A BC Acoustique system for just $1247

At last year's SSI, the show management asked exhibitors to assemble systems that are "entry level" in a high-performance audio context, costing less than $5000. (We can argue—and some people did—about whether <$5000 is a realistic figure for "entry level," but, audiophiles being the way they are, you're going to get an argument regardless of the figure.) In any case, relatively few exhibitors followed through with this last year. At SSI 2014, show management made more of a concerted effort to persuade exhibitors to participate, and indeed there were a lot more of the little blue "$5000 System" signs throughout the show.

Having said that, exhibitors' effectiveness in demonstrating how good a sound could be obtained at this price was often less than ideal. The typical display in a hotel room involved a main system (a collection of expensive components) set up with speakers flanking the window, with the sub-$5000 system along the side wall. In this type of situation, the setup for the less expensive system was not optimal for good sound. Furthermore, in almost every case, the system playing when I walked in the room was the main one, so that I had to ask for them to play the sub-$5000 system. There were also some exhibitors that took the "under $5000" designation to allow for a system that would not include a source component, arguing that people can use a laptop computer as a source, and everyone has a laptop. This was not fair to exhibitors whose system included a source component.

There were, however, some exhibitors that went to considerable effort to demonstrate good sound at affordable prices. Import HIFI, the distributor for BC Acoustique (designed in France, made in China) speakers and electronics, had three systems at three price levels, set up in separate rooms. The least expensive one, shown in the photo, was just $1247: EX602 CD player ($349), EX302 integrated amp ($349), SR B2 ($698/pair). The most expensive system included the top-of-the-line BC Acoustique ACT A 3.5 speakers ($3498), EX-522 integrated amp ($799), leaving $700 for a CD player and some cables. I listened briefly to the cheapest system, and it really didn't sound bad. The room was quite a large one (not the usual small hotel room); the system is likely to sound even better in a smaller room.

Anon2's picture

I am a private individual, not linked to the industry except as a consumer.  Having taken care of that disclaimer, I would like to see major brands do more “$1,500 or less” systems at major shows in the US.

This looks like a nice system.  There are a lot of interesting European products which regrettably do not have US distribution.  They do, however, get good coverage in the European audio periodical circuit which I refer to as much as to Stereophile.

Some speakers like those made by Q-Acoustics, gain top ratings in Europe.  There is also a lot more web-based distribution of products in Europe than in the US.  Some top-rated brands, available in the US only through brick-and-mortar retailers and dealers, have breached the internet firewall, and are available through the internet if one lived in Europe.  (With the blessings of global logistics, and ever improving air-freight delivery, I’m waiting for the day when some of these European dealers begin to take web or phone orders from the US).  The still-obscure market for Chinese products, made by Chinese manufacturers, holds more promise for budget gear in the future.

The good news is that there are many very reputable brands available, with full US warranties, in the US that would allow a budget-constrained enthusiast to build a very worthy system.

Having seen such systems, I know that this can be done with major brands.  A budget audio enthusiast could go to very worthy brands and build a very worthy system.

Here’s an idea I would throw out there to make a very good basic system.  With luck, others will suggest their own systems.  Let’s assume you go with basic stock interconnects, speaker cables, and upgrade (to something like some basic Transparent Audio Links) as the budget permits.  And I am guessing that many would build to a system like this over time, allowing the cost to be spread out over time.

1.       Marantz SR4023 Stereo Receiver, Still $499.00 new (less refurbished if you know where to look).

2.       Marantz CD5004 CD Player, still $349.00 new (again, less refurbished, if you know where to look)

3.       A basic DAC can be had for around $300-$400, if one wants to omit the CD player.

4.       Speakers a couple of options:

a.       Kef Q100 speakers $549.00 (now direct from the manufacturer)

b.      Kef Q300 speakers $649.00 (now direct from the manufacturer)

c.       B&W 685 S2 speakers $700.00 (the new one).

I am certain that with other reputable brands like Cambridge Audio, Yamaha, Sony, Onkyo, Boston Acoustics, Klipsch, Polk Audio, Wharfdale (and even Rotel or Arcam, if a person is patient and can find a good used piece or dealer demo unit), and others, there are many other ways to build a good system on a budget. 

Since budget constrained audiophiles are likely to become the “fastest growing” segment in numbers, though perhaps not in revenue, of the hobbyist base, I hope we see more good articles and ideas like this one in Stereophile and in other publications in the US.

Merck's picture

I agree that there needs to be more focus on the entry level.  It gets annoying when I scroll through reviews at various audio sites and every item costs well over $1,000.  The industry needs to attract new consumers to survive and what better place than $1,200-$4,000 range for an entire system.  This is a price range many people will never go beyong their entire lives.

stereo slim's picture

seem to be the ACT B1.1 (with the company's signature horn-type tweeter) rather than a pair of SR-B2.

Would be interesting to find out how much one can expect for that kind of money.

Robert Deutsch's picture

I took a picture of the sign identifying the components in the system, and it says SR-B2. However, looking at the picture again, I see that the speaker shown on the sign has a dome tweeter, not the horn, so the sign was wrong, and you are right.  The price of the ACT B 1.1 is $698 vs. $549 for the SR B2, so it still makes for a relatively inexpensive system.

stereo slim's picture

I am always grateful for info on budget-priced HiFi.