small amp & speakers for budget computer setup - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 29 Old 05-08-2013, 03:51 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm looking to upgrade my PC audio experience at my office. The problem I have is that the real estate on my desk is severely limited. I'd like to get suggestions for a very small amp and some pretty small speakers too. This is for 95% music. I listen to pretty much everything except rap. I don't need or expect incredibly deep bass from tiny speakers, but I would like to be able to hear as many bass guitar notes as possible. I don't need it to get incredibly loud either. I'll be sitting about 3 feet from each speaker. I don't want to bother people around me...too much. wink.gif

Since I don't have room for something like an AVR at my desk, I'm looking at mini amps. I didn't even know things like t-amps existed until a few days ago. The source will be my PC. The amps I've been reading about are the Lepai 2020+, Topping TP20, Dayton DTA-100a, and the FiiO A1. They all seem like viable options as far as I can tell, but I've never used this type of amp before so any advice would be greatly appreciated. Any opinions on how they compare? I'd like to stay under $100 on the amp.

As for the speakers, I need to keep them about 8 inches tall and under 8 inches deep. I'd like to stay under $150 for the speakers. After reading a few threads, it looks like my best options for speakers are probably the Cambridge s20's or NXG Pro's. Has anyone used both of these speakers and have an opinion on how they compare? The size constraint definitely limits my options. Are there others I need to consider at that size/price point? Thanks in advance.

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post #2 of 29 Old 05-08-2013, 04:07 PM
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I have a griffin 20 in my office. Great little class d amp with internal dac and fixed subwoofer out @ 80 hz. Only one input- a toslink. For 99.00 bucks shipped, I consider it a bargain. They were originally designed to dock an old style airport express, but any optical will work. It even came with a toslink/ mini toslink cable. I run it with a pair of emptek e-41b's and a small sub. Love it!
Edit: sorry I'm no help with the speaker selection- damn those r small!
Cheers, Mac
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post #3 of 29 Old 05-08-2013, 08:48 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the response macddmac. That griffin 20 would be very tempting if I had an airport express or optical output, but I don't. The only outputs I have are the standard 3.5 mm or USB. The sub output is an especially nice feature on that griffin unit.

I know those are small and it's mainly the depth constraint that's holding me back with the size of the speakers.

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post #4 of 29 Old 05-08-2013, 08:54 PM
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I'm throwing a post in here for reference as I am looking for a similar set up
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post #5 of 29 Old 05-08-2013, 09:19 PM
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Here's an adaptor that may make the griffin a workable solution
http://www.amazon.com/Turtle-Beach-Advantage-Digital-Adapter/dp/B0036VO4X4
How about a pair of nht super zeros@ 200.00 , adaptor at 23.00, and the griffin@ 99.00 ?
So 325.00 and you can add a small sub later.
Cheers, Mac
Ps- confirm the adaptor will work!
Also- Mac or Pc ?
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post #6 of 29 Old 05-09-2013, 07:03 AM
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unavol:
Check out the Vanatoo speakers with a 30-day trail period. They are powered and therefore you won't need the amp. Good reviews.
Good luck,
Mike

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post #7 of 29 Old 05-09-2013, 11:28 AM - Thread Starter
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mnilan,
Those Vanatoo's look very nice, but unless they can be found much cheaper they are over my budget. I really think I want to try one of the little t-amps. The Griffin 20 that macddmac pointed out has me intrigued too because it has a sub out. That's why I didn't list any powered speakers. Those amps are small enough so that they aren't obtrusive like a traditional amp. From what I've read about the t-amps they seem to be a pretty good bang for your buck option as well. I do appreciate the suggestion I bet those sound good.

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post #8 of 29 Old 05-09-2013, 11:36 AM - Thread Starter
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macddmac,
That adapter might work. I'm not sure. I wonder if something like THIS would work as well. It seems a little more straight forward if it would do the job.

Do you know if the crossover in the griffin is disabled if you don't have a sub connected? I wouldn't want it to cross over at 80Hz if I'm not running a sub. I don't plan on using a sub right now, but it might be nice to have that option if I change my mind down the road. The speakers I'm looking at probably won't do a lot below 80Hz, but I want the signal passing to them.

Also, how do you like the emp tek speakers? I noticed that they list a new speaker (E3b mini bookshelf) on their website that fits my size requirement. Although they don't list the price. rolleyes.gif

Anyone have any thoughts on the amps or speakers listed in the original post?

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post #9 of 29 Old 05-09-2013, 12:02 PM
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Take a look at the Audioengine 2 or the 2+ that should be out soon.
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post #10 of 29 Old 05-09-2013, 02:47 PM
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The Audioengine ones sound good. I would also track down these PSB Computer Speakers. They have been getting a lot of buzz
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post #11 of 29 Old 05-09-2013, 08:39 PM - Thread Starter
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I read the rave Stereophile review on the audioengine a2's, but I have a hard time believing they sound that good without sounding artificial. Do they really sound as good as advertised? Maybe I need to reconsider them.

I emailed EMP Tek support and their e3b's are $125 a pair if anyone is interested. They have to be ordered via phone though. For some reason they only sell them as part of a package deal online.

