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DAC advice for office computer setup, please


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I have a couple thousand CDs ripped in FLAC quality. Listen to them at home through a Sonos system, LOVE the flexibility & sound quality.

I am opening a new office and want to create a setup for my personal office (10'x15', and I will be sitting 4-6 feet from the speakers, which will be on a desk behind me). I will have a hard drive with audio files (FLAC), feeding my laptop, likely using Media Monkey (or something similar), then out from there (which is where I need help). So, my output will be a docking station USB output.

I want great quality, but I do not need very loud music. I will not be using headphones. I will be listening to a wide variety of stuff, ranging from Steely Dan to pure pop to 80s hair metal. No real rap or classical, FWIW. I LOVE the feeling of a strong system delivering a detailed picture of sound...

When I say "great quality", to me that does not mean the "last 5%" that costs 5x more than the 95% solution. In fact, given my budget, I am likely at 80% of the highest quality, and I am fine with that. Budget is probably in the $500+ range for DAC, amp & speakers, but I can buy used or flex upward if that gets me to the "sufficient quality level" I need.

Need help with:

 

(NOTE - I AM ASKING FOR DAC HELP HERE AND WILL BE POSTING THIS IN OTHER FORUMS AS WELL TO GET FEEDBACK ON SPEAKERS, ETC.)

DAC

I am fairly ignorant on this stuff, but I have learned that a standalone DAC will sound significantly better than my sound card. Mr. BestBuy guy suggests a DragonFly dongle that they sell for $150, but quick searching shows what looks like a very high quality Schiit unit for $150. Another forum found the Audioengine D1. Other ideas?

 

Another person suggested I go with something like the Focusrite Scarlett series, which is a full-fledged audio interface. I don't need all of what this provides, but how will the DAC portion of this type of device compare with a standalone DAC?

Amp Should I go with powered speakers, or get a separate amp? I have always wanted a tube amp, but even low power tube units seem quite expensive. The ZVex Imp looks cool as can be, but is $620...maybe a used one? Other ideas?

One other idea - I have an older (let's say 20 years old) Denon amp that I used to use for my home stereo system. It is a full sized unit, but just sitting around. Obviously subjective in terms of sound, but would you suggest giving this a shot prior to buying a different, newer unit, given that it would be "free"?

 

Most of my research thus far points toward powered monitors, and I am fine with that, just wondering if I am missing anything?

Speakers

For my home PC setup, I am using some powered M-Audio speakers (Studiophile AV-40) that I think sound pretty good for my setup that is 2 feet in front of my face. They cost around $100-$150 for the pair. I would love to have great detail and great lows, but I'm not really sure what brands to start with.

Again, the question comes up of powered speakers versus a separate amp. Interested in observations - I don't know the issues involved here.

Curious if folks can give me some opinions on the questions I raise, but also point me to some brands of DACs, Amps & Speakers that they recommend so I can do some research. Or, maybe there are online stores that cater specifically to the "small computer audio setup" crowd?

Thanks in advance!!

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I have a couple thousand CDs ripped in FLAC quality. Listen to them at home through a Sonos system, LOVE the flexibility & sound quality.

I am opening a new office and want to create a setup for my personal office (10'x15', and I will be sitting 4-6 feet from the speakers, which will be on a desk behind me). I will have a hard drive with audio files (FLAC), feeding my laptop, likely using Media Monkey (or something similar), then out from there (which is where I need help). So, my output will be a docking station USB output.

I want great quality, but I do not need very loud music. I will not be using headphones. I will be listening to a wide variety of stuff, ranging from Steely Dan to pure pop to 80s hair metal. No real rap or classical, FWIW. I LOVE the feeling of a strong system delivering a detailed picture of sound...

When I say "great quality", to me that does not mean the "last 5%" that costs 5x more than the 95% solution. In fact, given my budget, I am likely at 80% of the highest quality, and I am fine with that. Budget is probably in the $500+ range for DAC, amp & speakers, but I can buy used or flex upward if that gets me to the "sufficient quality level" I need.

Need help with:

 

(NOTE - I AM ASKING FOR DAC HELP HERE AND WILL BE POSTING THIS IN OTHER FORUMS AS WELL TO GET FEEDBACK ON SPEAKERS, ETC.)

DAC

I am fairly ignorant on this stuff, but I have learned that a standalone DAC will sound significantly better than my sound card. Mr. BestBuy guy suggests a DragonFly dongle that they sell for $150, but quick searching shows what looks like a very high quality Schiit unit for $150. Another forum found the Audioengine D1. Other ideas?

