"Good enough" audio is the order of the day, but here at The Audiophiliac it's all about great sounding gear, which can get really expensive. Usually, but not always, so here's a Top 10 list of great gear that won't break the bank. Prices run from $8 to $1,995, and seven of the ten are under $650. All are truly exceptional performers, affordably priced. (Just note that these are my personal picks; see CNET's list of best home audio products for the editors' official recommendations.)
Grado SR60i headphones ($79). Grado long ago set the standard for unbelievably great-sounding, full-size budget headphones with the original SR60. The SR60's sound had weight, detail and punch far beyond the capabilities of most under $100 'phones. Jim Austin, over at Stereophile magazine, recently reviewed the SR60i, and he thinks Grado's upgraded design surpasses the original SR60.
Ikea Lack hi-fi component stand ($7.99) It's made of particleboard and ABS plastic, and it comes in a variety of painted colors (and "birch effect"); it's 21.3 inches wide and deep, and 17.75 inches high. Ikea doesn't present the Lack as audio furniture; it's a side table, but audiophiles all over the world have used it to support their prized possessions. Build quality is surprisingly sturdy.
Sony XDR-F1HD HD Radio ($100). I guess most of you don't listen to radio anymore, but if you're lucky enough to still have a great NPR or college station nearby, you gotta hear this radio. Plug it into your computer or hi-fi and it'll sound better than Internet radio by a long shot.
Samsung HT-C6500 home theater in a box system ($649, pictured at top). I've probably reviewed more HTIBs than anybody, but this new Blu-ray Samsung HTIB really stood out from the crowd. First because it doesn't have the feeble, thin sound I associate with the petite speakers that come with most HTIBs. The sound is rich, full, and thanks to the HT-C6500's potent subwoofer, powerful.
Altec Lansing Expressionist Ultra MX6021 PC speaker-subwoofer system ($200). I checked out Altec's mighty PC sound system when David Carnoy was working on his CNET review. Wow, this thing rocks! It's remarkably clean-sounding, and the subwoofer goes really deep, without the boom and bloat so common to computer speaker systems. Face it, you're never going to get great sound out of pipsqueak speakers, the Altec system's subwoofer is 15.8 inches tall by 15.1 inches wide by 10.2 inches deep, and the satellites sport 3-inch midrange drivers and 1-inch neodymium tweeters. It's easily the best sounding $200 speaker/subwoofer package on the planet! … Read more