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  1. #1
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    Thumbs up Mini Systems - Reviews? Best of?

    Sound People:
    I am in the market for a high-quality mini-system that won't break the bank. I had been using an old (!) Sony boombox that appealed to me 'cause of the graphic EQ. When the CD player died, I searched for a new system, but the graphic EQ seems to have become extinct. (Sorry, but I like to have a little more control than most systems offer.)
    I really can't afford to go all-out & buy the high-end components, so I'm looking for a high-quality minisystem that will play CD's, with as much sound control as I can get.
    I'm looking at the Denon D-M37S or the Onkyo CS-325.
    Can anyone offer any reviews of either unit, or a suggestion of another?

  2. #2
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    Yeah, mini systems and boomboxes seem to have retired the EQ for the preset sound settings "rock", "jazz" etc.

    I am not up on mini systems. Depending on your budget you might take a look at the NAD CD/receivers. They are under $500.00 and paired with a decent bookshelf you'd have excellent sound quality. Of course, no EQ, but resolution beyond what you are currently used to. Unless used a decent bookshelf will set you back at least $200.00 give or take though. NAD makes these receivers with built in CD player so it's one box.

    Another suggestion, if room isn't a factor and you have Craigslist in your area you can usually pick up an older receiver and an actual EQ for little of nothing. You have to watch though, some people try to sell those vintage receivers for way more than they are worth. You should be able to get a working receiver for under $100.00 and an EQ for under $50.00, way under usually. Take it old school for great sound on the cheap. You can also browse thrift stores. I once bought a Sansui integrated for $20.00 to later find it was a sought after collector item. When I listened to it I could understand why.

    Sorry, I didn't answer your original question but if your goal is sound quality you might find these options useful If space is limited and you really need a mini system the two brands you are looking at are respectable and would be at the top of my list in mass market brands.
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  3. #3
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    You're not gonna find too much love for minisystems around here. No matter how well designed or built a given minisystem is, they almost always get saddled down by crappy speakers.

    If you're not space constrained, then there's no reason whatsoever not to try piecing together some entry level components. Those give you a lot more room for future upgrades, and you start off at a much higher level from the beginning. An entry level receiver plus a pair of decent bookshelf speakers will run you no more than $300. CD players are a dime a dozen, and you could just go with a DVD player as your source.
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    Thanx for your honesty! As much as I realize that I won't get optimum performance from a mini-system, I am somewhat limited in space. That being said, I'm always open to any advice from those more versed in component audio than I am these days. It's been some time since I followed the progress of audio developments, "making do" with a low-level boombox. (It's where I was at at the time...) Anyhoo, I'm curious as to how you all decided on your components, given all the options out there. Yes, I know: read the specs & listen, listen, listen, right? Can you give me any ideas on a decent CD/Tuner/Amp + bookshelf speaker combo that would fall into the price range of the mini-systems I mentioned?

  5. #5
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    Help me out, what is your budget?

    As an example of what Wooch was talking about you can find at Best Buy their Insignia stereo receiver and speakers real cheap. I have not heard them to form an opinion.
    Mark Levinson #512
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  6. #6
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    As I said to Woochifer, the budget would be about what the Denon or Onkyo mini-systems are listed at ($300-$400). If I was going to go component, I'm more concerned as to what the best units would be in today's audio world. There have been been so many new advancements since I last really auditioned anything seriously that I kinda don't know where to start now (hence the advice questions...). Obviously, I would prefer higher-quality sound & flexibility to trading performance for size. As far as the Insignia units go, I'm a little wary of store-brand electronics, as you usually get what you pay for. So, for now, I'll keep looking & picking your brains. We all have to start somewhere, eh?

