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DAC/Amp combination and Powered Speakers for <600

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

Hi all,


I am new to good audio, I have a set of low end Grado's, and a pretty mediocre sound card and that's about it.


A new Co-worker of mine maintains a Hi-fi from Quad and an extensive library of 15in/sec. tape that combine to melt my soul. I cannot hope to get close to that, but I like the idea of having speakers that will no longer make me cringe and I would like to double the benefit by getting a DAC/amp that can drive my Headphones well.


My budget is about 600 USD, a number that seems reasonable after looking at combinations like the Audioengine D1 and the Audioengine 5+ or comparable speakers with the Schiit Modi/Magni combo.


I am willing to do some trial and error, though I will probably live with whatever speakers I get for a while so I'd like to base the choice on some better advice.


I will also mention that I am more concerned with the DAC/Amp than the Speakers because I'd like it to handle an upgraded set of cans in the less distant future.


With that, I open up the floor.

post #2 of 9
Get the Emotiva Airmotiv 4. Great sounding set of speakers. Lots of positive testimonials for them if you search the web. CNET recommends them over the Audioengine A5+: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13645_3-57367525-47/emotivas-astonishing-desktop-speaker/ I've heard other people say the same thing that have heard both (I have not heard the A5+).

While the Schiit Modi/Magni is a nice setup, you'll get tired of having to unplug the headphone amp from your DAC to plug in your speakers. Best to consider a setup that has a pre-amp/line level out for plugging up your speakers.

Audio-GD is a good brand to consider, and there is lots of discussion of them on Head-Fi. Look into the Maverick Audio TubeMagic D1 as well.
post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 

I decided to get the Tubemagic D1 from Maveric with their upgraded tube and opamps (I wanted to get the DAC squared away before worrying about speakers)


These Grados sound great being fed by this thing, so I feel comfortable moving forward to speakers. I like the Airmotive 4 a lot, and with their "audition" policy, i think they are a good choice, but there are a few concerns that I still want to work out.


First and foremost is how to get a subwoofer onto the system if I go with the Airmotive 4.


Second is a question of speaker size. Is it worth getting a larger speaker (like the airmotive 5 instead of the 4)? Does that add anything other than volume to the sound? 


Third, I was wondering if there was a website anywhere with graphs of frequency response in speakers. (like what HeadRoom (headphones.com) has for headphones)

post #4 of 9
The D1 is a nice choice. You'll have the option of using either the tube pre-amp or bypassing the pre-am all together with your speakers.

You'll definitely get deeper bass with the larger driver in the Airmotiv 5. However, if you get a good sub, might not be worth the difference in price if you don't need more volume. Could be the larger driver will have better sound. But who knows without comparing them.

For a sub, you'll need one with at least left/right RCA inputs. Then you can split the D1 output and run it to both the sub and the speakers. Then you would set the low pass filter on the sub (the crossover) to somewhere near the low frequency roll off of the speakers.

Or you might get a sub with RCA inputs and outputs. I just got the SVS SB-1000 which has RCA inputs and outputs with an 80hz high pass filter on the outputs. So I'm using an 80hz crossover point in my desktop setup, with audio running from my Schiit Asgard2 to the sub, then the sub RCA output to the speakers.

For measurements, you have to look reviews. There's no one site that has a bunch of measurements for speakers. However, speaker measurements I've seen for the Airmotiv 4 suggest that the Emotivas stated frequency response is accurate.
post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 

I found one surprisingly thorough review of the 4:




(think its time to order them)



Thanks again for the great advice, it sounds like getting the sub is a pretty painless transition and the SB-1000 looks really nice as goal down the line.

post #6 of 9
I've listened to the Airmotiv 4s, and I think the people that are lauding these speakers for the price are spot on. If this is for a computer desktop setup, they will get louder than you want to listen to them sitting at the computer and would do very well for filling a small room with sound.

Yep. The SB-1000 was easy to hook up. There's a discussion thread over on AVS about it and the PB-1000 (same price, but higher output ported sub): http://www.avsforum.com/t/1439755/new-svs-sb1000-pb1000-subwoofers

Be wary of buying traditional speaker company subs. They tend to be highly inflated in price at full MSRP. Internet direct subwoofer vendors like SVS Audio, Rythmik Audio, HSU Research, and Power Sound Audio offer the best bang for the buck. You'd have to get a traditional speaker company sub at probably 50% or more off MSRP to equal the price/performance value of those SVS subs.
post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 

I received the Airmotive 4 pair from Emotiva this last Friday. I am extremely impressed, they are more than powerful enough for everything I will want to do, and provide pretty great sound.


The highs are crisp and perfect, easily equivalent to a much more expensive speaker. Even if I upgrade in the future, I think I will find a way to keep using these tweeters.


The mids are clean, not ideal, but probably comparable to other speakers in this range (I can't really say because I haven't listened to a lot of others). Certainly according to those who have done a side by side between these and other brands seem to agree that the mids are on par with their direct competition (like audioengine 5+).


The lows are boomy and tend to resonate at about 60hz. Not sure if there is some sort of conversion going on that plays all signal under 60 hz at 60 hz, but you hear a fairly steady 60 hz hum in music with heavy base. As mentioned above, this would be comfortably resolved by the addition of a sub with a crossover that passes all signal under 80hz (or possibly a bit higher if you have a right and left sub) to the sub instead of the speakers. For this reason I' am not considering this a huge problem...but some may.


Thankyou again cel4145, your advice has been spot on at every step of this process!

post #8 of 9
Awesome, dude! They really do seem to perform best in their class in terms of SQ.

Emotiva rates the frequency response as 58 Hz to 23 kHz +/- 2 dB. So makes sense that there might be more distortion around 60hz if the speakers are pushed in bass output. That's a common characteristic for ported speakers to have higher distortion near and below their tuning point, which is often where they start to roll off on the low end. And it is just a 4" driver after all.

It's strange that you are getting a 60hz hum. I wonder if that's some kind of interference or ground loop problem?
post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 

I need to correct myself, apparently the hum is actually at 80hz, hard to hear the difference. It's not a constant "hum" it's a sound that occurs only when the low frequency components of a song are particularly loud (occurs/gets louder with the intensity of the bass line). Apparently it's a documented characteristic: http://www.hometheatershack.com/forums/speaker-subwoofer-reviews/63213-emotiva-pro-airmotiv-4-powered-studio-monitor-review.html (see the section "Benchtests").


I will say, it's not really noticeable in most things I listen to.

Edited by duxbellorum - 9/8/13 at 1:56pm
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