Question Setup for speakers and headphones attached to desktop PC

jkharmer

Active Member
Hi,

Not posted for a long time as have been happy with my current lounge AV setup for a long time. I am not, however, happy with what I have attached to my custom built desktop PC.

Current setup is this:

IMG_1154.jpg


It is purely a work / interent browsing machine, I do not play any games on it at all. I need a set of speakers to allow me to listen to stuff on youtube, maybe the odd netflix / amazon prime programme, a bit of Spotify and video conference calls. I also want to be able to plug my Sennheiser headphones in and max the quality I get out of these as well - is this what a DAC does?? I don;t really know what I am talking about when it comes to this sort of stuff.

I have been considering something like a Denon PMA 60 with a set of cheapish bookshelf speakers such as Q acoustics 3010. The headphones can connect into the Denon and I can easily control the volume on the front of the Denon as well. It would fit nicely in the gap between the centre and left monitor stands, as well as complement the "look" of my current set up. My desktop PC does not have a dedicated soundcard, just the onboard stuff which has a 3.5mm output jack and that is it (no optical). I figured that I could connect the Denon by USB ...

I was looking at active speakers as well, but I don't think they would support my headphones, unless anyone can tell me of any that would do this of course. I guess I could look at a set of active speakers and then something to plug my headphones into? Do you think I am going down the correct route for this? My budget is £300 to £500 absolute max and am happy to go down the used route if needs be as well.

The current Creative Pebble speakers are terrible, they whine when you switch them on and you can hear them when you are not listening to any music so you have to turn them on an off all the time - a pain in the bum! DOnt sound great as well, but they only cost £25 so wasn;t expecting anything ground breaking, they were always a bit of a stop gap.

Any advice would be great.

Thanks, James
 

jamieu

Active Member
I was looking at active speakers as well, but I don't think they would support my headphones, unless anyone can tell me of any that would do this of course. I guess I could look at a set of active speakers and then something to plug my headphones into? Do you think I am going down the correct route for this? My budget is £300 to £500 absolute max and am happy to go down the used route if needs be as well.
You won't, if you care remotely about audio quality, want to plug either an amp & passive speaker combination or a pair of active speakers directly to the PCs 3.5mm audio outputs :)

So you'll either want:

- A pair of active speakers with a USB input. Have a look at the active speakers forum, but as you point out most of these won't have a headphone socket.
- An amp that has a headphone socket and a USB input like the Denon PMA 60 you mention.
- A USB DAC or audio interface, you'll find plenty of options here depending on budget, that have both a headphone socket and balanced outputs, which are perfect for connecting directly to a pair of active speakers. Something like a Focusrite Scarlett, Focusrite Solo or a Cambridge Audio DacMagic if you want something more hi-fi looking (although that would eat most of your budget for little benefit over the Focusrite interfaces).

Personally for that kind of desk placement I'd look at small to mid sized active monitors paired with a good/solid but not particular 'fancy looking' USB DAC/Audio interface like the Focusrite Scarlett - you may even be able to pick up an older/used model quite cheaply. For either Focusrite you'll need a pair of Balanced Jack to XLR cables to hook the speakers up.

You're also likely to find there is more choice of smaller, but high performing active speakers, better suited for near field listening in the active monitor space as a lot of these speakers are made with near-field/desk placement in mind and will have 'dip switches' to adjust the sound for that kind of positioning.
 
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jkharmer

Active Member
Wow. That is an amazing response. Thanks so much.

From what you have said if I went for the Scarlett, I would plug that into the computer via the USB interface. Would I need to use any software on a Windows PC or would it just be plug and play?

I then connect a pair of active monitors to the Scarlett. Jack connector to Scarlett and XLR connector to the speakers.

Am taken by the Genelec 8010s. Not cheap but seem to be the daddy of small active speakers. Would they be a good match?

Finally headphones will connect into the headphone jack on the front. Job done.
Does that sound about right?

Any other active speakers I should look at?

James
 

jkharmer

Active Member
PS. Assume that near field set up speakers are important and standard HiFi speakers are not tuned for that sort of listening.
J
 

jamieu

Active Member
From what you have said if I went for the Scarlett, I would plug that into the computer via the USB interface. Would I need to use any software on a Windows PC or would it just be plug and play?

I then connect a pair of active monitors to the Scarlett. Jack connector to Scarlett and XLR connector to the speakers.

Am taken by the Genelec 8010s. Not cheap but seem to be the daddy of small active speakers. Would they be a good match?

Finally headphones will connect into the headphone jack on the front. Job done.
Does that sound about right?

Any other active speakers I should look at?
Yes, you may need to install the Focusrite driver to get all the features, but it also support native USB audio without a driver too. It will then just appear as an an audio output in Windows or whatever audio playback software you use, no other software needed. It's a really well supported/solid interface. Then balanced Jack to XLR into the monitors and you're away :)

I have a pair of Genelec 8010 I use as surround speakers, but would be more than happy to have them on my desk and they have dip switches for that kind of desk placement. Their small size really defies the level/quality of sound they output. They're proper monitors, not cheap computer speakers, they sound amazing especially considering their tiny size. You can also get them in white. If it was me and I wanted a small desktop speaker that's what I would go for. They also keep great resale value if you ever wanted to sell them.
 