 

Another person suggested I go with something like the Focusrite Scarlett series, which is a full-fledged audio interface. I don't need all of what this provides, but how will the DAC portion of this type of device compare with a standalone DAC?

Amp Should I go with powered speakers, or get a separate amp? I have always wanted a tube amp, but even low power tube units seem quite expensive. The ZVex Imp looks cool as can be, but is $620...maybe a used one? Other ideas?

One other idea - I have an older (let's say 20 years old) Denon amp that I used to use for my home stereo system. It is a full sized unit, but just sitting around. Obviously subjective in terms of sound, but would you suggest giving this a shot prior to buying a different, newer unit, given that it would be "free"?

 

Most of my research thus far points toward powered monitors, and I am fine with that, just wondering if I am missing anything?

Speakers

For my home PC setup, I am using some powered M-Audio speakers (Studiophile AV-40) that I think sound pretty good for my setup that is 2 feet in front of my face. They cost around $100-$150 for the pair. I would love to have great detail and great lows, but I'm not really sure what brands to start with.

Again, the question comes up of powered speakers versus a separate amp. Interested in observations - I don't know the issues involved here.

Curious if folks can give me some opinions on the questions I raise, but also point me to some brands of DACs, Amps & Speakers that they recommend so I can do some research. Or, maybe there are online stores that cater specifically to the "small computer audio setup" crowd?

Thanks in advance!!

 

I recommend an all in one solution using powered speakers. It is elegant, more cost effective and smart. Why not let the engineers design an end to end solution where every part fits perfectly with everything else? All you need to use is a USB cable from your PC or bluetooth from your smartphone. All of these have reviews around the net;

 

Klipsch R-15 PM Powered Monitors

 

Salk PowerPlay Monitors

 

Dynaudio Xeo 3 or 4

 

Kef Active LS-50

 

Devialet Phantoms

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I recommend an all in one solution using powered speakers. It is elegant, more cost effective and smart. Why not let the engineers design an end to end solution where every part fits perfectly with everything else? All you need to use is a USB cable from your PC or bluetooth from your smartphone. All of these have reviews around the net;

 

Klipsch R-15 PM Powered Monitors

 

Salk PowerPlay Monitors

 

Dynaudio Xeo 3 or 4

 

Kef Active LS-50

 

Devialet Phantoms

 

Audioengine - HD3 are 399 with USB input- Bluetooth and even headphone out. And output for a sub

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Computer Audiophile

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A $500 system will maybe get you to 10% of the top quality of sound -- assuming you find very high performance-to-cost ratio gear.

How about that new Emotiva integrated? Good form factor, class a/b and low price, should clearly outperform the mentioned powered monitors.

Sent from my LG-H820 using Computer Audiophile mobile app

 

What?? Clearly outperform???

 

Future-fi now: KEF's LS50 Wireless active loudspeaker | DAR__KO

 

Devialet Silver Phantom review | What Hi-Fi?

 

Dynaudio Xeo 4 review | What Hi-Fi?

 

Klipsch Reference R-15PM Powered Monitor Reviewed

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Lol the LS50 wireless cost over 2k and OP specified $500 for the entire system.

 

After a really bad experience with Audioengine (basically no soundstage poor highs and flabby over-emphasized bass) I'll never recommend them to anyone at any price point.

 

Since the OP is looking for DAC recommendations that could fit into a $500 system, an integrated receiver type product is a good consideration since he can knock out the amp and dac at the same time. Obviously he isn't going to get anywhere close to his "great sound" requirement at that budget, but he should be able to at least get "not complete trash"!

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Computer Audiophile

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Lol the LS50 wireless cost over 2k and OP specified $500 for the entire system.

 

After a really bad experience with Audioengine (basically no soundstage poor highs and flabby over-emphasized bass) I'll never recommend them to anyone at any price point.

 

Since the OP is looking for DAC recommendations that could fit into a $500 system, an integrated receiver type product is a good consideration since he can knock out the amp and dac at the same time. Obviously he isn't going to get anywhere close to his "great sound" requirement at that budget, but he should be able to at least get "not complete trash"!

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Computer Audiophile

I misunderstood your post, I thought you referred to all of the speakers posted.

 

He is going with JBL active speakers, needs a dac/pre now with USB with not a lot of money left.

The Klipsch were only $350 for everything on amazon

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