how to buy a new stereo

I haven’t won the lottery or anything, but it is with a great deal of shock that I realize more than twenty years have passed since I purchased non-portable equipment for playing music. Needless to say, that equipment has since gone on to the electronics hereafter. When, over the past few months, I have made forays into stores that I thought would sell decent stereos, I did not have much success.

I therefore call upon the wisdom of the blogosphere to recommend particular models of stereo equipment, including (but not limited to)

  1. Receivers
  2. Record Players
  3. CD players
  4. DVD players
  5. VCRs
  6. Any combination of 3, 4, & 5
  7. Speakers

Clap! Clap!

Let the advising begin!

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6 thoughts on “how to buy a new stereo

  1. Yamaha is great for their amps/receivers.
    No idea on record players.
    CD Players? Why? DVD will cover that.
    DVD – Sony is good. Be sure though to play with all the models first.
    VCR – Why? Build yourself a Sage TV. Don’t mess with TiVo though – they suck.
    Speakers – Nothing can beat a good set of Polk Audio speakers for the money.

  2. Thanks, Randy. I had always heard good things about Yamaha receivers, and I do think it makes sense to get a device that will play both DVDs and CDs (including CDs containing MP3s).
    The Sage TV idea is tempting, but I think I’ll probably stick with a VCR for now.

  3. Record players:
    Definitely something with direct drive, like a Stanton STR8-50 (their cheapest model, comparable to the price of Sony’s latest model, which is automated and basically easily breakable). Anything by Technics will work, too, but will cost you more. Again, direct drive is the key as you’ll have greater consistency of pitch and sound (even with warped records). Gemini is another decent brand, as is Numark. Use eBay.
    And if you’re buying a receiver, make sure that it has phono settings with a ground plug. Some don’t anymore.

  4. Do you have a total budget in mind?
    The Panasonic digital receivers (XR50 etc.) are pretty good and unobtrusive. Toshiba and Pioneer DVD players have been good in recent years.
    For speakers see if you can kind people selling Tannoy or Epos or Krix — aside from the mass-market brands there are lots of little makes that you’ve probably never heard of but which often give better value, and not all of the stuff they sell is insanely expensive.
    Rega is good for turntables.
    If you’re adventuresome, there are real values in used stuff. One source is http://www.audiogon.com.

  5. Whoops – forgot about phonographs in suggesting receivers. Do any contemporary receivers still include phono amps? If not and you want to keep the vinyl, options are:
    (a) a separate phono preamp e.g. http://www.phono-stage-riaa-step-up.com/index.htm, but still pricey if you buy new. From time to time Radio Shack sells a cheap battery-powered phono preamp; the part number is 42-2111.
    (b) a higher-end integrated amp (which means you’d then need a separate tuner) that has a phono section. Probably over $1000 new, but Rega integrated amps are often available used for just a few hundred, and have excellent phono sections.
    (c) a nice “vintage” receiver. I know this sounds nuts, but the 1970’s-vintage Marantz receivers sound really good, have a lovely retro look, and are actively traded on ebay and audiogon, often for a couple hundred or less. Add a nice Pioneer single-disc player, the best Tannoy speakers you can afford, and you’re done except for the turntable.

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