Author Topic: cheap solution for home audio system  (Read 9292 times)

rebecuna

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 23
cheap solution for home audio system
« on: November 04, 2013, 01:45:55 PM »
DH has been wanting a way to play music off his computer for years. We've tried those cheap little UFO-looking speakers that you can hook together-- they work fine for a room but he wants something that will fill the open layout main floor of the house, even for a party. With Christmas coming up, my parents want to get him something and I'm looking for recommendations for the best quality system for the least amount of money. It also needs to be simple-- not take up too much space or involve a lot of tech know-how.

We don't have a TV, so sound bar type options are out.

TIA!

gimp

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2348
Re: cheap solution for home audio system
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2013, 02:02:25 PM »
I would have suggested a DIY solution, but I suppose the requirement of not involving a lot of tech know-how makes that not possible.

A few questions:
- Are you open to used equipment? Craigslist will probably have speaker gold.
- Size / weight limits?
- Power consumption limits?
- Electrical interface: does he want to use a standard audio jack, or USB, or something fancier?
- Mounting? Do you want to mount speakers on the walls, or keep them near the floor, etc?
- How many? Are you looking for two speakers? More?

Greg

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1449
  • Location: Olympia, WA, USA
Re: cheap solution for home audio system
« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2013, 04:54:02 PM »
If you have a home wi-fi network there are a few nice wi-fi speakers out there.  Harmon Kardon, for instance.  I don't have them but would if I were in a different situation. What I do now is have thrift store speakers half hidden up on some main beams of our bottom floor which is nearly one large room.  They are powered by the DVD player/stereo thing which also has radio, and I can send it music from my laptop via a craigslist apple airport thing as well.

rebecuna

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 23
Re: cheap solution for home audio system
« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2013, 05:57:38 PM »
A few questions:
- Are you open to used equipment? Craigslist will probably have speaker gold.
- Size / weight limits?
- Power consumption limits?
- Electrical interface: does he want to use a standard audio jack, or USB, or something fancier?
- Mounting? Do you want to mount speakers on the walls, or keep them near the floor, etc?
- How many? Are you looking for two speakers? More?

Used is fine if it's easy to use and in good shape. I don't know what I'm looking for, though.
No size or weight limits. We have lots of space in the LR.
I don't know about power consumption. It will just be for streaming music or iTunes.
Interface: probably just something you plug in simply-- audio jack or USB
Speakers on the floor, ideally.
At least 2-- if that gives us enough sound, he'd prefer less "stuff" sitting around.

We do have a wireless network, if that helps.
Thanks!

gooki

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2452
  • Location: NZ
    • My FIRE journal
Re: cheap solution for home audio system
« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2013, 07:00:19 PM »
A stereo system would work very well.

Two of these speakers:
http://www.parts-express.com/pe/showdetl.cfm?partnumber=250-658

Let me know if you do want to buy them, as I have a wholesale account at PartsExpress which drops the price to $82 each.

And either of these amplifiers.
http://www.parts-express.com/pe/showdetl.cfm?partnumber=310-334 ($95 wholesale)
http://www.parts-express.com/pe/showdetl.cfm?partnumber=310-298 ($120 wholesale)

So all up you're looking at $260-$285 for an exceptionally good system. You can definitely save money by buying less, or going used.

** Edit ** Fixed total price
« Last Edit: November 06, 2013, 05:21:10 PM by gooki »

rebecuna

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 23
Re: cheap solution for home audio system
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2013, 09:30:38 PM »
A stereo system would work very well.

Two of these speakers:
http://www.parts-express.com/pe/showdetl.cfm?partnumber=250-658

Let me know if you do want to buy them, as I have a wholesale account at PartsExpress which drops the price to $82 each.

And either of these amplifiers.
http://www.parts-express.com/pe/showdetl.cfm?partnumber=310-334 ($95 wholesale)
http://www.parts-express.com/pe/showdetl.cfm?partnumber=310-298 ($120 wholesale)

So all up you're looking at $260-$285 for an exceptionally good system. You can definitely save money by buying less, or going used.

** Edit ** Fixed total price

When you say "buying less" do you mean smaller speakers? Would bookshelf speakers just not do the volume he's looking for? The price is a little steep... any recs for the $200 range total?

