Jump to content

Confused about equipment

Recommended Posts

I am still wet behind the ears when comes to understanding this world some are calling audiophile. I am not sure how to choose sound equipment wisely, but I do know what I can afford. It seems the more I look, surf, and read, the more confused I find myself. It has become apparent to me that not even the audiophiles can agree on what is worthy of consideration. I guess one audiophile's meat is the other audiophile's poison. Regardless, given my obsessive compulsive nature, I am in need of more opinions and more advice. I have a new, very up to date, computer with a blue ray drive (can list specs if important). I own an old Van Alstien Transcendence serie II 120v, 60hz, 1800w max. This is a modified Halfer DH 500. I have pair Audio Engine 5a"s and a new 37'' Series 5 550 1080p Samsung tv I use as a monitor/tv in my bedroom.


My buget 2000 to 2500 US dollars, and I am willing to add a little more in maybe a year from now.


My goal is to have a Home theater/stereo using my computer as part of the system, which is where the confusing really starts for me. I don't quite understand how all this comes together, like what is exactly is needed DAC, AV, preamps, amps, computer, and other stuff.


I am considering two options. Option one is a pair of B&W 683 and some type of AV system and purchasing a 12" sub later. I am not sure how DAC plays into this setup or what else I need.


Option two is B&W 685 with a 12'' B&W sub and some type of AV system. I am not sure how DAC plays into this setup or what else I need.


Can you please give me your opinion on what to buy, and how to configure a system, given my budget, that will get me up and running. Please tell me the equipment you believe would give the best audio quality bang for the buck system on my budget.


Link to comment

Hey 466rico - Welcome to Computer Audiophile. I have to start off by saying this hobby is highly subjective and you shouldn't look for consensus by a group of people online. If I were you I would try to determine what products to demo in my own system and only after a demo would I purchase something. You'll be much happier that way.


For your specific situation you may be best off purchasing a nice AV receiver and a good pair of the B&W speakers you like. Then to bring your computer into the mix you'll just need to make sure you have an optical output. If you don't you can always purchase a card that will add some audio outputs. From this optical SPDIF output you can actually go directly into your AV receiver where the digital to analog conversion will take place.


In the best situation where money is not the major concern a separate amp and preamp and a great USB DAC etc... would be my recommendation. Fortunately you have a good amount to work with here. I recommend an AV receiver just because your looking for an audio and video playback system. The receiver will simplify it for you.


Let me know if this is what kind of information you were looking for or if you need more specific answers or whatever.





Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems AudiophileStyleStickerWhite2.0.png AudiophileStyleStickerWhite7.1.4.png

Link to comment

Since the Benchmark DAC1 PRE is a preamp and a DAC, do you think the DAC1 PRE would work for me using only an amp and computer combo ? I was reading on another forum that one can use the Benchmark DAC1 PRE for speakers and a sub with no problem. Also, I was reading that with the DAC1 PRE you can use your computer for all your home theater needs, esentially bypassing the need for an AV unit.


Again thanks



Link to comment

Hey Rich - anything is possible with enough imagination and adapters etc...


I often use my DAC1 PRE between my laptop and amp without any other components. It works great. There are some drawbacks like volume control, but you can work around that with an iPod Touch remote control.


I've never used mine with anything more than a two channel system. I'm sure some people have bypassed AV units, but I'm not certain I would go that route with the DAC1 PRE.


Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems AudiophileStyleStickerWhite2.0.png AudiophileStyleStickerWhite7.1.4.png

Link to comment

From your two responses I am getting that you like the DAC1 PRE, but I may still be better off starting with the av unit and adding a DAC later. Can you recommend a few AV units for me to consider keeping in mind that I do want to build my system as time goes along but will most likely never spend more on speakers than mentioned in my first email, which is about $1300 for the B&W 683 plus whatever the subs cost. I guess what I am saying is I want to keep the equipment campatable. Don't need a10k pair of speaker for $100 dollar amplifer kind of thing. Hope my question aren't annoying. I really don't know all that must about audio, but I am working a little each day to learn.

