By - BalancedTrust
99.9% of the time Soundbars or HTiB (Home Theater in a Box) systems are not a good investment of your time and money. It is the general consensus of r/hometheater not to recommend these things and instead simply steer a user toward a 2.0 or 2.1 system made of quality, *Audio-Centric* name brand components which are easy to assemble and cheap enough for low budget or space conscious buyers. Most can be expanded to 5.1 if you buy the correct items in the correct order. For further explanation please read [Why You Shouldn't Buy a Soundbar](https://www.reddit.com/r/HTBuyingGuides/comments/dy885l/why_you_shouldnt_buy_a_soundbar/) Please be aware /r/Soundbars exists as well as you will be met with opposition to posting about soundbars here.
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Going with an entry level brand new 2.1 system for under 500 will be tough. I halfway decent sub itself is min 150 and that's just scratching the surface. Then you still need a receiver and front speakers. Check the used market, you can snag some great deals if you look carefully. Buy them in pieces as deals show up. That's what I did!
This sounds like the way to go! Where do you look?
Craigslist, offer up, Facebook marketplace
Don't buy anything new. Go used.
It will surprise you how good of a deal you can potentially get on the used marketplace with $500 cash.
What’s your favorite used marketplace?
Facebook Marketplace. Bought two receivers and my very first Hometheater 7.1 setup on there.
I would check out [cheapaudioman](https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=41XHQk1RxyM) YouTube channel! He has some good videos
Awesome thank you.
If you will only ever use this as a 2.1 setup (or are happy to upgrade to an AVR if / when you add more speakers), then I'd look at a budget stereo amp.
Something like the Aiyima D03 can take an optical feed from your TV and give you plenty of sound for a basic setup. It has a remote, so needing to use a different volume control is manageable. Around $140-150 US too.
Just need to have enough HDMI inputs on the TV to cover everything you want to plug in.
I’ll definitely explore that option. Thanks for that.
What kind of things do I need to make sure the amp has besides the optical input?
Typically, for stereo gear you want to sort out your speakers, then get an amp that will let you play them. Some speakers will need an amp that can drive a lower Ohm resistance rating...buying the wrong amp first can limit your speaker options.
At your budget, the used market will be a good resource, so give yourself to find the speakers / sub on a deal, then find the amp.
The Aiyima will handle everything a basic setup will throw its way, so look to leave at that much for an amp, and you'll be right.
If looking at a stereo amp, then key thing to look for are:
- optical input (I assumed your TV has optical output)
- subwoofer pre-out/s (ultimately a convenience feature, you can get around not having it with the right sub)
- bluetooth (maybe) if you want an easy lifestyle connection option
- a power rating for 4 Ohm load (the acknowledgement the amp will drive these safely, see above into)
- at least 50W/ch @ 8 Ohms, 2 ch driven of clean power (THD+N < 0.1%). Some specs will show multiple power ratings, look at the one with the lowest distortion
More power provides more headroom, but in most cases you'll struggle to use 20W per channel. Headroom is good for HT, as it will help with explosions and such.
There are other things, but they will send you down a rabbit hole. Try r/budgetaudiophile, but you've been warned...they have some good lower price recs in their sticky threads.
Thanks so much for all this info.
I've had a couple of budget 2.1 systems.
The first one was a pair of Peachtree audio M24 powered speakers and an old 12" infinity sub I had for years. I really like these speakers. They sound great and with a sub they sound really good. I had my tv hooked up via an optical cable. I think the speakers were around $300.
The one I am currently using is a Kef V300 system. I got it on a refurbished super clearance from Kef for $300. The system has a very thin 2 channel amp with vesa mounting holes. I rigged up some brackets and have it mounted to the back of my wall mounted tv. The only input is HDMI, so my Roku remote controls my tv and sound. I also have a Dayton audio thin 10" sub behind my couch. I think the sub was $120 or so. I really like the simplicity of this system. It's super easy to operate. The Kef t300 speakers it came with are not great, but pretty impressive for a thin wall mount speaker. For casual movie watching it's a pretty good system. I don't think the V300 is still available anywhere.
The drawback to either system is you can't upgrade. I guess you could change the speakers on the kef system and I might do that. In my head I bought it for the amp, I can't believe nobody makes an off the shelf version. It's about the size of a paper back book, has 50 watts x 2 channels. HDMI input and sub output and that's it.
It'll be tough to do good quality 2.1 for $500 but if you're willing to go used I'd start with an entry level Yamaha AVR and some ELAC or Wharfdale front L/R speakers.
Entry level would be perfect. I’m not looking for what would qualify as “good” in this sub. Just wanna be better than a sound bar.
Any recommendations on where to find those used? And are there any new components you’d recommend if I can’t find those used ones to keep me in budget?
Thanks for your help.
Accessories for less, Crutchfield, E-Bay
Elac Debut 2.0 B5.2
Wharfdale Diamond 220
Jamo entry level series or the ones on sale at Crutchfield
Not sure where my other post went but here is another option from Crutchfield.
I've seen some decent reviews for the Jamos and entry level Polks:
And the AVR
Also, calling Crutchfield is an option to ask about the speakers. They have excellent customer service and trial/ return policy.
For the AVR I'd use accessories for less and get a Yamaha because they historically have the best reliability.
You can also scout out an older used surround receiver/amp. Many owners are upgrading their receivers for the newer audio formats or better HDMI connections, and getting rid of their old one. But if you’re using it as a 2.1 amp, then none of those would matter.