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Dr Fager
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Need Advice on First System

Hello everyone ive been studying on the net for 3 days about building a hi-fi stereo setup. Ive ruled out a surround sound setup based around my tv station and am opting to focus just on buying quality parts just for my current needs. I listen to 80% of my music out of my study and occasionally we will have guests over and need music playing in the living area directly adjacent to my study. (right now im using $100 logitech speakers lol)

My study is about 12x10 and the adjacent entertainment room is 30x20 roughly.

I considered the Cambridge Audio CD player and Integrated Amp for a combined 850. But that might be a touch more then i want to spend considering ill have to invest at least another 500 on speakers and then be faced with being able to run speakers in two different rooms. Im wondering if 1500+ is overkill for my needs.

On the other hand ive been researching Audio Engine 2's and 5's. My thought process being put the AE2's in my study connected to the PC. That improves my current pc setup immensely. Then i was thinking of putting the AE5's in my entertainment room (about 10 feet away from the pc setup) and then wirelessly connecting them via a Airport Express or Squeezebox setup.

The advantages with that setup is I upgrade two areas while not breaking the bank in my first jump into the audio world. The downside is if I continue with my interest in audio gear i will be no closer to a full setup as ill still be facing having to buy a receiver, dvd/cd player (the big costs).

Anyways, can you guys give me some recommendations with both types of setups? Any advice is welcomed and I hope i can start piecing something together soon.

Also how hard/easy/possible is it to set up a wireless connection like im talking about.

absolutepitch
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Re: Need Advice on First System

First stab at an answer:

Speakers used in the smaller room probably can't fill the larger room with sound. Larger speakers suitable for the 20x30 room woun't sound right in the small room. Don't have experience with Cambridge Audio, but have seen good reviews. Also no experience with wireless audio. My personal preference is that a hard-wired connection is more reliable than a wireless one. Just see the ads on TV for the fewer dropped calls for the cell phones.

Start small and upgrade later, if $$$ is an issue. If not, I'd go for something good in the larger room (floorstanding speakers) and something compact and good in the smaller room (possibly the Harbeth LS3/5A-type, or other fine small speakers). Look for other responders here to help you, and welcome to the forum.

linden518
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Re: Need Advice on First System

Hi. If you're going to go w/ a PC-centered solution, probably the best bet for a better sound with your budget is to get one of the Audio Engines, but also to get a higher quality sound card for your PC. A lot of people use M-Audio's Audiophile cards and report success, and I hear Echo Digital's Mia is even better for sound quality (Echo makes sound cards, etc. for PC recording musicians, but the audio playback capabilities of such cards are excellent.)

You can of course use Squeezebox to wirelessly access your music; I have one, too, and I'm a luddite... but it was a breeze to set up. But you should probably invest in a DAC to improve its sound. Many use Benchmark DAC 1, but this is probably out of your budget, but I hear good things about Lite Audio DAC's, which are tube-based, and significantly cheaper than Benchmarks, at around $300-400, I think...

As for DVD/CD players, you should look into Oppo Digitals 980, which retail for $160. People rave about the sound, even the audiophiles in this forum. Receiver-wise, if you go to Audiogon, you can routinely find a good used integrated amp for around $300. If you like newer machines, Onkyo's A9555 was favorably reviewed in Stereophile pretty recently, and sometimes it pops up in Audiogon for around 300 bucks...
And you have a lot of speaker options if you go w/ bookshelf models. Infinity Primus 162s, for example, go for less than $200 a pair, and Bob Reina, who reviewed them for Stereophile, wrote that many people won't find it necessary to look for something better than the Infinity Primus 162...

Hope this helps. I haven't heard many of these equipments in person, though, so please make sure to listen and judge for yourself.

jackfish
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Re: Need Advice on First System

I think you are on the right track with the Audio Engine 2s for your study run off your computer.

