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Setup from scratch?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

Hi all,

I tripped accross this site about a week ago and have researched everynight since.   I had no idea it would be this confusing getting starting again.  Back in the day you could pickup a copy of stereo review buyers guide and every piece of equipment was listed in it.  I had all of the specs memorized from the magazine and loved the search.  Now search for equipment is just a pain in the you know.   I had a decent setup for the time 1985-1988 which consisted of NAD seperates, B&O turntable, Nak deck, AR 98ls speakers and a cd player(I don't recall, but it wasn't anything special).  Now I still have the NAD amp and preamp and the AR speakers(need refoaming), but they have been sitting in the basement for 20ish years. I also had a Alpine CD/Preamp and amp in my car the first month they were available(1984?).  

 

Anyway My wife and kids don't appreciated loud music like I do and time to listen wasn't there.  I don't always need it loud, but volume is nice with a clean sound.  So to make a short story long:) how do I get setup with a good sounding system with headphones so I can listen without disturbing others?  I'm not happy at all with the depth of sound through my laptop.   I am satisfied with cd sound through a decent system.   I would like to have a small setup with good sound that I can use in sitting on a chair preferably a laptop for convenience.  So, I'm not sure if I am qualified to even ask a question yet, but here goes.

1.  If I'm not qualified to ask a question, is there a guide to get started?

2.  Mac or Pc (currently use pc, but willing to convert) with headphones or neither to get decent sound or will it always sound "shallow"?  If a computer setup won't sound full tell me now                     and I won't bother with it

3  if computer based I assume I need to burn cd's apple lossless, flac or alac?

4  I also assume I need a better amp source for my computer and something in the way of an eq?

5  I think I have a pretty good grasp on the headphone search here and speakers/headphones are the most subjective of any system in my opinion.  that is the only thing that hasn't changed in the past 20 years.

6  how do I put it all together or is there an easier way.  

7  If I sound dumb and need to do some more work before asking these questions please point me in the right direction.

 

I really miss decent sound.  It seems counter intuitive to me that it would be more difficult now than it was 25 years ago.  It seems that it could be so easy and convenient to just plug headphones into a laptop and have incredible sound. Oh well.

 

Thanks for your advice and this forum

Lake

 

current equipment:

NAD 2200 amp

Nad preamp (not sure of model)

Yamaha home theater

windows laptops and desktops (16 total, most for work)

AR 98 ls speakers

klipsch SR4? earbuds

Blackberry playbook

Several basic CD player/blueray players all at least 5 years old

CD library

Itunes unsatisfying sound


Edited by lakepepin - 11/1/12 at 10:07am
post #2 of 16

There are a lot of pretty good ways to do what you want.  First (and right off the bat) , I'd take all my CDs and burn them to apple lossless using error correction.  That way they'll work with iTunes.  Now there are other front ends for music but it's hard to beat the price (free) and iTunes works with pretty much anything.  

 

Second you can get a great sound with a headphone amp/dac straight from your computer and a good pair of headphones.  Currently I'm running an audio gd fun dac/amp and Beyer DT880s but there are a ton of great choices for this.  If you want something relatively inexpensive for the dac/amp, the new Fiio e9 amp and e17 dacs are good choices at around $240 for both.  Personally I'd sink most of my money into headphones.  

 

Third, you could just get headphones that are designed to work with a computer and/or ipod and skip the amp/dac (you'll be relying on the computer's dacs).  If you go that route, the new AKG 550s are a good choice.

post #3 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by lakepepin View Post

 

1.  If I'm not qualified to ask a question, is there a guide to get started?

2.  Mac or Pc (currently use pc, but willing to convert) with headphones or neither to get decent sound or will it always sound "shallow"?  If a computer setup won't sound full tell me now                     and I won't bother with it

3  if computer based I assume I need to burn cd's apple lossless, flac or alac?

4  I also assume I need a better amp source for my computer and something in the way of an eq?

5  I think I have a pretty good grasp on the headphone search here and speakers/headphones are the most subjective of any system in my opinion.  that is the only thing that hasn't changed in the past 20 years.

6  how do I put it all together or is there an easier way.  

7  If I sound dumb and need to do some more work before asking these questions please point me in the right direction.

 

My 2c on a couple:

2. Macs have better DACs right out of the box. If you're getting a laptop, you would need to get an external one to reach the same level as a mac. If you're getting/have a box computer, you can easily just get a new soundcard.

 

However I'd hate to reccomend a Mac to anyone as they mark everything up a ludicrous amount, you would save money buying a laptop and an external DAC.  Since you already have a PC, all you need is a DAC. And an amp if that DAC has a very small output power, but they make DAC/amp combos.

 

3. Most people can't tell 320 from lossless in a true blind/ABX test. I still rip my CDs to it anyways though since I have space.

 

4. Depends on the headphones.

 

6. And this of course depends on the setup. Shouldn't be hard at all though.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by alexsj View Post

Now there are other front ends for music but it's hard to beat the price (free) and iTunes works with pretty much anything.

