The best way to enjoy music is through high-quality audio equipment that will let you hear every detail in your favorite songs. These five brands offer great products at affordable prices!
1. For DACs and Headphone Amps: iFi Audio
Since 2012, iFi Audio has manufactured some of the best affordable headphone amps and DACs. Their products are designed with audiophiles in mind, so they use top-of-the-line parts and build them to last. Their current lineup includes a lot of gems like the ZEN Air DAC, a $99 DAC/Amp combo that has good power and excellent sound quality for the cash. They also have the $329 Go Bar, a portable DAC/Amp with the sound and the enthusiasm of a desktop amp.
iFi Zen Air DAC – High-Resolution DAC ($99) (Review)
iFi Zen DAC V2 | Desktop Digital Analog Converter ($189) (Review)
iFi Hip-dac2 – Portable Balanced DAC ($189) (Review)
iFi GO bar – Ultraportable DAC/preamp/Headphone amp ($329) (Review)
iFi Zen Stream – Network Audio Transport ($399) (Review)
2. For Audiophile Headphones: HIFIMAN Electronics
If you’re looking for high-quality audiophile cans at great prices, then HIFIMAN’s line of (mostly) Planar headphones should be at the top of your list. These headphones (mostly) feature an open design, allowing you to hear more detail and space than closed headphones. They did have some quality issues some years back, but all their current models exhibit their new focus on QA with sturdier frames and all new drivers.
If you want to find the best headphones under $500, start with the HIFIMAN Sundara at its new price of $299, and if you have a little more cash, check out the $499 Edition XS for more detail and spatiality.
HIFIMAN Edition XS Full-Size Over-Ear Open-Back Planar Magnetic ($499) (Review)
HIFIMAN SUNDARA Over-Ear Full-Size Planar Magnetic Wired Headphones ($299) (Review)
HIFIMAN Arya Stealth Magnet Version Planar Magnetic Headphone for Audiophiles ($1299)
3. For Integrated Amps and Receivers: Cambridge Audio
For integrated amps and receivers, Cambridge Audio offers a wide range of products that fit any budget. Their integrated amplifiers provide excellent performance with features such as Bluetooth connectivity, USB inputs, and even wireless streaming capabilities. In addition, they use more robust components (larger caps and transformers) than the competition. They also manage to do all this while maintaining some very reasonable price points, partially because their units are designed in Great Britain and assembled in China.
If you’re looking for a good entry-level amp, check out the $599 Cambridge Audio AXR100, a good-looking component with a massive 100 watts per channel. On the other hand, if you want an excellent all-in-one, just add speakers amp, check out the Cambridge Audio EVO Series starting at $2499. They have beautiful screens, good power, and access to just about every streaming service via app control. Both the EVO75 (75w) and the EVO150 (150w) are quite elegant for the money!
Cambridge Audio AXR100 100-Watt Stereo Receiver with Bluetooth (on sale as of this writing for $599) (Review)
Cambridge Audio CXA81 Stereo Two-Channel Amplifier with Bluetooth and Built-in DAC ($1299) (Review)
Cambridge Audio Evo 75 Integrated amplifier with HDMI, Wi-Fi ($2,499.00)
Cambridge Audio Evo 150 Integrated amplifier with HDMI, Wi-Fi ($3,249.00) (Review)
4. For Turntables, Speakers, and Music Streamers: Andover Audio
If you’re looking for affordable analog audio gear, you’ll probably find what you need at andoveraudio.com. With their thoughtfully engineered and curated selection of turntables, speakers, and vinyl accessories, you’ll find something to suit every budget.
One of our favorite products from Andover is their $299 Spinbase, which is sort of a soundbar for your turntable. You can place your turntable directly on top of the speaker without affecting the playback, and it’s super compact, allowing you to put a vinyl system in a tiny footprint. They also have an affordable (and great sounding) Wi-Fi streamer called Songbird, enabling you to add app-based music streaming to your system for only $99.
SPINBASE TURNTABLE SPEAKER SYSTEM ($299) (Review)
SPINDECK TURNTABLE ($199) (Review)
SONGBIRD MUSIC STREAMER ($99) (Review)
5. For Speakers: Wharfedale
Wharfedale doesn’t do a lot of marketing, at least not in the states. That’s why you would be forgiven if you don’t know about their beautiful, well-constructed speakers. Most of their speakers set new standards for build quality at their respective price ranges.
Their soundstage and imaging are usually class-leading with precise separation and placement, plus they provide fast, deep, and articulate bass. If you like neutral, refined speakers, especially in the midrange, you need to look at the Wharfedale speakers. We love the Diamond 12.2 speaker as a nice option for around $500 and the EVO 4.4 bookshelf as a nice option for about $1000.
Wharfedale Diamond 12.2 6.5″ 2-Way Bookshelf Speaker ($599) (Review)
Wharfedale EVO4.2 Bookshelf speakers ($1199) (Review)
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I’m an audio writer who started as a young audio salesman/consumer electronics professional back in the late 90s. That’s where I discovered the magic of 2-Channel sound. My hunger for great sound has led me on a delightful music quest that continues today.