£99 to get into HiFi?

Fandango Andy

Well-known member
There is no doubt the would of HiFi and Audiophile can be an expensive hobby, but how much does it cost to get started?

Having recently helped someone find a record player, I was surprised at how much second-hand gear has gone up in recent years. I shouldn't have been surprised, everything else has gone up! This along with a few recent posts by people asking advice for their first system got me wondering how much it would really cost to get started. So I started searching eBay for second hand components. Had I got the space for another system, I would probably have purchased a few components put them together to see how they sound. I really couldn't justify this, so all my purchases were virtual. Before I reveal my results and spoiler alert it is a £99 HiFi, I am going to take a quick look at some new systems.

In a recent What HiFi article entitled entitled "Best stereo amplifiers 2024: the best integrated amps for every budget". The cheapest amp on the list and the "entry level" winner was the Marantz PM6007 currently available for £325. In fairness this is what I would probably choose if I were buying a budget amp today, it is the modern equivalent to my PM4200. Lets couple that with What HiFi's best budget speakers 2024: Elac Debut 5.2 at £199. We are going to need a source, so lets throw in a WiiM Mini for £89. This gives us an entry level system for £613 (+cables). We can always upgrade to an external DAC, and add a CD player and/or record player in future.

What are the allatives? We could replace the amp and streamer with a WiiM amp at £299 bringing the price down to £498. Or, a Fosi Audio V3 at £99 giving a total of £387 but without much potential to upgrade. If upgrading is future is the plan, the Fosi Audio ZA3 would at £157 would be a better buy. The addition of a 2nd ZA3 lets you use them as mono blocks, they also have easy to upgrade op amp chips.

Then Finally I took a look at Richer Sounds System deals and came up with: Cambridge Audio AXA22, Denon DP-29F Turntable, Wharfdale Diamond 9.0 for £299, Considering the amp retails for £249 this looks like a pretty good package. Throw in the WiiM Mini and you have a system for £388.

Now we finally get to my £99 system. As mentioned I didn't buy anything I just watched items and recorded the price they sold for. There were a few Marantz, and NAD amps that went for between £50 and £75 and even a bargain Audiolab 8000A for £100 but I went for a Cambridge Audio A4 that went unsold with 0 bids and a starting price of £38 + a make me an offer option (so could have been less than £38, but I am going with that price). All prices either include postage, or they were locally for sale near me. The £99 system is:

  • Cambridge Audio A4 £38
  • Mission M72 £34
  • Chromecast Audio 2nd Gen £27

Photos below.

I have actually purchased second hand components in the past. I know some people are insure of doing this. The best advice, read the description, if it doesn't work on arrival use the eBay resolution service, they aren't bad. And most important, don't overpay and you can probably sell them on at a similar price. Hot tip, look for "collection only" near where you live, they always sell for less than with a delivery option. Screenshot (2).pngScreenshot (3).pngScreenshot (1).png





 

Attachments

  • Screenshot (3).png
    Screenshot (3).png
    57 KB · Views: 3

landco

Well-known member
Aug 26, 2023
126
33
120
Visit site
It can't be called a "budget HiFi system" because the small bookshelf speakers don't reproduce the full range of music. Need a subwoofer, 2.1 system, trifonic
 

Fandango Andy

Well-known member
It can't be called a "budget HiFi system" because the small bookshelf speakers don't reproduce the full range of music. Need a subwoofer, 2.1 system, trifonic
If you are too prescriptive about is or isn't HiFi, half the system the systems owned by commenters on this forum will fail the test. Paradoxically, my AV system that I hardly ever use for music would pass your test, but mi HiFi wouldn't.
 

Fandango Andy

Well-known member
With all the time spent on doing this research one could have done a days work, earned 350 quid, and gone and got a nice new starter system at R Sounds!
And then there's all the time spent and hassle of returning the ebay stuff 'cos it arrives DOA.

It didn't actually take long. a few minutes to select a few components to like on eBay a couple of weeks ago and twenty minutes to type the post yesterday, checking prices n Richer Sounds as I went along.