Thank for the help



Link to comment

Hey Rich - Don't worry about annoying questions. CA is a laid back site and we all enjoy this hobby and helping people out.


AV units are not my specialty but you can certainly put together a very nice system based on an AV unit. Hopefully Rick will jump in and save us from speculating on a reasonable unit or two.


Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems AudiophileStyleStickerWhite2.0.png AudiophileStyleStickerWhite7.1.4.png

Link to comment

The whole shebang would be nice. I may want to move the system out of the bedroom and into the living room at some point. Basically, I am not committed to any particular set up until I understand my options a little better. This is starting point for me. I was surfing for info and happened upon this site, which seems like the best fit for me. I had the initial goal of integrating my computer with a sound system but wasn't sure how to choose equipment to make that happen in the sensible way. I have never post on any forum before ( well YouTube once) and thought I give it a shot.




Link to comment

Now that I am looking at it I can see I misspelled his name Van Alstine. Yes, the Van Alstien Transcendence serie II is a two channel amp. I used two these amps bridged in the early 1990's with a pair of B&W 801 matrics. I sold everything and kept one Van Alstien Transcendence serie II or modified Halfer DH 500 in my closet the past 15 to 16 years or so. At this point, I don't know what I am going to with this amp (selling it/ keep it). I would like to at least try it out again. I think I paid around $1600 for this amp in the very early 1990's maybe even in 1990. I haven't had much of a system since than and everything has change so much it's exciting but mystifying. Anyway, I have caught the desire again to have an adequate sound system. You are also correct about the Audio Engine 5a's speakers being internally powered. These are nice computer speakers, and actually, they are what sparked my desire to build a decent system again.


Link to comment

Okay! The way I see it goes like this - you have a nice old 2 channel amp. That's gonna likely need some kind of pre-amp. Then your source will be your PC or maybe a turntable. You might want radio so you will need a tuner. At this point you are stereo so to get to surround you will need more amplification (possibly those powered speakers). Somewhere in there for movies you will probably want a sub.


Here's my two cents and your going to find out there a a LOT of different opinions and ways to get to the finish line. This is just one.


You have speakers you like on your list at ~$1,300.


Since you are starting out in a bedroom, and assumming you don't want a giant stack of equipment I would grab one of these.




That solves the radio, lets you take a USB or iPod direct and has a pre-amp bypass section that you can run direct into your VA's (not really likely you would want to.) So, for about $650 you have FM/AM radio, USB and mini jack in, MM and MC turntable in, sub out. This thing is actually rated a C in the Stereophile listings which is pretty cool given it's price. Yes, I have one and really like it for it's purpose.


Reason being this gets everything up and running and keeps you at 2k with your speakers.


Then when you have $, add the powered sub. I am leaning toward an Epic Conquest myself. Just check their stuff out. They get into the low teens, good for movies. They have stuff prices from about $600 - 2,000 (from memory).


Then when you have more money, add a preamp that gives you 5 or 7 channels, whatever you want and use the above amp for the mains, your VA for the rears. Now you have 2 mains, 2 rears and a sub. If you want to add a center, then you have some other choices.


Beyond that it would really be time to re-evaluate. You could go with a 5.1 or 7.1 with a new receiver or add a mono amp for center or add a 3 channel for mains and center and flip the Outlaw to surround duty.


Otherwise you could probably buy a new receiver from H/K, Onkyo or similar that would get all the speakers working faster, but I bet the Outlaw has a nicer sound and gives you USB. I also have some other SS stuff, Yamaha and Kenwood and I always turn everything off except for stereo, even for DVDs. That's just me.


I'm gonna bet, that if you get those nice new speakers and add a good sub, with that Outlaw or a similar stereo amp you are perfectly contented and stop there for a while! Course I'm an inherent two channel type person I fear.




