OK, so I've come to the conclusion I'm doing it all wrong

Aieee

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Joined
Nov 27, 2008
Messages
26
Hi there.

Let me begin by saying forgive me, for I have sinned. It's taken me a long time to get to this point, but I think I'm ready to admit I've made some terrible decisions. About my PC audio.

I've always been rather picky about my sound, but I'm not really well informed. So when that government stimulus windfall fell into my lap a few years ago with encouragement to spend it irresponsibly, I seized upon the opportunity to buy myself a nice set of speakers. I wandered over to the Best Buy and bought a set of Bose Companion 5's. Given I'd never dropped more than $100 on a set of speakers, I never really had a baseline to judge these from. I thought things were pretty fine, though from what I'm told most people are shaking their heads at this point. In my defense I had a laptop at the time and the USB connection was actually rather handy. I also didn't (and still don't) have the space around my computer for a full-blown surround sound/home theater setup.

Then I decided recently to buy a new desktop PC but to try the on-board sound before I picked up a sound card (Off an Asus P8Z77-V Pro if anyone's curious). It didn't take me long not to be happy at all with it. I could hear noise in my music that I could swear I hadn't before and it wasn't as clear. It obviously had to be the inferior on-board audio!

So I bought an Asus Xonar DX out of my limited options since I only have a PCI-E x1 port free (and even still it's rather crowded in there) and the new Creative Recon line didn't get great reviews. I disabled the on-board audio and installed the new drivers. Everything was functional...except I found that I couldn't tell if there was a difference. The quality was still not there. It took a few hours of suffering but I think I know why.

I don't think I actually know what I'm doing. So, kind soul, I don't suppose you came here to help?

I don't think I can actually use these speakers with this sound card or otherwise improve the sound quality, because there isn't an alternative to the USB connection. So, uh, it's a matter of damage control now. What do I have to do to actually get better sound? Assuming it's new speakers, what kind of gear would go with the sound card I have?
 

Procyon12

[H]ard|Gawd
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As you have found out the hard way, the Bose set indeed does use a USB connection and will bypass any sound card you install.

the DX is a great little sound card and will suit you well..

you can get better sound than that bose with as little as $100.

first and foremost, how much are equipment are you willing to keep? do you need to have tiny satellite speakers over bookshelves?

second thing is, are you sure the bose on the laptop sounds better than the bose on the desktop? or am i reading things wrong?
 

450

Fully [H]
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The Bose has an aux input. It's right of the headphone connection. Just get a 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable.
 

JoeUser

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Are we sure the sub-par audio and noise isn't due to the speakers themselves?

Also do what 450 said and try the aux port.
 

asyork

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Since those speakers are using USB, then they have their own DAC built in, and are bypassing the on-board audio on both the desktop and laptop. They should sound basically identical on both systems.

New speakers or headphones would be the next step, but you may be happy with what you have using the aux port 450 and JoeUser mentioned. Headphones will usually get you the best bang for your buck on the cheaper end of the audiophile world.
 

450

Fully [H]
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Are we sure the sub-par audio and noise isn't due to the speakers themselves?

Also do what 450 said and try the aux port.

If its the speakers themselves, try contacting Bose they have great customer service. Honestly, the BC5's are pretty good (despite what audio snobbery might have you think).
 

atarione

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if the speakers are fine / or you can get bose to fix them

they seem to sell for a decent amount on the auction site...you'd likely guess.


I have a 1979 vintage Pioneer SA-710 $80~ (65wpc fluoroscan display silver face...just generally kinda awesome looking)

and Polk Audio RTi4 bookshelf speakers ($99 closeout @ fry's probably long gone now however) I also used my Polk Audio R15 and M30 bookshelf speakers with the SA-710 all three sets of bookshelf speakers gave great results as did my little pair of vintage radioshack Minimus 77 speakers.

for a bit i used a chinese t-amp (SMSL SA-S3) it actually sounds pretty damn nice and is TINY and can get LOUD wt/ the various Polks. I have to say I prefer the SA-710 but it is quite a bit larger.


but if you have the room and patience to find a good one... i find the Vintage Pioneer Amp and Bookshelf speakers to be a very pleasing computer audio solution

before I had logitech Z560 4.1 speakers and then they died.... which as it turns out was fine.. cause the vintage amp and polk bookshelf speakers blow the z560s away on every level of audio quality.

I don't even have a sub right now... and i'm honestly not sure I need one seem to get a lot of punch from the SA-710 with just the RTi4s.


there are a ton of nice old amps out there (i'm partial to the silver faced ones with vu meters or fluoroscan displays and I like Pioneer (I also have a SX-780, SX-450 and a SA-410 ) however there are a bunch of quality brands from back then Sansui, Kenwood, Yamaha , Luxman ...etc.. In fact most of the 70s gear that has survived this long is pretty solid.. but if you got vintage you need to remember stuff is 40~years old so things can go wrong and you probably can count on needing to clean your vintage receiver or amp up some in the best case or having something repaired /repairing yourself in the worst.