I have purchased a reasonable amount of second hand equipment, and am yet to have an issue:

Marantz TT1200 - Purchased 2010 when I got back into vinyl, quickly replaced by a Pro-Ject. In my bedroom system since 2013 but not often used.

Pro-Ject Debut 2 - Purchased in 2011, like new at the time. still in regular use.

Sony TA-F246E - purchased for my office/bedroom system in 2013. I have used it most days since then including as I type this.

Sony ST-S261 - was given to me with the above amp. its in my main system, but I hardly ever use.

TEAC (don't remember model number) - Purchased for office/bedroom system 2013. Gave to my father in 2016 when his CD failed. He still uses it.

Sony CDP-XE570 - Purchased in 2016 as replacement for TEAC, used regularly at first but hardly ever used now.

Tannoy Mercury m1 - purchased in great condition (20 years old) in 2021 or 22 for my bedroom system. Quickly swapped into main system and still there.

Chromecast Audio - Purchased as "refurbished" in 2019, used in main system until replaced by WiiM in 2023, used in bedroom since then.
 

Fandango Andy

Well-known member
The fun is in the chase!
Well said.

I also like a bargain. My entire bedroom setup cost less than £150 that includes £50 for a Chromecast Audio that I used in my main system for over four years. I use it most days (I'm using it now) and it sounds great.

I have heard systems that people have spent several thousand on that sound terrible, although that's usual more about the room and speaker positioning than the components.
 

podknocker

Well-known member
A 2 channel stereo system without a sub is still HIFI and to me any system costing less than a grand will produce an agreeable sound, but 2 grand is nearer the amount needed to get into real HIFI territory. My Audioalb Omnia and QA3030i would be £2k with the complete setup and it does sound superb. To get anything obviously and appreciably better is going to cost much more. The next jump in quality is a bigger one. I'm thinking HIFI Rose RA520 and a pair of Spendor D7.2 and that's nearly £10k. You can't get the authentic reproduction of a recording by spending £99
 

manicm

Well-known member
There is no doubt the would of HiFi and Audiophile can be an expensive hobby, but how much does it cost to get started?

Having recently helped someone find a record player, I was surprised at how much second-hand gear has gone up in recent years. I shouldn't have been surprised, everything else has gone up! This along with a few recent posts by people asking advice for their first system got me wondering how much it would really cost to get started. So I started searching eBay for second hand components. Had I got the space for another system, I would probably have purchased a few components put them together to see how they sound. I really couldn't justify this, so all my purchases were virtual. Before I reveal my results and spoiler alert it is a £99 HiFi, I am going to take a quick look at some new systems.

In a recent What HiFi article entitled entitled "Best stereo amplifiers 2024: the best integrated amps for every budget". The cheapest amp on the list and the "entry level" winner was the Marantz PM6007 currently available for £325. In fairness this is what I would probably choose if I were buying a budget amp today, it is the modern equivalent to my PM4200. Lets couple that with What HiFi's best budget speakers 2024: Elac Debut 5.2 at £199. We are going to need a source, so lets throw in a WiiM Mini for £89. This gives us an entry level system for £613 (+cables). We can always upgrade to an external DAC, and add a CD player and/or record player in future.

What are the allatives? We could replace the amp and streamer with a WiiM amp at £299 bringing the price down to £498. Or, a Fosi Audio V3 at £99 giving a total of £387 but without much potential to upgrade. If upgrading is future is the plan, the Fosi Audio ZA3 would at £157 would be a better buy. The addition of a 2nd ZA3 lets you use them as mono blocks, they also have easy to upgrade op amp chips.

Then Finally I took a look at Richer Sounds System deals and came up with: Cambridge Audio AXA22, Denon DP-29F Turntable, Wharfdale Diamond 9.0 for £299, Considering the amp retails for £249 this looks like a pretty good package. Throw in the WiiM Mini and you have a system for £388.

