(pre?) AMPED UP! The Desktop Audio Thread

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Dangerman
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(pre?) AMPED UP! The Desktop Audio Thread

Post by Dangerman » 22 May 2017, 10:24

Help me buy some speakers for my desk / PC!

I currently use a pair of Sennheiser 598HD headphones straight out of my PC motherboard.

I would like to buy a pair of decent desktop speakers so that I can watch TV and movies and listen to music without the headphones.

I'm interested in an external DAC for better sound and to move volume controls to the desktop. I'd like to be able to switch the sound from headphones to the speakers easily.

I'm less interested in powered speakers because it seems like you don't get great sound that way, so I guess I'm in the market for an amp or pre-amp for the headphones/speakers as well.

I feel like I may have asked you guys this already, but I can't find the topic so I'm creating this thread...

Thanks in advance!

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dhex
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Re: (pre?) AMPED UP! The Desktop Audio Thread

Post by dhex » 22 May 2017, 10:36

Budget?
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Highway
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Re: (pre?) AMPED UP! The Desktop Audio Thread

Post by Highway » 22 May 2017, 10:40

My wife and I both have AudioEngine speakers, she has A2s, I have A5s. I don't really see where having powered speakers is necessarily worse than an outboard amp, especially because you're going to get close to the same quality of amp when you're in that price range.

I've been really happy with the imaging of the A5, and like the full range of them. I also think they sound good at low volumes, which is what desktop speakers are usually going to be.

I switch the sound from headphones to the speakers by using the audio device on from my Logitech Keyboard for the headphones and the motherboard audio for the speakers. I've set the keyboard as the default device, because it only activates when you plug in the headphones. If you want an outboard DAC / audio device for the speakers, you might need to do it the other way, and set that as default, and then unplug it when you want to use the headphones plugged into the motherboard.
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Dangerman
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Re: (pre?) AMPED UP! The Desktop Audio Thread

Post by Dangerman » 22 May 2017, 11:26

Budget is probably $300-ish for speakers and any external gadgets. I'm prepared to buy components separately at different times. I don't have a USB hub or any external controls in place now, my KB is a barebones TKL without USB passthrough, and I don't use monitor speakers or anything.

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Highway
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Re: (pre?) AMPED UP! The Desktop Audio Thread

Post by Highway » 22 May 2017, 11:54

That's not a lot of budget. Unless your computer has a terrible motherboard audio system, I'd put the external audio device / DAC on hold and put the money in the physical speakers. Is the sound ok with your headphones? If so then it'll be fine with the speakers. If the computer has front / rear output jacks for sound, you could either plug both in at the same time (if it will output to both) and turn the speakers off when you're not using them, or if it overrides the back output when you plug into the fronts, then plug the headphones into the front when you want to use them.

The AudioEngine A2+ has an onboard sound device in addition to the analog input, but I don't know what the quality of that is. If I were listening to music, I wouldn't really want a speaker that small without a sub, but they do ok in my wife's applications. They're a little weak in bass extension, not helped by just sitting on the desk.
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Dangerman
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Re: (pre?) AMPED UP! The Desktop Audio Thread

Post by Dangerman » 22 May 2017, 14:16

I was looking at these and thinking about combining them with a DAC/Preamp from Schiit (I'm drawn to their aesthetic, and the prices seem reasonable) but I'm absolutely ok with being talked into something else.

I guess it doesn't matter that the headphones and speakers would be driven at the same time, thinking about Highway's solution. I don't think it would really bother me, but if it did, there's probably a simple switch or something I could add, right? I can't use the front jacks on my PC case for audio because they're unshielded and pick up a lot of interference and generally suck.

I did like the idea of having the gain/volume and phones/speakers switch on a handy doodad though. I don't like clicking software to change volume when I'm using headphones.

I know the budget is a bit small, but I'd been told that there were some decent speakers at $80-150 and I was hoping to maybe make use of that. I made use of some suggestions collected by Zeos here and here.

I'm looking at the Audioengine page now, thanks for the tip.

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Highway
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Re: (pre?) AMPED UP! The Desktop Audio Thread

Post by Highway » 22 May 2017, 14:43

I'm not really a fan of the "assemble from parts" aesthetic for a subsystem like that. Especially one like audio, where you just can't really go by other people's recommendations (including mine!). One person's "Sounds nice and mellow" is another person's "really direct sound" and a third person's "harsh and grating". And while you can mix and match different sound qualities, you can get into a problem chasing yourself with "the speakers are doing one thing, while the amp is doing another, and the decoder is muddling up the rest." Yeah, you can replace parts individually, but why would you? Because you don't like what you bought in the first place. And then you end up changing things around, and what you thought would get rid of that amp harshness made it muddy instead, or what you thought would just brighten it up a little makes something ring horribly. I'd rather find something that I like as a whole and just go with that.

Also, one of the biggest continuing hassles you'll find is trying to switch audio devices in Windows, and making sure applications are using the one you want to use. So maybe finding something that has a headphone jack (and adjusts the output accordingly) is a good way to go.
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Dangerman
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Re: (pre?) AMPED UP! The Desktop Audio Thread

Post by Dangerman » 22 May 2017, 15:09

I don't really go off of reviews for speakers that address the qualities of the sound (harsh, mellow etc. etc.) I'm more interested in basics like balanced low-mid-highs, price, and usability (size, in/out's). With few exceptions, I don't think that I could really identify or be bothered by nuances like that.

