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music systems

Buying Guides - Music Systems

About Music Systems

A Music System is a combination of stereo receiver, speakers and some type of component to play pre-recorded music. Most commonly, a music system combines a cassette player and CD player with an AM/FM stereo tuner in a compact shelf design. Like any electronics purchase, the purchase of a stereo music system is a very subjective decision - what works for one individual may not work for another. It is up to the individual to determine what type of system truly meets his or her unique needs.


Types of Music Systems

There are two main types of music system.

The bookshelf or "mini" unit tends to be large, provides powerful audio output (wattage) and is very 'high-tech' in appearance. These bookshelf systems often offer multiple CD capability as well as a dual cassette deck. If power is what you are looking for, this type of system may be for you. Bookshelf systems come in many variations; the standard system will have two two-way speakers, but you can find three-way speakers and, in some cases, full five-speaker, surround-sound packages.

There is a growing demand for stylish lifestyle stereo units, often referred to as "micro" systems. These micro systems are considerably smaller than the traditional bookshelf music system but are better suited to the office setting and provide a more stylish look for the home. Micro systems do not offer the same audio power output as bookshelf systems, but will still give you a strong and clear sound. Usually, a micro system will have single CD or cassette capacity. Because of its size, the micro system is excellent when there is very little space available and styling is important.


Ask Yourself These Questions...

How much space do you have?

The bookshelf or mini system is often a large and bulky stereo. The term mini may be misleading, since this type of stereo is usually in excess of two feet wide, 13 to 14 inches high and 12 to 14 inches deep. You will need to decide if this size of stereo can fit in the location desired. Typically much smaller than the mini system, dimensions of a micro system are 16 to 24 inches wide, six to 12 inches high and seven to 10 inches deep.

What sound quality and power do you require?

The mini system will offer greater audio power than the micro system. Typically, a mini will give 100 watts up to 300 watts of audio power from 2 or 3-way speakers providing big sound with clear imaging. Also, there will usually be the ability to tailor the sound through the use of a pre-set equalizer and, in the higher end stereos, by using a manual equalizer to customize the sound. Although the audio power of a micro system will be less than 100 watts total, the sound quality is excellent and the speaker systems are capable of producing clear, high quality sound. Many of the features of the mini system are transferred to the micro system with no loss in quality or versatility.

Do you want a multiple or a single CD player?

The mini system will offer greater audio power and multiple CD capacity, along with a dual cassette built into the unit. The micro system does not usually have multiple CD capacity, opting for single CD players with only one built-in cassette deck or none at all.

Is style important to you?

The micro system is a smaller stereo that combines quality sound with fine esthetics in a slim, stylish and smart design. Because of its size, the micro system is at home on any shelf, in the office or at home, or better yet, as a centrepiece in any décor.

How much do you want to spend?

Both mini and micro stereo systems prices tend to vary a great deal. If you opt for a mini system with more audio power and larger size, expect to start your search at $170 and go as high as $800. A micro system will begin at $150 and go up to $800. Of course, like anything else, the more features, the more expensive the system.


Consider These Important Features...

  • Audio output (or power). Generally speaking, the greater the power output in watts, the greater the capacities for loud, clear sound. But remember, quality sound is more than volume alone. Some low powered music systems actually sound better than systems with much more wattage. Look (more importantly, listen) for the total harmonic distortion level ratings under 0.1 percent and for power ratings that cover a wide audio frequency spectrum.
  • Subwoofer. A subwoofer may be desired for reproduction of the low frequency, or bass, sounds. A music system can: have a subwoofer built-in to the body of the left and right speakers to keep the system compact; include a separate subwoofer; or have the ability to have a satellite subwoofer output for later addition.
  • Speaker type. Most stereos will include a two-way speaker system that offers a tweeter for the high frequencies and a mid-range speaker to reproduce the mid- and low-frequency sounds. An upgrade to a three-way speaker system will have the tweeter, a mid-range and a woofer to separate the mid- and low-frequency sounds and further clarify the sound reproduction.
  • Satellite speakers. Music systems that include satellite speakers are available and are a great choice if the system will also be used as a home theatre.

 

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