Now we finally get to my £99 system. As mentioned I didn't buy anything I just watched items and recorded the price they sold for. There were a few Marantz, and NAD amps that went for between £50 and £75 and even a bargain Audiolab 8000A for £100 but I went for a Cambridge Audio A4 that went unsold with 0 bids and a starting price of £38 + a make me an offer option (so could have been less than £38, but I am going with that price). All prices either include postage, or they were locally for sale near me. The £99 system is:

  • Cambridge Audio A4 £38
  • Mission M72 £34
  • Chromecast Audio 2nd Gen £27

Photos below.

I have actually purchased second hand components in the past. I know some people are insure of doing this. The best advice, read the description, if it doesn't work on arrival use the eBay resolution service, they aren't bad. And most important, don't overpay and you can probably sell them on at a similar price. Hot tip, look for "collection only" near where you live, they always sell for less than with a delivery option. View attachment 6210View attachment 6211View attachment 6212






I would spend the extra and plump up for the Wiim Pro instead of the Mini. And forget Chromecast.
 

Fandango Andy

Well-known member
A 2 channel stereo system without a sub is still HIFI and to me any system costing less than a grand will produce an agreeable sound, but 2 grand is nearer the amount needed to get into real HIFI territory. My Audioalb Omnia and QA3030i would be £2k with the complete setup and it does sound superb. To get anything obviously and appreciably better is going to cost much more. The next jump in quality is a bigger one. I'm thinking HIFI Rose RA520 and a pair of Spendor D7.2 and that's nearly £10k. You can't get the authentic reproduction of a recording by spending £99
You can't get the authentic reproduction of a recording by spending £99

We are not talking about a Chinese cigarette-box class D amp and some plastic case speakers for £99, the items mentioned are decent quality budget HiFi from about 20 years ago. The speakers were £170 in 2002, adjust for inflation and that's £300 in todays money, about what you would expect to pay for budget speakers today.

Is my hypothetical £99 system going to sound as good as a new £1,000? certainly not, but I think it would be pretty good and a step up from mini systems and Bluetooth speakers that lots of people use.

If I were to have really purchased the system I would have spent £50 or £60 on a NAD, Arcam or Marantz instead of the of the Cambridge Audio. I picked that amp when I realised the three components added up to £99.

Out of interest an Audiolab 8000A sold for £100 (they seem to normally get £200 -to £300) a couple of weeks ago, I think with the right source am 8000A from the late 80s/early 90s would give your Omnia a run for its money.
 

Fandango Andy

Well-known member
Add a zero to that and I think your into 'Hi-Fi' territory. (y)

Maybe it can be done cheaply, IDK. But your edging into Lo-Fi, possibly.
To put a price on the entry into the "club" is what I was trying to get away from to say you can start for a relatively low amount. What does your system cost? £800 for the Amp £1,000 for the loudspeakers? you are firmly in mid tear (or from what some people have said recently the upper end of budget). There is a who world of entry and budget HiFi below you, just as the there are worlds above you!

The amp and speakers in my hypothetical system would have cost about £300 new. That's about £525 when you adjust for inflation. I know for a fact you can get a really good sounding amp and speakers for £525 today. They may not be as good as what you have, but they are still HiFi.
 

Fandango Andy

Well-known member
I would spend the extra and plump up for the Wiim Pro instead of the Mini. And forget Chromecast.
I wood agree WiiM over Chromecast, but if you are going budget 2nd hand, can you justify paying more for your streamer than the rest of the system put together?

As dor Mini V Pro, it depends on your budget and needs. The WiiM pro doesn't sound any better than the Mini, realistically they both need an external DAC so the only reason to go for the pro is the extra features if you need them.
 

Fandango Andy

Well-known member
Ignore the stuff about needing a sub - you're going to be so far from reference standard that you'd struggle to call it hifi* - but surely all it needs do is be appealing to the ear, not 'accurate.'

There is way too much dogma in some quarters about what's 'right'.

(*Unless you are extremely lucky/buy stuff from someone who has no idea about prices.)
What really is reference standard? A reviewer needs to set a standard to compare to, but does anybody in the real world know what that standard is?