Link to comment

I was reading the reviews on the outlaw. There are all positive. I think I will definitely give this unit serious consideration. All the reviews are about 3 three years old. Do you know if they have updated or changed the outlaw in anyway? Has some other company tried to come out with a competing product? How would a DAC play into your system recommendation or would it even make any difference?


Thanks Rich


Link to comment

Well Rich as I see it there are a lot of competing products. Here's how I view it in my ignorant world of bliss -


Short answer - I've not seen much with those features, as good of reviews for the money, particularly the USB input and MM and MC inputs.


I think it does have a built in DAC function you may find adequate. I've used it that way a lot, and I also use a simple M-Audio USB audiophile external DAC.


I'm waiting on the new Wavelength DAC to emerge and will likely choose between that and the Benchmark assumming they are both around the same price. Point being, the unit works well alone and a DAC will likely improve it. For regular CDs the external DAC doesn't make me go man, what was I missing all this time. Of course I've probably trashed some of my hearing over the years.


One think to consider, and their are other folks here that can help better than me on this exact issue, but as I see it most DACs are really dealing with stereo signals, so if you go the HT set-up I'm not really sure how an external DAC is going to help much. I could be wrong there, but mine only is stereo.


That said, the Outlaw has enough power to drive speakers of medium efficiency say compared to a $650 tube set-up that will be low power. For 650 in tubes you will be lucky to get to 15 watts. You could always go retro and buy used gear. Nothing really wrong with that, but the Outlaw is so simple.


One alternative, which I think is pretty new, is http://www.computeraudiophile.com/node/518. I like that with the internal CD player and it's small. 25 watts isn't much power tho. I've been thinking about one of those for our bedroom, but I stare at the Outlaw and think why would I do that. I'll probably wind up with the Outlaw in the bedroom and get something else for the main system.


Now, for the same $650 there are probably alternatives from Yamaha, Onkyo and H/K (I suspect) that are contenders. Just a different approach. I do think the Outlaw is a bargain piece of quality gear. I just keep thinking you are going to want a really nice base stereo sound and with a sub you can probably stay real close to the $2.5k mark.


Regarding that Outlaw - "When a product is properly returned under our 30-day money back guarantee, we will refund you the purchase price for that product(s) and we will arrange for return shipping at our expense." That makes testing it out easy. But, please confirm how that works before you take my word for their policies.


Good luck and let us know what you decide.



Link to comment

Hi Criss,

first of all thanks a lot for all this. And thanks also to you, 466rico. Without your post all the other member would have been annoyed with a long boring post from myself :)


This is were I am:

I've got 2 rooms. 1 "pc room" and, on the other side of the wall, the "living room".

I've got all my collections coded in flac, and an echo audiofire 4 as soundcard (psc room, of course).

First of all: budget: +/- 4000 €.

in the living room I'd like to have a device to listen to music and watch movies (and the latter has no importance to me in terms of quality, so I would go for a music oriented 2.1 system). At the moment in the living room I have a popcorn hour bmt (http://www.popcornhour.com/onlinestore/) which is ok because it lets me access my .flac files through lan.

It is a fact that on the long term I can't depend just on popcorn's internal (cheap) dac.


So what should I do?

Just by the way, if you think there's a device like the popcorn, but more "audiophile oriented", just advise me. I'm willing to change this, if it's the case.


Thanks really a lot for everything you could tell me. I'm getting frustrated here with all my serching and lurking in the forums...



Link to comment

Hi RegJohn - Welcome to Computer Audiophile. I think you should take a look at the Olive products. They are much more audiophile oriented. You may want to consider two separate boxes. One for video, which you already have, and the other for audio. It is tougher to find a video box with real audiophile ports and sound quality.


Do you think the olive is what you are looking for or just not doing it for you?


Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems AudiophileStyleStickerWhite2.0.png AudiophileStyleStickerWhite7.1.4.png

Link to comment

I had seen it. They're good, it seems. But, since it's not so cheap, what about just using popcorn just as a transport? It has a spdif coax output. Connecting this to a fairly good dac would in your opinion have sense?


