An Old School HiFi With New School Tech?

An Old School HiFi With New School Tech?

Mar 12, 2010

Q: I want to start building up a home stereo system, more HiFi than just a bose ipod dock. I don't know where to start, or even what I need. I would like to be able to play vinyl and my ipod in stereo. What equipment do I need? Turntable, receiver, tuner, speakers?

Any tips on how to get started, and recommendations of affordable gear (I am hoping not to spend more than about $350 all together) would be greatly appreciated.

Sent in by Maura.

Photo courtesy of

Editor - Remember those old All-in-One systems? Remember using the term "Stereo System" at all? Alright, so we don't all live on iPods alone... you might still have some old records and just want a bit of flexibility. What used to be commonplace back in the eighties is now a hobby reserved for those with lots of time, patience and knowledge. Today you will be lucky if you can find any items that match each other in design so it is best to start out with low expectations!

First let us say that if you really want to do this, you might want to spend a few more dollars to get some slightly better equipment. Imagine trying to buy a turntable, iPod dock, amplifier/receiver and speakers, all for less than $350! Ok, it is possible as we will show below or long as you are willing to take your time in the bargain bins and/or Craigslist.

If you must do it for under $3fiddy, here is how to pull it together via straight retail:

$229 Numark TTi USB Turntable with iPod Dock This is an entry level deck that is packed with features:

RECORD YOUR FAVORITE VINYL RECORDS TO YOUR COMPUTER OR iPod Legendary Numark turntable performance, USB connectivity and the convenience of your iPod are fused together for the first time in the Numark TTi. This USB turntable with built-in universal dock for iPod easily transfers your old vinyl collection to your iPod. Included software archives your records to CD or MP3. TTi's integrated line-level output allows quick, easy connection to any mixer for instant playback from your iPod or vinyl records and ±10% pitch control is included to enable adjustment of playback speed. TTi includes EZ Vinyl Converter 2 (PC) and EZ Audio Converter (MAC); the simplest way to record and convert vinyl directly to iTunes. EZ Vinyl Converter 2 features Gracenote® MusicID technology, which analyzes your vinyl and automatically retrieves album, artist and song information for you. EZ Audio Converter lets you easily enter track information. On Mac or PC, you can now digitally archive your collection in just a few mouse clicks. TTi is ideal for first-time DJs or anyone who wants to archive their vinyl to MP3.

$45 Dayton DTA-1 T-Amplifier from We reviewed it here.

Power output: 2 x 15 watts RMS (into 4 ohms @ 10% THD), 2 x 10 watts RMS (into 4 ohms @ 0.1% THD) • Efficiency: Greater than 88% • Dynamic range: 102 dB • Dimensions: 2" H x 6-1/8" W x 3-3/4" D.

$60 MTX Monitor 5i 5-1/4" 2-Way Bookshelf Speaker Pair- also from Parts Express. These speakers are quite good for the price and apparently sound amazing if you are capable of doing a little swap on the tweeters' capacitors.

MTX's power-packed Monitor 5i will surprise you with a sound that is larger than what would be expected from a speaker this size. A ported enclosure design squeezes out every last drop of bass from the 5-1/4" polypropylene woofer. Incredible imaging results from the use of a 1/2" balanced dome tweeter. At home in a surround sound setup or as a dorm room speaker, the diminutive size allows for unlimited placement options. Best of all, it fits your budget. Sold in pairs. Specifications: *Power handling: 100W RMS *Impedance: 8 ohms *Frequency response: 48-20,000 Hz *Sensitivity: 88 dB 2.83V/1m*Dimensions: 10 1/2" H x 6 1/2" W x 8 1/2" D.

So that is $334 without tax and shippin'. This system will look as good as the futuristic turntable so depending on how much you like that, it could be amazing for you. The other parts; amp and speakers, are small enough to disappear in your decor.

Some products we have looked at that qualify as low priced, yet high end:

Audio Engine A2 Desktop Speakers About $200 and you don't need an amp.

Pro-Ject Debut 111 Around $379 (went up!?!) Great sound, amazing looks.

Stanton T.55 USB Turntable $200- maybe not high end, but will do the trick.

NuForce Icon with S-1 Speakers $224 for the Amp and the speakers are no longer available. This amp will keep you rockin' all. night. long.

And if you just want to find some great deals on turntables- Needle Doctor Budget Turntables.

You did say "start building up a home stereo" so we will assume that you are able employ a little patience in the process. Hopefully this was enlightening and if anyone has any advice for Maura, please feel free to leave it below!

Got a good question you'd like answered? Send your queries and please include a photo or two illustrating your question, and we'll see if the Unplggd team or our readers can help answer your question.

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