AV setup for living abroad - recommendations please!


New member
Aug 10, 2019
I've searched the forums, and while there's lots of useful info, nothing quite answers all my questions and I'd appreciate any opinions on the following (if you have the patience!). The scope of my questions probably too wide for this particular forum. If anyone has suggestions for a better place to post this, please shout.

My partner and I are about to move abroad, and will be living in a bedsit type place for the indefinite future. I am currently trying to come up with a decent audio-visual solution for this setup, that will allow us to store and listen to our music collection without the CDs (we love music but are not audiophiles, and I plan to digitize our CD collection into 192kbps MP3s - will I regret this?), watch DVDs and avi/divx. Our constraints are:
size/weight (going to be based in one place, so doesn't need to be fully portable, but smaller is better)
voltage (don't yet know which country we will settle in, so need a setup that can cope with 100-240V
cost (don't have that much to spend!)
We currently have 2 oldish laptops (2x 40GB hdd), a 3rd gen ipod (20gb) and a couple of mini-systems (Pioneer NS-7T and a horrible old Sony thing). In terms of purchases, I'm considering one or more of the following:

larger iPod (Classic 160 GB)
portable USB hard drive (e.g. Freecom Toughdrive 250 GB which doesn't require a PSU)
mediaplayer hard drive which can output direct to TV/hifi without a PC (e.g. Freecom Network Mediaplayer)
hacked xbox with large hard drive to act as a media server
mini-hifi with direct USB-in which could play MP3s direct from a HDD (e.g. Teac DRH300DAB)
active speaker system (e.g. Harman Kardon Soundsticks II)
Some of the possible combinations of the above are:

iPod/laptop + active speakers
iPod/laptop + mini-hifi (perhaps the NS-7T I already have)
portable HDD + mini-hifi with USB-in (e.g. Teac DRH300DAB)
None of these solutions really addresses the "watching divx" requirement, but I guess as long as we have a laptop we can watch on that. I think it's more important we having an easy to use music source that doesn't necessarily require switching on a PC and loading itunes! One thing I don't want is a hifi with a built-in ipod dock (is it just me or are they really naff looking?). Would love hear any views on the above products and setups.

Thanks in advance.


Thank you very much for those useful tips re. encoding, I shall follow your advice.

Regarding the rest.

Laptops are IBM Thinkpads (T30 and X31) both with DVD drives, bog-standard soundcards. I have a nice external NEC DVD-RW drive that I would probably use for ripping.

CDs - not many, 200? But I want expansion room for downloaded mp3s etc.

Video - we're unlikely to have english TV channels, and possible not a stable internet connection where we're going, so the ability to watch DVDs, and trade divxs of TV shows etc with other ex-pats will be important. Don't plan to build a massive archive of video though, just want a nice easy way to stick it on a HDD of some kind and watch it.

Re-reading my post, I think the main uncertainties I have are 1) whether to buy a standard portable hard drive (very small form factor and doesn't require power supply) and then use this as a music store for the laptops and to synch with an ipod, or whether to get one these newer networked "mediaplayer" hard drives which can connect directly to a TV or hifi without needing a PC on, as the player software and interface are hardwired into the unit, assuming an internet connection, they can even directly stream video from the net. If anyone has experience of using these I'd love to hear from you. 2) whether "active speaker" systems are any good, or whether the line-in to a "normal hifi" would be better. And are there any really compact combination of CD player/amp/speaker that anyone could recommend. To save money, I'm tempted to just take my old Pioneer NS-7T, which is hardly "hifi", but is not a bad sound, and is at least compact.


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