cheap thrills

I have an obsession with ultra-cheap audio equipment. This post to the ‘Stereophile’ forums is one of my forays into that world.

With the missus off chaperoning a trip to Disney in Orlando, it was time to get some audio stuff done – namely, seeing if my ‘spend no money’ system could be listened to.

This one’s for my son, whose tastes run heavily to hip-hop but who also has Monk on his iTunes playlist.

I have some more mainstream equipment set aside for him, but wanted to know just how cheap I could get and still make something satisfactory for a loved one.

Answer: lesson learned.

The speakers are the Insignias alluded to on page 1 of the thread, the NS-B2111s. They are impressive, to say the least, when you take em’ out of the box. Big, solid, good posts, nice fit n’ finish. I got returns to Best Buy for about $50.

The amp is one of my T amp toys – this was bought off ebay a couple weeks back for $40. It uses the same chip as the Trends Audio amp.

I forgot to bring my PS-1 home from the office, and substituted for the weekend an Oppo 980H.

First impression: on compressed pop and hip hop, not bad. As everyone else has noted, these things have a better than you’d expect soundstage, and more detail than I anticipated. Nice highs.

The amp gave me trouble though; sometimes it just wouldn’t put out sound, though after a day of using it the problem seems to have gone away.

The limits come up pretty fast when you listen to something with less compression, more space in it – like ‘Kind Of Blue.’ “So What” just didn’t sound right, though again I caught a surprising amount of detail.

Here’s my favorite part: I could make it sound better than all the above, give it a much more satisfactory quality by just doing one thing…

Hooking up the Magnum-Dynalab tuner. It’s the cheapest MD ever made as far as I know, and I don’t get great fm reception. Still, the combination of a very good tuner, already compressed fm and the rest of the system is a winner.

So I now have the world’s most ungainly clock radio, minus the clock.

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