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Need help choosing speakers for unusual space


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Hi and thanks in advance for any responses,

 

I've recently moved and i'm in the process of purchasing a sound system for my new house. I want to start with the speakers (2.0 but maybe 2.1 if better) as I think that's the most difficult and then probably an integrated amp. My main room is largish, L-shaped, open plan and with difficult acoustics i.e. hard floors, some full length windows (which can be covered by blinds) and some ceiling height windows (which aren't covered by blinds). The walls are plaster but aren't vertical. They are 4 or 5 plaster sheets slowly rotated from the almost vertical to the almost horizontal. I have attached a floor plan showing both. The house in on the coast and built on pylons sunk into a sand dune. It vibrates, for example I can feel the house moving in strong winds or when the washing machine is in the spin cycle.

 

The position of the speakers is also pretty well fixed. Part of the main room has been partly walled off to form a study. These study walls are 2.2 meters high but do not reach the ceiling. Between the top of the walls of the study and the ceiling is a 600mm gap and it is in this gap, sitting on top of the wall, is where I want to place the speakers. I have marked this in red on the attached house plan. As the house is open plan this gap opens into the bedroom and bathroom so there is a lot of room behind the speakers. With both speakers on top of the study wall (approx 2.2 m high) they can be a maximum of 2.1 m apart. As the gap is only 600mm high I would like, for aesthetic purposes, the speakers to be a maximum of 400mm high.....unless they can be placed on their sides??? The front of the study is open (no door) and has a width of 1.2m. The study will house the amp and any other components when and if purchased.

 

With the fixed speaker locations and bad acoustics I appreciate that getting a great sound will be difficult but I would still like to do the best I can. I have a budget of   approx $1,000 but I can increase this if I can get a significant improvement by spending more or I can spend less if a similar sound (for my environment) can be obtained for less. I would also rather be flexible and find something that is good value (on sale, demo, quality/recent 2nd hand) rather than have my mind set on a particular item. 

 

I have an eclectic taste in music: r & b, soul, rock, classical, acoustic, electronic, pop....probably everything except dance and hip-hop. My party days are over and my listening level is background to medium. I never sit in a chair just to listen to music....I tend to have it on while moving around the house cooking, cleaning, doing household chores, painting, fixing stuff etc. I don't need it attached to the TV or for playing DVDs. I have a few hundred CDs and I tend to either listen to these or stream ALAC copies of these from a NAS or bluetooth MP3 (lower quality) from my computer or iPad.

 

After I get the speakers sorted next step will be to add an amp...maybe a Yamaha r-s801 or r-n803 if I can get one for a bit over a $1000....but again i can't decide this until I know the speakers match. After that a CD player and a streamer (if needed) and then I'm done for the next decade....well that's the plan!

 

Appreciative of any advice,

Chris

 

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With the speakers at a height of over 2.2m, you will need to angle them towards you to get the best out of the music.

 

Is there an option for you to keep the speakers in some other part of the room at a height such that your ears (while sitting) are on level with the speaker tweeters? How big is the study? What about having the speakers on either side of the TV?

 

An option would be to look at active speakers from the likes of Dynaudio or KEF. Couple of good examples below

 

 

 

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Cheers guys and thanks for the prompt replies.

 

I agree the speakers will need to be angled down to some extent and had planned to do this.

 

I had looked at both the classifieds you linked to earlier and discounted for a couple of reasons.

1. I don’t think either comes with a remote so that would involve me climbing on something to turn on and off....or leaving them on all the time...neither ideal.

2. I think both are more designed to be connected to computers or for wireless use...the only analogue feed in one is a 3.5mm Jack. The other was only in fair condition...I want something pretty close to perfect or new...I don’t want to touch again this decade.

3. The other components will be in the study so it will be pretty easy to run cables to the speakers...there’s no real advantage in having wireless speakers...although I will stream to the amp and play through the speakers from there. 
4. I already have an audioengine 5 with an apple express acting as a bridge attached. The sound is fantastic so either of the above may not be that significant of an upgrade for the cost.

