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Looking for audiophile PC speakers on a budget

post #1 of 35
Thread Starter 

I know that audiophile speakers that are under $400 are not really "audiophile" speakers, especially since from what I gather, having a good pair of headphones is your best bet for an audiophile experience. But well... bear with me! :)
 

Well I have a pair of Sennheiser HD 598 headphones that are absolutely fantastic for what I use them for, but my PC speakers are Logitech X-540 surround sound. They're good! Especially for what I got them for. But they're by no means excellent. I'm starting to realize that I have no need for surround sound on my PC, even if I intend to game with them, since I can get a similar experience from my headphones, which I will likely use to game 75% of the time anyway.

 

So now I'm looking for some 2.1 or 5.1 (if we can find good ones for a low price) speakers for my computer. Preferably, I'd like speakers with a USB connection and a good, high-end DAC built in. I was thinking of getting a good USB DAC to help make my Sennheiser HD 598s really sing, so I figured I might as well kill two birds with one stone, right?

 

These ones are a bit out of my price range, but I'm just going to use them as an example: Bowers & Wilkins MM-1 Active Multimedia Speakers

http://www.amazon.com/Bowers-Wilkins-Active-Multimedia-Speakers/dp/B003R6U6HG/ref=pd_ybh_6

They are supposedly excellent 2.0 speakers with decent bass for not having a subwoofer, and have a built in DAC with a USB connection. So, correct me if I'm wrong, but could I not then use the 3.5mm headphone jack on the speaker to plug in my HD 598s and gain the benefit of a built in DAC? Or am I going about this the wrong way?

 

Anyway, if anyone has any good suggestions for me, I'd love to hear them. Anything you can think of under $400 would be preferable.


Edited by Royal Amethyst - 5/30/12 at 10:49pm
post #2 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Royal Amethyst View Post
I know that audiophile speakers that are under $400 are not really "audiophile" speakers, especially since from what I gather, having a good pair of headphones is your best bet for an audiophile experience. But well... bear with me! :)

Well I have a pair of Sennheiser HD 598 headphones that are absolutely fantastic for what I use them for, but my PC speakers are Logitech X-540 surround sound. They're good! Especially for what I got them for. But they're by no means excellent. I'm starting to realize that I have no need for surround sound on my PC, even if I intend to game with them, since I can get a similar experience from my headphones, which I will likely use to game 75% of the time anyway.

So now I'm looking for some 2.1 or 5.1 (if we can find good ones for a low price) speakers for my computer. Preferably, I'd like speakers with a USB connection and a good, high-end DAC built in. I was thinking of getting a good USB DAC to help make my Sennheiser HD 598s really sing, so I figured I might as well kill two birds with one stone, right?

These ones are a bit out of my price range, but I'm just going to use them as an example: Bowers & Wilkins MM-1 Active Multimedia Speakers

http://www.amazon.com/Bowers-Wilkins-Active-Multimedia-Speakers/dp/B003R6U6HG/ref=pd_ybh_6

They are supposedly excellent 2.0 speakers with decent bass for not having a subwoofer, and have a built in DAC with a USB connection. So, correct me if I'm wrong, but could I not then use the 3.5mm headphone jack on the speaker to plug in my HD 598s and gain the benefit of a built in DAC? Or am I going about this the wrong way?

Anyway, if anyone has any good suggestions for me, I'd love to hear them. Anything you can think of under $400 would be preferable.

Buy a pair of Polk Audio bookshelf speakers ($150?), Polk Audio speakers are always on sale somewhere, check the Techbargins website.

Find a used Yamaha A/V receiver on Craigslist ($150) Yamaha receivers come with surround sound for headphones.

Run an optical cable from the computer to the receiver.

 

Creative Labs Titanium HD sound card ($140) and M-Audio MV40 speakers ($120).

post #3 of 35
Thread Starter 

Just to clarify, you're suggesting either:


A) Polk Audio bookshelf speakers and Yamaha A/V receiver

or

B) Titanium HD and M-Audio MV40 speakers

 

Is that correct? Because at first I thought you were suggesting I get ALL of them. And also, that's sort of why I wanted speakers with a built-in USB DAC, so I can bypass needing a good sound card. Currently using an X-Fi XtremeGamer.

post #4 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Royal Amethyst View Post
Just to clarify, you're suggesting either:

A) Polk Audio bookshelf speakers and Yamaha A/V receiver

or

B) Titanium HD and M-Audio MV40 speakers

Is that correct? Because at first I thought you were suggesting I get ALL of them. And also, that's sort of why I wanted speakers with a built-in USB DAC, so I can bypass needing a good sound card. Currently using an X-Fi XtremeGamer.

Yes, one combo or the other.

The Titanium HD is better at driving headphones then the XtremeGamer.

The Titanium HD comes with a very decent DAC (works for both headphones and speakers). So no need for a separate USB DAC

Gaming quality (sound) will improve with the Titanium HD over the XtremeGamer.

 

The DAC Destroyer (USB DAC) usually sells for $50 off eBay. ($90 cheaper then the Titanium HD)

 

I'm guessing good speakers with a built-in good DAC is going to cost you.

post #5 of 35
Thread Starter 

The thing is about good sound cards is that the built in DAC will usually only benefit the main output jack and not do much for any headphone jacks in the front panel of the computer connected to the sound card internally. At least, that's what I've heard. I may be confusing them with headphone amps. I just don't want to have to continuously swap out connectors in the back of my PC. Then again, Id on't want to degrade sound quality by continuously changing from one cable to jack to cable to driver, either.

