.

So frankly my hopes aren't too high for repairs. As I said, it was cheap and already used when I first got the damn thing. It may be more worth my while just to buy a quality stereo.

Ian, Sunday, 14 October 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Ian --

Get a lens cleaner. (Unless you already have.) Seriously. They're about five or ten bucks, and they can make all the difference in the world.

Phil, Sunday, 14 October 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Tried the lens cleaner, it didn't work (got NO DISC), took it in for repairs. Turned out my laser was broken, it would have cost me twice as much to fix the thing as it cost me to buy -- with speakers -- in the first place.

I sprang for a $188 JVC XL-MC334 200-disc changer, and until I feel rich enough to afford a nice amp, I'm feeding the CD output through the old box. Sounds fine, not great but fine.

Anyway thanks for the tips everyone, I guess I'll make a habit of using the lens cleaner in the future.

Ian, Monday, 15 October 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

well, your restrictions pretty much put anything that might sound decent out of the question...

g, Wednesday, 17 October 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

fourteen years pass...

I've just put together a system for my garage/shop area.

Onkyo TX-84 (late 80's?)
Pioneer 6 CD magazine that's junk from early 90s (and which i've never trusted, and don't like to load/unload)
Kenwood 3-head Auto-Reverse cassette (fine pro-sumer model from mid-90's)

...and i plug in my Sansa Clip through a $30 headphone amp into the AUX for MP3s

Cheapo Pioneer tower speakers and the matching pressboard rack/glass door.

I rigged the rack with a 110V fan, cut a hole in the opposite side and covered with air-duct filter material (and weather-stripped all other airgaps), and plugged both the fan and a USB charger into the "switched" power plug on the back of the receiver. Power it up, and the Sansa stays charged and the fan keeps it all relatively clean and cool.

Just have to hang the speakers in the rafters to save on floor space, but i'm rocking hard for less than $100, all-in.

I put a Kill-a-watt meter on it to measure power consumption and i can keep the unit powered-up and ready in the winter for less than the juice it takes to run a 60W incandescent.

bodacious ignoramus, Monday, 27 June 2016 02:32 (one year ago) Permalink


riverine (map), Monday, 27 June 2016 03:33 (one year ago) Permalink

i figure keeping it on all winter so the on/ff cycle doesn't create condensation/corrosion

bodacious ignoramus, Monday, 27 June 2016 21:09 (one year ago) Permalink

one year passes...

thinking about switching from my all-purpose receiver, which was made for a living room w/TV etc, to an integrated amplifier - I use my stereo in my office now, so it only needs to amplify my turntable & my CD player. You can really spend a lot of money on an integrated amplifier! I'd rather not, but I wonder if anybody can talk about the quality curve on these -- in my experience of turntables, the level up from RP1 to RP3 was dramatic, and when I put a better needle on it (Denon DL110) that was even more dramatic still.

any thoughts on integrated amplifiers? my speakers are nothing really to shout about, there's a Dali sub in line that really makes the whole presentation pretty great though, I'm incrementally making my stereo the sort of thing I always wanted as a kid.

she carries a torch. two torches, actually (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Thursday, 24 August 2017 15:05 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I'm no expert, but since no one else is responding -- in my experience as a non-golden-eared listener, properly designed amps that are adequately powered for your speakers don't sound dramatically different from each other. It's been a while since I did way too much research the last time I needed to upgrade my system, but all the reading I did at the time suggested that while it's possible some very gifted listeners can discern differences under certain circumstances, most people under most conditions can't. I regularly use three amps/receivers at the moment -- a mid '90s AMC (small company started by a NAD designer) integrated amp in the living room, a late '70s Realistic receiver in a sunroom, and a late '70s Rotel receiver in the office. I've switched speakers between them, and aside from the Rotel being a bit underpowered for my relatively inefficient Magnepan and Totem speakers, I can't discern enough difference to prefer any over the others. Even the Rotel, which I believe was a budget-level and not particularly well-regarded receiver at the time, sounds great with the small, efficient Axiom speakers I use with it. Whereas I definitely hear differences in turntables, speakers, and headphones -- that's where I think your money is better spent.

