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Small speakers + DAC/amp for Macbook Air (mid 2012) workdesk setup

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

Hello Head-Fiers.

 

This is my first post here and I just want to say how the people here are so informative and helpful! It's an awesome place for researching about all things audio.

 

I want to start investing into a good audio setup for listening to music in my bedroom with my Macbook Air (mid 2012) as the main source (and maybe occasionally connect my iPod touch 4G or video 5.5G to the speakers via a LOD).

 

So basically at the moment I have no speakers, DAC or amp. All I have are 320 kbps MP3s and some FLACs and a total budget of roughly $350-400 usd (£230-260 pounds). Budget is slightly flexible, especially if there's something worth getting due to superior SQ. Also, I would rather spend more on the speakers and get a cheaper dac/amp for the time being because I could upgrade these easier than the speakers. Or does anyone have any better suggestions as to how I should spend my budget? I want to get it right the first time around... :)

 

I listen to a wide range of genres, most commonly electronic, downtempo, dance, indie/alternative, chill, modern rock, pop, R&B, soul, jazz and blues, with the exception of metal, rap, hip-hop and hard rock.

 

Here are some of my criteria for my new speakers:

 

  • I want enough bass but not room shaking bass
  • A small footprint due to limited desk space (maximum 6.5" or tops 7" deep) <-- Important criterion
  • I don't have enough desk space to have # inches behind the speakers to get a good sound. I think that means having a "front ported" speaker?
  • I don't mind passive or active speakers. I'm looking for the best SQ within this budget range
  • I don't need to play music loudly. I want to be able to hear detail in lower to medium volumes if possible.
  • If possible I want to have a DAC/amp combo instead of two separate boxes. But I'm very open to any suggestions, again best SQ is my main concern
  • I want my DAC/amp combo or standalone DAC to be able to run my ear/headphones if I wanted to listen to my music without speakers (I mainly use IEMs, Shure SE215 and E4g, the Koss PortaPro and probably a Sennheiser Momentum / Sennheiser HD 25-1 II / ATH M50 in the future.)

 

What's on my list after researching:

(Please do recommend anything not on this list! :D)

 

Speakers

  • Audioengine A2 (active)
  • Microlabs SOLO6c (active)
  • Audioengine P4 (passive)
  • Q Acoustics 2020i (passive)

 

Amplifier (for passives)

  • Lepai LP-2020A+
  • Dragonfly DAC (out of budget at the moment but with a separate budget of around $300usd is this the best dac/amp combo around?

 

DAC

  • Fiio e10

 

I'm residing in Ireland at the moment and I find that many brands that I find recommended on the forums here are not always available, e.g. Swan M10s or the Dayton B652s.

 

Thanks so much in advance for whatever input you have to my question. I can't wait to get my desktop rig up and running!

 

Cheers


Edited by vermilions - 3/24/13 at 10:51am
post #2 of 15
I started at the same point this past Oct 2012. I went from considering audio engines first, then Swan mk111 to T200 and finally decided Adam would be my choose. I saved a little more and bought what I consider a great setup for my MacBook Pro. I am now the proud newbie digital audiophile owner of the following setup: MacBook Pro/ Amarra player/ Grant Fidelity Tubedac11/ Adam A7x + Sub8.

I could not be happier with the sound, now it's all about getting great source material hi-res 24/96 sound better than any traditional hifi setup I've ever owned and I've had several 10k plus systems.

Enjoy the journey it can be expensive but much cheaper than going the traditional route (amps,preamp,cd players,turntables,tower speaker). I can't believe the sound I hear when I look at my source of a laptop and dac only sitting on my desk. As an old guy that grew up in a Macintosh sound household I think my standards are pretty high so enjoy.