  7. #7
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    . Obviously, I would prefer higher-quality sound & flexibility to trading performance for size. As far as the Insignia units go, I'm a little wary of store-brand electronics, as you usually get what you pay for. So, for now, I'll keep looking & picking your brains. We all have to start somewhere, eh?[/QUOTE]

    Oh, a bit of audio snobbery from Mr Boombox

    See the "buy new & used" price: http://www.amazon.com/NAD-C-715-Ster.../dp/B0011E657G

    Here's a new c715 for $399.99 and they allow a 30 return if not happy: http://www.crutchfield.com/p_745C715...15.html?tp=179

    Here's sort of the recommended speaker for that c715: http://www.stereophile.com/standloudspeakers/792psb/

    You might also take a look at Wharfdale speakers

    Did you notice the c715 also offers a USB input? This would be a hard combo to beat at the price for new equipment and especially for the level of sound you will achieve.
    Mark Levinson #512
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  8. #8
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    This is something like I was talking about used, you have to check this stuff out though to see if it works: http://stlouis.craigslist.org/ele/1382079877.html

    Deals like this may be around your area, check Goodwill, thrift stores, even yard sales.
    Mark Levinson #512
    Pass Labs XP-10 & X250
    Clearaudio Performance DC, Dynavector 10x5, AcousTech Ph-1p
    Clarus Crimson loom - AC outlet to speaker terminal
    Revel Performa F52 main/center & S30's
    SVS PC13 Ultra (sub)
    Marantz BD-7003 > AV-8003 > LINN 5125
    Transparent cables / Tributaries HDMI
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  9. #9
    Vinyl Fundamentalist Forums Moderator poppachubby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Peabody
    This is something like I was talking about used, you have to check this stuff out though to see if it works: http://stlouis.craigslist.org/ele/1382079877.html

    Deals like this may be around your area, check Goodwill, thrift stores, even yard sales.
    Shoot, nice find Peabody, I may take a drive to St Louis today...hey boombox guy, you got Peabody workin hard.

    I have read that you're low on space but theres ALWAYS a way to mount gear. I had a bachelor apartment so small that I had to put my stuff side by side along the top of my kitchen cupboards. Speakers were piled mono until I was able to hang them. I had to use a step stool to access the amp but you know what? My music sounded awesome. Bottom line.

    Find a way man and don't waste your money...consider adding some shelving thats out of the way, there's always dead space on a wall. The great thing about speakers is they're super small now. Check Ebay for some used Bose, the review section will give you model numbers. I have some 201's hanging in my kitchen now, they sound great. Good luck!

  10. #10
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    Mr.P.: If you took that particular comment as snobbery, I apologize, it wasn't meant that way. All I meant was that I didn't want to go buy something that I had no knowledge of. I'm just trying to get some advance intel from more knowledgeable enthusiasts. Your suggestions have given me some ideas & a place to start. You've spent way more time here than this subject is probably worth to you...thanx for that.

  11. #11
    Vinyl Fundamentalist Forums Moderator poppachubby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jsound
    Mr.P.: If you took that particular comment as snobbery, I apologize, it wasn't meant that way. All I meant was that I didn't want to go buy something that I had no knowledge of. I'm just trying to get some advance intel from more knowledgeable enthusiasts. Your suggestions have given me some ideas & a place to start. You've spent way more time here than this subject is probably worth to you...thanx for that.

    I'm pretty sure he was just breakin balls jsound...I mean after all, he's helping you out right?

  12. #12
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    Yeah, jsound I was just messing with you. If it's any consulation Best Buy has a 30 day return policy if you wanted to consider the Insignia. I'm not sure who builds it for them. If you can swing the expense that NAD unit should sound pretty good and it's a bit of a space saver too. Sometimes you can get financing when buying from Crutchfield who also has a 30 day return. I believe they run their financing through Sony. I haven't looked at what speakers they carry. I know they haven't had PSB. If they have any of the NHT in stock they would mate well with the NAD.
    Mark Levinson #512
    Pass Labs XP-10 & X250
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    Clarus Crimson loom - AC outlet to speaker terminal
    Revel Performa F52 main/center & S30's
    SVS PC13 Ultra (sub)
    Marantz BD-7003 > AV-8003 > LINN 5125
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  13. #13
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    Mr.P.: I know you were just funnin', but, let's face it, I don't blame you for the (good-natured) dig: I'm making a pretty quantum leap in equipment & attitude from a boombox to components. The NAD looks like a really good unit for the price, & the speakers are well-reviewed also. I also looked at the reviews of the Axiom M3's & they look remarkable, but they might be a little pricey right now (have you heard them?)
    Once again, I appreciate the time & effort you've spent! It would've taken me a long time to narrow down the field without help.

