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>> No. 24105 Anonymous
17th May 2015
Sunday 1:39 pm
24105 Audio
Apologies if this goes in the wrong place but I'm finally about to get some Student Finance after not being paid for a few months and thanks to the severe austerity I've had to impose on myself I'm going to have a lot of spare money. I want some decent audio since my 5W USB speakers are cringeworthily bad. At home I have a set of huge panasonic bookshelf speakers connected to the base unit of one of those multimedia things you used to get with the huge CRT TVs back in the day -- you know what I mean, two huge speakers, a base unit that would play CDs and connect to the TV.

What I'm looking for is an amp and a set of smaller speakers that I can take to and from university with me, and if ant audiolads can advise, possibly a DAC.

So, Q1: Would a USB DAC on the cheaper end (~£50) be a marked improvement over the on board DACs on my high-end Samsung laptop and mid-range PC mobo (both some generic Realtek chipset)?

Q2: As I intend to buy used, what are some good brands of amp or receiver to look out for? Are there any particular brands/models that perform better than their price point would suggest?

Q3: Same as above, but with small bookshelf speakers?

Q4: Is there anything I've missed, or anything I should be wary of when looking at/for used equipment?

Thanks in advance lads, I know it's a long post but I'm clueless on this and I hope I'll be able to get some opinions.

Pic related: The pathetic tin cans I'm currently using.
Expand all images.
>> No. 24106 Anonymous
17th May 2015
Sunday 2:20 pm
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Get something like these if you're on a budget. But I dunno, you didn't mention it.


If money is less of an option then yeah the simplest bet is a dedicated USB sound card, something geared towards recording is usually best because they focus on quality instead of the gimmicks and buzzwords of those marketed at "audiophiles" (read: twerps with more money than sense). Run it into a decent set of active monitors of at least a 5" speaker, possibly consider getting a sub if you like your bass nice and fat.

As an ex-studiolad, I'd always recommend a solid set of active monitors over anything else, and in my experience the quality of the speaker itself is what makes most difference. All this nonsense about decoders and amps etc will make minimal noticeable difference unless you already have solid gold hand-wired speakers with tweeters made from virgin's intact hymens. So long as you're playing decently produced music at a decent bitrate, there's nothing at all wrong with the soundcards built into most modern PCs.

If you're running a completely analogue set-up for turntables or tape playback, then it's a completely different matter, of course. But don't let the marketing guff fool you when it comes to digital media.
>> No. 24107 Anonymous
17th May 2015
Sunday 2:29 pm
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Cheers. My budget's about £200 all in, but by the looks of what you've just sent me I won't need to spend that much. Those speakers are powered, too, which means I won't need an amp?

P.S. if there any lads here with banging setups feel free to post them.
>> No. 24108 Anonymous
17th May 2015
Sunday 2:32 pm
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>Q1: Would a USB DAC on the cheaper end (~£50) be a marked improvement over the on board DACs on my high-end Samsung laptop and mid-range PC mobo (both some generic Realtek chipset)?
Probably not, most on-board audio is fine these days. Unless you've other reasons for wanting a USB card, the £50 would be better off put towards your amp/speaker budget.
>> No. 24109 Anonymous
17th May 2015
Sunday 2:38 pm
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Yep, all you need is the source to plug into them. It's worth noting that most of this kind of speaker don't take the standard 3.5mm headphone jack, they either take the big 1/4" ones or stereo phono plugs.

You can either pop down to Craplin and get a couple of adaptors to chain together, or just go down the sound card route and get something like the smallest M-Box (designed for Pro-Tools recording, but works fine as just a general purpose sound card).

For £200 you should easily get a set of slightly bigger speakers than the one I posted above and a sound card, with change left over for a Cornetto.
>> No. 24110 Anonymous
17th May 2015
Sunday 2:44 pm
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Yeah, I'm using some chain of franken-adaptors at home because my old 3.5MM - > RCA adapter broke and that's what the TV thing takes.

What about the AV-40s? They seem to be the 'next one up' and still have an integrated amp.
>> No. 24111 Anonymous
17th May 2015
Sunday 2:50 pm
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I do think a cheap USB DAC can be a noticable improvement over most laptop sound under certain conditions. It does depend on your speakers/headphones, although it depends more on the sensitivity than the quality.

My PCs built-in sound seemed to pick up a lot of interference from the graphics card, although it was only noticeable on my grado headphones, nothing else I own was sensitive to pick up the buzzing.

You don't even need to spend £50, this is £25 and it should be pretty good. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Asus-Xonaru3-Mobile-USB-Soundcard/dp/B004ZI5E1S/ref=sr_1_20?ie=UTF8&qid=1431869882&sr=8-20&keywords=usb+sound+card

Of course follow the advice in >>24106 first, get some active monitors now, and worry about a USB DAC later.
>> No. 24112 Anonymous
17th May 2015
Sunday 2:53 pm
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Exact same thing with a slightly bigger speaker. If you can push it up to the next model, the BX-5, it'll be a significant improvement in terms of all-round frequency response though.

Be careful of leaving them switched on if you do go for these however, I had a set where the transformer caps eventually went dodgy. Still meaning to repair them but they are a bugger to disassemble. Check around for reviews on similar priced KRKs or Yamahas if you like, though I suspect the build quality for any brand is going to be similar in this price range.
>> No. 24114 Anonymous
17th May 2015
Sunday 3:17 pm
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Interesting. Thanks. I do have a cheap Sennheiser DAC I use to give my laptop a microphone port but I have to pay I prefer my laptop's DAC because I can use the onboard equaliser.

Looks like I'll go for the monitors and keep using the TV thing at home then.

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