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Mike Rubin

Powered speakers with built-in DACs

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I posted first in the Sonore sponsored forum about using powered speakers with a microRendu that only has a USB output and needs a USB DAC connection.  As it turns out there don't seem to be inherent problems with driving a built-in DAC rather than an outboard one with a microRendu, I am posting this request for speaker recommendations here in the General Forum.

 

I am going to add a small sound system to a basement room that also has a TV.  In addition to the USB DAC, the speakers ideally would have an optical input for a TV.

 

The KEF LS50 might meet my requirements but it doesn't appear to have DSD capability, so I would need play my DSD files as PCM.  That's not a deal killer but I would prefer native DSD support if possible. The Yamaha Nx500 seems to have DSD support, but I can't find much information about it.

 

Are there other active bookshelf that speakers include a USB DAC?  Or might I be better off with a separate small-footprint DSD DAC and a speaker that has RCA inputs?  (Most powered speakers seem to have mini-jack inputs rather than RCA.  Is this likely to compromise SQ compared to RCA inputs?)

 

I know that some folks don't like active speakers because they have digital amps.  I don't have a problem with digital amps.  I also am aiming for simplicity.  I would be open to an inexpensive integrated amp with decent built-in DAC plus passive speakers, but I both have space issues and would like a simple system that visitors and my technophobic wife can operate easily.  

 

Thanks for your suggestions. 

 

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To narrow that down, we need to know your budget. There's lots of speakers out there with DACs...kind of just depends on what you're looking for. These are both within the 500 dollar range:

 

https://vanatoo.com/shop/speakers/transparent-one-encore/

Swan Speakers m300

 

Personally, I would always choose for an outboard DAC, so I can control what my speakers sound like/what files they can play. But I understand the simplicity of an onboard DAC as well.

 

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1 hour ago, Mike Rubin said:

I posted first in the Sonore sponsored forum about using powered speakers with a microRendu that only has a USB output and needs a USB DAC connection.  As it turns out there don't seem to be inherent problems with driving a built-in DAC rather than an outboard one with a microRendu, I am posting this request for speaker recommendations here in the General Forum.

 

If you intend to use the microRendu with speakers having a built-in DAC, you need to ensure the speakers do not require a driver. Also, chances are that the microRendu will not support direct DSD for the speakers in question.

 

I see that the Audioengine HD6 and A5+ (which you apparently already own) have USB input. Also,  the Audioengine HD3 and A2+ speakers have a USB input, but these are really small.

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1 hour ago, Mike Rubin said:

I posted first in the Sonore sponsored forum about using powered speakers with a microRendu that only has a USB output and needs a USB DAC connection.  As it turns out there don't seem to be inherent problems with driving a built-in DAC rather than an outboard one with a microRendu, I am posting this request for speaker recommendations here in the General Forum.

 

I am going to add a small sound system to a basement room that also has a TV.  In addition to the USB DAC, the speakers ideally would have an optical input for a TV.

 

The KEF LS50 might meet my requirements but it doesn't appear to have DSD capability, so I would need play my DSD files as PCM.  That's not a deal killer but I would prefer native DSD support if possible. The Yamaha Nx500 seems to have DSD support, but I can't find much information about it.

 

Are there other active bookshelf that speakers include a USB DAC?  Or might I be better off with a separate small-footprint DSD DAC and a speaker that has RCA inputs?  (Most powered speakers seem to have mini-jack inputs rather than RCA.  Is this likely to compromise SQ compared to RCA inputs?)

 

I know that some folks don't like active speakers because they have digital amps.  I don't have a problem with digital amps.  I also am aiming for simplicity.  I would be open to an inexpensive integrated amp with decent built-in DAC plus passive speakers, but I both have space issues and would like a simple system that visitors and my technophobic wife can operate easily.  

 

Thanks for your suggestions. 

 

Hi,

I am not sure about DSD playback, but the AVI speakers such as DM10 and DM12 have class A/B amplifiers. They use the WM8741 (DM10) and WM8742 (DM12) - i think they have DSD playback.

 

https://avihifi.com/products.html#dm10

https://avihifi.com/products.html#dm12

 

Regards,

Shadders.

 

 

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3 hours ago, Mike Rubin said:

The KEF LS50 might meet my requirements but it doesn't appear to have DSD capability, so I would need play my DSD files as PCM.  That's not a deal killer but I would prefer native DSD support if possible. The Yamaha Nx500 seems to have DSD support, but I can't find much information about it.

The Yamaha speakers have a ethernet connection, thus nullifying the need of the microRendu.  As long as you're using the usb or ethernet connection on the speaker, you'll be able to playback your DSD files up to 5.6Mhz.

 

I have the LS50W Nocturne speakers and use Roon software,  I just plug into the ethernet connection and I'm good to go.  I don't listen to DSD so this isn't a factor for me.  I also have a microRendu but my last 2 DACs have come with ethernet connection, so the Rendu has been collecting dust for awhile.

 

The LS50 has superb sound for the size, I compliment them with a REl sub to round things off.  

