How to Buy the Best Home Stereo Systems for Any Budget

How to Buy the Best Home Stereo Systems for Any Budget

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It’s easier than ever to listen to music on-the-go, but what about at home? How can you set up a home music system (or home theater system) that lets you share your music with your friends and family? The truth is that, with a little bit of planning, you can build an awesome stereospeaker system in your home for less money than you might think.

Start by Figuring Out How Much You Can Spend

Before you even start looking, the first thing you should do is figure out how much you’re willing to spend. There is so much out there, including some awesome second-hand finds, that you can build a decent surround sound system at any budget, but you have to know what you’re working with before you start looking.

When planning your budget, make sure you get equipment that is roughly the same level of quality. For example, you don’t want to buy the most expensive speakers you can find and pair them with an all-in-one turntable or cheap stereo receiver. Try to stay consistent to get the best sound quality out of your stereo speakers.

New, Used, or Vintage?

vintage sound equipment


It’s tempting to think that slightly used or vintage sound equipment isn’t worth it, but the truth is that most old equipment was built solidly and designed to last decades. If you find a decent piece at a good price, snatch it up and work it into your setup, especially if you’re trying to stick to a tight budget. Keep in mind, though, that the older the piece, the harder it will be to repair as parts are not readily available.

There’s a lot of new gear available, but you won’t have as many options. New gear does come with warranties and user support, and it’s more likely to work seamlessly with modern devices like smartphones and tablets.

You can mix and match equipment, though. For example, if you have a vintage record player, you can use it with modern speakers. Just make sure you buy from a reputable seller so you know you’re getting the best service, whether you’re buying new or used.

The Equipment

Some people wonder why they need a home stereo system at all since there are so many Bluetooth speakers out there, but real home stereo systems create a much better experience. Here are the essential pieces for home stereo systems:


Amplifiers receive sound signals, amplify them, and send them to the speakers. The signals can come from just about any device, including iPhones, CD players, turntables, cassette players, or an AM/FM radio.




One major thing to consider about speakers is their size. Some people have the space and budget for big stereo speakers with 18-inch woofers while others might want to stick to something smaller, like a bookshelf speaker.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a lot of room to spare. There are plenty of small high-end speakers that are specialized to handle low-frequency sounds. When paired with a subwoofer, hold their own against larger ones.

Phono Preamps

Some people swear that music sounds better on vinyl. If you have a turntable, you need a phono preamp. Record players send somewhat weak signals when compared to other music sources. A phono preamp boosts the weak signal to improve the sound, and they’re an extremely affordable addition to your audio system setup.


You might already have a turntable, or you might just be starting your vinyl collection and need to add one to your new setup. If you’re looking at new models, the biggest difference is that they’re direct drive instead of belt-driven. While they may be a little noisier, they’re also more reliable and built to last a really long time.

That said, if you already have a well-maintained older model, by all means, use it. Just remember that you’ll likely need a phono preamp and the belt will eventually need to be replaced as they stretch over time.

There are some low-cost all-in-one turntables that may be tempting, but these aren’t going to deliver the same kind of quality you can expect from a traditional turntable. If you can’t afford anything but a cheap all-in-one, maybe think about just skipping a turntable altogether.

Phono Cartridges

Phono Cartridges


If you’re buying a used turntable or getting yours ready for a new setup, you might need to update some things. The cartridge is the device that contains the needle, which is the only part of the record player that comes in contact with the vinyl. There are two main types of cartridges, moving magnet and moving coil, so make sure you know which one is compatible with your turntable. They’re not usually interchangeable.

Cables and Connectors

Connecting everything together can get a little tricky, especially if you’re using a mix of old and new equipment. Some digital devices only need a simple ⅛-inch cable to connect them to an amp or receiver.

Other devices don’t have any analog outputs, so you’ll have to invest in a digital to analog converter or DAC. DACs deliver much better sound than what you find in most computers or digital products, and they’re extremely affordable.

When buying cables and connectors, it’s always better to buy more than what you need. Having extra is never a bad thing, and if you got the wrong connector, there’s a chance you might already have what you need on-hand.

Home Stereo Systems: Better than a Bluetooth Speaker

Look, Bluetooth speakers are great. They produce an amazing sound that’s much better than the old tinny music that used to come out of small CD and cassette players. They’re perfect for the office or to take with you to a hotel room or when camping. If you want the best possible sound for listening to music at home, building a home stereo system is the way to go. There are so many options out there, both new and used, that you won’t have to spend an obscene amount of money to get a great sound.

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A passion for writing and ongoing research projects gives Catherine an incredibly broad knowledge of all things. She has authored an incredible number of articles and can be found in the wilderness when not attached to technology or listening to podcasts.

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