Question Desktop Setup - DAC + Cheap AMP, All-in-One or Powered Speakers


Novice Member
I just upgraded by home theatre
  • front speakers from Dali Zensor 1 to Zensor 3
  • subwoofer from Dali Fazon 1 to Dali E9F
I now have the Zensor 1's and Dali Fazon Sub to spare and thought they could make a nice upgrade to my home office setup considering I work at home full time (even with no virus).

I currently have a 13 year old pair of Creative GigaWorks T20 which IMO have been almost annoyingly acceptable for my desk for so long, but's time to retire them.

I am considering two options: sell the Dali stuff and get a pair of nice desktop monitors, which would be more purpose built, compact, cost-effective and simple OR just add a compact stereo amp to power the Zensors...and that's when one begins slipping into the rabbit hole 😂. I don't mind buying used gear on eBay either.

I started looking at integrated units just for simplicity. I then realised it may be better to get something which has a USB DAC, since my source will be MacBook Pro with Tidal HiFi, so I want to take best advantage of the better quality source after switching from Spotify recently so presume I should use something with a DAC.

All it would need is: USB input for the MBP, 1 aux input for DJ deck I fool around with. Don't need phono stages, optical etc. Sub output.
DAC to support MQA: this is where my knowledge is lacking but I've read the Master quality tracks can have high bitrate up to 24bit 192kHz (and perhaps I should assume that might increase in a few years)

NAD 3045 seems nice but at around £500 I think is at the top end of what I think I should spend right now.
There are various cheap units on amazon etc or something a little less like this TEAC

Teac AI-301DA (B) Full Amplifier
Teac AI-301DA (B) Full Amplifier

Seen this PeachTree Audio Decco 2 on eBay, but it's a 10 year old item at this point. dunno ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Second Option - separates
Then there is the option of a separate DAC and buying a cheaper stereo amp for now with the ability to change the amp to suit my needs.

Drawbacks being that choosing a stereo amp allows for so much choice it's overwhelming; at least the compact, integrated units are few in choice. Also it will presumably start making a mess on my desk area, maybe a stupid concern so I'm willing to hear some suggestions for compact stereo amp to pair with a separate DAC, including used gear.

The final issue I'm worried about with either amp solution above is that the Dali Zensor 1's may inherently not be suited to near field use. There is a whole thread on this elsewhere, suffice it to say it was relatively inconclusive so I have my reservations, but presumably need to bite the bullet and listen for myself or go to option 3....

Powered Monitors/Speakers
Finally there's the option to sell off the speakers and get something like the below choices. My issue is that I'm not sure the onboard DACs of some are capable of handling the HiRes Tidal tracks. Would I even notice if I'm only getting 16 bit 44.1kHz out of them, which is CD quality anyway?
I suppose to get what you pay for, but the Jamo's for instance don't have a DAC spec listed, and seem poor value when they can be had on sale for $149 in the US.
I've heard good things about AudioEngine but I'm also not sure if it's just hype, there are similar looking models for less to be had by Kanto, Steljes etc, never heard of them.

  1. Jamo S801 PM Powered Monitor Speakers (White)
    Jamo S801 PM Powered Monitor Speakers (White)
    - cheap, DAC unknown quantity, never heard of them before. Crutchfield is giving them away... 🤔
  2. Audioengine A2+ Wireless 60W Powered Desktop Speakers | Built-in 24Bit DAC & Amplifier | Bluetooth aptX Codec, Direct USB Connection, 3.5mm and RCA Phono inputs (Bluetooth - Wireless, White)
    Audioengine A2+ Wireless 60W Powered Desktop Speakers | Built-in 24Bit DAC & Amplifier

    seems to fit the bill, but at this price I wonder if a NAD 3045 and Zensor will blow this away
  3. Audioengine HD6 150W Wireless Powered Bookshelf Speakers | Built-in USB 24-Bit DAC & Analog Amplifier | aptX HD Bluetooth, S/PDIF Optical, RCA and 3.5mm inputs | Cables included (White) Audioengine HD6 150W Wireless Powered Bookshelf Speakers | Built-in USB 24-Bit DAC - Says built in USB but looking closer I don't think it has
  4. Audioengine A5+ 150W Wireless Bookshelf Speakers | Built-in Analog Amplifier | aptX HD Bluetooth 24 Bit DAC, RCA and 3.5mm inputs | Solid Aluminium Remote Control | Cables included (Bluetooth, White)
    Audioengine A5+ 150W Wireless Bookshelf Speakers | Built-in Analog Amplifier | aptX HD…
    - no DAC it seems?

  5. Dali Zensor 1AX Speakers (White)
    Dali Zensor 1AX Speakers (White)
    - probably a bad idea, no USB.

Thanks in advance for any advice, I need to get to work for now!

Deleted member 24354

I work from home and Have a Pair of Gigaworks 30s on my desktop and a Pair of JBL Control 1s mounted above my monitors running through an Anthem MRX500.

My source is either an echo dot for radio, or toslink from my PC to my AVR for hi def streaming from my NAS or from Amazon Music HD or an Onkyo Blu ray player for disk spinning..

I guess my observation is that in all reality I dont do too much critical listening when I am working, its just background music mostly. Why not give the Dali's a go and see how they behave. If you dont like them try something different. Older High end AVRs can make great stereo amps. They often have pretty good DACs on board and have Sub outs. and can be had for dirt cheap. Its just food for thought


Novice Member
Older High end AVRs can make great stereo amps.
Funny you mention that… I have a Sony STR-DN850 which I plan to replace later this year when new HDMI 2.1 AVR's come out that support presumed PS5 features...but that's a way off.

The Sony is not very high end, although I'm sure it's sufficient as it was previously powering these very speakers in a larger room.

The problems are: way too big for my desk and want to avoid running wires to a closet/shelf. Also no USB input AFAIK. I think my 2012 MBP has toslink integrated into the 3.5mm jack, but sadly I think Apple removed this great feature from newer MBPs and I have a 2019 MBP for work which I'm mostly on.

Suppose I could run them both side by side using the old one for Tidal....hmm. Food for thought indeed!

The latest video from AVForums

Paramount + UK launch: Halo, Star Trek and Beavis, and all the latest 4K + Movie/TV News
Subscribe to our YouTube channel
Support AVForums with Patreon

Top Bottom