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Speaker suggestions please (<$400).

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

Looking for suggestions for audiophile quality speakers (if possible for this price range!)

 

Budget: $400

Usage: 100% for music.  High quality FLAC rips of my CD's.  All types of music (Indie Rock/Pop to Jazz)

Desired setup: 2.0

 

I'm considering two options:

 

1) The all-in-one solution with the Audioengine A5's, or the Aktimate Micro's.  

2) Getting an amp, then getting a set of passive speakers.  But would I need to upgrade my sound card in this instance too?

 

I'm leaning towards a set of active speakers (more specifically, the Aktimate's) since they seem to represent the best value (with the built in DAC), but am looking for all opinions.  Right now, I have a 2.1 Logitech setup which I bought off Amazon for around $30 perhaps 8 years ago, so I'm looking for a significant step up.

 

Thanks in advance.

post #2 of 12
For active speakers, also look at the Emotiva Airmotiv 5.

For passive speakers, look into the Ascend Acoustics CBM-170 SE. Ascend Acoustics is an Internet direct company that makes great speakers. Then pick up a used receiver off your local Craigslist to power them. If your computer graphics card has HDMI, you can typically use that to send digital audio to an AVR.
post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thanks.

 

I'm running an nVidia 9800GT card from 6 years ago and don't plan on upgrading, so I guess HDMI is out of the equation. 

 

It seems a DAC/AMP/Speakers is going to exceed my budget unless I do some significant bargain hunting, so an all-in-one seems to be the best option.  Leaning towards the Aktimate's - however, does anyone have any other suggestions?

post #4 of 12

I can second the recommendation for Emotiva's Airmotiv 5s. Great pair of powered monitors on sale on emotivapro.com now for $399 I believe. The Airmotiv 4s are 50 dollars less. You'll need to pair them with a preamp/dac combo for best results, but temporarily, all you would need to play them from your computer is a stereo mini to RCA cable. They sound fantastic. 

post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 

I know the Atimate has a built in DAC (16 bit), and one of the reasons why I was attracted to the set of speakers was because of this.  Will the fact I have to connect the Airmotiv's via my mini plug plug detract from sound quality?

post #6 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by nl2134 View Post

I know the Atimate has a built in DAC (16 bit), and one of the reasons why I was attracted to the set of speakers was because of this.  Will the fact I have to connect the Airmotiv's via my mini plug plug detract from sound quality?

Depends on the DAC in your computer.
post #7 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by nl2134 View Post

I know the Atimate has a built in DAC (16 bit), and one of the reasons why I was attracted to the set of speakers was because of this.  Will the fact I have to connect the Airmotiv's via my mini plug plug detract from sound quality?

 

Short answer: probably yes (depending on your computer's DAC, as noted above). BUT, if you plan to get even a relatively inexpensive DAC in the future, the short-term difference in sound quality, IMO, is not enough to justify choosing the Aktimate over the Airmotiv.

 

Consider this:

 

*Online I see the Aktimate selling for between $500 and $750, while the Airmotiv 5 sells for $400.

* The Airmotiv has a 5in. woofer and AMT tweeter (there are numerous articles online discussing the benefits of this tweeter design), with 100w total power in each monitor. The Aktimate has a 4in. woofer, standard dome tweeter and 40w total power. 

*The Airmotiv comes with a 5 year transferable warranty

 

My suggestion would be to save some cash by getting the Airmotiv now, then buy an external DAC/preamp down the road (which will probably be superior to the Aktimate's built-in DAC anyway). I did much the same thing, buying the Airmotiv 5s a few months ago, and just ordered the Emotiva XDA-2. 

 

Finally, the slightly lesser sound quality of your computer's analog out can be mitigated somewhat by using a third-party music player such as Amarra, Audirvana or Bit-Perfect. I use Bit-Perfect, which is only a $10 investment last time I checked, and makes a noticeable difference in sound quality.

post #8 of 12
Maybe Airmotiv 4 ($349) and a Fiio E10 ($55)? Comes out $4 over budget, but seems like a nice compromise between the Airmotiv 5 everyone is suggesting and the Aktimate OP is interested in because they include a built in DAC.

http://shop.emotivapro.com/airmotiv_4_p/airmotiv4.htm

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=&sku=834095&Q=&is=REG&A=details
Edited by cnhardwick - 1/13/13 at 4:47pm
post #9 of 12

If you do decide to go the powered speaker/ separate DAC & preamp route, you might want to take a look at some of the offerings from a Chinese company called "Topping." You can find their products at http://www.tpdz.net/en/index.htm

post #10 of 12

I spent about $485 on my 2.0 setup.

 

$150 ObjectiveDAC, $200 (+tax) Audioengine N22 desktop amp, and $110 on a pair of PSB Alpha from the mid 90's.

 

I also added a HSU Research STF-2 subwoofer and altogether I think it sounds amazing.

 

My recommendation would be to look at the used market for bookshelf speakers and get an AMP + DAC to match... I think you will get the best sound this way. Then add a sub later when you have the money (unless you don't want to, but I would highly recommend it).

post #11 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zwyguy View Post

I spent about $485 on my 2.0 setup.

$150 ObjectiveDAC, $200 (+tax) Audioengine N22 desktop amp, and $110 on a pair of PSB Alpha from the mid 90's.

I also added a HSU Research STF-2 subwoofer and altogether I think it sounds amazing.

My recommendation would be to look at the used market for bookshelf speakers and get an AMP + DAC to match... I think you will get the best sound this way. Then add a sub later when you have the money (unless you don't want to, but I would highly recommend it).

I agree. That's how I started with an old pair of speakers and an old receiver. Now I'm running Energy Veritas 5.1s, HK 3390, Mirage Prestige S10 sub, and Xonar Essence STX.

If you don't have to have the small footprint of a desktop amp, the cost effective way to go is an AVR and use the optical out from the computer to the DAC in the receiver. Receiver DACs are going to be better than onboard computer audio DAC, and an AVR will have as much or more power as the desktop amps when running 2 channel. Plus, they have active bass management (something I miss with my current setup). Something like the Denon AVR-1312 or Onkyo TX-SR909.
post #12 of 12

I recommend the Emotiva Airmotiv 5 or Audioengine A5+ if you can find one refurbished/used. (A5 i do not)

 

Tim

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