Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Dirt Cheap Computer Speakers: AmazonBasics USB-Powered Speakers

Inexpensive Speakers for a Laptop or Desktop Computer

Two years ago, we ordered some inexpensive speakers for my wife's desktop computer.  I didn't write about them.  They were small and cheap.  But, after two years, they still put out nice sound and they are still working well.  Since they keep on working and my wife is happy with them, it is certainly worth giving them a shout.  They are AmazonBasics USB-Powered Speakers.  They pack a whopping 3 watts of power (1.5 per speaker) and actually sound pretty nice. 

AmazonBasics USB-Powered Speakers
One Amazon reviewer compared them to a nice desktop radio.  I think they may sound a little better than that.  The speakers have been able to sound pleasant throughout our living room whenever my wife has played music videos on Youtube.  The sound quality is good, but the bass is weak due to the size and power of the speaker.  This may actually be an advantage in an apartment since we don't want to inflict bass on neighbors too much.

The cord lengths provide plenty of room to separate the speakers on opposite sides of a computer desk.  A generous 53-inch cord between speakers gives you a lot of options.  The USB cable to the PC is nearly six foot and will allow you to place these on a shelf above the PC.  Since these speakers are USB-powered, there is no extra power cord and A/C adapter to worry about.  My wife hates the extra cords associated with a PC and these don't add a burdensome bundle of cords to the mix.

Another advantage of these speakers is there small size and low center of gravity.  They are about 3-inches by 3-inches and 5-inches high.  We have owned PC speakers from well-known manufacturers that were tall and easy to knock over.  The AmazonBasics manage to stay upright on the desk without any issues.

After two years, these specific speakers have been discontinued, but Amazon offers a similar set for about the same price.  If you are looking for some no nonsense speakers, I would definitely recommend them.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Thrift Store Speaker Encounter: Speakers of Mystery

Sometimes you find the weirdest audio gear at the thrift store.  For example, here is a row of five surround speakers.   The thing that is strange about these speakers is that they have absolutely no markings.

These speakers seem heavily built and have no markings.  No information about the manufacturer or the country of origin is provided.  There is also no information about the rated power at a given number of ohms.

The only thing we know is that these speakers are cheap. They are just $1.99 a piece. $10 would buy the whole lot.

I imagine that these speakers were part of a larger set and that all the manufacturing details were recorded on a center channel speaker or on a subwoofer.  Perhaps the world will never know . . .

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Vintage Stereo Encounter: Denon Personal Audio System D-C1 Micro Stereo

I recently encountered this cool looking little stereo in a local thrift store.  It's a Denon Personal Audio System / Micro Component System D-C1.  It's a small stereo that puts out 15 watts per channel and has a tuner, 6-disc CD player, and a cassette player.  It's amazing to think that this sleek little system hails from 1996.   It looks pretty good for a 24-year-old piece of consumer electronics.

Denon D-C1 Micro Component Stereo

I didn't look at this one for long, but I found it interesting that it had a microphone input.  I don't know if that is for karaoke night or making audio recordings with the cassette.  This system didn't have any speakers so I didn't test to see if it worked or how it sounded.  Of course, in a thrift store, there are lots of handy speaker options right down the shelf.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Bluetooth Bargain: Yamaha R-S202BL Stereo Receiver

If there is one thing I wish I would have gotten last time I purchased a stereo receiver, it's bluetooth connectivity.  With streaming services supplanting radio, records, and CDs, it seems like bluetooth is the minimum that a stereo system needs to keep up with the times.  The Yamaha R-S202BL offers bluetooth connectivity at a bargain price on

While I'm content to use RCA Y-cables for connectivity for now, bluetooth is definitely something I would look for today.  It has 40 channel presets, 100 watts of power, and 10hz to 100kz frequency response.  According to reviews, it's definitely an entry-level receiver, but if you are looking for dirt cheap, it should fit the bill.  The next step up is a similar receiver from Sony.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Speaker Encounter: Technics SB-CR33 Stereo Speakers

Sometimes Goodwill Thrift Stores can be filled with surprises.  For example, over the weekend, I encountered a pair of medium-sized Technics SB-CR33 floorstanding speakers.  These 2-way 140 watt speakers generally get good reviews and are praised for their bass and high end sound.  Unfortunately, these speakers look like crap.  The speaker covers are filthy.

The back of these speakers also features a white mystery substance.  This could be dirt.  But, if it this is white mold, I sure wouldn't want to bring it into the house.

It's a shame, because these speakers actually look pretty good underneath the dust cover.  That said, I suspect that a bit of foam may be missing around the small tweeter speaker.

These speakers were marked at only $4.99 each.  However, due to the suspicious stains, I'd recommend passing on them at any price.  If you can get some in better cosmetic condition, they would probably be a great buy.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Vintage Audio Sighting: Aiwa XR-MS3

It was the start if a familiar story.  I saw her sitting there on a thrift store shelf.  Her speaker cabinets were a shiny ebony that reflected the universe around her.  

I imagined what the speakers themselves like and gently removed the covers.  There were no flaws, no blemishes, and not even a trace of dust.  She was an Aiwa XR-MS3 Micro Music System.

For only $11, she would be a handsome addition to my collection.  I took her to a place of prominence where she could plug in.  She fired up easily and I found her controls easy to understand.
I found a disused Dixie Chick CD laying on a shelf nearby.  

I fed it into the vertical CD slot and with a little fumbling, the Aiwa played beautifully.  Then I switched to radio.  She gamely hunted for a station, but no antenna.  I found a cassette tape and popped it into the top-mounted cassette player.  

It would not play or wind the tape in either direction.  Next, I peered deep into the fan port in the back and realized that I could not see the fan spinning.

Finally, I remembered Sony system that died on my table.  I sighed.  I could not go through that pain again.  I kept my $11 and walked away.  It was a sweet looking little system and might have worked well for the radio, CD, and auxiliary input.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Vintage Audio Sighting: Bradford AM-FM Receiver with 8-Track

Sometimes I think the supply of vintage stereo equipment is dwindling in our local thrift stores.  However, I did spot this Bradford ICT FET AM-FM receiver with built in 8 track player recently.  Bradford was the store brand for the Grants or W.T. Grants department store chain.  Grants was founded in 1906 and operated until 1976.  The department stores were a fixture in the downtown area of most American cities.

I couldn't test this unit out because it there weren't any speakers, speaker wires, or even headphones on sale.  However, since belts deteriorate over time,  it's pretty unlikely that the 8-track would have worked. 

It would have been fun to see the lights glow.  Since the price was around $10, I probably could have picked it up.  But, I don't have any electronics repair skills and I don't have a dedicated workspace.

Bradford stereos were made in Japan and mentions in online forums are largely positive.  I'm sure this unit would have had plenty of old school power for an apartment with 60 watts of power.

The unit had auxiliary inputs and outputs for speakers galore.