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BUDGET SYSTEM, who thinks they put together the best system on LOW Budget


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I know there are a lot of people on this site with "deep pockets" or people that spend big bucks that would rather have good music than good transportation (grin)....but how about those of you trying to put together a nice sounding system on a LOW BUDGET??

 

Who thinks they have the best sounding system they can with a low budget (UNDER $3000 total) name it?

 

 

Micro pc at frys $150

SSD drive 500GB on sale $200

used 5.1+ AVR with preouts, phono, and supports DSD over HDMI used as a preamp $250

used NAD 218THX amplifier for fronts $300

Pioneer PL550 turntable w/shure cartridge $400

SOny BDPS7200 $250 NEW

Korg 512 DSD DAC $250 w/audiogate software (driver installs easily for foobar wasapi too)

Paradigm Studio 60s used $600

add speakers for surround

I have tried at least 200 different pieces of hardware and I don't think you can buy a more versatile system that sounds better for less.

 

For slightly more money and slightly less functionality, "possibly" slightly better sound.

Replace Sony BDPS7200 $250 + Korg DAC $250 with Marantz SA8005....but I went with above configuration so I can play DSD & FLAC from flash drive. (also gives me multi-chan SACD vs stereo SACD).

 

I am sure I will see someone that says iPhone connected to ifi to beats headphones, but looking for systems with slightly more versatility and with speakers.

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Budget systems face the old cliche: Quality, Price, Convenience pick any two.

 

They do this for each component and for the result of the complete combination.

 

Now a budget system will sacrifice some quality more than likely. The trick is sacrificing as little as possible and not sacrificing which qualities are most important to you.

 

An example regarding sound quality. Way back when Rogers LS3/5A speakers were renowned for budget and space constrained systems. They had amazing imaging. Really incredible some of what they could accomplish. But, for me, for my taste in what is important, they lacked dynamic scale and image size (imaging was amazing, but tiny copies of reality). So much so I could be amazed by others who used them, and would not have been happy for one week were they mine.

 

So what to sacrifice in sound quality is a situation meaning a better budget system to me, might well not even be acceptable for you. Convenience is another area. I have not minded at all some very hair shirted systems with little convenience that many would find intolerable. And while I like good cosmetics, I have been willing to use horrible looking things if they were unusually good at something I value. Some find tradeoffs I accept unacceptable to them.

 

Now you tout playing DSD, other digital formats and LP. That suits you. Me, on a real budget, I would say CD and conventional PCM, drop the rest. Optimize that and let the rest go for the most music is in that format, and supporting too many will cost me in quality overall. You didn't make a wrong choice, you just made one I would not make. I can never say my system beats yours or vice versa.

 

Not being critical of you, just pointing out such a question is unanswerable other than to suggest your chosen alternative with an explanation of what is most valuable to you and what qualities you will budge on if push comes to shove. As a matter of fact, that is a good question. What qualities lead you to make the picks you did, and what are you giving up?

 

My own approach would be spend nearly all the bucks on the amp and speakers. All other components are so good these days even very inexpensive things are quite good if the amp/speakers can do their job. I would budget at least $2500 of the $3000 to amp and speakers. I might even go with some second hand powered speakers for the $2500 worth.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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I'm a DIY guy when it comes to speakers, the most costly ( and important!) part of the chain so my bang for the buck factor probably disqualifies me.

 

But if I had to put together a budget system under 3k, I'd certainly start around a pair of Magnepan 1.7's pre-owned for the core of the system followed by an pro audio amplifier with DSP from Crown or QSC.

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this might not be what you were thinking but there are some EXCELLENT self-powered studio monitors that accept analog and digital input (usually AES) and take care of everything in one system optimized step. All you need is a USB->AES source like a Yellowtec Puc2 or something like that. I suppose you may need a switch/preamp if you are going to use analog sources, but for a computer based set-up looking for best bang-buck ratio, then self-powered monitors would be my inclination.

