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To Hans Wetzel,
First let me say I've enjoyed GoodSound! for years. I no longer have a traditional stereo system; I've scaled back and now listen to music primarily on my computer. I have a Dell laptop, which is reasonably new and fast (for the time being). I'm currently using a pair of M-Audio AV 30 speakers.
I'm looking to improve my setup's sound. Where is the best place to start: speakers, DAC, etc.? I don't want to just throw money at it. I want to get the most bang for, say, $200-$300 or so.
Thanks again for your publication, and sensibilities on getting a lot for a little!
Thanks for the kind words about GoodSound! You are far from alone in primarily using a computer for your musical needs. That said, there are numerous directions you could go to maximize your sound quality for a modest sum.
Upgrading your speakers would be my first suggestion. While I have never personally heard the M-Audio AV 30, it looks to be a step up from more traditional and widely available computer speakers. With that in mind, to improve on the M-Audios might require a slightly larger outlay. For $398/pair, the NHT SuperPowers marry the pedigree of NHT's SuperZero 2.0s, which Roger Kanno favorably reviewed last fall, with built-in amplifiers for use as computer speakers. Another option would be Audioengine's $399/pair A5+, which I am very fond of. I suspect they don't quite match the NHTs for out-and-out resolution, but they more than make up for it with larger bass drivers, multiple inputs, all the wiring you could possibly need and a handy remote control. Both NHT and Audioengine sell matching subwoofers for their speakers should you crave a more full-range setup going forward. Orb Audio's Mod1s are another option, though I suspect they would be something of a lateral move from your M-Audio AV 30s.
Once you are happy with your speakers, I would suggest investing in a small digital-to-analog converter (DAC), of which there are many available for around $300. Audioengine, AudioQuest, CEntrance, Emotiva and Musical Fidelity are good companies to start with, but, frankly, most any DAC should noticeably improve the quality of sound coming from your Dell laptop.
I hope this helps, and let us know if we can be of further assistance! . . . Hans Wetzel
Greetings Andrea and Vince,
In my system I use two-channel audio (no headphones) and I already have a DacMagic Plus. I was wondering if getting the GT40 would be an upgrade to my system by replacing the DacMagic Plus.
Thanks and best regards,
Vince has not heard the GT40, nor have I heard the DacMagic Plus. Based on his review and some other characteristics of the Cambridge Audio unit -- the DAC chips used, support for higher sample rates, multiple filters, and asynchronous USB -- I would expect it to outperform the GT40. The GT40 may be attractive to somebody who is looking for a phono preamplifier, ADC, headphone amp, and DAC in a single, affordable box. At its price, I don't find it compelling as simply a DAC. . . . S. Andrea Sundaram
To S. Andrea Sundaram,
I'm thinking about trying to replace the stock interconnect that came with my Denon DP-500M turntable, under the assumption that it's not particularly high quality and that a reasonably priced replacement might improve the sound quality. Is this worth considering? If so, are there special considerations for choosing an interconnect for a turntable rather than a digital source? And how do I deal with the ground wire?
Since your turntable has RCA jacks, experimenting with different cables is a relatively painless process. (You don't have to rewire the tonearm.) I wasn't able to find any specific information about the grounding wire for your Denon, so I'm assuming that it is a completely separate lead. Just leave that connected to your phono preamplifier or receiver. Otherwise, it's no different from any other source. Most reputable dealers will offer a return policy on cables, so I don't see any harm in trying. . . . S. Andrea Sundaram
To Doug Schneider,
I am curious if you have any reviews of Definitive Technology's new monitors coming soon. I've read quite a bit about these speakers, but I haven't seen any full reviews. Anything you can tell me?
We actually have the StudioMonitor 55s and 45s in for review right now. Roger Kanno has one pair and Philip Beaudette has the other. The reviews will likely be published in the next couple of months. One of the reviews will appear here on GoodSound!, the other one will appear on SoundStage! Hi-Fi. . . . Doug Schneider
I am from India. I have B&W 683 floorstanding speakers. I want to match an amplifier to these speakers. Can you help me out? Two amplifiers are on my mind: the Cayin 265Ai (pure class A) and the Sugden A21a (pure class A). Will these amps match with my speakers or are there other amplifiers you would suggest?
Although I've owned a number of B&W speakers in my lifetime, I'm not familiar with the 683s, so I looked up the B&W-supplied specs to gather a little more information. Their sensitivity is rated as 90dB, which is a little bit above average, and the impedance is rated as 8 ohms, but with a 3-ohm minimum. That 3-ohm spec indicates that they should be used with an amplifier with good current capability, although the highish sensitivity indicates that it doesn't need to deliver all that many watts of power.
Overall, that bodes well for the amps you've chosen -- their manufacturer-supplied specs indicate power output of less than 50Wpc for both (into 8 ohms), and, from what I can tell, the dip to 3 ohms shouldn't be an issue with either amp. But will the 683s play loud enough for you with these amps? There's no easy way to say because it will depend on your room size and, also, how loud is loud enough for your tastes. I hope that helps. . . . Doug Schneider
To Doug Schneider,
I just stumbled upon your article, "Avoiding Buying Crap." I am looking to upgrade and have looked (researched) many of the names that you suggested. If you do not mind, I have a question. For a speaker budget of $1000, should I consider floorstanders or stick with bookshelf speakers? Also, in that price range, do you prefer any specific models? I am in RI and have to travel to listen to these speakers, so any advice that you can pass along would be greatly appreciated!
