Q: I have vintage JBL L110 speakers and need a new amplifier. It must have a phono input, and I am willing to spend up to $2,000. I also would consider new speakers and an amplifier at the same price point if you think it will sound better. I listen mostly to classical music, my room is 15-by-20 and I don't play especially loudly.
A: This is a great follow-up to my recent column about new vs. vintage stereo equipment. Your JBLs are one of those rare examples of vintage speakers that still hold up pretty well.
For an amplifier recommendation, I'd look at the Peachtree Audio nova150 (peachtreeaudio.com). At $1,799, it is one of the most highly regarded integrated amplifiers selling for under $2,000. It has 150 watts per channel, a phono input for your turntable and top-quality digital connections for disc players and portable devices.
If you decide to go with all new equipment, you can get speakers and an amplifier/receiver for well under $2,000. The system I recommend will provide much more transparent, accurate and high-fidelity sound than your current speakers are capable of producing.
Start with the Axiom Audio M50 floorstanding speakers. These tower speakers have a much smaller footprint than your JBLs, yet provide more bass. The M50s have crystal clear, full and balanced sound that will reveal things you never heard before in your classical recordings.
Handmade in Canada, they sell for $1,180 including tax and delivery to the USA and can be customized in a wide array of vinyl finishes at no extra charge. (Wood finishes are available, but the vinyl is of such good quality that it will fool most people while being much easier to maintain than wood.) You also can choose between five grille colors. axiomaudio.com
The $399 Emotiva TA-100 receiver has 50 watts per channel, which is more than enough for the Axiom M50 speakers. The TA-100 has connections and capabilities similar to the $1,799 Peachtree amplifier, but at a lower power rating. I am a big fan of this product, which provides high-end sound and premium build quality for under $500. emotiva.com
This Axiom/Emotiva combination is several hundred dollars less than the Peachtree amplifier alone, and I would wager heavily that you will prefer it over your current speakers. You can always keep the JBLs around for when you are nostalgic for vintage sound.
Use web to avoid remorse
Q: I was recently in Las Vegas and went to an electronics store. A savvy clerk convinced me I needed the latest thing in headphones, and that they were the exclusive purveyor of this new product. I had buyer's remorse and tried to return them a few hours later, only to discover that the store does not accept returns.
So, now I'm stuck with these very pricey headphones (although supposedly at a $100 discount from their list price, part of the hook that caught me) and am wondering if I really got a good deal or just got scammed.
A: Given the slick sales pitch, the pricing games and the unwillingness to take it back, I don't think you got a great deal. Nor do I think that the headphones are particularly noteworthy, but if you're satisfied with the job they're doing, I wouldn't worry about it.
As for next time, remember that your best friend in these situations is your smartphone, where you can truth-check the seller before you hand over your money. Had you done a quick internet search on these headphones, the lack of a manufacturer's website likely would have been a red flag.
Send questions to Don Lindich at email@example.com. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.