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What was your best (and worst) audio purchase for the dollar?

LightninBoy

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There's been a lot of talk lately about the money we spend on our audio hobby, and I see a lot of people have bought a lot of stuff (no surprise on a forum like this). I thought it would be interesting to hear stories about stand out components you've purchased that have just knocked it out of the park in terms of utility and value. I use the word "utility" here to mean the overall picture of the function, reliability, operational ease, sound, aesthetic or however else it bring enjoyment to you.

This is completely subjective and personal. There will be no judgement here if you spent 20K on an amp and list it as your best purchase because you simply get joy every time you fire it up and see the pretty blue meters glow.

Then tell us your worst purchase.

Can't decide on one? No problem, list multiple components. Nobody's paying by the word here.

Suggested format: Component name, Cost: story of why its your best purchase.

Here's mine.

Best
1. Skullcandy Grind headphones, $50. Sound great, reasonably comfortable, and just work. I use these every single day. I've praised these in several threads so I'll won't belabor this. I'll just add that I bought 2 more when they went on sale recently - one for my son to use and one for a backup for me when my current ones wear out.

2. Tannoy TS10 Subwoofer, ~$300. Nothing special from a sound perspective, but what makes this sub standout is all the inputs and controls it has: variable crossover, variable phase, XLR inputs and outputs for integrating active speakers, etc. I really didn't realize how unique this was until I tried to help others find something similar made today. Along with some EQ, this gives me nice flat response down to 40hz in my desktop system.

3. MiniDSP Umik Measuring mic, ~$100. Could move this to the top as its precipitated the biggest improvements in all my systems. But it requires an enormous amount of personal time learning how to use it and the various hardware and software relating to measuring and applying EQ.

Worst
NAD M15 Pre/Pro, ~$800 used
. This replaced my venerable Outlaw 950 pre/pro, which could have been on my best list. The M15 was from the upscale "Masters" series, but it really soured my impression of "high end" as it was just a standard pre/pro (with mediocre software) in a fancy aluminum box. After awhile the volume knob would just randomly skip all over the place, which wasn't a huge deal because the remote was used 99% of the time, but almost blew my speakers when my son (not knowing it was broken) used the volume knob and it jumped to max. I was able to mostly fix the volume knob, but the unit completely died a few months later and I couldn't bring it back to life. Sold it off for parts. Somewhere out there, my old Outlaw 950 is probably still plugging away.
 

iann

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Ok then...

Best
I give another vote for the UMIK 1. Not had one long but it's already shown me so much about how the system is working in my room.

MiniDSP 2x4 HD - £230
Again not had it long but it's amazing what it can do for relatively little outlay.

Bluesound Node 2i - £500
Great ease of use with good integration with Tidal etc. A great plug and play streamer.

Worst
Naim NAC202 pre and NAP200 power - £1700 used
Suckered into this after years of forum and mag reading, build quality and sound was good despite the insistence on DIN cables to connect them.
What finally put me off it and made me sell it quickly was the transformer buzz from the power amp. Couldn't stop it despite buying a DC blocker. I have a quiet room and the noise was clearly heard 3m away when music wasn't playing. Sold it for the same price but lost out a bit due to eBay fees.
 
OP
LightninBoy

LightninBoy

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Thanks iann.

Ok then...

MiniDSP 2x4 HD - £230
Again not had it long but it's amazing what it can do for relatively little outlay.

I suspected someone would mention this. I haven't owned one, but been considering one for a while.
 

iann

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I've used it to help integrate a sub into my system. A lot of trial and error at the moment.
 