  14. #14
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    No, I haven't heard any Axiom. If it is a serious interest you might start a thread on the "speakers" forum, or maybe one just asking for good $200.00 sets of speakers. There may even be some older threads around on inexpensive bookshelf.
    Mark Levinson #512
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    SVS PC13 Ultra (sub)
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  15. #15
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    Hi, guys: Just wanted to post an update on the project: I'm going to use either the HK-3390 2-channel x 80w receiver, or the Yamaha RX-397 2 x 50w, driving 2 Polk Audio RTiA1 speakers. CD source will be a CD/DVD player - mass-market branded (can't swing the higher-ended audio models right now). If I want later on, I can add in my much-desired EQ. The whole shebang should top-out at about $500. Any comments?

  16. #16
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    If you don't already have a CD/DVD player see what you can find a Marantz 5003 for, it doesn't play DVD but would give good CD playback for the money. Or, if really needing DVD look at one of the Oppo, they are supposed to have better than normal CD playback for a DVD player. The 5003 was only about $299.00 new, if you check the internet or Audiogon you might find one cheap. If you find some money under a rock some where the Cambridge 640 CD player is going for $349.00 which was normally $699.00.

    By the way I'd take the HK over the Yamaha, I wouldn't even hesitate.
    Mark Levinson #512
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    Marantz BD-7003 > AV-8003 > LINN 5125
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  17. #17
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    Mr. P.: Yeah, that's the way I'm leaning - given the power spectrum of the Polks. As far as the CD source, I've kinda shied away from the used stuff, although I saw a good Pioneer upconverting DVD/CD player on craigslist for $30. Anyhoo, one way or the other, I think that the amp & speakers are more important to start with. I have to thank all of you again: you woke up that audio quality section in my head that I'd let alone for too long. I feel like an ass for considering a shelf system. I'll keep you posted.

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    "Money Under A Rock"...The Story Continues....

    Well, Mr. Peabody & Co.: After shopping around & drooling at Audiogon stuff, I flipped over a few stones & bought the Cambridge Audio 640C v2 in black. I saw the asking price ($349.00) vs. the MSRP ($649.00) & just couldn't pass it up. The 340C was about the same price, so it was pretty much a no-brainer. So much for my CD source.
    Next up, HK3390 & Polk Audio RtiA1's.
    Question: Any suggestions for interconnects & speaker cables that will fit this system?
    (P.S.: I'm running out of rocks...)
    Comments??

  19. #19
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    Congrads, decent player at a great price. For cables on a budget and good performance I recommend Bluejeans cables http://www.bluejeanscable.com/ They will work great for your system.. There are better but cost is at least twice as much and may not do more for you until moving up into gear with more resolution. I hope you get what I mean, BJC are plenty good and the extra expense for better may not be realized.

    Now that you have such a nice player have you thought about maybe a Cambridge or NAD integrated amp? Have you checked www.spearitsound.com ? If in your area to listen to you might want to check out Paradigm or B&W before making your final decision. Even if you get the HK & Polk with the 640 on the front end I think you will be pleased with what you've done for yourself. Happy for you.
    Mark Levinson #512
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    Clarus Crimson loom - AC outlet to speaker terminal
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    SVS PC13 Ultra (sub)
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  20. #20
    RGA
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    I prefer the entry level Rotel integrated's to the NAD integrated's so you may want to add them to your list.

    But what I would do is find some good high end audio dealerships in your area and look at the used section. It's okay to buy CD player's new because of the moving parts but for an amp you can usually do FAR better.

    Just the other day I was at my local audio shop and they were selling an Audio Research SP 7 preamp for $350 CAD and a couple of decent power amps - an Arcam Delta 290P and a Creek (don't remember the model) but both were selling for $200-$250.

    So for $600 (no tax because they were consignment - you could have an ARC preamp with MM phono Stage and very good build and an Arcam power amp (from perhaps Arcam's best run of products) versus an entry level Rotel, Cambridge or NAD which in comparison is completely outclassed.

    And that is just what the store had in last week. You'll see a good Sugden crop up from time to time and they had other much nicer amps than what you're looking at for less money. Now the ARC is old and has some cosmetic issues scratches on the top - it was used heavily but still in good shape sonically.

    And speakers too - for $60 I picked up a very nice set of Tannoy CR 650 loudspeakers - For $200 new you're going to have a very tough time finding better. It's a down market - used prices are lower than normal and people are selling off their gear - If I could get a speaker like that for $60 - then you could do real well for $200. I have seen nicer PSB, Jamo and B&W speakers out there going for $125 that originally went for $600-$700.