My SA-710 was dropping the right channel at first before I went and cleaned all the controls with contact cleaner for example. My Sansui 350A (AWESOME little receiver only rated 22wpc but sounds like many more watts) looked like someone spilled a soda inside it when I got it..... spent a afternoon cleaning it up and it sounds awesome now it is in my bedroom.


here is my setup...atm



Uploaded with ImageShack.us

if you don't want to go vintage there are good options at a number of price points also

T-Amps $20 and up I really like the build quality and looks of my SA-S3 it was $60 shipped from china it is 25wpc 4ohms and 13.5wpc 8ohms but drives my polks no prob.

i really like this little Emotiva Mini-X a-100 it is on sale right now too $175~

http://shop.emotiva.com/collections/amplifiers/products/a100


I have heard really good stuff about Yamaha's retro stereo receivers and intergrated amps

http://www.amazon.com/Yamaha-A-S500BL-Integrated-Theater-Amplifier/dp/B0044779HW/ref=pd_cp_e_0

for example

http://www.amazon.com/Yamaha-R-S500BL-Natural-Stereo-Receiver/dp/B0044779GI/ref=pd_cp_e_0

those are the mid range models there are smaller and or bigger including the $2K~ish A-S2000SL (my birthday is soon if anyone is wondering what to get me ;))


http://www.amazon.com/Yamaha-A-S200...qid=1341008834&sr=1-2&keywords=yamaha+A-S2000
 

matteos

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Can you return the Bose speakers? You can get much better speakers for much less money. Bose spends most of its budget on marketing and little on quality drivers and enclosures

This isn't the same system that is reviewed but it gives you an idea of why bose is overpriced garbage

http://www.intellexual.net/bose.html
 
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Aieee

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Nov 27, 2008
Messages
26
Thanks for the replies folks, to answer the few clarifications:

I really did think it sounded better before, which is part of my recent hubris. But I agree that there should be no difference at all with what I now know about these speakers. To be honest I think the reason it sounds 'bad' now is because I was 'testing' the on-board audio and was far more discriminating than usual.

Now I know I wasn't ever actually using the on-board audio and never was. Could it be though there really is something different about how the signal gets passed to the speakers?

As for the 3.5mm option, believe it or not I already tried that and figured I'd get laughed off the internet for saying so. The range of sound coming out of the speakers changed dramatically for the better, but there was a noticeable amount of interference (The static hum without music is much more audible). I think it's just a symptom of jury-rigging the thing together using the analog output from the sound card (it's the only one that works). Though to be honest it could just be the line-in on this thing isn't very good, I've never really used it. I did try a set of headphones out and found the output from the sound card direct was pretty clean, though it wasn't very loud even at max volume so I'm not sure it was a fair test.

So on to the damage. At this point I think I'm willing to just buy new speakers. I definitely do not have room for anything like atari's full-blown setup as my whole desk is not much bigger than what his sound system is sitting on. I can accommodate a sub on the floor and two desktop speakers of any reasonable size pretty handily. Something like those in the picture would be about the top of the mark. I do have a few pairs of decent (though not extravagant) headphones that I use when traveling and I think they did sound much better by comparison. I admit though I have my own house and I'd like to be able to rattle the walls a bit when I feel like it.

I'd be willing to spend 200-250 bucks to get something else. I'm assuming that's enough money to get something that can take advantage of my sound card and deliver. What I do with my current setup after I'm not sure, as I've had it for the better part of four or five years now. If I can sell it, bonus.
 

guitarslingerchris

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I do have a few pairs of decent (though not extravagant) headphones that I use when traveling and I think they did sound much better by comparison.

I only care about headphones, for now, so this is all I'm interested in from this thread. Don't be a tease.
 

atarione

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Messages
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Thanks for the replies folks, to answer the few clarifications:

I really did think it sounded better before, which is part of my recent hubris. But I agree that there should be no difference at all with what I now know about these speakers. To be honest I think the reason it sounds 'bad' now is because I was 'testing' the on-board audio and was far more discriminating than usual.

Now I know I wasn't ever actually using the on-board audio and never was. Could it be though there really is something different about how the signal gets passed to the speakers?

As for the 3.5mm option, believe it or not I already tried that and figured I'd get laughed off the internet for saying so. The range of sound coming out of the speakers changed dramatically for the better, but there was a noticeable amount of interference (The static hum without music is much more audible). I think it's just a symptom of jury-rigging the thing together using the analog output from the sound card (it's the only one that works). Though to be honest it could just be the line-in on this thing isn't very good, I've never really used it. I did try a set of headphones out and found the output from the sound card direct was pretty clean, though it wasn't very loud even at max volume so I'm not sure it was a fair test.

So on to the damage. At this point I think I'm willing to just buy new speakers. I definitely do not have room for anything like atari's full-blown setup as my whole desk is not much bigger than what his sound system is sitting on. I can accommodate a sub on the floor and two desktop speakers of any reasonable size pretty handily. Something like those in the picture would be about the top of the mark. I do have a few pairs of decent (though not extravagant) headphones that I use when traveling and I think they did sound much better by comparison. I admit though I have my own house and I'd like to be able to rattle the walls a bit when I feel like it.

I'd be willing to spend 200-250 bucks to get something else. I'm assuming that's enough money to get something that can take advantage of my sound card and deliver. What I do with my current setup after I'm not sure, as I've had it for the better part of four or five years now. If I can sell it, bonus.

look at the swan desktop speaker offerings

the

Swan M200MkII

and

Swan M50W

especially as they are close to (big higher honestly) your stated budget range and generally pretty highly spoken of.... I have heard the M200MkIIs myself and i think they are pretty nice. I haven't actually heard the M50W but i have heard many people speak well of them.



or that emotive mini-x a100 and a couple bookshelf speakers i think my Polk Monitor30s are very nice (their on sale @ newegg for about $89 right now.) would blow those bose speakers out of the water you could add a sub later if you wanted. this would also come out about $15 over you $250 target


of course a dayton DTA-100A + bookshelf speakers could be right there budget wise.

but that emotiva amp is pretty sexy :D
 

counterpoint

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Messages
164
FYI, Emotiva just announced/released a new 2 channel amplifier:

http://shop.emotiva.com/collections/amplifiers/products/upa200

UPA-200 Stereo Power Amplifier - $314.10


FEATURES

A true audiophile-quality stereo amplifier.
Advanced engineering with SMD gain blocks.
Wideband, short signal path, class A/B design topology.
Top quality parts and construction.
Real power easily drives complex loads.
Heavy-duty power supply with oversized toroidal transformer.
Gold plated five way binding post speaker terminals.
Gold plated RCA input terminals.
Classic Emotiva styling with rugged solid steel chassis.
15mm solid milled aluminum faceplate.
Channel status LED’s. (which can be disabled in stealth mode).
Remote trigger input and output.
115 VAC or 230 VAC with automatic detection and switching.
Full protection from all common input and output fault conditions.


