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Shelf Systems: Affordable, Compact Solutions for Music Lovers

You don't need to sacrifice a lot of space to get quality sound. Today's shelf systems are smaller and sound better than they did just a few years ago. They offer convenient, all-in-one music solutions for your office, dorm room, or any other location where space is at a premium.

Shelf systems also look much more refined than they used to. Gone are the days when all shelf systems were big boxes with a lot of flashing lights. Today's sleek, contemporary designs blend seamlessly with modern décor, and look right at home on a desk or in an office.

shelf system with dock
Many shelf systems give you iPod control via a built-in dock or USB port.

Lots of music options

The compact size of these systems doesn't sacrifice music-playing flexibility. Typically, shelf systems include all the components of a full-size stereo system: CD player, AM/FM radio, an amplifier, and stereo speakers. Most give you an auxiliary input or two for connecting an additional music source, such as an MP3 player or the sound from a video game system. And if you're an iPod® fan, you'll appreciate the iPod connection and control capabilities offered by many newer shelf systems. Most include a built-in dock or USB port that make it easy to enjoy the contents stored on your iPod, while keeping it charged up and ready to go.

Quality sound in a small package

Although they may not play quite as loud as separate, full-size components, shelf systems sound remarkably good for their size. Many of them include some of the same technologies found in separate receivers and amplifiers, such as high-current designs that deliver accurate sound reproduction and greater dynamics. Some models offer advanced features like a tube preamplifier for added warmth in middle and high frequencies, or two-way speakers with separate woofers and tweeters for more detailed sound and a wider frequency response.

When comparing one shelf system to another, you may want to look at each one's power output. This figure, measured in watts, tells you how much power the system sends to the speakers. Generally, a system with more power will sound better than a lower-powered one. And if you need even stronger bass or room filling power, consider a system that features an output jack for connecting an optional powered subwoofer.

Easy to set up and use

These all-in-one music systems are super-easy to set up; often all you have to do is plug in the included wires leading to the speakers. They're also designed with ease of use in mind. Many models offer one-touch operation: simply press the "Play" button of the CD player and the entire system springs to life.

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