Also, what does your wholesale account mean? I'd buy them from you instead of the website?
Thanks!
« Last Edit: November 14, 2013, 10:02:21 PM by rebecuna »

fasteddie911

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 34
Re: cheap solution for home audio system
« Reply #6 on: November 15, 2013, 05:07:17 AM »
Though I haven't tried it myself, I've been considering a small (bookshelf size) inexpensive setup using the following:

http://www.amazon.com/Micca-MB42-Bookshelf-Speakers-Tweeter/dp/B009IUIV4A/ref=cm_srch_res_rtr_1

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0049P6OTI/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pd_nS_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=1MAS1V5DW702D&coliid=I1HEMDUZRNVGGH

Not sure how it will work in your room size, and it probably won't have the strongest bass, but a separate subwoofer could solve that, or some larger speakers, like a floorstanding pair, may have fuller bass.  It'll definitely be an upgrade over your current setup for only $80 while still maintaining a small footprint.

kamikazejello

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 22
  • Location: Southeast
Re: cheap solution for home audio system
« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2013, 06:20:14 AM »
When you say "buying less" do you mean smaller speakers? Would bookshelf speakers just not do the volume he's looking for? The price is a little steep... any recs for the $200 range total?

The basic components are your receiver/amplifier (takes your audio signal from one source, outputs it to your speakers and provides the power) and your speakers. 

So the nice thing about home audio is that it is very modular and can be upgraded over time. Don't be afraid of buying 2nd hand (Craigslist, garage sale, pawn shop). 30 year old Pioneer, Polk, JBL floorstanding speakers will provide excellent sound compared to those crappy computer speakers you've used.  Maybe in two years your husband wants to upgrade speakers you bought used - chances are you won't take much of a depreciation on them, if any at all, and buy something different. I've bought and sold many speakers on Craigslist and have yet to receive a dud speaker.

As a general thought, smaller speakers can provide good highs and mids but lack on the bass. They also have a tendency to become distorted at higher volumes moreso than larger speakers. Granted, a high quality bookshelf speaker can get pretty loud but it still won't have the base of larger cones and drivers.

So to give you an idea, I checked my local Craigslist. Something like http://atlanta.craigslist.org/nat/ele/4163665389.html is older, however if you could negotiate that down to $75, you should be pleased with how they sound.

Pair it with a used receiver such as http://atlanta.craigslist.org/wat/ele/4180885637.html and you have your initial setup for ~$130.  Down the road you could add a (cheap) subwoofer, change the speakers, add other audio sources etc. 


rebecuna

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 23
Re: cheap solution for home audio system
« Reply #8 on: November 15, 2013, 07:53:50 AM »
Great, suggestions, thanks!

How do I know the speakers are good quality if I'm buying off CL? Ask them to have them hooked up so I can listen?

kamikazejello

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 22
  • Location: Southeast
Re: cheap solution for home audio system
« Reply #9 on: November 15, 2013, 08:21:23 AM »
How do I know the speakers are good quality if I'm buying off CL? Ask them to have them hooked up so I can listen?

Yep absolutely listen to them.  Look behind the "grills"/dust covers and look at the cones. Make sure they're not pushed in, no tears or rips. Look at the foam around the cones to see if it looks good quality or if it's ripped/dry rotted.  If the seller seems to know a lot about the product and will let you listen to them, chances are they've taken good care of them.

Some of the following speakers tend to be good brands used (and I'd suggest staying away from Bose, more advertising than substance):
Polk, JBL, Pioneer, Klipsch, Boston Acoustic, KEF, Paradigm, Energy, Definitive Technology.

Stay away from White Van speaker scams http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_van_speaker_scam  -these are usually shiny speaker sets with people touting their high MSRP: "Here's the laminated sheet showing $1,999.00 list but we were making a delivery and had an extra set. Our boss told us to sell it so you can have it for $400."   I've been approached at gas stations and Home Depot with this spiel, avoid at all cost.

