Cheap Home Audio Gear and Tips: How to Get Great Sound

Try putting a chair or other dense furniture in the corners because that’s where bass tends to congregate and create weird sound problems. Also, consider placing a bookshelf or other irregular furniture on the far wall that faces your speakers—where the sound reflects back into the speakers—so that the different sizes and shapes of books on the shelf bounce soundwaves in different directions.

If You Wanna Go Pro…

Alright. This tip isn’t quite free, but it can be cheap. If you want to get fancy and make a dedicated listening room, look for proper sound treatment materials. Do not buy those weird foam squares you see on Amazon. They won’t work very well. Broad-spectrum soundwaves are absorbed by dense, porous material, so while high frequencies are absorbed by the foam, the mid and low-end frequencies go nuts.

Instead, snag some rock wool insulation and some fabric so you can make your own panels. Be sure to place them in corners and at reflection points, and you’ll notice wildly improved sound.

A Few Easy Upgrades

I get asked about affordable ways to upgrade sound quality a lot. Here are so of my go-to tips.

Photograph: Amazon

Modernize That Old Stereo

If you’ve got a stereo from the pre-streaming era, install something like an Amazon Echo Input. The cheap little dongle won’t quite compete with super-fancy streamers that cost hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars, but it sounds pretty darn good. It lets me easily stream my favorite new tunes without plugging anything in.

Get a Digital-to-Analog Converter

The soundcard in your computer is fine, but I always notice a significant difference in sound quality when I plug in a dedicated digital to analog converter (DAC) like the Audioengine D1 ($169) or AudioQuest Dragonfly ($99). You shouldn’t have to spend more than a couple hundred bucks for one, but you probably won’t find a good one for less than $50.

Computer Speakers, Remember Those?

If your PC could use some audio magic, I’m a big fan of the iLoud Micro Monitors ($300), which feature Bluetooth, and sound almost as good as speakers twice their price. If you’re looking for something more affordable, try the Presonus Eris speakers ($100), which offer a similar (though not quite as immersive) studio-style sound.

Try Some Studio Headphones

There are a ton of amazing, expensive audiophile headphones, but you’ll find the best value in studio headphones, or headphones designed for audio producers. They’re not the flashiest headphones, but they sound good for the money and are super durable.

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