If I needed to replace my AMC integrated today, I'd get a Yamaha A-S301. $350, Yamaha has a solid rep for its integrated amps, includes phono stage, and the design is reminiscent of their gorgeous '70s products.

early rejecter, Friday, 25 August 2017 13:47 (three weeks ago) Permalink

(Actually looking over that list of equipment now I suppose someone could say I'm not one to judge since I only listen to mid-fi systems and my opinion would change if I could try a much more expensive amp with my speakers -- though I did audition the Totem speakers on a fairly expensive setup and I don't recall thinking they sounded any different when I brought them home.)

early rejecter, Friday, 25 August 2017 13:55 (three weeks ago) Permalink

thank you for that excellent answer! I've used receivers all my life but everybody says the integrated amp is the way to go, and I'm enjoying very slow hobby-building my stereo. I for sure hear differences in needles / turntables / headphones (esp. w/DAC, I am the world's biggest preacher about getting a good DAC if you're listening to digital music on headphones) - gonna look hard at that Yamaha. (There's also the whole world of vintage stuff, which is findable pretty cheap but is a little daunting.)

she carries a torch. two torches, actually (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Friday, 25 August 2017 13:56 (three weeks ago) Permalink

speakers are more important

an integrated stereo amplifier is nice because it's simple and you get good value for money (with a surround receiver you're paying for multitude of features)

when choosing an amp, I'd start by focusing on your budget and the functionality you need

you need to connect a cd player and a turntable - this means we're looking for an amp with a built in phono stage and at least one extra input

but perhaps it would also be nice if the amp had a usb input for easy and great sounding connection of your computer? or maybe it would be practical if it had built in bluetooth so you could easily play Spotify from your phone on it? or maybe nice if it had an optical input so you could connect a Chromecast Audio using an optical cable for better sound quality

if you don't need any of the above (or can't come up with other nice extra features you want) I think most quality brand integrated amps will work for you and the bottom line which I probably should have written at the top (okay I'm doing that now) is that speakers are more important

they're also more fun to demo, so if you live near a hifi store I recommend you go there and listen to different speakers (or find some on a hifi community, they always have a sales section and are happy to demo)

this coming from a guy with a Lyngdorf TDAI2170 = a p expensive integrated amp

niels, Friday, 25 August 2017 17:29 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Chach - I got a Cambridge Audio CXA60 recently and love it, multiple optical inputs though you need to buy a phono stage

Universal LULU Nation (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Friday, 25 August 2017 17:55 (three weeks ago) Permalink

How's the DAC / overall sound quality with the Chromecast? Am I giving up much vs USB?

Uhura Mazda (lukas), Friday, 25 August 2017 18:09 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Cambridge Audio CXA60

nice. loving the minimalism.

i got a CA amp a few years back ( , and it has been an absolute dream.

mark e, Friday, 25 August 2017 19:33 (three weeks ago) Permalink

my setup

not my photo though

the late great, Friday, 25 August 2017 19:47 (three weeks ago) Permalink

nice brick work.

mark e, Friday, 25 August 2017 19:52 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I know, right?

btw that's an NAD C160 preamp and NAD C270 power amp

not too spendy if you buy used

the late great, Friday, 25 August 2017 20:32 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I call it "the monolith"

the late great, Friday, 25 August 2017 20:33 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I have a second hand NAD C541i CD player and it's pretty good.

I went through a similar thing, woke up one day last year and realised I didn't have the hi-fi gear that teenage me promised myself so set off to Richer Sounds and bought a combo-deal of the Marantz PM6005 integrated amp, Wharfdale Diamond 220 speakers and a Pro-Ject Essential II turntable.

I really like the Marantz, more than enough power for my needs (rarely have the volume beyond 9 o'clock), plenty of inputs (phono stage, coaxial in and an optical input that I run my iMac into), sounds good to me. There's been an updated model released since that has two optical inputs.

The speakers are bookshelf sized. Definitely an improvement on what I had, and I'd likely only replace them if I was getting floor standers.

The turntable has since been upgraded to a Linn Axis, but that's neither here nor there.

michaellambert, Friday, 25 August 2017 20:52 (three weeks ago) Permalink

the CXA60 is awesome! if only it had an integrated phono stage...

