HELP setting up new living room apartment!
May 8, 2015 at 1:45 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 50

davidthepark

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Hey guys,
I am currently a college student and I am moving into a new apartment this fall. 
It is not a massive apartment, just a one-bed apartment.
I did some internships and felt that I can finally set up an decent sound system for my living room.
 
I current plan is to have an turntable and a AirPort Express as my audio sources. Also, I will be looking to hook up a DVD/blue-ray player to the speakers.
The speakers I am looking at are the Magnepan MMGs.
 
Can you give me any recommendations for the components I should have for this setup?
Should I get a DAC, amp, receiver, or just one of the three?
 
Budget wise, I am looking for decently priced equipment that will have no problem running the MMGs. So if $500 components are needed for good performance, I will invest that $500 but I will not go for $700 if the $500 works as well.
 
 
To recap, I need suggestions for:
 
Turntable:
DAC(?):
Amp(?):
Integrated amp(?):
Receiver(?): 
Anything else??
 
Thank you so much for your help!
 
May 8, 2015 at 2:04 PM Post #2 of 50

ProtegeManiac

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I'm not sure about this, but if you have a small apartment - meaning small space and no dedicated audio room where there won't be any clutter - won't the MMGs be severely handicapped, even more than dynamic driver speakers in conventional cabinets? That's a small space so not enough space between the speakers and the back and side walls, and space between your seat and the wall behind you; then there's the problem with symmetry (although a totally square space would be worse) if one speaker is closer to the wall while the other has the bed near it. Then there are all the other furniture in that small space that can add to the reflections.
 
May 8, 2015 at 2:16 PM Post #3 of 50

Music Alchemist

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You could always go for active near field studio monitor speakers. That way, there are less tricky things to figure out in terms of room interaction, and they have amps inside of them. The Focal Alpha 50 is on my wish list.
 
If you are streaming from your computer or whatever, you don't need a DAC, though it could help.
 
May 8, 2015 at 8:23 PM Post #4 of 50

davidthepark

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oh... then does anyone have other recommendations for good speakers for a small (~200-300 sq/ft) living room?
 
 
It would also be great if I could get recommendations on the following as well! 
 
Turntable:
DAC(?):
Amp(?):
Integrated amp(?):
Receiver(?): 
Anything else??
 
May 8, 2015 at 11:56 PM Post #5 of 50

ProtegeManiac

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  oh... then does anyone have other recommendations for good speakers for a small (~200-300 sq/ft) living room?

 
On bare floor space alone that's large enough for most hi-fi speakers, but that isn't taking into account the shape of the room (ie not all are perfectly rectangular, so what isn't in the rectangular shape doesn't count). Can you draw up a simple floor plan, even on MSPaint, and then mark where you have certain furniture like the bed or dressers? That ultimately can give us a better idea on what space your system will really occupy, and where your "triangle" will be (two speakers, you, speakers equidistant to walls on either side, with enough space from rear wall).
 
 
 


 
 
It would also be great if I could get recommendations on the following as well! 
 
Turntable:
DAC(?):
Amp(?):
Integrated amp(?):
Receiver(?): 
Anything else??

 
1. What's your total budget?

2. Do you need headphones, if at least for late night listening? That can affect what amps and DACs will be used - ie, some DAC-HPamp units have preamp outputs, so you just hook up a power amplifier (no built-in preamp) to drive the speakers; alternately, you can get something like the AudioGD Precision1, an amplifier designed to drive both speakers and headphones well, then just add a DAC.
 
3. If this is an apartment, are you even sure the noise from the speakers won't get you any noise complaints at moderate volume?
 
4. What source/transport will you be using? A computer?
 
May 9, 2015 at 3:29 AM Post #6 of 50

davidthepark

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On bare floor space alone that's large enough for most hi-fi speakers, but that isn't taking into account the shape of the room (ie not all are perfectly rectangular, so what isn't in the rectangular shape doesn't count). Can you draw up a simple floor plan, even on MSPaint, and then mark where you have certain furniture like the bed or dressers? That ultimately can give us a better idea on what space your system will really occupy, and where your "triangle" will be (two speakers, you, speakers equidistant to walls on either side, with enough space from rear wall).
 

 

 
Attached is the layout of the apartment! The furniture in the living room can always be moved around =)
 
 
 
1. What's your total budget?

2. Do you need headphones, if at least for late night listening? That can affect what amps and DACs will be used - ie, some DAC-HPamp units have preamp outputs, so you just hook up a power amplifier (no built-in preamp) to drive the speakers; alternately, you can get something like the AudioGD Precision1, an amplifier designed to drive both speakers and headphones well, then just add a DAC.
 
