Back in 2015, I compiled a list of 2-channel stereo equipment that a person could select from to start a budget 2-channel stereo system. The intent was to find items that were factory new or factory refurbished all of which still have a warranty from their manufacturer. The goal was to keep within a $500 - $600 price point. This all started while gathering information for my own purchases while on a strict budget. After reviewing my notes, I decided to revisit this topic and put together a new list as of December 2018.
Often times, manufacturers ignore the needs of budget-conscience consumers and try to push out the best and greatest models while ignoring this demographic. Bells and whistles are nice but not everyone needs or desires them. After all, it’s all about the music for 2-channel lovers. The following information is intended to be USED AS A GUIDE. This is by no means an all inclusive list mostly because what is on sale today may not be available tomorrow and vise versa. There may be other good options that I haven’t explored. If you know of any please post them up.
As I stated in 2015, all items selected for this list have had good reviews online and many have been reviewed in numerous forums. Some have been reviewed on cnet.com and by respected reviewers such as Steven Guttenberg “The Audiophiliac”. So, if you want more info about a product on this list, you can check them out by using google.com and do your own search.
All the speakers listed were chosen because they provide decent bass output and still remain affordable. No sub-woofer would be needed with any of these speakers although one could be added later. As a general rule, I recommend purchasing the best speakers you can afford within your budget. Quality speakers are the most important part of any audio system. After all, they are what actually produce the music you hear so don’t go cheap on speakers. Generally speaking, speakers should make up about half or more of the total cost of your stereo system. Another point to note, in most cases, a pair of equally-priced bookshelf speakers will sound better than a pair of floor-standing speakers. This is simply because more materials are needed to make floor speakers so the drivers are usually not as good as a comparably priced bookshelf speaker. I would certainly keep this in mind when considering your speaker choice.
Also, I have listed CD players and turntables as the source devices. Personally, I dig CD’s but some may want a turntable instead of or in addition to a CD player. Originally, I wasn’t into the vinyl craze but after picking up a turntable a while back I too have been bitten by the “vinyl bug”. If you desire both, that can be worked into the mix too. You can still stay in the aforementioned price range but you will need to be a bit more creative in your selections. Finally, if you’re one of the folks who love to stream music or hook to a network as a source for their music you would need to consider one of the network stereo receivers I have listed. Most receivers nowadays have built in network features such as Spotify, Pandora, AirPlay and Bluetooth capable.
Please remember, not all 2-channel receivers have phono capabilities. If the receiver you are looking at doesn’t have a built-in phono stage you will need to get a turntable that has a phono stage built in or you will need a separate phono stage which in most cases will cost as much or more than the receivers listed here. You will need to do the research for yourself to determine if the receiver has the features you want.
So, here is the list of decent quality “audiophile affordable” (as IntelliVolume suggested we call it) gear to get someone started in 2-channel audio. This list takes into account prices as of today, December 5, 2018. As stated earlier, all items listed are either factory new or factory refurbished and all have manufacturer warranties. No used equipment was included since availability and price constantly change and they don’t have any warranty protection. As you will see, there are some real gems listed that would make a terrific addition to your music rig.
Yamaha R-S202 Stereo Receiver = $90 (accessories4less.com)
Yamaha R-S300BLK Stereo Receiver = $136 (frys.com)
Onkyo TX-8020 Stereo Receiver = $144 (newegg.com)
Pioneer SX-10AE Stereo Receiver = $149 (newegg.com)
Yamaha R-N301 Network Stereo Receiver = $180 (accessories4less.com)
Onkyo TX-8140 Network Stereo Receiver = $189 (accessories4less.com)
Onkyo TX-8220 Network Stereo Receiver = $200 (crutchfield.com)
Integrated Amplifiers (no tuner):
Pioneer Elite 100W 2.0-Ch. Amplifier = $200 (bestbuy.com)
Onkyo DX-C390 5-CD Changer = $100 (accessories4less.com)
Onkyo C-7030 Single CD Player = $ 130 (accessories4less.com)
Pioneer PD-10AE CD Player = $179 (newegg.com)
Yamaha CD-C600 5-CD Changer = $180 (accessories4less.com)
Yamaha CD-S300 Single CD Player = $190 (accessories4less.com)
Audio-Technica AT-LP60-USB Turntable = $89 (newegg.com)
Pioneer PL-990 Fully Automatic Turntable = $119 (newegg.com)
Denon DP-29F Turntable = $150 (cruchfield.com)
Marantz TT42 Automatic Belt Drive Turntable = $160 (accessories4less.com)
U-Turn Audio Basic Turntable = $179 (uturnaudio.com)
Music Hall USB-1 Turntable = $199 (crutchfield.com & musicdirect.com)
Fluance RT-80 Turntable = $199 (amazon.com & fluance.com)
Denon DP-300F Automatic Belt Drive Turntable = $200 (accessories4less.com)
Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Turntable = $250 (amazon.com, cruchfield.com & bestbuy.com)
Fluance RT-81 Walnut Turntable = $250 (amazon.com & fluance.com)
Yamaha NS-6490 Bookshelf Speakers = $90 /pr
Polk Audio TSx110B Bookshelf Speakers = $138 /pr
Klipsch R-15M Bookshelf Speakers = $158 /pr
Polk Audio TSx220B Bookshelf Speakers = $180 /pr
Elac Debut 2.0 B5.2 Bookshelf Speakers = $200 /pr
Elac Debut B6 (old model) Bookshelf Speakers = $200 /pr
NHT SuperOne 2.1 Bookshelf Speakers = $232 /pr
Polk RTi A3 Bookshelf Speakers = $240 /pr
Wharfedale Diamond 10.1 Bookshelf Speakers = $249 /pr
Canton GLE426 Bookshelf Speakers = $250 /pr
Klipsch R-51M Bookshelf Speakers = $250 /pr
. (bestbuy.com & crutchfield.com)
Wharfedale Diamond 220 Bookshelf Speakers = $250 /pr
KEF Q150 Bookshelf Speakers = $270 /pr
Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2 Bookshelf Speakers = $300 /pr
. (amazon.com & cruchfield.com)
Polk Audio T50 Floorstanding Speakers = $178 /pr
Boston Acoustics CS260III Floorstanding Speakers = $200 /pr
JBL Arena 170 Floorstanding Speakers = $200 /pr
Pioneer SP-FS52 Floorstanding Speakers = $200 /pr
Polk Audio TSi300 Floorstanding Speakers = $300 /pr
Boston Acoustics A250 Floorstanding Speakers = $320 /pr
I hope this info helps guide folks to quality affordable stereo equipment and the pure enjoyment it can bring.