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PC Audio Upgrade (Bookshelf+Amp and Headphone+amp)

Discussion in 'PC Audio' started by downforce, Apr 30, 2017.

  1. downforce

    downforce Member

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    Sooooo, I have no idea where to start and OCAU has never let me down with great advice previously!

    I stumbled across a OzB deal for some Voll B-44s and it got me thinking ...

    My current setup is as follows:
    Sound card: Asus Xonar Essence STX PCIe
    Headphones: Grado Alessandro MS-1
    Speakers: Logitech X-230

    I had Logitech Z4's which sounded OK, but had way too much bass, same with X-230's actually.

    Anyway, ideally I'd like the following:
    * Bookshelf speakers, ideally wall mounted/shelf mounted as my desk is cramped with 3 monitors already. Otherwise they'll have to sit behind the monitors, which I assume would affect the sound?
    * Some sort of external "box" (be it Amp/DAC/whatever) to switch between speakers + headphones.
    * Decent sound!
    * Utilise my MS-1's
    * Replace my X-230s'
    * Nothing with insanely disproportionate bass (i.e. Logitech).
    * Only *has* to fill a small room (2x3m) but could take it to another room and fill, say, 5x7m (the entertaining area - probably hooked up to Spotify via a phone/tablet).
    * Budget ideally <$200, but will go to ~$250 if there is a good case for it!
    * Stereo is fine, don't need 5.1 or anything.

    So, from my investigation, the following seem to be options:
    * Keep my STX + Headphones, get some "Logitech" speaker kit.

    * Buy something like the Voll B44 speakers then get an amp, either:
    ** One of their bundles;
    ** A secondhand, retro stereo amp/receiver off Gumtree

    * Buy amp + speakers from Gumtree.
    ** I've seen some Wharfdales and B&W come up ~$100 mark.

    As for amp, I'm totally confused by all the options in regards to what I'm wanting. I'm thinking something like one of these:
    * SMSL SA-36A PRO
    * SMSL Q5 PRO
    * Topping VX1

    With regards to these types of amp, I assume they'll be fine to drive most type of bookshelf speakers, off Gumtree etc?

    Sort of info dump here but as you can see, I haven't quite got my thinking inline yet. Any assistance would be much appreciated!
     
  2. Cephas

    Cephas Member

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    I'd definitely keep the STX.
    I just stuck a ROG Maximus Formula in a rebuild and thought I'd give the onboard sound a go.
    Lasted a day before putting the STX back in. Fuller sound compared to even the high end onboard.

    Getting an old hifi systems and using it as an amp and speakers is a pretty good idea.

    I have a 15+ year old Yamaha Pianocraft microsystem as my speakers and amp. CD players busted, but the amp and speakers are still great.
     
  3. deluxe

    deluxe Member

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    In your price bracket: If you have the space for a full size amp (you can stand them on their side), get a surround receiver and bookshelf speakers from gumtree. If space is really an issue, something like the Topping would be fine.

    You'll get much better s/h bookshelf speakers than what you could buy new in that price bracket.

    Run HDMI or SPDIF from your motherboard to the surround receiver to use it's DAC, set receiver to run in stereo. Connect speakers and enjoy! Plug in headphones as required- might need a headphone extension cable if the amp is not close by, as it might not be if you're running triple screens

    Xonar not required.
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2017
  4. Matthew kane

    Matthew kane Member

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    Plenty of good vintage hifi bargains on ebay and occasionally gumtree.

    For a more in-depth recommendation as to what bookshelf and amplifier you want, the folks on stereonet usually have some good opinions well worth listening to.
     
  5. OP
    OP
    downforce

    downforce Member

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    Thanks all for the advice!

    My reluctance on buying retro/vintage gear is I really CBF dealing with it when it breaks. I'm getting to the point where I "want it to just work". Spending 100's of hours investigating issues/attempting hacks/fixes is not worth my time, sanity anymore! Oh to be 18 again! :D

    As for the AV receiver approach, yeah the space + associated heat is an issue, hence I liked the idea of a small desktop one. Even off to the side, means I need to move to it to control it. The bigger units seem to generate some awesome heat and my 27" LCD's do that enough already.

    I'm now leaning towards a new "small form factor" amp + S/H bookshelf speakers.

    Matthew, thanks for the tip on StereoNET, I'll have a look around and see what I can find!

    Further input still welcome, and I'll post back what I find.
     