Roon ->UltraRendu + CI Audio 7v LPS-> Kii Control -> Kii Three

Roon->BMC UltraDAC->Mr Speakers Aeon Flow Open

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This is a simple task today.

 

A TEAC NP-H750 receiver with USB / optical / coax digital inputs, CD player, phono stage, 24/192 DAC, 40 WPC, WiFi, network streaming and a sub out costs $500 from most dealers. Add a pair of PSB Imagine XBs for $500 and you have a wonderful system that cost you $1000 plus any taxes and shipping charges. Add a Project Essential TT with arm and Ortofon cartridge for another $400 and you've got a great system with vinyl for under $1500 delivered. Add 2 TB of NAS for $250 if you want to archive lossless files.

 

Can you do even better for a little bit more? Yes you can. My music player is a Beaglebone Black that cost me $60 and sounds every bit as good with MPD as JRiver does on my big Linux box. Buy an Emotiva Stealth DAC/preamp like mine for $500 and drive a pair of Emotiva Airmotiv speakers (all models internally biamped). They cost $284 to $474 / pair, depending on power and driver size. The 4S (4.5" woofer, 25 watts x 2, $284/pair) sounds great and the 6S (6.5", 100 watts x 2, $474/pair) is absolutely phenomenal. Add a phono stage for about $100 (Project Box) and you're at the next level of sonic greatness for the same money, and all you're missing is integral WiFi & internet radio.

 

Just reading this makes me want to go out and buy a system for each room in the house - it's truly the golden era of audiophilia.

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I don't really consider $3k a "budget" system. There are many people who have put together a nice system of used components for well under $1k.

 

My daily driver (living room tv system) for example consists of the following:

Lenovo Desktop $300 (refurbished)

Topping TP21 Integrated $70 (parts express)

Fostex FE103 in DIY cabs $120 (Ebay/Home Depot)

Peachtree Dac-it $250 (Audiogon)

$740 total

Cables are Belden USB, lamp cord and DIY so I have maybe $50 total in them.

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...

I have tried at least 200 different pieces of hardware and I don't think you can buy a more versatile system that sounds better for less.

...

.

 

Dont bet on that! :)

If you go the ebay china route, $3K will buy you some seriously highend stuff...no need to do that though.

 

Oppo 105...$1000 on ebay with some luck. Or Oppo 103, $500 new! Plays everyfreackinthing.

Used synology nas with 2x drives...prolly over 4GB...$300

For the remained >$1700, a pair of really good studio actives...ebay used.

 

Way simpler than yours, plays movies too and that nas gives you another level of versatility.

 

And that's just one sample...there are prolly hundreds of other combinations that can best your choice.

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I know there are a lot of people on this site with "deep pockets" or people that spend big bucks that would rather have good music than good transportation (grin)....but how about those of you trying to put together a nice sounding system on a LOW BUDGET??

 

Who thinks they have the best sounding system they can with a low budget (UNDER $3000 total) name it?

 

 

Micro pc at frys $150

SSD drive 500GB on sale $200

used 5.1+ AVR with preouts, phono, and supports DSD over HDMI used as a preamp $250

used NAD 218THX amplifier for fronts $300

Pioneer PL550 turntable w/shure cartridge $400

SOny BDPS7200 $250 NEW

Korg 512 DSD DAC $250 w/audiogate software (driver installs easily for foobar wasapi too)

Paradigm Studio 60s used $600

add speakers for surround

I have tried at least 200 different pieces of hardware and I don't think you can buy a more versatile system that sounds better for less.

 

For slightly more money and slightly less functionality, "possibly" slightly better sound.

Replace Sony BDPS7200 $250 + Korg DAC $250 with Marantz SA8005....but I went with above configuration so I can play DSD & FLAC from flash drive. (also gives me multi-chan SACD vs stereo SACD).

 

I am sure I will see someone that says iPhone connected to ifi to beats headphones, but looking for systems with slightly more versatility and with speakers.

