Modestly priced bookshelf speakers for cabin.

I have a small cabin in the country where I spend weekends.

Current system is a 1980's Toshiba 25wpc receiver I got in high school. Bose 2.2 bookshelf speakers that are about 28 years old. They actually sound okay to me most of the time. $14 Sony DVD/CD player from Goodwill.

Even though this 'system' is sufficient most of the time, I've got the hi-fi bug since getting my home system and I've started thinking about slowly upgrading the cabin system on the lowest budget I can.....since I can't really justify doing it at all. ;-)

Rarely do I do any serious listening down there but would like to be able to when I have the chance.

So my first step is to replace the Bose speakers. Looking to spend no more than $350 or so. Is it possible to significantly improve on the Bose at that price? (I'm assuming yes).

The only thing I've even considered is the Klipsch RB-61 IIs or RP 160Ms. Why Klipsch? Back in the 70's my eccentric uncle used to have a massive pair of them that I thought were cool. Open to other options and advice.

Thanks for any advice.

scored a pair of upgraded Klipsch Quartets for my cabin. a bit big but a smaller klipsch would be nice
space configuration may make a difference
i love the klipsch but getting good imaging is tough
Sound stage is not a big consideration for me in this application so that might not be an issue.

Here is a question about the Klispch (and probably other brands as well): Klipsch makes a  floor standing (tower type) speaker that have one tweeter and one woofer. It is their lowest end floor speaker. As best I can tell it is the same tweeter and woofer that comes in one of their bookshelf speakers. The towers cost about $100 more.

Just wondering what you get out of the tower that you don't get out of the bookshelf with the same woofer and tweeter? Better bass from the bass port on the tower? Different crossover?
Take a look at Tannoy Reveal 802 or 402 Studio Monitor (402's are smaller)

Ideal for the smaller system & great Tannoy sound

I've not heard a Tannoy that I didn't like

A few years ago I was looking for A/V speakers - I auditioned Tannoy and Klipsh -  preferred the sound of the Tannoy so I bought the Mercury 4's - 2's and centre channel - still have them

The 2's are also great for a smaller system and coupled with an 8" sub provide a great musical listening experience.

Regards  Steve
I love Klipsch and have a few pairs of them, but in general their strong suit is big speakers for big spaces.  You might be able to find some used Heresy speakers at your budget. 

I suggest checking out Canton speakers.  I have a couple of pairs of the Vento series (which are out of your price range) and they are great sounding well made speakers.  They are German made and not as well known in the US, but worth looking at.  You can find them heavily discounted on the web with a number of models in your price range.
As a Klipsch Heritage fanatic, I am not crazy about the low end Klipsch. I actually think the lower end Polks are much better, and are always on sale on ebay. If you want, you can also get a small powered sub to supplement the Bose. Considering your source, that is what I would do. Enjoy ! MrD.
Small Wharfedales are worth checking out for what you need them for. They have a few smaller/cheaper models that play well. Canton, as mentioned above, is another frequently overlooked manufacturer of such speakers.
Okay, here is a dumb question: How do you hook a powered sub to a 1980's era receiver? It has 'record out' via RCA and it has two banks (A/B) of speaker connections. There is no other line out. No Sub out of course.
I do not have an answer to sub question but, the way it seems from here, you will be replacing that Toshiba receiver much sooner than you now think.
glupson said: "I do not have an answer to sub question but, the way it seems from here, you will be replacing that Toshiba receiver much sooner than you now think."

I am trying to resist the impulse but you are probably right. But I can hardly bear the thought of not using the old Toshiba. I think I got it in 1980. My Dad got it from his friend who sold Toshiba gear. I think it was a floor model because there was no way I could have afforded it new, although it did come in the original box. I remember seeing it on the cover of some stereo magazine and it got good reviews if I recall. It went with me through college and med school. Pretty amazing to think it has been running all these years. 

It has a loudness button. I like that.

You buy a powered sub that has high level ins ( speaker terminals ), which connects from the speaker outs of the toshiba just as it were a pair of speakers. In most set ups, the Toshiba would feed the sub, the sub then feeds the satellites, were it the Bose or anything else. easy peasy.
n80, what you get out of a "tower" speaker is the drivers up at a proper height, and the ability to move them around. You can have this with bookshelf speakers if you put them on a proper stand, but if they're just on a shelf, the sound will suffer. None of this matters, of course, if you're only looking at "casual" listening.
Thanks mrdecibel. I tried this briefly with a B&W sub that I had but it was just a muddy rumble. But now I'm pretty sure I did something wrong. Gave the B&W back to its owner. 

builder3, good info. I asked this same question in another thread since it had not been answered here and it also seems like better and deeper bass is possible with the tower due to cabinet/port configuration.

In my specific case it would actually be easier to place a tower than a bookshelf so now I am leaning toward a lower end tower. If the bass is indeed okay (and okay is all I really need) then I might not need a sub at all. Which would also be good since space is tight.