 

I do love active speakers so I’m not ruling them out but in this instance I think passive probably suits my needs better. And if I did go wireless I would probably have more than two speakers and make sure they could play in sync eg Sonos??

 

The area of the study is only 4 or 5 sq m. I call it a study but really it’s only 2 m high shelving with an old Mac-mini I use standing up as a server for streaming audio and video. Once I get the speakers and amp sorted I’d like to connect this via Ethernet. 
 

I have been here for a little over 12 months and I have considered other locations and in the ceiling (costly to install (min $500 where I’m located) and also no flexibility once installed). Overall, unless I’ve missed something major, I’m just after some recommendations for some speakers (probably passive) for the location described in the OP.

 

Thanks again for your replies,

Chris
 

 

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Would suggest that you put the speakers either on some brackets or an inclined stand so that you can angle them towards the listening position.

 

There is a demo unit here for some Dynaudio speakers. They will be a worthy upgrade to your Audioengine A5

https://addictedtoaudio.com.au/products/dynaudio-xeo-2-wireless-bookshelf-speakers

 

It does come with a remote, and you can also add the Dynaudio connect (around $300) which gives more connectivity options.

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If you're already enjoying the sound from your A5's, then perhaps it's worth considering a pair of Audioengine HDP6's?

- They fit your preference for passives

- I've auditioned the HD6's (the active equivalent) and although they have a similar sound signature to the A5's, I thought they  were a worthy upgrade... more dynamic, altogether sound 'bigger'

- (I auditioned them in store, so the listening environment was nowhere near as challenging as yours so YMMV)

 

A more significant upgrade would be something like a pair of KEF Q150's:

- Theoretically because of how the drivers are arranged they should be more forgiving about where you sit/stand in relation to them, and have a bigger 'sweet spot' for listening

- (I'm betting on that theory as I have a pair of KEF's on the way to hopefully solve my tendency to move around my listening space - same as yours, open plan and meandering. I wish I could give you a more definitive opinion but they haven't arrived yet.)

 

Unfortunately there don't seem to be any offers to sell either of the above speakers second-hand. But brand new either of them easily fit within your $1000 budget, with the Audioengine's sliding in at under half that.

Edited by QuinnInSydney
typos, and I have a touch of OCD!
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4 hours ago, anandpkumar said:

 

There is a demo unit here for some Dynaudio speakers. They will be a worthy upgrade to your Audioengine A5

https://addictedtoaudio.com.au/products/dynaudio-xeo-2-wireless-bookshelf-speakers

 

 

Thank you, I've spent the last hour reading about these and they get fantastic reviews. Also being advertised at a great price. I also like that if there's no signal coming in they put themselves to sleep.

 

I'm interested but they're not perfect for my intended use for these reasons...none of them insurmountable.

1. They're wireless, which isn't a negative, but as I have to run a 240v cable to both it's no extra hassle to run a RCA  cord.  I do need the ability to get wireless in an amp or pre-amp but there's a number of ways of doing that.

2. Interactions are bluetooth only. I'm in an all apple household and we have a seperate wifi network for playing video and music from a NAS...this network isn't connected to the internet and we mainly use apple Airplay. Switching to bluetooth will require adjustments.

3. My CD collection is stored as ALAC (Apple lossless) and this doesn't stream ALAC. I can convert to ACC (plays but is lossy) or FLAC (Lossless but doesn't play on apple devices) but neither of these are perfect. I could keep two sets but...

 

I'm impressed but for my use and system they're not perfect....but then nothing will be.....but I do like them....thanks again for introducing me to them!

 

Chris

 

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Hi mate.......understand your constraints, we all have to work around some constraints or the other while setting up our audio stuff. 