 

 

This one's pretty good:

 

Nad D7050 Amp/DAC, (US$1K)

Napa Acoustics NA208S mini monitors (US$200)

Mac Mini that I already owned and use everyday, anyway (US$700)

 

Not counting the computer, total system cost = $1200

 

The sound is excellent. The speakers produce usable bass into the 40's, the digital NAD amp/DAC, is a perfect match and the computer audio is really satisfying. I can play CDs, High-Res files, and Internet radio as well as Spotify Premium. Really makes working from my home office a pleasure.

George

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Budget systems face the old cliche: Quality, Price, Convenience pick any two.

 

They do this for each component and for the result of the complete combination.

 

Now a budget system will sacrifice some quality more than likely. The trick is sacrificing as little as possible and not sacrificing which qualities are most important to you.

 

An example regarding sound quality. Way back when Rogers LS3/5A speakers were renowned for budget and space constrained systems. They had amazing imaging. Really incredible some of what they could accomplish. But, for me, for my taste in what is important, they lacked dynamic scale and image size (imaging was amazing, but tiny copies of reality). So much so I could be amazed by others who used them, and would not have been happy for one week were they mine.

 

So what to sacrifice in sound quality is a situation meaning a better budget system to me, might well not even be acceptable for you. Convenience is another area. I have not minded at all some very hair shirted systems with little convenience that many would find intolerable. And while I like good cosmetics, I have been willing to use horrible looking things if they were unusually good at something I value. Some find tradeoffs I accept unacceptable to them.

 

Now you tout playing DSD, other digital formats and LP. That suits you. Me, on a real budget, I would say CD and conventional PCM, drop the rest. Optimize that and let the rest go for the most music is in that format, and supporting too many will cost me in quality overall. You didn't make a wrong choice, you just made one I would not make. I can never say my system beats yours or vice versa.

 

Not being critical of you, just pointing out such a question is unanswerable other than to suggest your chosen alternative with an explanation of what is most valuable to you and what qualities you will budge on if push comes to shove. As a matter of fact, that is a good question. What qualities lead you to make the picks you did, and what are you giving up?

 

My own approach would be spend nearly all the bucks on the amp and speakers. All other components are so good these days even very inexpensive things are quite good if the amp/speakers can do their job. I would budget at least $2500 of the $3000 to amp and speakers. I might even go with some second hand powered speakers for the $2500 worth.

 

If you suggest $2500 for a maximum of $3000 for amp and speakers isn't hardly possible for a "computer" audiophile system is it? You have to allocate something to a computer, a dac, and a preamp since you didn't say integrated amp. Also, I guess you weren't one that suggested multi-chan is preferred over stereo. You suggest I tout DSD over non-dsd, but on the budget system you can get a dsd/pcm dac in same price range as pcm only dac. Finally it all sounds good, but what would your system include? name your hardware you would go with for $3k budget for a "computer audiophile" system.

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The trick is sacrificing as little as possible and not sacrificing which qualities are most important to you.92Eyn4

 

I agree, makes sense...so what would you suggest?

I personally think you don't need to sacrifice much. Example, I don't think you could spend $500 more and get better sounding speakers. I don't think you could spend $500 more and get a better sounding amp. But if you think so, I would love to hear the input.

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This one's pretty good:

 

Nad D7050 Amp/DAC, (US$1K)

Napa Acoustics NA208S mini monitors (US$200)

Mac Mini that I already owned and use everyday, anyway (US$700)

 

Not counting the computer, total system cost = $1200

 

The sound is excellent. The speakers produce usable bass into the 40's, the digital NAD amp/DAC, is a perfect match and the computer audio is really satisfying. I can play CDs, High-Res files, and Internet radio as well as Spotify Premium. Really makes working from my home office a pleasure.

 

Sounds great! We agree on NAD as amp. I bet it sounds great. I never heard of the napa speakers. I have heard some great sounding speakers under $300, but moving up to paradigm studios was a dramatic improvement, that I feel deserving and would be a worthwhile upgrade down the road.

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Dont bet on that! :)

If you go the ebay china route, $3K will buy you some seriously highend stuff...no need to do that though.

