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My Very Low Budget Nearfield Desktop Rig (Lepai amp and Dayton Audio speakers)

post #1 of 138
Thread Starter 

 

Back in May, I read Steve Guttenberg's article on CNET about putting together an extremely low budget desktop stereo system. The system basically consists of Dayton Audio B652 bookshelf speakers and a Lepai LP-2020A+ amplifier. The article is here:

 

http://news.cnet.com/8301-13645_3-57439115-47/build-your-own-desktop-stereo-for-under-$70/

 

Well, it sounded reasonable to me, so I decided to go for it. I paid $29.98 for the speakers at Parts Express and I paid $28.00 for the amplifier at Amazon.com, but Parts Express has the speakers for $39.80 right now while the amplifier is currently $19.38 at Amazon.com. (Check both Amazon and Parts Express as prices fluctuate on these two items.)

 

Anyway, for under $60 spent, I couldn't be more pleased. Now of course, a source is needed. I've tried the system with my Sansa Clip Zip .mp3 player, and it sounds great using that as the source. I did buy one other item from Parts Express, and that was 6' 3.5mm male-to-male Dayton Audio stereo cable (part #181-713) for $11.79. It's a fantastic quality cable with gold-plated connectors and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great cable for cheap. Using that cable, I can run straight from my .mp3 player's headphone jack into the 3.5mm input on the back of the Lepai amplifier.

 

However, the way I normally use the system is with my ancient Toshiba A215 laptop running Windows Vista and foobar2000. From there, I run USB into my FiiO E17 DAC / headphone amp. I have the FiiO L7 line-out dock connector for the FiiO E17, so I run a true line-out signal from the E17 into the Lepai amplifier using the L7 line-out dock and the 3.5mm cable mentioned above. In this way, I am only using the FiiO E17 as a DAC to bypass my computer's sound card and I'm not using the headphone amplifier portion of the E17.

 

Anyway, for anyone looking at cheap computer speakers at Best Buy or something, or even considering something like the Audioengine A2 speakers, consider the Lepai amp and Dayton Audio bookshelf speakers. I really think it's a bargain that's hard to beat for the price. Feeding the system from a DAC really gives incredibly great sound for cheap. See Steve Guttenberg's comments about the sound quality in the CNET link at the top of my post.

 

Of course, I'm not counting the cost of the laptop or the FiiO E17, but I had those already for headphone listening.

 

I tilted the FiiO E17 with the L7 line-out dock upwards for the pictures...

 

post #2 of 138

Nice Rig for the money. Incredible sound for less than 100$. 

 

I always take a look to the Steven Guttemberg's section on CNET (The Audiophiliac). 

 

The smaller Lepai it's very capable of...

 

post #3 of 138

Impressive for the price, if you want to be really amazed you can do theses mods.

 

1. Change the volume control with a stepped attenuator (about 20 bucks on ebay)

 

2. Bypass the bass and treble controls so the signal doesnt go through them. 

 

3. Get a linear power supply to power it, or a battery like in the video is even better. 


Edited by Kawai_man - 9/13/12 at 5:07pm
post #4 of 138
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kawai_man View Post

Impressive for the price, if you want to be really amazed you can do theses mods.

 

1. Change the volume control with a stepped attenuator (about 20 bucks on ebay)

 

2. Bypass the bass and treble controls so the signal doesnt go through them. 

 

3. Get a linear power supply to power it, or a battery like in the video is even better. 

 

I'll have to check into the stepped attenuator and the linear power supply or the battery.

 

The Lepai amp has a "Tone/Direct" control on the front that can be used to bypass the Lepai's built-in tone controls. I've found that the Lepai's tone controls muddy up the sound and also reduce the level, so I always bypass them. I do any EQ'ing in foobar2000 before the signal even gets to the DAC.

post #5 of 138
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kawai_man View Post

Impressive for the price, if you want to be really amazed you can do theses mods.

 

1. Change the volume control with a stepped attenuator (about 20 bucks on ebay)

 

2. Bypass the bass and treble controls so the signal doesnt go through them. 

 

3. Get a linear power supply to power it, or a battery like in the video is even better. 

 

Hey, Kawai_man, can you elaborate a little more on your suggestions? I'm still new to these T-amps, but I'm blown away so far by what they can do. biggrin.gif I can't believe what I'm getting out of this rig so far for incredibly low $$$. It rocks!!!

 

Like I said earlier, I just leave the Lepai's tone control bypassed, so suggestion #2 is understood.

 

Do you have any links that explain further your suggestions #1 and #3?

 

What will the stepped attenuator do for me? Any links about that?

 

I searched the Interwebs a little, and I read some stuff on 6moons.com about powering T-amps from batteries to improve the sound. Most of the stuff I read on the WWW was about powering T-amps from batteries in order to make them portable. I'm not interested in making my little Lepai T-amp portable, but I am interested in information about better power supplies or battery power for the Lepai that will make it even better in a home desktop environment. Do you have any specific links about that?

 

Thanks!

post #6 of 138

How does the system sound at low volume? Usually at low volumes and even medium volumes you dont hear as much detail and it sounds less dynamic as when you have it up at higher volumes, this is because of the volume control thats used, it muds up the sound. A stepped attenuator is a type of volume control that you replace the existing one with and will give you better sound at low and medium volumes like at higher volumes.There some inexpensive ones at ~20 on ebay. Go to diyaudio.com and do a search for more info.


Edited by Kawai_man - 9/15/12 at 1:44am
post #7 of 138
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kawai_man View Post

How does the system sound at low volume? Usually at low volumes and even medium volumes you dont hear as much detail and it sounds less dynamic as when you have it up at higher volumes, this is because of the volume control thats used, it muds up the sound. A stepped attenuator is a type of volume control that you replace the existing one with and will give you better sound at low and medium volumes like at higher volumes.There some inexpensive ones at ~20 on ebay. Go to diyaudio.com and do a search for more info.