SPECIFICATIONS

Topology: Fully discrete, dual differential, high current, short signal path Class A/B.
Number of Channels: 2
Power Output
(rated power; THD < 0.05%):
125 watts / channel (8 ohms; all channels driven).
200 watts / channel (4 ohms; all channels driven).
Rated Power Bandwidth (at rated power; 8 Ohm load): 10 Hz to 20 kHz + / - 0.1 dB.
Minimum Recommended Load Impedance: 4 ohms (which equals one 4 ohm load or two paralleled 8 ohm loads per channel).
Frequency Response: 5 Hz to 80 kHz + 0 / - 2 dB.
THD + N: < 0.03%
Signal to Noise Ratio (8 Ohm load):
> 80 dB at 1 watt (A-weighted).
> 108 dB at rated power (A-weighted).
Damping Factor (8 Ohm load): > 500
Speaker Output Connections:
Full-sized 5-way binding posts; one pair per channel x 2.
Power Supply:
350 VA high current ultra-low noise toroidal power transformer.
40,000 uF of storage capacitance.
Input sensitivity (for rated power; 8 Ohm load): 1.1 V (for full output; 8 ohms).
Gain: 29 dB
Input Connections: Unbalanced (RCA); one per channel.
Input Impedance: 47 kOhms
Trigger:
Trigger Input: 5 - 20 V (AC or DC); < 10 mA input current required.
Trigger Output: 12 VDC; can drive any load up to 50 mA.
Power Requirements: 115 VAC or 230 VAC +/- 10% @ 50 / 60 Hz (automatically detected and switched).
Front Panel Controls and Indicators:
Standby; push button (changes color to indicate Standby or On).
Status LEDs (one per channel); illuminate blue for normal operation or red to indicate a fault (may be disabled by rear panel Status LED switch).
Rear Panel Controls:
AC Power switch; rocker switch (switches AC mains power).
Status LEDs switch; small slide switch on left rear (disables front panel Status LEDs).
Protection: The UPA-200 is protected against excessive operating temperature, shorted speaker connections, ground faults, and other common fault conditions. If a fault occurs, the UPA-200 will return to Standby mode, the Standby push button will light amber, and the Status LEDs will flash red.
Size:
unboxed: 17" wide x 3.375" high x 16.5" deep
Weight: 24 lbs (net); 32 lbs (boxed)







 

Aieee

n00b
Joined
Nov 27, 2008
Messages
26
If you're curious about headphones I can't say I have anything that would be described as audiophile quality. I noted that when I played music while sitting in an airport somewhere on the laptop, some aspects of the sound were much better than when I came back and listened to the same thing through my speakers. The headphones I have are a set of Sony MDR-CD280s that I've had for 8 or 10 years, and another set of a brand I'd never heard of I bought out of a Best Buy kiosk in an airport for $75 because I accidentally left the other ones behind.

I don't know if that says bad things about my speakers, because I'm pretty sure I didn't pay more than $50 or $60 for these things at the time.

As for the Swan speakers, they're a bit pricier than I'd like (shipping for them pushes the price well over $300), though I'd be willing to pay more to get the right thing. What I can't tell though is what kind of inputs it has. In addition to music I'm an avid gamer and I don't really know what I should be shooting for there. I also don't want to shoot myself in the foot again for buying the wrong thing.

Also in terms of space, I'm having a hard time finding out just how big these things are. There's a shelf above my monitor just over my head level when I'm sitting down that I could use for virtually any size speakers or an amp, but would that defeat the purpose over something smaller that'd fit right on the desk?
 

Impulse

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Messages
10,232
You guys are throwing way too much info at the poor guy about gear out of his price range and vintage gear he doesn't have the knowledge to scour for, lol. A $250 budget is more than enough for a small desktop amp the size of a router and some passive bookshelves that will easily blow him away, surely we can do better with the recommendations.
 

Q1DM6

Gawd
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Mar 22, 2012
Messages
713
Topping amp with some decent speakers. It's what I use and I'm more than happy.
 

atarione

[H]ard|Gawd
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Mar 17, 2011
Messages
2,033
You guys are throwing way too much info at the poor guy about gear out of his price range and vintage gear he doesn't have the knowledge to scour for, lol. A $250 budget is more than enough for a small desktop amp the size of a router and some passive bookshelves that will easily blow him away, surely we can do better with the recommendations.

fair enough.... we (I) might have got off on a tangent...but if you check into things and use resources on the web (and if you have room for it) you can get some amazing sounding vintage gear / bookshelf speakers for less than his stated budget..but that route doesn't seem to be for him.