 

Oppo 105...$1000 on ebay with some luck. Or Oppo 103, $500 new! Plays everyfreackinthing.

Used synology nas with 2x drives...prolly over 4GB...$300

For the remained >$1700, a pair of really good studio actives...ebay used.

 

Way simpler than yours, plays movies too and that nas gives you another level of versatility.

 

And that's just one sample...there are prolly hundreds of other combinations that can best your choice.

 

where is your computer and your amp? list the complete system? The sony bdps7200 will certainly play movies. I will certainly consider when you list a complete system. Where is your dsd? will the $500 oppo play dsd from flac? what receiver/amp? total it up....lets see it?

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I don't really consider $3k a "budget" system. There are many people who have put together a nice system of used components for well under $1k.

 

My daily driver (living room tv system) for example consists of the following:

Lenovo Desktop $300 (refurbished)

Topping TP21 Integrated $70 (parts express)

Fostex FE103 in DIY cabs $120 (Ebay/Home Depot)

Peachtree Dac-it $250 (Audiogon)

$740 total

Cables are Belden USB, lamp cord and DIY so I have maybe $50 total in them.

 

Thanks...I love to hear systems that people are content with without spending $20k to $200K (grin)!

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I don't really consider $3k a "budget" system. There are many people who have put together a nice system of used components for well under $1k.

 

My daily driver (living room tv system) for example consists of the following:

Lenovo Desktop $300 (refurbished)

Topping TP21 Integrated $70 (parts express)

Fostex FE103 in DIY cabs $120 (Ebay/Home Depot)

Peachtree Dac-it $250 (Audiogon)

$740 total

Cables are Belden USB, lamp cord and DIY so I have maybe $50 total in them.

 

also, to add... I agree with you $3k is a good chunk of change. I was just wanting to see others ideas that weren't like crazy high...happy to see any system that people are actually "happy with" under $3k....even if its under $1000. I like to see budget speakers people are "happy" with, or any "budget" hardware that people are genuinely happy with.

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I'm a DIY guy when it comes to speakers, the most costly ( and important!) part of the chain so my bang for the buck factor probably disqualifies me.

 

But if I had to put together a budget system under 3k, I'd certainly start around a pair of Magnepan 1.7's pre-owned for the core of the system followed by an pro audio amplifier with DSP from Crown or QSC.

 

I have never had the joy of listening to magnepans. I actually had some, but sold them before I even listened to them...(I know, sacrilegious, grin) I am not familiar with the different models, but these things were huge, and I heard they can be a pain to rebuild, so I moved them quickly and cheaply. What is the price range of the amps you mentioned? can you build a complete system around them for under $3k? They "sound" expensive (grin). For me, best bang for the buck I have heard is still NAD...but always willing to try new things.

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This is a simple task today.

 

A TEAC NP-H750 receiver with USB / optical / coax digital inputs, CD player, phono stage, 24/192 DAC, 40 WPC, WiFi, network streaming and a sub out costs $500 from most dealers. Add a pair of PSB Imagine XBs for $500 and you have a wonderful system that cost you $1000 plus any taxes and shipping charges. Add a Project Essential TT with arm and Ortofon cartridge for another $400 and you've got a great system with vinyl for under $1500 delivered. Add 2 TB of NAS for $250 if you want to archive lossless files.

 

Can you do even better for a little bit more? Yes you can. My music player is a Beaglebone Black that cost me $60 and sounds every bit as good with MPD as JRiver does on my big Linux box. Buy an Emotiva Stealth DAC/preamp like mine for $500 and drive a pair of Emotiva Airmotiv speakers (all models internally biamped). They cost $284 to $474 / pair, depending on power and driver size. The 4S (4.5" woofer, 25 watts x 2, $284/pair) sounds great and the 6S (6.5", 100 watts x 2, $474/pair) is absolutely phenomenal. Add a phono stage for about $100 (Project Box) and you're at the next level of sonic greatness for the same money, and all you're missing is integral WiFi & internet radio.

 

Just reading this makes me want to go out and buy a system for each room in the house - it's truly the golden era of audiophilia.

