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qmacpoint
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Replacing PC audio setup

Wed Nov 07, 2018 9:58 am

I currently have a Logitech Z337 driving my general computer / laptop audio needs, and I want a decent upgrade. The Z337 has all the features I want (subwoofer, bluetooth audio, two input sources: Main PC and Laptop dock), but the sound quality is meh at best. Do you know of a better sound system?

Just FYI, I'm not quite interested into having a dedicated amp/bookshelf speakers combo, as that would mean I would want to watch a movie or play games on my TV, and I already have that sort of setup. Any ideas are appreciated!
 
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Re: Replacing PC audio setup

Wed Nov 07, 2018 10:26 am

Some judicious application of EQ can make mediocre speakers sound a lot better...
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Re: Replacing PC audio setup

Wed Nov 07, 2018 10:48 am

This.

I have a really nice dolby AV receiver and 5.1 setup in the main room and some decent but ordinary studio monitors on my desktop. Both sound mediocre (they have issues) without calibration, the desktop particularly so because they're in an alcove.

In saying that the Z337s are pretty basic speakers. I'm sure they sound reasonable for games and action movies but a lack of ribbon or silk-dome tweeter puts a low bar on their upper-range clarity and I'd be surprised if the bass was taut or detailed.

It depends how much space you have but if it's only going to be a 2.1 or 2.0 setup, look at studio monitors first. Most of them do not include bluetooth but the Mackie CR5-BT are well reviewed and I've heard other speakers in their CR series and found them decent. An amp and separates is a decent option if you intend to go down the surround sound route, for sure - I'm not really sure it's worth it for PC audio given the large choice of active studio monitors on the market. I was certainly relieved to switch back to active speakers after using a separate amp for a decade.

I only have a little experience of bluetooth-enabled speakers, but reviews of many 'audiophile' brands mention noise or hum - and I've returned some good-quality Presonus Ceres speakers for this exact reason. The Mackie CR5-BT are not immune from this phenomenon. I expect having the bluetooth electronics inside the speaker means that some interference is inevitable. You can buy EXTERNAL bluetooth receivers that connect via 3.5mm or TRS audio jack, and that's probably the best way to add bluetooth to a decenty-quality audio setup without introducing interference to the analogue speakers.

Also, from experience, even the better motherboards with isolated PCBs can still pick up interference from your PC. I'd recommend an external USB DAC to ensure the conversion is done away from the EMI hell of your PC case. It doesn't have to be fancy, and I'm using a $99 CA DACMagic V2 which is more than adequate, but I was perfectly happy with the headphone DAC in my old monitor too.
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Re: Replacing PC audio setup

Wed Nov 07, 2018 5:48 pm

Yes, I can only afford a setup of a similar size as my Z337's (2.1, speakers half the size of studio monitors). As for an EQ - I have an Asus ROG STRIX X370 F GAMING Motherboard (what a mouthful), and it's EQ is so terrible (Realtek drivers) I gave up on it. Would you recommend a particular DAC that has USB + Audio inputs? Sadly this is one area I have no idea about.
 
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Re: Replacing PC audio setup

Wed Nov 07, 2018 5:55 pm

Sub-$100 really makes this difficult.
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Re: Replacing PC audio setup

Wed Nov 07, 2018 5:57 pm

Per the spec page, satellite size is: Height x Width x Depth: 7.6 in (192.8 mm) x 4.3 in (108 mm) x 3.5 in (90 mm)...

To try and match that desk footprint even something like an Audioengine A2+ (6.00 x 4.00 x 5.30" (15.20 x 10.16 x 13.50 cm) per B&H spec page) is about all that comes to mind, and that doesn't come with all the features you want, even at 2.5x the price.
 
