You are here

Log in or register to post comments
twofivesevenzero
twofivesevenzero's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Jun 19 2007 - 8:06am
Sub $500 setup

Hey all, this is my first real setup. I'm a college student with an hourly wage job, so it gonna be cheap. I will be using it almost strictly for playing music from my iMac. Based on my limited research so far this is the setup I'm considering:

Sony STR-DE197 - $134.99
Polk Audio Monitor 30's - $179.99

How does this look? I'll be in a small apartment, so I don't need anything huge.

I have a few additional questions:

1. My iMac has a digital optical output. Should i buy a receiver that can make use of this?
2. I'm not sure i totally understand the use of an amp vs. a receiver. Since I'm playing from the iMac, could I just use an amp?
3. Finally, what's the deal with cables? What do i need? A stereo mini jack to RCA adapter? Speaker wire?

thanks.

Simon

mchale
mchale's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Jun 11 2007 - 11:08pm
Re: Sub $500 setup

Hi Simon,

It's a tough call at that price because there are so many compromises to consider. If it were me I would probably buy a Sonic Impact Super-T online: (http://www.si5.com/products.php?pID=4004)
Review by Wes Phillips, Oct. 2006:
(http://www.stereophile.com/solidpoweramps/1006sonic/index.html)
After I got my Super-T I'd research my options for local audio dealers, find out what speakers they sell for about $350, and then bring my Super-T and iPod to do some on the fly auditioning. For this setup you will need a 3.5mm to RCA adapter, and some speaker cable. You should be able to obtain both of these items from what ever audio store you buy your speakers from.

bobedaone
bobedaone's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: Feb 1 2007 - 12:27am
Re: Sub $500 setup

Hi, Simon! I'm a student, too, so I feel your pain. I also happen to be an iMac owner.

I'll address question 2 first. The difference between a receiver and what's referred to as an "integrated amplifier" is the inclusion of a radio tuner. A stereo receiver is essentially and integrated amplifier with an AM/FM tuner. So, if radio is important to you, get a receiver. I can't think of an integrated amp that would fall within your budget, unless you bought it used, so it will likely be a receiver for you, anyway. Here's my take on the Sony STR: Unless Sony has improved its receiver line A LOT in the last decade or so, stay away. I just came out of a relationship of necessity with an STR-D665, and musical it is not. I've taken a cue from Jim Tavegia, one of our veteran members, and have started recommending this sweet deal:

http://www.jr.com/JRProductPage.process?Product=3964198

I've not heard the Harman Kardon, but it is a high quality unit in the opinions of many.

I don't have an opinion on the Polks, but Paradigm Atom monitors ($249) are great little speakers, engineered to the same standard as much more expensive models.

So, you're sitting at about $450 right now. Go to Radio Shack and get yourself a stereo mini jack to RCA cable, as you mentioned. While you're there, pick up some bulk speaker wire. You can save the money on terminations by just running bare wire. 16 AWG or less would be best for speakers (The gauge indicates the thickness of the wire; lower is thicker).

For now, just use the cable to connect your iMac directly to the receiver. Macs have pretty good audio internals stock, so it will be listenable.

Okay, here's the deal with the optical digital output. What that does is bypass the circuitry inside the computer that converts the digital signal into an analog one capable of being amplified. You're tapping the digital stream and taking the internal audio circuitry out of the equation. If you choose to do that, you now need what's called a DAC, or digital-to-analog converter. Receivers with digital inputs have built-in DACs. I'm not sure of their quality, and I wouldn't use the optical input as a selling point. What I recommend is saving for a component DAC. You can find used ones on eBay for ~$100. What the DAC will do for you is give you basically CD quality audio. A good name to look for is Audio Alchemy.

Most of this is contingent on your digital files being of high quality. If they aren't, it won't make much difference which components you choose. If a good deal of your music is from CDs that you own and you haven't ripped them in 320 kbps AAC or Apple Lossless, sit down for a while and feed your Mac discs.

Good luck, Simon, and keep us posted!

bobedaone
bobedaone's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: Feb 1 2007 - 12:27am
Re: Sub $500 setup

OH! I forgot about the Trends Audio TA-10.1! It costs $150, has one input, and -according to our moderator - is virtually indistinguishable from the Exposure 2010S, which sells for $1500. So, in lieu of the receiver, if radio is not a concern, absolutely get this.

smejias
smejias's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 7 months ago
Joined: Aug 25 2005 - 10:29am
Re: Sub $500 setup


Quote:
OH! I forgot about the Trends Audio TA-10.1! It costs $150, has one input, and - according to our moderator - is virtually indistinguishable from the Exposure 2010S

Yikes, did I say this?

Let me just add that I have a lot more auditioning to do. But, yes, I am very fond of the little Trends amp.

