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confusedpenguin
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Good speaker for ZxR

Sun May 20, 2018 6:07 pm

Just ordered a Sound Blaster ZxR from Amazon. I'm looking for a good set of speaker under 200 bucks. Doesn't need to have a subwoofer. Just a good set of speakers that will let me hear every detail in the sound and bring the best out of the sound card. Mostly gaming, but some High-Res Flac Lossless, and casual YouTube videos.
 
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Re: Good speaker for ZxR

Sun May 20, 2018 6:22 pm

Looks like you may have some competing requirements here. The gaming use case is partly about impact, where sacrificing accuracy/fidelity for "punch" (i.e. something with a sub to give you those bone-shaking lows vs. studio monitors with flatter response) can be a win. I'm not sure you can "have it all" for $200... I tend to think not, but maybe someone else will come up with some recommendations.

My tentative recommendation would be a middle-of-the-road 2.1 that gets good reviews for gaming/YouTube, and some decent cans for "detail" listening. May run you more than $200 by the time the dust settles, but it lets you have "best of both worlds" with fewer compromises, and hey you already dropped $200+ on the soundcard, which generally isn't the weak link in the chain to begin with these days. (TBH in your shoes I would've spent less on the soundcard, leaving more budget for speakers/headphones; spending more on the digital side tends to be a steeply diminishing returns thing, while analog is still more of a "you get what you pay for" deal, up to a point.)
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Re: Good speaker for ZxR

Sun May 20, 2018 6:41 pm

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Re: Good speaker for ZxR

Sun May 20, 2018 7:24 pm

A pair of active studio monitors are a decent option for good sound without a subwoofer. At under $200 the best three options I can think of are:

Presonus Eris E4.5 - 4.5" drivers
Mackie CR4 - 4" drivers
M-Audio AV42 4" drivers

These are rear-ported cabinets so they'll sound overly bass-heavy if you put them in a corner up against walls. You can work around this by using a room calibration wizard (all you need is a microphone), or you can get speakers that are front-ported like the Pioneer DJ DM-40 (also in the same league as the CR4 and AV42).

I can recommend some excellent options if you can double your budget, but the advantage of entry-level studio monitors like these is that they come with front-facing power/volume controls and often include a headphone passthrough too. JBI's suggestion of a basic gaming 2.1 set and some good headphones isn't bad, but I think you're into more than $200 if you want decent headphones and at $300-350 you can get some really nice sounding speakers that will truly do both gaming punch and audiophile fidelity. Building your own speakers is fun (and the start of a potentially expensive road) but it won't save you any money and it isn't as neat or convenient as a pair of studio monitors that have an integrated amp.
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Re: Good speaker for ZxR

Tue May 22, 2018 8:03 pm

After having tried it as an experiment, I think soundbars make surprisingly good computer speakers.

There's also the JBL LSR305s. They're occasionally available for $100 a piece.
 
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Re: Good speaker for ZxR

Tue May 22, 2018 8:32 pm

I agree that a pair of studio monitors are your best bet.

https://www.monoprice.com/product?&p_id=605800
they've been running various %20 off coupons for several weeks, so that brings it to $203 and change.
 
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Re: Good speaker for ZxR

Tue May 22, 2018 8:48 pm

Those monoprice speakers look like they might do the job just fine. Looks like I'll need to make sure and buy a 1/4" to XLR adapter or cable though. How do those compare sound quality-wise to the AudioEngine A5+?
 
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Re: Good speaker for ZxR

Tue May 22, 2018 8:51 pm

Just wanna say... I've been quite impressed with the value/$ for Monoprice's cables, but their electronics items seem to be a little hit-or-miss.
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confusedpenguin
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Re: Good speaker for ZxR

Tue May 22, 2018 9:22 pm

Looks like it. Based on one of the reviews the quality control isn't very good. They box and ship them without testing them first. But if they are a good value for the money, I can always RMA them for a replacement until I get some that come off the assembly line in good working order. I'm willing to take the chance.
 
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Re: Good speaker for ZxR

Tue May 22, 2018 9:26 pm

confusedpenguin wrote:
Looks like it. Based on one of the reviews the quality control isn't very good. They box and ship them without testing them first. But if they are a good value for the money, I can always RMA them for a replacement until I get some that come off the assembly line in good working order. I'm willing to take the chance.