I completely understand your feelings and am, pretty much, the same. I still use the turntable my father bought for me in early 1980s and the biggest reason is that it is "my" turntable I cherished when planning to buy it and ever since. Every time I get an itch to buy a new one, I realize it would not be it so I put a few drops of oil once a year and it still works. It runs on kryptonite, I guess. I barely use it, avoid it in some sense (records are very inconvenient, if you ask me), but could not let it go.

In your situation, I would just buy decent floorstanding speakers, again some Wharfedale or similar within a budget, and stop thinking about major improvements in sound. I doubt you go to your cabin to sit in front of the speakers for more than a minute or two. Just crank it up, and enjoy everything else while music is playing. Think of your home system as a "hobby" or "serious". This one in cabin a "guilty pleasure". What the heck, it is all processed sounds and "realism" in that setting is actually faked anyway. The things around you are real, not what comes from speakers, no matter how good the system is.

Loudness button is another thing we share affinity for. I rarely use it, but feel good knowing it is there and indulge in it from time to time. Everything sounds better with loudness button. More realistic. Exactly the way it sounded way back when...your, and my father bought us these things and that is what counts to me. Who ever listened to Poppa Joe without loudness? Some memories, time cannot erase.

The Toshiba is how I got into hi-fi. It was starting to get static and noise when changing volume etc and I was ready to toss it.

I knew my brother-in-law had a system in his (dark, dank) basement that he'd gotten from a cousin. I borrowed it from him. That is my current system. He does not want it.

Then I read online about some sort of spray you can spray into the pots on audio gear. I don't remember the name. $15 for a little can. Opened up the receiver, sprayed stuff on pots.  It worked great. All issues resolved. So Toshiba is back at cabin. Hi-fi system is in my house in town.

Music is always on at the cabin. Even bring the speakers out on the porch when I'm working outside.


You were lucky if you heard and used that spray only now. Just so you know, it does not last forever. More spray may be needed over time.

If Toshiba has outputs for two speaker pairs, I would buy two sets of speakers. Some that you are looking for now anyway and a pair of weather-resistant speakers to put outside permanently and forget about them. No more "bring them out". They are usually not obscenely expensive.

 Something like this.....
A quick story. During my professional days I visited a couple ( specifically the lady of the house ) who wanted a higher level of sound in their " family " room. She also wanted B&O gear ( if any of you are familiar with it ). The room was not to change décor, nor set up in any way. They had an amazingly long leather couch that was out of this world, and this is where they sat ( the couch was not against any wall, as this room was huge ). The system I designed for them ( and money was not an object ), was a full B&O front end, with a pair of Thiel CS2s. The Thiels were an eyesore in the room, which we all knew ahead of time ( to them, not me ), so I decided to place the Thiels behind this couch, laying on their backs, speaker bases closest to each other. The end of the story. They were both blown away by how sound filled the room, and not only from listening from the couch. She played the best of the O'Jays ( cd compllation ) and she was in heaven. I hope you can see the analogy of this set up. Enjoy ! MrD.
"The room was not to change décor, nor set up in any way."
I am trying to imagine a room that had full Bang & Olufsen design style before even bringing audio equipment in it. It must have been really cool and unusual. Most of the time, Bang & Olufsen is an accent piece that gets noticed.
GEt used pair of Boston A40s in good operating condition.  Will sound great for not very much.
You guys will be costing N80 to spend some bucks, as he upgrades the speakers, the cycle will continue. He has his home system. I have 4 systems set up in my home, all quite good. But 3 of the 4 I use for background, as my main system gets the most serious play. N80 knows what he will do. Easy to fall into that trap. Bad enough with 1 system. Enjoy ! MrD.
Well, I’ve definitely got the bug. Putting together something nicer at the cabin on a small budget has its appeal.

However, I’m here at the cabin right now and to be honest these little Bose speakers don’t sound all that bad when positioned properly and with 12 gauge speaker wire rather than 18. I know Bose is a passé brand that folks love to hate but in this environment I can’t fault these 2.2s much. Maybe just my untrained ears.

I’m enjoying listening to them and it really doesn’t make sense to spend money where I don’t need to. So, will probably save for a better DAC and/ or a Node 2 for the home system.

I’ll admit I’m a little disappointed not to be on the market to upgrade as it is fun....just no real need now.

Being content can be a bummer. ;-)

Any way, I do appreciate all the good advice. And once my daughter and her husband move out of my cabin when their home is finished I may rethink this.

That home that is waiting to be finished is your next audio project.
I have built two systems for my girlfriend based on Spica TC-50s. A pair (used, of course) is available on Ebay for 300usd. You will need a decent pair of stands. But they were and continue to be remarkable speakers. 
I owned Bose 201 reflecting speakers 35 or 40 years ago, set up correctly in corners thought they were fantastic. I have a old Phillips DVD/VCR combo player I think sounds very good, through a yellow pages phone book on top even sounds better. In this crazy hobby building a resolving system with low cost gear is very rewarding. Sometimes it makes me question why I spend so much on my system.

