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Decent DAC+Amp for headphones + 2 passive bookshelf speakers, <500$?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

Hey guys,

 

I'm looking to finally fix my desktop audio situation. I don't have too much money to burn, so "bang for the buck" is necessary.

So far I had been considering to try out this setup:

 

laptop --> meridian explorer--> Ultrasone ED8s (30 Ohm) (headphone setup)

laptop --> meridian explorer--> some cheap amp --> Cambridge Audio S30

 

However, the portability of the Explorer means little to me (as I doubt it works with the HTC One phone), so I could combine the amp for the speakers and the DAC and get something even better in full size.

 

So here's where I need your help: Can you recommend a DAC+Amp combo that could provide just as good (if not better) sound than the Meridian Explorer, but also being able to power the (recommended 100W max amplifier) S30 bookshelf speakers?

 

I will be looking forward to hearing your opinions, gents.


Edited by DoomForce - 5/10/13 at 3:02am
post #2 of 11

Not sure about the actual sound, but a comparable chip (note : not necessary the whole circuit is in the AudioGD NFB15.32, which based on reviews is a great value DAC+HPamp. Pair it with the Dayton Audio DTA-100a Class D speaker amp and you're good to go.

BTW, do you already have the Cambridge S30? If not you might want to consider active, non-professional monitors. Difference aside from not being mercilessly transparent is they have one slave and one master speaker, so you only run one power cable, have your DAC connected to just the master speaker, and from there some speaker cables to the slave. Some come bundled with a proprietary cable - my Swan D1080MkII 08's had this really solid cable with screw-on 4-conductor plugs - instead of regular binding posts.

post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 

Thank you very much for the reply :)
 

No, I don't have the S30s yet, I was thinking of either those and an amp, or a simple Klipsch 2.1 setup in the same price range (but without the need for an amp). I will take any recommendations very seriously, regarding either the speakers (active or passive), DAC and amp.

post #4 of 11
Thread Starter 

To rephrase the question:

 

I'm building a desktop system in the 200~300 buck range, assuming a good DAC already (or adding +200$ for the DAC to be incorporated in the amp).
I'm thinking between Klipsch 2.1 as an active, no-bull setup, or between a cheap amp and quality bookshelf speakers such as the Cambridge Audio S30s.

 

What do you recommend from your experience?

post #5 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by DoomForce View Post

To rephrase the question:

 

I'm building a desktop system in the 200~300 buck range, assuming a good DAC already (or adding +200$ for the DAC to be incorporated in the amp).
I'm thinking between Klipsch 2.1 as an active, no-bull setup, or between a cheap amp and quality bookshelf speakers such as the Cambridge Audio S30s.

 

What do you recommend from your experience?

 

It's been a long time since I listened to the Klipsch Promedia 2.1's, so my memory might be a bit sketchy, however I've listened to the Swan M50W much more recently and I'd say I liked the overall smoothness on that one a little bit better (Klipsch from what I remember were a touch less forgiving of a laptop's headphone output). However I still ended up getting the Swan D1080MkII 08, since I preferred larger midwoofers over smaller ones with a sub, since positioning the sub too far from the satellites can affect integration through time alignment issues (ie notes from the sub and the satellites don't hit your ears at the same time, and may exacerbate/be exacerbated by reflections wherever your sub is). They might not have the loud, low bass for Lil John to knock the windows out of my room, but I could be in a room not adjacent to mine (like the shower) and I can still hear the beats from any of the Euro party music I have (the ones with the bikini artworks on the CD covers). Heck I move them downstairs when I have guests over and the bass hits have substantial impact, but of course anyone popping ecstacy (none of us) will prefer the club's speakers because there they can really feel the bass over there.