NAD monoliths are also great, but perhaps not completely necessary unless you need to drive very difficult speakers

before settling on the Lyngdorf amp I looked a lot at Yamaha's lineup - their stereo amps are extremely versatile, good looking and powerful. Check out the A-S801:
^^6 analogue inputs, great phono stage, optical and coaxial digital input, usb input, subwoofer output, A/B speaker terminals... it has everything. Comes in both cheaper and more expensive versions depending on your budget (from A-S301 to A-S3000).

btw you probably want an amp with a subwoofer output (fairly common, but nice to make sure)

niels, Saturday, 26 August 2017 06:36 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I do stand by my friendly recommendation that, unless you love amplifiers, if you are to spend 1000$ on a stereo then 200 for the amp and 800 for speakers will get you great sound

if you have 10000$ I'd suggest a 1000$ amp, 5000$ speakers and 4000$ great lps and cds

niels, Saturday, 26 August 2017 06:47 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Some of the integrated amps and receivers from the 70s are great performers. I've had this rig for 14 years (now joined by a nice DAC connected to an iMac serving lossless over USB) and I will never, ever want another amp. I had some well-regarded mid-fi stuff like good Rotel components prior to this, then I bought the 2285B for $150 and spent a weekend replacing the capacitors which had dried out. Buying a restored one is not too expensive and the sound is fantastic.

attention vampire (MatthewK), Saturday, 26 August 2017 06:54 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Meant to say there are lots of less powerful ones for cheap - e.g. that Marantz is 85-90 watts per channel but a 2270 or a 2238 will put you in that heavenly sound zone for cheaper. And if you don't need a tuner, an amp like the 1060 or 1070 is essentially the same as the amp section of these receivers.

attention vampire (MatthewK), Saturday, 26 August 2017 06:56 (three weeks ago) Permalink

that's a good looking amp

niels, Saturday, 26 August 2017 07:00 (three weeks ago) Permalink

If I was a rich guy I'd be tempted to purchase this, not least if they add the Ladderax unit too.

Dan Worsley, Saturday, 26 August 2017 08:49 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I don't know why, but i've been pining for almost 10 years to build a new set-up with the Behringer A500 as a jumping off point. One could use an old-school Pioneer or Marantz to act as a pre-amp. I chose this route mostly because i have tuff time budgeting the funds required to do a proper NAD system.

Any discussion of Spotify or bluetooth might offer convenience, but most streaming/wireless tech will result in noticeable fidelity loss. DAC with lossless flac's is the only thing i would bother with.

....and, yeah, those step-ups in turntable/cartridge/speakers is likely the best bang-for-the-buck.

bodacious ignoramus, Monday, 28 August 2017 00:33 (three weeks ago) Permalink

In addition to the very nice dedicated pres that Marantz made, all of their major receivers have a pre-out main-in pair of bridged RCAs. And the tuners in them are pretty spectacular if they haven't drifted over the decades.

attention vampire (MatthewK), Monday, 28 August 2017 02:16 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I got a Mackie Soundcard into a powered JBL studio monitor setup that is my main music PC. I'd eventually love to have a big living room type setup at some point.

earlnash, Monday, 28 August 2017 02:34 (three weeks ago) Permalink

NAD monoliths are also great, but perhaps not completely necessary unless you need to drive very difficult speakers

i got on the NAD boat because i am driving 4 ohm planar speakers but i will admit that i could have gone integrated, i just kind of just like the look of the monolith

the late great, Monday, 28 August 2017 17:15 (three weeks ago) Permalink

someone tell me that the oxygene amp is design over function and a piece of crap.

as the white edition would look rather lovely next to my white sonos connect box.

also, £2.5k off asking price !!?!?

overpriced to start with i guess.

mark e, Monday, 28 August 2017 17:28 (three weeks ago) Permalink

yeah y'all are right. my amp is a Pioneer all-in-one from a couple of years ago - no cred on the audiophile front I'd guess but it does the job. I want new speakers but because this is for my office, placement of them is gonna be tricky - I have bookshelf ones at 11 and 1 behind the turntable right now (a sub on the floor to the right) and I'd kind of like to keep that setup. But speakers first is probably what I need, and then either a needle upgrade or a new TT, and then and then and then and then and then

she carries a torch. two torches, actually (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Monday, 28 August 2017 18:43 (three weeks ago) Permalink

and then and then and then and then and then

.. and therein lies the start of years of trouble.

a few years back i started with crappy bookshelf speakers and an all in one teac system.
i was happy.
then i upgraded, and now i am looking at amps for more money than the whole of my current system.

mark e, Monday, 28 August 2017 19:16 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I used to have a man on the inside at Rega who'd get me discounts but now he's gone, woe is me

she carries a torch. two torches, actually (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Monday, 28 August 2017 19:29 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Anybody have any relatively inexpensive speaker recommendations? I'm looking for floor standing ones to replace some 27 year old Advent bookshelf speakers that are kind of small for the room they're in now.