 

https://usa.yamaha.com/products/audio_visual/speaker_systems/nx-n500/specs.html#product-tabs


PC/NAS/JRiver/Roon - PS Audio P5 Regenerator - KEF LS50 Nocturne - Rel 328 subwoofer - PS Audio AC5 Power cables 

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2 hours ago, lucretius said:

 

If you intend to use the microRendu with speakers having a built-in DAC, you need to ensure the speakers do not require a driver. Also, chances are that the microRendu will not support direct DSD for the speakers in question.

 

I see that the Audioengine HD6 and A5+ (which you apparently already own) have USB input. Also,  the Audioengine HD3 and A2+ speakers have a USB input, but these are really small.

 

Thanks, Lucretius.  I expect that almost any USB DAC sees the microRendu, but agree that native DSD support is hit and miss with that device.

 

I am pretty sure that my A5+'s don't have a DAC.  Did you find something that says that it does?  It also lacks the optical input that I would like to have for the TV.

 

spacer.png

 

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8 minutes ago, ShawnC said:

The Yamaha speakers have a ethernet connection, thus nullifying the need of the microRendu

 

The LS50 has superb sound for the size, I compliment them with a REl sub to round things off.  

 

 

The sound quality/character of the LS50's would I believe be significantly different from the Yamaha's (though I have not heard those particular Yamaha's).  This would I think override any advantage in playing DSD directly (as opposed to some kind of DSP conversion).  I am probably stating the obvious to the OP however... 😁


Hey MQA, if it is not all $voodoo$, show us the math!

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3 hours ago, stuck limo said:

To narrow that down, we need to know your budget. There's lots of speakers out there with DACs...kind of just depends on what you're looking for. These are both within the 500 dollar range:

 

https://vanatoo.com/shop/speakers/transparent-one-encore/

Swan Speakers m300

 

Personally, I would always choose for an outboard DAC, so I can control what my speakers sound like/what files they can play. But I understand the simplicity of an onboard DAC as well.

 

 

Thanks, Limo.  I would love to keep the price in the $500 range, but expect that I might have to stretch to the KEF's $2200 level if that is the most appropriate choice.  The Vanatoo's DAC is 24/96 capable, but I have enough 24/192 files to be hopeful that the DAC I use (whether internal or external to the speakers) can handle them.  I will look into them, though, because that looks like a bargain for the capabilities.

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1 hour ago, Shadders said:

Hi,

I am not sure about DSD playback, but the AVI speakers such as DM10 and DM12 have class A/B amplifiers. They use the WM8741 (DM10) and WM8742 (DM12) - i think they have DSD playback.

 

https://avihifi.com/products.html#dm10

https://avihifi.com/products.html#dm12

 

Regards,

Shadders.

 

 

Thanks, Shadders.  These look beautiful and have optical inputs, but not USB.  If I have to buy an SPDIF converter, I could save that money and apply it towards an external USB DAC that uses a speaker's RCA  inputs.  

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2 minutes ago, Kal Rubinson said:

I have yet to see any networked speakers with DSD capability.

 

Thanks, Kal.  It appears the Yamaha does.  Here are the file format specs:  "DSD 2.8 MHz / 5.6 MHz, FLAC / WAV / AIFF 384 kHz / 32-bit, Apple® Lossless 96 kHz / 24-bit playback."

 

Not sure whether that is native or over PCM.

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13 minutes ago, crenca said:

 

The sound quality/character of the LS50's would I believe be significantly different from the Yamaha's (though I have not heard those particular Yamaha's).  This would I think override any advantage in playing DSD directly (as opposed to some kind of DSP conversion).  I am probably stating the obvious to the OP however... 😁

 

All things considered, native DSD is a "nice to have."  Sound quality for the money and the ability to play nicely with the microRendu would be the priority.

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16 minutes ago, Mike Rubin said:

 

Thanks, Lucretius.  I expect that almost any USB DAC sees the microRendu, but agree that native DSD support is hit and miss with that device.

 

I am pretty sure that my A5+'s don't have a DAC.  Did you find something that says that it does?  It also lacks the optical input that I would like to have for the TV.

 

spacer.png

 

 

The A2 series has a DAC. The A5 series doesn't and I have no idea why.

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2 minutes ago, stuck limo said:

 

The A2 series has a DAC. The A5 series doesn't and I have no idea why.

 

 

Looking at Audioengine's page, I do see that the A2 has a 24/48 USB DAC.  No optical, either.  :(

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I don't know your budget for a DAC + speakers (around 500 combined or so, I guess), but you can stay at/under that with this DSD enabled DAC: https://www.amazon.com/TOPPING-es9018k2m-opa2134-Decoder-Amplifier/dp/B07B46KQVP/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=topping+dac&qid=1555195542&s=gateway&sr=8-3

 

I've never heard this DAC myself but people all over online are touching themselves over it.

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2 minutes ago, SMG said:

Any speaker that employs DSP for crossovers and equalization would have to convert the audio to PCM in any event.

 

Good point.  This begs the question if any real DSD (i.e. capable of native playback) DAC/powered speaker combo even exists.


