Cheapest system you could ever stand to listen to

... or, where have you encountered an amazingly cheap system that really surprised you?

My son is a college student and he and his house mates have put together a system for $67 that sounds ridiculously good. Here is the system along with where each piece came from:

-2007 Toshiba DVD player, $35, Discount box store
-late eighties Onkyo TX-26 Stereo Receiver, $25, pond shop
-unknown vintage Bose 401 floor standing speakers in excellent condition, FREE off the parking strip (the neighboring college kids couldn't "figure out how to hook them up to their TV" and abandoned them on moving out)
-18 gauge speaker wire, FREE from pond shop owner
-ICs came in box with DVD
-Powerstrip $7, Fred Meyers

When I first saw this system, the speakers were jammed against the wall in opposite corners of the room and the DVD player was hooked up to the receiver's phono section. The boys thought the amp must be really crappy or broken since the sound was thin, etched and flat. I told them that an Onkyo should sound pretty good and hooked the source up to the proper inputs. I also suggested moving the speakers along the same wall on either side of their TV, about a foot or more out in the room and about 7 ft. apart.

The first thing we listened to was the soundtrack for the DVD "House of Flying Daggers". Listening to the drum scene was more like listening to the "House of Flying Sound". We all had to laugh at how good the $67 system sounded. Later listening to red book recordings of Yo Yo Ma, Patricia Barber, The Blue Scholars, some well recorded instrumental jazz and some other stuff reinforced my thoughts that this system sounds pretty darn good, perhaps about 85% as good as a $25,000 system I had just listened to at a hi fi shop the same day. The bass from the Onkyo/Bose combo is full and fast but not up to true hi fi standards for tightness or depth (the receiver only pumps 38 watts), and the highs don't sparkle or shimmer with the same airiness associated with multi-thousand dollar systems. But the funky little Bose towers have decent midrange and throw sound around the room with uncanny realism.

In the final analysis, this cheap little system sounds good enough to listen to all day and not get fatigued or annoyed. It also works quite well when driven by a PC or Mac laptop computer. This experience makes me reevaluate what its possible to build on a tight budget with some persistence and a little (OK, maybe a lot) of luck.
Ag insider logo xs@2xknownothing
Right now I am listening to a pair of audioengine 5's using a zune front end ripped with lossless files; pretty amazing.

Good for your son and his room mates.
Onkyo made nice two channel receivers back before home theater took over. The 1980's Integra line were excellent. I still have an Integra TX-108 which sold for like $900 (in 1980 dollars). It was basically their best 100 watt Integra power amp and their best Integra FM/AM tuner in one box. It is big and weighs a ton.

I have it in a bedroom with a pair of B&W DM302 speakers fed by the much talked about Toshiba SD-3950 DVD Player (unmodified). All hooked together with some middle of the road MIT cables. The FM tuner is of course excellent as well. Just using a decent CoaxMax power strip that has basic filtering.

It sounds amazingly good. Total investment for you buying used for everything listed including cables, about $375. I got the receiver for free so I probably invested $275, the biggest cost being the speakers.
Pond shops are also known as pawn shops. Not to be confused with shops that put koi in your yard in a pool of water.

No offense but a minor point needing clarification.

However, the Scotsman in me is mighty impressed with the price/performance ration of the system you describe.
I was curious of what a pond shop was, the clarification is a bit more coherent and precise.
Technics SA-300 Reciever- Second hand store for 24.00
Mirage M-90's with a blown woofer (free)
Woofer for them from Mirage 38.00
Wire by Radio Shack 12.00
CD player Phillips CDR 112.00

Making real music for less than the average "office" all in one junker from Sams Club... PRICELESS
Marantz 2252 receiver, $75, ebay.
Large Advent speakers, $10, estate sale
Denon DCD 1500 CDP, with remote, $15, ebay
Dual 1218 turntable, $4.50, Goodwill

The turntable was sold to me at half price, since the stylus was missing. I didn't complain. Still have everything except the Dual. It comes out to be heard once in a great while. Nice to reminisce with a nice old system.
The pieces of system emerged from the "Pond"
It looked like a frog
but we passed the magic wand
The King sent a "Pawn" to see how it soundith
but they tripped on a log
and got stuck in a bog
it really doesn't matter
cause soon it'll all be gone
(after graduation, we hope...)