Regarding your recommendation I would look at the Adam A3x you could find some b-stock on the net close to your budget. They will blow away the audio engines for sure. They are true studio monitors so source material matters but when it is achieved its magical.
post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 

Thanks @SwanSong for your reply! The Adam A3x are too large to fit my desk and perhaps a bit too high-end for me? I don't have much high-res files for these kinds of professional studio monitors. Thanks for your input though.
 

post #4 of 15

I have been in a similar boat. I would not recommend the Dragonfly because it only has a headphone out—meaning you couldn't have your speakers and headphones connected at the same time. For a dac/amp combo, I think the HRT Microstreamer ($190) or the Audioengine D1 ($170) would work well as they have both headphone and line-out jacks. I choose the Meridian Explorer ($300) but that would eat too much of your budget away (and IEM users may not like their 5Ω output impedance).

 

Since I already have passive Klipsch RB1 bookshelf speakers, I got the Lepai 2020A+ mini amp to drive them. Seems to work well enough, but I don't care for the pop I get when turning it off. Still, $20, not bad. Dayton Audio makes some amp that are a little more expensive that might be more tamed.

 

For powered speakers consider the M-Audio BX5 D2 ($230) or save $100 with the M-Audio AV40 (some think these sound more natural than the A2s, can't speak from experience). I always say the best value can be found in used/open-box gear. Check for some used A5 or Yamaha powered monitors as well.

post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 

Thanks @teofilrocks. Yeah I realised that the price for the DF is mainly for it's portability. I will definitely consider the D1 and HRT Microstreamer.  When you say the pop for turning it off, is that just specifically for the Lepai 2020A+? Or for all passive speakers? And the BX5s and AV40s were on my list too, but they're just too big. Having a small footprint is a very important criterion for me. And thanks for the tip about used/open boxed gear. Thanks!

post #6 of 15

The pop is for the Lepai. I have one and it does the same thing. Is it a problem? No. It is annoying but wont harm speakers.

post #7 of 15
Thread Starter 

I see. Okay that's alright then. I don't mind a pop. :) Thanks
 

post #8 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by vermilions View Post

And the BX5s and AV40s were on my list too, but they're just too big. Having a small footprint is a very important criterion for me.

 

That's gonna be the tough part—high quality sound, in a small space, with a small budget. This won't be a popular idea probably, but you could also just start out with the Creative Gigaworks T40 Series II ($140). Small footprint and some same they sound good for the money.

post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 

What if only good quality sound + small space? Is there something out there that fits these two criteria? I don't mind being a bit over-budget if I could get good SQ and small footprint. Thanks will check out the T40.

post #10 of 15
I second that, the klipsch 2.1 pro which I enjoyed can be had under $200 and it has a headphone out that should power any phones
post #11 of 15
Thread Starter 

@swansong, thanks for the recommendation. I would prefer a 2.0 setup instead for now. Cheers!

post #12 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by vermilions View Post

@swansong, thanks for the recommendation. I would prefer a 2.0 setup instead for now. Cheers!

How about the B&W MM-1? You've got a decent and small pair of speakers with a built-in DAC/amp. Might be a bit out of your price range though and not on your initial list, but it fits most of your needs.

post #13 of 15
Thread Starter 

yeah it was on my very first list... but the price! It is just a bit too much... :( It looks amazing though. If only there's a thing as unlimited budget haha
 

post #14 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by vermilions View Post

What if only good quality sound + small space? Is there something out there that fits these two criteria? I don't mind being a bit over-budget if I could get good SQ and small footprint. Thanks will check out the T40.

 

Have you looked at Swan speakers? I've heard them mentioned before positively, and they look quite nice, especially for powered speakers. They have a number of 2.0 speaker options of various sizes.

post #15 of 15

If i were in your shoes i would place SQ far above small footprint because end of the day great SQ/$$ would see you enjoy your music darthsmile.gif Since u in the UK i'd have a looksy at places like Gumtree UK and you could get solid stuff like Wharedale Diamond 9.1s or even MA BX2s if you can find em on the cheap used ^^

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