Budget-Speaker Predicament

To Doug Schneider,

I enjoyed your reviews of the Triangle Borea BR03 and Q Acoustics 3030i loudspeakers.

I’m building a budget 2.0 audio system for non-nearfield listening in a room 14′ × 18′. Sadly, I can’t do auditions due to the pandemic.

I’m planning on pairing a Dayton Audio DTA-2.1BT2 (or similarly priced) amplifier with speakers costing about $500/pair or less, like the models you reviewed:

  • Triangle Borea BR03
  • Q Acoustics 3030i (3020i also not off the table)
  • Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2
  • DALI Spektor 2
  • Wharfedale Diamond 12.1
  • JBL Stage A170/A180/A190
  • PSB Alpha P5
  • Klipsch RP-600M

What would you do in such a predicament?

All the best,
United States

Hi Bob,

You have a couple of predicaments. One has to do with the contenders you’ve chosen—they’re all potentially good choices, so it’s going to be tough to choose a model. The only one that I think you could take off the list is the Q Acoustics 3020i. As you’ve read my write-up on the 3030i, you’ll know that it provides quite a bit more bass extension than the 3020i, which, in comparison, sounds a little too light in the low end. So if you’re going to look at a Q Acoustics speaker, only consider the 3030i. The other models you listed are still contenders.

The other predicament you’re in is what you’ve identified—the inability to audition in a store. But you can audition speakers at home! So if I were in your shoes, I’d narrow down my list by first seeing which speakers can be auditioned in-home and returned in a reasonable timeframe, such as 30 or 60 days. The reason I think it’s so important to audition yourself is that I know far too many people who have purchased hi-fi equipment without listening, and without the option to return it if they didn’t like it. When that happened, all they could do was to sell it secondhand. Since you’re in the United States, I think you’ll find home auditions of speakers that you can buy online quite easy to find. I hope this helps.

Doug Schneider