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Help picking a set of Studio Monitors


EndersShadow
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Currently I have a set of Logitech X-530's connected to my computer. They currently work fine, however I know there is much better out there. I know that the next logical step up from computer speakers is a decent set of Studio Monitors.

 

I would like to purchase a nice set of Monitors for listening to music ONLY, mostly while surfing the web. For movies, I am running currently running HDMI from my computer into my receiver a Sony STR-K1000 which will be upgraded shortly to one that decodes audio via HDMI. From there I have a set of Polk Monitor 40's for my fronts, a Polk Monitor CS1 for my center and a Sony HTIAB sub to complete the setup. The video is displayed on my 32" HDTV as opposed to my two computer monitors. Pictures of my setup can be found here: http://www.hardforum.com/showpost.php?p=1034254747&postcount=6

 

I will be running the Monitors straight from my Asus P5E motherboards built in soundcard (unless overwhelming evidence shows I need to upgrade). This purchase will be made in the next 3-5 months as I need to sell some other stuff to make room on my desk for any of these speakers. I am only looking for a right and left, preferably with an option of hooking up a sub later on, but that is up for grabs.

 

 

I have seen the following sets recommended time after time on [H]ardOCP and AVSFORUM. I am posting here due to a recommendation do to so from those sites. Between these sets which would you get and why (keeping in mind I might add a sub later but this is initially strictly for listening to music while working on my computers). I also am more than open to other brands, but would prefer something I could actually listen to at least once and is under 400 for the pair.

 

1. M-Audio AV40's ~140 in store for the pair (prob can find a discount coupon somehwhere to lower this)

http://www.guitarcenter.com/M-Audio-Studiophile-AV40-104302922-i1322223.gc

 

2. KRK Rokit Powered 6 Generation 2 199.99 per speaker at Guitar Center, total cost around ~400

http://www.guitarcenter.com/KRK-Rokit-Powered-6-Generation-2-105130256-i1401613.gc

 

3. M-Audio Studiophile BX5a ~300 for the set

http://www.guitarcenter.com/M-Audio-Studiophile-BX5a-Deluxe-Active-Monitors-104837133-i1406020.gc

 

4. Audioengine 5 ~350 for the set

http://www.audioengineusa.com/a5_home.php

 

5. Mackie MR5's ~300 for the set

http://www.guitarcenter.com/Mackie-MR5-Active-Studio-Monitor-104786603-i1386321.gc

 

 

I have listened to the KRK Rokit 5's at Guitar Center as well as the 8's. They sounded magnificent. I am going this weekend to listen to the BX5a's with some freinds.

 

My concerns with the AudioEngine's and M-Audio AV40's are that they only have one amp for both speakers while the KRK's and BX5a's have one per speaker. I do not know how big a deal this is. Also while the AV40's are at the low end the AudioEngine 5's are right between the sets that have an amp per speaker, so they might get eliminated simply due to that.

 

It has also been recommended that I purchase an external DAC and use that rather than my computers built in soundcard. I am open to the idea but have no idea where to start and what brands to look at.

 

Thanks in advance

 

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Hey Enders. It's a good thing you are actually listening to the monitors on your potential buy list. The Rokits, BX5As and Mackies are all solid choices and I think you'd be very satisfied with any of those three because you can hear them in person. I've heard them as well and they are all great monitors especially for the price. Another member posted on the this forum some time ago about the Rokit monitors. His situation was very similar to yours. He had picked up a pair of the Rokits and tried to run them from the outputs on his sound card to the RCA inputs on the monitors with a 1/8" to dual RCA cable but was very disappointed almost to the point of returning them altogether. The first problem with mixing consumer gear (your sound card) with pro monitors is the difference in impedance between the unbalanced out of your sound card and the balanced inputs on the monitors you are considering. This isn't a problem with the Rokits because they have RCA inputs, but as I said the member who tried this was very unhappy with the sound. The BX5A's and Mackies use balanced XLR or TRS inputs, not RCA; so If you want to go this route by running these monitors from the on board sound you need an impedance transformer with signal matching capability. These cost anywhere from $50 to $200+. The other route is to go with an external DAC. The nice thing about Guitar Center is they have a good variety of solutions for you already there; most of them in stock. My dad and brother own the M-Audio Firewire Solo interfaces (these have a DAC built in). They are $199 and connect to your PC via firewire. They have the balanced outputs you need for the monitors on your list (Rokit, BX5a, Mackie) with a handy volume control as well. You would connect the monitors from the balanced outputs on the Firewire Solo by using 1/4" TRS Male to XLR Male cables, also conveniently available at Guitar Center. I use Mogami cables personally, but the Livewire brand they also carry works just fine and is great for the budget. So you could pick up the monitors you like and an external DAC / interface in the same place. If you have a Guitar Center coupon for 10% off that's even better! (I shop a good bit at GC). I suggested this solution to the member who was disappointed with the Rokits and when he got everything working he said the speakers came alive, the difference in sound was substantial, and he was very happy. Basically, if you go the route of buying an interface for your monitors it's much simpler to connect, you will get much better sound, and you can purchase it in person at the same place. If you have any more questions let me know. Have a good one.