So I say the following

T-AMP

Topping
Dayton DTA-100A

from parts express
or
muse or SMSL (i own a smsl sa-s3....it is awesome) from ebay

and then polk bookshelf speakers (m30) or those pioneer's newegg is always floggin on sales

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16882117405
(they have been much less in the past)

those pioneers are bigger than you'd thing they would be however they are way bigger than my monitor 30s i am pretty sure.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16882290200

$89... i think these are awesome speakers for the money I really like mine.


or also the frequently suggested Dayton Audio B652

http://www.parts-express.com/pe/showdetl.cfm?Partnumber=300-652



if none of those speakers would fit on you desk the polk's are easy to wall mount and have built in stand offs to give them a bit of room for the back port .

or if you could find (and you can on ebay they just are expensive there) some RadioShack Minimus 7 speakers ..they are very compact and sound awesome for their size.

i have the larger minimus 77 speakers that i got for $10~ but i had to spend another $5 on a surround kit and spent 20 minutes replacing the surrounds. But i love those things I gave them to my wife along with a Pioneer SX-450 for her office ... damn near kept them for myself but the mrs really enjoys them.
 

Aieee

n00b
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Nov 27, 2008
Messages
26
I appreciate the suggestions and feedback, though I'm not quite getting it.

I'm not opposed to these solutions with amps and the like, however it's a departure from what I'm most familiar with and I have a few concerns. First, I said I play music and also am an avid gamer. Games often have directional sound, and recently I've learned if your setup can't handle that those sounds don't work. But if I don't actually have a 5 or 7 speaker configuration, should that matter at all so long as the software understands I don't have them?

This comes back to my fundamental lack of understanding with how these sound systems work. I'm assuming that it'd be pointless to use something that had digital input, because it's the sound card that translates the digital info into the signals that actually go to the speakers to produce sound. i.e. If I use something with digital input I'd be repeating my current mistake and bypassing the sound card again.

The Xonar DX has an S/PDIF digital jack, and up to 4 analog outputs for different directional speakers/sub. The amps being suggested here have two channels only, so I'm assuming it means I would not be able to use it with anything apart from two speakers.

So, blundering forward, I have gone without surround sound and the like all this time and don't really feel a need for it. Will I presume that these bookshelf type speakers pretty much eliminate the need for a sub?

And lastly, concerning size, how tall are your monitor 30s? Something 12" tall or less will fit on my desk pretty easily. The thing I don't know is if these have to fit on my desk, as I've got plenty of space just above my monitor. However it's just above my head level and I don't know if I'd be sitting too close for that to work well.
 

atarione

[H]ard|Gawd
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Mar 17, 2011
Messages
2,033
I appreciate the suggestions and feedback, though I'm not quite getting it.

I'm not opposed to these solutions with amps and the like, however it's a departure from what I'm most familiar with and I have a few concerns. First, I said I play music and also am an avid gamer. Games often have directional sound, and recently I've learned if your setup can't handle that those sounds don't work. But if I don't actually have a 5 or 7 speaker configuration, should that matter at all so long as the software understands I don't have them?

This comes back to my fundamental lack of understanding with how these sound systems work. I'm assuming that it'd be pointless to use something that had digital input, because it's the sound card that translates the digital info into the signals that actually go to the speakers to produce sound. i.e. If I use something with digital input I'd be repeating my current mistake and bypassing the sound card again.

The Xonar DX has an S/PDIF digital jack, and up to 4 analog outputs for different directional speakers/sub. The amps being suggested here have two channels only, so I'm assuming it means I would not be able to use it with anything apart from two speakers.

So, blundering forward, I have gone without surround sound and the like all this time and don't really feel a need for it. Will I presume that these bookshelf type speakers pretty much eliminate the need for a sub?

And lastly, concerning size, how tall are your monitor 30s? Something 12" tall or less will fit on my desk pretty easily. The thing I don't know is if these have to fit on my desk, as I've got plenty of space just above my monitor. However it's just above my head level and I don't know if I'd be sitting too close for that to work well.


well... yeah basically all the amps we've been pointing you at are stereo.

I'm going to admit i have no idea how to answer this question cause in my own case for any number of logistical reason (namely my wife :D) I must use headphones exclusively for gaming so my speakers are music only pretty much...


hopefully someone else can chime in... cause I don't know.



Ideally you'd want the speakers tweeters right about ear level if it is above you you could probably point them downwards a bit...

my speakers are on top of an about 4 1/2" shelf and then they are about a foot tall (RTi4s and the T15s are about 10 1/2" tall) my t15s probably should come up a bit the RTI4s have the tweeters right about ear level.
 

Impulse

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Apr 5, 2001
Messages
10,232
If you have the space and the room setup for a good surround sound arrangement, and the budget, then you should probably start looking into AV receivers w/a full 5.1 set of speakers + sub and just pipe S/PDIF from the Xonar to the receiver.

Thing is, a lot of people these days don't really have the room or desire for that kinda setup around their PC, which is also why they opt for headphones when they really want precise positional sound cues. $250 is certainly not enough for an A/V receiver and 5.1 speakers either, unless you start looking at used gear (and even then, sub alone would often eat half the budget).

Bookshelves or passive speakers don't completely eliminate the need for a sub, but they're gonna provide far more accurate bass than what you may be used to from cheap subs, so you may not miss it.

If you're into bass-heavy music genres you may very well miss it tho, but by going w/a setup that's built around passive speakers and a discrete amp you can always add a sub later... If you go w/powered monitors w/an integrated amp (or worse, any sort of integrated USB DAC) then you limit your options. The recommendations mentioned above are flexible in the sense that you can always re-use those speakers in a myriad of ways (add a sub, move to a full 5.1 setup w/a receiver, etc).

Speakers above the displays would work alright if you can angle them down, or even sit them horizontally on the shelf rather than vertically (tweeters on the outside) while aimed at your head.
 

spaceman

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Messages
14,796
5.1 for gaming is a waste of time. Use headphones.