Cahudson42

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Best:

Qudelix 5k - $110. Headphone PEQ without a G. D. PC, or the cost of an RME ADI-2
LG Rebel TracFone - $30 Great 'DAP' USB OTG front end for Qudelix and N90Q
HE5XX planars $220. Way underrated IMO
N90Q -$299. Great OTG with LG Rebel
Infinity R263 - $199 ea
Yamaha RX-596 Goodwill $30

Worst:
None - thanks to ASR:)
 
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Archsam

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Best - Revel M105, new for £700
Worse - Audeze LCD-X, £1050
 

LTig

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Worst: Philips N-4422 R2R tape deck in my youth. It was the component with the highest price back then (€500 in todays money, not counting inflation) and the shortest life. But it had the largest set of features ...

Best: K&H O300D - my first active speakers (2004) and still running perfectly today. Out of my dead cold hands I'd say.
 

Helicopter

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Gosh, now I'm really interested! Come on, spill. You are among friends here. :)

Shuguang GS-845-7 SET amp - $1550 + maybe $1000 in tubes. I love the aesthetic, and I loved the sound for like a week, but it needed work right away. There is no returning it to China. I am a little afraid it will kill me, and don't have time to diagnose it, and I wouldn't feel right about selling it.

I've got Audeze LCD-X too - $1200. They are my worst sounding phones out of the box, are OK with EQ, and pretty good with bass heavy music and EQ, and I would have no qualms about selling them. I have just been lazy really.
 

Jdunk54nl

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Best: Smaart software and microphones/interface to eq and phase align everything together. (Open sound meter is free and very similar in functions). If you like your umik to measure, this takes measurements of rooms and integration to a whole new level.

Worst: a bunch of stuff but they were all fun learning experiences.
 

FrantzM

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Best Purchases Thanks ...

JDS Labs Atom------------------ $100
Khadas Tone Board------------ $100
JBL LSR 308--------------------- $250 each
JBL LSR 305--------------------- $150 each
Umik-1-------------------------- $100

Thanks to people in the forum, in particular @RayDunzl
Dayton Audio SUB 1500 --------- $220
I use and enjoy movies my HT almost daily (music not so much) , a system built around the JBL LSR 308(LCR) & 305 (Surrounds) and 3 Dayton SUB 1500 driven by a Denon AVR-X3400 , sources are Apple TV 4K and a $59 Samsung BD player to be replaced soon by a Sony X800M2.
Again, thanks to the people at ASR, acquired a BenQ HT2050A front projector on a Stewart FireHawk 100 inches screen. The screen is not cheap but the PJ is, performance is stunning at any price .


Worst purchases?
Too numerous to list but ...
I was at ease with the notion of a $20,000 CD Transport ... a few years ago :facepalm:
'nuff said :(
 
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paolomo

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I know OP mentions audio as a hobby, but I am a sucker for gear and I wouldn’t be able to tell a bad purchase from a good one when it comes to the hobby :D

However, when it comes to gear I had to buy for my job, I can be much more objective, so here it goes:

Best: Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd gen. € 95. Very solid offering, super clean preamps, I use it with and without additional inline preamps. It does everything I need, I tried to replace it with something else but I found no valid alternative or reason to.

Worst: Motu M2 € 199.
Incredible specs, that’s what made me think my Scarlett needed an upgrade. Boy was I wrong. In theory I was getting 4 dB of extra gain, loopback, shiny meters, super headphone amp. I was like, take my money, now! In practice, the build quality was so so, half of the buttons were slightly recessed, there was a lag while turning it on, a lag while turning on phantom power, a lag every time I turned the gain knobs. Then came the dreaded cracking noises. I blamed my computer, my os, my cables, my dongles. But every time I switched back to my Scarlett, everything worked just fine. Returned.
 

Plcamp

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Best: Hafler XL280 for $150.00...scratched up but working well.

Worst : Kenwood KA7x (integrated amp) many years ago, failed within months, fixed and failed again. Junk.
 

DannoFP1

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Best purchase I can recall recently is an Audio Technica VM540ML phono cartridge. Got it on sale ($100 off) and it is miles ahead of the Ortofon one it replaced. Worst per dollar is probably an Audio Quest RCA cable, even getting their cheapest line, it is still overpriced.
 
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