Looking for recommendation on near field desktop speakers for home office

rocketsurgery

Standard Member
Hi there, looking for recommendations on desktop speakers for near-field listening in my home office. I'm a bit of novice here so I hope I haven't provided too much detail below.

The office is around 10 sq m, with a sit/stand desk (180cm x 80cm). I work from home 90% of the time, and listen to music when I'm not on Zoom calls. My main computer is an M1 MacBook Pro attached to a 27" monitor. The MacBook Pro has USB-C / Thunderbolt 4 outputs, and I also have a Thunderbolt 3 hub (CalDigit TS 3+) which has USB-A and USB-C outputs, a headphone socket, and optical out.

I was previously using Apple HomePods via AirPlay, but the lag was unusable for Zoom, and anyway both developed faults and were returned for refunds. I'm looking for wired desktop speakers instead and I'm ready to pull the trigger.

A few things to note:
  • The speakers need to be small enough to sit on the desk and will be positioned near to the rear wall. I often switch the desk height between sitting and standing positions, so speaker stands at the side of the desk wouldn't work. However it's a decent sized desk with plenty of space and I'm happy to use desktop stands to get the positioning right.
  • Music will mostly be streaming from Apple Music, mostly AAC 256 kbps, plus some Hi-res Lossless @ 24/192 where available
  • I mostly listen to orchestral and synth music, occasionally some jazz or opera, as well as podcasts. I will also use the speakers for Zoom calls
  • I don't need room-filling sound; I will only be using these in a near-field setup (I'll be about 3 feet away from the speakers)
  • I'm going to be using them pretty much all day Mon-Fri (for either Zoom or music)
  • I have a spare BK Elec Gemini II sub that I can bring into service
  • I've got a budget of £400-500 (can stretch further if absolutely necessary)
Having looked through other threads, I'm considering three options:
  1. Ruark MR1 Mk II. I like the fact they are fairly compact, and I can run them with my Gemini sub if I feel bass is lacking.
  2. Q Acoustics M20 HD. The reviews are promising, and again I can use my Gemini sub if required
  3. Studio monitors + headphone DAC pre-amp, e.g. Adam T5V or KRK RP5 G4 or Tannoy Gold 5 or similar, plus something like a Topping DX3 Pro. I've never owned studio monitors but I see them recommended here regularly. I like the idea of having a headphone amp so I can buy some decent headphones for late-night listening (vs my current wireless buds), but that's very much a nice-to-have. If I'm going to buy a DAC pre-amp I'd like one with a physical volume control and remote.
I assume all these options will work with either USB or optical out from the Thunderbolt 3 hub.

I'm looking for opinions on the best option. All seem to be within budget. Reading other threads, I was left wondering:
  • Would I see much difference in sound quality between the three options?
  • Will rear-ported speakers like the M20 or T5V be too bass-heavy positioned near the wall? Or am I better with front-ported speakers?
  • Are any of these options unsuited for near-field desktop use? (I ask because I tried pair of old Mission M70 speakers with an old Denon PMA-715R and they sounded really muddy in near-field use)
  • Can I use the Gemini II sub with studio monitors? I gather that dedicated subs for studio monitors are daisy-chained, which the Gemini doesn't support. Is there any way to run them off the pre-amp?
  • Given that I will be using them all day, would monitors be too revealing / tiring?
  • Having read a little about the difference between Class AB and Class D amplifiers, would I see much difference in power consumption for all-day use?
Any advice greatly appreciated!
 

Ugg10

Distinguished Member
My choice would be the Tannoy Gold 5 (front port and concentric woofer/tweeter) plus the Gemini and a Topping E30 or SMSL Sanskrit 10th mk2 DAC connected to the optical port. I would max out all of the Mac and software volumes (or 90%) and use the volume control on the DAC. You will need a splitter cable to connect the line level DAC output to the Tannoys and the Gemini then just dial in the sub to taste (likely to be around 70-80hz to start with then volume until you can just hear it and then back off a little. The tannoys also have bass and treble controls to help with positioning and personal taste.

Splitter cable something like this -

Amazon product

Have a look around for the Tannoys, you can often get cables and desktop isolation blocks in a bundle. Amazon Basics cables will do fine if you haven’t got them already. This should all come in on budget nicely.
 
Last edited:

rocketsurgery

Standard Member
My choice would be the Tannoy Gold 5 (front port and concentric woofer/tweeter) plus the Gemini and a Topping E30 or SMSL Sanskrit 10th mk2 DAC connected to the optical port. I would max out all of the Mac and software volumes (or 90%) and use the volume control on the DAC. You will need a splitter cable to connect the line level DAC output to the Tannoys and the Gemini then just dial in the sub to taste (likely to be around 70-80hz to start with then volume until you can just hear it and then back off a little. The tannoys also have bass and treble controls to help with positioning and personal taste.

Splitter cable something like this -

Amazon product

Have a look around for the Tannoys, you can often get cables and desktop isolation blocks in a bundle. Amazon Basics cables will do fine if you haven’t got them already. This should all come in on budget nicely.

