Get the Denon mini system (forget which model) or the Teac Reference series. Both look classy and sound great. Forget about Bose.
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The Denon is pretty good and looks good. Yamaha Pianocraft looks very nice and sounds good. There are also a couple of Onkyo minisystems that sound good, one mentioned by John Marks in his Stereophile column a few months ago. Those are the three brands that I would look at now. I have some of the TEAC's and they are very good, but I'm not sure they are still available, and you should avoid their 3 cd changer. Minisystems don't really go down to 40 or 50hz, but the good ones with loudness contours do give a satisfying bass response for what they are.
I have two thoughts.
1) I seriously think she should spend more than $500 if this equipment she is getting is part of her therapy repertoire. A minisystem just won't do. The distortion and bumped frequency range inherent in minisystemss will not be suitable.
2) The Bose might not sound that great, but I don't think you need a high resolution hifi here either. You just need a system with a full and relaxing/smooth sound plus ease of use. The lack of resolution actually works in favor of the Bose for therapeutic purposes as well. I can see where the musical therapy speaker is coming from.
The last thing you want is a system that sounds "hifi" since hifi=analytical=anti-relaxation=anti-therapeutic.
A lot of minisystems aren't really much more than gussied-up boom boxes. If you want a good, low-distortion system, here's what I'd recommend:
Receiver: Sony STR-DE185 ($150) or Onkyo TX-8211 ($200)
Speakers: PSB Alpha B ($250) or Paradigm Titan ($220)
DVD Player: Pioneer DV-363-K ($100) or Sony DVP-NS325 ($100)
A system like this will have much lower distortion than any minisystem out there. (Speaker prices are list; other prices I pulled from Crutchfield.)
Thanks for all the posts so far. Great suggestions all around. Perhaps in her therapeutic situation, small room, the Bose isn't as bad as I first speculated. It was professionally recommended. I just hate to see someone spend so much for so little - low cost in parts, high cost in marketing. However, I guess she can write this off as a business expense...
What about the Cambridge SoundWorks "SoundWorks" 730 Radio priced at $249.99? The 730 CD version is expected sometime in September. The comments below were copied from their web site. I have the Cambridge Model 88 radio in my office and it works great.
"It's far and away the best table radio we've ever heard, and we've tried all the serious contenders..." -CNET
This is the radio youve been waiting for. Not since our revolutionary Model 88 by Henry Kloss has there been such a small, simple, great-sounding audio product. The SoundWorks 730 Radio is so right that we think it will change how the world listens to music. Just a little bigger than a cigar box, it sounds better than many component stereos we have heard.
Its all about the speakers. The SoundWorks 730 uses high-performance speakers, contoured amplifiers and a built-in powered subwoofer to reproduce music with remarkable accuracy. The sound is rich, realistic and warm. The speakers are designed to disperse the music throughout the room for truly "out of the box sound." If you were to listen to the SoundWorks Radio blindfolded, youd probably think it was a stereo system with speakers six feet apart. It simply sounds much bigger than it looks.
The only radio with a built-in subwoofer. You just wont believe the bass that comes out of the SoundWorks 730! Over half of the radios cabinet is taken up by a long-throw subwoofer. In our initial demonstrations, people kept looking under the table for a hidden subwoofer.
The truth is in the listening. The SoundWorks 730 radio sounds amazing. Rich, natural, room-filling sound including great bass. Weve never heard a table radio we think sounds better.
But dont believe us. Listen in your own home for 45 days, on your favorite FM stations. Compare it to other radios or to component stereo systems. If you dont love it, return it for a full refund. Theres virtually no risk.
Built-in powered subwoofer
32-character display shows radio station information (RDS)
Auxiliary input for CD or MP3 player
Dual alarms that wake to tone or music
Wide-dispersion speaker system for "out of the box"sound
Separate bass and treble controls
Ultra-compact remote control
Available in black or ivory
WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY...
"It's far and away the best table radio we've ever heard, and we've tried all the serious contenders...We performed a brief comparison test with the 730 and a well-known table-radio competitor, and the 730's more full-bodied sound was superior." -CNET
"Who cares if the Cambridge SoundWorks 730 Radio ($250) doesn't have a built-in audio CD or cassette player and can't pick up Internet stations? When it comes to warm, rich sounds, this deceptively high-tech rig can't be beat, thanks to its marvelous speakers and a built-in powered subwoofer that takes up nearly half of the cigar-box-size cabinet. And if you buy it at www.hifi.com, there's a 45-day money-back guarantee, too." -Entertainment Weekly
"a bargain-priced ($250) table radio -- bargain, that is, relative to the Wave's audacious, inflexible sticker price -- with dazzling features whose performance stands up to contemporary table radios...It's like a one-piece minisystem...the SoundWorks Radio 730 can be a little music powerhouse next to your bed or in your office or kitchen...it's a worthy rival to the Bose Wave for $100 less." -The Hartford Courant
"It's a radio with stereo-system capabilities..." -Gannett News Service.
DIMENSIONS 4 15/16" H X 14" W X 9 7/8" D
WEIGHT 11 LBS.
INTERNAL AUDIO SOURCES FM STEREO TUNER, AM TUNER
INPUTS (REAR PANEL) AUX IN 3.5MM STEREO MINIJACK
MIXING INPUT 3.5MM STERO MINIJACK
AM ANT 3.5MM STEREO MINIJACK
FM ANT "F"-TYPE JACK, 75 OHMD
OUTPUTS (REAR PANEL) REC OUT STEREO MINIJACK
OUTPUTS (FRONT PANEL) HEADPHONE 3.5 MM STEREO MINIJACK
REAR PANEL CONTROLS FM ANT INTRNL/EXTRNL SWITCH
WARRANTY 1 YEAR PARTS AND LABOR
For what it's worth Consumer Reports has recently rated both table radios and minisystems. I wouldn't trust their ratings of speaker systems, but for this kind of stuff they're more reliable (or maybe I'm less finicky).
Among table radios, top sound went to the Tivoli Model 2. (The Model 1, by contrast, scored lowest.) Other contenders were the Wave, Cambridge, and the BA Receptor.
A $150 Philips minisystem took top honors (and I've heard good things about it elsewhere, too). Unfortunately, the Denon and Onkyo systems, which are probably the best technically, weren't rated.
Does it have to be portable, coz for this important professional cause, you might want to go with a better sounding gear for more money if possible. Brain scientist can measure positive effects of good music, and to get this therapeutic effect, one has to go with something better than a portable system. Just thought that such an important cause deserves the best we can give it. You can also chat live on audioasylum.com for advices. Good luck with a rewarding venture.