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Complete brand new audio setup (warning: noob inside)

TexDanny

Standard Member
Hi guys,

I'd like to get a decent mid-high sound setup in my office but I have no idea what audio components I'd need (well, I have some but I rather tell you I have none).

I currently have two computers (integraded sound card) and I'd like to listen to them using headphones and speakers (2.1 + sub). Only thing I want is to freely choose what I want to hear and where. i.e I want to listen to computer1 and computer2 simultaneously with the speakers or I want to listen to computer1 in speakers and computer2 in headphones or both with headphones, etc...

Additionally, I'd like to get a microphone for good quality voice recordings, skype, etc... Having some room to connect an ipod would be nice too.

So, how would you do it?

Don't worry about budget I'll let you know If I see some of you overstimating my buying power. I apologize if this isn't the right forum for it.
Thanks.
 

PSM1

Distinguished Member
You really need to give a budget as there are so many ways to do this budget will give some direction. Speakers can cost from £100 to many thousands, subs start from £100 to amny thousand and amps are even worse.
Give an idea of what is the ideal spend and possibly an absolute max and I am sure more people will reply.
 

TexDanny

Standard Member
Thanks for the quick answer!

Yeah I agree with you. An ideal (since I have no idea) spend would be ~£1.5K, but maybe If I buy some really good speakers and sub to use later in a home cinema set up I could go up as much as £3K.
 

TexDanny

Standard Member
I don't need anyone telling me exactly what to buy. I'm just looking for guidance. What components would you buy and how would you set them up in order to achieve what I want. I realize there might be different ways to do it and that's why I'm looking for help.
 

PSM1

Distinguished Member
Not quite sure what you mean by listening to both computers at the same time through the speakers. Are you talking about mixing tracks from each computer?
A simple solution would be to get a good quality stereo amplifier. Connect the computer via stereo analogue phonos. Then get some nice floorstanders or standmounts as well as a sub that has high level inputs.
If you want to mix tracks from each computer you will need some sort of mixing system. With the 2 computers going into the mising system and then the outputs from this to the amplifier.
 

TexDanny

Standard Member
What I mean by listening to both at the same time is that I want to listen to music playing from computer1 but also listening to windows/software/whatever sound is coming from computer2 at the same time. I have one computer exclusively for work that I need to hear and at the same time I might be playing music from the other computer.
 

Sidneysideboard

Standard Member
Could you just get some powered bog standard small speakers for work computer to have sounds from and spend the large chunk of your money on a hi-fi amp, speakers and upgraded sound card for the computer you want the music from?
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
I'm inclined to agree with SydneySideBoard.

It seems you need basic sound on one computer, and good sound on the music computer. So, some decent computer speakers or monitors with built-in amps for the basic computer, and a decent sound system for the music computer.

If as other have suggested, you were trying to so some fancy mixing between the two computers, the best bet would be literally a Mixer to merge the two sources into one stereo system.

A decent pair of quality speakers with built-in amps (Audioengine A5) with substantial amps and 5" woofer, network capability, Sub option, and AUX input are about £250/pr. If you want something smaller and more basic, then the Audioengine A3 for about £125/pr are a good choice.

There are plenty of videos on YouTube describing, reviewing, and demo-ing the Audioengine speakers.

Advanced MP3 Players - the MP3 player experts

A decent stereo starts at £300 and goes up to infinity.

Can you expand on any limitations you might have with the stereo system? Limited space? Preference for bookshelf over floorstanding?

How serious is your music listening? Is this just causal background music while you work, or is there a change you'll be throwing some raging parties using this stereo?

Would you like remote control of the stereo? If you will always be at your computer desk, then you probably don't need a remote. If you will be using the stereo for other purposes, like TV listening, parties, sitting back in an armchair listening, etc... then like you want a remote. Though to be fair, given your budget you are more likely to get a amp with remote.

One simple quick and easy possibility, would be Audioengine A5 bookshelf speakers with a Audioengine Sub for music, and a pair of basic Audioengine A3 for you work computer. I think the total cost would be about £625.