3. If this is an apartment, are you even sure the noise from the speakers won't get you any noise complaints at moderate volume?
 
4. What source/transport will you be using? A computer?

 
1. I know this is a very vague answer, but I do not know how much the equipment to run the speakers normally will cost. I do not need the BEST products, just great looking ones that is efficient enough to support the speakers. So I would love any recommendations with an ESTIMATE budget for the entire setup at around $1500-$2500
 
2. So I am thinking about getting some cheap/decent DAC and amps system (probably Schiit) and P4 speakers. So for the living room setup, a headphone is not mandatory.
 
3. I am not going to be listening to the music on loud volumes. It will most likely be decently moderate volumes. The apartment itself is a pretty decent one, so unless I blast my music, I wont have any complaints about it being too loud. BUT I would be willing to buy panels to help with the acoustics and possible blocking at least a bit of the sound possibly travelling to the neighbors. So any recommendations for those will be great too
 
4. For the living room, I am thinking about hooking up a turntable (currently looking at the u-turn orbit turntable), a blueray player, and an AirPort Express to listen to the music from my computer.
 
May 9, 2015 at 12:18 PM Post #8 of 50

ProtegeManiac

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Attached is the layout of the apartment! The furniture in the living room can always be moved around =)

 

 
Here's basically how I'd deal with that space - I'd have the speakers' backs to the window. The great thing about that is you can deal with reflections off the window glass by just using very thick curtains, making it convenient. Note that the actual spot for the speakers and the seat, as well as the speaker toe-in angles, are just approximations - you'd still have to experiment with whatever you get. Tile floors are great since you can mark them with anything you can stick on there, keeping the speakers nearer to the wall and out of the way when not in use, then you just move them over where you marked the spikes would go.
 
That said, I'm kind of worried about the asymmetry on the corners. By nature corners affect bass notes, but the left corner looks like it could have some diffusion effect. What I'd do is DIY some acoustic panels (just Google that, a lot of tutorials come up, and over here I get the stuff from Home Depot; the filler we usually get from another store that deals with industrial textiles) to go over the shapes on that corner, then DIY generally the same panels for the right but make sure that you can have them free-standing and mimic the shape on the left.
 
What I'm not sure of is how you could get space to do the DIY; if you haven't moved in your stuff and you have no neighbors who need to sleep on weekend mornings, I'd do it in there and capitalize on the space and not having any stuff to get sawdust all over. Maybe try to work it out with the manager as part of your moving in process?
 
 
 
1. I know this is a very vague answer, but I do not know how much the equipment to run the speakers normally will cost. I do not need the BEST products, just great looking ones that is efficient enough to support the speakers. So I would love any recommendations with an ESTIMATE budget for the entire setup at around $1500-$2500

 
Well, here's the thing about the estimated budget - make sure it doesn't blow a hole through your financials. I assume you'd still deal with student loans or something, so at the very least, blow only expendable cash, and use only credit cards that have those low or zero interest deals on monthly payments that won't have you eating instant noodles. At the very least pizza shouldn't become a luxury, and you can still get a steak to eat at home once in a while.
 
With that out of the way, $2,500 can go a long way if we go for deals online. 
 
 
 
4. For the living room, I am thinking about hooking up a turntable (currently looking at the u-turn orbit turntable), a blueray player, and an AirPort Express to listen to the music from my computer.
 

 
AFAIK, the Airport Express will only do 320kbps - the speaker set-up will be a lot of work just to listen to that. I'd get around that and the BR player by using a music server. I assume you have Apple gear since you posted the AirPort Express - what I'd do is get a (used) MacMini and configure it to run as a Headless Audio Server (just Google it, lots of tutorials - although be specific as most of them are for Android) and you can use a tablet or smartphone as an interface so no need to install a monitor out there. You can either use an HDD inside the MacMini, or hook up an external HDD; from there you can feed a DAC using USB or Optical. Just make sure the Mini you're getting has the Optical port, and functional, if you're getting an older used unit. 
 
Alternately there are tutorials on how to run a $100 Android MiniPC as a headless server. Also...is the TT that important? Because I was thinking you could probably just use small direct digital amps, and the whole concept does away with analog inputs. The nice thing about these is that they can do away with the bulk of traditional amps, and already have a DAC built in as well.
 