Yeah, obviously that's your choice to make. Personally, I'd rather buy something with better odds of working out of the box, so I don't need to deal with the hassle of an RMA. Plus, even if you do get a working one, if the build quality is sub-par it could fail shortly after the warranty runs out... then you're just SOL unless you're willing and able to do a DIY diagnosis and repair.

To be fair, name-brand products can occasionally suffer from poor QA as well...

If you care about audio quality, you really would've been better off spending less on the soundcard (or even using onboard), and leaving more $ for the speakers. With a high-end soundcard and $200 speakers, the speakers are going to be the limiting factor.
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jihadjoe
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Re: Good speaker for ZxR

Tue May 22, 2018 9:50 pm

+1 on jbi's budgeting. I'd rather spend $350 on speakers and use onboard audio than $150 on a sound card and $200 on speakers. In fact, I'd not spend anything on a sound card until the amp and speakers are at $2000 or higher.
 
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Re: Good speaker for ZxR

Tue May 22, 2018 9:59 pm

Unfortunately was spoiled with a computer I had about 8 years ago that had an ASUS Xonar Essence ST in it. And yes, I could hear the difference. I have considered the Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 system again as that is what I had before. I know some onboard audio has been improved, but unfortunately the onboard sound on my computer isn't that great. They skimped on it. I bought an ASUS ROG Strix GD30ci. It uses Realtek Audio, so I already knew I shouldn't expect much sound-wise. I considered a pair of USB speakers, but I don't know of any that have a good DAC in them like Burr-Brown or Sabre. And it has been a while since I spoiled myself with a nice higher-end sound card. If there aren't any good speakers around 200 dollars, I'm willing to wait another month or two to have enough money for some really good ones.
 
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Re: Good speaker for ZxR

Tue May 22, 2018 10:01 pm

jihadjoe wrote:
+1 on jbi's budgeting. I'd rather spend $350 on speakers and use onboard audio than $150 on a sound card and $200 on speakers. In fact, I'd not spend anything on a sound card until the amp and speakers are at $2000 or higher.

Weellll... I wouldn't go that far. But roughly equal $ for the soundcard and speakers (like the OP is proposing) is pretty far out of balance unless he also plans to supplement with some halfway decent headphones for music listening. These days you'd need to get pretty badly implemented onboard audio for $200 speakers to make a meaningful difference.
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Re: Good speaker for ZxR

Tue May 22, 2018 10:29 pm

just brew it! wrote:
jihadjoe wrote:
+1 on jbi's budgeting. I'd rather spend $350 on speakers and use onboard audio than $150 on a sound card and $200 on speakers. In fact, I'd not spend anything on a sound card until the amp and speakers are at $2000 or higher.

Weellll... I wouldn't go that far. But roughly equal $ for the soundcard and speakers (like the OP is proposing) is pretty far out of balance unless he also plans to supplement with some halfway decent headphones for music listening. These days you'd need to get pretty badly implemented onboard audio for $200 speakers to make a meaningful difference.


I'd say that an external DAC and a good set of speakers is a better investment than any speakers and a sound card, unless the sound card has some features (besides sound quality) that you are also going to use.

My recommendation for speakers would be, depending on your physical setup, to go with the Wirecutter's recommendation or the runner up or budget pick. Its recommendation pushes your $200 budget a little bit, but not too much. Wirecutter also has a computer speaker recommendation. I'd also consider a set of Grado SR80's if you go the headphone route -- lots of headphone for an inexpensive price there.
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Re: Good speaker for ZxR

Tue May 22, 2018 11:05 pm

FireGryphon wrote:
I'd say that an external DAC and a good set of speakers is a better investment than any speakers and a sound card, unless the sound card has some features (besides sound quality) that you are also going to use.

Well now we're hair-splitting. IMO a good onboard or middle-of-the-road discrete soundcard are generally still going to exceed the capability of $200 speakers. High quality external DAC is a "nice to have", if everything else is already up to snuff.
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Re: Good speaker for ZxR

Wed May 23, 2018 12:10 am

I mean, a DAC is a sound card, it's just not inside your case. You can honestly look at them as the same thing for most PC purposes, except for the fact that you can move the external DAC around easier than having a PC always with the internal soundcard.

Under 200 for speakers when you spent 200+ on your DAC/sound card seems a little strange, but Chrispy made some good recommendations. The Monoprice set shouldn't be half bad either. I think if you're really trying to stick to under 200 then that's where you should look.

