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elduderino
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music student seeks better sounding alternative to computer speakers

Hey Guys,
I'm a music student and I have a massive amount of classical music (500 gigs) stored in AAC (mostly at 320 kbps, but some lower). I'm looking for a system that wouldn't cost a ton (poor starving student here) but would sound better than my crappy altec/lansing speakers. I'd be interested in people's experiences with USB sound cards (I'm on a powerbook g4, and the hard drive is firewire), receivers/amps, and speakers. I have a pair of nice KEF Qs that I picked up at a garage sale that I'd love to integrate. (anyone know anything about bi wiring/amping?)

I know this might be a pretty broad question, but thanks in advance!

Excelsius
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Re: music student seeks better sounding alternative to computer

First, how have you collected 500 gigs of classical? I have been collected for 2-3 years and mine is barely 100 gigs.
Second, you have to start saving your classical files in a lossless format like APE. AAC and mp3 destroy a lot of quality, even at 320 kb/s.
I am not a pro in music, but I did a lot of research recently to find out the best soundcard and the best speakers that have reasonable prices. So you can check out all these threads where I discussed and received some useful information:

http://www.tech-forums.net/showthread.php?s=&threadid=108673&perpage=15&pagenumber=1
http://www6.head-fi.org/forums/showthread.php?t=183225
http://forums.audioreview.com/showthread.php?t=17953
http://www.audioforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=14376
http://forum.stereophile.com/forum/showflat.php?Cat=0&Number=8828&an=0&page=0#Post8828

I hope they'll give you some idea of what you want and for how much.

elduderino
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Re: music student seeks better sounding alternative to computer

yeah 500 gigs of AAC is a lot of classical music, isn't it... I've been collecting for about 10 years now (although I'm only 25) so I had a ton of CDs to rip. I also have friends at Curtis, Juilliard, and Cleveland (where I went) who have massive libraries as well. (put 2 and 2 together) Although I love listening to this music for fun, it's more of a reasource for me - why else would I need 13 recordings of Mahler 5? This is also the reason for our choice of AAC @ 320. Smaller files = more files.

So thanks for your reply and the links to the other forums you queried about this issue. Definitely helpful. There are a few things about my situation that are different, though:

First, I'm on a laptop, so the soundcard MUST be USB (or firewire, but I'd prefer USB because my 500 gig hard drive is firewire and I'd have to get a hub = more $) I'm on a powerbook G4 so I do have USB 2. Anybody heard anything about this: turtle beach audio advantage ? I'm a little skeptical, but TB is a good name... I currently have a Griffin iMic that I use to import audio of my playing (recorded on mini disk), but I have a feeling that's not the best option either. I'm sure there are better USB options that I'm missing here.

Secondly, I DO want to get either an integrated amp or preamp/amp combo, maybe even 2 amps to drive the bi-amping feature on my KEFs. Most people in your replies stressed the value of the speaker setup over the soundcard. I'd be willing to throw down a little extra for this, unless the philes here think that bi-amping is a waste of time/money.

OK, this post is getting long. Thanks for reading, all those who still are!

ohfourohnine
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Re: music student seeks better sounding alternative to computer

I too use a G4 Powerbook almost entirely devoted to music applications. I learned the hard way early on to scrap the Griffin iMic. You would be better off going straight in the audio input with the recordings of your own playing which you are transferring to digital format.

Too bad you didn't go with Apple Lossless, but I suspect you began building your digital collection before it was offered.

Before you start trying Firewire or USB Sound cards, you might want to come out of the audio out into line level of a decent integrated amp and on to your KEF speakers. You'll need the amp no matter what you choose to do with sound cards, and you might find what I'm suggesting will meet your needs and your current budget adequately.

Best of Luck,

eagle
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Re: music student seeks better sounding alternative to computer

Given the aac format I think you'd be wasting your money going with biwiring. An inexpensive receiver or integrated amp would be a good way to go.

Another thing, while I"M not too familiar with Macs, with my PCs or Amigas I can use line level out to go straight into a power amp. I have a spare 60W x2 power amp that I plan to use on my computer along with my Radio Shack Minimus 7 speakers and an old MB Quartz 10" sub. I will need power for the sub. Maybe I'll get a sub amp from Parts Express to go with the sub.

Anyway, you can get a power amp fairly cheap, especially if you find one at ebay.

elduderino
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Re: music student seeks better sounding alternative to computer

Thanks for your input, all. I appreciate your insights.

I've been perusing the forum here a bit and I've been hearing talk of SI's "T-amp." At $40, it seems like it would be worth a try. Could I go straight from my line out to this? Or does it require a pre? Think it's the right power for my KEFs?

PaleBlueEgo
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Re: music student seeks better sounding alternative to computer

You might look into something like the Audioengine 5. These are compact (10x7x8in, HWD) amplified speakers with excellent sound quality. Freq response 60Hz-22kHz +/-1.5dB and they are made for nearfield listening. Lots of nice features that make them perfect for a dorm room

$349 http://www.audioengineusa.com

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