 

Okay, so let's just simplify this and worry only about PC speakers. I'll consider sound cards later. Compared to my current Logitech X-540s then, what would make excellent speakers for my PC. Any specific models?


Edited by Royal Amethyst - 5/31/12 at 12:06am
post #6 of 35

for your budget I'd get a pair of Audioengine A5+, and call it a day. they should be a significant upgrade from the Logitech's. no high-end DAC necessary. smily_headphones1.gif

post #7 of 35

Are u in the UK? If so i wouldn't rule out a vintage/classic combo tongue_smile.gif If you could nab a cheap NAD 3020 stereo amp and Monitor Audio BX2s those would offer great SQ for the $$ for PC/nearfield duties! Craiglist/Gumtree are great sources for these

post #8 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Royal Amethyst View Post

The thing is about good sound cards is that the built in DAC will usually only benefit the main output jack and not do much for any headphone jacks in the front panel of the computer connected to the sound card internally. At least, that's what I've heard. I may be confusing them with headphone amps. I just don't want to have to continuously swap out connectors in the back of my PC. Then again, I don't want to degrade sound quality by continuously changing from one cable to jack to cable to driver, either.

 

Okay, so let's just simplify this and worry only about PC speakers. I'll consider sound cards later. Compared to my current Logitech X-540s then, what would make excellent speakers for my PC. Any specific models?

The DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) on the sound card would be used for any analog output on a sound card, so any headphone jack (back plate or front panel output) or RCA output would use the sound card's DAC (equally).

I'm sure just about any $100 (or more) pair of bookshelf speakers would sound better then the Logitech X-540.

Corsair SP2500 2.1 computer speaker system sells for $190.

 

The Creative Labs Titanium HD sound card could use it's fairly good DAC with the Corsair SP2500 and the HD598.

 

The Asus Xonar DX (or D1) sound card (used $55) comes with a fairly decent DAC for you to plug the SP2500 into.

But you would not plug your HD598s in to the DX or D1.

The Corsair SP2500 comes with a headphone jack.

post #9 of 35
Thread Starter 

I think I may have been confusing when I said "since I can get a similar experience from my headphones, which I will likely use to game 75% of the time anyway". I meant that 75% of the time I will use my headphones while gaming, not that 75% of the time I will be using my sound devices for gaming. While I do want my gaming to sound great, I want stuff that will sound its best for music most of all. I noticed that almost every suggestion seemed to be for sound cards or speakers with reviews saying they're for gamers first and otherwise sound muddy for other applications. Does me saying that music is my priority change any of the suggestions?

post #10 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Royal Amethyst View Post

I think I may have been confusing when I said "since I can get a similar experience from my headphones, which I will likely use to game 75% of the time anyway". I meant that 75% of the time I will use my headphones while gaming, not that 75% of the time I will be using my sound devices for gaming. While I do want my gaming to sound great, I want stuff that will sound its best for music most of all. I noticed that almost every suggestion seemed to be for sound cards or speakers with reviews saying they're for gamers first and otherwise sound muddy for other applications. Does me saying that music is my priority change any of the suggestions?

A sound card makes it easy to hook up multiable audio output devices (speakers and headphones) to one computer.

You want a good DAC, but you also want that one DAC to end up send two separate types of analog audio out, a line-out audio signal for speakers and a headphone analog output (slightly different then a line-out signal).

Something like the Fiio E10 ($80) is a USB DAC headphone amplifier that also has a line-out, but it's all 2-channel audio, no surround sound features.

I think music audio quality is heald at a higher standard then gaming audio quality.

People in general will limit their budget more for gaming audio, so the manufacturers of gaming audio know they have to keep the price low to sell lots of "gaming audio".

So gaming audio manufacturers are limited to cheaper lower quality parts.

Where as music lovers listen to the same song over and over again and want to improve their audio quality, which takes cash.

post #11 of 35
Thread Starter 

For cheaper than a Titanium HD, I could get a newer Recon 3D Pro. Is the sound quality/DAC in that one not as good? I've heard mixed reviews.

post #12 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Royal Amethyst View Post

For cheaper than a Titanium HD, I could get a newer Recon 3D Pro. Is the sound quality/DAC in that one not as good? I've heard mixed reviews.

The Recon3Ds are not as good as the Titanium HD, audio quality wise.

I believe the Recon3Ds come with an older audio processor then the Titanium HD

But the regular Recon3Ds are down to $63.

Try for a used Titanium HD on eBay.

post #13 of 35

I searched high and low for good speakers. I tried audioengine, maudio, krk rokits, and every type of logitech and creative speakers. Nothing compares to the Swan M200 speakers. Truly high level sound from these. Try to snag a pair used. 

 

The best fit for you if you're running this from a computer is a dedicated sound card. I would strongly recommend the Asus Xonar ST. It has a POWERFUL and very good sounding headphone out, and two RCA analog outs. If you ever get a dedicated external DAC, the digital out on the ST is also top notch. The headphone out i think tops most single ended solid state amps in the < $300 range. It's got enough power to juice up my hifiman HE-6 too!

post #14 of 35
Thread Starter 

Unfortunately, they don't appear to make the Swan M200's anymore. Are the Harman Kardon SoundSticks III any good?

http://www.amazon.com/Harman-Kardon-Soundsticks-III/dp/B0042F3K9W

post #15 of 35

They definitely do

 

http://www.theaudioinsider.com/product_info.php?products_id=184

 

They've recently been updated. There are the M200MKII and brand new M200MKIII

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