 

Yeah, pretty much everything. Except for FLAC, the most widely used lossless format.


Edited by chewy4 - 11/1/12 at 10:32am
post #4 of 16
Thread Starter 

To burn my cd's to apple lossless or flac do I use my computer dvd player or do I need a better dedicated player?

post #5 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by lakepepin View Post

To burn my cd's to apple lossless or flac do I use my computer dvd player or do I need a better dedicated player?

Computer's DVD player will be fine, it's just digital data. Just use a program that has error checking and accuraterip like EAC or dbpoweramp to assure everything goes well.

post #6 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexsj View Post

There are a lot of pretty good ways to do what you want.  First (and right off the bat) , I'd take all my CDs and burn them to apple lossless using error correction.  That way they'll work with iTunes.  Now there are other front ends for music but it's hard to beat the price (free) and iTunes works with pretty much anything.  

 

Second you can get a great sound with a headphone amp/dac straight from your computer and a good pair of headphones.  Currently I'm running an audio gd fun dac/amp and Beyer DT880s but there are a ton of great choices for this.  If you want something relatively inexpensive for the dac/amp, the new Fiio e9 amp and e17 dacs are good choices at around $240 for both.  Personally I'd sink most of my money into headphones.  

 

Third, you could just get headphones that are designed to work with a computer and/or ipod and skip the amp/dac (you'll be relying on the computer's dacs).  If you go that route, the new AKG 550s are a good choice.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by alexsj View Post

There are a lot of pretty good ways to do what you want.  First (and right off the bat) , I'd take all my CDs and burn them to apple lossless using error correction.  That way they'll work with iTunes.  Now there are other front ends for music but it's hard to beat the price (free) and iTunes works with pretty much anything.  

 

Second you can get a great sound with a headphone amp/dac straight from your computer and a good pair of headphones.  Currently I'm running an audio gd fun dac/amp and Beyer DT880s but there are a ton of great choices for this.  If you want something relatively inexpensive for the dac/amp, the new Fiio e9 amp and e17 dacs are good choices at around $240 for both.  Personally I'd sink most of my money into headphones.  

 

Third, you could just get headphones that are designed to work with a computer and/or ipod and skip the amp/dac (you'll be relying on the computer's dacs).  If you go that route, the new AKG 550s are a good choice.

So to your third point, If I rely on the computer DACs will it sound lifeless?  I'll spend a little money if I have to. and my current daily user laptop is a couple years old and I am always willing to upgrade a laptop.  I have three kids to give leftovers to.


Edited by lakepepin - 11/1/12 at 10:53am
post #7 of 16
Thread Starter 

Is Flac better than alac?  or does it just depend on if I'm an apple guy or not?  Is WAV something to considered?


Edited by lakepepin - 11/1/12 at 10:58am
post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 

Summary?

So a pc laptop with a good external DAC or a Mac

an external amp

cd's burned to lossless format

and a good pair of headphones

 

Do I have this straight?

 

If I do thanks for your help guys and gals.  I hate not knowing how to do something.  the beauty of the internet is you can find anything you need to know, the downside is there is a plethera of info to sort through


Edited by lakepepin - 11/1/12 at 11:04am
post #9 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by lakepepin View Post

Is Flac better than alac?  or does it just depend on if I'm an apple guy or not?

 

ALAC will work on iPods and iTunes while FLAC wont, but I find that FLAC has better support in other portable media players since ALAC was just made open source last year I believe.

 

Other than that they have an identical output.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by lakepepin View Post

Summary?

So a pc laptop with a good external DAC or a Mac

an external amp

cd's burned to lossless format

and a good pair of headphones

 

Do I have this straight?

Yep.

post #10 of 16
Thread Starter 

Thanks to all,

I really do appreciate your time and wish you all the best.

Lake

post #11 of 16
I can't see why you need to burn to CD at all, unless you're planning on using the discs in the car. Even then, there are better options on modern head units such as USB.
post #12 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zorrofox View Post

I can't see why you need to burn to CD at all, unless you're planning on using the discs in the car. Even then, there are better options on modern head units such as USB.

Given the context, I'm pretty sure he meant rip.

post #13 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by chewy4 View Post

Given the context, I'm pretty sure he meant rip.

You're probably right but its an important distinction.
post #14 of 16
Thread Starter 

Yes rip.  Sorry

post #15 of 16
Thread Starter 

 is there significant between desktop dac/amp or will a portable combo dac/amp work.  I would assume a portable would give me the added bonus of using with my ipod/ipad/playbook which I do have also

 

budget $800-$1500?

I figured about $300-500 for headphones

amp?

dac?

 

I'm due for a new laptop so that is in addition to the budget.  Is a mac dac as effective as a pc with a $150 dac?  $250 dac?

 

also do the dac's come with software or are they plug and play?  

Is there an EQ on my computer screen with an external?


Edited by lakepepin - 11/1/12 at 11:26am
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