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Comparable PC Audio Components for Around 100 US dollars

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

Right now I'm seriously trying to get fairly good audio on a pretty tight budget. I'm looking for a good upgrade path to follow, but I have huge amounts of options it seems. This is for a computer setup with space issues that can be stretched but not infinitely. I need pretty much everything, but not all at once as I have some low level stuff that works pretty well and will suffice while I'm upgrading each component. The things I need are:

1. A source of audio- an internal sound card, external DAC, amp, ect.

2. A set of speakers- 2.0 or 2.1

3. Heaphones- already pretty much decided on sennheiser hd558.

 

The first item I am searching for is the audio source. Around 100 dollars for everything is where my budget is at. Currently looking at the Soundblaster Z, good reviews, features, and the mic would be useful. I am a gamer so the surround through headphones would be very nice and useful. However a DAC and Amp with a Toslink input that supports DTS or other surround (my motherboard supports 5.1 through toslink and has a coaxial out, but I'm not sure if that supports surround, msi z87 g45) through the headphone jack would be perfectly acceptable. I do not know if this exists however, so it isn't a requirement.  Another useful connection to have would be the common four single speaker wires so that I might steal my sony mhc-ec55 radio's speakers. But this is not necessary as it only has to be able to connect to and power both the speakers and headphones. I have also considered the lepai 2020a+ and the Soundblaster Z in combination.

 

Next on the list, also around 100 dollars is a set of either 2.1 or 2.0 speakers. As I have mentioned before I can poach the speakers from my sony mhc-ec55 and use internet radio to combine my music sources. These are pretty big though, I have no real clue about their comparative audio quality, and they only connect through speaker wire. I have seen numerous references to the Dayton B652 and lepai 2020a+ combination and this seems maybe a little cheap, a bit below my budget, with some improvements that could be made pretty cheaply. The active solutions I have seen are the Creative Gigaworks t40 series ii and the t20 series ii. The m-audio av40 or av30 seem just too dicey. If there is a source for the Swans m10 here in America I would definitely buy them. I don't know about too many 2.1 systems, but am not against them in any way, beside the fact that the sub would be below my desk. I don't want to buy from ebay or craigslist, too many variables that could really negatively affect the purchase and product. As these are going to hooked up to my pc they have to work as near feild monitors, but it would be great if they could function well enough to fill a dorm room. Keep in mind that these are just things i have found and are not the only options I will consider. A later sub woofer purchase can be fitted outside the 100 dollar budget as long as the speakers are acceptable without it.

 

The headphones mentioned are more for reference for the audio source, as they are the last thing i plan to purchase and I see no reason not to get the hd558. I currently have the Koss UR-40s for music and the Corsair Vengeance 1300 for gaming.

 

I do not feel constrained by anything other than speaker space and budget. If modding the lepai is the best bang for the buck then I'm willing to try that. I am not going for a super hi fi solution, more of the top of the just enough spectrum, not bad, but not excessive. The budgets can be shifted so that an 80 dollar source leads to a 120 + speaker system, and so on, or vice versa. In terms of my chosen audio I like a bit of bassier genres but do not require ear hurting chest thumbing sound pressure, and listen to everything else as well. I game and music about 50/50 but consider the music more important to focus on for purchasing audio equipment. I am very much a novice but not afraid to delve into technical details and jargon. Anything that would work in some way is fine to suggest, as with a small budget, least amount of failure is usually how it goes. I live in central America, and have access to a Guitar Center,a Best Buy, and various local music stores. When i say upgrade path, btw it's that I wont purchase everything at once, more like part by part while trying to get the most from each part upgrade choice. Around, as always for me means if there is a higher cost item that is still reasonable in price but much better will be considered equally, also going down in price for no real loss is fine.

 

I am happy to answer any questions, Thanks for reading, commenting, or providing advice of any kind!

post #2 of 14

I believe the Dayton/Lepai combo is pretty much the best choice at $100, but if you do want to go with the M10, Audio Insider has them (OOS for now)

http://www.theaudioinsider.com/product_info.php?p=swan-m10-active-desktop-loudspeaker-system%2C-black&products_id=197&osCsid=a9ec89f61fd14f7838dadea566583f78

 

As for the sound card, I actually wouldn't even personally get one. The ALC1150 chip in your board is actually a very capable chipset.

