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First "Hi-Fi" computer setup: looking for Passive Bookshelf/Monitor Speakers and possibly USB DAC

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 

I've been looking to replace a pair of horrendous Altec Lansing desktop speakers I've been using (as little as possible) for the past two years. I went ahead and did some research and found the Audioengine A2+'s and bought them a couple days ago off of Amazon. I had seen a lot of comments on their bass and so went ahead and tested them using "Oi-1" by Biosphere and they, for lack of a better word, fluttered. So, I don't know if my pair are defective or if all A2+s have this issue but they're going back and I'm going to take my dad's advice and go for passive bookshelf speakers. Also, as I noticed in reviews the A2+s tended to be a little heavy on the bass and overpowered the lyrics on "Take it Easy" by the Eagles (side note, I know I didn't give these speakers much of a chance to break in having only had them for 4 days but the flutter on the low end is horrible and I just can't imagine it will magically go away). Also, my dad pointed out to me that I might as well go with some larger bookshelf speakers since I have room on my desk.

 

Anyway, I already have an amp I'm planning to use. It's an old Harmon/Kardon 330c which only has RCA phono inputs and I think has a maximum output of 50 watts. I'm looking to hook it up to my computer either using a 3.5 mm to RCA converter straight from the mobo line out or possibly through a USB DAC if there's a decent one out there that isn't going to cost me too much. I plan to use the setup to listen to music, watch movies, and play the occasional videogame. I listen to a really wide variety of music, including classical, pop, country, R&B, metal, and classic rock. I'm looking to spend around $300.00 for the speakers and, if possible, under $100 for a DAC if I need one. 

 

So far I've been looking at the following speakers:

-- Tannoy Reveal 601P Studio Monitor - $220.00/pair on Amazon
-- Audioengine P4s - $250.00 on Amazon
-- JBL Control 1 - $164.00 on Amazon (I like the small size but wonder if the sound quality will suffer)
-- Klipsch RB-41 II - $299.00 on Amazon

-- Mica MBX42 - $79.99 (I've seen them suggested multiple times on the threads around here)

 

 

I'm somewhat leaning towards the Klipsch as I've had several of their in-ear headphones and been satisfied with them (and have no experience with any of the other brands excepting Audioengine) but saw a post here on head-fi that indicated they may not be good nearfield speakers. As far as DACs go I've looked at the Behringer UCA202, the Audioengine D1, and the Hifimediy saber DAC (through I'd prefer RCA outputs). I'm a little wary of Audioengine right now thanks to my experience with the A2+ s but am willing to consider them.

 

So, thoughts?

post #2 of 32

Most of the speakers you've listed only have 4" woofers, I'd aim for at least 6" woofers personally

post #3 of 32
Thread Starter 

I'd noted that the 4" woofer systems are generally less expensive and they're going to need smaller volume cabinets, right? What advantage is there to going to a 6" woofer? Will I get improved sound quality? Also, what kind of space am I going to expect to be loosing if I go to 6" woofers and do you have a speaker recommendation?

post #4 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevindr View Post
 

I'd noted that the 4" woofer systems are generally less expensive and they're going to need smaller volume cabinets, right? What advantage is there to going to a 6" woofer? Will I get improved sound quality? Also, what kind of space am I going to expect to be loosing if I go to 6" woofers and do you have a speaker recommendation?

Bigger woofer = generally louder, much better low end

Yes, this does mean a bigger box, but there's a reason most hi-fi 'bookshelf' speakers use 6.5" drivers - it's a good balance and they can generally go down to 50-60Hz which is enough for most people in most situations.

 

I'm afraid I don't have any specific recommendations, but there should be plenty of choice assuming you decide you have space on your desk.

post #5 of 32
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by kraken2109 View Post
 

Bigger woofer = generally louder, much better low end

Yes, this does mean a bigger box, but there's a reason most hi-fi 'bookshelf' speakers use 6.5" drivers - it's a good balance and they can generally go down to 50-60Hz which is enough for most people in most situations.

 

I'm afraid I don't have any specific recommendations, but there should be plenty of choice assuming you decide you have space on your desk.

