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Rodolfo
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Audiophile Challenge: Best $3000 Setup

Hello stereophile readers,
It's a pleasure to be joining the ranks of audio experts. New to the audiophile world, I'm looking to all of you for some direction and guidance with helping me create my first-ever audiophile home audio setup. I'll be moving into a new construction high-rise condo unit in April '07. The challenge? To create the best value audiophile quality system for ~$3000. Here are some constraints:

-Listening Area (Living Room) Size: 17.5' x 15'
-Stereo Set-up (two channels only)
-High Quality Digital Audio (lossless) stored on Computer - output to high-end speakers

Having only spent the last month or so weighing my options for playing computer-stored music, I'm still unsure as to the best combination of devices/technology that will result in the highest quality home audio sound, given my budget. Is it better to invest in a USB/Firewire DAC, for example, or a "nice" receiver with a built-in DAC? What are the best speakers to use for this set-up (I'm considering floor standing B&Ws)? Will having the computer in the same room contribute to noticeable "noise" in the audio system? As I move forward, I'm sure that some of your opinions and recommendations will help me identify the best value audio system for my new condo. Looking forward to your ideas, thanks!
jr314

tomjtx
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Re: Audiophile Challenge: Best $3000 Setup

That is a limited budget but you can do well.

Consider the following:
Squeezebox to stream your music from the computer to your amp. The SB will give you easy access to 1,000's of radio stations as well.
linear power supply for the SB
Good Integrated amp.
Speakers
Cables
SB 300.00
Elpac PSU 40.00
Integrated amp 1,000.00 ?
150 for cables
1,500.00 for speakers
Try Blue Jeans cable for good, inexpensive speaker cable and IC's.
Or, even better, IMHO, go to Anti Cables for your cabling.

Peruse Stereophle for the rest in your price range.
Consider buying used on audiogon etc. after you have done your research. You can put together a much better system for the price if you go used.
Audiophiles are notoriously anal retentive and take good care of their equipment.
If you want to break your budget or upgrade later consider a LavryDAC10 or Benchmark and use the SB digital outs. The Lavry is better IMHO but the Benchmark is showing up used and could be a great buy. There are also mods to the Benchmark for later uprades (PartsXpress)

Later you can add a line conditioner and other tweaks.

have fun and , remember, I know a good bankruptcy attorney :-)

CECE
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Re: Audiophile Challenge: Best $3000 Setup

With only $3000 for stuff spending $150 on wire is absurd!!! Let alone a power conditioner.

Jim Tavegia
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Re: Audiophile Challenge: Best $3000 Setup

Digital Audio Labs Card Deluxe $399
Triangle Heliade or B and W 603s $1K/pr
Jolida JD 302B $1K
Teac DVD/CD burner for your computer/ Pioneer or Teac $50?
DiscWelder Bronze $100 for HiRez file burning
With the money left over buy a turntable and phono stage from Music Hall, Project, or Goldering, or a stand alone CD player for when your computer is off.

Pour your favorite beverage, put an tiny umbrella in it and chill out to some fine tunes.

jazzfan
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Re: Audiophile Challenge: Best $3000 Setup

Jim,

I agree with almost all your recommendations except for the on board sound card - it's so old school. I really think that he should go with an external DAC so that a) he's not tied down to a given computer and operating system and b) he can move the computer out of the listening room if it should prove to be too noisy or should he go with a laptop based computer system.

Other than that you're dead on, especially the tiny umbrella.

RGibran
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Re: Audiophile Challenge: Best $3000 Setup

Welcome to the Forum, JR314...

Tom's recomendation is the correct route to take, in answer to your specific request. I dunno where some of these other folks come up with burners, burning software and Turntable setups.

The Squeezebox, networked wired or wireless to your computer, then fed to a used Benchmark DAC or similiar, then to an integrated (I'm thinking Exposure?)then to high end speakers (Triangle or Vanderstein) is a sweet setup for computer served music.

RG

Jim Tavegia
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Re: Audiophile Challenge: Best $3000 Setup

Jazzfan,

I agree, but the DALCD with full Hi Rez I/O is better than any stand alone ADC you could find for $399. RME has a new ADI2 that is ADDA for about $699 that is probably pretty nice for a duplex device. I also like the Lucid DA9624 with headphone out that streets out at about $699 (similar to the Benchmark) , but it is a digital to analog converter only. Probably the Channel Islands DAC is worth looking into at a much lower price, as is the Perpetual Technology DAC at about $1K.

The DALCD is also balanced I/O so long cable runs will be less of an issue from another room. It may be old school interface style, but the sound is not. As a playback device for the Hi Rez Disc Welder files this 24/96 converter would deliver the goods.

This is an interesting topic about audio with the computer put directly into the mix. This is probably the route that many music lovers could be turned into audiophiles if they heard the possiblities something more than MP3s and a Sound Blaster could offer.

I know where you are headed...always in the right direction. We all need to spend a little time with the "Umbrellas" !!

RME ADI2

tomjtx
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Re: Audiophile Challenge: Best $3000 Setup

Jim,

using a computer based source(Transporter for me ) has revolutionized the way I listen to music. It is the best digital playback I've ever had in my system.
i still love my LP12/graham setup though.

Tom

Scooter123
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Re: Audiophile Challenge: Best $3000 Setup

Simple, NAD C372 amplifier, PSB Image T-65 Tower loudspeakers, and a Squeezebox. Should do anything that you could ask for and leave you some change left over (unless you decide you really need those high dollar interconnects).

BTW, the NAD C372 rated quite highly, has 150 wpc, and costs about 900 USD. I have one and it's the quietest amplifier I have ever owned and sounds great.

Stereophile hasn't rated the PSB T-65 yet but they have rated the Image T-25 bookshelf and the T-4 tower and both got great reviews. I have the T-45 (750 USD) and love them but they do fall off at about 45 hz. The T-65's are more expensive but will get down to the 30's and your budget allows the more expensive speakers.

As for the Squeezebox, everyone who has one loves it and that includes Stereophile. Read the review and decide for yourself.

Jim Tavegia
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Re: Audiophile Challenge: Best $3000 Setup

You started with a much higher plane of reference than most who delve into the computer-music arena. And, you seem to not be willing to sacrifice sound quality just for the convenience of a music server. Kudos.

I have been working on a new recording project and seem to have this sonic problem in my sound card for my Dell LapTop. I am coming of the opinion that it is easier to like and less likey to show problems when listening on headphones. Phase issues left uncovered? At least that has seemed to happend to me. Once I started doing some testing and sending some freqs into the "laptop system" did I uncover the issues. Then I started comparing the same recording through my old DAT and a Sony SACD player and began to note the sonic problems.

It also gave me a chance to readdress where my hearing is and I was shocked to find out how deficient it has become, and only at age 59. PLEASE DO NOT LISTEN TO LOUD AND TAKE CARE OF YOUR MOST PRECIOUS AUDIO POSSESSION! I will not allow myself to be the final word on the mastering of this recording.

I have verified my computer card has some malfunction and am re-recording some practice tracks for the upcoming recording session this Sunday afternoon. Using my old Sony DAT has proven that just because techonolgy is old does not make it bad, or less than useful. It has allowed me not to make a serious sonic mistake for my client, by thinking my laptop/audio card was right.

Elk
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Re: Audiophile Challenge: Best $3000 Setup

Excellent observations and advice, Jim.

Our hearing "goes" quite rapidly with age under the best circumstances. It is well worth taking care of it.

Headphones are great at uncovering certain problems, such as clicks, background noises, issues with edits and crossfades and the like. I find it very hard to EQ and to mix with headphones, although some do so sucessfully.

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