My quest for the best-sounding/lowest-cost desktop system is finally over.
I paired the tiny 20-watt-per-channel $24.49
First, the caveats: I'm assuming that you, like me, will already have an audio source -- an iPod, smartphone, or CD player -- so I'm not including that expense. And you may need to invest in some speaker wire, which could run you another $10 or so. I also name a handful of optional accessories below that you might want to consider at an additional cost.
Still, we're talking a basic investment that's well short of $100. The result is a DIY stereo system that will outperform sleeker speaker docks or portable speakers that cost two to three times as much.
Considering the minuscule 1.5-by-5.5-by-4.5-inch amp's rock-bottom price, the Lepai is surprisingly well made, has adequate features, and sounds very decent. And for an inexpensive speaker pair, the Dayton B652 has an unusually large woofer -- it's a 6.5-inch polypropylene cone -- and the speaker also has a ferrofluid-cooled 5/8-inch polycarbonate dome tweeter.
If you think the $199
Speaking of the Jambox: I'm not a big fan of wireless audio to begin with (Bluetooth sounds way too compressed to my ear). But if that's your thing, it's an easy upgrade to the Dayton/Lepai system. Just add the $25
For $70, the Dayton/Lepai sound was very listenable, but depending on the sort of music I was playing the treble could sound a tad harsh, so I preferred the sound with the LP202A+'s tone controls cutting the treble and boosting the bass. That made a big difference for the better, but I couldn't resist adding theto see if it would take the sound to another level. It absolutely did; the tonal balance was sweeter and more natural. (Just insert the HiFiMan between the audio source and the Lepai's input.) Selling for $39 on Amazon, it's a logical upgrade option. When using a PC as the audio source, the ($76 on Amazon) took the Lepai/Dayton system's sound to an even higher level, so the potential for sound improvements is strong, without breaking the bank.
I directly compared the Lepai/Dayton/FiiO system with my
The Dayton/Lepai/FiiO's sound will handily beat most $300 iPod speakers, and fill a room better than a $600
Still, if you want great sound on the cheap -- and a desktop stereo system with some real street cred -- you won't be disappointed with the Dayton/Lepai combo.