For your larger room though I think a dedicated system will serve you better, and it sounds like you have a limited budget. Here are my suggestions for a good entry level system that will fill your large room with nice sound. I would also suggest the OPPO DV-980H ($195 delivered) for a source which will also provide you DVD-Audio and SACD capability. Its also a damn good upconverting DVD player if you want to hook it up to a TV. For your distribution and power I would recommend the Harman Kardon HK3485 stereo receiver for $275 delivered. For your loudspeakers you couldn't go wrong with the $441/pair delivered Infinity Primus P362s.

So, for $911 you would have a system that will fill your large room with nice sound. Add RCA connector and speaker cables and you're still under $1000.

The Audio Engine 2.
http://www.stereophile.com/standloudspeakers/1207ae/

The predecessor to the Infinity Primus P362.
http://www.stereophile.com/floorloudspeakers/605infinity/

The predecessor to the Harman Kardon HK3485.
http://www.positive-feedback.com/Issue19/hk3480.htm
http://www.audioreview.com/cat/amplification/receivers/harman-kardon/PRD_303435_1593crx.aspx
http://www.summize.com/product/harman-kardon-hk3480-stereo-receiver/b0001fi49i

Dr Fager
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Re: Need Advice on First System

Thanks for the advice.

Can someone explain a DAC? Im not sure what it is or how its used.

I guess i should explain my setup better or my needs a bit more. I use my computer in the study for 90% of my listening. I have about 3k songs on my computer. Where i need/use CD is for my classical collection which i keep on cd rather then downloading online.

So im confident i could make a computer based purchase that would fufill all of my needs for the study. What im looking for in my entertainment room is just the ability to have a couple speaker in their that are tied in to my computer in some fashion. I use Windows Media player, and it would be nice that when im creating play lists or something via computer that i could also have a few speakers in the adjacent room going while we have company over.

Thats why i was thinking along the lines of wirelessly connecting the entertainment room speakers to the wired pc setup in the study.

The downside is i wont have a physical dvd/cd player, reciever etc so when/if i look to really dig into the audiophile mania ill be stuck back at square one without any components to start with.

If the music on my pc didnt matter id just order a nice Cambridge or NAD dvd/cd player and a set of AE5's to start. But since there is no way that im aware of to wire a computer setup into a player its pointless because 80% of whati listen i do not have a hard copy of.

I could always do both to a degree... upgrade audio card and get AE2's for the computer. Then get a Cambridge dvd/cdplayer and run them into AE5's in the other room. But i guess i like the idea of having one universal system over several different setups (though both would be extremely easy to use)

Anyways, im lost in audio land, all the recommendations and help is wanted and appreciated.

Thanks

jackfish
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Re: Need Advice on First System

For what its worth, If you use an iPod on the go the HK3485 has iPod connectivity through the supplied AV cable. You could then transfer tracks from your computer digital library to the iPod for use in the main system.

linden518
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Re: Need Advice on First System

Backing jackfish, there are some posts in head-fi concerning the excellent headphone out on the HK 3485, a huge incentive, as it will save you $ on not having to buy a separate headphone amp.

DACs are used to convert digital signal to analog, and in your case, you'd hook up the Squeezebox to the DAC, which will be connected to the integrated amp. You can read John Atkinson's review of Squeezebox to learn about how a DAC might help the sound. (Go to 'Equipment Review' in the main Stereophile site; look up under 'Budget Components') But in most cases, especially if you're dealing with lossy files, just running the Squeezebox w/o DAC will be fine, as Squeezebox's Burr-Brown chip is pretty good on its own.

If you haven't bought a Squeezebox yet, you can consider just hooking your PC into the receiver or amp of your choice directly, provided that the PC is relatively quiet and optimized for music. If you get the Echo Mia, you'd have 2 balanced inputs & 2 balanced outputs through which you can interface w/ your hi-fi system. Pretty killer. I think running your media PC directly to yr audio system would make the music sound better than wirelessly porting music via Squeezebox. You get to kill 2 birds with one stone, and be able to get better quality music out of your PC, too.

