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SilverLitz
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Last seen: 10 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: Sep 2 2013 - 5:32am
Help on Building Nearfield Desktop System

I need help deciding which way to go regarding building my nearfield, desktop audio system, with 2-3 feet between speaker and ear.  I am building a high value, moderate cost, but high quality system for my computer, a PC running JRiver being fed by uncompressed WAV files from my NAS.   I consider myself a high-value audiophile, and my music taste is every eclectic (jazz, classical, pop/rock, bluegrass/country), but mainly acoustic (though I love Pink Floyd).  I will be looking at both self-powered and passive speakers.

The speakers currently on my radar include: Focal 706V, Focal 705V, KEF Q300, KEF Q100, KEF LS50, KEF X300A (powered), Focal XS Book (powered), Emotiva Pro airmotiv4/5/6/Stealth6 (powered), Adam A5x (powered), Audioengine P4, and Audioengine A5+ (powered). 

If I go for passive speakers, I would add a modest USB DAC/amp (possibly NuForce DDA-100 or TEAC AH-01) to drive the speakers.  Powered speakers such as the Emotiva’s, Focal XS Book and Audioengine A5+ would need USB DAC (Schiit Bifrost Uber), while the KEF X300A would not require anything else.

My first decision would have to be regarding which speakers.  Sound quality is my main concern, as I desire speakers that are transparent and refined, and will tolerate sins of omission more than sins of commission.   I also am concerned about the drivers integrating coherently at 2-3 feet distance.  I would expect that the KEF Uni-Q drivers would have an advantage in this respect.  Would the larger Focal 706V work well in a nearfield, desktop application, and its drivers integrate at 2-3 feet between speaker and ear?

I am familiar with Focal drivers, as 15 years ago as I built a set of DALINE transmission line speakers using twin Focal 6.5" Polyglass drivers and Focal Tioxid tweeters in D'Appolito towers (double boxed, with high purity silver wiring).  These are still my reference speakers driven by my DIY Nelson Pass bi-amp Zen mono-block amps (single stage, Class A), DIY Bride of Son of Zen preamp (Class A), with DIY high purity silver interconnects and speaker cable. 

I am totally unfamiliar with the sound quality of the KEF, Emotiva, Adam, and Audioengine speakers, though they seem to be well thought of.

What are your suggestions/comments regarding the electronic options between the NuForce DDA-100 and TEAC AH-01?  (Though the TEAC has $100 higher MSRP, it can be bought about $200 cheaper.)

What are your suggestions/comments regarding the following system options, in a nearfield, desktop application:

1)      KEF X300A (5.25” Uni-Q, bi-amp, DAC), nothing else necessary, ($800 retail, $800 street)

2)      KEF Q300 (6.5” Uni-Q) with:

a.       NuForce DDA-100, (total system: $1,200 retail, $1,050 street)

b.      TEAC AH-01, (total system: $1,300 retail, $850 street)

3)      KEF Q100 (5.25” Uni-Q) with:

a.       NuForce DDA-100, (total system: $1,100 retail, $950 street)

b.      TEAC AH-01, (total system: $1,200 retail, $750 street)

4)      KEF LS50 (5.25” Uni-Q) with:

a.       NuForce DDA-100, (total system: $2,050 retail, $1,650 street)

b.      TEAC AH-01, (total system: $2,150 retail, $1,400 street)

5)      Focal 706V (6.5” Polyglass woofer, 1” Al/Mg TNV tweeter) with:

a.       NuForce DDA-100, (total system: $1,250 retail, $950 street)

b.      TEAC AH-01, (total system: $1,350 retail, $750 street)

6)      Focal 705V (5.25” Polyglass woofer, 1” Al/Mg TNV tweeter) with:

a.       NuForce DDA-100, (total system: $1,050 retail, $875 street)

b.      TEAC AH-01, (total system: $1,150 retail, $675 street)

7)      Focal XS Book (powered, 4.0” Polyglass woofer, 0.75”Al tweeter) with:

a.       Schiit Bifrost Uber USB DAC, (total system: $920 retail, $820 street)

b.      Other USB DAC ???

8)      Audioengine P4 (4” Kevlar woofer, 0.75” silk tweeter) with:

a.       NuForce DDA-100, (total system: $800 retail, $800 street)

b.      TEAC AH-01, (total system: $900 retail, $600 street)

9)      Audioengine A5+ (powered, 5” Kevlar woofer, 0.75” silk tweeter) with:

a.       Schiit Bifrost Uber USB DAC, (total system: $920 retail, $920 street)

b.      Other USB DAC ???

