Sound Advice: Speaker upgrade is easiest way to give old audio system a boost

  • Article by: DON LINDICH , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 7, 2014 - 12:01 PM

Arx A3rx-c floor-standing speakers are $539 a pair.

Q: My audio system is old but still puts out good sound. (At least, it sounds good to me.) I’m wondering if it is a decent system, and also about each of the components and their quality. I just use it for normal music listening. I also run my TV sound through it and wonder if it’s an adequate system for that, too.

I have Bose 601 speakers, a Pioneer VSX D608 receiver and a Philips CDR 775 CD player. If I should upgrade, do any of my components have value? What would you suggest as replacements for the speakers and receiver?

A: It sounds as if you don’t plan on diving into audio as a hobby and that you’re pretty happy with the sound of your system, which serves your needs.

One lesson I have learned over the years with electronics and photography is, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Your best bet might be to keep enjoying what you have until something breaks, then treat yourself to some new gear. It’s easy to recommend upgrades to enthusiasts, but when someone isn’t pursuing it as a hobby and is satisfied with what he has, then sometimes it’s best not to rock the boat.

Of course, if you’re not satisfied, or really want to invest in a big jump in quality, it’s easy to suggest an upgrade.

Your gear rates as what was once called “mid-fi.” It’s better than most mass-market gear but not up to what would be considered high-fidelity. None of your equipment has much value in the resale market. It does have intrinsic value to you, though, because it works and produces satisfying sound, which is why you just might want to keep using it.

The biggest change would come from changing your speakers. Bose speakers are designed to produce a spacious, pleasant sound, but they’re not accurate compared with audiophile-quality gear, even inexpensive models. In fact, you might be used to the sound of the Bose and a more accurate, detailed speaker might not sound as good to you, even though it would be considered a better speaker.

The Bose 601 III is a floor-standing speaker, so you would likely want floor-­standing replacements. The Pioneer SP-FS-52LR (www.pioneerelectronics.com) has great sound for $250 a pair, and they perform better than the Bose speakers, but they don’t spread the sound around in a wide pattern as the Bose speakers do. A huge upgrade would be the Arx A3rx-c (www.theaudioinsider.com) for $539 a pair.

A new receiver would allow you to use HDMI connections, which will make it much easier to play TV sound. My favorite receiver for under $500 is the Marantz NR-1403 for $399 (www.marantz.com). Other good choices are the Onkyo HT-RC-430 for $279 (www.onkyousa.com) or Pioneer VSX-523 for $249 (www.pioneerelectronics.com).

If you get an HDMI receiver, spend an extra $100 or so and get a Blu-ray player, too. Panasonic models are my favorites.

Send questions to Don Lindich at donlindich@gmail.com. Get more recommendations and read past columns at www.soundadviceblog.com.

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