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    bobfa

    Variations on a Theme: Budget Basement Entertainment System

     

     

    Editor's Note: Bob sent me this update over the weekend, while I was on a little vacation at a cabin in the woods of northern Minnesota. The cabin was powered from solar panels and had StarLink internet. I call it off the grid, but perhaps a better term would be, disconnect from public utilities. Anyway, the one thing this cabin lacked was a stereo of any kind. Using StarLink internet, I streamed Qobuz high resolution to my phone / headphones for much of the time, without any issues. While Bob calls this his budget basement system, I sure could've used it as a budget cabin system. If only I owned a cabin to put such a system in. I'm willing to bet there are some really neat cabin systems put together by members of the Audiophile Style community. I'd love to see them (hint). Anyway, here's Bob's latest update. - CC

     

     

     

    Budget Basement Entertainment System

    Revision 3

    “Variations on a Theme” by Bob Fairbairn

    #Future-Fi

     

     

    I have changed my implementation of the audio chain and added video and gaming!  This is a near- to mid-field system for both serious and casual listening.

     

    The Speakers are now Kali Audio IN-5 studio monitors on stands with Herbie’s Audio Lab gliders under the stands so they can be moved out into position and stowed back against the wall.  I have also added an S.M.S.L. DO100 DAC.

     

    In my original article (link), there was a criticism that I did not include pricing. For this update, I have tallied the costs as best as possible:

     

    • 24-inch Touchscreen monitor (borrowed from another project) $300
    • Google Chromecast with Google TV.  $50
    • Nintendo Switch in its dock $350
    • Nintendo pro controller $70
    • HDMI audio breakout-box (SPDIF with 2-channel setting) $25
    • HDMI switcher $50
    • *** S.M.S.L. DO100 DAC pre-amp $225
    • Teac PD-501HR CD Player $500 closeout
    • Transparent Powerisolator 4  used TBD
    • Raspberry Pi 4 $75
    • Allo Shanti supply for the Pi4 $160
    • *** Kali Audio IN-5 (2) $850
    • 24in Speaker stands with spikes, gliders, and an MDF DIY top plate. Free
    • Cables and accessories $150
    • Pangea X-Brace rack $250
    • Rug for comfort and some acoustic treatment. $100 w/pad
    • Chairs Free

     

    *** New Purchases for the system changes (June 2022)

     

     

    Here we are on the 4th of July of 2022, and it feels right for the first time.

     

    Over time I have developed a fondness for 3-way stand-mount speakers like the Kali Audio IN-5 monitors. I pre-set the levels on the speakers, so there is no need to use their level controls unless you have balance issues.  The IN-5 speakers have a set of DSP control DIP switches to adapt them for placement and room.  These are studio monitors, so they might feel different so some listeners.

     

    The S.M.S.L. DAC forms the core of a small system rather nicely.  The DO100 measures well; it has four inputs; USB, TOSLINK, SPDIF, and Bluetooth, with a simple remote for control.

     

    Hopefully, adding the Nintendo Switch to the system will FINALLY let me finish “Breath of the Wild.”

     

    The Teac CD player is an homage to the past and simple to add CD playback functionality.

     

    Finally, the Chromecast with Google TV brings a wide range of video and audio sources at a minimal cost.

     

    The system experience is excellent. The sound quality is better than I had hoped.  The range of the IN-5 speakers is almost surprising; imaging and soundstage are above par!

     

    At idle, the system draws a conservative 24 watts.  I use a TP-Link KASA switched outlet at the wall to monitor and control power.

     

    Editor's Note: Here is a one minute video of Bob's updated basement system - LINK (75 MB)

     

     

    Note 1: The monitor could be a TV of some sort. The key will be if I can find a small TV with optical out that will deliver 2-channel audio not encoded.  And If I decide to spend more money.

     

    Note 2: Thanks to @Archimago for the DAC review on his blog.  It is perfect for this use case.  OH and SMSL, the connectors are close together on this one too, but it seems OK.  Also, S.M.S.L., can you maybe show the volume and bit rate on display rather than bit rate only? It would be good to know that you are at 100% volume by accident.  OH, and when it starts, I get a loud POP on the output LOUD.

     

    Note 3:  I need to put connectors on the Shanti outputs and change out the DC cables that bother my sensibility.

     

    Note 4:  INSANITY — The system has five remotes, a game controller, and an iPad. Ten devices need AC power.

