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Wireless Audio System From Scratch


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Hi,

 

My father in law would like to step into the world of computer audio. He has a laptop, but nothing else and his budget is very small.

 

I've suggested he go with some sort of streaming device, such as the Airport Express and a pair of active speakers. I know little about active speakers at any price range though, but I have read good things about the AudioEngine range.

 

I think for a relatively small outlay of around £3-400 he could get a pretty good system and control it all from his laptop.

 

Any thoughts on the AudioEngine's or any other gear, or even any other method?

 

Thanks

 

Intel iMac C2D, iTunes>ALAC>Airport Express, Audiolab 8000CD player, Audiolab 8000S amp, Dynaudio Audience 42 speakers, Chord Rumour speaker cable, Mark Grant Interconnects, Grado SR80\'s, Sennheiser PX100\'s, 5G iPod

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I have helped several friends set up the following:

 

1) Laptop with wireless card -> wireless -> Airport Express. The anlaog output of the AE is OK, probably not wonderful but certainly not horrible. No other computer or network eqpt needed. DAC can be used from AE as upgrade.

 

Laptop-> USB DAC(wired) -> stereo. No other computer or network eqpt needed. DAC cord (fro PC)could be up to 15' long and interconnects another 6 feet or so. Depends on room configuration as to how functional this would be, etc. This might make him able to use Laptop as control device from his chair with no other devices needed.

 

Each laptop was plugged into a TV as monitor. An inexpensive wireless mouse (or keyboard and mouse) was used to control what was played, etc form listening position.

 

This all works well, reliably, etc. Easy to set up. If more info neede/desired - let me know.

 

Cost was a laptop (he has), Airport express (~ $100.00), +/- streaming software ($25.00 if needed - depends on software), TV (he probably has), USB DAC ($100-5000).

 

If laptop can be close to the stereo, then TV and mouse may not be needed.

 

This does not answer your question re: active speakers but everything up to that point can be done easily and inexpensively. One now has znzlog signal ready to be amplified -> spkrs.

 

At this point, one would have to decide on "stereo" + speakers vs active speakers.

 

The volume control would be an issue with active speakers based on my ability to repeat what I read (without true understanding) -> digital volume controls may be evil as they "chop off bits" and hence lose resolution.

 

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Many on this forum & elsewhere have very enthusiastic things to say about the AudioEngine 2's. As for the AE, some kind of Dac is in order, as the analogue output is poor.

 

This is a system I'd buy for myself, I'd think it would sound quite nice:

$200 AudioEngine 2

$100 Airport Express

$300 Musical Fidelity V-Dac

$35 Blue Jeans interconnect

 

Total: $635 ~ 389 bp?

 

I own the V-DAC, and for the price, I'm quite happy with it. Also, AirFoil ($25) is available for PC's & is very nice to be able to stream audio from any application.

 

Also, there's a good thread on this forum re active monitors:

http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/Help-picking-set-Studio-Monitors

 

HTH,

Rascal

 

A: Mac Mini => Peachtree Nova => LFD Integrated Zero Mk.III => Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 | Musical Fidelity X-CAN V-8 => AKG K 701

B: Airport Express = > Benchmark DAC1 => Rega Brio-R => B&W DM 601 S2

C: Airport Express => AudioEngine A2

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To each their own (and I have not heard the Audioengine speakers), but worrying about the sound quality of the AirportExpress for these speakers (and approximately doubling a limited budget) seems counterintuitive / odd to me. Just my opinion.

 

 

 

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Are you saying that adding a DAC to this system is pointless?

 

Intel iMac C2D, iTunes>ALAC>Airport Express, Audiolab 8000CD player, Audiolab 8000S amp, Dynaudio Audience 42 speakers, Chord Rumour speaker cable, Mark Grant Interconnects, Grado SR80\'s, Sennheiser PX100\'s, 5G iPod

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I have never heard these speakers.

Price is not necessarily an accurate predictor of sound quality

Size of a speaker is not necessarily a predictor of sound quality

 

BUT (having said all that)

 

I just wonder if worrying about the analog sound of the AE in this system of computer speakers is meaningful/appropriate.

 

The volume control issue is still not resolved - although it looks like the back of the speaker has a volume control (? one for each speaker - that would be a non starter for most folks). Or, you are back to a digital volume control on the computer - supposedly "bad".

 

My point is that it seems one should make appropriate decisions re: this stuff. As much as I like to play/buy gear, at some point some things seem to be overkill in the context of certain systems.

 

In my opinion.

 

But having said all that,a DAC could always be added later to see if it helps...

 

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The issue with the AirPort Express is that it's analogue output is very poor, and if you want to add a DAC to improve it then you are looking at spending more than the cost of the rest (Airport Express plus speakers) put together...

 

So why not look at alternatives - from all reports the analogue output of the Logitech Squeezebox Duet (Reciever) isn't too bad - so why not mate that with the AudioEngine speakers. If you buy the Duet system you also get the two-way remote control (with LCD) so you can see what music you are selecting. Keep with the exisiting laptop, or get a NAS capable of running the Squeezebox server software.

