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$2,000 Recommended Two-Channel Stereo System

by October 07, 2012

Our $6,000 recommended two-channel system offers premium products that look and sound great, but not everyone wants to spend six grand on a stereo system. For all of those people, here is our recommended two-channel stereo system for $2000. This guide still includes everything you need, but with more of a focus on value vs. performance than our more expensive guides.  A key part of this system is balance, rather than put all of the money into the speakers we wanted to make sure enough of the budget was devoted to the other products so they would work well with future speaker purchases. This system will give you outstanding performance, provide the building blocks for slowly upgrading equipment in the future, and still allow you to hear music in a way that most consumers never have.

Our goals were to:

  • Provide a good value vs. performance system
  • Put together a balanced system so there is no "weakest link" in the chain, every piece must be high quality
  • Choose equipment that looks good as well as sounds good (high SAF)

Speakers and Amplifier

Speakers – Boston Acoustics A 360 ($799/pr)

Boston Acoustics A360 Speakers

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When designing a speaker, manufacturers have to make tough choices about what to include and what to cut in order to keep the product in a particular price range. Sometimes they completely forego aesthetics in favor of performance. Other times they create speakers that are beautiful to look at but sound like a clock radio. Boston Acoustics struck a good balance with the A 360, something we found out during our full review of these speakers. The three way design is powered by dual 6.5” bass drivers, a 3.5” midrange driver, and a 1” soft dome tweeter.  The tweeter and midrange drivers are actually housed in a sub-chamber inside the cabinet to minimize interaction with back waves from the bass drivers. On the back of the cabinet is a tuned port for added bass response, which undoubtedly helps the speaker achieve its 38Hz-25Khz rating . Horizontal and diagonal bracing helps keep unwanted resonances at bay. It is obvious that Boston Acoustics did their homework with this speaker.  We heard these babies at CEDIA 2012 and they sounded great!  We should note that the A 360 and alternative speakers listed are not designed to product gobs of bass. For most music this is not an issue, but if you want to listen to bass heavy music a subwoofer from the likes of SVS, Rythmik, Outlaw, or other reputable manufacturers might be a good idea. 

Alternatives: EMP E55Ti (plays louder but not as much deep bass) | Fluance XL7F (lots of bass but very laid back sound)

Stereo Receiver – Outlaw Audio RR2150 ($699)

Buy It Now

Outlaw audio has been a well respected name on the audio forums for quite some time because of products like the RR2150. It's is a power and feature rich receiver. We know, we reviewed the RR2150. Now, when we say feature rich we aren’t talking about the typical home theater list of features, these are all two channel centric features. There is ± 6.5dB of bass adjustment at 50Hz and treble adjustment at 10Khz. Outlaw is particularly proud (and they have the right to be) of built in analog bass management. On the back of the receiver is a low-pass filter that can be set at 60Hz, 80Hz, 100Hz, or bypass.  On the back is also a dedicated phono input, among other line-level inputs, and a USB port. The USB port is a great feature that opens up the ability to hook up a computer and still use the DACs built in the receiver. On the front of the receiver is a ¼” headphone jack, 1/8” stereo input for use with portable devices, and a nifty speaker EQ adjustment that allows for a boost at 55Hz, 65Hz, or 80Hz. Finally, it is rated at 100wpc, 20Hz- 20kHz, <.03% THD, both channels driven into 8ohms and 160wpc into 4 ohms (we actually measured slightly higher output). This means that you will have enough clean power for any of the speakers we recommended.  All in all, we don’t think there is a better two channel receiver option on the market for $699. But, for only $499 the HK 3490 is an amazing value, so if you are looking to save a few bucks we would suggest it as an alternative.  Plus the HK 3490 has digital inputs and a build in DAC which is the only two-channel receiver on the market we know of with this feature.

Outlaw Audio RR2150       Outlaw Audio RR2150 Rear

Outlaw Audio RR2150 Front/Back Panels

Alternatives:  Marantz SR4023 | Yamaha R-S700

or step up to separates for just a little more money: Emotiva UPA-200 Amp and USP1 Stereo Preamp combo


CD Player – Marantz CD5004 ($349)

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Marantz CD5004

In a system where the digital to analog conversion takes place at the source it is important to make sure that every source has quality components, especially quality DACs. Hence, we chose the Marantz CD5004. It does not play SACDs, but most individuals who are purchasing this level of equipment likely do not have an extensive SACD collection. It does play CDs and MP3/WMA files from a USB port. The signal path is symmetrical and Cirrus Logic CS4392 DACs are utilized to ensure solid line-level performance. Marantz also incorporated HDAM-SA2 “Hyper Dynamic Amplifier Modules”, which trickle down from their reference series components for “better” sound.

