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March 23rd 2012 2:09 pm

What's a great starter home stereo system?

My friend has a 32" Samsung HDTV, and Apple TV and an Airport Express for networking. She wants to be able to AirPlay audio to the home stereo as well as pipe audio from the HDTV and the Apple TV to the stereo system as well. She also has a DVD player that I guess could either be routed through the HDTV or put directly in the stereo.

Something high quality (with a subwoofer most likely) and reasonably priced. Not sure if 5.1 is needed. Probably just a 2.1 would be best. Any recommendations GDGT?
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"The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten." (many choices, but no authoritative source AFAIK)

"High [audio?] quality" and "reasonably priced" are goals that are generally diametrically opposed to each other - particularly when it comes to stereo and home theater audio. With that in mind, you can maybe see why ajcohen's and frankspin's suggestions are sensible. Sometimes the correct answer is to not buy now, and save-up instead while looking for the lowest cost acceptable solution.

When you are just starting out, as your friend seems to be doing, it is easier to make a series of smaller purchases, and slowly grow your system until you reach a point where you are happy. By design, most HTIB solutions do not lend themselves to incremental upgrades - to upgrade any one piece requires replacing the whole thing. That should be reason #1 why you are not doing your friend a favor by going down that path. The other knock on HTIB, particularly on the very low end, is poor audio quality. The few positive reviews that I have seen are in the $400 and up range.

For an AVR brand that is bang-for-the-buck oriented, check out Denon. If she can afford a little more, try Onkyo. Alternately, headphones and something like astrogaming's mixamp pro (maybe paired with an HDMI switcher) can get her going while she saves for something better.

For speakers, she may want to try some of the suggestions of Steve Guttenberg (CNET) -­/audiophiliac­/­?tag­=blgs.list
Of particular note are Steve's positive words for some of Monoprice's speakers and headphones.­/8301­-13645­_3­-20119529­-47­/before­-you­-...­/8301­-13645­_3­-57337747­-47­/how­-good­-ca...

Good luck!
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I'm in love with Pioneer's offerings (I currently have the Elite VSX-51). On their lower end there is the VSX-822-K. It's a 5.1 system that is networkable with Airplay and DLNA support, plus 6 HDMI inputs. And there is a pioneer app for iOS and Android to control the system from anywhere in your house (it's quite handy if you have outdoor speakers).

Pioneer has always made good stuff, and have been doing the Airplay since Apple announced it so they've got it down pat.

The great thing with this system for your friend is that they can start with only a 2.0 setup and then add speakers whenever they want. I did that for the last couple years and slowly upgraded my system, bit by bit.
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I see in your reply you mentioned an all in one for $350, so you will need to look for one that supports AirPlay. 99% of the HTIB systems I have seen only come in 5.1 one set ups, 2.1 set ups are usually way more than $350 as they come from manufactures like Bose. Onkyo makes more advanced all in one set ups but at $350 (they're cheapest is 399) you sacrifice a lot of the higher end features like ethernet/wifi.

I don't know if you're going to be able to find a HTIB set up that supports airplay. They're meant to be simple solutions for people who don't want to invest the time and money into building their own AV set up. Your best bet would be to just buy a HTIB and stream the music via AppleTV which would output sound to the HTIB.

I'm making the above recommendation based of the fact there will be a laptop or desktop on to support streaming via AppleTV.
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Maybe a second hand mini system from Denon coupled with some good quality second hand speakers?
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