Need suggestions for PC/Desk speakers and DAC solution
Sep 22, 2013 at 11:55 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 36

dclaz

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Hey guys, I've finally decided that I can spend some cash and get a nice audio set up for my computer. I'm looking at spending around 1k for a good audio solution. Note that I'm in Australia and we don't get quite as good value as the rest of the world :frowning2: 
 
I'm keen on getting an external DAC as opposed to an internal soundcard. Mostly because I like the idea of using it with other devices in the future, such as a notebook or something and not being limited to PCI/PCIe interface. I'm considering the following DAC's:
Asus Xonar Essence One (I'm leaning towards this because I love the idea of upgrading it in the future)
Cambridge Audio DAC Magic Plus
Schiit Modi 
Audioengine D1
ODAC
Anything else I should consider? Inbuilt headphone amp is a plus, but no essential. I've got a pair of Sennheiser Momentums that I use on the tram/in the office, but would like the option of getting a nice pair of open cans in the future for home use, HD650's or something.
 
As far as speakers go, I've considered:
Swan M200MKIII (leaning towards these)
Swan T200B (love the look of these, but they'll stretch the budget with the more expensive DAC's I've looked at)
Audioengine A5
KRK Rokit RP5G2/RP6G2 (Or G3 if I can get them...)
Anything else?
 
My concern with these selections is that although I seem to find good reviews/comments on all these products, they might not be independent. There might be a lot of echoing of thoughts about these products without sufficient independent review or analysis. Groupthink.
 
The speakers will be sitting on my desk, or on a nearby stand(s) next to my displays. My room at the moment is not that big (bedroom), but in future I plan to use them in a larger living/rec room. I'm a little concerned that nearfield monitors not being suitable for this, which I believe the speakers I've listed above all are. Will they be awful if I'm not sitting directly in front of them? What else should I consider? 
 
I have a fairly wide range of music I listen to. Artists I've been listened to in the last week or so include: Nine Inch Nails, Lana Del Rey, Moloko, Beethoven, Kanye West, The xx, etc etc But this can vary to Opeth, Slayer to Chopin or whatever the latest dance hit is. As far as sound goes, I like the idea of going for a neutral sound, as close to as what the artist had intended to be heard? But I want to avoid a situation where it's flat/dull/fatiguing to listen to. But perhaps I can't have both?
 
The Swan T200B are the most premium speaker I have looked at, will a cheaper DAC such as the Modi do them justice? is the E1 too much DAC for the other Swans or a pair of Rokits? What is the best performing/value combo? How important are balanced outputs/inputs? What is the consensus on how much they improve quality? (or is it largely situation dependent?) Would it be silly not use XLR cables with speakers that support balanced inputs?
 
Unfortunately, it is difficult for me to actually test any of the products. I appreciate any and all input. Is there any thing else I should consider? Any questions I should answer before proceeding?
 
Sep 22, 2013 at 12:52 PM Post #2 of 36

cel4145

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If you are eventually moving your setup to a living room where you might want to use the speakers for HT, I suggest going with a passive speaker and amp setup. That way you have something to build upon for a 5.1 setup once you are ready. You can do that with a pro monitor powered speaker setup, but it tends to be very expensive because you still have to buy a receiver, which would have amplifiers you don't need with powered speakers, and it's expensive because budget level receivers don't have the hookups for powered monitors. Thus, passive speakers are the way to go if that is your long term plan. In the short term, an Indeed TA2021 (I own a couple of them) will power pretty much any passive speaker well for desktop use.

Put the most of your money into the speakers instead of worrying about a very expensive DAC like the Cambridge DAC Magic Plus. A Schiit Modi or ODAC will work just fine, although they do not have headphone output. The Audioengine D1's DAC is probably not quite as good as those two, but it will work very well and does have a headphone amp. You might also look at the Maverick Audio TubeMagic D1 DAC. They are a Hong Kong based company, so shouldn't be a problem getting shipped to Australia.

Balanced inputs and XLR cables may make little or no difference. Their purpose is to prevent electronic interference and they were designed for pro audio use where there are lots of cables and equipment running to cause interference. Given your budget range, you should get the best SQ speakers and not worry about that feature.
 
Sep 22, 2013 at 7:33 PM Post #3 of 36

PurpleAngel

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  Hey guys, I've finally decided that I can spend some cash and get a nice audio set up for my computer. I'm looking at spending around 1k for a good audio solution. Note that I'm in Australia and we don't get quite as good value as the rest of the world :frowning2: 
 
I'm keen on getting an external DAC as opposed to an internal sound card. Mostly because I like the idea of using it with other devices in the future, such as a notebook or something and not being limited to PCI/PCIe interface. I'm considering the following DAC's:
Asus Xonar Essence One (I'm leaning towards this because I love the idea of upgrading it in the future)
Cambridge Audio DAC Magic Plus
Schiit Modi 
Audioengine D1
ODAC
Anything else I should consider? Inbuilt headphone amp is a plus, but no essential. I've got a pair of Sennheiser Momentums that I use on the tram/in the office, but would like the option of getting a nice pair of open cans in the future for home use, HD650's or something.
 
As far as speakers go, I've considered:
Swan M200MKIII (leaning towards these)
Swan T200B (love the look of these, but they'll stretch the budget with the more expensive DAC's I've looked at)
Audioengine A5
KRK Rokit RP5G2/RP6G2 (Or G3 if I can get them...)
Anything else?

Is this setup for music only? how about gaming? or movies?
 
For around $250 you can get an all in one device (DAC/Amp) that can work with desktop and laptops
and should be able to drive headphone and have a line-out for the self-powered speakers.
 