 

david is hear[br]http://www.tuniverse.tv

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think after also discussing this with a friend of mine who does recording and plays every instrument known to man that I will be going with the KRK 6's. Those were actually the speakers he has on his list to purchase when he has some cash lying around. I am going to pair it with an external DAC as recommended and more than likely the one you listed as my friend also recommended that as well.

 

Thanks for the input though, it helps to have people that know their stuff agree with me.

 

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I've had zero problems with them. Presently driving them with the Lavry DA-11 via RCA. They also work well with the M-Audio 410/610, and with this device, use the TRS inputs on the Rokit. They will also accept XLR, as mentioned.

 

There is a review of the KRK Rokit 6 in TAS by Neil Gader. Check it out.

 

http://www.americanmusical.com sometimes has open box specials. This is a nice company to deal with, very organized, prompt, service-oriented. The KRK 8s were around $220 each side as i recall.

 

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The Genelec are a little more expensive and higher quality that I need. I am just looking for the best "bang for my buck" studio monitors and these seem to be them. After listening to all the others (but not Genelec) I think the KRK are my best bet.

 

I want to make sure I have all the right parts however. I am going to purchase the M-Audio FireWire Solo (http://www.guitarcenter.com/M-Audio-FireWire-Solo-Mobile-Audio-Interface-102951837-i1154073.gc), and a pair of KRK Rokit Powered 6 Generation 2's (http://www.guitarcenter.com/KRK-Rokit-Powered-6-Generation-2-105130256-i1401613.gc) and possibly later on the KR 10s (http://www.krksys.com/product_krk10.php).

 

I understand I would be running the audio from my computer via firewire to the DAC, from there I would have two cables running to my KRK's, but would this setup allow for the possible addition (at a later date) of a sub, or do I need to change the DAC I was looking at?

 

I doubt I would need a sub but want to plan for it now so I have that option later if I want it. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

 

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My suggestion would be to purchase the Rokit 8s which are slightly more money (check Amercan Musical Supply for specials, open box units, and simply call up and ask them for a lower price :)). They're very friendly.

 

Yes, it's FireWire from the computer to the DAC, and from the DAC, you're runing line-level interconnect (balanced TRS to TRS, or XLR will give better noise immunity than unbalanced TRS). You'll have two unbalanced TRS ouptuts left over than can be used to drive a KRK 10s sub in the future. So you don't need to change the DAC, it appears to have enough output connectors to allow the sub, without even having to add a splitter.

 

Now, the bass output from the 8s is considerable! If you're going to be using them in an office or other reasonably small (12 x 14 x 9) space, you'll have plenty of bass.

 

With correct positioning of your speakers (make sure the interconnect is long enough to allow moving them around) you can get a lot of bass... often the problem is too much bass, which interferes with accurate rendering higher frequencies. Please see Robert Harley's article on bass management in TAS 197 (current Buyer's Guide) issue for sage advice.

 

Regarding the DAC, be sure to check the M-Audio forums and make sure that the software drivers for the product you're interested in are working well on the operating system you plan to use.

 

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My main concern is that I plan on putting these on my desk at my apartment. I do not think I have enough space (see link in first post) for the 8's (they are MASSIVE). I cannot put them on stands next to the desk as I have a Home Theater setup next to it. I had thought about trying to mount them above my computer monitors (a 26" monitor and a 19" monitor mounted vertically), but even then I would almost have to put a shelf above my desk to do so. Overall my apartment bedroom is not that big (11 x 15 x 9) and I am Ok if the sound doesnt fill it completely as long as its accurate. My main concern is just the area the desk is in (and its in the bottom left corner of the floorplan)(http://genebglick.com/library/v3/helpers/popup/floorplan/popup_frameset.asp?imgdata=kcHvlBqte8MPLpiOK8UR38ST38Zse8UR3QdnlQ5tMo1tk0iSl0iuluZQKjHRLJCQK2xnlw-_K0Cv3hWF3W-w28njl0772WM11CiJk8R2I0HH2bZ1gPM7hBAkM0UHgi1V2QnJKcA0MbUaiWd125FH28NsiJH7IBi1lbFV28njlb77JQHSIICh1vRXI5sn2Wde3vsThbd8ipKq3oM0K7)

 

Space was one of the reasons I was going to go with the 6's (besides price). I also thought (and I could be wrong) that the 8" would produce more bass, but at the cost of some of the mid range sound. Am I right in thinking this?

