All-in-1 audio unit with turntable, c£300?

  polymath 15:04 05 Jul 2019

Basically, what I'm looking for here is any likely manufacturer(s) that might spring to mind, to give me a better direction to search in. I can't seem to get the big picture of the current market or manufacturers for such things (no physical shops near enough for just looking). But hopefully the details below will answer any questions (including what I've tried so far).

Our all-in-one home stereo system including turntable (manufacturer unknown) has died, and I've been looking for a replacement with roughly the same features, that's a step up in quality but not a huge jump in price. It was about the cheapest on the market (hastily bought for being easily available, and having a turntable which was getting unusual). It sounded ok for the price, and lasted 13 years, but not without e.g. the lid hinge soon breaking, and one tape deck started breaking tapes. (And there's no way to attach an aerial worthy of the name). (I have to admit also being influenced by looks; the bulgy silver plastic design with its pompous fake-technical curves and go-fast buttons has been a constant annoyance!).

The unit, like the old one, needs to be tall rather than wide. (The only place to put one in our compact living area is in our beautifully home-built entertainment corner, designed to accommodate the nice 1980s Sony music system we had at the time; there are bookshelves handy for speakers). There's only room for about the footprint of a turntable (or maybe a tad wider).

Ideally what I'm looking for is a 3-speed turntable, CD player, FM radio, twin tape decks, recording to CD from everything else, some kind of tone control, and a remote control (for volume if nothing else). And Bluetooth would be a great addition, for streaming internet radio etc from my phone.

If something has to give, we could manage with a 2-speed turntable (we don't have many 78s, though you never know what you might find!). And just one tape deck. (Although I have hundreds of tapes to go through selecting tracks worth preserving, and gather that recording to CD in bits can be fiddly, so maybe interim tape-to-tap compilation would help?) If speaker quality is a weak point, we already have a powered pair that may be better. (Mackie CR3/CR4 multimedia monitors, an offer I grabbed when we discovered built-in TV speakers had become residual - the ones from the old music centre would do for the TV).

I started with Amazon's offerings in the 'Audio and hifi' section (reading reviews of the possibles). Having gone through 20 pages, on various grounds I eliminated Steepletone, Zennox, Neostar, Soundmaster, Roadstar and DigItNow. That only left Teac, which was promising, but unfortunately their shapes were wide rather than high and wouldn't fit in..

Remembering Sony's nice, minimalist music centres of the 1980s (with choice of modules), I looked at their website, but found nothing like it that included a turntable. Curry's online shop had just one home stereo system, a Panasonic 'hifi' that was the wrong shape, didn't have all the features, and didn't sound very good by all accounts (and had even more annoying looks). It also seems to be the only one on Panasonic's website

Though separates in the hifi sense are out of our reach, adding an optional part(s) within/just outside our budget would be fine, as long as it stacks properly and is designed to go together without electronics expertise.

I'm also open to refurbished systems, though living on the far corner of Ireland would narrow the choice considerably. (I stumbled on a lovely 'retro' Panasonic one on ebay (though sans turntable) for about the same price as our anonymous system, but that enthusiast was in Wales and it was collect only). The reason I'm posting here rather than an Irish forum is the bigger population (hence number of experts!).

  Fruit Bat /\0/\ 15:18 05 Jul 2019

auna? click here

  polymath 21:44 05 Jul 2019

Thanks Fruit Bat, but afraid I'd already looked at that but forgot to list it!

One thing is it that it doesn't have recording to CD. Also it still seems to do quite a lot of things for £110 and I wondered about the quality. Reviews suggest the sound's nothing special but 'all right for a small room', e.g. teenager's bedroom. Though our living area is compact, it's because it has to share our almost two-storey main room with the kitchen and the library/office, which occupy the 2 long walls! (Our 'lounge' and dining room is the table and chairs in the middle).

In our big space, I think 'adequate' best describes the sound of the system that reached the end of its life. It's still on the market; I noticed it today somewhere at £154 (about what I paid in 2009). I'd imagine that about £300 could get fuller sound, and another feature or so. But I've done further searching and there still seems to be a market gap there.

It's looking as if finding what I'm after isn't a simple matter, and a used system is the way to go. Ideally, an ex display one I couldn't otherwise afford, or an older one (preferably refurbished by an audio enthusiast). So I'll make those tomorrow's search.

  martd7 00:24 06 Jul 2019

Have a look on eBay see if there's any for sale near where you live, there's plenty of secondhand hi fi units of all types on eBay

You could go to a proper hifi shop but I think you may find the cassette player would be the most expensive component

  polymath 17:27 06 Jul 2019

Thanks martd7. I thought eBay looked promising when that almost-ideal system in Wales popped up. (Finding that kind of thing locally seems unlikely, but further afield could still be do-able. Some parts of the UK, even. (My holidays are back on London, and I'm due for a car trip to see scattered friends & relatives. (One of them just might be in the right place to collect something - you never know!).

