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Helping a beginner

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Hello everyone! I just finished getting my masters in classical violin, and now that I have an actually well paying job, I am ready to get some audio equipment to make my ears happy. This setup will be primarily for classical music.


I have been using a pair of sub par computer speakers for the longest time that made me want to cringe every time I tried to listen to music through them. It is time to upgrade. The problem is, I have NO IDEA at all what I am doing, so any help at all would be greatly appreciated. I have pretty good hearing I think, but very little knowledge of true audio systems. I have a fantastic pc tower and a budget of $1000 to get the best sound I can afford. Where do I start?


Thank you so much! :)

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Someone is bound to mention the Vanatoo Transparent One self-contained powered speakers...just something to consider along the way to the decision.


Congratulations on graduation and employment...the hard work, while it's own reward, is also going to afford you some nice comforts that will make it well worth the effort! Enjoy your accomplishment!



Positive emotions enhance our musical experiences.


Synology DS213+ NAS -> Auralic Vega w/Linear Power Supply -> Auralic Vega DAC (Symposium Jr rollerball isolation) -> XLR -> Auralic Taurus Pre -> XLR -> Pass Labs XA-30.5 power amplifier (on 4" maple and 4 Stillpoints) -> Hawthorne Audio Reference K2 Speakers in MTM configuration (Symposium Jr HD rollerball isolation) and Hawthorne Audio Bass Augmentation Baffles (Symposium Jr rollerball isolation) -> Bi-amped w/ two Rythmic OB plate amps) -> Extensive Room Treatments (x2 SRL Acoustics Prime 37 diffusion plus key absorption and extensive bass trapping) and Pi Audio Uberbuss' for the front end and amplification

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Thanks! Sure, custom build.

Processor: i7 4770k,

16gb Ram,

100something SSD,

3 tb HDD,

Asus Xonar soundcard

Running Windows 7 ultimate x64

Looks good.

If you're happy with the Xonar card (a really decent card), all you need is active monitors to get going. The Vanatoos as John mentioned , the KEF X300A would also be recommended by many. I'm personally partial to the AudioEngine 5+ because of personal experience. All within your range. Others may come along with equal or superior suggestions. I always recommend purchasing from a source that allows for returns. Your ears are trained. Trust that.

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I like the Xonar card so far, but to be honest, I have not had any equipment really worthy to test it. I bought that card specifically because it came in a builder's pack when I built my tower. Great suggestions, all within my price point, going to do much more research. Thank you!


Also, a side note that is apparently an important one to make. I am not looking to project sound across my entire apartment, or necessarily even the entire room. I just would like the area that is my moderately sized desk to have as pristine sound as possible. Past that is not really necessary.

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First stop is a hifi shop. You will not know what you like until you start seeing and hearing a few different options and directions. Just as you would not purchase a violin without hearing it and playing it.

+1. As long as hifi shops still do exist, you should really use them. However, please also have the courtesy, if a dealer did a nice job, to purchase there as well and don't get it for $50 cheaper on Amazon.


Ultimately, you'll need three components: a digital analog converter (DAC), an amp, and speakers. One of them you already have in a way (the DAC in your XONAR card), which certainly could be a starting point. The amp and the speakers these day often go together, both in the entry and in the very high-end segment, then called "active" speakers. The Focals and Vantoos recommended before would do this job. This would give you a good desk-top system.


However, you'd have two alternatives as well:


1) Develop a "proper" stereo system. Do you have space somewhere for setting up two speakers ideally at least approx. 1m/yard away from each other? In this case, you may as well start a "proper" stereo system. There is an amazing choice of really cheap but great DACs for $200 available these days (or start indeed with your Focal card), and for $300 you'd get a nice amp, which would leave you $500 for speakers.


Or as said before, any permutation of the above, e.g. this little baby includes DAC and amp:


D 3020 Hybrid Digital Amplifier - NAD Electronics


For $500 you also already get really great little speakers. Here, you really need to get the experience of comparing in a shop.


However, this would require some space, and I remember during my student days, space wasn't really available. Therefore you could


2) get a headphone rig


$1000 would get you close to the Rolls-Royce class of headphones. To be fair, those high-end headphones wouldn't be happy being plugged directly into your computer, for a decent set of can's it's worthy investing into a DAC and headphone amp, e.g. from these guys:


Schiit Audio, Headphone amps and DACs made in USA.


And if you want to do some more reading, Stereophile had a great column "The Entry Level" by a guy called Stephen Mejias, that were actually fun to read. Unfortunately the guy moved on to a position in the industry (presumably better paid) recently.


His contributions are still online, and I recommend checking them out:


The Entry Level | Stereophile.com

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Thank you everyone for your help. I really appreciate it, and also how slow you all have been for a novice like myself.


I listened to the Vanatoos, and was very surprised with the sound quality and that price. At least for the time being, they seem like the option for me.


So my final question, do I just directly run a wire from the Xonar card into the Vanatoos, or should I be having some sort of device in between? Thanks again!

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