@paulcreed, + 1. I am not surprised the phone book on top of your player has improved the sound. I recommend this to everyone, everywhere. Eliminating, or even minimizing, chassis resonance and vibration is real, and audible. I believe I mentioned this on another one of N80's threads concerning his low cost Sony cd player. Thank you for the mention of it. Enjoy ! MrD.
Yes, my daughter and her husband have been in the cabin for a few months. Love them both and we like to hang out a lot. But, they aren't music lovers and I'll be real happy when their house is done. About another month or so.

mrdecibel you did recommend putting a book on my CD player. I don't know how much difference it makes but I do it now, particularly on cheap flimsy feeling players like the $14 job I have down there.

Anyway, I'm now going to make little shelves to set the speakers on. The cabin walls are flat-faced logs so it will be easy to mount them and I've found a sweet spot for them.
I was 19 had them hanging on chains in my bachelor pad in the sweet spot. If the bottom plate comes off your amp and you already have the saw out through some ply wood or Baltic birch under it. It may help you never know.
If you have a drimel and can solder or know someone who can put a iec in your amp with a high end power cord. Did it with a 60's amp, you can tell a difference.
1. Cheap good speakers - picked up a pair of used Acoustic Energy Ageis 1's for $70 on CL. Paradigm Atom Monitors are discontinued. About $250/pr. NIB. Very efficient will fill room with 25 WPC. 
2. Hook up sub woofer via RCA's to "Tape Out" on vintage 2 channel. Use a "Y" connector to mix down to a single RCA input if it's a newer HT sub. Run both RCA's to L/R on older or Hi Fi subs.
Just bought a pair of ELAC Debut 6.2 s, MSRP $300, on sale at Amazon for $150.  They sound fabulous plugged into my vintage NAD 7020 integrated amp.  I loved my 15 year old Paradigm Atoms, but it was time...
The Debut 2.0 deal recently was a pretty awesome one! Don't sleep on the Elac Uni-Fi UB5's either. Great value 3-way bookshelf when on sale for $350 per pair. Very well reviewed for stereo. 
Finished the shelves for my old Bose speakers. Nothing fancy but they will do and have enough room for a little aiming if necessary.

Up until now they have been sitting on the floor, which is pretty much the worst place for this sort of speaker. I'm sure they'll sound much better at ear level. Bass port faces out.

The cabin is pretty rustic. My daughter (who helped me build it, along with many others, when she was in elementary school) is peeved that I'm mounting speakers on the wall next to an antique Winchester cartridge board and deer horns. The things we do for music.

Maybe I'll tell her that I'll take them down if she gets me a nice set of towers for Christmas!
Best small monitors I have heard are the Sony SS-A3 speakers if you can find a pair.
Reviving an old thread. Was listening to some good recordings down at the cabin and found myself disappointed even with the minimal expectations that low end system warrants.

So now I'm looking around for some low priced speakers but will probably go with some small tower speakers since placement of bookshelf speakers has turned out to be a problem. Given space constraints the only options are too low or too high.

But as I was looking at bookshelf speaker again it became apparent that most bookshelf speakers have the base port in the rear.

Why would you put the bass port in the rear for speakers which are, almost by definition, going on shelf or a wall or fairly close to a wall? It looks like Klipsch has discontinued all of its bookshelf speakers with forward facing base ports.

I know they can go on stands. I've considered that option but would prefer a tower if I'm going to do that. I'm looking at a low end Polk Audio tower with downward facing base port.
n80, you've gotten some good suggestions like the acoustic energy and klipsch quartet (if you have the space); my personal recommendation would be to look for a good 80s speaker like the ads l520, which are easy to find <$200 and sound shockingly big and good for such an unassuming piece. something like the polk monitor 10 (or smaller monitor 5) are also vg sounding.
Well, I found a pair of Polk Audio Monitor 70 tower speakers on CL for cheap and I put in an offer for them. They are like new. 

I know they are low end but still likely to be much better than my Bose 2.2s.

It will be interesting to see if my 25wpc receiver will drive them.

@loomisjohnson , I came across an ad on CL for a vintage audio shop in Greensboro, NC with tons of 1980's era speakers and components most of which the owner has refurbished. Mostly mid-fi stuff but some serious hi-fi stuff too. Prices are good but some of the JBLs and such are still very pricey. I'll be passing through there next month. If these Polk towers don't work out I'll give them away and get something at that shop.

I'll be lucky to get out of there with my shirt! I've only been into hi-fi for less than a year and I'm already in danger of accumulating more stuff than I need and in this case it won't even be hi-fi but current and 1980's lo-fi and mid-fi!
So here's the end of the story: 

Got the Polk Audio Monitor 70's for $180. They are in near mint condition.

Yes, they do sound way better than the Bose 2.2s.

In fact they sound quite good driven by my 40 year old 25 watt Toshiba. They tend to be a slightly boomy at times but the bass port faces the front so I may play around with damping them a little. They seem to be clear and resolving and the soundstage is respectable for such a meager receiver and speaker combo. I'm pretty impressed.

They will be more than sufficient for the cabin.