Alternatives:  Onkyo C-7030 | Yamaha CD-S300

Turntable – Audio-Technica AT-LP60 ($120)

Buy It Now

Audio Technical AT PL60 w/o cover

This might be the only component on our list that doesn’t have a high SAF (spousal approval factor) because it is ugly as sin. However, it does allow someone to open up their entire music collection to vinyl, and at $149 it isn’t a major investment if one doesn’t listen to vinyl often. If you want a turntable that looks awesome checkout some of the alternatives.  Otherwise, the AT-LP60 has an aluminum platter, defeatable preamp, and fully automatic belt-drive. The cartridge is permanent but the stylus is replaceable.

Alternatives:  Denon DP-29F | Pro-Ject Essential

Cables and Protection

Speaker Wire  - BJC 12 AWG Belden 5000UE ($.54 per foot)

BJC speakercable

Buy It Now

Nothing fancy here, and that’s on purpose. Blue Jeans Cable has long been a great cable company that has very reasonably priced products and refuses to hide behind the marketing gimmicks that other companies use. All of their speaker wire can be ordered either pre-terminated or as bare wire. It is available at any length at 1' increments. The recommended cable cable is Belden 5000UE (Gray jacket, 12 AWG) and is sold for $.54 per foot. Although you can order the wire pre-terminated, it is cheaper to buy the banana plugs separately and install them yourself. We recommend ordering 4 sets of premium banana plugs at $3.50ea. We figure that most people wont need more than 12' lengths, so the total for 24' of wire plus banana plugs is $26.96.

Alternatives:  50' 12 AWG MonoPrice

Analog Interconnects – BJC LC-1 ($29/ea)Blue Jeans Cables RCA

But It Now

We took the same approach with the analog interconnect cables as the speaker cables. Blue Jeans aren't the least expensive option listed, but provide the best build quality for the price. The Monoprice option is hands down the best value, and the Emotiva X RCA cables are a good bland of goof performance and great looks. 

Alternatives: 6' MonoPrice Premium RCA Cables

Power Protection – Panamax PM8-AV-PRO ($169)

But It NowPanamax M8-AV-PRO Power Center

The PM8-AV-PRO is a phenomenal product because it essentially gets you the same protection and filtering as the $399 MR4300. It monitors incoming voltage and will automatically disconnect your equipment if voltage is too high or too low. It also has two isolated outlet banks to filter out RF and RM interference in the electrical lines and prevent interference from crossing between banks.  We looked at multiple power protection brands, including the Tripp Lite, Surge-X, and Monster, and were unable to find better protection for the money.

Alternatives: APC P8V | Panamax PM8-AV


System Break Down & Conclusion

Speakers Boston Acoustics A 360 $799
Receiver Outlaw Audio RR2150 $699 
CD Player Marantz CD5004 $349
Turntable Audio-Technica AT-LP60 $120
Speaker Wire BJC Speaker Wire
Audio Interconnects BJC RCA Cables
$29 x2
Power Center Panamax M8-AV-PRO $169
Total   $2,221

Alright, technically the system totals just over $2,000 without tax. But, we quoted all of these prices at MSRP so you should be able to get everything for about $2000 with a little bit of patience. You could also cut some cost by going with some of the alternate products listed. This is a killer system and would give you many hours of enjoyable listening.

We would love to hear what everyone else would do with two grand to spend on a stereo system, so please comment below. But keep in mind the goals outlined at the beginning of the article and make sure to offer good sources and protection. We know that coming up with great speaker options will be easy for everyone ;).


About the author:
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Cliff, like many of us, has always loved home theater equipment. In high school he landed a job at Best Buy that started his path towards actual high quality audio. His first surround sound was a Klipsch 5.1 system. After that he was hooked, moving from Klipsch to Polk to Definitive Technology, and so on. Eventually, Cliff ended up doing custom installation work for Best Buy and then for a "Ma & Pa" shop in Mankato, MN.

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