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Buyers Guide | Editorial Reviews | Feature Articles

Best Budget Audio Gear Buyers Guide

One can go far on a small budget. But just stopping into a big box and picking up the cheapest thing won’t get you there. If you are on a budget but want good sound and don’t know where to start, here’s a guide. These components have many recommendations from a variety of places; user forums, electronic and audio magazines, and our own ears here at AudioReview.com.

Below is a list of budget components that has caught our attention over the year.

This is by no means a definitive list.   If you have some of your own you’d like to suggest use the comment area below.

Klipsch RF-52 ~ $660
AVguide.com – Few affordable systems offer a more compelling blend of detail, finesse, and dynamic clout plus an almost magically vibrant quality that brings music and movies alive. Bravo, Klipsch.
AudioReview - 1 Reviews 5.00 of 5 - boorat writes – Amazing, crisp sound! Will wake the neighbors with no distortion. Crystal clear highs and smooth, tight punchy bass. I can hear every instrument on it’s own. My sound dream come true! Highly recommend these!! Not too big, not too small. My receiver is the DENON AVR 5700 (140 watts per channel).
Axiom Audio M3v3 ~ $348
pcdistrict.com - The M3 is Axiom’s most versatile and compact stereo and home theater speaker. Winner of the SoundStage! Reviewer\’s Choice Award and GoodSound! Product of the Year, the M3 delivers powerful bass, outstanding treble, and award-winning musical sound for under $400…
AudioReview’s – Adam LaBarge – When I checked the price again I was blown away to find out they were $348, especially when considering their performance. The M3v3 do most of what a great speaker should. They present a large and open image, linear reproduction of sound, offer a good amount of detail, and be as transparent as the speaker can be. Read Full Review
Onkyo M-282 ~ $200


Onkyo is a big name in the audio industry.  Having been around for ages and always making quality gear at an affordable price.  The M-282 is no exception.  A 100W solid state amplifier that does have a pre-amp (knob in back). This can easily drive your home stereo system and sound good.

Other Recommend Amplifiers – Van Alstine Insight 240,  NAD C275BEE, ROTEL RB-1562


  • Dynamic Headroom 1.7 dB
  • Frequency Response 20Hz-20KHz
  • Number of Channels 2
  • Signal to Noise Ratio >100 dB
  • THD 0.018% @ 8 Ohms and 0.02% @ 4 Ohms
  • Watts Per Channel 4ohms 200
  • Watts Per Channel 8ohms 125

TEAC AG-790A ~ $150


Listen to your favorite radio stations on the AG-790A AM/FM stereo receiver from TEAC. Its discrete output circuit configuration provides 100x100W RMS output power at 8 ohms. Its quartz PLL-synthesized tuning system delivers quality sound through your stereo system. You’ll also be able to take advantage of the built-in speaker terminals (four pairs) to connect your speakers to your stereo system.

Other Recommend Receivers – Sherwood RX-4105, Sony STR-DN1000, Yamaha RX-497, Denon DRA-697CI, Cambridge Audio Azur 540R


  • Channels 2
  • Type of Receiver Stereo
  • Radio Station Programmable Memories (Presets) 30
  • Manufacturer’s Warranty – Hardware 1 Year
  • Watts per channel 100

Read reviews on the AG-790A here

Audioengine 2 – $199

Computer Speakers

Mid-range vocals and soft silky highs are what these are all about. I’ve just finished demo’ing them at the 2011 California Audio Show and I was blow away by the clarity and presents of the vocal mid-range.  Pair with a sub for better bass performance. Vocal’s pop off these so they will surely make great speakers for movies. Plus they fit in a small bag and are easily portable. Take them with you on your next vacation or biz trip and actually get good sound in your hotel room.

The long list of reviews from a variety of sources speaks for itself.  These are great little desktop speakers.

Other Recommended Computer Speaker Systems.


