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Help with a new setup for $1500

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

I'll be moving to US next week to start my PhD program and I'll be building a new system from the ground up. I managed to save around $700-800 and I'm looking for budget components. I will only be bringing my laptop (an early 2011 macbook pro 13'') with, so I thought I would only be needing a DAC, a decent pair of powered speakers first and beginner-level headphones (probably Gradio SRI 80). But looking at the posts I think that maybe I should buy an amp and passive speakers. I was thinking of going with Audioengine A5+ and DS1 but I think I'll be buying a turntable and a gaming console in the coming months, so maybe going with Maverick Audio TubeMagic D2 DAC and A1 Hybrid Amp is a better choice, so passive speakers?  Would I be a needing a subwoofer as well? I'm new to all this so my only criteria is good customer service (a long warranty period would be a plus as well), other than that I'm open to any recommendations. Every recommendation is hugely appreciated! Thanks in advance.


Edited by ablckn - 8/20/12 at 4:33am
post #2 of 12

A few questions for you ...

 

1. Where will you be living?

 

This is mainly going to determine whether a subwoofer would be worth it for you.  If you're staying in a place where the sub won't bother people, then I'd definitely recommend getting one. A good subwoofer can easily cost half of your budget though so it can limit your choices or you'll have to sacrifice quality at some point in your system.

 

A subwoofer really makes gaming/movies/music a much more immersive experience but some people are fine without one if music is your main listening option.

 

2. Are you set on purchasing brand new?  Buying used really opens up so many more options and maximizes your budget.

------------------

 

My recommendation is coming from only products I've used and have experience with and for the criteria you listed ....

 

Audioengine A2 ($200)

Audioengine S8 ($350)

Audioengine D1 ($170)

 

I use the A5 speakers currently and spent some time with the D1.  I haven't personally heard the S8 subwoofer but the quality of the other components gives me a good assurance that it's a worthy product.

 

That's $720 in new components which will leave you the $80 remaining to grab the Grado SR80 headphones and meet the upper level of your budget.

 

The D1 will accept your laptop and the optical in will take care of your gaming console but the trick will be in which turntable you're using.  If you actually do get the turntable then this might be problematic because of the inputs needed and how you'll power the DAC.

 

If you contact Audioengine and order directly, see if they'll cut you some kind of price break or add in some accessories for giving them business.  They might throw in a pair of the speaker stands if you ask. I've had good experience with their customer service.

 

That's just one recommendation but once I hear how your living arrangement is I can try to give you other options.

post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thank you so much for your response, I'll be sharing an apartment so maybe I should decide until after I lived there a couple of weeks. 

 

My gripe with going with an Audioengine set is that as I've said, I'll definitely buy a turntable in the near future so I'll be needing an amp. I'm not sure if I need to connect it to the DAC though, isn't it already analogue?

 

So I'm thinking I should get a Audioengine N22 amp and passive P4 speakers instead of A5+, for when I get the turntable?

 

Also, yesterday while looking at some posts, I realized that Schiit (mjolnir and valhall or granted) fits the bill perfectly. Granted it forces me to go over budget and I'm not sure if they play nice with speakers.

post #4 of 12

Quote:

Originally Posted by ablckn View Post

Thank you so much for your response, I'll be sharing an apartment so maybe I should decide until after I lived there a couple of weeks. 

 

My gripe with going with an Audioengine set is that as I've said, I'll definitely buy a turntable in the near future so I'll be needing an amp. I'm not sure if I need to connect it to the DAC though, isn't it already analogue?

 

So I'm thinking I should get a Audioengine N22 amp and passive P4 speakers instead of A5+, for when I get the turntable?

 

Also, yesterday while looking at some posts, I realized that Schiit (mjolnir and valhall or granted) fits the bill perfectly. Granted it forces me to go over budget and I'm not sure if they play nice with speakers.

 

The Schiit amps are dedicated headphones amps so they wouldn't work for your situation.