 

If you want however, you could consolidate the speaker and sound card budget into one, and get a pair of Cambridge Audio S30's.

 

http://www.accessories4less.com/make-a-store/item/CAMBS30BLK/CAMBRIDGE-AUDIO-S30-4-2-way-Bookshelf-Speakers-Pair-Black/1.html#!more

 

 

Let me know what you think (I am also in a dorm room so I am in the same situation)

post #3 of 14

If you got a receiver it would have a good DAC, a good speaker amp and probably drive headphones well too. Might not be doable in your budget though.

post #4 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
 I believe the Dayton/Lepai combo is pretty much the best choice at $100, but if you do want to go with the M10, Audio Insider has them (OOS for now)

http://www.theaudioinsider.com/product_info.php?p=swan-m10-active-desktop-loudspeaker-system%2C-black&products_id=197&osCsid=a9ec89f61fd14f7838dadea566583f78

If you believe the Daytons are the best choice thats fine, i have no preferences for certain companies or models, the swans just seemed to be the best from what i read.

 

Quote:
 

As for the sound card, I actually wouldn't even personally get one. The ALC1150 chip in your board is actually a very capable chipset.

 

If you want however, you could consolidate the speaker and sound card budget into one, and get a pair of Cambridge Audio S30's.

 

http://www.accessories4less.com/make-a-store/item/CAMBS30BLK/CAMBRIDGE-AUDIO-S30-4-2-way-Bookshelf-Speakers-Pair-Black/1.html#!more

Are there ways to upgrade the Dayton and Lepai to be comparable to the Audio S30's? Maybe a 2.1 system would work, but spending 100 on a compatible sub  for the Daytons right now doesn't seem to be such a good idea, especially for cost to improvement ratio. Is there a better amp? A DAC and Amp combo could both improve my audio and power the speakers. I am perfectly fine to forgo a soundcard, I dont miss surround enough to pay for a cheap dedicated dolby or sbx surround card that is around the same audio quailty as my motherboard. (I do find it suprising that you recommend an onboard solution, though) Also connectivity comparability may be an issue as I don't know what connectors are on speakers by looking at them, and the motherboard only has as many outs as the back panel.

post #5 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by kraken2109 View Post
 

If you got a receiver it would have a good DAC, a good speaker amp and probably drive headphones well too. Might not be doable in your budget though.

Yeah, that seemed to a be an issue, any receivers under 100 were always listed as ebay or look on cragslist, or a garage sale, and I don't want to do that.

post #6 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by HappyFishFace View Post
 

Yeah, that seemed to a be an issue, any receivers under 100 were always listed as ebay or look on craigslist, or a garage sale, and I don't want to do that.

I'm guessing for your budget, the Sound Blaster Z with Senn HD558 is a fairly good combo.

I guess after buying the Z & HD558, you can see hoe much you have leftover for speakers.

post #7 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
 

I'm guessing for your budget, the Sound Blaster Z with Senn HD558 is a fairly good combo.

I guess after buying the Z & HD558, you can see hoe much you have leftover for speakers.

Unfortunately that plan isn't going to work as I am buying things at different times, because of a consistently increasing but small budget (based on the way i save for things like this) and i am buying the HD558 last. I'm glad that you think that it is a good combination though.

post #8 of 14

I have an Auzentech Prelude X-Fi 7.1 sound card I am considering selling.

post #9 of 14
Thread Starter 

I have been looking at the Pyle PFA series (the 100 200 300 and 400u) are any of these a better choice than the lepai? They have higher watt ranges and maybe not at the same made in china level. I have not yet found a direct sound comparison, but they're only 25-40 dollars on amazon. (Advertised as sale, but have no clue about usual online cost)

post #10 of 14
Thread Starter 

There isn't much information out there about the pyles but they don't seem to be worth it. For one, they have the same "power supply cant output what the specifications say" problem, and they are not favorably compared to the lepai. Also the pfa 200 looks eerily similar to the lepai, with different colors. That being said, unlike the lepai, they are glued into their cases, and so are far less simple to mod.