10)  Emotiva Pro airmotiv4 (bi-amp, 4.5” woofer, Heil tweeter) with:

a.       Schiit Bifrost Uber USB DAC, (total system: $870 retail, $870 street)

b.      Other USB DAC ???

11)  Emotiva Pro airmotiv5 (bi-amp, 5.25” woofer, Heil tweeter) with:

a.       Schiit Bifrost Uber USB DAC, (total system: $970 retail, $970 street)

b.      Other USB DAC ???

12)  Emotiva Pro airmotiv6 (bi-amp, 6.5” woofer, Heil tweeter) with:

a.       Schiit Bifrost Uber USB DAC, (total system: $1,220 retail, $1,220  street)

b.      Other USB DAC ???

13)  Emotiva Pro Stealth6 (bi-amp, 6.5” woofer, Heil tweeter) with:

a.       Schiit Bifrost Uber USB DAC, (total system: $1,620 retail, $1,620  street)

b.      Other USB DAC ???

14)  Adam A5x (bi-amp, 5.5” woofer, X-ART tweeter) with:

a.       Schiit Bifrost Uber USB DAC, (total system: $1,520 retail, $1,520  street)

b.      Other USB DAC ???

So my current possibilities run from $600 (Audioengine P4, w/ TEAC AH-01) to $1,650 (KEF LS50, w/ NuForce DDA-100).  I will be looking for best bang for the buck, but willing to pay up for meaningful SQ improvement.  I would also value to non-powered speaker options slightly higher due to more future flexibility.

Your suggestions/comments are welcome.  Thanks!

Bill B
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Joined: Jul 28 2012 - 1:59pm
30 choices

1.  Those are all excellent, high value choices.  

2.  You've laid out nearly 30 combinations and no one will have heard all those combinations.  From my finite experience, you can't go wrong with the Schiit Bifrost, and actual reviewers seem to be pretty unanimous in their positive reviews.  But I haven't heard the dac competitors you list, so no opinion on those.

3.  I'm intrigued by the reviews and looks of the KEF LS50, and agree that the Uni-Q KEF's are probably extra well suited for near-field listening.  Of the ones at your other/lower end of the price scale, I'm familiar with the AudioEngine 5's, which I like and recommend (also the 2's, if supplemented w/ a subwoofer).

SilverLitz
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Last seen: 10 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: Sep 2 2013 - 5:32am
I am converging on the Focal

I am converging on the Focal CMS50, a speaker not on my originally list, but on recommended by a responder on Computer Audiophile. The Focal CMS50 is a professional studio monitor that is internally bi-amped (80W + 50W, A/B, fully differential, e.g. balanced) with electronic crossover and a lot of EQ adjustments.  It is optimized for nearfield listening and is stated to work good as close as 50cm, which should be great for my ~70cm distance.  By comparison the Focal 705V and 706V are best for 2-3m (6-10 ft) per Focal.  I did a lot of online research and the feedback on this speaker is nearly universally glowing. I am emotionally the most comfortable with Focal, having lived with Focal drivers in my "good" system for 16 years, as I find Focal speakers are resolving but not hyped and sound like music.

The outside dimensions of the CMS50 is ~1" less in each dimension that the similar passive 705V speaker, a difference that I suspect is due to the CMS's aluminum cabinet (which would have thinner walls) vs. the 705V's MDF cabinet, yielding similar interior volumes.  Though the drivers are similar, the CMS50 are different than those of the 705V (per Focal) and are optimized for nearfield, and the LF response on the CMS50 goes about 10Hz lower (55Hz, -3dB).

The downside is that the Focal CMS50 is significantly more expensive ($1600 retail, $900 refurb w/ coupon) than the 705V ($500 retail, $325 demo) and 706V ($700 retail, $400 demo), but it already is sophisticatedly amplified, and its enclosure is better.

Now I have to focus on the DAC to feed the Focal CMS50: Marantz NA7004 (already have; $400 closeout), Schiit Bifrost Uber USB ($520), Schiit Gungir USB ($850), other ???

Bill B
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Last seen: 1 month 1 week ago
Joined: Jul 28 2012 - 1:59pm
did you decide

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