Beware of the 'good for what it is' speaker syndrome

A 'good for what it is' sound system isn't usually all that good. The Audiophiliac offers a budget-priced wired alternative.

I keep hearing the phrase, "it's good for what it is," used when salespeople and knowledgeable audiophiles are queried about wireless speaker systems. So what they're really saying is, it's not all that good, it's just acceptable for what it is. That qualifier is a significant loophole, it's like saying this frozen pizza is good for what it is, but it's a far cry from a slice you'd get from a decent neighborhood pizzeria.

The $129 alternative to crappy wireless speaker sound

I give "good for" praise a little more slack when it refers to inexpensive, pint-size Bluetooth speakers, and I would agree, they can sound borderline acceptable, but still far below the standards set by affordable wired speakers such as the Monoprice 108250 (aka Model 8250) two-way bookshelf speakers, which are currently selling for $48.74 a pair on Amazon, with free shipping for Prime customers. You'll also need an amplifier to play those speakers, and I like the $80 Dayton DTA-120, 50-watt-per-channel amp a lot. The Monoprice speaker and Dayton amp are a killer budget combo that together sell for less than the price of one Sonos Play:1 wireless speaker ($199 each), and the Monoprice/Dayton stereo system sounds so much better.

Of course, if a single "good for what it is" Play:1 speaker gets the job done for you, that's great -- enjoy! But if you'd like to hear better stereo sound filling your room, consider the Monoprice/Dayton system. Plug a smartphone or computer's headphone output into the Dayton amp, and you're good to go.

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The Monoprice 108250 speakers and Dayton DTA-120 integrated amplifier, a step up from iffy wireless sound quality.

Monoprice/Dayton

I've heard conversations in audio stores between customers and salespeople about wireless vs. wired speakers, and they usually follow the same course. Customer asks about Sonos or some other wireless speaker, they might listen a bit, and then sometimes buy the wireless speaker. That's fine, but if the customers get around to listening to wired speakers, there's a good chance they'll buy those instead. Simply because they heard the difference -- that's key. Once they hear better sound, it's hard to go back to "good for what they are" speakers.

The last time I witnessed this scenario in a high-end shop, the customer first listened to a $1,500 Naim Mu-so wireless speaker, and they were very impressed with the sound. I agree, it is one of the better wireless speakers -- it's good for what it is, and the Mu-so looks great. But for a little more than $1,500 you can buy a much better-sounding wired stereo system, with the Pioneer Elite SP-EBS73-LR speakers ($749 per pair) and the Yamaha A-S801 stereo integrated amplifier, which has a street price around $900. The difference in sound quality isn't subtle, but yes, the Mu-so is good for what it is, a single speaker you can play from your smartphone. If that's your priority, go for it -- just don't tempt yourself and listen to a decent pair of wired speakers and a nice amp.

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