Yes but if he wants to use speakers that is ok too. Any parts express combo plus an Asus sound card will give you excellent directional sound once you get them positioned correctly.

http://www.polkaudio.com/education/article.php?id=15

Headphones are another option to consider if only as an experiment. As the entry level decent headphone starts around $20, there is little reason not to at least dabble.
 

matteos

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
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Messages
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Go over to accessories4less and pick up one of the cheaper 5.1 denons or onkyos for about 110-120 bucks, should be 75 watts per channel (advantage of this is easily adding a sub and flexibility for surround in future)
http://www.accessories4less.com/mak...-5.1-Channel-A/V-Home-Theater-Receiver/1.html

They are factory refurbished but don't worry about that it's a great store to deal with and their stuff is great (I've had a couple of amps from here, all going strong, no problems, save you a lot of money)

When you look at Watts per channel it wil lhave a measurememt next to it such as 75 Watts at 0.08THD at 20-20khz. The lower the distortion rate the better. 0.08 is much better than 0.8, it will play louder and sound cleaner. You don't really need more than about 50 watts per channel, but more power with less distortion is always better. Never buy an amp that lists its watts per channel at 1 khz rather than 20-20,000 khz. 1khz gives a much higher reading and if an amp is using that it's generally a sign it is not honest about its specs and it's most likely garbage.

Then head over here and pick up these bookshelves for $175 per pair

http://store.audioholics.com/brand/emp/summer-sale/emp-e5bir.html

You will have really amazing sound, and can add a sub for low bass in future if you want.

Honestly it is better to get a sperate amp and speakers than to stick with computer speakers with built in amps, I think these are usually overpriced and the sound quality does not come close. Separate speakers and amps also give you no flexibility in the future if something breaks or you get the itch to upgrade (and with audio that itch can come very frequently). Those bookshelves are really highly regarded EMP is a sister company of RBH (who make super expensive high end speakrs), and they're much better than Polk or Klipsch that you can get at that price and they are on sale. Speakers make the biggest difference to the sound, and you don't want to cheap out on them. While big box brands like Polk do make some good speakers, you can get far superior speakers for similar coin going with a brand like EMP

So for just under $300 you will have sound that will be amazing.


Reading through again I see that space is really limited for you. So if you have to forego the receiver you could get a super small mini amp like this one with 50 Watts per channel

http://shop.emotiva.com/products/a100

^ However I see it is $175 and may be over your budget, you can cheap out and get something like this to tide you over, but you will probably want to upgrade to that emotiva at some point

http://www.amazon.com/Pyle-PVA2-Wat...1250942&sr=1-8&keywords=small+audio+amplifier

It is far from ideal in that you won't be able to crank it super loud, seems like it has 12 watts per channel at 8oms (higher distortion, rated at 1khz... more likely about 8 good watts per channel). It's about as good or slightly better than a built in speaker amp like on those swans. on the plus side its pretty cheap, about $60. The speakers I linked to are about 85db efficient which is about average efficiency for bookshelfs, that means 1 watt per speaker will play at 85db, so 8 watts won't get you much higher than that as loudness is logarithmic but that is pretty loud about as loud as a vaccuum cleaner I think.

If you can find the room, this would be a better option than that Pyle and only $100

http://www.parts-express.com/pe/showdetl.cfm?Partnumber=302-601
 
Last edited:

Aieee

n00b
Joined
Nov 27, 2008
Messages
26
OK, it seems I'm on the right track here. Thanks for the continued input folks.

I have learned through a few painful experiences that it never pays to go the cheap road. I am not used to fine audio equipment so honestly I probably wouldn't appreciate a $3000 setup, but if getting the right thing in this case means an extra hundred bucks, fine. I'll suck it up in the short term and thank myself later for not having wasted money on something that didn't make me happy.

I can't say I NEED positional sound for gaming (or the space for a surround setup). I just had some frustration recently where the sounds like explosions that could be positional didn't actually work at all until I messed with some settings. I have what you'd call entry-level headphones already, maybe a little better, it's just that I don't have to be polite to anyone and I like being untethered. I did spend a fair chunk of change on some wireless headphones a while back, but it wasn't so hot when I put a wall or two between me and the receiver while moving around.

So, speakers. I think the answer I've arrived at is that little Emotiva amp that's been recommended a couple times plus two speakers would be the best solution. A surround setup would probably never happen in the foreseeable future, the only question is how I'd add a sub later if I really did want one. Let's be honest, I probably have a cheap sub. It's 5" diameter or so and from that article matteos linked that's not actually big enough to do its job. I don't know what a good sub sounds like. So I'm willing to give it a shot with just two speakers first. Given my sound card has separate outputs for L/R audio, sub and satellites, I'm going to assume no matter what I do, if I REALLY want a sub later I can buy a separate unit and just forget about having everything tied together in one package. There has to be stuff on the market for that.

I have looked at the speaker offerings here though and I've got one last thing to resolve. Can I put the amp and bookshelf speakers close to my monitor without causing problems? Or the amp close to the speakers themselves?

If that makes sense so far, then you guys have been very helpful. This has shed a lot of light on why I've never had the same music experience with my PC as I have when using a portable player with a set of what I'd call good headphones or earbuds. There's a lot of the sound that's just missing or lacking in clarity and I figured that was the best it was going to get with speakers because I bought the most expensive PC speaker offering there was on the store floor and it was nearly an order of magnitude more what my best set of headphones cost.

When I was in college things were different, because I had a different set of PC speakers (Much cheaper, too) and I also made occasional use of my parents' rather elaborate stereo setup featuring some large floor speakers. I could play things loud and they sounded great. In fact they sounded so great I didn't recognize some of the same music I've had on my PC since. I'd ask myself how I ever thought it was good, since it just sounds flat and empty by comparison now.