    Speakers will usually last 15-25 years without problems so even if you buy a 7-10 year old pair you'll save a ton, get a better loudspeaker, and still get long life out of them.

    Unfortunately if you're just getting into the market it is tougher for you to know what was good 5-10 years ago. So buy a couple back issues of Hi-Fi Choice magazine or the like and ask around on forums. Incidentally - the build quality of the ARC even at 20 years+ old is still better than virtually everything in the budget name brand camp from the likes of Cambridge Audio, Nad and Rotel.

  21. #21
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    Hi, All:
    It's been a busy time since the last post: I searched a lot of different sources for
    used equipment that would work with both my budget & my space. There were a few
    nice used amps, but most would have required a pre-amp (even used, that would have put
    too much of a cramp in the budget), & some were good bargains, but too large & heavy for
    my available room. It was fun & enlightening looking, though.
    After crunching the numbers, I finally went with the Cambridge Audio 640Av2 (a fully-warrantied demo from Spearit Sound for $369.00), the Polk Audio RTiA1's, with the
    Cambridge Audio 640Cv2 CD player. I ordered the interconnects & speaker cables from
    Blue Jeans Cables ($52.00 for all). The whole system worked out to a little over $1,100.00.
    I'm hooking it all together on Christmas. I'd like to thank all of you for your time
    & assistance - you really helped me out.
    Happy Holidays to all.

  22. #22
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    Good deal and it looks like you put together a nice system. I wish I could be there with you, I know you are going to be impressed and really enjoy yourself. You might try hooking the CDP up digital and analog to see which sounds better. Digital, the receiver's DAC will do the decoding, analog, the CDP will do the decoding. Have a merry Christmas season.
    Mark Levinson #512
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    Clarus Crimson loom - AC outlet to speaker terminal
    Revel Performa F52 main/center & S30's
    SVS PC13 Ultra (sub)
    Marantz BD-7003 > AV-8003 > LINN 5125
    Transparent cables / Tributaries HDMI
    PS Audio Quintet

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    The Results!

    Well, it's up & running! I've only had a few hours to listen, with the holidays & all, but...it's
    impressive! Even though the Polks are only about 4 feet apart, the soundstage is palpable
    & well-articulated.(I plan on wall-mounting them in upper corners about 12 feet apart, once I get a chance - I think that will expand the imaging to almost 3D clarity.) I have them sitting on relatively thin wood shelving with open space beneath, which enhances their bass without boominess.
    The 640A is more than sufficient power for these speakers, driving them to quite substantial volume levels at only about 1/2 up on the knob. (Once everything is broken in, I'll goose it a bit..)
    I played a variety of music, starting with Steely Dan, & running the gamut from Beethoven's
    3rd Symphony to Tool's "Lateralus". The jazzy 'Dan shone, with amazing mids, while the classical selections, with their greater dynamics, needed a little boost to the volume to bring out the more delicate sections. Some old Neil Young was revealing & personal, as the acoustic guitar & vocals were very well portrayed.
    Anyway, it's great sound. Thanx, all, for your help!

  24. #24
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    You want to keep your speakers about ear level when you are in your listening position. Putting them high up is not a good idea. You might cure one problem but create another. You also don't want to spread them out so far that you sit close in to them. A general rule of thumb would be to make a triangle of you and the speakers with the sides, distance between speakers, and, you and speakers, being equal.
    Mark Levinson #512
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    Clearaudio Performance DC, Dynavector 10x5, AcousTech Ph-1p
    Clarus Crimson loom - AC outlet to speaker terminal
    Revel Performa F52 main/center & S30's
    SVS PC13 Ultra (sub)
    Marantz BD-7003 > AV-8003 > LINN 5125
    Transparent cables / Tributaries HDMI
    PS Audio Quintet

  25. #25
    Retro Modernist 02audionoob's Avatar
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    Agreeing with Mr. Peabody, I'll take it even a little further. Spacing the speakers far apart might widen the soundstage but you could lose focus in the center. I like to be able to hear the vocal clearly coming from the center so I keep my speakers even closer together than the equilateral triangle arrangement. I sit 10 feet from the speakers but they're currently less than 7 feet apart.

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