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iondot
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Joined: Mar 9 2008 - 6:17am
A longwinded post with six questions about Bookshelf Loudspeakers-Help!

Last week, my wife and I began to consider making a change.

Currently we listen to most of our music through iTunes on a 13 year old Aiwa NSX-AV800 system hooked up to my Mac.

The Aiwa is and always has been a crappy piece of hardware, but to tell the truth I do like it's sound. The body serves as amplifier and nothing more (Both the CD and Cassette have been non-functional for many, many years). It is hidden in a corner, taking up eight cubic feet of our small condo. The same is true for the two speakers, which are large and ugly. While I like their sound, it has come to my attention, there may be some much better options out there.

My initial thought was to replace just the speakers and Stephen Mejias was kind enough to suggest the PSB Alpha B1, or the Paradigm Atom or Infinity Primus P162.

Reading the reviews was exciting and then I read the very recent review of the AudioEngine A2B, which is self-powered and would eliminate the need for the Aiwa entirely, which would allow me to reclaim space where I can pile more unattended to piles of paper. Very exciting!

But then, I thought, what about the Audioengine 5 which looks like the big sister to the A2B? Surely it must sound better? Unfortunately, that unit doesn't appear to be reviewed here.

So, I appear to have five options (options are great - I love options) but I don't really have any way to evaluate my choices.

So my big questions are:

1.) Is the Audioengine 5 a good deal better than the A2B?
2.) Would they both be outclassed by the PSB Alpha B1?
3.) Given the list below, is there one item that stands out as being better suited?
4.) How much better might all of this sound than my 14 year old Aiwa
5.) If I don't go the powered speaker route, is there a small (in size) reasonably priced amp that could replace the very ugly Aiwa?
6.) Is this one of those things where I set out to spend $300, then creep up to $500 then $900 and the next thing you know I am explaining to the bank that I need a loan cause I need my music to sound more awesome? (selfdivider's tale has me frightened.)

I don't know if musical choice is a factor in this, but, for reference, here is a list of songs that I love and I would be ecstatic if their qualities were to be improved with a better sound system:

Missa Luba - Muungano National Choir, Kenya
Nothing Really Blue - Penguin Cafe Orchestra
Cantus Arcticus, concerto for birds and orchestra - Einojuhani Rautavaara
When, In Disgrace With Fortune And Men's Eyes - Rufus Wainwright
Teach Me Tonight - Dinah Washington
Scandal Ska - Ska-talites
Spiegel Im Spiegel - Arvo P

linden518
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Re: A longwinded post with six questions about Bookshelf Loudspe

Hey, iondot. You can totally stay within the budget & be happy. My post about building the system should make clear that I know a lot of people who've stayed w/in their budget & I know they're as happy as me w/ their system. Just splurging on the gear I liked is probably just a testament to my lack of discipline more than anything!

On speakers, if you're going to go w/ the Audioengines, you should go for 5 if you'll be listening in a bigger room. Especially if you'll be listening to Arvo Part. I haven't A-B'd Audioengines w/ other bookshelf's or anything, but I am sure the PSB Alpha 1 or the Infinity Primus 162s will give you greater fidelity in rendering recordings. I heard the Infinity 162 speakers & they really are a steal at that price, as R. Reina mentions in his review. The bass is surprisingly robust, and the music sounded really good. At one point, when I started looking for a system, I was going to settle on the Infinity 162 with a decent amp, like a used Atoll. I really liked the Infinity speakers...

Amp-wise, I'm sure you can find something at Audiogon that will fit your budget... I hope jackfish chimes in here with his usual lists of amps/speakers that go with different budgets... but one of the options that I looked at was Harman Kardon 3485. I've heard almost all positive things about HK 3485. Great power, & you also get FM receiver. I also read in Head-Fi that it's got an amazing headphone-out, which is crucial to me, one of the reasons I went for the Leben, too. It's rare that an integrated comes with a good headphone-out in the first place, and a lot of people buy separate headphone amps. So for like $250 new (w/ free shipping on Amazon) I don't think you can lose... I think you may be able to find refurbished models for cheaper, too, if you're cool w/ that.

BillB
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Joined: Aug 15 2007 - 2:04pm
Re: A longwinded post with six questions about Bookshelf Loudspe

Nice musical selections. I would come over to listen to your system playing those (regardless of the stereo system!)

Tho AudioEngine 5 is not yet reviewed in Stereophile, but it has been positively reviewed by others (many others, as quoted on audioengineusa website). I would go for the 5 over the 2. Especially since you will presumably listen from places other than the chair in front of the computer. Remember it contains its own amp, so that really helps your budget.
I haven't compared it against the other mentioned good candidates, so I have no opinion there.
Anything mentioned so far will sound better than the Aiwa. How much better? I can't quantify that, sorry!
On the "budget creep" issue - I do think it's good to hear stuff at higher price points, since it helps you calibrate what to expect. It's entirely within your control - you may like more expensive stuff, say c'est la vie, and stick to your sensible budget. Or upgrade if you want. Up to you!

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