Or, if this all seems overwhelming, you could always opt for a higher-end PC speaker set.  I have these http://www.amazon.com/Logitech-980-000402-Speaker-System-Z623/dp/B003VAHYTG/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1384528694&sr=8-3&keywords=logitech+speakers and while they don't compare with a more expensive sound system, they will most definitely fill up a room with good quality sound.  No extra amplifiers/receivers to purchase.   Downside for this particular set is that the speakers can only be placed a fixed distance from the subwoofer (which has to sit on the ground) due to their wire length.

Justin234

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 108
  • Location: Pacific Northwest
Re: cheap solution for home audio system
« Reply #10 on: November 15, 2013, 10:57:02 AM »
So the nice thing about home audio is that it is very modular and can be upgraded over time. Don't be afraid of buying 2nd hand (Craigslist, garage sale, pawn shop). 30 year old Pioneer, Polk, JBL floorstanding speakers will provide excellent sound compared to those crappy computer speakers you've used.  Maybe in two years your husband wants to upgrade speakers you bought used - chances are you won't take much of a depreciation on them, if any at all, and buy something different. I've bought and sold many speakers on Craigslist and have yet to receive a dud speaker.

I inherited some speakers from my mom; I think they are good because she frequently complained about her ex-husband's purchase of an expensive sound-system back in the late 70s, and these speaks are part of that purchase :)

I've been thinking of buying a receiver, and want to connect my laptop/ipod. Can you just get a cable that has a USB on one end and an Audio input on another? What criteria would you use to assess amp/receivers?

Thanks to the OP for starting this thread, this project has been on my mind for a while too.

kamikazejello

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 22
  • Location: Southeast
Re: cheap solution for home audio system
« Reply #11 on: November 15, 2013, 11:11:02 AM »

I've been thinking of buying a receiver, and want to connect my laptop/ipod. Can you just get a cable that has a USB on one end and an Audio input on another? What criteria would you use to assess amp/receivers?

Regarding hooking up audio devices to a receiver, the cheapest/easiest way I know how is with a RCA to 3.5mm cable such as this http://www.monoprice.com/Product?c_id=102&cp_id=10218&cs_id=1021804&p_id=665&seq=1&format=2.  You just plug it in to your headphone jack - works with cell phones, iPods, tablets, even laptops and desktop computers.

Regarding the receiver, they run anywhere from $100 to $2000+ brand new.  A lot depends on if you plan to have multiple audio sources and if you plan to hook it up to a television.  At its most base level, you can use an amplifier like FastEddie911 posted where it receives the signal via the white/red cables and outputs it to 2 speakers.  There are other options like iPod docks or bluetooth connections but those come at a price.

Spend a little more and you can have it output to 2 speakers and a subwoofer (or 2), or 5 speakers or 7 speakers. Some have a 2nd zone so you can run wire to speakers in your kitchen or on your patio and play it in a 2nd listening zone.  From a purely practical standpoint though, you'll want to look for the output rating of watts and at what ohms to match up to your speakers.  Is it worth an extra $200 to go from 90watts per channel to 110 watts? Not to me, not for what I use it for.

From my experience, Onkyo, Denon, Harmon Kardon, Pioneer, Yamaha all make good receivers.


This can all get expensive in a hurry which is why I prefer buying 2nd hand.  Not to mention, most speakers require a break-in period which means somebody else using them has already done that for me :) 

side note:  Monoprice has very good price for speaker wire as well. I prefer a 14 or 16 gauge for my distances - you could get away with 18 gauge for shorter distances in my opinion.






Russ

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2213
  • Age: 30
  • Location: Boulder, CO
Re: cheap solution for home audio system
« Reply #12 on: November 15, 2013, 11:26:03 AM »
I've been thinking of buying a receiver, and want to connect my laptop/ipod. Can you just get a cable that has a USB on one end and an Audio input on another?

