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My Budget System


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I learned a good bit off this site so I thought I would contribute my resulting system. I am coming off old-school Monsoon planar magnetic PC 3-piece speakers. As those kist go, it was very good, but I have taken a major step up. I use a Macbook Pro with a large external HD and all files in ALC. My system:

-DAC/Preamp: Chinese Zero via ebay- $150. Comes with USB to Toslink converter. Recognized as generic USB audio device without installing any driver.

-Amp: Parasound Zamp v.3. $300. Same size as Zero, i.e. very compact.

-Speakers: Magnepan MMG-W planar, mounted to wall just behind monitor. $300/pair

-Subwoofer: Essential as the Maggies have no bass. Hsu STF-1 (their smallest). $250. Great extension at the low end, but not a good match for the Maggies as response rolls off above 100 Hz. A small sealed sub would be a better match, but I already had this unit.


I tried mating the sub to the speakers many different ways and finally settled on using the high-level inputs, with which the sub response goes higher. Thought I would get some degradation in the main signal, but could perceive none. I am very happy with the sound. The Maggeis are brilliant as near-field monitors and minimizes their second blatant weakness beyond bass response: very small sweet spot. They are designed for wall mounting so there is no compromise in their performance in this set-up. Very transparent. A small response trough remains between the sub and mains so I will probably eventually replace the sub with something more suitable. Sub needs to be near speakers as localization is a concern with a high crossover point. The Parasound can drive the notoriously inefficient Maggies to high levels. The Zero is an amazing value, plus it's a good headphone amp too. Highly recommended.





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