I wasn't expecting or planning on chasing a perfect sound, it just seemed like if I wanted

1) Hardware volume controls on the desk,
2) Switch between headphones and speakers easily (prefer a switch to manually unplugging),
3) better sound than Best Buy/Logitech-quality powered desktop/office speakers

then the most common suggestion I've heard was to get separate components in the configuration I wanted. Since there are (allegedly) good components for all this in my price range, it seemed reasonable.

The A2+ looks nice, and the size is right, but the volume knob on the back has the potential to be a thing that pisses me off. I want controls that are more accessible.

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Highway
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Re: (pre?) AMPED UP! The Desktop Audio Thread

Post by Highway » 22 May 2017, 15:20

Yeah, looking at that list of components, the one I would go with for what you're thinking is the SMSL AD18, but that's up at 150 dollars, half your budget. But that gives you what you're looking for with the headphone jack, the control knob on the device, and a power amp and DAC. I personally don't like the look of those Micca speakers you linked earlier, they just look bad to me, but again, that's aesthetics. And rear porting might not work well in little speakers like that for you, it depends on your setup.
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Dangerman
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Re: (pre?) AMPED UP! The Desktop Audio Thread

Post by Dangerman » 22 May 2017, 15:30

Rear - porting being that it projects part of the sound to the rear?

The speakers would be on a desk, raised on foam speaker blocks, 5"-6" from the wall in an bedroom/office, about 130 sq ft of space.

I'm not sure if I'm audiophilic enough to tell the difference between speakers above the bottom tier, especially for mostly video and game sound and casual music in the room, which is why I'm concentrating in getting the physical features I want, and trying not to pay for quality I'll never notice. Anything black will be unnoticeable on my desk, so visually I don't care too much at all.

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D.A. Ridgely
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Re: (pre?) AMPED UP! The Desktop Audio Thread

Post by D.A. Ridgely » 22 May 2017, 15:34

I've recommended this setup before, but I wholeheartedly agree that whether one is happy with the resulting sound is too subjective to go much beyond something like "I really like this." So, in that spirit, I really like this:

JBL Control 1 speakers, roughly $150 (or less, shop around) for a pair.
Image
They're bullet-proof, magnetic-cased, have an honest-to-god bass, a small footprint (6.3 x 5.6 x 9.3 in) and will last forever. (I'm of the old school when it comes to psychoacoustics. Specs don't accurately tell how speakers will sound and the best old design speakers continue to be as good as anything newer.) Down side: they're wired and you really need a small amplifier to get them to sing. Hence, the AudioSource 100VS amp. $120 or less. Small footprint (16-1/2"W x 2-15/16"H x 9-1/2"D,) 50wpc. Nice features in a well built amp.
Image
These combine on my desk to make a beautiful soundstage for whatever I'm viewing on my desktop computer monitor.

Are they as good as a first rate stereo hi-fi system? Of course not. But they're miles ahead of any so-called "computer monitor speakers" I've ever heard.

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Highway
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Re: (pre?) AMPED UP! The Desktop Audio Thread

Post by Highway » 22 May 2017, 16:02

Dangerman wrote:Rear - porting being that it projects part of the sound to the rear?

The speakers would be on a desk, raised on foam speaker blocks, 5"-6" from the wall in an bedroom/office, about 130 sq ft of space.

I'm not sure if I'm audiophilic enough to tell the difference between speakers above the bottom tier, especially for mostly video and game sound and casual music in the room, which is why I'm concentrating in getting the physical features I want, and trying not to pay for quality I'll never notice. Anything black will be unnoticeable on my desk, so visually I don't care too much at all.
Yeah, rear ported speakers have that little hole that faces back, as opposed to the ones DAR posted a picture of which are front ported. For small speakers that are pointed right at you at close range, front porting will tend to give you more of a feeling of bass presence than rear, but the rear might work better if you're farther away and using them as more room speakers.

And I agree entirely with what DAR says about 'liking' it, because I probably wouldn't care so much for his JBL speakers. All the JBLs I've used have tended to be rather flat feel (not as much as Sony, tho), and I prefer a brighter sound with more depth (such as with Bowers and Wilkins or Paradigm), but not as harsh as Klipsch. But then I like JBL for our band PA system.
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Dangerman
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Re: (pre?) AMPED UP! The Desktop Audio Thread

Post by Dangerman » 24 May 2017, 09:08

So I think that I'm going to buy this, and go with the powered monitor version of these. The speakers will do the trick for a while, and I don't think I'm going to hate the flattish, clear-ish sound considering the media I consume.

Thanks for the advice.

Dangerman
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Re: (pre?) AMPED UP! The Desktop Audio Thread

Post by Dangerman » 08 Jun 2017, 19:09

I got the Micca Origen+ for $68 (open box) from the manufacturer and bought the Micca PB42X for $110, and I'm very happy. Does just what I wanted. Sounds great for spoken word (videos, movies, TV) and I didn't dislike how a few tracksof my favorite music sounded even at top volume. I think that isolation blocks will improve it even more.

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