2nd question (really really thank you): do dacs with two outputs exist? I mean: outuputs for two different sound systems. In this way one output would be represented by an amp in the living room, the other by two active speakers in the "pc room" (I would have to find a way to pass the wires through the wall, tho).


Does it make sense or does it look stupid (in terms of cost/audio quality)?



Link to comment

I overlooked the coax output! It would work with an external DAC then. I really don't know about the sound quality that will come out of the popcorn hour box, but a good DAC can only make it better (hopefully).


DACs with two outputs are likely very limited in number. Many have RCA and XLR outputs, but I don't think this would help you in this situation. You'd have better luck finding a preamp with two outputs.


Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems AudiophileStyleStickerWhite2.0.png AudiophileStyleStickerWhite7.1.4.png

Link to comment

The more I think about and research the Outlaw rr2150 the more I like the unit. I am about 85% sure this is what I will buy but still open to suggestions. My slight hesitation is will I ever want to go surround sound. Outlaw sells the Model 990 preamp and processor for about the same price. I was wondering how difficult would it be to use the Outlaw rr2150 as part of a surround sound 5.1 with my computer, since 5.1 is what is on my computer. Could you tell me if this possible or does it even make sense to think in these term. In regards to the Outlaw rr2150 is this a "warm" sounding amp (What ever that means) because I have read in several forum discussions the B&W speakers tend to be a bit bright and are best driven with equipment that "warms up" the sound.




Link to comment

Kind of a tuff question - here's my approach. Let's tackle this backwards.


Regarding the bright/warm issue - other folks here can talk about this in better detail and probably have more experience. I tend to like or not like any particular configuration just based on how it sounds. I would say try it and send it back if you don't like it. Outlaw seems to have a great policy in that respect.


Now - the 5.1 issue. If you buy the BWs I think you will be happy with the Outlaw. If not, see above! Or ....


Say you go with that 990. Your still going to need some (lots of) amplification. It just doesn't work as I see it within your budget. Gonna need some power. The 990 looks nice to me for sure, and I think you can split the preamp section of the 2150 from the amp section (you should confirm that one if it's pertinant). Then with a powered sub you would only need power for the rears and center. Point still is it probably goes over budget.


I think if you want the 5.1 sooner I'd just study A/V receivers and find one that fits the bill. That will probably be the most economical solution. Look at it this way perhaps - at some point you are paying for amplifiers - how many do you want to pay for right now? Someday you could add a switchbox and a stereo amp if that bug bites you as opposed to the AV system.


Point being after the speaker purchase say you have 700 to spend. So for your 700 you can get a 5.1 AV receiver that does X things with Y power, or you get a stereo receiver that does X- things with Y+ power. I think it just boils down to your expectations. The 5.1 approach for you might take a while to complete. The stereo approach gives instant performance, but you might not be where you want in a year or two.


The issue I have with AV I suppose is that they get pricey for power and often are loaded with stuff I never use. I tend to want a good stereo sound (I keep coming back to that so I'm obviously biased). Good sound on the mains. The surrounds to me are less power critical. Then add a sub you like. They are pretty easy to locate and are fairly cheap unless you want ~14hz.


Myself, I'd rather have 100 watts on the mains and 25 on the surrounds, than 65 everywhere. That's just me, hence I'm not as sold on the medium range do it all A/V receivers. Just preference. Now, I did run 60 watt amps on my mains, but were 105 db efficiency speakers. (I sold them this weekend and am now in withdrawls)


An high end AV receiver with mucho power blows your budget I suspect. But, you could get there with something in your range I am sure.


So, if you buy the BWs, I'd say try the 2150 and send it back if you don't like it. Just confirm those assumptions about the return policy in case I'm mistaken. I don't want to mislead you. But, if you have a gnawing urge to have the 5.1 system I'd just be sure everything you select supports that goal. Get the BWs if you like them and maybe look for a good used AV receiver and sub?


Something is going to be a compromise I think?


Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...