 

Just a couple of points though:

1. The Dynaudio speakers don't run only on wireless. You can connect wired inputs to them. See the image below. It supports RCA (3.5 mm), RCA pair (L&R) and digital optical. It uses wireless to synch between the 2 speakers so that you don't have to run cables from one speaker to the other

image.png.0ac4a9ca4cfbdd85ab86a3705570ca2d.png

 

2. Regrading playing ALAC files, if you are going to be connecting through the RCA connectors in the back, it does not matter what format your files are since a DAC would already have done the conversion for you to analogue. If you plan on using the optical input, then it does make a difference  - though I find it difficult to believe that they don't support ALAC. Did you check the specifications sheet/user manual from the Dynaudio site?

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16 hours ago, QuinnInSydney said:

 

A more significant upgrade would be something like a pair of KEF Q150's:

- Theoretically because of how the drivers are arranged they should be more forgiving about where you sit/stand in relation to them, and have a bigger 'sweet spot' for listening

- (I'm betting on that theory as I have a pair of KEF's on the way to hopefully solve my tendency to move around my listening space - same as yours, open plan and meandering. I wish I could give you a more definitive opinion but they haven't arrived yet.)

 


Thank you, I enjoyed reading about the 150’s last night which led me to the q350’s...similar but a little bigger for not that many more $. May be a little too much bass for my preference but that can always be adjusted!
 

That then led me to Definitive Technology and their D9’s and D11’s which are both in my price range.

 

After that the Klipsch rp-160m which could be great and the rp-600 which could be ideal but sadly just out of my price range.

 

But they all look good with (from reading) not much between them....but is that the case when listening? Decisions!

 

More research to be done today and thanks again for your thoughts.

 

Chris

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11 hours ago, anandpkumar said:

 

Just a couple of points though:

1. The Dynaudio speakers don't run only on wireless. You can connect wired inputs to them. See the image below. It supports RCA (3.5 mm), RCA pair (L&R) and digital optical. It uses wireless to synch between the 2 speakers so that you don't have to run cables from one speaker to the other


Cheers and I did realise that they could be connected by RCA and I would definitely be doing this. In fact this was one of the reasons they appealed so much. But I will also be using them wirelessly and my current set-up works with a wireless network as distinct from Bluetooth. It’s more of a hassle to covert than an insurmountable problem....and I’m still thinking and researching and I still like them...a lot!

 

Regarding ALAC....my understanding is that anything Bluetooth can only do AAC. The only way to get ALAC (without loss or compression) streamed is by using Airplay which only works on a wireless (as distinct from Bluetooth) network. Obviously, I can still play ALAC through the rca inputs so I need to consider how how important streaming ALAC is. But technology changes quickly so maybe my knowledge is outdated....more research!

 

Thanks again for your help,

Chris

 

PS I should add that Bluetooth isn’t bad and it has it’s advantages but being able to connect to my current wireless network and stream from that suits my needs better.

 

PPS I should also add that there are other ways of streaming ALAC besides Airplay eg Sonos, MusicCast & others but I’m pretty sure they can't do it over Bluetooth either, only a wireless network. I think Bluetooth’s the limiting factor, not Dynaudio.

Edited by chris9753
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22 hours ago, chris9753 said:

Hi and thanks in advance for any responses,

 

I've recently moved and i'm in the process of purchasing a sound system for my new house. I want to start with the speakers (2.0 but maybe 2.1 if better) as I think that's the most difficult and then probably an integrated amp. My main room is largish, L-shaped, open plan and with difficult acoustics i.e. hard floors, some full length windows (which can be covered by blinds) and some ceiling height windows (which aren't covered by blinds). The walls are plaster but aren't vertical. They are 4 or 5 plaster sheets slowly rotated from the almost vertical to the almost horizontal. I have attached a floor plan showing both. The house in on the coast and built on pylons sunk into a sand dune. It vibrates, for example I can feel the house moving in strong winds or when the washing machine is in the spin cycle.

