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Passive vs. Active speaker setup? Need component suggestions.

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 

I currently have ASUS Z87-A motherboard and use a relatively cheap Creative Inspire T12 2.0 multimedia speakers. I am looking to do a major upgrade on my audio components for music (mainly along the lines of electro, vocal trance, house music). I watch stream, movies, and also play games but they are relatively unimportant factors compared to music. Since I am new to the audio world, I am not sure if I have sufficient funds to build a decent audio system. At the moment, I am thinking of spending anywhere around $300 for a pair of speakers.

 

Does sound card need to be upgraded like CPU,GPU?
Generally, CPUs and GPUs get outdated relatively quickly compared to other components. Is it worth spending extra to get the top-tier sound card to future-proof? What's a general lifetime(?) of audio components?

Passive vs. Active
To me, passive speaker setup is more desirable since individual component can be upgraded. It also seems like it's more desirable as you go higher-end. The only issue that I can see is the cost. For someone like me who has nothing but a set of cheap speakers, I need to buy the whole system:
Passive:
Active speakers
Sub
Sound card
Amp

Active:
Passive speakers
Sub
Sound card

I looked at this thread to see what might work (http://www.overclock.net/t/1014902/ocns-most-recommended-audio-products). It seems like it's up-to-date based on edit date. Although I am not completely decided on either passive or active setup, this is what I am thinking:

Passive:
Speakers: Infinity Primus P153
Sub: ???
Sound card: Sound Blaster Z
Amp: Lepai (http://www.amazon.com/Upgraded-LP-2020A-Lepai-Amplifier-Shipping/dp/B00C2P61FO/ref=pd_sim_e_2)? Price doesn't mean much but I feel like I am going too cheap here...

Active:
Speakers: M-Audio AV40
Sub: ???
Sound card: Sound Blaster Z

For the subs, I see $20 increments from Dayton SUB-800, 1000, 1200. Seems like people generally go with 1000 but need some help.

It seems like audio system is more difficult to decide than the whole computer system (excluding audio parts). tongue.gif


Edited by Enilder - 6/15/14 at 11:17am
post #2 of 25

Hmmm. Let's see. $200 to $300 isn't much, but here you go:

 

For $120 each:

 

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/LSR305

 

That gets you  two speakers with four 41 watt amplifiers, but we're already at $240.

 

Now for the sub:

 

Polk Audio PSW10 at around $130, but I found a new one for $100.

 

Okay, now the budget is blown because we're at $370, or $340, but my work is done! Just skip the sub until you can get it. :smile:

post #3 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by StratocasterMan View Post
 

Hmmm. Let's see. $200 to $300 isn't much, but here you go:

 

For $120 each:

 

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/LSR305

 

That gets you  two speakers with four 41 watt amplifiers, but we're already at $240.

 

Now for the sub:

 

Polk Audio PSW10 at around $130, but I found a new one for $100.

 

Okay, now the budget is blown because we're at $370, or $340, but my work is done! Just skip the sub until you can get it. :smile:

 

Thanks for the reply. Is $500 much better to work with? I didn't want to say, "I don't have a budget," so I just came up with a number...

 

Also, I don't have to get a sub at the same time (as you mentioned). I want to have a decent sound system without getting close to $1000 for sure.

 

Are you recommending active speakers because of the budget reason?


Edited by Enilder - 6/15/14 at 8:17am
post #4 of 25
Quote:
skip the sub until you can get it

 

+1.

 

Your mains are your mains. A sub adds the final gloss. Rather than end up with a tinny at the top and boomy at the bottom system spend as much as you can now on active speakers going down flat to at least 60hz now. Then have a rethink.

 

You will be surprised just how much grunt you can get out of a powerful 4" or 5" speaker.

 

Don't get an soundcard. On board is now so good they are a waste of money. Look for an separate USB audio interface or, if you are more into video and games than music, an AVR.  

post #5 of 25

I agree 100%. Just don't think you can skip the sub forever, because the sub does make a "night and day" difference.

 

I always hear, "these speakers are so good, you don't need a sub." I call B.S. on that. A sub changes everything! Skip it until you have the cash, but then get it! ;) 

post #6 of 25
Thread Starter 

Looks like active vs. passive discussion comes down to preferences...

 

Anyways, slightly off-topic:

 

This is on sale...How much budget do I need to stretch to drive this properly?

http://www.kefdirect.com/q300-bookshelf-loudspeaker.html


Edited by Enilder - 6/15/14 at 9:54am
post #7 of 25

I guess you have your mind set on passive, because you keep coming back to that.

 

That's fine, because passive is certainly great.

 

I would say you'd need at least something like this to properly drive those speakers:

 

http://www.musicdirect.com/p-50324-marantz-pm6004-integrated-amp.aspx?source=igodigital&

 

Sure, there are a lot of cheaper choices, but most of them are probably not "up to" those speakers.

post #8 of 25

How much do you want to blow the budget? I can't answer your questions if you keep blowing the budget! ;):D

 

I have great recommendations for $10,000 speakers and amps!

post #9 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by StratocasterMan View Post
 

I guess you have your mind set on passive, because you keep coming back to that.

 

That's fine, because passive is certainly great.