I'd assumed proper hifi would be too pricey, but I'll see where the nearest shop is. There may be one in Enniskillen or Derry, just do-able as a day trip if they did have the solution (I don't think they'd ship across the border).

  martd7 18:24 06 Jul 2019

I bought a combo Denon unit which was £286 inc Wharfedale speakers,it has Dab,Fm Radio,cd player,front slot for usb and apple products,a Turntable of a decent make would be £125, but the cassette player would be £300

  polymath 16:14 09 Jul 2019

Interesting, martd7.

And eBay is looking hopeful. (The only reason I was looking for one-piece mass-market system was assuming it was all we could afford).

I've only just started searching eBay, but have already seen some items near to our needs, from well regarded specialist sellers. (None in Ireland yet, but some use the Global Shipping Programme). I'm hoping to get back to it later today.

I soon happened on a Sony combo, for instance (correction; for 'Panasonic' in the OP read 'Sony'). It was a 1990s model that I remember reading a review of, probably in a computer magazine (and not understanding the departure from their neat black or silver box design - still can't!). (Must check that pile of PC Advisors in the cupboard awaiting the scissors; could be some reviews of audio systems now on the 'aftermarket'!)

I think the chances of finding the features we need are improved by the ones we don't need. A CD changer for instance; we choose and play one CD at a time, and the 3-CD changer in our cheap system was just an unnecessary complication (and more moving parts to go wrong) We wouldn't use Shuffle either (the only randomness we're into is re discovering more music).). DAB is superfluous, with no signal here (only a few cities have it in Ireland, and the only Irish radio of interest to us is news etc on national stations any FM radio will pick up). And DVD playing isn't necessary (the TV can play those, and with an open-plan home we only want one audio thing at a time).

It's now dawned that I could also look at the feasibility of a second unit purely for the recording operations, which would leave the first system free at all times for listening, and not needing a recording feature, or two cassette decks. (I could do the recording in our little gallery area).

With all that up in the air, I think there are now too many permutations to ask people to spend any more time on it here. So maybe I'll leave it until I've at least narrowed things down to a shortlist. Just one more question, though!

My Make Do And Mend side has reminded me of an older system I couldn't quite bring myself to give up on and throw away, and I wondered if any of it might be worth resurrecting as part of the new stereo setup (visual mismatches no problem)?

It's one of the older (black box) Sony combos, that I stopped using when the speed of the cassette decks (the main thing I used it for at the time) started wobbling. (Possibly some visible mechanical fault such as I've often fixed myself, but another stereo was on the horizon and I didn't get round to looking). It was one of a succession of handed-down ones we used before buying the last one. It was passed on (sans speakers) because it wasn't compact enough for a relative's new flat. (His sister bought the same model, and is still using it I think).

Just in case anything springs to mind as possibly worth salvaging, it's a Sony XO-D301CD (instructions dated 1988). It has twin cassette decks, an FM/AM radio tuner, and a moveable CD player (and remote control). And the speakers I used with it (from another stereo, c1980).

The instructions have ref. no. CDP-M26 for the CD player, and HST-D501 for everything else. The speakers are Hitachi Twin-cone Speaker System SS-6220G MkII. (Impedance 80 ohms, Max. input 20 watts, for those who know about these things!).

The tuner seemed a good one to me (though I have no knowledge of them - just good audio memory and very good hearing). E.g. it picked up UK FM signals from across the border very well (sounding as if we were still in London). The CD player stopped working a couple of times, but just from condensation I think, as it always worked again after leaving it on standby for a while. Though I haven't had the system on for a few years (and gather disk players are often the first things to fail in a computer).

  polymath 15:49 04 Aug 2019

The answer to the question if anyone's interested is "No such thing!". (I think we're sorted anyway, albeit by a roundabout route!).

The reason I couldn't find an all-on-one system a bit better than the cheapest is that they became extinct when I wasn't looking (our secondhand stereos meant we hadn't bought one between 1980 and 2009). After the 1980s the focus was on CD players, then MP3, Bluetooth etc. The older technology is now polarised between proper hi-fi and the cheap stereo systems (now aimed chiefly at older people with vinyl and cassette collections)..

