Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cheap Tunes

Tired of listening to your mp3 player through those cheap earbuds, but don't have a lot of money for a stereo or docking station? Put your own together for much less.

The ipod docking stations are spendy if you want something with sound better than a boombox or clock radio. I found this out the hard way AFTER I purchased my ipod. I started looking into maybe building a dedicated setup that would sound good and cost less. Most of the articles I ran into on the Internet built setups for about the same price....out of my lower middle class budget.

I ran into some great deals out there. So, for the budget enthusiast who loves his or her tunes, here is my list. Just hook these components up, plug in your ipod and enjoy beautiful music for less.

The barest bones system....

This will put out nice, clean sound, have a small footprint, and will make a nice set for normal listening levels in a small bedroom, den, or office. The clarity is shocking. Of course you will need to bring your own mp3 player or ipod to the mix.

Dayton Class T Amplifier

This is an amazingly tiny 15 watt per channel (more like 5 in real life situations) that produces the most amazingly clear sounds.....sounds much more expensive than it is. It won't rattle the walls, but you will be hearing breaths in between songs on vocals, fingers moving across guitars, and even some bloopers (the Searchers have a squeaky drum pedal on their recording of Needles and Pins). Amazing detail, and usually runs about $45 regular price with power supply. It's on sale until the end of the month for $34. You will need to pick up speaker wire.....Parts Express sells this for reasonable.....you don't want to go thicker than 18 AWG (smaller numbers are THICKER)....the speaker connects on the amp won't easily accept it.

This amp comes with a cable to hook up your computer sound card or an mp3 player via the headphone jack. If you have a portable CD player as well, you're set. If you want to use an ipod via the docking connection (it DOES sound better). Try this cable available on Amazon.com....it works well, and is $13 instead of $49 for an Apple Dock. You will have to charge your ipod elsewhere but you can do that at your computer at end of day. http://www.amazon.com/Cables-Go-35508-iPod-Compatible-Connector/dp/B000J022G6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1266935709&sr=1-1

Dayton Bookshelf Speaker Pair

Here is a nicely built set of bookshelf speakers for $32.50....on sale for $29.00 right now. These are highly rated on the Parts Express site, and they're a good value capable of nice clear sound. No earth shaking bass, but we're going for good sound, not thumpy here.

At retail price, this system comes in at about $100 when you include shipping. Bose products START at $300 and go up to $600 for ipod docks, and the $100 system, while not as loud or punchy, is capable of sound just as detailed. A bit of savings there.

Another plus is that I've ordered from Parts Express many times. They've always shipped quickly and gotten my orders correct. Everything has arrived well-packed and save.

Upgraded System

If you like a bit more punch to your music, you can always upgrade the speakers. I recently went to Best Buy, looking for a set of bookshelf speakers. Over among their Bose, Klipsch, and other well-known brands were a pair of their own brand, Insignia. I checked them out, and they were amazingly well made....beautiful craftsmanship. I auditioned them, and they sounded at least as good as, and better than some of the more expensive speakers.....amazing sound, and NICE BASS for the price. A set went home with me for my ipod system and I have to admit they're a pleasure to listen to.


These cost about $84 for a pair, and you can order them online and pick them up at the store. Watch for sales; these go on sale every 4-6 weeks or so, but they're a good deal at full retail too.

Upgrading to these, you still have a reasonably priced system, better sound, and you can easily take the speakers to a home theater later if you please. Happy listening!

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