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post #12 of 29 Old 05-09-2013, 09:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by unavol View Post

macddmac,
That adapter might work. I'm not sure. I wonder if something like THIS would work as well. It seems a little more straight forward if it would do the job.

Do you know if the crossover in the griffin is disabled if you don't have a sub connected? I wouldn't want it to cross over at 80Hz if I'm not running a sub. I don't plan on using a sub right now, but it might be nice to have that option if I change my mind down the road. The speakers I'm looking at probably won't do a lot below 80Hz, but I want the signal passing to them.

Also, how do you like the emp tek speakers? I noticed that they list a new speaker (E3b mini bookshelf) on their website that fits my size requirement. Although they don't list the price. rolleyes.gif

Anyone have any thoughts on the amps or speakers listed in the original post?

1. The mini toslink to toslink cable will only work if your mini jack is optical as well as analog. I think some Macs have this feature. Also, the griffin comes with one. That's why I asked what computer you're running earlier.
2.the crossover is enabled when you plug a sub into the output.
3. The Emps are amazing little speakers.. 4 " berylium midwoofs do a great job down to 60-70 hz depending on placement and the tweeter is nearly as good as the midrange. the successor (E-41) is very good as well from what I've heard. I consider these a very nuetral sounding speaker and a great match for the griffin when used with a sub.
4. I have not heard anything regarding the E3b.
Cheers, Mac
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post #13 of 29 Old 05-10-2013, 09:27 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the input mac. I forgot to answer your question about my computer. It's a PC.

I wouldn't mind hearing the EMP Teks, but the sensitivity rating on their e3b's is only 82 db. That seems low. I don't need need them to get incredibly loud, but it seems like I'd need fairly efficient speakers with limited input power from a very small amp.

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post #14 of 29 Old 05-10-2013, 09:49 AM
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There are decent to excellent active powered monitors to match any budget. This might be the preferred option and eliminate the need for an amp. Look into Behringer, Tannoy, Swan, Emotiva (and others). With a limited budget I'd consider foregoing the amp and get the best speakers you can.

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post #15 of 29 Old 05-10-2013, 04:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by unavol View Post

I read the rave Stereophile review on the audioengine a2's, but I have a hard time believing they sound that good without sounding artificial. Do they really sound as good as advertised? Maybe I need to reconsider them.
I have some A2's ( listening to them as I type this smile.gif ) It is possible to demo them in-person, although Atlanta seems a bit far. I was able to demo mine at a Magnolia inside a Best Buy. If you are going to be in the Nashville area where there are some Magnolias, it might be worth a call to confirm they have A2's.

http://audioengineusa.com/resellers/Georgia

http://www.magnoliaav.com/find-a-magnolia
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post #16 of 29 Old 05-10-2013, 08:16 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm not dedcated enough to drive to Atlanta just to demo speakers. tongue.gifbiggrin.gif So you like the A2's Gandu? Did you hear anything else worthy of mentioning before you decided on the A2's?

The Audioengine & Magnolia dealer search looks like pretty much any dealer network searches in Alabama. Alabama's kind of a black hole when it comes to shopping for audio gear. Around here, if you can't get it at walmart...you must not really need it. I guess I just need to order a pair of A2's and some of the speakers I mentioned in the OP & let my ears decide. I'm usually slow about doing this kind of thing so if anyone has any more suggestions feel free to share.

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post #17 of 29 Old 05-10-2013, 08:35 PM
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I own the A5 by audioengine and I think they sounds quite good. I havent heard the A2 but if they are similar to mine I dont think you will be disappointed.
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post #18 of 29 Old 05-10-2013, 09:10 PM
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I think Audio Engine A2 would be the place to start. They are under $200 ordered direct and can be returned if you dont like. I have used them in my study room and have sufficient power and sounds quite good.
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post #19 of 29 Old 05-11-2013, 05:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by unavol View Post

I'm not dedcated enough to drive to Atlanta just to demo speakers. tongue.gifbiggrin.gif So you like the A2's Gandu? Did you hear anything else worthy of mentioning before you decided on the A2's?
.
I started looking at the 'better' computer speakers in the $60 - $100 range from Creative, Logitech and Bose. They weren't that much of an improvement on a Creative 2.1 system I was looking to upgrade from. Some reasearch on AVS pointed me to the A2's, along with Mackie, Alesis, M-Audio. I listened to the A2's first and never got to Guitar Center to demo the others smile.gif For my use on a desktop, the A2's are great. Clear, plenty of power, decent enough bass. For use in an office environment, it would be hard for me to imagine needing more than the A2's.