Hey MQA, if it is not all $voodoo$, show us the math!

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1 hour ago, Mike Rubin said:

 

Thanks, Kal.  It appears the Yamaha does.  Here are the file format specs:  "DSD 2.8 MHz / 5.6 MHz, FLAC / WAV / AIFF 384 kHz / 32-bit, Apple® Lossless 96 kHz / 24-bit playback."

 

Not sure whether that is native or over PCM.

Ah.  Right you are.  Appears to be over USB which is likely to be native.  OTOH, much is not clear.


Kal Rubinson

Music in the Round

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

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now that the OP is out of luck...

 

does anybody know of a US source for the the AVI speakers ??


"The overwhelming majority [of audiophiles] have very little knowledge, if any, about the most basic principles and operating characteristics of audio equipment. They often base their purchasing decisions on hearsay, and the preaching of media sages. Unfortunately, because of commercial considerations, much information is rooted in increasing revenue, not in assisting the audiophile. It seems as if the only requirements for becoming an "authority" in the world of audio is a keyboard."

-- Bruce Rozenblit of Transcendent Sound

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5 hours ago, Mike Rubin said:

I posted first in the Sonore sponsored forum about using powered speakers with a microRendu that only has a USB output and needs a USB DAC connection.  As it turns out there don't seem to be inherent problems with driving a built-in DAC rather than an outboard one with a microRendu, I am posting this request for speaker recommendations here in the General Forum.

 

I am going to add a small sound system to a basement room that also has a TV.  In addition to the USB DAC, the speakers ideally would have an optical input for a TV.

 

The KEF LS50 might meet my requirements but it doesn't appear to have DSD capability, so I would need play my DSD files as PCM.  That's not a deal killer but I would prefer native DSD support if possible. The Yamaha Nx500 seems to have DSD support, but I can't find much information about it.

 

Are there other active bookshelf that speakers include a USB DAC?  Or might I be better off with a separate small-footprint DSD DAC and a speaker that has RCA inputs?  (Most powered speakers seem to have mini-jack inputs rather than RCA.  Is this likely to compromise SQ compared to RCA inputs?)

 

I know that some folks don't like active speakers because they have digital amps.  I don't have a problem with digital amps.  I also am aiming for simplicity.  I would be open to an inexpensive integrated amp with decent built-in DAC plus passive speakers, but I both have space issues and would like a simple system that visitors and my technophobic wife can operate easily.  

 

Thanks for your suggestions. 

 

The higher the level of integration in audio, the less possible it is to upgrade!


George

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2 hours ago, gmgraves said:

The higher the level of integration in audio, the less possible it is to upgrade!

Understood, but this isn't that kind of a system. :) I have little space and technophobes will be using the system, as mentioned. 

 

Small and simple is my focus as TV probably will be the predominant use.  (The hi-res requirement covers the occasions when I can use the system for music listening.) 

 

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Hi Mike,

 

Lots of ways to skin this cat as you have seen from the responses to date.

 

We have the Yamaha NX N500s in our bedroom attached to the TV and they work well and will do everything you ask plus more. You can pick them up for around $350 second hand.

 

If you are looking for better sound quality, while still retaining simplicity, I would look at a Pre/ DAC + Active Speakers.

 

You  mentioned stretching to $2,200, which will be sufficient for great sound, especially if you are happy to buy used.

 

Have a look at the SMSL and Topping DAC range from China on Amazon for the front end $200 - $500 and combine with Active (not powered) speakers. Just google but I can recommend the Adam  A7X for $1,000 second hand plus a sub.

 

Alternatively a SMSL 8a DAC $200 with a $500 second hand power amp and the excellent KEF L50s. $1,500 new and 1,000 second hand.

 

There are so many combinations it can get confusing.


LOUNGE: Mac Mini - Audirvana - Devialet 200 - ATOHM GT1 Speakers

OFFICE : Mac Mini - Audirvana - Benchmark DAC1HDR - ADAM A7 Active Monitors

TRAVEL : MacBook Air - Dragonfly V1.2 DAC - Sennheiser HD 650

BEACH : iPhone 6 - HRT iStreamer DAC - Akimate Micro + powered speakers

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6 hours ago, Mike Rubin said:

 

Thanks, Lucretius.  I expect that almost any USB DAC sees the microRendu, but agree that native DSD support is hit and miss with that device.

 

I am pretty sure that my A5+'s don't have a DAC.  Did you find something that says that it does?  It also lacks the optical input that I would like to have for the TV.

 

spacer.png

 

 

Sorry, I was reading from a comparison list provided by Audioengine. Only the HD3 and A2+ have USB in.

 

How about Klipsch R-15PM speakers? They have both a USB and an optical in.

 

 

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It's been years since I thought about Klipsch speakers, although my first set of desktops were Klipsches and they were good for the minuscule price.

 

I can't tell whether the USB input for that model will play hi-res files, but there is a more expensive Klipsch called The Sixes that has a 24-192 USB input and an optical.  Reviews are really mixed, but the features are what I had in mind.

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