The rest of my stuff isn't close to fancy - a Sony receiver from 1990, a 1980s Technics turntable (not a 1200), audio out from an old Macbook - but still works alright. I'm thinking about getting a new integrated amp or something instead of the Sony, but would rather get some large speakers.

joygoat, Friday, 1 September 2017 20:40 (two weeks ago) Permalink

define inexpensive

the late great, Friday, 1 September 2017 21:08 (two weeks ago) Permalink

(use the code that's a great deal)

Universal LULU Nation (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Friday, 1 September 2017 21:10 (two weeks ago) Permalink

Yeah my mistake not defining "inexpensive", I was thinking maybe $500 or so.

But that link is pretty much exactly what I was looking for, so $300 is even better. DONE.

joygoat, Friday, 1 September 2017 22:02 (two weeks ago) Permalink

if you 1) don't mind spending $650 2) don't care too too much about loud bass or have a subwoofer 3) have a lot of space to place the speakers (i.e. 2 feet from a wall on every side) and 4) can drive a 4-ohm speaker

then i would recommend magnepan MMGs

the late great, Friday, 1 September 2017 22:26 (two weeks ago) Permalink

i had a pair for like 15 years, they were so nice

unfortunately the ribbons delaminate after about 12 years

the late great, Friday, 1 September 2017 22:26 (two weeks ago) Permalink

i guess i depends a bit on if you have a music preference -- jazz and vocals sound terrific on PSB and Wharfedale -- just stay away from bigbox stores!

bodacious ignoramus, Saturday, 2 September 2017 16:51 (two weeks ago) Permalink

I love my Cowon but get the O2 model, the interface/touchscreen is much better than the smaller ones

sleeve, Saturday, 2 September 2017 16:56 (two weeks ago) Permalink

wrong thread, sorry

sleeve, Saturday, 2 September 2017 16:57 (two weeks ago) Permalink

I recently bought the Onkyo TX-8150 & a pair of Q Acoustics 3020s. It sounds tremendous.

droit au butt (Euler), Saturday, 2 September 2017 16:59 (two weeks ago) Permalink

I've had some Epos ELS bookshelves for over a decade, instead of getting floor standing speakers I added a Hsu Research sub woofer and it's been a pretty amazing improvement

Universal LULU Nation (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Saturday, 2 September 2017 17:16 (two weeks ago) Permalink

i would buy these maybe if i needed bookshelves...

scott seward, Saturday, 2 September 2017 17:27 (two weeks ago) Permalink

except that i have no need for digital inputs or bluetooth....

scott seward, Saturday, 2 September 2017 17:29 (two weeks ago) Permalink

i so love the old klipschs i got for the store. they are EXACTLY what i wanted for the store and it only took me 8 years to get them. loud and durable. that's really what i wanted. and they are that. but my delicate classical records sound fine on them too. could probably use a bass boost but i will never get around to that.

scott seward, Saturday, 2 September 2017 17:33 (two weeks ago) Permalink

...gonna visit that store one day

bodacious ignoramus, Saturday, 2 September 2017 18:02 (two weeks ago) Permalink

i used to have onkyo components and have no doubt that new ones sound tremendous

also this is really shallow but ... they come in silver!


the late great, Saturday, 2 September 2017 18:11 (two weeks ago) Permalink

that looks gorgeous

sleeve, Saturday, 2 September 2017 18:13 (two weeks ago) Permalink

I finally went for a dedicated amp just to power the music room speakers, my old receiver has speaker wire running to the living room and also feeds a signal to a wifi streamer that runs two remote powered speakers (kitchen and bedroom/outside)

sleeve, Saturday, 2 September 2017 18:16 (two weeks ago) Permalink

you do know you need 2 more halfer pieces to make it perfect.

mark e, Saturday, 2 September 2017 18:36 (two weeks ago) Permalink

haha yes

sleeve, Saturday, 2 September 2017 18:44 (two weeks ago) Permalink

dammit my Harmon-Kardon preamp's right output channel died so now my music room has no sound

can anyone recommend a decent-to-good unit that has one volume-controlled output and two other fixed output channels (tape rec out or 2nd output, don't care, they both go to other amps with their own volume controls)

sleeve, Friday, 8 September 2017 17:41 (one week ago) Permalink


sleeve, Friday, 15 September 2017 17:50 (four days ago) Permalink

help me out people, it's killing me that I can't crank Husker Du on the good speakers

sleeve, Friday, 15 September 2017 17:51 (four days ago) Permalink

...maybe one of the units that are designed for "zones" might work but i dunno much on those (and they tend to be $$$)

bodacious ignoramus, Friday, 15 September 2017 20:12 (four days ago) Permalink

Are you committed to your main power amp? The Yamaha A-S301 I mentioned upthread has two fixed outputs, but you can't separate the preamp from the power amp like you can with some integrateds so it'd become your main amp.