There are Guitar Center stores in Alabama, and they appear to have a decent selection of powered speakers to demo.
http://www.guitarcenter.com/Studio-Monitors-Recording.gc?extup=Huntsville&src=&storenumber=753&storename=huntsville&localstoresearch=true
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post #20 of 29 Old 05-15-2013, 02:08 PM - Thread Starter
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I decided to go ahead and order a Lepai 2020+ mini amp and a pair of the NXG Pro 4's. I'm also planning to order a pair of Audioengine A2's for comparison. I'm on the fence about ordering the Cambridge s20's and/or EMP Tek e3b's too. My wife laughed when I told her I was going to order multiple speakers and send the ones that I didn't need back since I always roll my eyes at her when she does that with clothes. I'll let y'all know what I think when I have a chance to hear them.
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post #21 of 29 Old 05-16-2013, 06:07 AM
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You're doing it right. Nearfield listening is unique, speakers 3' from your ears have to be right for you, otherwise you will be miserable. It seems I upgrade every year or so, I think a big part of this is that I love the audition process smile.gif That said, I think I've found a pair to last. At least 18 months.

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post #22 of 29 Old 05-16-2013, 09:04 PM - Thread Starter
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The thrill of the hunt is part of the fun. I wish I could find speakers that makes me happy every time I turn them on like my speakers at home do, but I know that's asking a bit much at this price point.

What are you using that you like now Nethawk?

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post #23 of 29 Old 05-20-2013, 08:17 AM - Thread Starter
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My Lepai amp came in this weekend. The speakers I ordered did not so I connected it to my PC and some old htib speakers I had storage. These speakers are just cheap, paper cone speakers, but I was amazed at how good this little amp sounds. I can't wait to get some better speakers to try it out on. It should sound significantly better. My initial impression of the Lapai amp is very favorable.

I do have a question for anyone who has one of the Lepai 2020's. The volume knob turns pretty smoothly until it gets around the 2 o'clock(ish) position on the dial. It takes some extra push to get it past that tight spot. Is that normal? When it's turned on and I turn go past the tight spot on the dial it shuts off. Overload protection I guess. I would never need to listen to it that loud in my office anyway. I just want to know out of curiosity.

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post #24 of 29 Old 05-20-2013, 08:55 AM
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That volume know seems an interesting feature. User guide doesn't cover it?

I am now using Emp Tek E41-B on the desktop with an SVS SB-1000 subwoofer.

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post #25 of 29 Old 05-20-2013, 07:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nethawk View Post

That volume know seems an interesting feature. User guide doesn't cover it?

I am now using Emp Tek E41-B on the desktop with an SVS SB-1000 subwoofer.

I'm loving my E41-B's too.. Running them with an Emotiva ultra10 I had laying around. All driven by a griffin 20. Great little setup IMHO . I'm thinking about upgrading to a pair of LS50's but I'm not sure how much if any improvement they'll make though.
Cheers, Mac
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post #26 of 29 Old 05-20-2013, 09:29 PM - Thread Starter
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The user guide doesn't cover it. It has a user guide, but it's not very useful.

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post #27 of 29 Old 05-22-2013, 04:02 PM - Thread Starter
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The NXG speakers came in and I've been listening to them almost all day (paired with the Lepai). You're not going to get confused as to whether there's a sub running, but the bass is adequate for what I need. The midrange is nice and rich and the highs are crisp and clean without leaving my ears fatigued. They sound especially good on acoustic music. The piano finish looks great too.

I may order some of the other suggestions just to see, but I could live with these NXG's quite happily for a while. I'd definitely recommend them based on what I've heard so far. Especially given that they cost under $80 for a pair on Amazon.

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post #28 of 29 Old 05-23-2013, 10:14 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nethawk View Post

That volume know seems an interesting feature. User guide doesn't cover it?

I am now using Emp Tek E41-B on the desktop with an SVS SB-1000 subwoofer.

I found out from another AVS'er that the volume knob tightness on the Lepai is not normal. I'm probably going to exchange it. I also wanted to add a picture of my new desk setup.


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post #29 of 29 Old 05-23-2013, 10:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by macddmac View Post

I'm loving my E41-B's too.. Running them with an Emotiva ultra10 I had laying around. All driven by a griffin 20. Great little setup IMHO . I'm thinking about upgrading to a pair of LS50's but I'm not sure how much if any improvement they'll make though.
Cheers, Mac

There are very few quality subs in small form factor. Velodyne Minivee, Emotiva Ultra and the SVS SB (sealed) or PB (ported) were all three on my radar. SVS just happened to be the first to order and it fits well with my room and the E41-B, so I stuck with it. The only bad part of the experience was my wife catching me, and subsequently laughing at me while doing the sub crawl. biggrin.gif

The E41-B are fantastic speakers. While at audioholics they are praised every once in awhile I see very little information here. I'm glad to have found positive comments, even happier that I was able to score a brand new pair from someone who ordered 2 before they were discontinued. I plan to soon move from a 2 channel receiver to an inexpensive AVR only for managed crossover so that I don't feel I'm abusing the Emp Tek. Everything sounds great now but I think this is a way of improving my setup.

The Kef LS50 are smokin' hot speakers. I suspect I'll be looking in that direction in about 17 months.
Quote:
I may order some of the other suggestions just to see, but I could live with these NXG's quite happily for a while. I'd definitely recommend them based on what I've heard so far. Especially given that they cost under $80 for a pair on Amazon.

Unavol, congrats on your decision, it's great to learn that you have put together a system that you enjoy. Thanks for reporting back!

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