So far the evidence supports my theory that I had no idea what I was doing. I was just a typical consumer guy looking for good stuff and I went to the wrong place for it. The Bose setup I have was vastly superior to the laptop speakers and convenient at the time, but walking into a big retailer and buying the most expensive PC speaker option seems to have sold me short of what the same money could have gotten me elsewhere.
 

matteos

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Jan 5, 2011
Messages
1,253
You are doing the right thing, honestly it is better to spend the money so you don't upgrade again in a few years, the monitor won't affect anything unless it is CRT and even then most (almost all) speakers are magnetically shielded.

I wouldn't consider anything less than 8" a subwoofer, but truly you want at least 10" unless you are in a tiny room.

That emotiva will be good, don't cheap out on the speakers, take a look at audioholics they do some really good reviews of speakers, I trust their opinion because they've reviewed two sets of speakers I've had and they have been bang on with everything they've said, strengths and weaknesses. Try and get bookshelves with a 6.5" woofer if you are foregoing the sub and you should get a decent amount of bass.

Don't worry everybody has bought the wrong things at some point. You'll find though that you should be able to get a fair price on those Bose if you sell them.
 

AVT

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Aug 8, 2008
Messages
4,758
If you want decent + cheap (~$175), go M-Audio AV40 + Polk PSW10.

Not as upgradeable as if you get a setup with a receiver/bookshelf speakers though.
 

alex_wu

n00b
Joined
Jul 3, 2012
Messages
18
Please try a soundbar with digital inputs, or a soundbar with a subwoofer if you have foot space.

I think the problems that you experienced with your setup, are caused by signal pollutions from the (i) Bose USB DAC (static noise coming from power power regulation), and (ii) poor signal quality from the soundcard to the amp (audio jack). Audio jacks are prone to distortion, and in some cases, just by touching the PVC coating of the cable, can introduce 'hum' to the sound.

Digital input from your soundcard to the soundbar would, IMO, eliminate those problems.
Nevermind the 5 audio jacks that the soundcards provide, choose either one should work.

This time, may I also suggest try before you buy. :)
 

Aieee

n00b
Joined
Nov 27, 2008
Messages
26
Ok folks, I pushed the commit button.

Ordered the Emotiva mini-amp and a pair of Polk monitor 30's. It broke the budget but not by much, coming in just shy of $300 since everything had free shipping. The speakers were a challenge as I measured that I only had a space 11-1/4" tall to fit these things in, and most of the options presented weren't going to fit unless I put them down on their sides. It seems a number of these models like the EMP have rounded sides and wouldn't have worked out too well. The specs tell me the Polks are 11" tall, which means they should squeeze in here fine. If all else fails, they're also square.

We'll see what happens next week when it all shows up.

Edit: It also seems I pushed the button just as people threw up more suggestions, go figure :p
 

Impulse

[H]F Junkie
Joined
Apr 5, 2001
Messages
10,232
I might've spent more on the speakers and less on the amp but I think you'll be very happy with that setup, let us know how you like it!
 

MrWizard6600

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Jan 15, 2006
Messages
5,779
some terms that I think really need to be clarified:

the audio stack:
  • audio data source {mp3, aac, wav, etc.)
  • Digital-Analog Converter (DAC)
  • Amplifier
  • cans/woofer-tweeter

The digital audio source: this can have a bigger effect on your audio quality than you might think. The mp3 encoding algorithms tend to lose a good amount of percussion, and if you're down at or below 128kb/s you're going to get a good amount of distortion. But for gaming, this is out of your control, and most games typically use sound effects with better encoding at higher bit rates. If you're willing to lose some compatibility, I'd suggest trying to get music in the AAC (the first A stands for Advanced, not Apple, so its widely supported) or WMA format.

The DAC: This is where the sound card manufacturers make their money and where huge amounts of snake-oil exist. The DAC and some associated (though rarely used) API's are whats responsible for your positional sound. For the games that support it, 3D sound (either via OpenAL or the dolby/creative stuff) can be pretty cool, but few do. A good pair of headphones and stereo sound are typically enough to pick out fairly precisely where an enemies footsteps are coming from.

Amplification: this is where most of your quality is going to be lost. Ideally, you'd run straight out of the DAC, into an amplifier, and off to your headphones, but its not quite that simple: The worst thing you can do is run audio to a receiver via an analog port, then from the receiver to your speakers via an analog port. In this setup, you're running your audio through three separate amplifiers, each modifying the sound to their own performance, with the cumulative affect of that distortion being delivered to your ears. If you're going to go with speakers, its best to run from a digital port (usb) to your reciever, then via speaker-wire to your satellites, or just use headphones. The cheapest thing you can do to drastically up audio quality is to run through a single capable amp, if any volume setting anywhere has to be consistently at 70%+ then you're introducing distortion.

The speakers themselves: getting good frequency response at acceptable volumes at ~1M distances is really tough, and is why you typically want/need a specialty speaker in the form of a woofer. But consider that you're trying to slice and dice the original signal to push the lower range stuff to the woofers and the higher range stuff to the satellites: its just real easy to butcher the original signal.

With speakers its really had to get a nice set for anything less than a couple hundred bucks. For this reason I'm a fan of headphones; with headphones its easy to get carried away and spend way more money than you need to. The Senny HD 555s, AKG 142's, and the recently released to critical acclaim Audio Technica M50s all offer pretty excellent sound for around $150. Those are all ~40Ohm headphones so they can be driven by just about anything.
 

matteos

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Jan 5, 2011
Messages
1,253
Ok folks, I pushed the commit button.