 

However, it seems this point is moot, as I have recently found the Musical Paradise MP-302 Class D Mini Amplifier. Review- http://www.head-fi.org/t/528084/review-musical-paradise-mp-302-class-d-headphone-speaker-amp-with-usb-dac It is a very cheap DAC AMP combo, that has speaker wire outs, headphone outs, and RCA outs so that I can choose higher quality speakers. It is currently available for 70$ from their website. It would more than satisfy for the source component.

 

So far, this seems to be exactly what i am looking for, but is there something that i have missed?

Considering that it has both RCA and Speaker outs, what would be a good set of speakers for this?

Do the HD558 pair well with this amp?

Does anyone have any experience with this amp dac combo?

post #11 of 14

Look for fairly sensitive (because of the low output) bookshelf speakers.

post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 
Because the MP-302 has been discontinued, and the new version will not be available until the summer, baring any unforeseen circumstances, I will purchase the mk2 when it becomes available, with the lepai as a placeholder. This may mess up my upgrade schedule a bit, but it will accomplish the same thing in the end. 

 

So right now, my shopping list includes:

-A Lepai 2020a+ Tripath Amplifier: 20-30 US dollars (but cheaper now) http://www.amazon.com/LP-2020A-Lepai-Tripath-Class-T-Amplifier/dp/B0049P6OTI/ref=pd_bxgy_e_text_y

-MP-302 mk2 class D Mini Amplifier (includes USB DAC): Unspecified as of yet, but probably around 100 US dollars http://www.musicalparadise.ca/store/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=52 (please note- discontinued model)

-Sennheiser HD558: 130 US dollars http://www.amazon.com/Sennheiser-504631-HD-558-Headphones/dp/B004FEEY9A

 

-As of yet unspecified passive speakers: Hopefully under 100 US dollars

 

I still would like some help choosing speakers. As I understand it I need some sensitive, and probably efficient speakers. But they also need to fit on my desk and work as near field monitors. Quote:

Originally Posted by kraken2109 View Post
 

Look for fairly sensitive (because of the low output) bookshelf speakers.

Looking at:

Dayton Audio B652 (http://www.amazon.com/Dayton-Audio-B652-Bookshelf-Speaker/dp/B002RMPHMU): these I felt are under budget, and there are better options for a bit more

Pioneer SP-B251 (http://www.amazon.com/Pioneer-SP-BS21-LR-80-Watts-2-Way-Speakers/dp/B004MEWZE4): I don't know how these compare to other options, I don't know much at all

Micca MB42X (http://www.amazon.com/Micca-MB42X-Bookshelf-Speakers-Tweeter/dp/B00E7H8GG2/ref=sr_1_7?s=aht&ie=UTF8&qid=1390106862&sr=1-7): again, under budget

Do you have any recommendations? Best of the three?

 

There seem to be quite a few speakers around and just under the 130 dollar price point. Is it worth going to some of the speakers for the extra money? It is only 30 over budget, but do they sound 60 dollars better? (example- pioneer sp-bs22; jbl es20; cerwin vega ve5m; yamaha ns-6490; and many others) If so what would be the best?

 

Other than that I am very happy with my choices. (Going to continue to use my motherboard sound for my gaming headset until i find a DAC or soundcard with an out for both it and the MP-302)

post #13 of 14

I'd pick the pioneers, but I haven't listened to any of those pairs. If possible you should.

post #14 of 14
Thread Starter 

Going to purchase one of the pioneer speakers, based upon which goes on sale first (they have gone as low as 69.99 recently for even the 130 msrp speakers) specifically the SP BS21 LR

SP BS41 LR or the SP BS22 LR. I have the lepai on the way. Going to purhcase headphones and mp-302 in the summer. Thanks for the help.

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