 

Thanks, this is juice I like to see. I am going to go check out your receiver online now..sounds tasty. I have owned PSBs before and was quite happy with them, don't recall the model (I am thinking b5? around $500?). I switch speakers on a daily basis here, as they are always coming in and going out, so I likely didn't have them for more than a few weeks. THe only speakers I have had that I really miss so far are the paradigm studio 60s. Still wish I never sold them....

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If you suggest $2500 for a maximum of $3000 for amp and speakers isn't hardly possible for a "computer" audiophile system is it? You have to allocate something to a computer, a dac, and a preamp since you didn't say integrated amp. Also, I guess you weren't one that suggested multi-chan is preferred over stereo. You suggest I tout DSD over non-dsd, but on the budget system you can get a dsd/pcm dac in same price range as pcm only dac. Finally it all sounds good, but what would your system include? name your hardware you would go with for $3k budget for a "computer audiophile" system.

 

Well tried to make the overly subtle point that in a budget there are sacrifices and mine aren't likely to be the ones you make. But okay here you go.

 

Emotiva XDA-2........USB DAC, preamp, headphone amp. $269

https://emotiva.com/products/dacs/xda-2-gen2

 

For computers I suggest a good Lenovo laptop off business lease. You often get refurbed models 2-3 years old that were well made $1500 machines when new for $285. So I am over my guestimate of $500 by $54. Wyred 4 Sound ST500 for $925 second hand. Some Acoustat 2+2 ESL speakers for $1000. Still under budget.

 

 

Alternatively Wyred4 Sound mInt integrated. USB DAC< PRE<Poweramp. $1499 plus $285 for computer leaving $1784 for some good speakers. For speakers you could go with some used Vandersteen 4's for $1300, or some used M_L Aeons for $1200 leaving money for other odds and ends. These speakers have a somewhat opposite character, but which is for you depends on your priorities. Or some Magnepan 1.7's already mentioned for $1500. All available 2nd hand at your favorite second hand high end listing place.

 

All different systems and different character. All capable of being quite musical.

 

I didn't even get into powered speakers. Get the $285 computer, the Emotiva DAC/Pre and have $2446 to spend on powered speakers.

 

I have heard everything listed here with exception of the Wyred4 Sound mInt integrated amp. These all would make for a nice exceptional sounding music system sourced from computer. None are the be-all, end-all do everything system.

 

Finally I never said multi-channel didn't sound good or wasn't worthwhile. But in my opinion two very good channels beat 5 or 7 mediocre channels. One of the trade-offs with budget systems. If you consider 5 channel more worthwhile you will end up with lesser speakers for the same money. On those recordings that are two channel (likely the majority) you will be giving away quality. But the choice is each person's to make.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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where is your computer and your amp? list the complete system? The sony bdps7200 will certainly play movies. I will certainly consider when you list a complete system. Where is your dsd? will the $500 oppo play dsd from flac? what receiver/amp? total it up....lets see it?

 

You dont need any of those :)

 

The oppo plays as I said everything...including sacd discs & dsd. The 105 also has the latest Sabre9018 DAC.

The active speakers include amps (by definition) ... usually very good amps which are tweaked to sound best with the particular speaker drivers. Here's a sample http://m.ebay.com/itm/321619973218 ... all reviewers agree that they have *exceptional* SQ.

 

Oppo+actives+storage is all you need...simple, versatile and hifi on the wow level.

 

If you must have a PC, just replace the oppo with e.g. an used Intel NUC ($2-300) and a Dac for max $700 ...e.g. the ODAC sounds perfect for about $200 new! The minimax plus is a fantastic Dac for $7-800 used...none of those does Dsd but a Geek does (never heard one but super reviews everywhere)

 

I'm ready to bet that any of those combos (with opals) sounds better that what you have...although I'm sure your sound is alteady very good.

