Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Computer Audio › Wanna transform the audio capability of your sad & tired computer? If you've got $500, here's how!
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Wanna transform the audio capability of your sad & tired computer? If you've got $500, here's how!

post #1 of 37
Thread Starter 

You want to unlock the promise of digital music in your laptop computer?  Tired of the fake and shrill noise coming out of your "computer" or so-called "multi-media" speakers?  Wanna turn your laptop into a entry-level, audiophile music platform?   This is the crowd-sourcing thread to end all similar threads.

 

For a budget of $500, here's how I'd do it, guided on the design philosophy of "get as little DAC as you can get away", and "get as much amp and speaker as you can" and on weighing the various reviews out.  Get an outboard DAC to feed a signal to a set of more capable loudspeakers.  I am confident that you won't be able to squeeze more sound quality from a budget of $500.

 

DAC

USB 24-bit/96kHz with line output for under $100

 

 

Notes

  • The HRT, iBasso, NuForce or Fiio units do not provide variable line-out so volume control will be digital at the signal source only.
  • The Audinst, Audiotrak and Audioengine units analog volume control on the headphone and line output.
  • The Audinst unit can also be powered by A/C for increased performance.
  • The Musiland provides 24/192 USB tranfer, but runs off A/C only.
  • The HRT unit has no headphone amp.
  • The iBasso D7 and HRT Streamer II provide asynchronous USB tranfer.

 

 

Active monitor

Under $400/pair:

 

Yamaha HS50M

yamaha-hs50m-active-monitors.jpg

 

KRK Rokit 6 G2

rokit-6-lg-2.png

 

 

 

 

Under $300/pair:

Fostex PM0.5n

PM05n_001-thumb.jpg

 

 

 

Tannoy Reveal 501A

tannoy_601a_01.jpg

 

Mackie MR5 MkII

Mackie%20MR5.jpg

 

KRK Rockit 5 G2

37568-krk-rokit-powered-5-g2-pair-large.jpg

 

Behringer Truth B2030A

truth1.l.jpg

 

Edited by Mauricio - 3/11/12 at 1:54am
post #2 of 37

Thanks for the writeup.

The problem I would have is that most computers themselves produce annoying noise.

I finally got set up with a fanless computer with an SSD.  It is silent, but the problem is that the SSD to too small to fit my music library, so I just copy music to the SSD before I want to listen to it.

An alternative to copying music to the SSD all the time is have a Network Attached Storage or other computer with a network share in some other part of the house so you can't hear the drives or the fans.  Then you can play files over the network.  You can also set Foobar to buffer the whole file as well.  Gigabit Ethernet is pretty usable.

post #3 of 37
Thread Starter 

No problem.  I hope it is helpful to people.

post #4 of 37

Few notes (and I do understand that a lot of people use laptops wrt the first point): 

 

- Internal soundcards will cost you less and deliver the same (or more) performance and features for the dollar.

 

- The X-Fi HD External is a very worthy unit, worth consideration. It's also very inexpensive.

 

- Not all multi-media speakers are dreadful. 

 

- The next "step" from here (and I really do like where you're going with this, thus far) should be acoustic treatment. 

 

 

I don't think (I should say: based on experience and knowledge I do not find that...) there is a prescriptive manner in which to suggest speakers; room interaction is really what you've gotta contend with. So based on that, you really have to know what you're trying to accomplish, where they're going, how they fit into the room; none of this is subjective or audible. Measurement and treatment is where money should go (and with $500 that's not entirely out of the realm of possibility - there's this great world of DSP powered monsters out there, devices that have more processing power than many personal computers of the 1990s, and some of them are getting quite cheap; they're called AV receivers). 

 

 

post #5 of 37

im an audiomoron so can anyone tell me if its okay to connect active speakers (?ac powered speakers?) to a dac with amp? or amp?

 

ill definitely not be using headphones. surely speakers. most audiophiles pair their dac with headphones so i have no idea what dac works with powered speakers (logitech z5300... but i plan to switch to one of the suggested speakers here in time). my concern is whether double amps on both side would blow something up.. or at least  have negative effects.

 

the only ?dac? ?amp? that seem to have some usage paired with speakers are on TK2050 chipset but there's no mention of this here. (Yet another dilemma, TK2050 vs WM8740 vs AKM4396)

 

I will be using for classical music listening, movies (stereo), games (stereo). i favor old stuff.


Edited by biatche - 5/2/12 at 7:16am
post #6 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mauricio View Post

DAC USB 24-bit/96kHz with line output for under $100

 

Of these two, I would choose the E10, even if the price was the same. For a decent sound card at a low price, if no headphone amplification is needed, I recommend trying the Xonar D1 (or DX, the same card in PCIe version), it performs quite well in a system that is not "noisy".


