By Don Lindich
Week 22, 2020
Q. I haven’t spent any money on stereo equipment for what seems like forever! I find myself listening to Pandora through my TV, but I would like to set up a stereo system. I have a pretty decent number of vinyl records, and would like to listen to the TV through the stereo if possible.
Rather than listen to music through the TV, is there a stereo system you can suggest that won’t break the bank but will give me very good sound? I have a good job and can afford something nice but do not want to go overboard, perhaps staying in the $2,000 to $3,000 range for everything. I have a Toshiba 46-inch TV without Smart TV features and would prefer floor speakers.
-D.S., Cupertino, CA
A. You brought up a point I have not made in a while, and which was the topic of a recent conversation between me and an electronics designer. A television component sound system does not have to be surround sound with multiple speakers and a subwoofer placed around the room, and a pair of stereo speakers on either side of the television can make for very good listening. Obsolete receivers without HDMI but with Dolby Digital can be used for this if anyone has one lying around. They can also be found on Craigslist for under $50 since everyone wants HDMI these days. Just take the optical output from the TV and connect it to an optical input on the receiver, hook up stereo speakers to the left and right speaker outputs and you are ready to go.
Of course, a stereo receiver with HDMI is the best option and they are readily available now. I recommend the Denon DRA-800H for $499. It is a full-featured stereo receiver with 100 watts per channel, the ability to drive two pairs of speakers, multiple inputs including several HDMI inputs, and abundant wireless connectivity options. See it at usa.denon.com.
I checked and Polk Audio still has limited stock of their high-end LSiM705 tower speakers. Normally $3,000 per pair, they are currently available for $1,500 per pair. Nothing can touch them for that price. The best place to purchase them right now is polkaudio.com as they are drying up on Amazon and other online retailers.
You now have the basis of an excellent high-end system for $2,000, $1,000 less than the speakers alone typically cost. The Music Hall MMF-1.5 Vessel Special ($499) or Music Hall Classic Fantastic ($698) from LP Gear are both excellent turntables that will shine in your system. Given the importance of the turntable for vinyl playback I suggest spending a bit more for the Classic, but either way you will not be disappointed. lpgear.com
Adding a Roku streaming player will provide the largest amount of free programming channels available, brought to you through the industry’s most user-friendly interface. The Roku Express for $24.99 is all you need for your 1080P Toshiba TV. roku.com
Finally, a Sony BDP-S6700 Blu-ray player will play Blu-ray Discs, DVD and CDs through your new system. The BDP-S6700 is widely available for $99.
Connect the speakers to the receiver’s speaker terminals, then connect the turntable to the phono input and everything else (including your cable box) to the HDMI inputs. Select what you want to listen to or watch on the receiver and the sound will be sent to the speakers and the picture to the TV. You will have beautiful sound and picture quality along with the convenience of the DRA-800H acting as your entertainment hub.