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jamieu

Active Member
PS. Assume that near field set up speakers are important and standard HiFi speakers are not tuned for that sort of listening.
J
Exactly, you can of course use HiFi speakers, although there is a risk of desk placement causing them to sound bloated and not being able to correct for it, which is more noticeable if you're sitting close.

Conversely you can also listen to 'near field' studio monitors at a distance, it's more a classification thing with studio monitors ie. at this distance they will sound correct ie. like a pair of good pair of headphones.
 
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jamieu

Active Member
Oh wait a minute are all those prices on Thomson for a single speaker?
Yes :)

But hunt around as the prices do vary, so you may still be able to find a pair + an interface within your top budget. Also worth looking out for a secondhand pair as they are sturdy units.

The Adam T5V might also be worth looking at if you wanted something a bit cheaper.
 
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jkharmer

Active Member
Yes :)

But hunt around as the prices do vary, so you may still be able to find a pair + an interface within your top budget. Also worth looking out for a secondhand pair as they are sturdy units.

The Adam T5V might also be worth looking at if you wanted something a bit cheaper.
Hi Jamieu,

Well, purchased the Scarlett as a first start! Connected my headphones up (Sennheiser PXC550) and sounded like I was listening in a bathtub. Had a play around and found out that if I pull the headphone jack out 1mm from being fully inserted, all sounds like it should. You any ideas why that would be?? Maybe a new cable would help, although the cable that connects into the Sennhesiers is an odd size on the one that plugs into the headphones - they are more for wireless listening / noise cancelling than anything else.

Done some tests and definitly sounds much "cleaner" going through the Scarlett Preamp than juyst plugged into the PC headphone out jack, so that is good news. Not been brave enough to go for the speakers yet ....

One last questions - max bitrate is 192kHz, is this right, or should I be able to get 320kHz (don't even know if it would make any difference to the human ear anyway - but worth an ask).

J
 

jamieu

Active Member
Hi Jamieu,

Well, purchased the Scarlett as a first start! Connected my headphones up (Sennheiser PXC550) and sounded like I was listening in a bathtub. Had a play around and found out that if I pull the headphone jack out 1mm from being fully inserted, all sounds like it should. You any ideas why that would be?? Maybe a new cable would help, although the cable that connects into the Sennhesiers is an odd size on the one that plugs into the headphones - they are more for wireless listening / noise cancelling than anything else.

Done some tests and definitly sounds much "cleaner" going through the Scarlett Preamp than juyst plugged into the PC headphone out jack, so that is good news. Not been brave enough to go for the speakers yet ....

One last questions - max bitrate is 192kHz, is this right, or should I be able to get 320kHz (don't even know if it would make any difference to the human ear anyway - but worth an ask).

J
Are you using an 3.5mm to 1/4" stereo jack adaptor with your headphones? It could just be that the adaptor is causing it to sit badly in the socket. Maybe get a new adaptor to see it it helps, other than fit the one piece adaptors all perform the same, so no need to spend more than a couple of quid on one.

Glad it sounds better, it should do :) The noise floor will be much lower than the PC's headphone output along with a much better digital to analog stage. I got mine originally to phantom power a microphone. But tried it out as a DAC and was impressed esp. given the relatively low cost when compared to some expensive 'audiophile' DACs. It's certainly as good as some reputable HiFi DACs I have used that cost three times the price.

192kHz is as high as you'll ever need. CDs are 16-bit/44.1Khz and HiRes audio is normally 24-bit/96Hz or 24-bit/192kHz. Anything higher that that that is certainly inaudible to the human ear.

Depending on what software you're using to playback music there may be a setting for 'exclusive mode' if so check the box and it will take care of adjusting the output sample rate to match the recordings sample rate. Otherwise it will just pad out recordings with a lower sample rates to fit the higher output rate, which is also fine, it's a bit like putting a small letter in a big envelope.
 
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jkharmer

Active Member
Are you using an 3.5mm to 1/4" stereo jack adaptor with your headphones? It could just be that the adaptor is causing it to sit badly in the socket. Maybe get a new adaptor to see it it helps, other than fit the one piece adaptors all perform the same, so no need to spend more than a couple of quid on one.

Glad it sounds better, it should do :) The noise floor will be much lower than the PC's headphone output along with a much better digital to analog stage. I got mine originally to phantom power a microphone. But tried it out as a DAC and was impressed esp. given the relatively low cost when compared to some expensive 'audiophile' DACs. It's certainly as good as some reputable HiFi DACs I have used that cost three times the price.

192kHz is as high as you'll ever need. CDs are 16-bit/44.1Khz and HiRes audio is normally 24-bit/96Hz or 24-bit/192kHz. Anything higher that that that is certainly inaudible to the human ear.

Depending on what software you're using to playback music there may be a setting for 'exclusive mode' if so check the box and it will take care of adjusting the output sample rate to match the recordings sample rate. Otherwise it will just pad out recordings with a lower sample rates to fit the higher output rate, which is also fine, it's a bit like putting a small letter in a big envelope.
Thanks. I just use Spotify for music playback - shoved it on the "very high" playback setting, sounds good. I am using a 3.5mm to 1/4", will see what happens if I get another (or maybe a new headphone cable as the jack performs OK when I stick my old Creative Pebble cable into it!)

J
 

jkharmer

Active Member
One more thing! I have read up that monitors can be a bit “honest” in the way music is delivered. Is this your experience and can it detract from the listening experience? Seen some KRK v4s4 for a cracking price on Thomann and am very tempted. Would they be a good bet?
 

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