Thanks! Do you happen to know anything about the Paradigm mini monitor?

post #6 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevindr View Post
 

Thanks! Do you happen to know anything about the Paradigm mini monitor?

I don't, but the specs look pretty nice!

post #7 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevindr View Post
 

Thanks! Do you happen to know anything about the Paradigm mini monitor?

 

It's one of the most highly rated out there but personally if I'm using anything for nearfield I can find better active speaker alternatives with perfectly-matched amplifiers in bi-amp set-ups. However if you're really set on using passives, these are probably a good bet; consider also the PSB Image B1.

post #8 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by kraken2109 View Post

Bigger woofer = generally louder, much better low end
Yes, this does mean a bigger box, but there's a reason most hi-fi 'bookshelf' speakers use 6.5" drivers - it's a good balance and they can generally go down to 50-60Hz which is enough for most people in most situations.

Agreed.

You have a good amp for driving a pair of bookshelf speakers, and in addition to often going lower in extension, a larger driver can more efficiently produce good bass than a smaller one.

But even a good 5" in a large enclosure will be much better than the A2s in bass performance. Big difference between that and a 3.5".

The other problem with the A2s that you already noticed is that they have an artificially EQ'd bass hump in the upper midbass. That's to give people the feel that they are getting good bass out of them (when they are not)--but you obviously saw through that smily_headphones1.gif

The Paradigm Mini Monitors are good very good speakers. If you can get them new for $300, that's a great deal. You might want a sub to go with them for filling in the low end. The Klispch I would avoid. Many people find them fatiguing because of their excessive treble energy, and that's usually compounded in a nearfield situation. Skip the Audioengine P4s. The only people that get excited about those are Audioengine fans--never heard people that are more knowledgeable about a wide range of passive speakers express any like for those.

I can recommend the Ascend Acoustics CBM-170 SEs that I own. They are a little large, though. For a smaller 5" driver speaker, I've heard very good things about these EMP Teks for nearfield use. Given their price, I would suggest you consider them and then save some of your money toward a subwoofer to help fill in the low end for movies and gaming. Add a Dayton SUB 1000 or SUB 1200.

For a DAC, the Modi is considered excellent for a $100 DAC. If you have a PC, for movies and gaming, the Xonar DX (or D1) is a great choice because it has Dolby virtual surround that you can use with your speakers. Doesn't really wrap around you, but it will expand the soundfield some to create a better immersion experience.
post #9 of 32
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

The Paradigm Mini Monitors are good very good speakers. If you can get them new for $300, that's a great deal. 
 
I'm afraid I was pulling a rookie mistake and looking at the per-speaker price, I just auditioned them at a local shop and they sound wonderful but I was quoted $525.00 for a pair which is way more than I'm looking to spend. 
 

Quote:

Originally Posted by ProtegeManiac View Post
 

 

It's one of the most highly rated out there but personally if I'm using anything for nearfield I can find better active speaker alternatives with perfectly-matched amplifiers in bi-amp set-ups. However if you're really set on using passives, these are probably a good bet; consider also the PSB Image B1.

    Wouldn't you get better sound quality for the price if you buy passive speakers since you aren't shelling out the money for amplifiers at the same time? I've seen a lot of active monitors touted here on these threads but figured I'd get better overall bang for my if I go passive.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post
 
I can recommend the Ascend Acoustics CBM-170 SEs that I own. They are a little large, though. For a smaller 5" driver speaker, I've heard very good things about these EMP Teks for nearfield use. Given their price, I would suggest you consider them and then save some of your money toward a subwoofer to help fill in the low end for movies and gaming. Add a Dayton SUB 1000 or SUB 1200.

  Now that I have (a tiny) bit of experience with really great speakers, how do the Ascends compare to the Paradigm Mini Monitors? I've seen you recommend them on here before (and jokes about you recommending them on here before) and read something on them being really good quality for the price because they're an internet only retailer and sale direct to customers. I thought about putting them on my list but they're a little out of my price range. However, I might be willing to shell out the extra cash if they're really as good or better than the Paradigms. Also, what size are the cabinets? I don't see dimensions on Ascend's website.