This is a common question that has no easy answer. With a $1000 budget, you should consider floorstanding and bookshelf speakers, since there are quite a few models of each type that may suit you. If you go with bookshelf-type speakers, though, you must also factor in the price of stands. (They're often called bookshelf speakers, but most audiophiles put them on stands, so it's for that reason that I prefer to call these small speakers stand-mounted designs.) Specific model numbers and names would be too difficult to recommend in any reliable way, but if I were in your shoes I'd look at the various models in these lines right now: Monitor from Paradigm, Verus from Aperion Audio, StudioMonitor from Definitive Technology, Image from PSB, and Aon from GoldenEar Technology. There are others you could look at, but there are a number of floorstanding and stand-mounted designs in these line-ups that would satisfy most listeners. . . . Doug Schneider
To Doug Schneider,
You seemed quite impressed with the new Definitive Technology StudioMonitor 55 at the audio show some time ago. Now that they have hit the stores, I was wondering if we can expect a review sometime soon.
You're correct -- I wrote about the Definitive Technology 55 when I covered CEDIA Expo last year and I was very impressed. We just received a pair, but I won't be reviewing them; instead, Philip Beaudette is handling the review and it will appear in one of our sister publications, SoundStage! Hi-Fi, along with measurements done in the anechoic chamber at Canada's National Research Council (NRC). Look for that review to appear in May or June. . . . Doug Schneider
In recent months there has been quite a bit of positive press regarding GoldenEar Technology speakers. Reviews of their Triton 2 towers have been so positive that their Triton models and new Aon bookshelf units all have my curiosity.
Being a relatively new company, there are no GoldenEar dealers in my area so I will need to drive a few hours to audition their offerings for my two-channel system. Prior to taking that step I am doing some preliminary research, which includes contacting your "Ask us" forum.
Has anyone at GoodSound! had an opportunity to listen to any of GoldenEar's offerings and are there any impressions or comments? Are their speakers truly that impressive at their price points? Or is it all relative and a matter of taste?
We’ve heard GoldenEar’s Triton 2 towers at shows, but we've never reviewed them. However, a pair of their new Aon 3 bookshelf models landed on our doorstep and we’re getting ready to measure them and then slip them in the review queue. They won’t be reviewed on GoodSound!, though, but on our sister site, SoundStage! Hi-Fi. . . . Doug Schneider
To Doug Schneider,
What is the speaker on the right-hand side of your website?
Currently, it’s the Definitive Technology Mythos ST. . . . Doug Schneider
To Doug Schneider,
[Further to my previous letter,] I have another option as well: the Focal Chorus 807 V. Would this one be the best bet?
We have a review of the Focal Chorus 807 W coming to our sister site, SoundStage! Hi-Fi, in April. The 807 W is basically an 807 V that incorporates some technology from the company’s Utopia EM series, which are their top speaker models. That might be worth waiting for. . . . Doug Schneider
To Doug Schneider,
I greatly value your opinion on this subject matter and any advice would be greatly appreciated. I was trying to choose between the Paradigm SE 1, positioned right around the Monitor line (so Paradigm’s middle range), versus the Aperion Versus Grand Bookshelf. These will be used for music only. I was told that the type of music sometimes matters with brands. I’m not sure if that is true but just in case it is, I primarily listen to hardcore and metalcore music -- it’s very heavy with guitars and drums and vocals. If you could shed any light it would be much appreciated! The last thing is that someone told me that for that type of music perhaps the Klipsch Reference II series is a good choice. Are those good as well? Thanks very much!
In general, any well-designed, neutral speaker will sound good with any type of music. For the most part, that’s true. The difference in this instance is that the kind of music you enjoy tends to sound best when played really loud, something not all audiophile-type speakers do well. So I’m answering this question based on the assumption that you’ll need the speaker to have high output capability. Hopefully that assumption is correct.
I suspect that the person who recommended Klipsch did so because of the company’s reputation for producing speakers that play loud and clean. From what I know of the brand, that’s true, but I can’t tell you anything more because I’ve never reviewed any Klipsch products formally. Still, they’re not the only speakers that will play loud well. Paradigm’s speakers tend to play exceedingly loud and with low distortion, mainly because they design them to play back music as well as movies, which also tend to sound better played back at high volume levels. We reviewed Paradigm’s SE 1 in SoundStage! Hi-Fi and measured it in the anechoic chamber at Canada’s National Research Council where it produced a very respectable result when we pushed the distortion test to 95dB, a very high level usually reserved for larger floorstanding designs. We also reviewed the Verus Grand Bookshelf in SoundStage! Hi-Fi and it produced excellent results as well, but we couldn’t push the distortion test as high, which is typical of smaller speakers. In other words, the Verus Grand Bookshelf won’t be able to play as loud as cleanly. If you need high output, that might sway your decision regarding these two models. If not, either will likely be suitable, since they’re excellent-sounding designs (within their limits), and you should really listen for yourself to make the final decision in terms of which one sounds the best to you. I hope that helps. . . . Doug Schneider