GOODSOUND!GoodSound! "Ask Me" Archives March 12, 2007


“…a good scaleable audio system…”

March 12, 2007

I'm looking to buy a good scaleable audio system for around $500. To start with, I want to buy a good multichannel receiver and a pair of bookshelf speakers. Maybe after a few months, I can buy more equipment to complete my home theater. So, initially, it will just be a stereo. I would rather go for quality over features.

I listen to a lot of soundtracks and music like Pink Floyd, Mark Knopfler, and the like. Even after I upgrade to a home theater, the system should still play my audio CDs just great.

I live in California and would like to listen to the equipment before I buy.


First off, I like your approach; buying good quality then adding to it over time is a prudent direction. For speakers, we just published what should become a great reference for you: “What We'd Buy: Speakers Under $300.” There are a number of fantastic bookshelf speakers available that would fill the bill and come in at about half of your budget, and this article describes them for you. I don’t think there has ever been more bang for the buck in the speaker market than right now, and what you’ll see in that article is a good cross-section of the best buys. As for listening locally, the Paradigm Atom might be the most accessible. Don’t discount the Internet firms, though, as most offer some type of trial period. As for a partnering receiver, here is my advice: Buy last year’s model. You may give up some cutting-edge features -- that you probably won’t use -- but you’ll get more amplifier section for your money if the model has been discontinued. You should be able to find a $500 receiver for under $250 if you shop around (which will be better than a $250 current-model unit). You may have to stretch a bit to get some stands and wiring, but you’ll have a great start to a fantastic home-theater system.

Sub connection

March 6, 2007

Is there a way to hook up a subwoofer with a speaker-level connection if the subwoofer only has RCA inputs? I am wondering if maybe there is an adapter I can buy to do this.


There is no way to do this that I am aware of. The circuitry on the other side of an RCA jack is not equipped for high-current input from a power amplifier. You would definitely damage the subwoofer if you attempted this. If you have a single preamp output you could use a Y-adapter to create two outputs, one of which you can use for the subwoofer. I am assuming that might be the reason you are asking about a speaker-level connection rather than using the RCA jack. Some subwoofers are equipped with speaker-level connections, but unfortunately if they’re not present, the option is not available.

Separate amp?

March 2, 2007

I have a receiver with preamp outputs and was considering buying a separate amp to replace the internal ones. I have Phase Tech speakers and the receiver is only rated at 65Wpc. Do you think a 200Wpc amp will sound better than what I have in the receiver now?


In most cases, yes, a good-quality separate amplifier will be an upgrade to the internal amps included in many receivers. Not only will you get more power and more headroom for dynamic peaks, but hopefully you’ll also get less distortion and cleaner sound. Most receivers have decent amplifiers, but they really can’t compete with the better dedicated amplifiers on the market today. I know a number of people who use receivers as preamp-processors only, with multichannel amplifiers doing the heavy lifting. This is a system configuration that is cost effective and can perform quite well. So I say go for it!

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