It also dawned that a budget mass-market unit spanning all the audio types from the 1950s to the present (including CD recording) would hardly be the most viable proposition (more corners cut, more faulty units to replace!).

On eBay, I nearly bought/bid for a few second-hand systems on eBay that were nearly ideal, but held back in case something just right came up. Some had lost their turntables, so along the way I gambled £40-odd on one I happened on (a Sony one, also compatible with our old Sony stereo I think).

Meanwhile, it just happened that we finally decided to get rid of the microwave we've never needed to use, that shared our TV and audio shelf (I did say our living arrangements were compact!), so there was space to consider a Teac system after all. The only one I found with delivery to Ireland was the LP-R500, but luckily it filled the bill and I bought it.

It has tuner, turntable, CD player and one tape deck. Apart from playing all our audio stuff, its big plus is recording to CD (not that common in stereo systems), from vinyl, tape, radio or an external source e.g. CD player. A hi-fi buff I found a review from was unimpressed, but our vinyl etc isn't in hi-fi condition anyway! It's not a Bluetooth model, but…..

I remembered the bare-wire connection of the speakers from the dead stereo, then it also dawned that they're not powered anyway. So I looked into new speakers for the TV, including soundbars, which I hadn't really considered before (they seem easier to find these days than old-school budget powered speakers). The dimensions of the soundbars online seemed inconsistent (and the photos are no help!). A budget one I was considering happened to be stocked by our nearish electrical shop (and I like to buy local if possible), but when I got there it was a lot smaller than I'd thought. I ended up investing twice as much in the larger one they stocked, which I thought had a good sound (it's about 32" long, with a subwoofer). I forgot to take a note of our TV model (let alone connection types), but they looked up its old invoice and specs, and the same soundbar was also the only one there that could connect to it (via HDMI). And it has Bluetooth.

It was overkill for our little TV and better with the stereo. Cue a week or so trying to get my head round analogue-to-digital audio converters (the stereo's output is red and white phono, soundbar input HDMI and optical). I eventually found one with clear specs that I could be sure was suitable, and it's on its way. (Meanwhile it's back to the shop to exchange the HDMI cable for an optical one connectable with the converter). The TV will still have its decent speakers, and it just happens that there are two places that could have been designed for a soundbar, both near ear level (on the wall just above the stereo & TV, or just below them on the shelf designed for the cables and other associated clutter).

To my untutored eye, our old Sony system looks ok under the dust. If the radio still works (therefore the amp), I'll try new cassette drive belts, the CD player and the turntable, and hopefully that'll be our tape compilation system (to then record to CD). I still have the speakers I used to use with it (a biggish pair from an old Ferguson system). Its cables need checking,, but as the Sony has bare-wire clips I could use the speakers from the dead cheap stereo to start with. I've found a good article about changing the drive belts of the Sony model; the dismantling etc is a little fiddly but I don't mind. (Think I'd better open it up for a clean before turning it on though, judging from the dust I can see through the ventilation slots!).

  Fruit Bat /\0/\ 16:57 04 Aug 2019

Glad you got sorted.

  Quickbeam 07:07 06 Aug 2019

This is an incredibly complicated ask!

The simplest solution is to get a steaming subscription for your phone, and Bluetooth speakers.

It's the modern way.

  polymath 17:00 07 Aug 2019

Yes, quickbeam - not just complicated, but impossible (hence the roundabout route!).

I welcome the modern ways as much as anyone (being an early adopter by nature, circumstances permitting). But if it's TV and movie streaming you had in mind, that would be wasted on us (even if it was possible here and we could afford a sub), as we don't spend much time watching TV. Audio's different, as we can listen while doing things. It's the only streaming our internet's capable of anyway, and the mobile signal isn't up to carrying any data whatsoever.

Our vinyl dates from the 1950s onwards, but (despite the adverts) wanting to play it isn't nostalgia (though the social history and graphics are fun). Some of the detail that vinyl captured is lost in translation to other media (and many master recordings didn't survive long anyway). Not everything on our cassettes is available elsewhere, e.g. there's the radio broadcasts, domestic music-making and tapes of gigs (including a wonderful Miles Davis concert I can't find even a mention of on the web).

I can now stream internet audio from phone to soundbar via Bluetooth. (I tried it yesterday, to check that the soundbar works ok before putting everything into place, and it sounded splendidly clear). The subwoofer connects with the soundbar wirelessly, so could go anywhere near a power outlet (though our home layout means it's probably best on the floor below the soundbar).

The ADC arrived yesterday (for the stereo to ttalk to the soundbar), so just add a time window to get it all joined up, and we should have all our audio back (no more using the TV to listen to the radio!).

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