Some help on computer audio set-up - AVS Forum
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Old 07-11-2012, 11:21 AM - Thread Starter
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Hello guys, I'm very new to the world of audio. I have a basic understand of stuff (mostly what plugs into where) but I would like to take it to the next step. Although there is seemingly a lot of information of this stuff strewn around, it is sort of overwhelming when peoples opinions get thrown into the mix. I have a simple request, hopefully someone could help me out with my situation.

Basically, I want a better audio set-up than I have now. At the moment I simply have a PC with an external Creative X-Fi Surround 5.1 card. I plug my headphones and/or computer speakers into it for listening pleasure. I feel like it could be (a lot) better. I only really use my headphones if necessary, which isn't too often. I prefer speakers for listening.

So I began my journey into what I could possibly do to make my experience better. I mainly listen to old-school hip-hop, electronic, classical, and some jazz/blues. My budget is around $500-600, coming out to about $150-200 per piece that I need. What I was thinking of doing, specifically, was buying the Asus Xonar Essence STX internal card, an External Amp of some sort, and the Klipsch Promedia 2.1/M-Audio AV40's computer speakers. Is there something I'm overlooking? Something I'm overdoing/underdoing? I heard there was a built-in amplifier on the sound card, but would it be as good as an external one in that price range? Is an amp even the right way to go?

Please, any insight would be helpful. I am slightly lost at this point where to go with this.

Thank you in advance!
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Old 07-11-2012, 12:28 PM
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You are definitely lost. Let's try to get you out of the weeds.

First, your current sound card is probably just fine. So I wouldn't bother putting any money into a new one, internal or external, unless there's some new feture you need.

What makes your setup sound subpar right now is the quality of your speakers. Items sold as computer speakers are generally not very good. You need either 1) better powered speakers; or 2) passive speakers plus an amplifier of some sort. The best value in amplifiers is a two-channel receiver, which can be had for as little as $100 or so. Good budget choices are the Sherwood 4105/4109 and the Onkyo 8255. Speakers are more a matter of personal taste, but you want to put most of your budget into them, because they make the biggest difference in sound quality, by far.

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Old 07-11-2012, 12:32 PM
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^^^ This. +100.

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Old 07-11-2012, 12:48 PM - Thread Starter
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First of all, thank you for taking the time to reply.

So if I'm understanding this correctly. Buying a receiver and passive speakes (unpowered I imagine) is the way to go. The set-up would be something like, PC>Sound Card>Receiver>Speakers?

Are there any speakers in your opinion/experience that I should be looking at? Bookshelf speakers? Standing? Models with a good history of performance?

I know a lot of stuff is preference based, and I'm really just trying to get the best sound around that price range. I appreciate the receiver recommendations and I will be looking further into doing something like that. The only reason I mentioned those two computer speakers specifically is because I thought I didn't need to get a receiver. If the gains of hooking up to a receiver instead is that much better, I will most certainly be taking your advice in that!
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Old 07-11-2012, 02:11 PM
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So if I'm understanding this correctly. Buying a receiver and passive speakes (unpowered I imagine) is the way to go. The set-up would be something like, PC>Sound Card>Receiver>Speakers?
Correct. But there are better powered speakers (not marketed as computer speakers, and typically sold in Guitar Center types of places), which would mean you don't need the receiver.
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Are there any speakers in your opinion/experience that I should be looking at? Bookshelf speakers? Standing? Models with a good history of performance?
The choice of bookshelf vs. standing is one you have to make. The key tradeoff is size vs. bass extension. A third option would be bookshelf plus subwoofer, though that's probably not ideal given your budget.

Brands to look for would include Infinity, PSB, Paradigm. I'm sure you'll get other recommendations.

If you can't explain how it works, you can't say it doesn't.—The High-End Creed

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Old 07-11-2012, 03:54 PM
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Do you like bass with your hip and electronic music? If so, the Energy S10.3 is a very good value at $219. Check on the AVS subwoofer forum, and you'll see it recommended all the time.

Couple it with Energy RC-10s, Infinity Primus 163s, or Cambridge S30s, and one of those receivers. Then you'd have a nice setup that can produce some low bass, too smile.gif

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Old 07-12-2012, 01:44 PM
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I had the same requirement a few months ago. My solution:

  • Onkyo TX-8050 receiver, just because it also had built-in streaming services like slacker and pandora, and I could control it remotely via smartphone. It also supports 4 ohm speakers (but don't want to confuse you!). This is connected directly to my sound card via optical output. About $260. I'm very pleased with it.
  • Mordaunt-Short Carnival 2 bookshelf speakers for my desktop. Very mellow, nice imaging, not bright or fatiguing - at 3 ft. from my ears it was just about the only pair auditioned that would work this close. I love them. About $250. Energy RC-10's as cel4145 recommends is also a great choice if you don't plan to be sitting close - I had a tough time choosing between the two.