  • Type:2.0 powered (active) multimedia desktop speaker system
  • Inputs:Dual 1/8″ stereo mini-jack and RCA jacks
  • Amplifier Type:Dual Class AB monolithic
  • Drivers:2.75″ Kevlar woofers, 20mm silk dome tweeters
  • Power Output:60W peak power total (15W RMS / 30W peak per channel), AES
Sennheiser HD 555 ~ $130

Sennheiser HD 555 made it onto our Editor’s Choice Best Headphone Guide for good reason.  They are constantly sought after by audiophiles on a budget.  Their open constuction and cicumaural fit (around the ears) makes them comfortable, big sounding, and doesn’t cause listening fautigue.  The HD 555 are good straight into a source but really shine with a headphone amp. Sennheiser, a headphone company with one of the best reputations, has made one of the best budget hi-fi headphones out there.


Acoustic Research AW 845 ~ $450

Wireless Speakers

Free your self of wires. Sounds like a dream. But with the 150ft range of the AW825 speakers, that work inside, outside, in the rain and wind, you’ll be able to live that reality. The base unit does have to be plugged into a wall outlet and a source via the 1/8th adapter, so your MacBook, your iPod, iPad, iPhone, laptop, or stereo, but the actual speakers run on AA batteries and can be moved anywhere.

Each speaker is sold separately, but you can add as many as you like. Users with 4 have experienced no issues. Each speaker can be set to mono, left channel, right channel. You can place them through out your home, garden, or pool area.

The speakers themselves run at 5W and are a two way design. A 2-inch tweeter and 3-inch woofer. With a 40Hz-15kHz frequencies range


  • Innovative circuit design
  • Provide TWO sets of switchable audio inputs
  • Besides the normal audio output in the back panel
  • Compact design (mini-size & light weight)
  • All audiophile-graded parts and components

Pro-Ject Debut III ~ $379


Nothing says I love you to an audiophile like a gift of vinyl. The Pro-Ject Debut III is one of the top selling budget turntables because it has one focus, accurate audio playback.  There are no bells and whistles, no cheap USB connections, nothing you don’t need.  Also the nice thing about it, if you want to take your turntable to the next level there are plenty of aftermarket upgrades for the Pro-Ject tables that can turn a $400 table to the next several levels.

Other Recommended Turntables- Rega P2, Rega P1, Music Hall MMF2.2, Denon DP-300, Thorens TD158


Phono Amps – Bellari VP130, Pro-Ject Phono Box USB.Thorens MM 001,  Rega Fono,

Cartridges – Shure M97xE, Stanton 681 Mk III,  Audio-Technica AT440ML,  Denon DL 110


  • Tonearm bearing comprises inverted hardened stainless-steel points and sapphire thrust-pads
  • Steel platter with felt mat
  • Low-tolerance chrome-plated stainless-steel axle runs on a polished ball bearing in a brass bearing housing
  • Motor decoupled to reduce vibration
  • Supplied with Ortofon OM 5E cartridge fitted
  • Pro-Ject 8.6 tonearm
  • Nominal speeds 33 / 45
  • Available in matt black, glossy black, glossy white, silver, red, yellow, blue and green

Emotiva ERC-1 ~ $399

CD Player

The ERC-1 CD player is designed to be an audiophile player. Separate, shielded power supplies for the CD carriage, display, and digital and analog sections ensure noiseless operation. Using Analog Devices 1955 DAC, with 384k oversampling, and 1V rms (7V peak for extended dynamics), the ERC-1 will be your guide to rediscovering your CD collection and your love for music. Even the look of the ERC-1 will turn heads, with a sleek faceplate that features a halo-lit slot load mechanism.

Other Recommended CD Players – Cambridge Audio 340C, NAD C51BEE, Marantz CD5003, Denon DCM-370


  • Digital Output Filter: 24-Bit, 384 times oversampling (Analog Devices 1955)
  • Sampling Frequency: 44.1 kHz
  • Analog output filter frequency: 80 kHz (-3dB)
  • Amplitude output linearity: 0.2dB
  • Phase linearity: 30°
  • Power consumption: < 25W
  • Output connection types: digital coaxial, digital optical toslink, unbalanced RCA, balanced XLR
  • Weight: 17.5 lbs. (unboxed)

Read reviews of the ERC-1 here

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