Though, personally, I would rather you put the money into a true separates stereo system. But, again, I don't know how much room you have, or your listening intent, or your other limitations, so it is hard to evaluate the practicality of the type of stereo I would like you to buy.

That should give you something to think about.

Steve/bluewizard
 

TexDanny

Standard Member
Yes. I haven't considered doing it that way until now but I think you are totally right. If I want to do it with just one set of speakers/headphones I'd need some kind of mixer.

Are there any wireless small speakers? I might just end up getting some nice small speakers and put them on the wall hiding the cables because I need to break the wall for other stuff anyway.

Also, don't you think it would be better to get an external DAC for music? I've read that you can get interference with a soundcard.
 

TexDanny

Standard Member
I think the best way to do it would be to get some small bookshelf speakers on the wall for the work computer and some nice floorstanding speakers + sub / headphones for music.

Space is somewhat limited. It is basically a master bedroom turned into an office. I can't tell you the size of the bedroom right know because we don't use feet/inches, but if it is important I'll make the conversion.

No parties, sometimes it will be just background music and sometimes it will be purely for enjoyment/relaxation.

Remote control is a necessity because the system will be kind of far from me.

What do you think of this setup for the music computer? :

Comp ---> USB ---> DAC ---> RCA?????? ----> AMP ---> Speakers wire ----> Speakers

Thanks a lot for you insight steve.
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
It gets down to how much you really want to spend. You say your budget can go as high as £1.5k. That's pretty substantial for an office music system.

So, first, can we assume up to £1.5k for just Speakers and Amp, and possibly DAC, or did you have other equipment in mind?

You also go on to speak of a Home Cinema system that could go as high as £3k. Were you intending to somehow blend these system, or is the home cinema a completely different system altogether?

Now, if it we me, and this were going to be my primary music listening area. I would definitely buy something like the Audioengine A2 for £125 for the work computer. These are pretty decent speakers, but no frills.

Then, I would consider a reasonably serious amp, and some floorstanding speakers. I'm always going to look toward floorstanding speakers for serious music listening. Though, you don't really need a sub at this point.

So, we get back to budget, are you really intending to spend this much money (£1.5k)? If so, then I would say about £500 for an amp, and about £1000 for speakers.

Just to give you a general idea of the possibilities -

Marantz PM7003 amp w/ 70w/ch to 8 ohms @ £449

NAD C355BEE amp w/ 80w/ch to 8 ohms @ £449

Acoustic Energy Aelite 3, 2x125mm bass 3-way @ £585/pr

B&W 684, 2.5-way, 2x165mm bass @ £685/pr

B&W 683, 3-way, 2x165mm bass, 1x150mm mid @ £880/pr

Monitor Audio Silver RX6, 2.5-way, 2x150mm bass @ £751/pr

Dali Concept 8, 3-way, 2x200mm bass, 127mm mid @ £635/pr

Prices are from HiFix.co.uk .

This is just to give you an idea of the possibilities. There are plenty of other amps and plenty of other speakers. And, as you can see from the prices, there is more than enough, to add an external DAC to the mix.

Regarding the DAC, it would be best if the sound card on your music computer had some type of digital output either optical or coaxial. That would be my preferred choice to connect the computer to the DAC. If that is not possible, then USB is probably the next best choice.

A very popular and reasonably priced DAC is the Cambridge Audio DACMagic for about £225.

However, I'm sure others will try to convince you that bookshelf or bookshelf plus Sub is a better direction to go. And there is some merit to their side. I'm just a floorstanding kind of guy though.

Again, in the list above, these are all very popular and well liked products, but there are plenty more. I'm just trying to start you looking at the possibilities, to see how these fit with your priorities and preferences.

Steve/bluewizard
 
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TexDanny

Standard Member
Then, I would consider a reasonably serious amp, and some floorstanding speakers. I'm always going to look toward floorstanding speakers for serious music listening. Though, you don't really need a sub at this point.

How come a sub is not needed? Are the floorstanding speakers enough for the low frequencies?

This system will be just for the office and I'm not thinking about blending it with the home cinema. As you can see budget can vary, I might end up spending more or less depending on what I like.