No, that requires an analog/digital converter. There's one in your computer, which allows an analog signal out of your headphone jack, or you could have one external to the computer either in an external sound card or in the receiver/amp (do they do this? I don't know if that actually exists but I imagine it does). Running out of your mini jack is probably best for now.

rebecuna

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 23
Re: cheap solution for home audio system
« Reply #13 on: November 15, 2013, 08:01:35 PM »
How about these? Not much detail... what do I ask?
http://westernmass.craigslist.org/ele/4150615333.html

kamikazejello

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 22
  • Location: Southeast
Re: cheap solution for home audio system
« Reply #14 on: November 15, 2013, 08:44:18 PM »
I love KEF, currently have their setup in two of my rooms. This seems like a good price. Ask the standard CL questions - everything work? Any issues/damages? Would you take $60?  Then ask how the cones are, how the foam around the cones are, how the grills are (you can always have these recovered) and if you can hear them hooked up. 

If they work I have no doubt you could turn around and sell them for same or more should you/your spouse decide you don't like them in your home.

rebecuna

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 23
Re: cheap solution for home audio system
« Reply #15 on: November 18, 2013, 07:25:51 AM »
Acoustic Research TSW100s?
http://westernmass.craigslist.org/ele/4196714487.html

The KEF were mismarked and actually over an hour away... can't get there on my bike!

gooki

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2452
  • Location: NZ
    • My FIRE journal
Re: cheap solution for home audio system
« Reply #16 on: November 18, 2013, 10:09:15 AM »
Average, but probably adequate for your needs.

kamikazejello

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 22
  • Location: Southeast
Re: cheap solution for home audio system
« Reply #17 on: November 22, 2013, 02:33:29 PM »
Acoustic Research TSW100s?
http://westernmass.craigslist.org/ele/4196714487.html

The KEF were mismarked and actually over an hour away... can't get there on my bike!

If you can grab those for $40 or so, they'll be much better than any of those "cheap" computer speakers you've used.  These won't have great bass to them most likely but should be a good intro.

timothy

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 3
Re: cheap solution for home audio system
« Reply #18 on: November 23, 2013, 09:30:54 AM »
Though I haven't tried it myself, I've been considering a small (bookshelf size) inexpensive setup using the following:

http://www.amazon.com/Micca-MB42-Bookshelf-Speakers-Tweeter/dp/B009IUIV4A/ref=cm_srch_res_rtr_1

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0049P6OTI/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pd_nS_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=1MAS1V5DW702D&coliid=I1HEMDUZRNVGGH

Not sure how it will work in your room size, and it probably won't have the strongest bass, but a separate subwoofer could solve that, or some larger speakers, like a floorstanding pair, may have fuller bass.  It'll definitely be an upgrade over your current setup for only $80 while still maintaining a small footprint.

I have had this exact setup since June, and have been quite pleased. You may be able to find better deals on craigslist (which could be more mustachian), but if not, these are pretty solid. I am by no means a true "audiophile," but this system sounds nice and can be way louder than my medium-sized living room can handle. The speakers sound nice when you crank them up, though, unlike some crappy speakers I have used in the past. If you get these speakers and amp, you will also need speaker wire to connect them to the amp, wire strippers to strip the ends of the speaker wire, and a cord with headphone sized plug on both ends.

SnackDog

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1276
  • Location: Latin America
Re: cheap solution for home audio system
« Reply #19 on: November 23, 2013, 10:11:38 AM »
Why own something if it is just for the occasional party? How about inviting a friend (or teenager) to be dj and bring their own hardware.  Many people love doing this and will gladly spin tunes all night.

rebecuna

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 23
Re: cheap solution for home audio system
« Reply #20 on: November 25, 2013, 06:53:31 AM »
Why own something if it is just for the occasional party? How about inviting a friend (or teenager) to be dj and bring their own hardware.  Many people love doing this and will gladly spin tunes all night.

He would use it at least weekly... but I agree in principle!!

kamikazejello

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 22
  • Location: Southeast
Re: cheap solution for home audio system
« Reply #21 on: November 25, 2013, 05:06:15 PM »
Why own something if it is just for the occasional party? How about inviting a friend (or teenager) to be dj and bring their own hardware.  Many people love doing this and will gladly spin tunes all night.

He would use it at least weekly... but I agree in principle!!

Plus it might give him a new hobby to tinker with. In fact, if you lived closer I'm sure my wife would gladly give you a pair or three of spare speakers I have sitting around. A tendency to collect things plus the love of a good Craigslist bargain could be my downfall.

Let us know what you end up with! And if you need help setting it up let us know.