 

 

What are your thoughts on the Polk TSx220Bs? I just auditioned a pair of 110bs and have to imagine that, like you guys said, the larger woofer would give a better low end response (they were a little muted throughout for me but maybe the larger driver would help?). Also, does it sound pretty sketchy to you guys for someone to give you a cash price $50 different than the credit card price and the deal is only available with him? I really can't think of any logical reason for this to be a policy so I'm worried he's stiffing his boss, selling stolen goods, or maybe used goods at a higher price point?

 

Also, Thanks for all the responses!

post #10 of 32

I know your looking at passive but I just saw these yesterday and for the ridiculous low price they seem hard to beat:

 

http://www.proaudiostar.com/tascam-vla5-powered-monitors-b-stock.html#info

 

Look at the specs!

 

5.25 inch two-way monitors

90W active bi-amped design

Direct radiating bass reflex 5.25 inch woofers with front-mounted port

LF control adjusts response at 150Hz or 800Hz for room correction

HF control adjusts response at 3kHz or 8kHz for room correction

Low cut filter for use with optional LF-S8 subwoofer

1 inch dome tweeter

Deep cabinet design and separated amplifier space for rich low frequency playback

Magnetic Shielding for use near CRT computer monitors


Frequency Response (1W @ 1m): 38Hz - 23KHz +/-3dB 

 

 

All that for $135! 

 

Now personally I do not buy the 38Hz low end with 5.25" driver but still, for $135 a pair how can you go wrong. They should certainly hit 50Hz. In fact I'll let you know after I get mine (couldn't pass it up myself).

post #11 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevindr View Post

    Wouldn't you get better sound quality for the price if you buy passive speakers since you aren't shelling out the money for amplifiers at the same time? I've seen a lot of active monitors touted here on these threads but figured I'd get better overall bang for my if I go passive.

  Now that I have (a tiny) bit of experience with really great speakers, how do the Ascends compare to the Paradigm Mini Monitors? I've seen you recommend them on here before (and jokes about you recommending them on here before) and read something on them being really good quality for the price because they're an internet only retailer and sale direct to customers. I thought about putting them on my list but they're a little out of my price range. However, I might be willing to shell out the extra cash if they're really as good or better than the Paradigms. Also, what size are the cabinets? I don't see dimensions on Ascend's website.


What are your thoughts on the Polk TSx220Bs? I just auditioned a pair of 110bs and have to imagine that, like you guys said, the larger woofer would give a better low end response (they were a little muted throughout for me but maybe the larger driver would help?). Also, does it sound pretty sketchy to you guys for someone to give you a cash price $50 different than the credit card price and the deal is only available with him? I really can't think of any logical reason for this to be a policy so I'm worried he's stiffing his boss, selling stolen goods, or maybe used goods at a higher price point?

Also, Thanks for all the responses!

I've only heard the Mini Monitors in store. They sound quite nice. But I have not tried then nearfield in a computer setup.

I tried half a dozen passive speakers in my computer setup over a couple of years before happening on the Ascends. Some of the other speakers were fatiguing (stay away from bright speakers for nearfield use), and the Ascends had better overall mids and bass detail resolution than the others. But they are a very neutral speaker. So they will definitely sound very different from the Mini Monitors which have a peakier treble response.

I also recommend the Internet direct vendors because, unless you are getting a good discount off MSRP at a brick and mortar store, the best ID vendors are generally the better price/performance value for speakers and subwoofers. The ID vendors don't have a middleman and shipping to the store cost factored into their prices.

Every year or two, Polk comes out with yet another very minor revision (sometimes cosmetic) of the original Polk Monitor series, including the Polk Monitor II, the Polk TSi, Polk Monitor B series, and now the Polk TSx (I think this all been in the last five years or so). Newegg used to have the Polk Monitor 40s onsale frequently for about $110-$120. I have not heard the new TSX, but I would not expect them to be much different than all those others given Polks' past pratices. So probably a decent value for under $150 but they are probably not going to compete with the best speakers in the $200 to $300 range. You'd be better off looking into the Polk RTi4s which is a good bit higher speaker line of Polks.

