Advice on home stereo gear

maxell

I wanted to talk about home stereo gear. Especially since this gives me an excuse to post the classic 1980’s Maxell advertisement above. Of course music gear is a matter of personal taste, so hard core music fans won’t need this advice. But for most people I’d argue your stereo gear options are simpler than you might think. In fact there are only two options. After talking about that, let’s also go over what gear you don’t need anymore.

Music gear for a small apartment

smallmusic

For a small apartment, I’ll just assume you already have a smartphone and a laptop as a sunk cost. Beyond that all you really need is a smartphone speaker dock plus some external speakers for your computer. If you have a larger sound system for your TV, then make sure your phone dock comes with an aux out so it can send the output of your phone dock through your main speaker system on your TV.

This won’t cost that much, say $50-100 for the dock, plus say $30 for your computer speakers. For roughly $100-$200 you are done.

The trick here is that music streaming services can provide pretty much anything you want in terms of music content for free. But more on that later in my final section.

Music gear for a house

sonos

For a home or larger apartment Sonos is the only way to go. So I’ll concede up front that I’m a Sonos fanboy. I think it’s a wonderfully designed product that really has no competitors in the market. So take that as you will.

What is Sonos? Well it is an internet connected music system that can play music anywhere in your house. It has a great and easy to use interface, and can be controlled by a free smartphone app, a free desktop application, or by a dedicated controller if you want to buy one. It can play your mp3 collection from your laptop or from a NAS drive. It can stream radio stations. And play all the major music streaming services.

It has a minor downside in that at least one Sonos box in your system needs a wired plug into your router. For me that means putting a Sonos box near my TV gear and main sound system, which is where my wifi router is anyway. For more details probably best just to watch the video on their website.

From a cost point of view a minimal system is:

  • $300 – “play 3” speaker for your bedroom
  • $350 – “connect” box to plug into your main tv speaker system
  • controller – just use free smartphone app or desktop app

Beyond that I think it depends on how many rooms your have. Maybe another one for you kitchen or bath. Now we already said you can do the “small apartment” option above for $100-$200. So if you are on a budget just get a single play 3 or a single connect, which runs you $300 or $350. The point here is that a Sonos system is such a huge step up from anything else that once you are into the $300 range nothing else makes sense. This brings us to the last section, what gear not to get.

What gear not to get

cdplayer

Before I list what gear not to get, let’s talk about where you should get your music from. Not from CDs or mp3’s or broadcast radio. Instead of course you should get everything from streaming services, including streaming radio stations. I’m not going to review music services here, but something like Spotify, Rdio, Pandora or Rhapsody should meet your needs. And while I pay $10/month to get some extras on Rhapsody, and think that’s a good value, the free versions work just fine.

What gear don’t you need any more?

  • CDs – for mainstream tracks, get them from your streaming service. For hard to find tracks, rip them on your laptop.
  • CD Player – no need for this.
  • Radio or Tuner – Sonos can stream not just local radio, but global stations.
  • boom box – replace with a play 3

Like I said, if you are hard core music lover, then you already have your special record player, vinyl and CD collection, so this advice is not for you. But Sonos has been around since 2005, so now is a good time to simplify your life and throw out your old CD player or radio.

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