Help me build a music sound system for college-aged son

I would like to purchase all the necessary equipment to create a decent sound system as a gift for my son's 21st birthday. He is currently in a suite-style set up at school, where I'm sure loud is important, but I would like to be sure "quality" of sound is ensured as well.

I don't think I should be looking at home-theater systems, as they are purchasing a television system separately, and I really don't want to sacrifice music sound quality.

Are there any high-quality "all-in-one" systems where the receivers/speakers/woofers, etc. are a package deal, or do I have to piece this together? My guess is that they will play music off their ipods/phones, but do any systems have cd slots as well? Lastly, if there are home theater systems that are also high-quality sound/music systems I would not be averse to researching those as well.

Thank you!

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Clarification Request
What's your approximate budget?

Knowing that would certainly eliminate some options.

Keep in mind that 'HT systems' might refer to different things/equipment to different people. If possible and your budget permits, I suggest you start with a basic or mid-level AV reciever & speaker/sub separates. They handle music just as well as they handle video signals. And when he's out of school, this equipment would transition well to another apartment where he could upgrade as needed.

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I was hoping to keep it around $500

But I could go a bit higher if there was a significant difference in the next level up.

So, what I'm hearing from you is that I should focus on 'HT' systems? Are there any 'package deals' that are recommended, or should I purchase them separately? If so, what are some good brand-names, or what should I look for in the specs?

Thank you.

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$500 is a bit on the low side

It would get you in the door for an entry level 'All in one' HT system though.

My suggestion would be to consider separate AV receiver & surround speakers/sub if you could spend $200 more. You son will likely be much happier with the quality of the sound from the Energy Classics, and this would let you pick and choose from different receivers too. Some have support iPhone/iPad/iPod apps the college kids always like IME.

(FWIW, they could use their current DVD player, or upgrade to a blu ray player as needed.)


HT speakers-

Energy Take Classic 5.1
$399 (*no tax/free shipping)

with one of the following receivers-

Denon AVR 1612


Yamaha RX-V373

Onkyo TX-NR414

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Denon sound rated better

CNET reviews consistently rate Denon sound a bit better than the competition. Not that the other brands are bad but a few more bucks seem well spent in my opinion. Combined with the highly thought of Energy speakers (likewise some other brands are very good) this outfit is NOT just for college years but will serve well for at least ten when boredom will elicit buying with the then latest connect-ability features. Heck he could give you the system so you could enjoy it for another twenty.

I do however recommend searching your area for similar price speakers to hear in person as you will perceive differences & so match what sounds best to you.

The recommended Denon receiver is well priced as it is marked down 22% as it is now last years model. If you would care to upgrade because I have assured you this outfit will please for many years a step up in Denon receivers to model 1912 (also discounted 22% as last years model) would not be a bad move. In fact you many find your local brick & mortar dealers now discount them lower presenting an even finer deal. Perhaps 40% or even 50% off might be found.

In any event your son should appreciate this. A fine gift for his 21st.

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I see/hear few differences in that price range

The entry level models are definitely splitting hairs of late regarding sound quality. You really need to go up the food chain a little before any untrained ear starts to hear *significant* sonic differences. As you already know though, the speakers is where the rubber hits the road. Where electrical energy turns into mechanical Wink. Those differences are much more noticeable by folks starting out than how an AV receiver lets out steam.

That said, she could most certainly add a nice Denon to what I've suggested above- flexiblity in budget helps a great deal(!)

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Any other questions on your end? (n/t)


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Sorry I missed your post!

Thank you both very much for you input. I am printing this out and taking it to some local places today. Of course, in the interim, my son explained that he wanted at least 4 speakers to provide true 'surround' sound, so I need to factor all of that in as well...and the ipod/phone integration is imperative. At least I have a starting base now, thanks again!

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surround speakers

Keep in mind that real surround starts with 5.1 (left, center, right, rear left, rear right, & a subwoofer). 6.1/7.1 is probably going to be fluff and not really adding anything to a college suite.

Ipod integration is readily available, either built in, or using a simple audio input cable. Ideally you would get a model with USB port in front (see above models I posted). Prices will be much better online, FWIW.

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