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Re: Replacing PC audio setup

Wed Nov 07, 2018 6:00 pm

I bought a pair of Klipsch R15PM bookshelf speakers that have their own built in amp and I'm happy with them. I might purchase a subwoofer for them later but they do well on their own. Originally prices at $500, I got them on sale for $350. I already have a Sound Blaster ZxR to hook them to but they have a built-in USB DAC that sounds fine by itself. Optical input as well. RCA line-in as well as phono in, and 3.5 aux jack input. Has a subwoofer out on the back and has a nice IR remote control. They sound like what you would expect from Klipsch. The advertised wattage is underrated. These things get pretty loud. They are a bit larger than the AudioEngine A5+ but they sound better. :-)
 
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Re: Replacing PC audio setup

Wed Nov 07, 2018 9:15 pm

https://www.reddit.com/r/zeos

https://www.reddit.com/r/Zeos/comments/ ... kers_amps/

Z has updated some of his guides on reddit. I do not have the patience to watch his video reviews entirely as some go on for 30+ min but I do check occasionally on what he's tested. His advice on desktop positioning of speakers and calibrating with mono to balance for better sound stage makes sense. He's tested many various brands/types at different price points.
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Re: Replacing PC audio setup

Fri Nov 09, 2018 12:29 am

That list seems pretty comprehensive... and those are very good reviews! I'll check them out!
 
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Re: Replacing PC audio setup

Fri Nov 09, 2018 8:09 am

Ouch, $100 is nothing for decent audio.

Decent monitors start at about $100 each, and you still want a DAC.
Decent amps start at $50 and you won't have decent speakers for it to power with the remaining $50.
There are some 3" monitors under $100 that aren't terrible (Presonus Eris 3.5, Samson M30, Mackie CR3, M-Audio AV32) but these are really compact mixing speakers and wouldn't be ideal for general use unless you're the sort of person who doesn't care about bass too much.

Personally, I'd avoid the no-name monitors on ebay and amazon, it's usually cheap paper cones and bottom-of-the-barrely amplifier circuits. They'll probably sound better than your existing set but maybe not by a whole lot.

If you can afford to wait for a bit and save some cash, the Klipsch Promedia 2.1 is probably the defacto PC speaker upgrade. It's not the most refined or balanced sound you can get for the money but it ticks your boxes and it's affordable(ish) at $160-180 if you hunt around. I think if your focus is action movies and gaming it's very hard to beat for the price.

If you want more clarity, fidelity, and a balanced frequency response for enjoyment of more music genres, then you should be looking to acquire some 5" bookshelf speakers from the used market and a used amp to power them, all run off an external DAC. It doesn't need to be a particularly fancy DAC - the one in your monitor would be fine to start off with, otherwise a $10 USB DAC off amazon is going to be as good, if not better. The point of a USB DAC is not to provide the highest quality DAC (your sub-$300 speakers will still be the lowest common denominator) but to ensure that the DAC isn't in a metal box that's flooded with EMI. This is why Integrated DACs in your monitor, if your monitor has a headphone-out jack, are absolutely fine at your budget. Hell, I've been unable to hear the difference between an Acer monitor DAC and my 'audiophile' DAC even when using $500 of speakers.

At any rate, the best low-budget bookshelf speakers in my subjective opinion are the Micca MB42 - you can get them for $50-60 and if you pair with a cheap class-T amplifier in the 30-50W region you should still fit everything in your budget, just!
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Re: Replacing PC audio setup

Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:40 am

Heh, while it would be good to stay in a $100 budget - I never said I had that constraint... just the Z337 brand new costs as much. My problem is not money (well... up to an extent) but space. I have an IKEA desk that doesn't really allow me to have full-size bookshelf speakers (I'm already using most of the real estate in driving two monitors w/ an hydraulic vesa mount).

Now perhaps I may get a bashing in here for mentioning this, but I've been looking at a used Bose Companion 5, as they are really well advertised, and the size/dimensions are quite a fit - I would be losing Bluetooth capabilities, which would be a bummer. Plus I'm not sure , but I wonder if there's any combination that can deliver the same (or better) sound within that form factor.

As continuum said, the satellites would need to be around 7.6 in (192.8 mm) x 4.3 in (108 mm) x 3.5 in (90 mm) (HxWxD)

Edit: Also I'm thinking perhaps I could just use the same Z337 with a DAC that supports EQ and be done with it haha!
 
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Re: Replacing PC audio setup

Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:48 am

You don't need a special DAC just to do EQ. Just run Equalizer APO on your computer.

It works with profiles generated by REW.
 
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Re: Replacing PC audio setup

Fri Nov 09, 2018 12:10 pm

I use REW and Equalizer APO and can definitely recommend spending the couple of hours it takes to figure out how it works, what it does and tweaking your room. The learning curve is a bit steep but it's sooooo worth the result.
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