Sep 23, 2013 at 1:10 AM Post #4 of 36

dclaz

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If you are eventually moving your setup to a living room where you might want to use the speakers for HT, I suggest going with a passive speaker and amp setup. That way you have something to build upon for a 5.1 setup once you are ready. You can do that with a pro monitor powered speaker setup, but it tends to be very expensive because you still have to buy a receiver, which would have amplifiers you don't need with powered speakers, and it's expensive because budget level receivers don't have the hookups for powered monitors. Thus, passive speakers are the way to go if that is your long term plan. In the short term, an Indeed TA2021 (I own a couple of them) will power pretty much any passive speaker well for desktop use.

Put the most of your money into the speakers instead of worrying about a very expensive DAC like the Cambridge DAC Magic Plus. A Schiit Modi or ODAC will work just fine, although they do not have headphone output. The Audioengine D1's DAC is probably not quite as good as those two, but it will work very well and does have a headphone amp. You might also look at the Maverick Audio TubeMagic D1 DAC. They are a Hong Kong based company, so shouldn't be a problem getting shipped to Australia.

Balanced inputs and XLR cables may make little or no difference. Their purpose is to prevent electronic interference and they were designed for pro audio use where there are lots of cables and equipment running to cause interference. Given your budget range, you should get the best SQ speakers and not worry about that feature.

 
Thanks for the feedback. 
 
I'm not terribly concerned about using this set up in a HT capacity. I'm way more likely to build that from the ground up in the future. And the more I think about it, the more I feel these speakers will stay on my desk/with my computer.
 
I'll check out the TubeMagic D1 now. The D2 looks nice too. Is there anything particularly different about having a tube DAC? Is it likely to last as long? (I know nothing about that sort of hardware)
 
How good do speakers have to be before you start to appreciate the difference between $100-$200 DAC's and the $400-$500+ DAC's?
 
Sep 23, 2013 at 1:11 AM Post #5 of 36

dclaz

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  Is this setup for music only? how about gaming? or movies?
 
For around $250 you can get an all in one device (DAC/Amp) that can work with desktop and laptops
and should be able to drive headphone and have a line-out for the self-powered speakers.

 
Although I also watch TV/movies on my computer, I mostly want my music to sound good. Games aren't a big concern.
 
Sep 23, 2013 at 9:15 AM Post #6 of 36

DrSheep

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NuForce ICON series, but your list isn't half bad.  Have you considered getting the Audioengine D1 + A5+ combo?
 
Sep 23, 2013 at 10:31 AM Post #7 of 36

RonaldDumsfeld

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Sep 23, 2013 at 11:08 AM Post #8 of 36

dclaz

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  NuForce ICON series, but your list isn't half bad.  Have you considered getting the Audioengine D1 + A5+ combo?

Will check out the ICON now. I think I'd prefer something with optical in so I can use it with more devices.
 
I've considered the Audioengine combo. I've read a bit more on the A5, and while it gets good reviews, it looks like other speakers in the league can do a better job. There is a popping issue with the A5's?
 
   
Since you are already leaning towards something with future expandability in mind I'd second purpleangel's suggestion to get a ~$250 audio interface.
 
Here are  a couple of suggestions.
 
http://www.native-instruments.com/en/products/traktor/dj-audio-interfaces/traktor-audio-6/specifications/ 
 
http://global.focusrite.com/usb-audio-interfaces/scarlett-2i4/specifications

I don't really need inputs though. Those products look more geared towards production?
 
Sep 23, 2013 at 11:49 AM Post #9 of 36

DrSheep

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Most ICON has at least the coaxial digital, and they also have a USB to S/PDIF with Toslink (U192S) converter.  That popping isses was corrected with the A5+ (hence the +), so you don't have to worry about that anymore.
 
Sep 23, 2013 at 12:02 PM Post #10 of 36

cel4145

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I'll check out the TubeMagic D1 now. The D2 looks nice too. Is there anything particularly different about having a tube DAC? Is it likely to last as long? (I know nothing about that sort of hardware)


The D2 is just a DAC. No headphone amp like the D1 or way to hook up speakers. And the D1's headphone output does not go through the tube pre-amp. Only the outputs on the back do, which can be run to a separate headphone amp or to a set of desktop speakers.

It is my understanding that tubes in pre-amps generally last a lot longer than tubes in amplifiers. Not sure though. If your tube goes out, you can replace it very easily.
 
Sep 23, 2013 at 9:57 PM Post #11 of 36

dclaz

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The D2 is just a DAC. No headphone amp like the D1 or way to hook up speakers. And the D1's headphone output does not go through the tube pre-amp. Only the outputs on the back do, which can be run to a separate headphone amp or to a set of desktop speakers.

It is my understanding that tubes in pre-amps generally last a lot longer than tubes in amplifiers. Not sure though. If your tube goes out, you can replace it very easily.

The D2 as just a DAC would be fine if I were to get powered monitors though.
 
  Most ICON has at least the coaxial digital, and they also have a USB to S/PDIF with Toslink (U192S) converter.  That popping isses was corrected with the A5+ (hence the +), so you don't have to worry about that anymore.

 
Okey dokey. Is there any reservations about using convertors? In theory or in practice?
 
Sep 23, 2013 at 9:59 PM Post #12 of 36

DrSheep

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  The D2 as just a DAC would be fine if I were to get powered monitors though.
 
 
Okey dokey. Is there any reservations about using convertors? In theory or in practice?

 
Not really, as it is digital and not an analog conversion.
 
Sep 24, 2013 at 4:57 AM Post #14 of 36

DrSheep

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Ahh rightio. I figured some are picky about jitter on PCIe and USB interfaces so I thought maybe it might be an issue in theory.

 
PCIe is fine if you are using S/PDIF or Toslink, but I prefer USB anyway as it is easier and you can use a hub.
 

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