All merchandise really useful by Engadget are chosen by our editorial staff, unbiased of our father or mother firm. A few of our tales embody affiliate hyperlinks. In case you purchase one thing by means of one in every of these hyperlinks, we might earn an affiliate fee. All costs are appropriate on the time of publishing.
Vinyl has been on a resurgence for a while, and the pandemic one way or the other solely accelerated that. It’s bought many on the market seeking to improve from an affordable Crosley turntable and construct out their first HiFi system. In fact, there are a number of items that go into constructing an honest stereo, however maybe a very powerful is the audio system. In case your audio system don’t sound good, it principally doesn’t matter what you join them to.
Energetic vs. Passive Audio system
That is understandably the a part of their setup that folks seemingly spend probably the most time researching. And it’s important to make various selections. One of many greatest is: energetic or passive? Each have their benefits, however for the sake of this information we’re going to deal with passive audio system, which require a separate amplifier.
Energetic audio system have a built-in amplifier. Normally, the 2 issues are particularly designed to work collectively, which implies you are getting a extra devoted model of the producer’s aural imaginative and prescient. And because you don’t want an exterior amplifier, energetic audio system additionally take up much less room. Whereas energetic audio system are costlier than passive, the truth that you should purchase an amp to energy passive audio system means the financial savings aren’t as nice as they may initially appear. The first advantage of passive is bigger flexibility. You may’t exit and purchase a brand new high-end amplifier and join your energetic audio system to it; you’re caught with what’s in-built. Additionally, since energetic audio system require energy, you’ll have to verify they’re close to an outlet.
We’re additionally placing a cap on our spending for this information: a considerably arbitrary $600. Something over that and also you’re beginning to get into finances audiophile territory. It additionally principally limits us to bookshelf audio system between 5 and 6 inches. Whilst you can actually get floorstanding audio system for that a lot, the standard of the drivers will seemingly be higher on bookshelf audio system on the identical worth level.
A observe about testing
Clearly, I couldn’t check each set of 5 to 6 inch bookshelf audio system below $600, however I’ve tried sufficient and executed sufficient analysis to really feel assured in my suggestions. I’m certain there are different good audio system on the market, however I don’t assume anybody goes to remorse shopping for the units right here.
Moreover, speaker desire is essentially subjective. However I did my finest to be as goal as potential. The entire audio system have been related to a Pyle PSS6 switcher with the identical wire for fast side-by-side comparisons. After I’d examined all of them myself I enlisted a number of folks to pay attention blindly after which rank them primarily based on their desire to see if their opinions lined up with my very own. Testing included enjoying new and classic vinyl, in addition to streaming songs from Spotify.
Additionally price noting: I’m not an audiophile. This isn’t a information for audiophiles. I would like my music to sound good, however I’m not about to drop the worth of a used sedan on my stereo. My setup contains an Audio Technica Audio-Technica AT-LP120 and a Chromecast Audio working by means of a Technics SA-EX110. This isn’t fancy stuff, however it’s actually an improve from a Crosley Suitcase turntable or perhaps a higher-end Sonos sound system.
One of the best for most individuals: Audioengine HDP6
Truthfully, lots of the audio system I examined sounded eerily comparable to one another. However not the $399 Audioengines. They’d a a lot brighter sound and much more readability than all of the others, except for a considerably costlier KEF pair. The actual pair I attempted additionally got here in a stunning “walnut” enclosure that helped them stand out in a sea of utilitarian black.
The HDP6s ship particularly sturdy mids that shine with regards to vocals and guitars. However they sound fairly balanced throughout your complete spectrum. Towering compositions like 9 Inch Nails “The Day the Entire World Went Away” sprung to life and revealed nuances that, frankly, I’ve by no means observed earlier than even on headphones. And Guarantees, the current album from Floating Factors, Pharoah Sanders and the London Symphony Orchestra, was so enveloping it made me need to throw my present floorstanding audio system within the trash.