     

    Note 5:  Pricing does not include the cost of my Roon server, streaming service fees, internet, etc.

     

     

    Here are some reviews and info for the gear in the system.

     

     

     

     

    **** ONE MORE THING ****

     

    The room and the stereo are now ready for me to start evaluating the TigerFox Immerse 360!

     

    TF_Front_Compare-scaled.jpg

     

     

     




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    Great stuff Bob. It's really neat hat can be accomplished with a little creativity and very little money. Fun stuff! 

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    Chris, 

     

    This has been a lot of fun, and I am sure it will evolve.  I am waiting for some more Herbie's Fat Dots to put under the speakers and  I am going to play with the Topping D30 Pro vs the S.M.S.L. AO100.  Starting on the TigerFox next week..

     

    Bob

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    Whats your take on the SQ of the powered speakers versus the Arcam amp plus passives you had before?

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    @Rexp  The the Arcam and the Dali Minute SE is a very interesting pair.  The Dali need the power and speed of the Class G Arcam. They may have even wanted better speaker cables that  I was using, the Nordorst Red Dawn..  In some ways the longer room  with the big L off to the side did not favor the smaller Dali speakers, yet up close near-field they are a very sweet speaker, they treat the music very well.  Read the review over at “A British Audiophile”.  

     

    I spent a lot of time sitting on the floor of the lobby of the store I go to, listening to them before purchasing them.   Later, I added in a Rel T-5x Subwoofer and things were very good.  I never tried DIRAC that is built into the ARCAM.  

     

    What I found is that I was trapping myself into upgrading and upgrading and not simplifying.    I was chasing something.  

     

    I reset back to where I started with the little AudioEngine A2+ speakers and the M-Audio BX-5a monitors.   I started looking for 3-way monitors with some DSP control, and for $350 each the Kali Audio IN-5 got some really good press last year.    I ordered a pair from Sweetwater as they are a favorite supplier of mine.  My investment really dropped off and I am feel better.

     

    As this settles in the IN-5s  fit “ME” better.  

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    28 minutes ago, bobfa said:

    @Rexp  The the Arcam and the Dali Minute SE is a very interesting pair.  The Dali need the power and speed of the Class G Arcam. They may have even wanted better speaker cables that  I was using, the Nordorst Red Dawn..  In some ways the longer room  with the big L off to the side did not favor the smaller Dali speakers, yet up close near-field they are a very sweet speaker, they treat the music very well.  Read the review over at “A British Audiophile”.  

     

    I spent a lot of time sitting on the floor of the lobby of the store I go to, listening to them before purchasing them.   Later, I added in a Rel T-5x Subwoofer and things were very good.  I never tried DIRAC that is built into the ARCAM.  

     

    What I found is that I was trapping myself into upgrading and upgrading and not simplifying.    I was chasing something.  

     

    I reset back to where I started with the little AudioEngine A2+ speakers and the M-Audio BX-5a monitors.   I started looking for 3-way monitors with some DSP control, and for $350 each the Kali Audio IN-5 got some really good press last year.    I ordered a pair from Sweetwater as they are a favorite supplier of mine.  My investment really dropped off and I am feel better.

     

    As this settles in the IN-5s  fit “ME” better.  

    Cool, nice to know these speakers meet Audiophile standards. 

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    @bobfa

    nice little system you have assembled there, congrats!

    I am a big fan of the little SMSL DAC,  especially bc it has all the comforts we were asking from Chi-Fi manufacturers over the years:

    #Dual mono DAC Design

    #balanced outputs

    #Display with dimmable brightness

    #remote control and lastly

    #impressive performance chez @Archimago.

    Pair it with the WIIM Mini streamer  over Toslink, and you are all set.

    As digital beginner or budget depended music lover you can get stellar performance in your digital department for 350 $ only (DAC 250 + WIIM 100). And this is a significant quality upgrade compared to Khadas / RPi combo reviewed here in 2019. Or the quite reliable little Soncoz.

    Top choice, Bob!

    Looking forward to your personal audio cabin adventure !

    Happy summertime, Tom

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    The Little SMSL DAC has a problem that is bothering me.  When you switch inputs and switch back to USB something happens to the DAC and it gets out of sync with my Raspberry PI streamer running Roon Bridge.  The DAC shows 512 in the display.  Then I have to go into Roon and re-select the proper output and TURN THE VOLUME way done to avoid a terrible speaker pop.  