If you want more passive speakers suggestions, best place to go is the AVS speaker forum. AVS is to home audio as Head-Fi is to headphone audio smily_headphones1.gif
Edited by cel4145 - 5/9/14 at 11:55am
post #12 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevindr View Post
 

Anyway, I already have an amp I'm planning to use. It's an old Harmon/Kardon 330c 

I'm looking to spend around $300.00 for the speakers and, if possible, under $100 for a DAC if I need one. 

I'm somewhat leaning towards the Klipsch as I've had several of their in-ear headphones and been satisfied with them (and have no experience with any of the other brands excepting Audioengine) but saw a post here on head-fi that indicated they may not be good nearfield speakers. As far as DACs go I've looked at the Behringer UCA202, the Audioengine D1, and the Hifimediy saber DAC (through I'd prefer RCA outputs). I'm a little wary of Audioengine right now thanks to my experience with the A2+ s but am willing to consider them.

So, thoughts?

 

Might consider getting a used Asus Xonar DX (or D1) sound card, they sell used on eBay for around $60.

It's CS4398 DAC should provide better audio quality over your motherboard's on-board audio.

Plus the DX/D1 comes with "Dolby Speaker" which is a feature you might use (or not).

 

Check out the Pioneer passive desktop speakers, I've never listened to them but others seem to like them.

I'm guessing you would spend around $100 to $130 for the Pioneer's depending which model you buy.

So you could end up spending around $200 for sound card and speakers, leave the rest of your budget in the bank.

 

You can also check out the website techbargins, sometimes it list current speakers on sale.

http://www.techbargains.com/catsearch.cfm/1_7_1

post #13 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post

Check out the Pioneer passive desktop speakers, I've never listened to them but others seem to like them.
I'm guessing you would spend around $100 to $130 for the Pioneer's depending which model you buy.
So you could end up spending around $200 for sound card and speakers, leave the rest of your budget in the bank.

+1

The Pioneer Andrew Jones speakers are definitely one of the very best values in the ~ $100 range (the bookshelves are often on sale for that). You can learn more about that series in this review: http://www.audioholics.com/tower-speaker-reviews/pioneer-sp-pk52fs

But there are better speakers in the ~$300 range.
post #14 of 32
Thread Starter 

OK, guys you have all been awesome and I really appreciate you taking time to make suggestions and educate me on what is and is not good! I've been auditioning speakers at some local places to get a feel for good audio and I was about to leave the last place when the sales guy found last year's floor model B&W 685s (the ones with the name beside the tweeter instead of under it) and offered them to me for $450.00. I found a couple posts on them on the AVS speaker forum that suggested this was a great price for some fine speakers, and I loved the sound, and thought the tweeters were a little muted which I gather is good for near field. So I went ahead and bought the pair (I really like the cherry cabinets too). Anyway that means I've pretty much blown my budget for both speakers and a DAC so I'm going to hold off on getting anything more. 

Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post
 

 

Might consider getting a used Asus Xonar DX (or D1) sound card, they sell used on eBay for around $60.

It's CS4398 DAC should provide better audio quality over your motherboard's on-board audio.

Plus the DX/D1 comes with "Dolby Speaker" which is a feature you might use (or not).

 

I never really considered using a sound card. I have an old Creative Sound Blaster Audigy (Pro?) 2 laying around, would that by just as good as going after a Xonar DX?

 

Wikipedia has this to say about it:

 

 

 My only question is about the 3.5mm line outs. Are they going to output the same sound quality as a USB DAC with RCA Phono line outs? I saw that some cards, like the ASUS Xonar  Essence STX have RCA phono outputs, would that be a better future buy (if I can find it cheaper than the listed $200) than the DX/D1, or would it be better to shell out some money on an external DAC?

post #15 of 32
Thread Starter 

Sorry about my last post (when it comes up) I meant to post what I found on the Audigy 2 on wikipedia (all greek to me) but hit cntrl+enter instead of enter then cntrl+v.

 

Anyway, I was going to say Wikipedia states the Audigy 2 has an EMU10K2 sound processor (which I'm assuming includes or is a DAC? I don't know anything about them). I'm not sure if I can get windows 8 to work with the ancient tech on the card, but I got it working with vista some years back so I'm pretty sure I can find a way to make it work with 8.

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