 

Okay. Thank you very much for the help. I'm going to have to do a little more research on that. It doesn't sound quite as good at very low volume, but that seems pretty normal for being "barely on." By the time I reach about 9 to 10 o'clock on the volume control it's as loud as I need considering I'm sitting about 3 or 4 feet from the speakers. By that time, it seems to have great dynamics and detail. If I turn it somewhere near 12 o'clock it's much louder than I should be listening unless I move farther away from the speakers.

 

The volume control seems to have enough "range" for lack of a better term. It's not like it's very quiet and then suddenly louder than I want. It's easy to make very small adjustments until the volume and detail and dynamics are exactly to my liking. About 8 o'clock is very quiet and 12 o'clock is starting to get really loud, but that gives me plenty of room to work with.

post #8 of 138

Ever since I read the cnet article, I've been considering this. But here is my question, how easy is it to hook up a sub to this and how would I go about doing that?

Also can you suggest a modestly priced sub?

post #9 of 138
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jackcell View Post

Ever since I read the cnet article, I've been considering this. But here is my question, how easy is it to hook up a sub to this and how would I go about doing that?

Also can you suggest a modestly priced sub?

Its not to hard to setup you just need some speaker wire you plug the speaker wire from the output on the amp to the high level input on your sub then connect speaker wire from the high level output on the sub to your Dayton B652 speakers.  You just need to adjust the crossover settings till it sounds right and the sub blends in with the speakers bass should sound like its coming from the main speakers I crossover at 80hz with mine with the Dayton B652  The gain settings you adjust to what sounds good to your from your listening position.  If it sounds boomy or muddy then you either set the gain or crossover to high.  If that doesn't fix or for whatever reason your unhappy with the bass response experiment with different sub positions this can drastically alter how the bass sounds in quality and quantity also changing around your listening position will affect bass response as well.  As for a sub I'd recommend getting the Dayton Sub 1200 unless space is really a concern then you can go for one of the smaller Dayton subs.

post #10 of 138
Quote:
Originally Posted by DJHeadshot View Post

Its not to hard to setup you just need some speaker wire you plug the speaker wire from the output on the amp to the high level input on your sub then connect speaker wire from the high level output on the sub to your Dayton B652 speakers.  You just need to adjust the crossover settings till it sounds right and the sub blends in with the speakers bass should sound like its coming from the main speakers I crossover at 80hz with mine with the Dayton B652  The gain settings you adjust to what sounds good to your from your listening position.  If it sounds boomy or muddy then you either set the gain or crossover to high.  If that doesn't fix or for whatever reason your unhappy with the bass response experiment with different sub positions this can drastically alter how the bass sounds in quality and quantity also changing around your listening position will affect bass response as well.  As for a sub I'd recommend getting the Dayton Sub 1200 unless space is really a concern then you can go for one of the smaller Dayton subs.

Thank you very much for clearing that up. I greatly appreciate it. I was looking for something cheaper, but I'm just going to add the sub in later on. 

post #11 of 138

Hi there guys. . i just orderd my Lepai + Dayton b652 combo, as soon as i get them i will load some pics and give some impressions.

post #12 of 138

I just got one of the Lepai amps. I already had a decent-ish set of bookshelf speakers (the infamous Insignia NS-B2111), so I just got the amp. So far, so good. The one thing about it is that it can't go very loud without distorting--with both Master and Wave set at 50% on the rather weak audio output of my netbook, a 440Hz sine wave normalized to 0dB begins distorting after 12 o'clock. And not the good kind, either. Biting, digital distortion. Theoretically there's more headroom there because music isn't a constant 0dB signal, and since I'm using it for near field listening, it isn't a problem. It's not going to fill a decently sized room, though, unless you've got really efficient speakers.

 

I think it sounds quite nice for all that, and at the volume levels I use it at it's silent when not playing music. I had to EQ a little bit for the little nook where I do my listening (basically getting rid of some ~120Hz resonance), but that's certainly not the amp's fault, and together it's a nice little system. I sticky-tacked the amp to my shelf so it doesn't move when I use the controls, and that works great to keep it from skittering around. The tone controls are useless--as mentioned above just activating them lowers the level and colors the sound, even when both of them are at the "neutral" position. It also seems to mess with the imaging, though that might just be an effect of the lowered level. Also, they put treble on the left and bass on the right. Okay, not sure why they violated over 50 years of integrated amp/receiver precedent, but whatever.

 

I haven't been doing much listening on speakers these days, now that I've got nice headphones. Also, I'm spoiled--the Insignias do have lovely imaging (they always did), but they leave quite a bit to be desired in every other respect compared to my headphones. I feel like I do when I'm not wearing my glasses whenever I listen to them--like I can see the bigger picture, but all the detail is smoothed over. I guess I'd better start saving up for a proper pair of passive monitors if I want to improve on this.

post #13 of 138

I got a question, what could I do with say an $800 budget?  I am planning on buying these tonight or tomorrow, I looked into building my own speakers, I even have the MDF wood to build the boxes which I've done for subwoofers in the past, but honestly with a $800 budget I'd like to get some studio quality speakers, and a subwoofer.  What could I do better then this?

 

http://www.amazon.com/KRK-Powered-Studio-Monitors-Stands/dp/B007IXD1S0/ref=sr_1_11?s=musical-instruments&ie=UTF8&qid=1356981894&sr=1-11

post #14 of 138
Thread Starter 

By the way, I added a Polk Audio PSW10 sub later after I took the original picture. The sub made a huge difference of course...

 

post #15 of 138
Speakers are a little close together no?
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