 

Knowing that you'll be sharing an apartment, I'd skip the subwoofer and just focus on getting a 5"-8" monitor as they'll be able to supply adequate (relatively) amounts of bass .  And you won't piss off your roommate/neighbors nearly as much.

 

Honestly I don't use turntables so I'm not too sure about their connection methods. Someone else will be better to help answer those questions. Do you have an idea of which turntable you'll be getting so we can take a look at what connections it has and see if we can make recommendations?

 

The thing I don't like about the N22/P4 combo is that the woofer is smaller (4") compared to the (5") on the A5+ and the N22 puts out less wattage vs the built-in amp on the A5.

 

The P4 speakers do have the benefit of being front ported so if you're forced to put the speakers back against a wall they have that advantage but the smaller woofer/lower wattage and the increased price ($450 total vs $400 for the A5+) doesn't seem to make sense to me.

post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thanks a million again for your response. You're right about the Schiit amps, only the higher end ($450) Lyrr model seems to have RCA outputs, but would it be OK if I connected A5+ (or I have just discovered Emotive Pro airmotiv5) to the DAC?

 

The turntables which I have been eyeballing are Pro-ject Carbon Debut and Rega RP1. So maybe I should just skip a dedicated headphone amp go with a Marantz PM6004, which has "an all-discrete moving magnet phono stage for your turntable too." 

 

Well, this is getting more difficult every day.

post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 

Ok, digging through loads of material these past days and a brief exchange with Jason Stoddard of Schiit fame (who told me to spend my money on good headphones first), I've decided to go with AKG Q 701 as my headphone of choice (this is simply because they offer the most bang for the buck, Amazon sells them for $250); and also raised my budget to $1500 (without the turntable and with a little wiggle room).

 

As I've said, I will definitely get a turntable in the near future which in turn necessitates an integrated amp purchase (if I'm not wrong). Marantz PM6004 seems to be great budget choice, so I'll probably get that. 

 

I would like to have the freedom to choose listen to speakers as well (I couldn't decide which at the moment but it should be passive ones, right?) and this is where I'm stuck. I don't want to switch cables etc. whenever I am in the mood for listening with headphones or speakers. So I may go Schiit's Bifrost and with the Marantz PM6004, but I am not sure how good the headphone out on Marantz is. Can I use Schiit's Lyr amp as a good pre-amp for Marantz and the speakers, would that even work? Then again, I don't know if Lyr and Q701 are a good match.

 

As you can see, I'm stuck. Any suggestion will be very much appreciated.


Edited by ablckn - 8/20/12 at 7:19am
post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 

Budget increased, please help!

post #8 of 12

You don't necessarily need to buy an integrated amp to run your turntable along with all your other gear.  You can buy something like this which is a standalone phono preamp, as long as your amplifier of choice has a line level input.  Buying that Marantz receiver will probably make your connections easier though as it already has all that you need but you shouldn't feel like you HAVE to get that for everything to work, it's just easier if you do.

 

The AKG Q701 is indeed a nice headphone but going from your original pick of the Grados, you'll need a much higher quality amplifier to get the best sound.  If you read reviews of the AKG you'll see they can sound underwhelming when not driven correctly.  The issue there is that the Marantz integrated probably didn't focus much on the headphone output when they designed it.  I'm not saying it won't sound good but if you want them to sound their best, get something that is proven to work well with it.

 

So going from your budget of $1,500 how about something like ...

 

ADAM A5x speakers ($500)

Maverick Audio D2 ($250) - This thing has 4 separate inputs so that's why I chose it.  You'll need to read more reviews on its actual performance.

Matrix M-Stage ($300)

AKG Q701 ($250)

 

Then spend the remaining $200 on things like good quality cables and accessories (speaker stands, isolation pads etc.)

 

EDIT : My mistake, the ADAM speakers do not sell as a pair, that is $500 for each 5" speaker.  Let me rethink this one a bit, LOL.


Edited by mtkversion - 8/20/12 at 12:54pm
post #9 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by ablckn View Post

I've decided to go with AKG Q 701 as my headphone of choice (this is simply because they offer the most bang for the buck, Amazon sells them for $250); and also raised my budget to $1500 (without the turntable and with a little wiggle room).