Ordered the Emotiva mini-amp and a pair of Polk monitor 30's. It broke the budget but not by much, coming in just shy of $300 since everything had free shipping. The speakers were a challenge as I measured that I only had a space 11-1/4" tall to fit these things in, and most of the options presented weren't going to fit unless I put them down on their sides. It seems a number of these models like the EMP have rounded sides and wouldn't have worked out too well. The specs tell me the Polks are 11" tall, which means they should squeeze in here fine. If all else fails, they're also square.

We'll see what happens next week when it all shows up.

Edit: It also seems I pushed the button just as people threw up more suggestions, go figure :p

I think you're going to enjoy your new setup. Those Polks are good, you could have spent more and got better but I understand you are budget and space limited. And for about $110 per pair they are hard to beat

Steve Guttenburg likes them (not THE Steve Guttenburg...)

http://reviews.cnet.com/separate-speakers/polk-monitor-30-black/4505-7869_7-31222323.html

Let us know how it works out for you.
 

minnus

n00b
Joined
Nov 6, 2010
Messages
19
I'm surprised no one recommended the A2s. No need for an amp and would work well with the existing Asus sound card.
 

Aieee

n00b
Joined
Nov 27, 2008
Messages
26
Concerning the equipment ordered, I could have probably made some more efficient choices if space were unlimited. Spending an extra 50 bucks on speakers wouldn't have been a big deal except that the options in that price range weren't going to fit and I personally don't know enough about speakers to go swim the ocean of options in brands I don't recognize. I could have spent more money for the sake of spending more money, but unfortunately I've learned that the price tag alone isn't a good indicator of quality. So I went with the compact amp and a pair of well-recommended speakers that fit my needs.

Also, public feedback isn't a great indicator either. If you look on Newegg the same Bose setup I have gets a 4 out of 5, mostly from people just like me who bought them to replace much cheaper speakers or integrated ones. By comparison they do sound much better, though maybe not compared to $400 in amps and speakers put together by people knowledgeable about audio. If you include the fact I bought a dedicated sound card, I'm still not actually up to the amount I spent on these Bose speakers in the first place.

So the last thing. Hooking it all up. I've got the cables to go to the amp, but I'm not sure on the best way to wire up the speakers. I have some 18-gauge speaker wire here, but there's not much that actually tells me if that's good enough for what I'm doing. Odds are I won't have to go more than 3'. Also, is there any benefit to getting end connectors to go to the posts as opposed to just wrapping the wire around?
 

atarione

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Mar 17, 2011
Messages
2,033
I think (hope..since I suggested them :) ) you will like the m30s .. they are nice sounding speakers for the money they sell for (especially if on sale)
 
Joined
Jun 17, 2012
Messages
7
some terms that I think really need to be clarified:

the audio stack:
  • audio data source {mp3, aac, wav, etc.)
  • Digital-Analog Converter (DAC)
  • Amplifier
  • cans/woofer-tweeter

The digital audio source: this can have a bigger effect on your audio quality than you might think. The mp3 encoding algorithms tend to lose a good amount of percussion, and if you're down at or below 128kb/s you're going to get a good amount of distortion. But for gaming, this is out of your control, and most games typically use sound effects with better encoding at higher bit rates. If you're willing to lose some compatibility, I'd suggest trying to get music in the AAC (the first A stands for Advanced, not Apple, so its widely supported) or WMA format.

Poor quality audio source leads to poor quality sound, no matter what you throw at it. I hope this does not surprise anybody. The only thing here that may be news to anybody is just how poor in quality most MP3s actually are.

The DAC: This is where the sound card manufacturers make their money and where huge amounts of snake-oil exist. The DAC and some associated (though rarely used) API's are whats responsible for your positional sound. For the games that support it, 3D sound (either via OpenAL or the dolby/creative stuff) can be pretty cool, but few do. A good pair of headphones and stereo sound are typically enough to pick out fairly precisely where an enemies footsteps are coming from.

The DAC proper is definitely an important component, but it has more to do with sound quality than positional sound.

Positional sound depend on the sound source (be it a surround-sound film, a game using a 3d sound API, or even just standard stereo audio) and the upmixer/downmixer. Upmixing creates more channels, while downmixing creates fewer channels by combining existing channels. Dolby's ProLogic II technology family is an example of upmixing. Most systems implement just simple downmixing when going to 2.0 or 2.1, but more complicated downmixing technologies exist like Dolby Headphone and Dolby Virtual Speaker, intended to create a surround-like experience from two speakers.

Amplification: this is where most of your quality is going to be lost. Ideally, you'd run straight out of the DAC, into an amplifier, and off to your headphones, but its not quite that simple: The worst thing you can do is run audio to a receiver via an analog port, then from the receiver to your speakers via an analog port. In this setup, you're running your audio through three separate amplifiers, each modifying the sound to their own performance, with the cumulative affect of that distortion being delivered to your ears.

I'm not sure I see three amplifiers here. I know there would be an amplifier in the sound-card (or motherboard for integrated sound). The receiver obviously has an amplifier. Where is this third amp?

If you're going to go with speakers, its best to run from a digital port (usb) to your reciever, then via speaker-wire to your satellites, or just use headphones. The cheapest thing you can do to drastically up audio quality is to run through a single capable amp, if any volume setting anywhere has to be consistently at 70%+ then you're introducing distortion.

If you are using an digital connection (either USB or TOSLINK) to a receiver, don't you defeat the whole point of having a dedicated sound card? I was under the impression that the only relevant things different between a discrete sound card and an integrated sound card are: the better DAC and amps in the discrete card, and possibly improved software components.

Any digital connection will bypass the sound card's DAC, and use the receiver's DAC instead.