 

If I can manage the 8's I might consider them as my options are:

 

1. Spending an extra 100 dollars on the 8's and not needing a sub, thus being able to use the DAC linked earlier

 

2. Spending another 300+ on the sub and having to purchase a DAC with more connections (that also costs more)

 

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You might consider Totem Mites. I've owned a variety of excellent speakers over the years. About the Mites, whose size perhaps fits your application, I've many times wondered how such cheap speakers could sound so good. Sure, they lack a certain measure of resolution or whatnot, but there's something about them.

 

You can probably get a used pair for $400, maybe less.

 

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Firstly, I'd go with the 8's and forget the sub to start with. It's simpler, and easier to manage sound/cabling-wise. The 8's are a little bigger than the 6's.

 

In terms of positioning, I have them 6 feet apart, and about 6 feet from the listening position. My laptop is on the desk in front of me, and there's a 24" monitor behind the speakers, about 8 feet from me.

 

So my suggestion is move your desk out into the room, get your speakers away from the walls. Having speakers in corners, on the walls, on your desk, etc., is marginal. Put then on stands, and you'll not only pressurize the room (it's a small room audio-wise) but get excellent soundstaging, really accurate sound and have a lot of fun!

 

With good speaker positioning, it will all come alive. You'll be thrilled with the results. The room acoustics are probably half the solution, and they don't cost anything, other than rearranging your living space so that it's more acoustically correct :)

 

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Unfortunately due to the configuration of my room and my desk (it is L shaped) it is not possible to set them up as you describe. I am hoping next year to move into a two bedroom apartment and I would be able to do something like that then, but based on what I have in my room already (dresser, queen size bed, desk, entertainment center, bookshelf, 2 nightstands) it currently just isnt possible.

 

How much of a difference will I notice if I put them on my desk about 4 inches from the back of the wall and probably about 35 to 40 inches apart?

 

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In my opinion, the results would be marginal. The speakers are way too close together; all the imaging will overlap, it will sound rather strangely.

 

You may not be happy with the results. At least you've got really good gear, so when you move to another place, it will work very well there.

 

Now, if you sit on the bed looking down the long axis of the room, you could have the speakers on either side, around 1/3 of the way from the back wall towards you, and this would very well. In other words, any chance your bed be the sofa as well, so to speak?

 

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Apart from suggesting that you move out onto the porch (probably advisable at this time of year on the mainland, given that you already have the entertainment center so that you can watch it from the bed, here's some ideas.

 

How about mounting the speakers on a llitle shelf or bracket, the right channel just to the right of the window, viewed from sitting on the bed, with the left channel over in the corresponding position more or less over the desk? They'd be about 10 feet apart. Check with KRK on who makes mounting brackets, although you could certainly build them yourself without difficulty.

 

If you pull down the shade on the window, that will help reduce bounce from the glass. I think this would give pretty good sound.

 

The shelf gets the speaker high enough that the tweeters can be about ear level when you're sitting on the bed, and they'll be out of the way in terms of interfering with room traffic, vacuuming, and the like. And you can try various toe-in positions if they're on shelves, pointing the tweeters more towards your head, which may reduce side-wall bounces somewhat, more direct sound.

 

It should work out pretty well, and will fill the room with sound for casual listening when you're at your desk. In your new place, try to get vaulted ceilings because that breaks up a lot of the slap between parallel surfaces in the room. My ceilings are asymettrical, and it helps a lot.

 

American Musical will give a 2 year extended warranty, which is nice. And they may have some flexibility on the price when you talk to them in person, compared to the discount for open box shown on the Website.

 

Don't forget with Bryston/Lavry class DACs, you'll want really nice cablings, and the KRKs will be more than capable of rendering the difference between cheap stuff and quality wire. Buy it used on Audiogon or locally: cables run about 25-35% of new, even if they're only a few months old.

 

Same for power cords. Don't use the stock ones.

 

Fortunately the speakers are self-powered, so you have the speaker cable expense. And I'd go XLR to XLR, DAC to speakers, rather than single-ended RCA coax or balanced TRS, both of which the Rokits accept in addition to balanced XLR. This approach will help with EMI suppression.

 

My office is about 70% the volume of your room, and the Rokits produce very loud music at about 50% of full volume on the Lavry. Much above that, you'll be hearing from the neighbors, so there's no problem with loudness.

 

The Rokit 8's put out pretty strong and accurate bass on the lower strings of the bass guiitar (listening to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds). Thumping the floor won't be a problem. Presently I've got the tweeters turned down 2 dB, the maximum amount the Rokits allow. Don't have my microphone yet so it hasn't been possible to do room EQ.

 

I'd definitely go with the 8s. No need for the sub. Installing a sub in a room such as yours would require a lot of experimentation so that it didn't make the overall sound worse.

 

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