Recommended Gear

These products are the best of what we have reviewed. They offer superb performance, unbeatable value, or both. They are hardware and software that we can recommend and stand behind, and that we work to keep updated as new products are announced and tested.


  1. Have a question for you. We received the Sony BDP-S5100 for Christmas and want to set it up. However, the audio compression is not compatible with our current sound bar so we need to upgrade. Is this Visio sound bar (here in the recommended gear) compatible with the S5100?

    • Yes. It can decode both DTS and Dolby Digital, and Blu-ray titles have to provide one of those formats at a minimum. You will need to use the optical output on the BDP-S5100 and the optical input on the Vizio for that to work. If your TV has an optical output, you can also hook that up to the Vizio and just run everything through your TV. Most TVs only output stereo signals and not 5.1, though.

  2. If I were going to buy 2 subs and pair of quality bookshelf speakers for say $5000 total, would it make more sense just to get tower speakers like the Definitive ST-L or GoldenEar Triton 1’s with built in subs instead? What are the pros and cons? Thanks!

    • To me that depends on a simple question: Are you going to listen to two channel analog music, like from a turntable? If so, then having a full range speaker like the Triton One (which is really, really good) will let you hear everything without any digital processing.

      However, if you aren’t going to do that then bookshelves and subs offer advantages. The biggest is that the ideal location for your speakers to get good soundstage and imaging is almost certainly not the best place in your room for bass response. By putting the subs in their ideal location and the speakers in their ideal location, you can get better overall sound quality without needing as much room correction.

      It also can make upgrades much cheaper down the road. If you want to get better bass, you can just upgrade the subs. If you want to upgrade your speakers, going to a higher-end bookshelf is much more affordable that a higher-end full range speaker.

      Since I listen to vinyl, I’m more likely to get something like the Revel f208 that can go full-range, but if I didn’t I’d probably get a bookshelf like the KEF Reference 1 and subs instead.

      • Thanks Chris. I don’t have any hi-end dealers around me so it’s harder to keep up than it used to be. I heard the Revel Salon 2 a couple years ago (when I was out of town) and was in heaven, but they were a little out of my league. Maybe it’s worth traveling to hear the f208’s. I am currently still listening to my Dunlavy SC-IV’s.

        I am a two-channel guy first and a home theater guy second. I had a hard time getting used to CD sound when it first came out, but now I haven’t listened to a turntable in quite a while and it is one of the things I want to do again.

        I’m missing something from my music and think it may be the old analog sound I grew up on. What good turntables have you heard and recommend that will get me back to enjoying vinyl without breaking the bank.

        Something that possibly includes a cartridge and is easy to set up, unless that meant giving up sound quality. Also, is it better to get one with USB or reg stereo jacks? Does the USB mean it has it’s own built-in pre-amp and it just connects thru USB? Thanks again for your help.

        • For turntables, I have a piece up at The Wirecutter that focuses on $400 and below. Moving above that, the easiest thing to setup and use is going to be something from Rega using one of their cartridges. They have a custom 3 screw mount instead of the usual 2, so it’s basically impossible to get wrong. Their RP3 and RP6 are very good as well, and both the Elys 2 and Exact 2 cartridges work well for the price.

          Pro-Ject also makes very nice tables for the price, though they aren’t as plug-and-play simple as the Rega ones can be. I lean towards getting a Rega for myself because they work great, and are so easy.

          If it has a USB output, that means it is digitizing the output for a PC and not staying analog. It’s great if you want an easy way to record your albums to PC to take with you, but not for absolute sound quality. For that you need to remain analog, and you’ll need either a phono preamp, or a receiver/preamp with a phono input.

          • Thanks again Chris. I don’t mind putting a turntable together so much as having to make sure I match up a good cartridge with it. I’ll check your Wirecutter ( I just bookmarked it…didn’t know about it before this).

  3. What is the recommended UHD Blu-ray player that will also stream Netflix, Amazon et al in UHD?


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