 

The position of the speakers is also pretty well fixed. Part of the main room has been partly walled off to form a study. These study walls are 2.2 meters high but do not reach the ceiling. Between the top of the walls of the study and the ceiling is a 600mm gap and it is in this gap, sitting on top of the wall, is where I want to place the speakers. I have marked this in red on the attached house plan. As the house is open plan this gap opens into the bedroom and bathroom so there is a lot of room behind the speakers. With both speakers on top of the study wall (approx 2.2 m high) they can be a maximum of 2.1 m apart. As the gap is only 600mm high I would like, for aesthetic purposes, the speakers to be a maximum of 400mm high.....unless they can be placed on their sides??? The front of the study is open (no door) and has a width of 1.2m. The study will house the amp and any other components when and if purchased.

 

With the fixed speaker locations and bad acoustics I appreciate that getting a great sound will be difficult but I would still like to do the best I can. I have a budget of   approx $1,000 but I can increase this if I can get a significant improvement by spending more or I can spend less if a similar sound (for my environment) can be obtained for less. I would also rather be flexible and find something that is good value (on sale, demo, quality/recent 2nd hand) rather than have my mind set on a particular item. 

 

I have an eclectic taste in music: r & b, soul, rock, classical, acoustic, electronic, pop....probably everything except dance and hip-hop. My party days are over and my listening level is background to medium. I never sit in a chair just to listen to music....I tend to have it on while moving around the house cooking, cleaning, doing household chores, painting, fixing stuff etc. I don't need it attached to the TV or for playing DVDs. I have a few hundred CDs and I tend to either listen to these or stream ALAC copies of these from a NAS or bluetooth MP3 (lower quality) from my computer or iPad.

 

After I get the speakers sorted next step will be to add an amp...maybe a Yamaha r-s801 or r-n803 if I can get one for a bit over a $1000....but again i can't decide this until I know the speakers match. After that a CD player and a streamer (if needed) and then I'm done for the next decade....well that's the plan!

 

Appreciative of any advice,

Chris

 

plan.jpeg

There are some Lenehan ML2 Reference in the classified section which are an absolute steal at $3k. I already own 7 Lenehan speakers and don't need them but keep looking at them. 

 

Heavy for wall mount though, 38kg each... But nothing can touch the performance for this price. Closest would probably be at least $10k for new ones... 

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1 hour ago, DrSK said:

There are some Lenehan ML2 Reference in the classified section which are an absolute steal at $3k. I already own 7 Lenehan speakers and don't need them but keep looking at them. 

 

Heavy for wall mount though, 38kg each... But nothing can touch the performance for this price. Closest would probably be at least $10k for new ones... 

 

Thanks....going to look now!

 

edit:

 

Had a look and they look and suspect they would sound amazing! But as well as being out of my price range I think they’re out of my knowledge base as well...eg I have no idea how to drive them. I’m also pretty sure they’d be wasted in my environment due to the ordinary acoustics. Thanks anyway!

Edited by chris9753
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As a different approach, since you’re already an Apple household, have you considered a pair of Apple Homepods? 
That would sidestep placement difficulties as they can ‘tune’ themselves to the room regardless of where you place them. 
Just another two cents’ worth. 
Good luck. As you’re already aware, that’s a tricky room shape. 

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If you are considering Xeo 2 then have a look at the demo sale of Xeo 4 as that comes with the hub. That sale is at addicted to audio.

 

I would highly recommend auditioning Q150 or Q350. I found them to be really inaccurate in playing string instruments. I would not buy them but others seem to like the sound.

 

I would be cautious of anything with bass emphasis as I think for that space treble would struggle to carry but bass would. So you would hear a a lot of bass everywhere and it would kill any treble or mid details.

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5 hours ago, chris9753 said:

 

Thanks....going to look now!

 

edit:

 

Had a look and they look and suspect they would sound amazing! But as well as being out of my price range I think they’re out of my knowledge base as well...eg I have no idea how to drive them. I’m also pretty sure they’d be wasted in my environment due to the ordinary acoustics. Thanks anyway!

You could drive them with anything from a 2nd hand $200 NAD amplifier and do very well initially connected to Chromecast or Sonos Connect. Or drive them with a $30,000 amp too and do much better. I'd seriously try and get my hands on these. 

