Streaming Stereo for half the price of a Sonos.

Chinese Amp      chromecast-dongle

As a DIY-er, I find spending oodles of cash on things like Sonos is wasteful.  If you have the cash and simply don’t want to bother learning or considering alternatives, I can see how a single system box might be attractive.  Be ready to replace the entire system in a few years when you want to expand or change something.  Stereos, however, have been around since the time of our ancestors, and that maturity makes them fairly fool-proof and inexpensive.  The only thing Sonos adds is streaming and a digital interface.  Here’s an alternative system that does the exact same thing for half the retail cost of a single-speaker Sonos.  Note: like the Sonos, my system assumes you have wifi and internet. 

Power Stereo Amplifier with Two Inputs

  •  The silver and black box above is a Chinese Amp on a chip (tripath), so it’s small and inexpensive. This one however has terrific build quality and two inputs with standard phono plugs. There are other variations with more or less features, so look around to see what you like.
  • It accepts banana plugs or spades on the speaker connections. I ordered basic cables from bluejeanscable.com because they are inexpensive, good quality, and they include the heatshrink wrap for a nice finished look. Amazon also has fine deals on good RCA 14-gauge wire and some monoprice banana plugs too. When making cables, don’t forget to order two plugs for each end of the wire- one pair for the amp and another pair for the speaker. For two speakers, that’s 8 plugs.

Audio connection to amp    Chromecast + HDMI Splitter +DAC

Streamer: Google Chrome Cast + HDMI Audio splitter.

  • I spent more on the HDMI audio splitter device after reading very mixed reviews of the less expensive ones on Amazon.
  • You will need a stereo adapter cable to connect to the inputs on the amp.  The second picture shows a DAC that I think sounds better than the one built into the HDMI device, however this not required if you want to use the Phono plug outputs shown in the first picture.
  • Here’s how to set up Chromecast.  The instructions assume you see the code on a TV, but the setup process works fine without that. Just click ok!

Want an alternative Streamer setup with fewer wires?  Get a bluetooth receiver instead of Chromecast and connect it to your amp. Pair your phone and stream from any player app.

Speakers:

  • Speakers last decades if not abused, so buying used makes a lot of sense. I found a barely used pair of Polk R50 floor-standing speakers on craigslist for $50. This was a terrific deal since Amazon sells them for $139 each.  My advice is to spend a bit of time shopping and learning. Look around Amazon reviews and their list of items others looked at or purchased to get more ideas.  Craigslist can be a great source if you are patient and willing to meet new people!
  • Avoid the box stores, really. Their mark-up is a waste of money.
  • Many folks like a 5.1 or 7.1 setup. My purpose here is 2-channel stereo because for me, it’s about the music.

Mark

Family man, linux geek, DIY, cyclist, startup enthusiast, active community member.

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