The Onkyo is a multi-zone receiver with preamp outputs, I also have another pair of speakers in my living room with external amp.

This would put you within your budget. I'd then save up and add a sub in a month or two, perhaps the Energy cel recommends - you'll probably want it to round out your 2 channel system.

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Old 07-12-2012, 03:14 PM
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About 10 years ago I had a Klipsch Promedia 4.1 system. I thought it was great at the time. Since then I've upgraded several times, but my computer has always been the source. Since your computer is the source, you don't really need a receiver. However, you can get an old two channel receiver used at a pawn shop and use it as the amplifier. My dad uses a 1990 Denon receiver with his computer system.

I like it simpler and would recommend a little two channel amp from Parts Express such as the Dayton DTA-100a. I've used a several little T-amps and they work great. I agree that you should keep your current sound card. While each of my soundcard purchases has been an improvement, you would need to spend a lot more on speakers until you notice a difference in sound quality from the soundcard.

I've always liked the speakers Danny Richie of GR-Research has designed. I currently own several of his designs. He is designed some speakers for Carnegie Acoustics and the speakers are now being discontinued. You can get a pair of MTM (mid-tweeter-mid) speakers for $600 or a pair of bookshelf speakers for $400. I would get the MTM's since they have higher sensitivity. This means they play louder with less power.

I would add a subwoofer later. You can easily integrate it with advanced bass management with a software player like JRiver Media Center. For speakers or subs, you can check out the Hsu Research Clearance Center. It gets updated the last Wednesday of each month. Actually, the HB1-MK2 speakers would go well with the amp I mentioned earlier. They have a nice value package deal that includes the sub.
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Old 07-12-2012, 04:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bebopedge View Post

My budget is around $500-600, coming out to about $150-200 per piece that I need.

Why waste all that real estate with an amplifier? Just get some powered speakers. I suggest the fabulous Swans M200MkII for about $300. Craigslist a decent 10” sub from Paradigm, Velodyne, HSU, SVS etc. to go with it, and you’ll be grinning from ear to ear with change left over. t.gif

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Old 07-13-2012, 07:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bebopedge View Post

Hello guys, I'm very new to the world of audio. I have a basic understand of stuff (mostly what plugs into where) but I would like to take it to the next step. Although there is seemingly a lot of information of this stuff strewn around, it is sort of overwhelming when peoples opinions get thrown into the mix. I have a simple request, hopefully someone could help me out with my situation.
Basically, I want a better audio set-up than I have now. At the moment I simply have a PC with an external Creative X-Fi Surround 5.1 card. I plug my headphones and/or computer speakers into it for listening pleasure. I feel like it could be (a lot) better. I only really use my headphones if necessary, which isn't too often. I prefer speakers for listening.

I resonate with your desire to have the option of speakers. Of course this also puts you in the world of room acoustics, so budget accordingly!

About your existing audio interface - if this is the right card its really very good:

http://www.ixbt.com/multimedia/creative/surround51/2448.shtml

406

400


Quote:
So I began my journey into what I could possibly do to make my experience better. I mainly listen to old-school hip-hop, electronic, classical, and some jazz/blues. My budget is around $500-600, coming out to about $150-200 per piece that I need. What I was thinking of doing, specifically, was buying the Asus Xonar Essence STX internal card, an External Amp of some sort, and the Klipsch Promedia 2.1/M-Audio AV40's computer speakers. Is there something I'm overlooking?

IMO you are overlooking how good your existing audio interface is.
Quote:
Something I'm overdoing/underdoing? I heard there was a built-in amplifier on the sound card, but would it be as good as an external one in that price range? Is an amp even the right way to go?

I know of no sound card with an internal power amp that holds even the dimmest candle as compared to either good powered speakers or a good AVR.

I could make a trip across town and probably listen to a Klipsch Promedia 2.1/M-Audio AV40 system, but that's a lot of work for just writing a AVS recommendation. What I did do last night is listen to some competitive Logitech systems at the local MicroCenter. My take was that they sounded pretty good for the size and money, but my socks were still unruffled. ;-)

I know what would knock my socks off, and that would be a pair of Behringer 2030A studio monitors, possibly upgraded with the matching subwoofer, the B2092 (which may be discontinued despite the fact that it was a great product) I don't know if you have the space for this, but the 2030A generally have deeper, stronger bass and great all the rest, far more so than under $200 computer speakers. They will match up with your existing audio interface.
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