-----------
 
In any case, I found the NAD D3020 direct digital amplifier and Focal Chorus 806V on MusicDirect for a total of $1100. The D3020 has 30wpc vs, say, 100wpc vs the NuForce DDA-100, but I doubt you'd need all that much (I've heard the D3020 at a hi-fi show fill a moderately sized room with full sound out of small PSB speakers, it should do better on the 806V), and it has an analog input so there's a way to use the TT if you really insist on using one. It also has a subwoofer preamp output, so you can easily spend $600 on if you would rather have a sub fill in the lows, especially to have the bass very audible (ie get that "kick" from the bass) before you get the speakers playing too loud and annoy the neighbors. All that should be around $2,000, plus taxes and shipping. Buy the speaker cables terminated from BlueJeans cable, plus whatever analog or SPDIF interconnect you need that they might have one of (not sure about optical, but easy enough to find one). In any case, you still should have a little bit for the MacMini, and you should hold off on the sub anyway until you feel like you need it. Note though that while it may save you from setting the amp on the mains too loud, the bass notes can be more audible outside your own apartment, so while it might not be noisy in terms of absolute db your neighbors might still get to heat the thumping. Or feel it. In any case, save that for last.
 
http://www.musicdirect.com/p-139677-focal-chorus-806v-bookshelf-speakers-pr.aspx
http://www.musicdirect.com/p-155651-nad-d-3020-hybrid-digital-integrated-amp.aspx
 
May 9, 2015 at 3:53 PM Post #9 of 50

davidthepark

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Here's basically how I'd deal with that space - I'd have the speakers' backs to the window. The great thing about that is you can deal with reflections off the window glass by just using very thick curtains, making it convenient. Note that the actual spot for the speakers and the seat, as well as the speaker toe-in angles, are just approximations - you'd still have to experiment with whatever you get. Tile floors are great since you can mark them with anything you can stick on there, keeping the speakers nearer to the wall and out of the way when not in use, then you just move them over where you marked the spikes would go.
 
That said, I'm kind of worried about the asymmetry on the corners. By nature corners affect bass notes, but the left corner looks like it could have some diffusion effect. What I'd do is DIY some acoustic panels (just Google that, a lot of tutorials come up, and over here I get the stuff from Home Depot; the filler we usually get from another store that deals with industrial textiles) to go over the shapes on that corner, then DIY generally the same panels for the right but make sure that you can have them free-standing and mimic the shape on the left.
 
What I'm not sure of is how you could get space to do the DIY; if you haven't moved in your stuff and you have no neighbors who need to sleep on weekend mornings, I'd do it in there and capitalize on the space and not having any stuff to get sawdust all over. Maybe try to work it out with the manager as part of your moving in process?
 
 
 
Well, here's the thing about the estimated budget - make sure it doesn't blow a hole through your financials. I assume you'd still deal with student loans or something, so at the very least, blow only expendable cash, and use only credit cards that have those low or zero interest deals on monthly payments that won't have you eating instant noodles. At the very least pizza shouldn't become a luxury, and you can still get a steak to eat at home once in a while.
 
With that out of the way, $2,500 can go a long way if we go for deals online. 
 
 
 
AFAIK, the Airport Express will only do 320kbps - the speaker set-up will be a lot of work just to listen to that. I'd get around that and the BR player by using a music server. I assume you have Apple gear since you posted the AirPort Express - what I'd do is get a (used) MacMini and configure it to run as a Headless Audio Server (just Google it, lots of tutorials - although be specific as most of them are for Android) and you can use a tablet or smartphone as an interface so no need to install a monitor out there. You can either use an HDD inside the MacMini, or hook up an external HDD; from there you can feed a DAC using USB or Optical. Just make sure the Mini you're getting has the Optical port, and functional, if you're getting an older used unit. 
 
Alternately there are tutorials on how to run a $100 Android MiniPC as a headless server. Also...is the TT that important? Because I was thinking you could probably just use small direct digital amps, and the whole concept does away with analog inputs. The nice thing about these is that they can do away with the bulk of traditional amps, and already have a DAC built in as well.
 
