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85 posts

Master Geek


Topic # 50082 21-Nov-2009 15:50
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Before I begin, I don't know a lot about home theatre...


What I'm looking at is upgrading my current computer speakers to something 'audiophile' grade. What I have in mind is a small amp running an optical cable to my xfi sound card and then 2 really high quality mini tower speakers to sit on my desk on either side of screen.


Would something like this be the best way to achieve a really high quality setup? 


What brands/models/shops should I be looking at - I am a real beginner so don't even know where to start looking for something like this..


Cheers for any help!

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31 posts

Geek


  Reply # 275080 22-Nov-2009 00:46
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I got the urge like you to upgrade my sound system a few weeks back.  I have a HTPC and a 360 so was looking for a 5.1 system.  First starting looking at just a PC speaker set-up.  Seriously considered the Logitech Z-5500s for awhile.  They are rated pretty highly, can be had for about $500, but they are a bit out-dated these days.

Then I started thinking about a HTiB system.  Would be looking at $600-1000 dollars for one of the various brands from Sony/Samsung/Panasonic.  Saw some pretty good priced Onkyo setups at JB Hi-Fi.  But articles I read had steered me away from HTiB setups saying that I could get a more configurable, modular and better sounding system by buying a standalone receiver and a set of speakers for it and yet only paying slightly more.

Fact is, I'm not quite sure where to draw the line now.  Looking at various Onkyo receivers and even high quality KEF speakers!  Shopping for home theatre sound can be a bit of a snowball effect, at least it has been for me as I keep thinking "well if I just pay a little bit more I can get this".  So much information to read and digest too.

Sorry, got carried away with my own issues Embarassed Since you only mention a stereo setup I would guess this is just for music?  If you want to watch movies or play games on this PC too I would recommend a 5.1 setup.  Its just much more immersive.  If you purchased some decent floorstanding front speakers they could tide you over in the mean time.  You could listen to music from these just in stereo and then add in the centre, surrounds and sub channel later if you did want to go 5.1.

Others could probably set you straight on speaker brands.  Ones I've seen tossed around these forums and elsewhere are Wharfedale (Diamond series), Jamo and Polk audio.  For receivers Denon, Onkyo and Yamaha seem to be the three most common brands.  As I mentioned earlier JB Hi-Fi has a pretty good range of speakers and amps.  For 'audiophile' grade equipment try Eastern Hifi for Auckland. 'Audiophile' grade prices too Tongue out



85 posts

Master Geek


  Reply # 275155 22-Nov-2009 13:17
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Those Wharfedale Diamond bookshelf speakers look perfect and also are reasonable priced. Now I just need to investigate amps. The problem is since it's just being plugged into a computer the only features I really require are 2 channel, maybe 150w rms and an optical in port. All of the current amps around are way over specced for what I require since they are designed for big dolby digital home theatre 7.1 complicated setups.


Does anybody know if someone makes some really high quality but basic (feature wise) amps that would suite my needs? 

 
 
 
 


211 posts

Master Geek
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  Reply # 275166 22-Nov-2009 13:47
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Plinius make a high quality but basic feature amp( you will have to morgatage your house). but seriously any of the major brands sell them, finding a shop that stocks them is the hard part. In lower hutt we have a great second hand hifi shop that has a great range.
Its all about your budget
A half decent pair of bookshelf speakers will start around the $3-400 mark upwards.



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Master Geek


  Reply # 275209 22-Nov-2009 15:45
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Haha reading up today, I can totally see what you mean by the snowball effect...


Whats a list of companies with good websites and good pricing? I've been looking at http://autosoundz.co.nz who seem to have a good range

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Geek


  Reply # 277358 28-Nov-2009 23:37
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Yeah that place has some good stuff. Also try:

http://www.paulmoney.co.nz

http://www.easternhifi.co.nz

If you settle on a speaker set you want, you could also try Trademe to check pricing or even buy new ones off there. Some sellers have good prices on new equipment.

Also, while JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman don't have good websites detailing all models and pricing, their catalogues are pretty good or you could pop into their stores and do some research (as I did the other day and snapped model numbers and prices with my camera to compare with other shops).






85 posts

Master Geek


  Reply # 278874 2-Dec-2009 21:38
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Sweet cheers, now got a few questions as I piece the more technical parts together

1 How can I achieve 24bit/192khz sound quality to my receiver ? Will using a digital coax cable and a soundcard to a receiver that can decode at 24/192khz do it? Do I need a special type of sound card?

2. Is the best quality achieved through converting with a USB DAC or an AV receiver?

3. When trying to choose a sound card since I will be passing the digital stream through other than digital outs are there any other features I should look for?

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  Reply # 278954 3-Dec-2009 09:51
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Just as an aside, Jamesla, what type of music files will you be playing through this new system. Is it for CD's or for mp3's etc?

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Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 278965 3-Dec-2009 10:19
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jamesla: Sweet cheers, now got a few questions as I piece the more technical parts together

1 How can I achieve 24bit/192khz sound quality to my receiver ? Will using a digital coax cable and a soundcard to a receiver that can decode at 24/192khz do it? Do I need a special type of sound card?