Thanks Ugg10. That's great to hear that the Gemini can be used with studio monitors. The Tannoys caught my eye; I like the front-firing port and I like the design. I hadn't heard of the Sanskrit DAC, I'll check it out.
 

Yorkshire AV

Active Member
AVForums Sponsor
I would take a look at the iFi Audio ZEN DAC + something like the Q Acoustics M20 HD which I see is already on your list.

You can go USB directly into most active speakers but if you want a better quality output from the PC, an intermediate DAC will go a long way :) As a package would sit just over the £500 mark.

You have some good questions there - my answers below:

  • Would I see much difference in sound quality between the three options?
  • Yes - sound quality as well as nuances in the sound presentation. Sound quality is subjective - it depends entirely on what you're looking for though if one thing is better than another
  • Will rear-ported speakers like the M20 or T5V be too bass-heavy positioned near the wall? Or am I better with front-ported speakers?
  • You need to leave enough room for connectivity but you're talking within 3" of the wall I assume here? Forward firing may play into the advantage here, but may also be a little overwhelming for nearfield listening. All can be bunged - and I'd recommend that anyway at this listening distance.
  • Are any of these options unsuited for near-field desktop use? (I ask because I tried pair of old Mission M70 speakers with an old Denon PMA-715R and they sounded really muddy in near-field use)
  • More than likely not - but with correct positioning, isolation and output management, you'll get something worth listening to. I have M20 HD's here at my office desk. I don't listen to them loud - but they're fun, engaging and clear at lower volumes.
  • Can I use the Gemini II sub with studio monitors? I gather that dedicated subs for studio monitors are daisy-chained, which the Gemini doesn't support. Is there any way to run them off the pre-amp?
  • Given that I will be using them all day, would monitors be too revealing / tiring?
  • Unless you're used to the flat EQ - the answer is more than likely. We have monitor headphones here and honestly, after an hour / 90 mins, I am done. Hats off to the people wearing them all day!
  • Having read a little about the difference between Class AB and Class D amplifiers, would I see much difference in power consumption for all-day use?
  • Not at this size I don't think. Class D run cooler which may be a consideration if it's in your face / in your working environment.
 

AmericanAudio

Well-known Member
AVForums Sponsor
These Kali Audio get great reviews as monitors. Amazing prices and the pro-audio guys love them


 

rocketsurgery

Standard Member
I would take a look at the iFi Audio ZEN DAC + something like the Q Acoustics M20 HD which I see is already on your list.

You can go USB directly into most active speakers but if you want a better quality output from the PC, an intermediate DAC will go a long way :) As a package would sit just over the £500 mark.

You have some good questions there - my answers below:

  • Would I see much difference in sound quality between the three options?
  • Yes - sound quality as well as nuances in the sound presentation. Sound quality is subjective - it depends entirely on what you're looking for though if one thing is better than another
  • Will rear-ported speakers like the M20 or T5V be too bass-heavy positioned near the wall? Or am I better with front-ported speakers?
  • You need to leave enough room for connectivity but you're talking within 3" of the wall I assume here? Forward firing may play into the advantage here, but may also be a little overwhelming for nearfield listening. All can be bunged - and I'd recommend that anyway at this listening distance.
  • Are any of these options unsuited for near-field desktop use? (I ask because I tried pair of old Mission M70 speakers with an old Denon PMA-715R and they sounded really muddy in near-field use)
  • More than likely not - but with correct positioning, isolation and output management, you'll get something worth listening to. I have M20 HD's here at my office desk. I don't listen to them loud - but they're fun, engaging and clear at lower volumes.
  • Can I use the Gemini II sub with studio monitors? I gather that dedicated subs for studio monitors are daisy-chained, which the Gemini doesn't support. Is there any way to run them off the pre-amp?
  • Given that I will be using them all day, would monitors be too revealing / tiring?
  • Unless you're used to the flat EQ - the answer is more than likely. We have monitor headphones here and honestly, after an hour / 90 mins, I am done. Hats off to the people wearing them all day!
  • Having read a little about the difference between Class AB and Class D amplifiers, would I see much difference in power consumption for all-day use?
  • Not at this size I don't think. Class D run cooler which may be a consideration if it's in your face / in your working environment.
Thanks - that's a really comprehensive answer, and the flat EQ is definitely a consideration.

The M20 HD looks very tempting. I had wondered if they'd be overkill for desktop speakers so great to hear that you use them personally. They'll probably be about 6" away from the wall, but as you say I could always add a bung and I note bungs are supplied in the box.

I've also heard good things about the Zen DAC.
 

Yorkshire AV

Active Member
AVForums Sponsor
They do have a sub out on them which we've used in anger (REL T Zero MKIII and a T/5x) just to add that little more to them but they are really capable out of the box.

Yes, include bungs and a remote :)
 

Ruffuz

Well-known Member
I'd decide between M20 and fully active route with dx3 pro. Mackie MR524 are really nice.

I would also not bother with adding external dac to M20, better going fully active route in that situation.
 

password1

Distinguished Member
For anyone else looking at this thread.and looking for very good small deaktop speakers, take a look at Nocs speakers

 

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