     

    Also, the bit rate display is nice, but volume is much more important to me.  Somehow I really need to see both!

     

    More to come.

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    1 hour ago, bobfa said:

    The Little SMSL DAC has a problem that is bothering me.  When you switch inputs and switch back to USB something happens to the DAC and it gets out of sync with my Raspberry PI streamer running Roon Bridge.  The DAC shows 512 in the display.  Then I have to go into Roon and re-select the proper output and TURN THE VOLUME way done to avoid a terrible speaker pop.  

     

    Also, the bit rate display is nice, but volume is much more important to me.  Somehow I really need to see both!

     

    More to come.

    Sounds a bit annoying, anyway, could you verify that plop won't happen under the same condition with another DAC,

    or as well with different software/ streamer combo with the DO100.

    I remember having experienced similar problems with the KTBD and LMS/PCP, and with the Allo Revolution, Pi3b and Roon. I think it had been about Playlists with different formats, incl  DSD, where the need to match the 100'% output for DSD wasn't matched. 

    Can't check for more precision with my office pc, as I am quarantined right now in a different part of my house, with mobile phone only for the next 5 days.

    Stay healthy, Tom

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    2 hours ago, DuckToller said:

    @bobfa

    nice little system you have assembled there, congrats!

    I am a big fan of the little SMSL DAC,  especially bc it has all the comforts we were asking from Chi-Fi manufacturers over the years:

    #Dual mono DAC Design

    #balanced outputs

    #Display with dimmable brightness

    #remote control and lastly

    #impressive performance chez @Archimago.

    Pair it with the WIIM Mini streamer  over Toslink, and you are all set.

    As digital beginner or budget depended music lover you can get stellar performance in your digital department for 350 $ only (DAC 250 + WIIM 100). And this is a significant quality upgrade compared to Khadas / RPi combo reviewed here in 2019. Or the quite reliable little Soncoz.

    Top choice, Bob!

    Looking forward to your personal audio cabin adventure !

    Happy summertime, Tom

    Good to know. Above the $350 price point how much does one have to spend to get a significant upgrade, and in a system building context how much would you allocate to the digital source in say a $10K rig?

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    The Kali sound like they've been engineered as well as my actives, from Edifier. Therefore they most likely could be pushed to fully competent SQ without too much effort - the test would be to see how well it all holds up when decent volumes are asked for.

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    44 minutes ago, Rexp said:

    Good to know. Above the $350 price point how much does one have to spend to get a significant upgrade, and in a system building context how much would you allocate to the digital source in say a $10K rig?

    All of this is a tough call.  My current server is an Antipodes D-3 that has had most of their upgrades.  I am using a DDC to go from their USB to SPDIF into my Heavenly Soundworks 517 three way speakers.  The D-3 was in the 8K range when it was new??    The speakers are $10K.

     

    I have been dialing things back for simplicity and there are some VERY interesting streamers under $5K.  I am super pleased with Genntooplayer on a Raspberry PI. Even with USB out.  Add a Pi2AES or other DDC and things move up a bit more.  I hope to have the new Volumio RIVO one day soon.  

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    Double  Post

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    1 hour ago, Rexp said:

    Good to know. Above the $350 price point how much does one have to spend to get a significant upgrade, and in a system building context how much would you allocate to the digital source in say a $10K rig?

    The question is fair, but if you start from scratch you may have different needs and ideas.

    We have seen here several requests from people with a proper analog system, just wishing to add digital to it.

    This would be my focus group.

     

    And the allocation in your request depends on your preferences, as you sure know as a former hifi salesmen (iirc).

    If you allocate i. e. 25% on phono/pre amp as a must, then you could opt for

    70 % speaker/amp and get the cheap but excellent combo, or you do 25 % as well with Gustard x26 pro or Octo DAC Stereo, perhaps with a Lumin mini (Used)  or the Pi2design mercury streamer, and only 50% allocation to speaker/amp or powered monitors. Allways comes up to personal preferences. And where you exspect higher gains in sq: digital - analog - speaker/amp - dsp/room treatment.

    Like Roon, DSD, HQP, your preferred music provider, WLAN or ethernet. But you sure know all of that.

    Get well soon, Rex!