I'd like to get information on what do I need to look for when deciding what amp and speakers to get. I'm sure that not all speakers work for all amps and viceversa. So, can you please elaborate on what specs do you look for when going over the amps/speakers.

I'm strongly considering the in-wall speakers. I dont like the idea of having four visible speakers in the office.

I won't be looking for dacs anymore. The DacMagic looks amaizing for the price/features.

Thanks again steve, very informative.
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
For power you want a minimum of 40 watts continuous per channel to 8 ohms; though 50w and above would be better. For most consumers, there is little need to go above 100w per channel in a stereo amp.

Here is a video link to the Audioengine A2 speakers. In the video two speaker are stacked on top of each other, but it gives you a real sense of the size, especially when the guy puts his hand into the frame. These are small speakers.

YouTube - Audioengine A2 test

As to floorstanding speaker, while you will find few under 30 inches high (765mm), you don't need monster size and quantity in the woofers. The speakers I suggested are of a size and quality that is consist with your stated budget. But there are plenty of other, less 'blow out the windows' options.

Again, I posted what I posted in hopes that you would look and give us some feedback - too big, too small, too expensive. The more you can tell us about your wants, needs, preferences, and restrictions, the more we can narrow the field and point you in the right direction.

Next on amps. Are you looking for standard consumer quality, above average consumer quality, or premium quality. The amps I suggested are what I would classify as above average consumer quality, and are from makers that have a firm quality reputation and a long history.

In amps in general, I say, get a minimum of 40w/ch to 8 ohms, and if possible get 50w or more. You will find that premium quality amps have less power, but deliver that power unfailingly. You can spend near £1,000 on a 50w/ch amp in premiums amps.

In speakers, look at the low end response specification. This should be in the 30hz to 40hz range for a floorstanding speaker, and for stereo music that will deliver plenty of bass, especially with multi-driver speakers.

As an example of a more modest speaker, that would still be good for stereo consider -

Wharfedale Diamond 10.5 @ ~ £479/pr -

WHARFEDALE DIAMOND 10.5 SPEAKERS (PAIR) at hifix.co.uk

Product - Products - Wharfedale Hi-Fi

Notice response down to 35hz in a 3-way system with a 6.5" woofer.

I personally prefer speakers that have a dedicate midrange, but with the smaller drivers found in todays speaker, that's really not an absolute requirement.

In this thread, in post #126, you can see some photos of the Diamond 10.5 sitting in a typical living room. This users seem very pleased with his purchase.

http://www.avforums.com/forums/speakers/978096-new-wharfedale-diamond-10-series-9.html

Again, there are many more amps and many more speakers. Some amps and speakers are better bargains than others. That is, some are on close out and deeply discounted.

The modest Diamond 10.5 plus the Marantz PM7003 would put you at about £930. That is consistent with your budget. These speakers would have very good bass response, but not 'blow the windows out' bass. The amp is a very nice look amp with plenty of power from a well respected company with a very long history.

Again, there are may options in both amps and speakers. As an example, go to Richer Sound and look at the range of Cambridge Audio Stereo amp. You can get an amp similar to the NAD or Marantz -

Cambridge Audio 550A (60w/ch @ £270) or 650A (75w/ch @ £350)-

Cambridge Audio AZUR 550A Silver | Stereo Amplifier | Richer Sounds

Cambridge Audio AZUR 650A Silver | Stereo Amplifier | Richer Sounds

All have matching CD Players, tuners, etc....

So, again, look at the suggested possibilities. Look as the B&W, Monitor Audio, and Dali Concept speakers at HiFix.co.uk. At Richer Sounds look at Cambridge amps and the DACMagic, and at Mordaunt Short Aviano and Mezzo speakers. At both places, and many others, look at Marantz and NAD amps. NAD amps don't look the best, some don't find the style appealing, but they have a solid reputation for quality and solid bass output.

Of course, feel free to look at other amps and speakers at both these sites and at SuperFi.co.uk and many others.

When you find amps or speakers you like, check Google-UK Shopping to compare prices.

If you would prefer less power from a premium brand of amp, check out Rotel and Arcam. They are not cheap, but they both have a sterling reputation for quality amps.

That should help move you forward a bit.

Steve/bluewizard
 
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