Or if you find a decent preamp with only one output could you use an RCA splitter? I use them between my pre and power to send the signal to my subwoofer. I'd guess that might be frowned on by audiophiles though.

early rejecter, Friday, 15 September 2017 22:07 (four days ago) Permalink

I'm pretty committed to the Hafler amp, see above. But thanks! I think I just need to poke around locally this weekend.

sleeve, Friday, 15 September 2017 22:12 (four days ago) Permalink

Why not look for a used version of the preamp you had?

attention vampire (MatthewK), Saturday, 16 September 2017 12:53 (three days ago) Permalink

tbh I found it too harsh and trebly and usually had the high cut button on. I don't know tons about how preamps & amps interact. The Hafler is 150 watts, is there an ideal preamp value to feed it? That's the max recommended for the Paradigm Studio 20 V.3 speakers I have.

sleeve, Saturday, 16 September 2017 14:59 (three days ago) Permalink

What do you hook up to your pre-amp? Do you use turntable/tape deck/cd player? Or just digital via computer?

If the former I'd just look for the best used deal with any of these brands if you're on a budget: NAD, Rotel, Emotiva, Outlaw, Marantz, Cambridge, Yamaha. Yes, Yamaha makes some cheap consumer stuff, but their mid-level gear is high quality.

If the latter, if you just play digital files from computer, you could get a DAC/preamp and run directly to the amp. Meier, Schiit, iFi, Chord and many others have options.

Fastnbulbous, Monday, 18 September 2017 12:28 (yesterday) Permalink

Several years ago I was using an old Harman Kardon receiver in my office/listening lair and upgraded to a used NAD C355 integrated amp to drive my Rega R3s. I was so happy with the improved sound that I went with NAD again when I moved from condo to house, and moved my big Wharfedale Opus 3s from living room to office. This time I got NAD C162 Preamp & NAD 272 150W Amp, which I was happy with until amp started giving an intermittent buzz (.5 sec on, 1 sec off) when it would get warm. Turns out some NAD amps don't always have a great lifespan. Some days when the room is cool the buzz doesn't occur, and most of my time is spent on headphones. But when it gets worse, I'll probably sell the pre amp, get rid of the tape deck and cd player I never use, and just plug my headphone pre-amp directly to a Crown XLS1502 Two-channel, 525W. I'd run a balanced cable from my iFi Pro to it.

Fastnbulbous, Monday, 18 September 2017 12:53 (yesterday) Permalink

I looked for something to recommend, but the 3 output requirement seems to limit the field. I usually had to get into the $1K+ regime to get a pre out and 2 tape outs. So I'd start by filtering by price and outputs. I think that will limit the scope and make the decision easier.

you are juror number 144 and we will excuse you (Sufjan Grafton), Monday, 18 September 2017 14:18 (yesterday) Permalink

thanks all, esp Sufjan, good advice.

to clarify:

most of my inputs (computer w/Dragonfly, CD player, basic turntable, tape deck) run through an old 80's mixer. This runs to a regular receiver, using that I can switch input from (1) mixer to (2) radio to (3) a dedicated high end turntable (MMF5) that runs directly into the tape input and out to a CD recorder. This receiver drives a separate set of speakers in the living room.

An output from that receiver also went to the Harmon Kardon (RIP) and then to the Hafler, powering the music room speakers (the Paradigms). The HK also sent signal to the wifi transmitter, so I guess I only need one preamp output other than the one to the Hafler now that I think about it in more detail.

I really like the Cambridge preamp I have for the MMF5 so I might just go for something of theirs. The best used stereo place in my town closed last year, another went to "appointment only" and all they have is a $300 Carver. I was hoping to buy used & local but may need to go new/online.

sleeve, Monday, 18 September 2017 14:39 (yesterday) Permalink

If you're open to used, Adcom GFP-565 was well-regarded and fits your original requirements as far as outputs. But if you only need one fixed output, that should give you all sorts of options.

early rejecter, Monday, 18 September 2017 14:51 (yesterday) Permalink

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