If not, that opens up a lot of options. The 200-400 range for bookshelf speakers is littered with good options. Maybe think about it before jumping into something you might find doesn't live up to your expectations.
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Re: Good speaker for ZxR

Wed May 23, 2018 10:21 am

confusedpenguin wrote:
Unfortunately was spoiled with a computer I had about 8 years ago that had an ASUS Xonar Essence ST in it. And yes, I could hear the difference. I have considered the Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 system again as that is what I had before. I know some onboard audio has been improved, but unfortunately the onboard sound on my computer isn't that great. They skimped on it. I bought an ASUS ROG Strix GD30ci. It uses Realtek Audio, so I already knew I shouldn't expect much sound-wise. I considered a pair of USB speakers, but I don't know of any that have a good DAC in them like Burr-Brown or Sabre. And it has been a while since I spoiled myself with a nice higher-end sound card. If there aren't any good speakers around 200 dollars, I'm willing to wait another month or two to have enough money for some really good ones.


I don't disagree that the soundcard makes a difference, because it totally does. All I'm saying is until you get to the point of diminishing returns, better speakers (and amplification) make a far bigger improvement to audio quality than upgrades to a digital source (soundcard, cd player, etc.).

Also, active speakers with a built-in DAC (like the KEF X300A or LS50W) can make very good computer speakers.
 
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Re: Good speaker for ZxR

Wed May 23, 2018 10:26 am

jihadjoe wrote:
Also, active speakers with a built-in DAC (like the KEF X300A or LS50W) can make very good computer speakers.

$2,199.98

Yeah, I'd hope so for 2200 dollars.
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Re: Good speaker for ZxR

Wed May 23, 2018 10:47 am

confusedpenguin wrote:
Unfortunately was spoiled with a computer I had about 8 years ago that had an ASUS Xonar Essence ST in it. And yes, I could hear the difference. I have considered the Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 system again as that is what I had before. I know some onboard audio has been improved, but unfortunately the onboard sound on my computer isn't that great. They skimped on it. I bought an ASUS ROG Strix GD30ci. It uses Realtek Audio, so I already knew I shouldn't expect much sound-wise. I considered a pair of USB speakers, but I don't know of any that have a good DAC in them like Burr-Brown or Sabre. And it has been a while since I spoiled myself with a nice higher-end sound card. If there aren't any good speakers around 200 dollars, I'm willing to wait another month or two to have enough money for some really good ones.


TEAC makes some nice small desktop-sized DAC-Amps like this model to power passive speakers if you want to explore that option. They use the Burr-Brown D/A converter. I use their 301DA model and I like the various input/output options and the Bluetooth capability all in a compact unit.
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Re: Good speaker for ZxR

Wed May 23, 2018 12:12 pm

Quick take:

If you want it to work straight out of the box, anything Chrispy listed would be on my short list.

If you want the best bang for buck and enjoy (or at least don't mind) the Ikea approach, the Parts Express kit DPete27 posted is unbeatable. I haven't used that exact kit but I have used those same drivers in some of my DIY speaker projects.

If you want to crank the bass up a bit, then you already mentioned the Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 system.

For a $200 budget cap, I wouldn't look much farther than those, depending which approach suits you.
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Re: Good speaker for ZxR

Wed May 23, 2018 12:21 pm

I meant to say receiver/DAC, since many have both capabilities. Essentially with one of those you completely bypass internal sound and competently power a nice set of speakers. Without one you’d still need to convert the signal somehow.
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Re: Good speaker for ZxR

Wed May 23, 2018 12:42 pm

In terms of price/size/audio quality, hard to beat another set of the Klipsh.

If you want to grab a pair of studio monitors though, something like this would help you connect straight away.
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Re: Good speaker for ZxR

Wed May 23, 2018 1:38 pm

DIY:

a pair of these each in a small sealed box:

https://www.madisoundspeakerstore.com/a ... gKBffD_BwE

Upper treble response is good even 30 degrees off-axis:

http://feleppa.com.au/pics/speaker_imgs ... eqResp.png

-and non-linear distortion is low down to almost 100 Hz:

http://feleppa.com.au/pics/speaker_imgs ... awHarm.png


I'd probably use a T-amp with them and make a powered subwoofer later (..probably with a MCM Subwoofer 55-2421 in a small bass reflex design).
 