Dr Fager
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Re: Need Advice on First System


Quote:
For what its worth, If you use an iPod on the go the HK3485 has iPod connectivity through the supplied AV cable. You could then transfer tracks from your computer digital library to the iPod for use in the main system.

Im trying to avoid using the ipod to bridge the gap in the two areas. Not only do i think at some point it will become inconvenient (synching and trying to copy playlists while company is over etc..) but if i was going to be using an IPOD i could just plug it in directly to the AE5's without needing any other components.

Perhaps what im envisioning doesnt exist! lol

Dr Fager
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Re: Need Advice on First System


Quote:
If you haven't bought a Squeezebox yet, you can consider just hooking your PC into the receiver or amp of your choice directly, provided that the PC is relatively quiet and optimized for music. If you get the Echo Mia, you'd have 2 balanced inputs & 2 balanced outputs through which you can interface w/ your hi-fi system. Pretty killer. I think running your media PC directly to yr audio system would make the music sound better than wirelessly porting music via Squeezebox. You get to kill 2 birds with one stone, and be able to get better quality music out of your PC, too.

What type of connection are we talking about?

Let me see if i have this down.

Buy...
1. Soundcard
2. Receiver
4. Speakers for the Receiver setup, not PC

Run a wire to my computer connecting the receiver,(front side or backside?) turn the stereo setup on, and now whatever audio i start up on the pc (music - videos - cd's etc) will stream out to the receiver being audible through the speakers connected to the receiver....

Is that correct?

Then what about speakers in an adjacent room? Is there no way around having to run hard wires around the place?

BTW, not to throw to much out there, but what is this i hear about people creating music servers with Mini Macs and mac laptops?

linden518
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Re: Need Advice on First System

Yeah. It's either setting up your system including yr PC (which entails soundcard upgrade so you can use proper interconnects to your amp & be able to run music through your hi-fi speakers rather than computer speakers), or setting up your system in the adjacent room (no sound card needed, but run music from yr PC through Squeezebox.) If you listen to music primarily from where your PC is, I'd say go for the soundcard routine and set up your system where the PC is & use the PC as server that's directly linked. Then get a Squeezebox and run it directly through active speakers, like Audio Engines. I don't know... there are definitely options that you can explore to fit your needs. Or if you happen to stumble upon a pile of cash, you might get these speakers, made by Thiel, which would solve your dilemma in style -

http://blog.stereophile.com/ces2008/010908thielnet/

I think, actually, there are more affordable speakers that are network-ready, which would solve your "hard-wire" problem. Look into this, maybe in the Audio Asylum forum, as I don't really know about these kinds of speakers...

People definitely use their laptops and Mac Minis for servers. But if I were you, I'd keep the music server PC. More flexibility & control of how you channel your sound to your system. Look into free app called Foobar 2000, which lets you optimize the signal path to your audio equipment, and should definitely replace iTunes as the de facto player in your PC.

Dr Fager
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Re: Need Advice on First System

So really the way i should go is upgrading the sound card, Ae2's for the study and then run wire (sigh) to AE5's in the next room?

That seems the easiest way to get things going while still focusing on using my PC and cd drive on it to run everything else.

I dont see much of a reason to buy a receiver and/or cd player only to have to run it right back into the computer when i can load my physical cd's directly into the pc and save the hassle.

Who knows...

BillB
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Re: Need Advice on First System

You don't have to run wire to the AE5's, you can feed them wirelessly via Apple Airport Express (that's how I know how to do it; I do NOT have knowledge on doing it via other systems but I know it can be done with PC and WMP etc, others will probably advise details on that).

Dr Fager
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Re: Need Advice on First System

thanks bill.

details are welcomed

BillB
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Re: Need Advice on First System

Wow - Audioengine now has compact little wireless adapters (sender and reciever) - this looks like your answer!

check out the AW1, on audioengineusa.com

Also, they are now selling a subwoofer as an option. And a bamboo wood version of the ae5's ($100 upgrade).

