A good sounding home stereo system consists of a receiver or amplifier and a pair of speakers that have performance-matched characteristics. I have tested and reviewed the home stereo systems in this list and recommend them based on real world listening experience. The systems range in suggested retail price from $698.00 to $11,200 and can be purchased online or from your local reseller.
The Monitor Audio BR-2 bookshelf speakers are 'little dynamos', despite their small size. They have a warm, full sound with excellent midrange and high frequency detail and make a good choice for a budget-priced stereo system. They can be placed on a shelf, but will sound best on speaker stands. Read my full review of the Monitor Audio speakers
The Yamaha RX-397 stereo receiver is a good complement to the Monitor Audio BR-2 speakers. Its modest 50-watts per channel is plenty of power and it offers wideband frequency response from 10 Hz to 50 kHz. The AM/FM tuner in the Yamaha is one of the best and it has a phono input for a turntable. For $698 this is a great system for a bedroom, den or as a starter system or second stereo system.
B & W is a British manufacturer known for their reference quality speakers. The 685 is a two-way bookshelf speaker with a 6.5" Kevlar woofer and 1" metal dome tweeter. It is also bi-amp or bi-wire capable to get the best sound performance. They sound best on stands and I would recommend the B & W D61 stands, which is used in my review of the B & W 685 speakers
With its 120-watts per channel, the HK 3490 receiver has plenty of power for the 685 speakers. The Harman Kardon receiver has a phono input, 3 video inputs, two digital inputs (optical/coaxial) and two subwoofer outputs. It comes with a remote control, although it is not a learning or universal remote. Read my full review of the HK 3490 stereo receiver.
3. Best Mid-Class Stereo System - Pioneer SX-A9 Receiver and Paradigm Titans: $1499
Overall, the Paradigm Titan Monitor bookshelf speakers are very well balanced, easy on the ears and pleasant to listen to for long periods. They have a solid and warm bass sound, very good midrange clarity and clear, focused center imaging. I own a pair of Paradigm tower speakers in my reference system and the Titan Monitors are real winners. They come in four finishes. Read my full review here
The Pioneer SX-A9 stereo receiver is one of the best receivers I've reviewed. Its modest 55-watts per channel is adequate for the Paradigm speakers and the SX-A9 has excellent clarity and resolution. It’s a very musical sounding receiver with smooth, natural and well-balanced tonal qualities and makes a great receiver for the Paradigm Titan speakers.
This is one of the best systems for critical listening. The Focal Chorus 807V bookshelf speakers have a very natural, uncolored sound quality and a midrange openness that sets them apart from many speakers I've reviewed. They're easy on the ears and enjoyable for long periods of time.
The Onkyo A-5VL Integrated Amplifier has a modest but excellent sounding 40-watts per channel with high end performance. The companion Onkyo C-S5VL SACD/CD player makes a good match for this modest but high value audiophile system. MSRP for the system is $2396, but can be purchased online for less.
The Infinity Classia C336 speakers feature three 6.5" woofers, a 4" midrange, a 1" tweeter and a rear-facing port. They are also bi-wire and bi-amp capable. They have good solid bass that sounds tight and well defined and good midrange resolution and very detailed high frequencies. They are available in gloss black or cherry finish. Read my full review here
The Outlaw Audio RR2150 Retro receiver reminds me of the days when stereo receivers were built like a tank and had the audio performance to prove it. It has an understated 100-watts per channel, an excellent tuner, a subwoofer output with analog bass management with selectable 60, 80 and 100 Hz cut-off frequencies. Read my full review of the Outlaw Audio RR 2150 stereo receiver.
6. Best High-End System - Lyngdorf TDAI-2000 Amplifier and Pioneer S-4EX: $11,200
Without doubt, this is one of the best stereo systems I've heard. The Pioneer S-4EX speakers are an off-shoot of the $60,000 Pioneer TAD Reference One speakers, but more within the reach of audiophiles. They have a 6.5" bass/mid-bass driver, and a concentric magnesium midrange and ceramic graphite tweeter that gives them a unique sound quality known as coherence. Read my full review of these great speakers
The Lyngdorf TDAI-2200 Integrated Amp makes a fine match with the Pioneer speakers. I struggled to find the right words to describe the Lyngdorf amp. It was easy to identify its luscious, rich, full, detailed, ultra-clean nature, but this is not a typical amp. Read my full review of the Lyngdorf TDAI-2200 Amp.