Whereas no bookshelf audio system on their very own are going to have the ability to ship the form of room-shaking thump that floorstanding audio system or a subwoofer can ship, the HDP6 carried out admirably with bass-heavy songs. They didn’t have probably the most low finish of my check items, however drums and bass have been nonetheless punchy and clear.
For many who need one of the best sound: KEF Q150
In case your primary concern is sound high quality, no matter the rest, try the Q150s. These are the entry-level choice from famous audiophile model KEF and the one audio system that beat out the Audioengines in any of my blind style checks. They didn’t come out on prime each time, and a few folks had bother deciding between the 2, however finally I feel the KEF’s have the slight edge in pure sound high quality. They’d a bit extra quantity on the excessive decrease and better ends of the spectrum. It added a sure sparkle to tracks just like the Seaside Boys’ “Wouldn’t it Be Good,” whereas Run the Jewels’ “JU$T” hit just a little bit tougher than on the HDP6s. The distinction may be delicate relying on what you’re listening to, but it surely’s simple in side-by-side testing.
The audio profile of the KEF is much like that of the Audioengines. They’re each a lot brighter and with much more treble and midrange than all the opposite audio system on this roundup. In case you’re into listening to classical or jazz on prime quality vinyl, these are going to ship precisely the form of frequency response you’re searching for.
What stops the Q150 from topping this checklist is the checklist worth. At $600 they’re basically tied for the most costly audio system I examined. (The Polk R100s have been $599, however didn’t make the ultimate minimize.) Whereas the Q150s sounded barely higher than the HDP6s to my ears, they weren’t essentially $200 higher. On the time of this writing, nevertheless, the Q150s have been on sale for $400, making them a compelling choice to the Audioengines.
For the cut price hunter: JBL A130
The JBLs have been fairly persistently in the midst of the pack when it got here to listener desire. They’re not as brilliant because the KEFs and the Audioengines, however not fairly as muddy on the lowend because the Polk S15s. In case you’re simply searching for an honest set of audio system and don’t sweat over spec sheets, or if you happen to’re primarily listening to streaming music and solely placing on vinyl sometimes, these are an important choice if you could find them on sale.
For people who want extra bass: ELAC Debut 2.0 DB6.2
Okay, so these audio system break our guidelines a bit however, if you happen to go for the marginally bigger 6.5-inch DB6.2s, as an alternative of the DB5.2s, you get much more thump on the backside finish. The Debuts can’t fairly match the Audioengine or KEFs with regards to readability, however you’ll really feel each 808 hit much more. Backxwash’s new album I Lie Right here Buried with my Rings and my Clothes raged tougher on the ELACs than it did on the Polks, JBLs and even the KEFs. And so they solely value $350, which isn’t dangerous in any respect.
In case you’re primarily listening to digital music and fashionable hip hop, you may take into account the Debut 2.0 DB6.2s.
For many who need to ignore my recommendation:
In case you can’t discover the JBL A130s on sale, and actually need to save as a lot cash as potential, you possibly can snag the Polk S15s. The S15s don’t sound dangerous, however the JBLs are undoubtedly superior. They don’t have as deep of a soundstage as the opposite audio system I examined and the lowend could be a little undefined. These are most likely higher suited as a part of a house leisure system than a stereo. At an inventory worth of $229 they may appear to be a cut price, however I’d save your pennies for a bit longer and spring for one thing higher.
The Polk R100s are respectable sounding audio system. Maybe barely higher than the JBLs, although with a sound profile nearer to the Polk’s personal S15. The issue is that they’re $600, tying them for the most costly I examined. At half the worth these could be a stable choice, however the $600 KEFs and $400 Audioengines have been ranked greater than the R100s by each tester.
I’ve little doubt that these are superb audio system: They’re presently Wirecutter’s best choice. However I couldn’t check them and due to this fact can not vouch for them.