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Question Overhauling Desk Audio Setup

cquats22

Novice Member
Hi all,

First time poster here.
My current setup is as follows:
  • Adam A7X Speakers
  • 2018 MacBook Pro (Source)
  • Oppo HA-2 (DAC)
I have these setup at my workstation, with the MacBook Pro (MBP) being connected to the Oppo via USB, then the Oppo is connected to the speakers via its line-out 3.5mm jack using a Pangea cable that splits into two unbalanced RCAs. I also use the Oppo portably for my IEMs, so every time I sit down at my desk, I have to plug the 3.5mm jack into the Oppo, then get the Oppo plugged into my computer, then power everything on. It’s incredibly annoying and is really a deterrent to using the speakers unless I know I’m going to be at the desk for a while, not to mention the underutilization of the Adams I am getting as a result of this jury-rigged setup. I am in the process of overhauling my desk setup, and wanted to update the audio along with it so I can improve my SQ while also avoiding the plugging/unplugging daily nightmare.

I’m currently debating whether or not I should keep the sound source as the MBP, or to switch to a standalone streamer that I could control wirelessly from the MBP. I live in a studio apartment, so there isn’t really much need for the multi-room advantages of a streamer system in the foreseeable future. Although, in this round of tech upgrades, I was considering putting a Sonos One on my kitchen counter to have music while I cook and to double as an Amazon Alexa, but nearly the same functionality could come from a Bluesound speaker connected to their system and a standalone Amazon Echo or Alexa. I definitely wouldn’t be opposed to the Adams and the kitchen speaker to be in sync while playing music around the apartment.

All that being said, my main questions are surrounding gear. In terms of the Oppo, I would like to somewhat future-proof the setup for a little, and I mainly use Tidal as a source, but am relatively open to forgoing MQA (Don't hate). I occasionally use my IEMs at my desk if I’m working late at night to avoid disturbing the neighbors, so I would definitely get use from an internal headphone amp, but I could just continue using the Oppo in that situation. I also plan to connect the DAC to the Adams via XLR, and am open to your input as to whether or not this is the right choice. Because of that, as of right now, I have only considered DACs with XLR outs. To replace the Oppo as a permanent installment on the desk, I am looking at:
  • Mytek Brooklyn DAC+
  • RME ADI-2
  • Audiolab M-Dac+
  • Benchmark DAC3 HGC

In terms of the source, I use the MBP to power the monitor that is on the desk, and I worry about interference bleeding into the audio from the computer and everything that I use to connect all of its peripherals. Switching to the streamer should help alleviate some of that, although I don’t really have a separate room that I can move the streamer to, in order to achieve some of the streamer setups that I see on here sometimes. My end goal for this desk at the end of this upgrade is to be able to sit down, plug in one USB-C cable to my MBP and have the whole workstation up and running, audio and all. I don’t use my speakers as the output for my MBP audio (except for music), although I do occasionally game, mix music, and watch movies on it and I use the speakers for that. I would be open to getting a receiver in the future, that would allow for the MBP to be one audio source and the streamer to be another, but I can’t do that at the moment. So for streaming devices, I really have only considered the Bluesound Node 2i, but am open to suggestions.

Thank you all so much for your input.
 

Ugg10

Distinguished Member
Cambridge Audio CXN and 851N both have variable balanced out (use the volume on the CXN/851N and set mac and app volumes to 100%) and can act as a usb dac for the mac and also as a stand alone streamer. The CXN V2 is in line with the cost of the dacs mentioned (£600-700) and the 851N is a class above (pricewise, £1200+). No MQA I don't think but has Tidal, Spotify and Bluetooth.

Cambridge Audio CXN V2 (Black)

How do I use TIDAL with the Cambridge Audio Connect App?
 

Ugg10

Distinguished Member
Another one to look at maybe the Naim NAC-N 172 XS which is a preamp with streamer built in. Second hand they go for just under the £1k mark. This does not have xlr out though.
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
To replace the DAC, you might want to look at the Mackie Big Knob Studio or the Studio +. the Big Knob Studio has at least a 24b/96k bi-directional USB interface. It also has two independently controlled Headphone Amps. It has additional Analog Inputs and limited mixing ability, plus the ability to drive Two Pair of Monitors or other monitor level devices.

Mackie Big Knob Studio - £199 -

Mackie Big Knob Studio Monitor Controller



Macke Big Knob Studio + - £302 -


Mackie Big Knob Studio + Monitor Controller

The Mackie Big Knob Studio + has 4 inputs and has a 24b/192k DAC among other additional features.

Here is an extensive review of the Mackie Big Knob Studio -


Keep in mind this is both a Record and Playback Device.

Big Knob Series

As far as a Standard Hi-Fi DAC, AudioVisualOnLine has £1300 ROKSAN K3 DACs for about £400 -

Roksan Kandy K3 Charcoal Digital To Analogue Converter - DACs - AudioVisual Online - UK Home Cinema and Hifi Specialists

Roksan Kandy K3 Opium Digital To Analogue Converter - DACs - AudioVisual Online - UK Home Cinema and Hifi Specialists

I think a newer version of this DAC has been released. But even this older models is still a £1300 DAC.

If you want Network Streaming in a very compact model, consider the -

Yamaha WXC-50 Network Streaming Pre-Amp - £250 -

Yamaha WXC-50 MusicCast Stereo Streaming Processor - Streaming / Networking - AudioVisual Online - UK Home Cinema and Hifi Specialists

You might still need a DAC with this Stream, it has Optical, AUX, and Network Inputs. So, no USB-PC in. However, it does have a standard Remote Control AND of course like all Streamers it has a Control App to allow you to browse and select music, and it does support TIDAL.

MusicCast WXC-50 - Overview - Yamaha - UK and Ireland

For a Desktop setup, as you can see it is very compact.

While your budget is somewhat implies, it would be better if you simply told us what your working budget was.

For considerably more money, you could certainly consider something like the Cambridge CXN Network Player (£700) -

CXN (V2)

It does have an accessible DAC with Optical, Coaxial, and USB Audio In, and of course Wired and Wireless Network In.

Bluesound Node-2i (£499)
is also a consideration

NODE 2i

It does have USB-Media for Flash Drives and similar, but not USB-PC for a direct computer connections, so unless I misinterpreted, you will still need a DAC to connect to your computer for everyday audio.

The Audiolabs M-DAC+ (£799) is nice, but no Streaming Capability. (picked as an example from your list) -

Audiolab M-DAC PLUS (Black)

I think for the same money (just a bit less) with the Cambridge CXN you get both a DAC and Streaming.

You don't really need Streaming or a Streaming Device when you are sitting at the computer. But when you are sitting back on the Sofa relaxing, it is nice not to have to get up and go to the Compute. Though that could be solved with a Wireless Keyboard/Mouse. The true Network Streamers Yamaha/Cambridge/Bluesound/Other can be accessed with an App on a Smart Phone.

Just a few thoughts. Though it would help if we had a clear statement of your working BUDGET.

Steve/bluewizard
 
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