-----------
 
In any case, I found the NAD D3020 direct digital amplifier and Focal Chorus 806V on MusicDirect for a total of $1100. The D3020 has 30wpc vs, say, 100wpc vs the NuForce DDA-100, but I doubt you'd need all that much (I've heard the D3020 at a hi-fi show fill a moderately sized room with full sound out of small PSB speakers, it should do better on the 806V), and it has an analog input so there's a way to use the TT if you really insist on using one. It also has a subwoofer preamp output, so you can easily spend $600 on if you would rather have a sub fill in the lows, especially to have the bass very audible (ie get that "kick" from the bass) before you get the speakers playing too loud and annoy the neighbors. All that should be around $2,000, plus taxes and shipping. Buy the speaker cables terminated from BlueJeans cable, plus whatever analog or SPDIF interconnect you need that they might have one of (not sure about optical, but easy enough to find one). In any case, you still should have a little bit for the MacMini, and you should hold off on the sub anyway until you feel like you need it. Note though that while it may save you from setting the amp on the mains too loud, the bass notes can be more audible outside your own apartment, so while it might not be noisy in terms of absolute db your neighbors might still get to heat the thumping. Or feel it. In any case, save that for last.
 
http://www.musicdirect.com/p-139677-focal-chorus-806v-bookshelf-speakers-pr.aspx
http://www.musicdirect.com/p-155651-nad-d-3020-hybrid-digital-integrated-amp.aspx

 
Thank you so much for your reply.
 
So based on your recommendation, are you suggesting I not purchase the MMGs?
 
May 10, 2015 at 2:15 AM Post #10 of 50

ProtegeManiac

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Thank you so much for your reply.
 
So based on your recommendation, are you suggesting I not purchase the MMGs?

 
Forgot about those. Generally, yes, but take measurements of that area I would put the speakers in and shoot Magnepan an email. There's the possibility that they won't be too handicapped as long as you put in enough room treatments along the walls.
 
May 10, 2015 at 2:55 AM Post #11 of 50

davidthepark

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Forgot about those. Generally, yes, but take measurements of that area I would put the speakers in and shoot Magnepan an email. There's the possibility that they won't be too handicapped as long as you put in enough room treatments along the walls.

 
Then to clarify, what speakers do you recommend?
Honestly, I really wanted the MMGs because of how sexy they looked and the reviews about the great sound quality for that low price point.
If, however, the MMGs wont do a great job because of the small living room space, I would love to hear other suggestions!
 
May 10, 2015 at 12:42 PM Post #13 of 50

ProtegeManiac

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Then to clarify, what speakers do you recommend?
Honestly, I really wanted the MMGs because of how sexy they looked and the reviews about the great sound quality for that low price point.
If, however, the MMGs wont do a great job because of the small living room space, I would love to hear other suggestions!

 
My #1 choice would be the Focals, but again what I was saying was check with Magnepan about the room dimensions and ask them just in case they might have a good idea on whether a listening environment as such would immediately be a problem.
 
May 10, 2015 at 1:35 PM Post #14 of 50

davidthepark

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My #1 choice would be the Focals, but again what I was saying was check with Magnepan about the room dimensions and ask them just in case they might have a good idea on whether a listening environment as such would immediately be a problem.

Which Focals would be appropriate for my living room space?
 
Also, regardless of the Focals or MMGs, will the recommendation for DAC/amp/receiver will be the same for both?
 
May 10, 2015 at 2:12 PM Post #15 of 50

ProtegeManiac

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  Which Focals would be appropriate for my living room space?

 
The one I posted the link to the sale on Music Direct above.
 
 
 
Originally Posted by davidthepark /img/forum/go_quote.gif
 
Also, regardless of the Focals or MMGs, will the recommendation for DAC/amp/receiver will be the same for both?

 
Generally, yes, since any neutral DAC working with a neutral amp (that won't distort with the given speaker, more on this later) is what's necessary, except look at the links to Music Direct that I posted above. I posted a Direct Digital Amplifier - the NAD D3020. That means it takes a digital input, skips the usual DAC output stage (which is where coloration of the sound usually happens, and why the design is very critical) and amplifier input stage, and then goes directly to the amplifier output stage from the DAC. it has its own digital volume control system that doesn't use a conventional potentiometer, or at least that's how it is in the Wadia 151. Basically, the DAC and amplifier will be in a single, convenient, compact box that also does away with circuit parts that only get in the way or transparency unless you make a really good circuit but even then it will be larger.
 
The thing with that however is that the D3020 only makes 30wpc; that's at a very low THD rating so it could make quite a bit more power before you get to easily audible distortion levels. Still, I'm not sure if that's enough power for the Magnepans. There's the NuForce equivalent (forgot the model number already) but the downside is it's a purer Direct Digital Design - digital inputs only so that means you can't use a TT with it, and no subwoofer preamp either.
 

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