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    8 hours ago, bobfa said:

    The Little SMSL DAC has a problem that is bothering me.  When you switch inputs and switch back to USB something happens to the DAC and it gets out of sync with my Raspberry PI streamer running Roon Bridge.  The DAC shows 512 in the display.  Then I have to go into Roon and re-select the proper output and TURN THE VOLUME way done to avoid a terrible speaker pop.  

     

    Also, the bit rate display is nice, but volume is much more important to me.  Somehow I really need to see both!

     

    More to come.

     

    I had a listen tonight using my Raspberry Pi Ropieee streaming from Roon and can confirm that there is a pop with that when DAC first turned on. I believe this is because the default the DAC ends up with is to DSD512. So when I play something more typical like PCM 44.1, that switch from DSD --> PCM results in the "pop". 

     

    This noise does not happen when I stream over my Windows RoonBridge (eg. the fanless MeLE PC) as a WASAPI device. I see there's a handshake sequence and the DAC defaults at start up to PCM.

     

    Will need to play with RoPieee a little more and see if there's a way to make this act more gracefully!

     

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    Played around with this some more. It looks like once the initialization with 1st playback happens with that pop, things are smooth thereafter. Switching between PCM <--> DSD doesn't result in the noise. So it looks to me like it's an issue with the Linux driver initializing the DAC. Maybe this would not be a problem if the SMSL DAC defaulted to PCM rather than DSD512 from the start (I suspect this is something they can do with a firmware update).

     

    A suggestion until a more graceful solution is found for the popping, @bobfa...

     

    Put the SMSL DO100 into UAC1 mode. In Linux, when turned on, it'll default to PCM 96kHz. No popping. In Ropieee, I can confirm it'll stream 44.1/48/88.2/96 properly. Obviously will be missing higher PCM sample rates and DSD, but at least no panic attack or worries about blowing speakers!

     

    BTW: Anyone know who to contact at SMSL for issues like this? John Yang at Topping has been excellent to connect with for tech issues like this... SMSL needs a similar contact!

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    I have not contacted them yet.  Also it happens when you switch inputs. and come back to USB.

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    4 hours ago, bobfa said:

    I have not contacted them yet.  Also it happens when you switch inputs. and come back to USB.

     

    Right, I see this every time the USB loses contact with the Pi, it defaults back to DSD512...

     

    Sent a message to Mandy:

    Quote

     

    Hello Mandy,
    I wrote a review series on the SMSL DO100 recently and showed that it performed very well!

     

    It was brought to my attention that when the DAC resets and is connected to a Raspberry Pi (running Ropieee, Volumio), it "pops" when you first play music. (Also happens when changing input and coming back to USB.)

    This appears to be because the DAC defaults to "DSD512" on start up and typically when we play PCM, that transition from DSD --> PCM will cause the noise. Can you ask the technical team to evaluate this because that popping sound is quite jarring and may even damage speakers if using this as a pre-amp.

    Perhaps the DAC can default when starting up into one of the PCM modes (firmware update?)? I noticed that putting the DAC into UAC1 setting does not have this problem but of course we lose the ability for 24/192+ and DSD playback.

    Thanks,
    Archimago
    archimago.blogspot.com

     

     

    Let's see what the technical support for SMSL looks like!

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    On 7/9/2022 at 8:28 PM, Archimago said:

     

    Right, I see this every time the USB loses contact with the Pi, it defaults back to DSD512...

     

    Sent a message to Mandy:

     

    Let's see what the technical support for SMSL looks like!

    Small update:

    While in comms with Polly from hifi-express.com for another project, where I referenced the DO100 discussion here,  she mentioned to me, that your request was forwarded to the engineering  department and that a firmware update should fix the problem.

    Waited 2 days to see if you got that answer as well.

    Best, Tom

     

     

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    9 hours ago, DuckToller said:

    Small update:

    While in comms with Polly from hifi-express.com for another project, where I referenced the DO100 discussion here,  she mentioned to me, that your request was forwarded to the engineering  department and that a firmware update should fix the problem.

    Waited 2 days to see if you got that answer as well.

    Best, Tom

     

    Nice, I logged into ASR tonight and saw the message...

     

    Let's hopefully see the firmware soon! Especially for a hobby like this where the community isn't very large, and many of the companies are in China, customer support goes a long way towards developing positive sentiment.

     

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    Very exciting to hear that there was a response.

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