 

If you're willing to go for an integrated amp and the S30s though I suggest looking at non-professional (ie, don't look at the ones strictly for the studio) active monitors with at least a 5" midwoofer if they can fit on your desk. Each speaker will be bigger, but you can eliminate the separate amp from your desk, and just use a decent DAC with a decent headphone amplifier built in. That's just three components on your desk, and you can position the DAC-HPamp closer to the Master speaker (the one with the amps in it) to keep cable runs short and clean, then rest your headphones near the Slave speaker (the passive one) when not in use, using a rack to hang it or just resting on a non-slip pad.

post #6 of 11
Thread Starter 

Here's a new setup to consider: (prices in USD and UK pounds)

 

DAC: Meridian Explorer, 250£ (300$)    http://www.ttvjaudio.com/A_Real_Meridian_DAC_p/mer0000001.htm

AMP: Lepai TA2020, 27£ (25$)   http://www.amazon.co.uk/TA2020-Tripath-Class-T-Amplifier-Supply/dp/B007VMA6OU/ref=sr_1_2?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1368268504&sr=1-2&keywords=Lepai+LP-2020A

Speakers: DALI Zensor 1, 200£ (300$)   http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dali-Zensor-Speakers-Pair-Black/dp/B0057X5KF0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1368269892&sr=8-1&keywords=dali+zensor+1

Headphones: Ultrasone ED8 (30 Ohm) (already acquired)

 

Now, the 24 bit capability of the ME isn't really that needed to me. If I could get a DAC/AMP that is both good for headphones and bookshelf speakers in the price range of ~400$ (300£), I would be a happy man.

 

Please feel free to recommend a better speaker amp also, this one looks maybe too cheap :)


Either that, or a pair of active bookshelf speakers in the range of 350$ (250£).

 

Thank you SO much for any advice.

post #7 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by DoomForce View Post


Now, the 24 bit capability of the ME isn't really that needed to me. If I could get a DAC/AMP that is both good for headphones and bookshelf speakers in the price range of ~400$ (300£), I would be a happy man.

Please feel free to recommend a better speaker amp also, this one looks maybe too cheap smily_headphones1.gif


Either that, or a pair of active bookshelf speakers in the range of 350$ (250£).

Thank you SO much for any advice.

Like I posted, look up what AudioGD has to offer. $250 to $400 can get you a decent DAC with a decent headphone amp in the same box, and it has a fixed line out from the DAC or also a preamp output that goes through the potentiometer.

As for speakers, you can stick with your options, although if it's my own set-up I'm not a fan of the Lepai's chassis (it looks too much like what hacks put on their scooters over here in Asia, blasting the latest dance music trend all over the streets). I'll get the DTA-100a as it has more power with not much less in terms of soundstage, which at least gives me a bit of headroom for speakers. However if I'm using something with over 90db sensitivity I'd probably just stick with a TA2024-based amp, but as per my own aesthetic tastes, I'd probably get the Sure Electronics one (you can get them for about $16 on eBay, but you'd still need a power supply and shipping from Taiwan).
post #8 of 11

Hi,

 

I use the Dali Zensor 1 as desktop speakers.

 

Even though most hifi enthusiast will probably scream in pain, this works very well with the Dali.

 

My positioning of the speakers is roughly 20cm to the wall, with 190cm between both speakers, and 80cm each to my listening position.

Additionally i use 30cm ls stands to adjust the position.

 

As amplifier i use a NAD C 356BEE - which would be out of your price range. DAC is currently Fiio E7 - eying a Woo audio W7 though.

 

I am considering to add a subwoofer, but thats a difficult pair with the Dali, and the Dali subwoofer is not out in 110v yet.

 

I also tried Usher S520 speakers (easy as i am in Taiwan) - and i personally preferred the Dali a lot (more warm sound).

post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 

Thank you for your post and the good description of the Dali zensor one and your positioning of them :)

Yes, unfortunately 700$ is too much for an amp for me now. I could only go up to 500$ if it is both a speaker and a headphone amp as well as a DAC :)

 

Any other amp suggestions lads?

post #10 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by DoomForce View Post

Thank you for your post and the good description of the Dali zensor one and your positioning of them :)

Yes, unfortunately 700$ is too much for an amp for me now. I could only go up to 500$ if it is both a speaker and a headphone amp as well as a DAC :)

 

Any other amp suggestions lads?

 

you could go with a rotel RA-10 for example? (http://www.rotel.com/UK/products/ProductDetails.htm?Id=503)
post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skar View Post

 

you could go with a rotel RA-10 for example? (http://www.rotel.com/UK/products/ProductDetails.htm?Id=503)

Looks like an excellent device, but unfortunately has no USB-in :(?

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