2. Is the best quality achieved through converting with a USB DAC or an AV receiver?

3. When trying to choose a sound card since I will be passing the digital stream through other than digital outs are there any other features I should look for?



I noticed in your first post that X-Fi sound card, if it isn't one of the lowest end cards, you should find it's DAC's are good enough to use.

The only way (I believe) to get 24bit/192khz through a digital connection is when playing appropriate DTS sound. With a decent X-Fi, running a 3.5mm-2xRCA cord to the amp would probably be sufficient, as the X-Fi cards can do 24/192 via analog.



85 posts

Master Geek


  Reply # 279059 3-Dec-2009 15:27
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well currently 99% of my music is mp3 320kbps but now that I know more about audio I'm only downloading flac...

I'm trying to avoid using a dac inside the computer as I have only heard bad things about internal dacs due to the amount of electrical noise inside a pc

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  Reply # 279070 3-Dec-2009 15:59
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I didn't think FLAC downloads were all that popular yet... oh, wait, I get it... Sorry! ;)

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Uber Geek
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  Reply # 279083 3-Dec-2009 17:09
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I remember there being an issue with some of the Creative cards where they would only upsample to 192Khz/24bit and 48Khz/16bit or something and wouldn't do untouched 41Khz/16bit. It might pay to check if this is still the case, I'd rather the receiver do processing than my soundcard if possible, not really an issue except with music.

For a while I was using a small car-audio amp which I was running directly off my PC via a Molex adaptor I made (12 Volt, plenty of current available as it was a high-end PSU) and powering a couple of Energy bookshelfs. It was cheap and it sounded great even though it was all analog.

Failing that, as long as the system does good passthrough to the digital outputs then even an onboard soundcard "should" output all you need via optical/coaxial. (Optical obviously better as there won't be any grounding issues). I've run mine into a Yamaha receiver which does the full 192/96/48 @ 24/16bit routine and it dealt with it all happily. You shouldn't need a USB DAC, just feed a SPDIF cable into a good receiver and let that handle it.

As mentioned above, pretty much only AC3/DTS streams are likely to output anything higher than 41/48Khz @ 16-bit, unless you can convince something to output multichannel PCM over digital (part of the HDMI spec, I don't think regular SPDIF will handle it).

The XFi has a pretty good DAC on it supposedly, but any decent receiver will probably have a better one, try to keep the signal digital as long as possible.

Any dedicated stereo shop is not going to sell junk brands, just avoid the ultra-high-end snake-oil stuff like the $100+ digital cables etc. The brands listed above are all good starting points, I like my Yamaha receivers and B&W speakers. Onkyo, NAD and Denon are all good receiver brands, as are Energy, Kef, Infinity speakers. I'm not a big fan of Wharfedale speakers, but I've never listened to any of the really high-end stuff, mostly just diamond series which tends to sound a bit flat to me.

Just don't buy any Bose gear or I'll have to hunt you down and deride you! :)






85 posts

Master Geek


  Reply # 279412 4-Dec-2009 19:33
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bazzer: I didn't think FLAC downloads were all that popular yet... oh, wait, I get it... Sorry! ;)


?? i missed that

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  Reply # 279448 4-Dec-2009 22:31
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jamesla:
bazzer: I didn't think FLAC downloads were all that popular yet... oh, wait, I get it... Sorry! ;)


?? i missed that


i think bazzer meant that the only flacs available for download aren't legal

291 posts

Ultimate Geek


  Reply # 279491 5-Dec-2009 08:29
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I have the z-5500 setup, which I use with the ALC889 mobo DAC. I use analogue out, otherwise blu-ray audio would be squeezed out through SPDIF bandwidth restrictions.

Sounds fabulous.




HTPC: Antec Fusion 430, Gigabyte GA-MA78GPM-UD2H F7, AMD X2 4850e, Sapphire 4670 1GB, Corsair 4x1Gb,  Adata 128Gb SSD, WD10EARS Green, LG GGC-H20L Blu-ray, Hauppauge NOVA TD-500, Logitech z-5500, Logitech Harmony 525, Samsung LA40B530 1080p, Vista Premium-32 SP2, Catalyst 10.12(Facelift preview), Mediaportal 1.2.3+OneButtonMusic, AC3Filter, Cyberlink Powercinema 6 codec, BLU-RAY: Samsung BD-F7500



85 posts

Master Geek


  Reply # 280074 7-Dec-2009 18:07
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hmm does anybody know the answers to these questions???? I can't find the answers anywhere!!!

1 What is required for me to achieve 24bit/192khz sound quality decoding on my receiver? (ie sound card type/receiver that can support it and type of cable? - Will low end xfi audio, spdif and receiver that supports 24bit/192khz do it?

2. Is the best quality achieved through converting with a USB DAC or an AV receiver?

3. When using digital out, is there any difference between using different quality sound cards since the sound card isn't actually doing a lot as it is just passing the signal (is it even modifying it??) off to the receiver?

If anybody can answer those questions you are a legend.

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