Dr Fager
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Re: Need Advice on First System

Ive ordered the Echo Mia SoundCard, Ae2's and Ae5's. Should be rocking by mid week!

I did see the sub and wireless thingy. If im going with an Audioengine setup its kind of pointless to look anywhere else for those components. But, ill wait and try out the other speakers first.

I cant find a review for the sub or wireless connector...

BillB
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Re: Need Advice on First System

Look forward to hearing your comments on the system once you are up and running.

The AE sub and wireless connectors appear to be so new that there wouldn't be reviews yet. They must have been introduced just weeks or even just days ago.

Dr Fager
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Re: Need Advice on First System


Quote:
Look forward to hearing your comments on the system once you are up and running.

The AE sub and wireless connectors appear to be so new that there wouldn't be reviews yet. They must have been introduced just weeks or even just days ago.

I certainly will let you know how it sounds when i get it running.

I would have gotten the wireless thingy but it, like the sub , is out of stock already!

dcstep
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Re: Need Advice on First System


Quote:

The AE sub and wireless connectors appear to be so new that there wouldn't be reviews yet. They must have been introduced just weeks or even just days ago.

It was announced last week at CES.

Dr Fager
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Re: Need Advice on First System

HELP!!!

So the Echo Mia comes in. I Install it properly, but duh, the logitech speakers i have wont plug in to it!!!

Im not sure what size youd call the logitech wire, but it looks like a headphone size plug in. The connectors on the actual card are too big for the speaker plug in, and the little extension thingy from the card, it has connectors that are too small (the speaker plug in seems too long)

Im fretting because my A2's will be here tomorrow and im afraid i wont be able to plug them in!!!

Here is a link to the A2's...

http://audioengineusa.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=79

Here is a link to the Echo Mia card...

http://www.amazon.com/Echo-Mia-24Bit-Aud...3716&sr=8-1

Can someone help me figure out what to do.

BillB
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Re: Need Advice on First System

1. I don't know.
2. Nonetheless, I maybe see the problem...looks like the Echo outputs might be 1/4 inch phone jacks. To mate to the (presumably) 1/8" plug from the speakers, you just need an adaptor plug. Easily available for a few bucks from Radio Shack or elsewhere. You can get gold-plated ones for more $.
3. Don't take that as gospel, I'm not able to get a good look at the online photo of the sound card so hope you hear from someone else too...

Elk
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Re: Need Advice on First System

The Mia is meant for project studio use. It has two balanced 1/4 in. analog outputs. Additionally, they probably default to +4dBu (pro level) which is pretty hot. I believe this can be switched either physically or via the Echo's driver software to consumer level -10dBv.

You need a cable or adapter for 1/4" balanced to single ended RAC or 1/8" single ended (what ever the speakers have as inputs).

As I posted elsewhere yesterday:

I suggest that you simply make a couple of cables connecting a 1/4 inch TRS (tip/ring/sleeve) balanced plug to a male single-ended RCA plug, making sure to connect the hot signal on the balanced 1/4" connector (the tip) to the hot (pin) on the RCA plug. Connect the ground (sleeve) on the TRS plug to the ground (sleeve) of the RCA.

(Some sources show connecting the cold balanced signal to ground when doing this. I recommend not grounding the cold (ring on the TRS) as this can be bad for some equipment. That is, simply don't connect anything to the cold/ring on the TRS plug.)

If you do some Googling you will find instructions or a diagram for what I am describing. It isn't as hard as it initially appears.

It is easy and you can make great cables with quality microphone cable.

I suggest using Mogami W2549 Balanced Mic Cable. Low capacitance, shielded, made to carry delicate little microphone level signals.

The cable comes in lots of different colors if you are so inclined.

Specs: http://www.mogamicable.com/Bulk/micr_cables/balanced_mic/balanced_mic.htm

A great source (good price, excellent service):
http://www.redco.com/shopexd.asp?id=493

Redco also has nice 1/4" connectors and RCAs.

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