Isn't bottom fishing fun?

Thanks for correcting my spelling;-)
I'm listening to it right now while on medical contract. NAD L-40 with Scandyna Micro Pod speakers. Very nice midrange, a little bass. Very listenable.
NAD 3020 integrated amp, yard sale, $20
Mission 700le speakers, yard sale, $15
Pioneer PL-12DII, flea market, $10
Audio Technica AT-15XE cartridge, eBay, $25

A very sweet system at many times the price.
Free: NAD 3200 amp and KEF 104 speakers: gift from A & M Studios
$15: Dynakit 70: neighbor
$200: Blue Sky Audio EXO from Guitar Center
My nephews non audiophile system of $45 NAD (hmmm seeing a trend here), tandberg receiver (literally a dumpster dive behind a radio station) hooked up to some JBL Century's (free to a good home and a 2 beer tinsel lead repair fee from his cool uncle)with 12 gauge solid core electrical cable has often made me wonder about my sanity, and lack of budget restraint.

How do the Century's sound to your 2008 ears? These were considered by many people as THE standard reference monitor here in the US in the 70s, and I always considered them to be very very revealing in the treble, bordering on being overly bright. Wondering if they are tamed a bit by having the NAD in the loop. I would guess the Tandberg-JBL combination would be pretty good.

At $45 plus Romex, looks like your nephew's system takes top honors for lowest cost so far, perhaps for potential quality too.
A transistor radio under the pillow back in the '60s. The Beatles and the British invasion were happening. It was all about the music. F the equipment. It's about the music.

Amen on that thought!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Fuzzy and tinny are not bad things. My brothers and I had a Pioneer Centrix 8 track--lo fi at its best.
OK, I had a transistor radio too in the sixties that I pretty much wore out. I also had a plastic Westinghouse portable record player that I listened to A LOT and pretty much wore out my ALL my records. I don't listen to these anymore. I agree content is the thing, but presentation is important to all of us too, otherwise we would not read and post here. I guess I mean "Cheapest system you could ever stand to listen to NOW"

PS - the rest of my family and more than half my friends think I am nuts that I turn my nose up at listening to an Ipod and in ear headphones. "It's so convenient!" they say. To me, the space around and timing between notes is just as important as the notes themselves... A cheap system that begin to provide that is way cool to me.
I had "crystal" radio starting in about 1961.
Could get a few stations at night with a piece of wire as an antenna. Bed time meant music.
Knownothing - I think you started a great thread. I didn't intend to imply any criticism of it. Finding under valued/over achieving bargain components is a wonderful thing. Worth trading stories about. My post was intended as "hyperbole" - to put the focus on the music as "the main thing" regardless of system price tag. I say this to remind myself as much as anything. Now that I have a half way decent system, I do find myself listening to the equipment or recording sonics more than the music at times. Ultimately, however, great music trumps crappy equipment any day...or so I think (I get off hearing a good song over the Musak system in the grocery store). Psacanli, I too had a "crystal radio" long ago. Happier times. Peace.
Knownothing. The Century's still sound like they always did. Bright, and with the typical JBL foward sound. Great for stadium rock, poor for violin concerto's.
Of course my ears aren't very 2008. When just listening for pleasure I still prefer my old Ohm Walsh's driven by a NYAL Moscode. The current trend of speaker design leaning towards pro monitor detail rather than spatial imaging isn't my particular cup of tea. Like to hear the music, not engineering flaws (especially if they're mine!!)
I think it is great that I was not alone in thinking bed time was music time. I would listen to " like a rolling stone" and "the runaway", along with all the other great early "60's" songs. I started surfing in so. cal in 1964. That transistor radio was as beautiful and as important to us as our boards and the ocean. We heard the beatles, beach boys, stones, animals, turtles, etc grow along with each summer. Sometimes I would like to here the old stuff on the radios and stereos that we had back then. Today I hear things too good when listening to the old music.
A jackhammer makes noise too.It is actually emitting 100 decibels at two meters.
Sharp 1-bit dvd-receiver ($99 refurbished)
Mission speaker (%40 ebay)

This is my bedroom setup. I fall asleep with it most nights. Sounds like a small sweet tube amp.
I had to get rid of my jackhammer coz the cd's kept on skipping and every cd sounded like slipknot.