 

I have the smaller and older ML1s driving a similar L shaped area (60m2) of similar size but 2.4 ceilings as my secondary system. Even these smaller speakers are rated at 300W and don't distort and run fine with 40W, 130W amps etc. Your amps and DAC etc will be the limiting factor for much time to come. 

 

The clarity is superb which is a big benefit into a complicated space. I started with Jamos 6 years ago and was immediately thinking I needed room treatments to cut through the muddy sound. I didn't, just needed a far better imaging speaker with superb clarity. 

 

 

Edited by DrSK
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17 hours ago, rusty48 said:

As a different approach, since you’re already an Apple household, have you considered a pair of Apple Homepods? 
That would sidestep placement difficulties as they can ‘tune’ themselves to the room regardless of where you place them. 
Just another two cents’ worth. 
Good luck. As you’re already aware, that’s a tricky room shape. 

I hadn’t seen these before and if the reviews are correct they could be the perfect solution, staggering about the quality of sound if all true....no doubt, somewhere along the line, this and their like will be the future of listening to music!

 

But, on an emotional level, I’m not sure I’m ready for it! I buy CDs and then rip to stream through my home network because I still like the physical connection....and enjoyment wise, I feel like I still need a CD player, amp, speakers etc.....maybe, it’s time to let the past go and embrace the future??
 

On a purely, intellectual level this is probably the the perfect solution but I’m not sure it’s for me....but it probably should be!

 

Thanks, those thoughts are worth a lot more than 2c!

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17 hours ago, gwurb said:

 

I would be cautious of anything with bass emphasis as I think for that space treble would struggle to carry but bass would. So you would hear a a lot of bass everywhere and it would kill any treble or mid details.

 


Thanks, this is great advice and exactly why I joined the forum.....it’s something I hadn’t considered but makes perfect sense! Going to check out the Xeo 4 now!
 

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7 hours ago, chris9753 said:


Thanks, this is great advice and exactly why I joined the forum.....it’s something I hadn’t considered but makes perfect sense! Going to check out the Xeo 4 now!
 

There is no issue with mid or treble carry. Only an issue if you don't have a very good speaker to begin with with low clarity and poor off axis response. This would give the appearance of poor carry, but isn't really a room issue. This is what happened when I used Jamo, and thought I needed room treatments. 

 

Your space isn't that big. And it is actually smaller spaces where base is an issue as low order room modes means base gets emphasised.

 

Like I said, my secondary system is in a space with about the same size and L shaped floor plan. You have marginally higher ceilings. And I have run mains here with solid output to 35Hz and a bit lower. These mains are the same as the link I sent, which are now in my main system and I'm running the smaller ML1s instead in the space similar to yours. 

Edited by DrSK
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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks everyone, particularly DrSK, gwurb, Rusty48, anandpkumar, and quinninsydney for your thoughts.

 

I ended up buying the system in the photo below. A Vincent SV-200 Amp, a Vincent 200 CD player and Triangle Esprit Heyda EZ speakers. To my ear the hybrids sounded a little warmer and cleaner than other stuff I listened to. They lacked a little when I played Greenday but they sounded great for Natalie Merchant (Verdi Cries), Joan Osborne (Midnight train to Georgia) and Ryan Adams etc which is 90% of the music I play. I also suspect I'm not a true audiophile as other factors beside sound quality came into consideration. Factors such as size, value and the narrative....I like the fact that Triangle and Vincent are made/assembled in France and Germany respectively.

 

The system sounded great as shown in the photo below but as soon as I put the speakers on the wall the sound fell apart. I suspect we all knew this would happen. From most positions in the room it just sounded like good quality mono....and I did try various angles and placements. Already they have been moved, to a lounge downstairs which has great acoustics and which was hardly used. Hopefully this system and room will now be used and valued much more.

