Stereo/audiophile recommendations

I recently moved into a new home, and I’ve got limited space for stereo equipment. Right now I have an old “vintage” Yamaha receiver, matching tuner, a turntable, and some more modern (ie, 90s) pieces; cassette deck, CD player, separate DVD player . . . I just don’t have the space for all these.

I’d like to reduce the size of my setup, both in terms of number of pieces of equipment as well as footprint; my current stereo is very deep, and the turntable even more so, and they require shelving that is bigger than I have space for.

My requirements are:

-Small footprint
-Multiple RCA or comparable input sources, including phono (I guess I could get a separate pre-amp for that, but again, I’m trying to downsize).
-Doesn’t look like a reject from the Battlestar Galactica prop team.

-Listen to CDs, records, DVDs, analog radio, and audio from TV
-Listen to mp3s on home network and iphones

Extras that would be nice:

-Bluetooth connectivity
-Other ‘modern’ audio inputs (USB? HDMI?)

Things I don’t need/want:

-2.1/5.1 audio outs; stereo is fine.
I am thinking that I can get everything I need in a few boxes:

  1. A stereo reciever/tuner
  2. A turntable
  3. A CD/DVD player . . . or a micro-PC?

I am willing to spend some money on this, but really, I am looking for simple, reliable, and affordable. Assuming my setup fulfills the functions I need it for, I will be happy and am not chasing the dragon of ultra-high fidelity.

Why not go digital and move all the LP, tape, CD etc. to your portable digital players? Then all you need is the amp and speakers.

There ya go, put all that vinyl on a USB stick!

But, assuming you’re like me and you don’t want to do that, are you looking for recommendations on new equipment? Vintage equipment? Because I don’t even know if it’s possible to get a new-ish receiver with HDMI input that doesn’t have 5.1 (or even 7.2) surround out.

The Pioneer Elite entry level receiver VSX-LX101 has phono input.

For a turntable, I’d stick with vintage. They’re going to be better quality, heavier, sturdier.

What kind of speakers are you driving and how much floor space do they take up?

I have over 2,000 CDs and a ton of old LPs. I’ve downloaded all the CDs into iTunes, which I play on my computer. I haven’t actually played a CD or LP in many years. If space were a consideration, I’d get rid of all of them. Digital music takes up no physical space.

If you must keep your turntable, would a vertical one fit better?

Abandon hope of finding a purely stereo receiver that can handle more than about two inputs, never mind HDMI or Bluetooth. I’ve got a Denon that is fairly compact as modern receivers with Dolby Atmos, 4K passthough, Pandora, etc. go, it it does lack a phono preamp, presumably to make room on the back for all of the other jacks.

Standalone phone amps can be found for about $80 and up

Yeah, if you want HDMI inputs you’re going to be looking at a 5.1 receiver at least. But that’s fine - you don’t have to use all the channels. You can put it in stereo mode and just use the Left and Right channels.

I’d recommend checking out the Audioholics site for good reviews on home AV gear. It’s run by a couple electrical engineers and they don’t take kindly to audiophile pseudoscience bullshit, just good quality reviews of gear from entry-level to extremely fancy.

Here’s their AV receivers page. Note that for all the brand-name super-fancy top-of-the-line units that they review, there are downline units from the same family that will be much cheaper and have fewer features.

You probably want to think in terms of jumping into this century with your music.

Think about the sources. The advice to rip all your LPs to digital is good. For a number of reasons. Most importantly quality. You are going to find it impossible to find a turntable that produces reasonable results that is either cheap or occupies a smaller footprint than a conventional one. Ripping them then preserves them - as they stop wearing out when you play them.

Rip all your CDs as well. Rip everything lossless. Disk is so cheap there is no need for lossy compression anymore. And you never have to think about re-ripping.

It would be worth seeing if your usual radio stations have a digital feed. Most do now. You could dispense with a tuner, and probably get better quality (and a much wider range of music to listen too, as the world comes to you now.)

Music from iPhones can be send over Bluetooth or - if you mean iPnone and not just generic smart phone - over airplay.

Basically get the entire source into the digital domain. Once you do that, you can get very close to moving the entire thing into a form that allows you to make the actual equipment you need invisible.
For instance - you probably don’t need a new amplifier. The old Yamahas were very good. You will struggle to better them. All you need is an the amplifier, and a digital streaming device. For instance an Apple Airport Express. (You can option up the quality of the audio output to your heart’s content - it has an S/Pdif output and you can add an external audio DAC if you like.)

Apart from DVD/TV audio input you can make the entire thing drivable from your phone and hide the amplifier in a cupboard (with adequate ventilation one assumes.)

HDMI makes things a bit messy, but if you are only worried about ordinary stereo sound, you can pretty much ignore the problem. (Although there are standalone HDMI audio extractors available.)

Another fan of the all digital route.

I no longer pay attention to specs for power, distortion, frequency etc. - my ears are probably no longer capable of telling the difference.

I do pay attention to networking capability - especially Bluetooth and AirPlay. I am sitting here listening to music served up from iTunes on a Mini in the office, via AirPlay over WiFi and controlled via an App on my iPad or iPhone. The system also uses voice control (via an Amazon Echo and a Harmony Hub) for streaming radio and Amazon Music. (I picked up the Mini used for $100 - adding the voice control was another $140)

It’s like living in a SciFi movie…

As noted above, a $99 Airport Express adds the AirPlay support to any old amp.