Saturday, 24 May 2008

Choosing the stereo and speakers

While working out how to string together my new audio solution I decided to replace my faithful old Aiwa NSX-S505 stereo system. The Aiwa has been a good servant over the years and seen a lot of action, but with the volume knob broken and one of the two tape players knackered, when the CD player refused to play a CD enough was enough.

I've always loved Denon kit as being simple yet very good quality, stylish and innovative at the same time, so I was immediately drawn to them for a new stereo. I was looking at the Denon D-M35DAB system as my choice item but before I purchased it used it as the bar for a quick shop-around.

While reading reviews I discovered Onkyo which was a company I'd heard of before but never really heard anyone buying their kit. I came across their direct competitor to the Denon model I was looking at, the CS-515 which has pretty much the exact same feature set. I'm no audiophile so I take great note of what the professional reviewers have to say, and with What Hi-Fi product of the year award, and Best Hi-Fi under £500 awarded to it I had to look much more seriously at the Onkyo. It was, eventually, to be the model I decided on based purely on Internet shopping having never touched or listened to either the Onkyo or the Denon before.

I have pretty simple requirements for a stereo. It has to have enough inputs for me to connect my various devices (Media Centre, possibly TV, etc), I wanted something quite small in terms of height so it would sit in my TV cabinet, and something of a better sound quality than the Aiwa (which really was an excellent buy for what I paid for it many years ago). Feature wise, I wasn't bothered about a tape player any more (we ditched our tapes a while ago), so just a simple CD player and digital radio would be good enough. Conveniently, both of the systems I found fitted these.

When I purchased the Onkyo I didn't go for the CS-515, but rather the CR-515 which is exactly the same unit minus the speakers. The Onkyo speakers are reviewed as being an excellent set, particularly for ones that are shipped as a standard set of speakers with a hi-fi system. However, I decided to go with the professional opinion once again and opted for the current set of award-winning small-sized speakers, the Tannoy Mercury F1 bookshelf speaker set. They're slightly larger than the Denon SCM-50 bookshelf speaker set I have in the kitchen, which are fantastic so the Tannoy's had a lot to live up to. I'm pleased to report they sound really quite nice when attached to the Onkyo, although my first sound test was somewhat inhibited by Beth vacuuming the rest of the house at the time!

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