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Nice bluetooth speakers with (external) FM tuner
Old 22nd April 2018
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Nice bluetooth speakers with (external) FM tuner

I'm looking at buying a nice HiFi solution for my home. I used to have these big stereo installations, however, after an international move I have none at the moment.

I was thinking of getting one of these integrated bluetooth all in one speakers and use a iPad or something to control it. Any recommendation for ones <500usd with excellent sound?

In addition, my partner would really want an FM radio. I figure if I get a speaker with jack input I could get a seperate FM tuner. Any suggestions for compact and cool looking fm tuners these days? (do people still make these?).

Old 23rd April 2018
If sound quality is important to you, I would recommend second thoughts on Bluetooth. The protocol imposes lossy compression (like an mp3). That might not sound TOO bad -- except that many modern people keep their music collection in mp3s, AACs, or other lossy formats. And when you run music that's already in a lossy format through another lossy data compression format, the sonic degradation isn't 'added' -- more like it's multiplied.

For high quality audio transmission around the house/flat, something like Google's Chromecast Audio might be just about right paired with a stereo or just a pair of 'powered' speakers. The Chromecast 'puck' is cheap, $30 in the US, and allows you to use or pick your own playback backend, instead of tying you to a pair of potentially cheezy consumer boombox type speakers. Assuming your stereo or speaker system has a digital input, you can keep the signal high quality digital audio straight from the feeding computer, tablet/phone/computer. Works with Phone, iPad, Android phone and tablet, Mac and Windows laptops, or Chromebook. If your stereo/speakers only have an old-standard analog input, they have you covered there, as well.

Chromecast Audio review: The ultimate audio streaming dongle is better than ever - CNET

(Note that the 'sound quality' rating in the CNET review only applies to the analog output of the inexpensive device. When using the digital outputs, you should get full quality of your program material delivered to your playback system's digital inputs, unlike a BT system.)

All that said, you might well prefer the convenience of an all in one device. (And if you do end up using BT to deliver music, try to keep the media feeding it from ever having been compressed if at all possible -- but, sadly, uncompressed audio files can be 10 bigger than an mp3, 5 times bigger than even a near-CD-quality 320 kbps mp3.)

PS... I get the desire for an FM radio but check to make sure there will be conventional FM analog content where you settle. (There's been a push to the broadcast of digital audio from terrestrial stations.)

PPS... with re powered speakers -- I've been out of the loop for a long time but these have caught my attention -- although I have not heard them and that is, of course, where the rubber meets the road. The attached review is probably the most detailed review of them I've seen and highlights their strengths as well as their weaker spots. Essentially, they are very small but put out what almost everyone agrees is a surprising amount of relatively flat (good) bass response. There are some trade offs, for sure, but that's understandable given the performance, cost, and size.

PPPS... if you DO go with 'separates' -- including an external FM tuner (that's going to be hard to find -- but receivers [a tuner and amplifier combined] were, of course, the staples of the old component stereo paradigm) -- and maybe a cassette deck or turntable+phono-reano -- you're going to have to either connect and disconnect or get a little signal switcher. And at THAT point, you might really an 'old-fashioned' receiver and passive speakers. Such a system would have built-in source signal switching, tone controls (remember them?), a tape in/out loop (which you can hook to audio line ins/outs on a digital device for tape-style recording playback) and likely have a built-in phono preamp in case you wanted to add a better quality turntable (mostly only cheap TT's have built-in phono preamps unless things have changed in the last few years, which is certainly possible; who dreamed vinyl would make its comeback?)

Last edited by theblue1; 23rd April 2018 at 06:40 PM..
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