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Re: Good speaker for ZxR

Wed May 23, 2018 9:01 pm

I just receiver the SB ZxR card via UPS today. Installed it and it sounds great on the pair of AKG earbuds that came with my old Galaxy S8 smartphone. They will suffice until I order the speakers. I'm not a fan of earbuds as they make my ears hurt after wearing them too long. I looked at a pair of Sennheiser cans, and I may need to consider getting a pair of those too. I'm borrowing a 2.1 speaker system from my brother until I can decide which speakers to buy. The ones I'm borrowing sound surprisingly good considering they were only 20 bucks brand new. I think the brand on them is Blackweb. I did have a set of AudioEngine A5+ speakers once, but ended up selling them with my old iMac when I was jobless and hurting for cash. The only complaint I had about the A5+ was the volume knob was coming loose from the inside of the speaker cabinet about a week after I bought them and I had to resort to using the remote control to power them on/off and adjust the volume
 
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Re: Good speaker for ZxR

Wed May 23, 2018 9:25 pm

confusedpenguin wrote:
sounds great on the pair of AKG earbuds that came with my old Galaxy S8 smartphone.....the [speakers] I'm borrowing sound surprisingly good considering they were only 20 bucks brand new.

Ooph....Temporary solutions, I know, but still..... onboard audio is pretty good these days.
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Re: Good speaker for ZxR

Wed May 23, 2018 9:36 pm

Review + measurements for the LSR305. These are professional studio monitors so the sound is really accurate.

These things are normally $150 each so a bit beyond the $200 budget but as I mentioned earlier they do occasionally go on sale for $99 a piece. Massdrop previously did a drop on them.
 
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Re: Good speaker for ZxR

Thu May 24, 2018 6:09 am

TBH if $20 off-brand speakers sound "surprisingly good" to you, I'd probably just go for middle-of-the-road 2.1 speakers from one of the big brands (e.g. Logitech) and call it a day. You won't even need to spend your entire $200 budget.
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Re: Good speaker for ZxR

Thu May 24, 2018 6:52 am

confusedpenguin wrote:
Those monoprice speakers look like they might do the job just fine. Looks like I'll need to make sure and buy a 1/4" to XLR adapter or cable though. How do those compare sound quality-wise to the AudioEngine A5+?


Audioengine make great speakers but they're rather poor value for money. If you're on a budget I would recommend avoiding Audioengine because whatever you pay for an Audioengine, you can afford to jump up to the next driver/amp/quality class with other brands like JBL, Pioneer, Presonus, M-Audio etc.

They are the Apple of active studio monitors. Good, but overhyped and overpriced. If you can get them at a significant discount then go for it!

As for soundcard quality, a lot of problems with the onboard realtek implementations stem from poor grounding and EM interference from other stuff in the PC. You will notice a significant improvement in SNR levels and general quality by just switching to a $10 USB DAC or using the built-in DAC of your monitor, assuming it has speakers/headphone-out.

FireGryphon wrote:
Grado SR80's

I hate how they look, but it is really hard to beat the SR80's in terms of audio fidelity/$

jihadjoe wrote:
LSR305

I didn't mention them because at $300 you still need to purchase an inline volume/gain control and associated cabling for at least another $50 when using an internal soundcard, or lose audio quality using software volume control (bit-clipping). In saying that, LSR305 are possibly the best pair of speaker you can hook up to a computer for less than $500. I particularly love this review of them.
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Re: Good speaker for ZxR

Thu May 24, 2018 7:11 am

Chrispy_ wrote:
As for soundcard quality, a lot of problems with the onboard realtek implementations stem from poor grounding and EM interference from other stuff in the PC. You will notice a significant improvement in SNR levels and general quality by just switching to a $10 USB DAC or using the built-in DAC of your monitor, assuming it has speakers/headphone-out.

While this was generally true in the "bad old days", things have improved quite a bit. I'd say the onboard audio on contemporary motherboards from the better manufacturers is generally on par with most discrete solutions from ~15 years ago. These days, noise pickup is as likely to be from a poorly shielded front panel audio wiring harness as it is to be from the motherboard.

I'm not sure if motherboard designers have gotten better at doing audio, or if the move to more motherboard PCB layers is responsible for the improvement. Probably some of both.
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Re: Good speaker for ZxR

Thu May 24, 2018 3:55 pm

just brew it! wrote:
I'm not sure if motherboard designers have gotten better at doing audio, or if the move to more motherboard PCB layers is responsible for the improvement. Probably some of both.

On the source side, audio solutions in general seem to have peaked in the past 10-ish years. Factory car stereos, motherboards, mobile devices, etc. are almost always "good enough" or better.
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