 

Eloise

 

Eloise

---

...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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Thanks for all your comments. I don't think the analogue output of the AE is all that bad; I use it myself between my Mac and my hifi (see my sig), but I may add a DAC later.

 

Personally, I would go with the A5 speakers over the A2's for their size and extra features, but I haven't heard either. I chatted with my FiL today and he is 'thinking about it'.

 

 

 

Intel iMac C2D, iTunes>ALAC>Airport Express, Audiolab 8000CD player, Audiolab 8000S amp, Dynaudio Audience 42 speakers, Chord Rumour speaker cable, Mark Grant Interconnects, Grado SR80\'s, Sennheiser PX100\'s, 5G iPod

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I don't have a high-end system, and I'm far from an experienced audiophile. However, when I bought an AE - my first foray into computer audio - the first thing I noticed was a degradation in sound quality using the AE's analogue out. My other source was a low-end, very old (15 yr) Kenwood CD player. The difference was obvious - the AE seemed to muffle the sound.

 

Which is why I would never use the analogue out of the AE.

 

Going direct from computer via an inexpensive dac (HRT Streamer, $100) rectified my situation. Unfortunately for the AE, the least expensive dac w/ optical input that I've seen is around $300.

 

I agree with starting w/ AE/analogue & maybe add a dac later. And for what it's worth, I have heard more raves about the Audioengine 2's rather than the 5's - presumably because of better cost/benefit. Which would leave some budg for a future dac.

 

Rascal

 

A: Mac Mini => Peachtree Nova => LFD Integrated Zero Mk.III => Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 | Musical Fidelity X-CAN V-8 => AKG K 701

B: Airport Express = > Benchmark DAC1 => Rega Brio-R => B&W DM 601 S2

C: Airport Express => AudioEngine A2

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That's interesting, I shall have to do a test. Maybe it depends what gear you have and what software you're playing it through.

 

Intel iMac C2D, iTunes>ALAC>Airport Express, Audiolab 8000CD player, Audiolab 8000S amp, Dynaudio Audience 42 speakers, Chord Rumour speaker cable, Mark Grant Interconnects, Grado SR80\'s, Sennheiser PX100\'s, 5G iPod

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Webby, I started w/ iMac played through analogue AE. Then switched to Mac Mini usb direct to HRT streamer. Then Mac Mini via AE into the V-DAC (in order to move my system to another room, after purchasing a Decco). I've noticed improvements at each step. I run iTunes & AirFoil (for internet radio). My amp (soon to be upgraded) is an old Kenwood KA-95 integrated. Speakers are B&W DM 601 S2.

 

Perhaps the quality of your amp compensates for lower quality of the AE analogue out.

 

Rascal

 

A: Mac Mini => Peachtree Nova => LFD Integrated Zero Mk.III => Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 | Musical Fidelity X-CAN V-8 => AKG K 701

B: Airport Express = > Benchmark DAC1 => Rega Brio-R => B&W DM 601 S2

C: Airport Express => AudioEngine A2

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I am going to paint a big bullseye/"kick me sign" on my back by saying:

 

Via my moderate system: Magneplanar 20, Bryston 4b's amp, Audio Research Ref 2 preamp: I and another friend (who is much more "into it" than I am) thought that

 

The sound of Computer Audio -> MediaMonkey -> AE was not significantly inferior to an Audio Research CD 1 player (and far more convenient).

The analogue Airport Express sound was certainly OK

The sound of the AE optically into a $500 DAC was not much improved compared to the AE analogue sound

 

There I said it. Out loud even.

 

My frame of reference is greater interest in the music than the eqpt

I am not part of the grunt and groan crowd ("yeah, yeah, there, I finally heard it")

Ears are closing in on 60 yrs of age

I really do want to buy some new PC audio stuff and was willing to part with some real money if it helped the sound. I was actually very disappointed in the DAC performance as I was ready to buy one. And I am still looking to do so.

 

 

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Very interesting iamimdoc, very interesting.

 

I've read stuff along the lines of 'bought an AE? Get a DAC' etc etc, but does it really make THAT much of an improvement I've thought to myself.

 

Maybe my ears, and or equipment are not good enough to reveal the differences, subtle as they may be.

 

Thanks

 

Intel iMac C2D, iTunes>ALAC>Airport Express, Audiolab 8000CD player, Audiolab 8000S amp, Dynaudio Audience 42 speakers, Chord Rumour speaker cable, Mark Grant Interconnects, Grado SR80\'s, Sennheiser PX100\'s, 5G iPod

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Well, I just tested my AE through the analogue out (playing ALAC files with iTunes on my iMac) Vs my Audiolab 8000 CD player.

 

I couldn't really tell a difference.

 

Intel iMac C2D, iTunes>ALAC>Airport Express, Audiolab 8000CD player, Audiolab 8000S amp, Dynaudio Audience 42 speakers, Chord Rumour speaker cable, Mark Grant Interconnects, Grado SR80\'s, Sennheiser PX100\'s, 5G iPod

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