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High Quality High-End Audio Rig with a Computer/DAC and Vinyl Front-End


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Good Morning Everyone:

Let's just say that I have a friend who has moved into a shared housing situation, and he wants to have a high quality high-end audio rig, but he's not allowed to have any loudspeakers on the premises.

He wants an analog, computer based nas, and dac based headphone rig.

He has an overall budget of about $2K to about $4K.

What would you suggest??

I suggested the following:

Headphones -- Sennheiser HD-650

Preamplifier -- NAD (any model... used.... I suggested a preamplifier because the preamplifier has a headphone amplifier and a phono stage built-in, minimizes space and system footprint requirement)

Turntable -- Thorens TD-147, TD-160 or TD-165 (or a late model Dual to save money)

Phono Cartridge -- Ortofon 2M Blue (Thorens) or OMS-5E (Dual)

PC or Apple Mac Laptop (already provided by friend.... in this case, he has an Apple iMac, but a PC can be used as well)

DAC -- Bluesound NODE 2 (DAC, Music Player and Streamer.... works with or without a PC/Mac)

Interconnects -- AudioQuest, Cardas, or Nordost

Total Cost -- -/+ $2K (give or take)

What would be your suggestion instead of what I suggested above?? Dedicated Headphone Amplifiers are fine, as long as the Headphone Amplifier in question has enough inputs to accommodate a DAC and an external Phono Stage. Headphone Amplifiers with built-in DAC's are fine as well, but again, it MUST be able to accommodate an external Phono Stage.

Thank You in advance for your suggestions and creations.


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I'd look at something like a Benchmark DAC2 HGC, Oppo HA1 or Marantz HD-DAC1 - these are DACs combined with pre-amp and headphone amp. There are lots of option for similar but you want something with an analogue input.


Add the Apple or PC laptop via USB.


Headphones of choice.


Then your choice of turntable. Personally I have got on well with Pro-ject at whatever level; Rega is another good choice; but there are lots of option. You'll then just need a phono pre-amp.


PS. An "all in one" solution I've thought of ... http://www.box-designs.com/main.php?prod=maiapre&cat=amplifier&lang=en would offer pre-amp, DAC, phono pre and headphone amp all in one box - just add a turntable and headphone. An option to try though I suspect not as high quality as wanted. There is the higher quality http://www.box-designs.com/main.php?prod=maiads&cat=amplifier&lang=en but that has a built in amplifier which is going to go to waste but might still be a good option.



...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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TEAC HD-503 ($1K) (or the networked version, NT-503 if he would prefer not to be tied down to his iMac when listening). Also Peachtree has a bunch of stuff that might fit the bill.


Edit: I just remembered the networked NT-503 version doesn't have an analogue input to which a phonopre could be attached. Sorry.

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I'd suggest Purevinyl 4.0 on the mac which includes Puremusic 3 feeding an Oppo Ha-1 or HA-2 and a pair of their phones up to the budget constraints. For the A/D for the table a Tascam UH-7000. If the Ha-1 is too much money, the tascam could make a still very nice DAC as well and is set up with headphone output and volume. The HA-2 provides portability and high-res on the go with the onkyo hires player on an iphone, so it has broader utility.

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