 

I have place the AudioEngine A5s on the wall and currently experimenting with streaming through an Apple Express or an old Apple TV (the old ones have an optical out) and a cheap $50 dac both of which I had laying around. This doesn't sound quite as good (but I don't really notice it as I'm normally doing stuff) but as a bonus I have a much better sound downstairs. The only difficulty is standing on a chair to turn the AudioEngine's on and off but I'm wondering if I do this at the power point will it cause any damage??

 

When I purchased these I also intended to buy a Bluesound Node 2i but couldn't as they were out of stock...this may have turned out to be a blessing. The sound through the Express or Apple TV may not be quite as good but I'm not sure I'm noticing a difference and I have an extra $1,000 to play with. Besides SQ (maybe) and convenience (maybe) I can't think of an advantage a Bluesound would offer. I may be better off investing in a DAC...can anyone suggest a good quality DAC for around $1000....or maybe even an Apple Homepod to play with???

 

And finally to the people who suggested buying second hand....I thought about this long and hard but the reality is I don't know enough to know what's good and what's priced appropriately...and the good stuff seems to get snapped up pretty quickly. Thank you for your suggestions, I'm sure there's some great stuff out there, and I'm certainly not ruling it out in the future, but at this stage of my journey it wasn't for me.

 

Thanks again for your helpfulness and advice,

 

Chris

 

 

stereo.jpg

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Looks nice. As long as you enjoy the music, then you got the right setup!

 

Its night and day when you go from good sounding setup to something that doesn't sound as good. I don't mind loss in quality for background music when I am moving about but when I am in the space and it's playing, so much nicer when it's music to the ears.

 

The AudioEngine A5 on/off is a good question. There may be a delay circuit of some kind inside the speakers that helps with protection, and relies on the switch. I doubt that they are that sophisticated. Any protection mechanism is smarter to be in electronics charging up anyway. I would be comfortable doing power at the wall.

 

Is the DAC for the Triangle or Audioengine setup? You want to be able to stream to both or only one of them? Wirelessly? Or do you want to plug in a computer into a DAC and play via that? Or play via Ethernet? 
 

I've used Apple TV 3 before with optical out and to me it sounded flat. So I think you can definitely get an improvement in sound.

 

I agree, second hand is great when you know a particular thing that you want.

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Thank you for your quick response and knowledge....I intend to use the DAC downstairs for the Vincent/Triangle set-up. I'm really pleased with the sound from CDs and CD player which is what I bought it for and anticipate using for 75% of the time. However, if I play something through the amp, to my ear, it's not as good. And the CDs sound much better if I use the dac in the CD player rather than input it optically into the amp....so I'm assuming the dac in the amp can be improved??? 

 

I intend to (and can already) stream to both wirelessly. How often?....Vincent/Triangle not so much (25% of time??) but the audioengines will be streamed to virtually 100% of the time.

 

I'm not too fussed about the sound coming from the audioengines as due to the room I suspect it will be difficult to get significant improvement anyway and, as I'm normally doing something else, it's not that important.

 

Thanks again for you help,

 

Chris

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Looking good, Chris!

 

12 hours ago, chris9753 said:

I also suspect I'm not a true audiophile as other factors beside sound quality came into consideration. 

Nonsense. I think being honest about your listening situation and habits, and not 'wasting' your gears' abilities when you're not going to pay attention to them, makes you just as much an 'audiophile' as anyone else. At least it does in my books. Admittedly I'm in the same compromise-filled situation, so my book is a little biased ?

 

12 hours ago, chris9753 said:

The only difficulty is standing on a chair to turn the AudioEngine's on and off but I'm wondering if I do this at the power point will it cause any damage??

I owned a pair of Audioengine A2's, first generation (same as yours I think), for over a decade, and I turned them on/off at the wall almost every day. I never experienced a problem. I also bought a pair of A5's (also first generation) a few years ago, and do the same thing powering them on/off at the wall. Same story, no problems. 

 

One thing I try to do, however, is make sure there's no signal going to them when I first turn them on. (I press play _after_566 I turn the speakers on.) I'm no electrician, so I have no idea if that actually helps or if I'm just being superstitious ?