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to my ears my budget system is the best compromise of all attributes i want. i customized it to my liking. the best... for me

~Jason

Macbook black| consonance usb-spdif|Muse NOS DAC | Yamaha A-s700 | Dynaudio audience 52se|

cables: pangea ac9, DH labs Q9 silversonic, chord company crimson interconnect, BJC digital coaxial cable

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budget-budget (<$1000):

Genelec 8020 ($800) + dragonfly ($150) + cables

 

budget-digital (<$3000):

Genelec 8040 ($2690) + dragonfly ($150) + cables

 

budget-versatile (<$3000):

Genelec 8030 ($1600) + Benchmark DAC1 HDR ($1300) + cables

Home: Apple Macbook Pro 17" --Mini-Toslink--> Cambridge Audio DacMagic --XLR--> 2x Genelec 8020B

Work: Apple Macbook Pro 15" --USB--> Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 --1/4\"--> Superlux HD668B / 2x Genelec 6010A

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to my ears my budget system is the best compromise of all attributes i want. i customized it to my liking. the best... for me

 

Even theough youtube that sounds very crisp & clear ..and I guess the band-in-the-room feeling is there too.

Cant go wrong with dynaudios :)

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budget-budget (<$1000):

Genelec 8020 ($800) + dragonfly ($150) + cables

 

budget-digital (<$3000):

Genelec 8040 ($2690) + dragonfly ($150) + cables

 

budget-versatile (<$3000):

Genelec 8030 ($1600) + Benchmark DAC1 HDR ($1300) + cables

 

Interesting, I've been experimenting with what DACs are the best to use with my JBL LSR305 active speakers ($200-250). I've got a couple of I2S Raspberry Pi DACs for less that $100, and an HRT MusicStreamer II+ and iFi DSD Nano for less than $400 dollars and a Chord Hugo which is about $2000. I've found the cheap JBL speakers are mostly limited by the DAC that is used with them. Up to the Chord Hugo, you can clearly hear the limitations of the DACs, although they are all perfectly usable.

 

I haven't heard the iFi DSD Micro or Marantz HD-DAC1 and I wonder if they would be the best 'bang for buck' with a good pair of active speakers like my JBLs.

System (i): Stack Audio Link > 2Qute+MCRU psu; Gyrodec/SME V/Hana SL/EAT E-Glo Petit/Magnum Dynalab FT101A) > PrimaLuna Evo 100 amp > Klipsch RP-600M/REL T5x subs

System (ii): Allo USB Signature > Bel Canto uLink+AQVOX psu > Chord Hugo > Tandy LX5/REL Tzero v3 subs

System (iii) KEF LS50W/KEF R400b subs

 

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budget-budget (<$1000):

Genelec 8020 ($800) + dragonfly ($150) + cables

 

budget-digital (<$3000):

Genelec 8040 ($2690) + dragonfly ($150) + cables

 

budget-versatile (<$3000):

Genelec 8030 ($1600) + Benchmark DAC1 HDR ($1300) + cables

 

I adopted a similar approach;

 

Low Budget < $500 = Dragonfly v1.2 DAC ($130) + Akimate mini powered speakers ($370)

 

Budget < $1,000 = Akimate Blue ..... all in one Powered Speaker including 24/192 DAC Blue

 

Mid Priced < $1,500 = NAD D3020 ($400) + BMW 685 S2 ($800)

 

Full Price < $3,000 = Benchmark DAC1 HDR ($1,250) + ADAM A7X Active monitors ($1,500)

 

I have assumed that anyone interested in audio would already have a computer (PC or MAC). In fairness, however, to the above prices you would need to add specialist audio software (JRiver or Audirvana) + cables + stands = $300 and I have assumed a room size < 25m2 otherwise a decent sub ($500 - $1,000) will be required.

LOUNGE: Mac Mini - Audirvana - Devialet 200 - ATOHM GT1 Speakers

OFFICE : Mac Mini - Audirvana - Benchmark DAC1HDR - ADAM A7 Active Monitors

TRAVEL : MacBook Air - Dragonfly V1.2 DAC - Sennheiser HD 650

BEACH : iPhone 6 - HRT iStreamer DAC - Akimate Micro + powered speakers

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