Q: I was intrigued by your recent column about $300 bookshelf speakers and want to use one of them to build a stereo system to play music from my CD player and phone. What would be a good but affordable receiver or integrated amplifier to use with them?
A: The speakers I discussed in the column have undemanding power requirements. That makes it easy to build the basis of a good system without spending a lot on a receiver or integrated amplifier. Given the cost of the speakers and how easy it is to drive them, I do not think it makes sense to go above $500 for your receiver or amplifier.
Sometimes people use the terms "receiver" and "integrated amplifier" interchangeably. While they do the same job of powering your speakers, a receiver includes a tuner for listening to the radio and an integrated amplifier does not. Keep this in mind when making your choice. Despite the usefulness of the tuner, stereo receivers are no longer common and there are many more integrated amplifier models on the market.
A good choice (and perhaps the only good choice under $200) is the Yamaha R-S202 stereo receiver. It will pair well with any of the $300 bookshelf speakers I mentioned (the Polk Signature S20, Q Acoustics 3020i and Emotiva Airmotiv B1+). The R-S202 has built-in Bluetooth but no phono preamp, so if you want to add a turntable in the future, you will need an external phono preamp or a turntable that has the preamp built-in. At only $149, it is an excellent value and is easy to find either online or at stores like Best Buy. (usa.yamaha.com)
If you are looking for something a bit more exclusive, check out the $225 Cambridge AXA25 integrated amplifier. There is no Bluetooth on it, so you will have to add a $20 Bluetooth receiver device to listen to music from your phone. For $399, the Cambridge Audio AXR85 receiver has a very strong and exceptionally clean-sounding amplifier, as well as Bluetooth and a phono preamp for connecting a turntable. Of course, because it is a receiver, it also has a radio tuner. (cambridgeaudio.com)
The $399 Denon PMA-600NE integrated amplifier belongs on your shopping list, as well. It includes a high-quality digital-to-analog converter for outstanding CD playback (use your player's digital connection) along with a phono preamp and built-in Bluetooth. (usa.denon.com)
Q: I enjoyed your column two weeks ago about transistor radios, but I have to disagree on one small point. You talk about integrated circuits vs. transistors. I should remind you that integrated circuits are composed of transistors, albeit smaller ones than discrete transistors.
A: I received several e-mails from electrical engineers making this point. I should have mentioned that integrated circuits include transistors, but larger discrete transistors and their associated circuitry have lower noise and higher current handling ability. That leads to higher performance capabilities and better sound.
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.