 

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On 06/07/2020 at 12:17 PM, chris9753 said:

I intend to use the DAC downstairs for the Vincent/Triangle set-up. I'm really pleased with the sound from CDs and CD player which is what I bought it for and anticipate using for 75% of the time. However, if I play something through the amp, to my ear, it's not as good. And the CDs sound much better if I use the dac in the CD player rather than input it optically into the amp....so I'm assuming the dac in the amp can be improved??? 

 

I intend to (and can already) stream to both wirelessly. How often?....Vincent/Triangle not so much (25% of time??) but the audioengines will be streamed to virtually 100% of the time.

1. CD player RCA out -> Integrated amplifier RCA in 

2. CD player optical out -> Integrated amplifier optical in

If you find 1 better than 2 then you find the DAC in the CD player more enjoyable than the DAC in the Integrated amplifier. You are spot on.

 

I would recommend getting a DAC that is neutral. My reasoning for this is that your Integrated amp has it's own sound, and if you enjoy the sound of your amplifier then a neutral DAC means you don't influence the sound even before it reaches your amplifier. 

 

There are a lot of options for DACs under $1000. My personal recommendation is to go for Topping E30. It's neutral (maybe on the 'warm' side if you perceive differences between DAC chips; and AK DAC chips are considered more warm than ESS DAC chips) and its fairly cheap ( https://addictedtoaudio.com.au/products/topping-e30-desktop-usb-dac ). If you don't like it then you will get close to purchase price on second hand market. If you don't enjoy it then there are a lot of other options :)

 

With Topping E30 you will get USB, optical and coaxial inputs. You will get RCA out. 

 

You could then have an option of going:

CD player optical out -> DAC optical in -> DAC RCA out -> Integrated amplifier RCA in

You could also maintain 

CD player RCA out -> Integrated amplifier RCA in

and have the DAC for streamers so you would have

Apple TV optical out -> DAC optical in -> DAC RCA out -> Integrated amplifier RCA in

 

There is another 'cheap' option, Yamaha WXC-50 in 'player' mode.  It does not have as good of a DAC as Topping E30, but you get native Airplay support with no extra device needed for streaming. 

 

If you would rather just spend a bit more straight away and not use the Apple TV then I would recommend second hand Cambridge Audio CXN. I had one. It has network streaming via Ethernet or WiFi. I liked the way Airplay sounded with it. It has optical and coax input. It has optical and coax output. It has USB device playback, and computer USB input. It has unbalanced RCA and balanced XLR output. I sold mine for somewhere between $700-$800 (don't remember). Get V2 if you can. They do pop up on classifieds. I have never seen measurements for the DAC so I can only comment on my listening impression, and that was good.

 

The last option that I will mention is Bluesound Node 2i. The app for it is better than the CA CXN app. But it has less inputs and less outputs. I haven't heard it so I can't comment on the sound quality. The DAC in it does not measure as well as the Topping E30. 

Edited by gwurb
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@QuinnInSydney and @gwurb thank you very much for your replies.....lots to think about and research which I've been doing. My CDs had been in boxes for a couple of years so I was keen to get my initial system set up and the CDs out. This works fine. The AppleTV (using the Toslink out, mac-mini/iPhone/iPad) is sufficient to stream internet radio or from my NAS at the moment. I feel like I don't need to rush to decide on a upgrade path as I can do everything I want already...it's just about improving SQ. I think I want a seperate DAC and streamer (which rules out the Bluesound Node 2i and Cambridge Audio CXN unfortunately). I worry about a streamer becoming outdated and even unusable whereas a DAC can theoretically work for decades so my getting seperate units I feel as though i'm future proofing to some extent. 

 

As well as playing with positioning of speakers, leads etc first step in the upgrade path will be a DAC followed by a streamer. The Toppings look great gwurb, the e30 or perhaps even the D50s. No idea about a streamer yet. Thanks again and I'll let you know how I'm progressing!

 

Chris

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