Edited by stv014 - 5/2/12 at 8:21am
post #7 of 37
Thread Starter 

Connect active speakers to the line output of the DAC.

post #8 of 37

Simple and effective thread,there should be more post here..Grazie

post #9 of 37

Bump? This topic has some valuable info in it, that beginners should read. Active monitors are the way to go!

post #10 of 37

While I completely agree in the theory behind the thread, my advice would be add another $200 as a min maybe stretch to around $750 and lots more options open up in terms of DA converters and monitors. My personal rule is 20-25% of budget on the DA part and the rest on the monitors.  By stretching the budget further you can possible move into the realms of buying a sub... hopefully this basket will link ok below:

 

http://www.guitarcenter.com/MyAccount/Cart.aspx?qty=1&itemno=2394719&isaccess=0&isitemendpage=1&addedFrom=detail&requestID=e4a326e3-0026-482c-a954-7b832091983e

 

under $900, yes its almost double the original budget but you would be very happy with the results.

post #11 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by Headzone View Post

Bump? This topic has some valuable info in it, that beginners should read. Active monitors are the way to go!

Really? 'Cause I know someone that bought into the active monitor hype. He's now selling his Mackie speakers--the ones listed in this thread--because they were muddy and have bad mid and highs compared to a pair of NHT SuperZeros and a Topping t-amp he just picked up. Granted, the SuperZeros really have to have sub. But he wanted a sub anyway.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tablix View Post

By stretching the budget further you can possible move into the realms of buying a sub... hopefully this basket will link ok below: http://www.guitarcenter.com/MyAccount/Cart.aspx?qty=1&itemno=2394719&isaccess=0&isitemendpage=1&addedFrom=detail&requestID=e4a326e3-0026-482c-a954-7b832091983e

This HSU is a better subwoofer for the same price. Or if one is using active speakers (or a passive setup), an SVS SB-1000 or SVS PB-1000 would be a much better sub for only $100 more, and they have an 80hz high pass filter on the RCA outputs.

****

The trick is one has to know what to buy. There are bad choices in both pro audio and home audio equipment, and there deals out out there if one is aware. For instance, ARX A1b or Ascend Acoustics CBM-170 SE with a t-amp will be equal to or better than any of the powered monitors listed in the first post. Emotiva Airmotiv 4s will equal or exceed any of the powered monitors on this page.

If someone wants powered monitors and they are in the US, I also recommend going to a Guitar Center. While their setups are not optimum for bringing out the best in their speakers, because the speakers are setup the same, one can compare them against each other and choose the one that suits the listeners needs. Listener preference will be the biggest impact.
Edited by cel4145 - 9/12/13 at 6:55pm
post #12 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

Really? 'Cause I know someone that bought into the active monitor hype. He's now selling his Mackie speakers--the ones listed in this thread--because they were muddy and have bad mid and highs compared to a pair of NHT SuperZeros and a Topping t-amp he just picked up. Granted, the SuperZeros really have to have sub. But he wanted a sub anyway.

 

Well, just because one person had bad experience with one particular model of active speakers, it does not necessarily mean that all active speakers are worse than all passive ones.

post #13 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tablix View Post
 

While I completely agree in the theory behind the thread, my advice would be add another $200 as a min maybe stretch to around $750 and lots more options open up in terms of DA converters and monitors. My personal rule is 20-25% of budget on the DA part and the rest on the monitors.  By stretching the budget further you can possible move into the realms of buying a sub... hopefully this basket will link ok below:

 

The more you spend on a DAC, the less you will have left for better speakers, which make a far greater difference. Basically, once you avoid poor ones (I mean things like $30 USB sticks or badly implemented onboard audio), computer interference, and ground loops, you reach the point of diminishing returns quickly. Try the first link in my signature to find out how much degradation you can hear in audio recorded from various DAC outputs that most people on Head-Fi would consider "low end".

post #14 of 37

TBH it depends on your usage, I am not only listening but producing so DA/AD are both important to me.  I use a Roland Quad Capture and find it more than suitable for the job.  With just playback DAC's are not as important as people sometimes imply, but when you have to worry about recording as well I would rather pay more for decent mic preamps I/O's etc.  My usage is not the same as the OP is suggesting, but a $150 audio interface is easily good enough for 95% of end users.  On a similar point a sub is also an expense most people can live without, if they have the space for a bigger overall monitor.  If you have  6.5-8" driver you will probably not need a sub unless you really listen to lots of bass heavy music.


Edited by Tablix - 9/13/13 at 4:17am
post #15 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by stv014 View Post

Well, just because one person had bad experience with one particular model of active speakers, it does not necessarily mean that all active speakers are worse than all passive ones.

Right. I was responding to the hype present in this forum that active is always better, that "active is the way to go." You'll see later in my post that I recommended the Emotiva Airmotivs as a great option. At any given price point, there are going to be various setups that use active or passive speakers that work well. If someone is doing serious audio production work, that's different. But this thread seems to be about putting together a computer desktop setup.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Computer Audio
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Computer Audio › Wanna transform the audio capability of your sad & tired computer? If you've got $500, here's how!