 

I would say you'd need at least something like this to properly drive those speakers:

 

http://www.musicdirect.com/p-50324-marantz-pm6004-integrated-amp.aspx?source=igodigital&

 

Sure, there are a lot of cheaper choices, but most of them are probably not "up to" those speakers.

 

I've not necessarily set my mind on passives but I like the fact that you can upgrade amp and speakers, separately (plus, you own a set of passives as well. :p) One thing that I like about active speakers are plug-n-play configuration (no amp required).

 

Looks like I will completely blow my budget with KEFs.

post #10 of 25

You might want to look into the Vanatoo T1s. Active speakers with lots of connection options, built in DAC and excellent sound. I came from a Klipsch Promedia 4.1 system and these are miles ahead of them.  I have felt no need to get a sub except just because. Low end spec is 49Hz and it is satisfying for near field. Very nice piece of kit as they say.

post #11 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by StratocasterMan View Post
 

How much do you want to blow the budget? I can't answer your questions if you keep blowing the budget! ;):D

 

I have great recommendations for $10,000 speakers and amps!

 

I think I will stick to $300 budget for a pair of speakers.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by AladdinSane View Post
 

You might want to look into the Vanatoo T1s. Active speakers with lots of connection options, built in DAC and excellent sound. I came from a Klipsch Promedia 4.1 system and these are miles ahead of them.  I have felt no need to get a sub except just because. Low end spec is 49Hz and it is satisfying for near field. Very nice piece of kit as they say.

 

I decided to pull the budget down. :( Speakers strictly around $300. Sorry!

 

Anyone has experience with Swan M200MKIII?

post #12 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Enilder View Post
 

I think I will stick to $300 budget for a pair of speakers.

I decided to pull the budget down. :( Speakers strictly around $300. Sorry!

Anyone has experience with Swan M200MKIII?

 

Monoprice 5" studio monitors, (they seem to be re-branded M-Audio BX5s)

They will not be back in stock for 25 days.

http://www.monoprice.com/Product?c_id=115&cp_id=11504&cs_id=1150401&p_id=605500&seq=1&format=2

 

Get an Sound Blaster Z sound card, $85, which also comes with a headphone amplifier.

Or if you have no plans on getting headphones, Asus Xonar DX or D1 sound card (used $60)

The SB-Z and DX/D1 cards all come with a nice CS4398 DAC chip :)

post #13 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Enilder View Post

It seems like audio system is more difficult to decide than the whole computer system (excluding audio parts). tongue.gif

Well, and putting together a $300 audio system is kind of like trying to put together a $300 computer. Sort of stuck looking for the very best value, entry level budget build you can do.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Enilder View Post

Thanks for the reply. Is $500 much better to work with? I didn't want to say, "I don't have a budget," so I just came up with a number...

Also, I don't have to get a sub at the same time (as you mentioned). I want to have a decent sound system without getting close to $1000 for sure.

My recommendation would definitely be to wait on the sub and the sound card. Go for the speakers smily_headphones1.gif

With $300, EMP Tek E5Bi or Wave Crest Audio HVL-1 speakers and then pick up a used audio/video or stereo receiver off your local Craigslist. If you would rather not go used, the Indeed TA2021 is a much better quality t-amp than the Lepai. Little bit better sonics, bit better volume, and much better build quality.
post #14 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Enilder View Post
 

 

Anyone has experience with Swan M200MKIII?.

They are well thought of although I have no first hand experience. There's been at least one pair floating around the For Sale forum for some time.

 

Or, as cel4145 says, grab a well-reviewed T-amp of some kind (Indeed, Trend, Topping, Lepai?) and throw in some "budget" speakers like the Andrew Jones line from Pioneer (BS22) which have received good reviews. They can be had for not much more than $100. You could be <$200 all in.


Edited by AladdinSane - 6/15/14 at 10:29pm
post #15 of 25
Thread Starter 

Thank you everyone for replying. I ended up buying M-Audio AV40 instead of passive speakers to get my feet wet first. I definitely see myself upgrading within a year or so because I can use another set. I still think that passive speakers are the way to go in terms of selections and being able to independently upgrade single component at a time.

 

Unless I come back with ~$1000 budget, it doesn't seem like I can get quality speakers without having any components. Since I have a set of active speakers coming in tomorrow, I need to look out for a sub that should last over couple years. I am trying to avoid spending money on multiple components at the same time (i.e. purchase speakers separately from other non-speaker components like DAC and amp...that's it I think(?)). Some questions to help me sort out my purchase path:

 

-Do active speakers take any advantage of external amps as if they are passives? For example, getting an amp for M-Audio AV40 + sub setup. This sound pretty stupid IMO since active speakers don't need amp (i.e. built-in already) but not sure if there are any advantages. What about external DAC? Any use in connecting with AV40?

 

-Like StratocasterMan linked, if I go after speakers like KEF Q300, am I safe to assume that I should go with external DAC rather than sound card?

 

In the end, I need sub, DAC, amp, and ... better speakers. I think the correct path is to get the sub, then DAC, and amp & upgrade speakers. What's the general breakdown of % spent on each component? I know for computers, GPU, CPU, then everything else follows in terms of % spent on components.

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