The speakers themselves: getting good frequency response at acceptable volumes at ~1M distances is really tough, and is why you typically want/need a specialty speaker in the form of a woofer. But consider that you're trying to slice and dice the original signal to push the lower range stuff to the woofers and the higher range stuff to the satellites: its just real easy to butcher the original signal.

If the original signal as already in the form of 2.1 (perhaps down-mixed from a 5.1 source) then the signals are already separate. Similarly if a 2.0 signal is still digital, you can extract the low frequencies relatively easily with minimal distortion. (At the cost of a small amount of latency.) The problem is when you have an analog 2.0 signal and you are trying to convert it to 2.1 by extracting the low frequencies. Cheap low and high pass filters can really distort the signals.

With speakers its really had to get a nice set for anything less than a couple hundred bucks. For this reason I'm a fan of headphones; with headphones its easy to get carried away and spend way more money than you need to. The Senny HD 555s, AKG 142's, and the recently released to critical acclaim Audio Technica M50s all offer pretty excellent sound for around $150. Those are all ~40Ohm headphones so they can be driven by just about anything.

I'm no audiophile, so I cannot comment on the headphones. I find cheap $20 speakers combined with my onboard audio good enough for my purposes, but I also don't listen to much music, nor do I do any competitive gaming.
 

Skripka

[H]F Junkie
Joined
Feb 5, 2012
Messages
10,792
If you are using an digital connection (either USB or TOSLINK) to a receiver, don't you defeat the whole point of having a dedicated sound card? I was under the impression that the only relevant things different between a discrete sound card and an integrated sound card are: the better DAC and amps in the discrete card, and possibly improved software components.

Any digital connection will bypass the sound card's DAC, and use the receiver's DAC instead.

It depends on what you're doing. If you're listening to music or movies yes.

Gaming is entirely different

Presuming for discussion that your game has 5.1 surround sound...You usually need a soundcard to on-the-fly convert/stream the sound into DTS or DDL. Coaxial and optical S/PDIF are bandwidth starved for anything beyond simple 2.0 stereo in PCM coding...the only way to send surround sound over S/PDIF is to compress the original lossless PCM from the game. This all originates as S/PDIF was standardized before consumer surround sound originated, and after it became normal the MPAA didn't want to deprecate connectors.
 
Joined
Jun 17, 2012
Messages
7
It depends on what you're doing. If you're listening to music or movies yes.

Gaming is entirely different

Presuming for discussion that your game has 5.1 surround sound...You usually need a soundcard to on-the-fly convert/stream the sound into DTS or DDL. Coaxial and optical S/PDIF are bandwidth starved for anything beyond simple 2.0 stereo in PCM coding...the only way to send surround sound over S/PDIF is to compress the original lossless PCM from the game. This all originates as S/PDIF was standardized before consumer surround sound originated, and after it became normal the MPAA didn't want to deprecate connectors.

Damn, I just looked it up. I was honestly not aware that S/PDIF was so limited. I take it that most onboard sound chipsets lack the capability to convert surround PCM to AC3-SPDIF?

I'm amazed to learn that HDMI is a better digital audio connection than S/PDIF, being able to handle AC3-SPDIF, 7.1 LPCM, and several lossless encoded formats.
 

nimbyfaygo

Limp Gawd
Joined
Jan 18, 2006
Messages
488
I'm surprised no one recommended the A2s. No need for an amp and would work well with the existing Asus sound card.


The people that frequent this section of the forum seem to have something against them.
 

Skripka

[H]F Junkie
Joined
Feb 5, 2012
Messages
10,792
Damn, I just looked it up. I was honestly not aware that S/PDIF was so limited. I take it that most onboard sound chipsets lack the capability to convert surround PCM to AC3-SPDIF?

I'm amazed to learn that HDMI is a better digital audio connection than S/PDIF, being able to handle AC3-SPDIF, 7.1 LPCM, and several lossless encoded formats.

I've heard people claim they have a motherboard with a Realtek chipset board/driver that'll live convert PCM->AC3. I've never actually seen it work myself.

In fairness, even STX and other cards that'll do the conversion introduce a fair bit of latency in the process.
 

barkingpig

n00b
Joined
Jul 10, 2003
Messages
23
If you are using your PC as a serious music playback source, you NEED to make sure the playback is bit-perfect. What this means is that you will need to use either the ASIO or WASAPI interface - put simply, you will need a decent soundcard and music playback software such as JRiver Media Center. iTunes will not cut it as the recent versions do not support the ASIO/WASAPI interface.

Without bit-perfect playback it is useless to dump money into your speakers/amp/DAC...garbage in, garbage out remember?

I have a mid-range hifi system hooked up to my PC (Asus Xonar DX) and the difference between using ASIO/WASAPI and Directsound is night and day. In fact, the relatively cheap Asus Xonar DX with JRiver MC + ASIO is comparable to my 1000USD dedicated hifi cd player. Take out ASIO/WASAPI from the equation and you will notice that the highs and not highs, the lows not low...you get my drift.

If you need to dig deeper into this topic, check out computeraudiophile.com.

Hope this helps you fellow audio enthusiasts out there...
 

complexx

Gawd
Joined
Feb 19, 2003
Messages
748
pick up an entry level receiver (Denon, onkyo, pioneer, Yamaha), $150-200 and then you'll want a nice entry level set of real speakers (stay away from home theater in a box products if you like your music clean and clear). I recently purchased pioneer sp-bs41-lr bookshelf speakers and they are excellent for less than $100 for the pair. I'm not sure if they are still available though.

There are many ways to get good sound quality, and I'm sure there are home theater in a box speakers out there that sound good but it's tough to choose with soo many options and so many opinions out there.

There are many that can vouch for the speakers I mentioned, I'm just not sure if they are easily attainable anymore. Hope this helps.
 
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