  6. danyell

    danyell Member

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    https://www.pccasegear.com/category/567_571/speakers/all-models

    Pccasegear's range, those audioengine are rated highly but seem to be the answer for you. Integrated amp, little to no extra heat produced, smart looking, just a little more expensive than you detailed wanting to spend.

    Oh and probably cheaper elsewhere
     
  7. OP
    OP
    downforce

    downforce Member

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    Thanks for the post, but no-where near my price range!
     
  8. Matthew kane

    Matthew kane Member

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    Any space limitations and max budget?
     
  9. OP
    OP
    downforce

    downforce Member

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    Ideally under $200, but could stretch to $250 if there is a good reason.

    Space limitations - smaller the better! My desk is pretty cramped at the moment, so amp-wise something that sits under a monitor is ideal, and probably wall-mount the speakers, if I can.

    I'll take some pics tonight.
     
  10. Matthew kane

    Matthew kane Member

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    That budget is easy to work with but that sort of space constraint is not relative to the budget you've allocated, hmm you migh get away with some cheap bookshelfs off ebay if you're lucky. Or buy an active bookshelf speaker which will omit the amplifier requirement.
     
  11. OP
    OP
    downforce

    downforce Member

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    Pic:
    [​IMG]

    I probably could fit them on the desk, but I'd prefer to mount them above the monitors and face them down at me.

    PS: excuse the mess, been fiddling with HDDs in some laptops.
     
  12. regressor

    regressor Member

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    If you're willing to wait something will come up in your price range second hand such as these - however you have to be pretty vigilant and most amplifiers are rather large.

    Powered speakers or one of those Voll bundles seem to tick all the boxes for you.

    Wall mounting will affect the sound especially with rear ported speakers (such as those Voll's and many others). Depends how much it bothers you but should be OK.

    I think your sound card is probably good enough so don't worry about DACs.
     
  13. Sarsippius

    Sarsippius Member

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    Have a look at the Swan M10's, they seem to fit the bill for your space and budget requirements. The satellites should fit on your desk no problems but the sub might be a bit trickier, I think it needs to also go on the desk as I don't think the bass goes low enough to not be directional. You might be able to sit your centre monitor on top.

    I've just bought a set myself for the wife's home salon and I'm pretty impressed with the sound. For the price I doubt you'll get much better.
     
  14. Matthew kane

    Matthew kane Member

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    The Swan's are ok. Can buy plenty of better used/vintage bookshelf's off ebay when a good deal pops up.
     
  15. tuRtlez

    tuRtlez Member

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    check out voll.com.au if you didn't want to spend too much
     
  16. OP
    OP
    downforce

    downforce Member

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    Yeah, I think I'd prefer to go vintage in that case.

    Thanks, but I have used them as a reference point for new vs secondhand in my OP.
     
  17. Sarsippius

    Sarsippius Member

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    If you can find some cheap used bookshelfs plus an amp for the cost of the M10's then good luck to you. They will be harder to fit within your space constraints and their frequency response won't go as low as the M10's (not that the M10's go super low or anything).

    Anyway I got no skin in this, they just seemed to fill most of your requirements.
     
  18. OP
    OP
    downforce

    downforce Member

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    Hey, my reply wasn't intended to be dismissive of your comment! Apologies if it was construed that way.

    For the budget vs performance, my preference would be secondhand, plus I don't really want a sub, as I'm trying to get away from the "bassy" sounds most PC multimedia speakers seem to put out (esp Logitech's!).
     
  19. Sarsippius

    Sarsippius Member

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    No worries it wasn't taken that way but I guess I can be a bit matter of fact in my posts and it doesn't always come across the right way.

    I understand what you mean and I've previously been wary of 2.1 setups especially Logitech but Swan are definitely above that level. I've started to look at it that if you have some bookshelfs vs 2.1's that are of equal quality audio wise then the 2.1 setup is preferable for the extra frequency range.
     
  20. OP
    OP
    downforce

    downforce Member

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    I've found a couple amps that look interesting:
    Technics SA-104 for $100
    Sharp SH-1122 for $25.

    I'm going to get the Sharp, for $25 I can have a play if nothing else but he's away for a few weeks so need to wait until he's back.

    Comments?

    Going to have a look for some bookshelf speakers now, although I'm actually quite tempted by the Voll B-44's, simply because they are super compact and get decent reviews. That said, if I do find some awesome speakers that need a bit of work, Short Fuse is down the road and he's awesome at fixing up old speakers.
     

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