 

 

I've only been here since 2009, but I have lost count of the number of people who have fallen into that hole with the big AKG cans. $250 for the cans and $2500 on a series of amps trying to find the 'right' one .......  eek.gif

 

Not just working from hearsay, either - my first serious purchase was the 601, cans which are reportedly even harder to drive properly than the 70* series. Voltage is easy for minimal bucks - current less so. Happy to hear otherwise.  

post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thank you mtkversion and estreeter, I think I'm gonna go with Q701s with Schiit's Bifrost and Asgard combo. I guess Sennheiser's HD650 are a better match (and I want to get a Beyer having read that they are very clinical) but I remember reading that AKGs also being a quite good match for Schiit's stuff, maybe I'm wrong. The thing is I need a headphone with a great soundstage I will be listening to music, podcasts and watching films etc. What would you recommended?

 

Mtkversion, my wish is to have a setup that gives me the flexibility to choose between headphones and speakers whenever I want (the reason behind this is that I stay up late and don't want to wake up my neighbours). So I thought maybe I'll add a RCA splitter at the back of Schiit Bifrost DAC and all my problems would be easily solved, I hope that would not cause a degradation in sound quality or I will be switching cables every night. At the moment I'm reading lost of reviews of integrated amps (but I'm mainly thinking of Music Hall a15.2 and Marantz PM6004). For speakers Monitor Audio Bronze series seems nice (with many awards) but I'm combing through reviews, hoping to find a budget gem. My budget is strained as it is so I'll be waiting for a few months for sure for a turntable. As a graduate student with a fixed salary for the next 5 years, I don't think I'll be able to purchase high-end gear any time soon, so a nice, simple system is what I'm after (and Schiit's 5-year warranty compliments my current predicament).

 

Thanks again for your replies,

 
post #11 of 12

By the sound of things you really won't go wrong with the components you listed.

 

I doubt the RCA splitter affects the sound that much, if at all.  They should be fairly cheap to hook up and try out.

 

As for the headphones, it's really up to you to try them out and see if their sound signatures are for you.  Take a look in the Head-Fi Meets forum and see if there anything local to you where you can go and try them out. Or look for hi-fi shops in your area that might carry the products.

 

Good luck and keep us updated on how things go for you.

post #12 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by ablckn View Post

Thank you mtkversion and estreeter, I think I'm gonna go with Q701s with Schiit's Bifrost and Asgard combo. I guess Sennheiser's HD650 are a better match (and I want to get a Beyer having read that they are very clinical) but I remember reading that AKGs also being a quite good match for Schiit's stuff, maybe I'm wrong. The thing is I need a headphone with a great soundstage I will be listening to music, podcasts and watching films etc. What would you recommended?

 

Mtkversion, my wish is to have a setup that gives me the flexibility to choose between headphones and speakers whenever I want (the reason behind this is that I stay up late and don't want to wake up my neighbours). So I thought maybe I'll add a RCA splitter at the back of Schiit Bifrost DAC and all my problems would be easily solved, I hope that would not cause a degradation in sound quality or I will be switching cables every night. At the moment I'm reading lost of reviews of integrated amps (but I'm mainly thinking of Music Hall a15.2 and Marantz PM6004). For speakers Monitor Audio Bronze series seems nice (with many awards) but I'm combing through reviews, hoping to find a budget gem. My budget is strained as it is so I'll be waiting for a few months for sure for a turntable. As a graduate student with a fixed salary for the next 5 years, I don't think I'll be able to purchase high-end gear any time soon, so a nice, simple system is what I'm after (and Schiit's 5-year warranty compliments my current predicament).

 

Thanks again for your replies,

 


I was curious how all this ended up?  Great thread BTW!

 

I was looking at the Music Hall a15.2 as I am looking to build a similar setup as you were seeking.

 

Also read some great reviews on the PM6004 but was curious where you landed? 

 

Thx

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