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Total beginner: loudspeakers setup

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

Hi all,


I'm a confessed total beginner to this world of high audio definition and as a natural consequence also new to this forum. Great site, congratulations.


So far my listening experience is mostly ipod + sennheiser hd 595. With time and ear training I will probably improve this gear but it's not crucial for me so far. What I want to definitely improve now is my loudspeakers setup. As a matter of fact I don't own now loudspeakers... I hope you could guide me in finding the right setting for me.


So since a few days ago little I knew about dacs or amps my first idea was just to buy some relative, for me, good loudspeakers system like the 'harman kardon soundsticks III' and connect them to my laptop. Now after knowing more I doubt this is a good idea. I believe this system doesn't have any dac, only an amp, which would mean that it would use the crappy soundboard of my laptop. Soon I expect to buy a new mac book pro but I wonder whether it's better buying an (inexpensive) external dac & amp and then some bookshelf speakers + subwoofer.


So with a budget of 300-400 $ which setting would you recommend me? I prefer investing now more in the dac & amp (I prefer them together but I don't know how this affects the overall quality), and the subwoofer is not vital if it makes it too difficult for my budget. I must say my ultimate ideal solution would be something like the gadget jude presented in the head-fi tv ep 03 cypher labs algorhythm solo + amp, meaning, a dac&amp system that could work both as a desktop (with 2.1 channels) and portable system (headphones) but I don't know whether this is even possible right now. In any case I'm preferably looking for small devices including small loudspeakers.


Also, since I was before used to buy always a bundled 2.1 system for a pc, now that I see that for dac/receivers the customary thing is to buy separately the loudspeakers and the subwoofer, how does go one in choosing a good match of these and the proper receiver?


Is by the way the same a receiver and a dac??


What do you think of the Audioengine A2 Speakers? I may get them for a very good deal. Would be even necessary buying a sub or even dac with these? I'm reading this super positive review now: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13645_3-9946736-47.html Although USB entrance wouldn't harm.



Many questions... so many thanks... :)


Edited by jmcejuela - 5/5/11 at 1:27pm
post #2 of 8

A possible solution might be to go to the local guitar shop, the ones selling the pro-gear

They probably do have active speakers (monitors) and DACs with volume control and a headphone out.

You have 1 box doing the DAC/pre-amp/headphone thing and the monitors doing the power amp/speaker part.

Just some random  examples:





post #3 of 8
Take a look at Kingrex gear, they have a decent DAC/amp combo with USB input and has received many great reviews from these forums and poses like 6moons
post #4 of 8
The Kingrex gear should be within your budget
post #5 of 8
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the answers :)


Both the Kingrex UD-01and the Prodigy Cube seem great. Although I have no idea about quality, the Prodigy Cube is more suited for me.


Bear now with my ignorance for these questions...


With the Prodigy Cube I have 2 output connectors for L & R speakers. I guess if I want to put a subwoofer I would have to connect the coaxial/optical port to a receiver and then connect this to the speakers & the sub. Is this right?


Is it possible to connect a coaxial port directly to headphones?


So a receiver just takes digital information and then can distribute it to different channels, 2.0, 2.1, 5.1,... depending on its own capabilities. It's not at all or it doesn't have to be a dac or amp. It's just a "hub" of digital (analog too?) information. Is this right?


What is the difference between active speakers (monitors) and passive monitors (they are not called monitors?) The active speakers just have a built-in amp and so a volume controller?


Also what do you think of these offers?


  • NuForce µDAC USB-DAC, black - €119 ($173, the conversion seems too much but we're used to this in Europe; the price in USA America is $129) -- I love this box!
  • Pro-Ject DAC Box USB Digital - €147 (again, think as it was dollars)
  • Valab Non-Oversampling USB DAC - € ?  let's see how the ebay auction goes



By the way Roseval, great page for beginners!


post #6 of 8
Thread Starter 

Also, does it make sense spending now about 100-150 bucks in an USB DAC if I buy soon a mac book pro? Are some of the DACs listed before significantly better than the mbp's built-in dac?

Edited by jmcejuela - 5/6/11 at 2:14am
post #7 of 8

This would put me of the udac http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/542281/nuforce-udac-2-drama-detailed-measurements , the Pro-Ject DAC Box i've only seen bad reviews for it.

There are subs with rca pass-thoughs, rca in and then rca out to the monitors this would be a better solution.

Active monitors have built in amps and passive monitors require a seperate amp, active monitors don't really have a volume control it's normally a gain knob for slight gain adjustments, there advantages and disadvantages to both, actives have a better crossover, having an amp built into the speakers limits the space for airflow and acoustics of the box , also the amps built in are small meaning limited space for a good power circuit etc , and unless you spend loads sometimes not of very good quality, also not really a disadvantage but something to look out for if buying actives is often the manufactures fudged ratings there often use peak ratings in the specs to make there monitors look better there often claim 300watts and 118db spl when the more real continuous ratings are often something like 100watts for L/F 50watts for H/F and 105db spl.


All the dacs mentioned are better than using the mac book pros headphone out, you could use it's optical out rather than usb to a extenal dac though.


post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the help jrg1990. Yes, I believe I will buy the nuForce Icon uDAC DAC USB


I didn't quite get the last thing, may you explain it further? You mean using an optical port from the mac connected to a DAC? Which one is that? In any case, the nuForce has only USB in.

Besides USB and jack, which other DAC in connectors are there? Advantages & disadvantages?


Thanks again.

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