Somebody on Twitter pointed out that Pioneer was blowing out my favorite affordable tower speaker of all time -- the Andrew Jones designed Pioneer SP-FS52-LR towers -- which are now selling for just $180 a pair. That started me thinking, if I was going to share the news of the deal why not also scour the interwebs for more good stuff I've reviewed?
So to be clear: to get on this list the top qualifier is exceptional sound quality for the lowest possible price, not the other way around. Dirt cheap, so-so sounding gear didn't make the cut.
If those Pioneer towers are too big for your room, no worries, consider the also excellent Pioneer SP-BS22-LR bookshelf model. Right now they run a mere $91 a pair, with free shipping for Amazon Prime customers. Either set of Pioneer speakers would sound great for music or home-theater systems.
Not only does the Onkyo TX-8020 stereo receiver ($171) sound really sweet, the features lineup is strong -- you get five inputs, including a phono input, a subwoofer output jack, Class AB (not D) power amplification, A/B speaker switching, AM/FM radio and 50 watts per channel. It's an awesome value.
No Audiophiliac best-of list of budget bargains would be complete without the Dayton Audio B652 bookshelf speakers, currently going for a mere $48.32 per pair with free shipping for Amazon Prime customers! It's a lot of speaker for very little money, and the step-up B-652 Air is similar with a better tweeter; a pair of those runs $59.80, plus shipping. In either case, these speakers pack a hefty 6.5-inch woofer into a fairly compact cabinet, with unbeatable sound quality for the bucks!
I've recommended the Monoprice Premium Hi-Fi DJ Style Over-the-Ear Pro Headphone for years, and they're still a great buy for just $15.99! The Black Keys' full-on stomp-rock kicked like a mule over these 'phones!
The $14.99 Monoprice Hi-Fi Lightweight On-Ear Headphone looks cheap -- and it is. I rarely cover headphones in this price class because they mostly sound awful, but this new Monoprice is exceptional. As closed-back, on-ear headphones go, the sound is downright spacious. In fact, I heard nothing that immediately betrayed the Hi-Fi Lightweight On-Ear Headphone's budget price. Isolation from external noise is average for on-ear headphones.
The FiiO X1 portable high-resolution music player runs $100 on Amazon, with free shipping for Prime customers. This little guy rocks out with all types of files.
I'd suggest teaming that bad-boy FiiO player up with FiiO's awesome EX1 in-ear headphones. The headphones currently run just $70 on Amazon, with free shipping for Prime customers.
This next one caught me by surprise: the slimline Dayton Audio APA100 stereo integrated amp is an outstanding bargain. Pair it with any speaker on this list, and you'll be a happy camper. I know of no other Class AB, 60-watt-per-channel amp you can buy for this kind of money.
I wouldn't blame you if it sounds too good to be true, but the Audio Technica AT-LP60 $94 turntable with free shipping on Amazon is a knockout for the money. Thanks to its built-in phono preamp, you can hook up the AT-LP60 to any integrated stereo amplifier, receiver, computer, boombox or pretty much anything that accepts stereo analog audio inputs (the AT-LP60s included cables should cover almost any hookup contingency). Sound quality for the price is very decent.
If you're getting serious about listening to LPs and have a nice turntable, the next step is an audiophile-grade phono preamp, like the $129, made-in-the-US Schiit Mani. It works with both moving-coil and moving-magnet cartridges. It's hands-down the best affordable phono preamp on the market.
I also love Schiit's adorable little $99 Modi 2 USB digital converter that'll improve your computer's sound. Again, Schiit makes exceptional products for real-world prices.