As for the price, it isn't about getting lucky. Older 2nd had equipment depreciates in value, its as simple as that. The components I mentioned were from early 2000s. To pick a couple of higher range products from the time, a Musical Fidelity X-A1 integrated amp, and an X-Ray CD Player would have cost £1,000 and £800 respectively, it looks like you can pick them up for between £300 and £400 each now. Back in the day, What HiFi recommended Pairing them with Mission 782 for £700, you can now get these for low £100's.
 
What really is reference standard? A reviewer needs to set a standard to compare to, but does anybody in the real world know what that standard is?

As for the price, it isn't about getting lucky
Point one - true, though I think we'd all recognise it when we hear it - you're getting some semblance of 'reality'.

Point two - the examples you quote are well above £99, are they not?
 
Fair enough, but you brought that figure very prominently to this thread. I was merely staying on topic.

In mentioning the MF gear, it seems like you were setting them as some sort of benchmark for what might constitute a cut-off for genuine hifi. Even after twenty years, you'd still struggle to get anything approaching that sort of quality for £99.

You can get started for less than £100, I'm sure. Whether it's genuinely hifi would be in the ear of the beholder, but I suspect many of us would conclude not.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Fandango Andy

Fandango Andy

Well-known member
Fair enough, but you brought that figure very prominently to this thread. I was merely staying on topic.

In mentioning the MF gear, it seems like you were setting them as some sort of benchmark for what might constitute a cut-off for genuine hifi. Even after twenty years, you'd still struggle to get anything approaching that sort of quality for £99.

You can get started for less than £100, I'm sure. Whether it's genuinely hifi would be in the ear of the beholder, but I suspect many of us would conclude not.
I think we are on the same page but talking at cross purposes 👍
 

Gadusmorhua

Well-known member
Jan 19, 2024
73
64
120
Visit site
I bought a Marantz 41 and a CA A1 amp on ebay for £100 inc. post. Both had been cleaned and tested and the CD had a new drawer/motor fitted.
With some Mordaunt half speakers (under a hundred quid) my 'system' sounded great to me, and visitors commented, unsolicited. I've added a Wiim Pro Plus, and use my Mojo (£100) as a desktop dac, so it is sounding better and better, and all for around £500.
I will look out for an amp with more digital inputs, and I would certainly benefit from some better speakers, but my ears seem happy right now
 

Fandango Andy

Well-known member
I bought a Marantz 41 and a CA A1 amp on ebay for £100 inc. post. Both had been cleaned and tested and the CD had a new drawer/motor fitted.
With some Mordaunt half speakers (under a hundred quid) my 'system' sounded great to me, and visitors commented, unsolicited. I've added a Wiim Pro Plus, and use my Mojo (£100) as a desktop dac, so it is sounding better and better, and all for around £500.
I will look out for an amp with more digital inputs, and I would certainly benefit from some better speakers, but my ears seem happy right now

Good to hear that you are enjoying your system. I note on another post you had a few issues, hope that's all sorted.

A few things to consider:

You only need digital inputs if you intend to use an internal DAC on the amp, you already have a good DAC.

You often need to make large jumps in price for a small increase in sound quality. The further up the pyramid you go the smaller the improvements often are.

If you are buying second hand on ebay look local to you for collection only, they often sell for a lot less than people who post/courier items.
 

Gadusmorhua

Well-known member
Jan 19, 2024
73
64
120
Visit site
Thanks, I'm all sorted out now, and have learned a few things in the process. I'll just enjoy what I've got for now, perhaps look for better speakers before next winter.
Unfortunately (or fortunately) I'm in West Wales, so there's limited opportunity for eBay collection, with so few people here. The advantage with eBay is I can tell my wife I won something 'by mistake', but not to worry it was a real steal. :ROFLMAO: My nearest Richer Sounds is in Cardiff, about two and a half hour's drive, but I'll certainly visit to hear a few speakers. Otherwise I will be buying deaf. They have been good enough to credit a new account for me, because of confusing advice I was given, but I can see now I didn't help.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Al ears

TRENDING THREADS

Latest posts