And, at $279/pair, the PSB Alpha B1 might also be a contender.

smejias
smejias's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 7 months ago
Joined: Aug 25 2005 - 10:29am
Re: Sub $500 setup

And:
Welcome to the forum, Simon. It's great to see you here. Congratulations on putting together your first hi-fi. It's going to be a lot of fun.

rmeyer52
rmeyer52's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: May 3 2007 - 12:49pm
Re: Sub $500 setup

First what type of music do you listen to and how loud do you like to listen?

bobedaone
bobedaone's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: Feb 1 2007 - 12:27am
Re: Sub $500 setup

hahaha Sorry for putting you on the spot, Stephen!

twofivesevenzero
twofivesevenzero's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Jun 19 2007 - 8:06am
Re: Sub $500 setup

Thanks guys.

Anyone have any other recs on a receiver? I'd like to consider a few before making a decision. What about the Onkyo TX-8222? It's only rated at 50 watts/channel, but it's listed as "full bandwidth". This means it effectively more powerful because it can pump 50 watts all the time right? Would this be enough power? As i said, i have a small apartment, so i don't need to blow the doors off, i just be able to play it loud without distortion.

mchale
mchale's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Jun 11 2007 - 11:08pm
Re: Sub $500 setup


Quote:
OH! I forgot about the Trends Audio TA-10

Good point. The Trends Audio and the Sonic Impact T-amp both use the same Tripath chip (TA2024).

http://www.tripath.com/downloads/TA2024C.pdf

twofivesevenzero
twofivesevenzero's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Jun 19 2007 - 8:06am
Re: Sub $500 setup


Quote:
First what type of music do you listen to and how loud do you like to listen?


i listen to rock mostly, but also blues and classical.

question about the trends audio TA-10...this is only an external soundcard, right? I would still have to run it through a receiver or amp.

twofivesevenzero
twofivesevenzero's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Jun 19 2007 - 8:06am
Re: Sub $500 setup

oh i see it now. there's and amp on the site as well. so that would be a substitute for a receiver. And it is considered to be of higher quality than comparably priced receivers?

rmeyer52
rmeyer52's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: May 3 2007 - 12:49pm
Re: Sub $500 setup

I understand your on a budget but try to stay away from "mass market" brands. Jolinda has a great integrated amp for $350 that is great for the price

bobedaone
bobedaone's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: Feb 1 2007 - 12:27am
Re: Sub $500 setup

Well, I don't know how loudly you listen, but the short answer is that 50W might be enough, depending on how honest/realistic Onkyo is with its power ratings. If power is a concern, look also at the efficiency specs of loudspeakers you're considering, listed in decibels. 90dB+ is pretty efficient. Additionally, the smaller speakers in your price range tend to be easier to drive due to less emphasis on low frequency drivers, which use the most power.

twofivesevenzero
twofivesevenzero's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Jun 19 2007 - 8:06am
Re: Sub $500 setup

I see the TA-10.1 is only 15 watts x 2. That surely seems like it would be too little to drive to 8 ohm monitors. Am I way off base?

mchale
mchale's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Jun 11 2007 - 11:08pm
Re: Sub $500 setup


Quote:
I see the TA-10.1 is only 15 watts x 2. That surely seems like it would be too little to drive to 8 ohm monitors. Am I way off base?

I made the assumption that since you were a student space would probably be an issue. If you are living in residence or a small apartment a clean 15W should be plenty... even after a few wobblers The trick is to find a pair of speakers that are reasonably efficient. That's why I suggested taking the little guy with you on a mission to audition. Alot of the mass market audio equipment is rated "down wind, down hill". I have used pro amplifiers that are rated at 30wpc that slaughter mass market amplifiers that are rated for 100wpc+.

twofivesevenzero
twofivesevenzero's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Jun 19 2007 - 8:06am
Re: Sub $500 setup

I see the Sonic Impact T amp going for about $35. Is there a reason it's so much cheaper? Has anyone done a comparison?

smejias
smejias's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 7 months ago
Joined: Aug 25 2005 - 10:29am
Re: Sub $500 setup


Quote:
I see the TA-10.1 is only 15 watts x 2. That surely seems like it would be too little to drive to 8 ohm monitors. Am I way off base?

I've been listening to the TA-10.1, using Aperion Audio Intimus 532 speakers ($360/pair, 8 Ohm impedance, 88dB sensitivity), in my small living room (11 x 13, I think), and I haven't had any problems. The system plays loud enough that I can hear music everywhere in my 350-sq ft apartment, without distortion or any sense of strain.

smejias
smejias's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 7 months ago
Joined: Aug 25 2005 - 10:29am
Re: Sub $500 setup


Quote:
I see the Sonic Impact T amp going for about $35. Is there a reason it's so much cheaper? Has anyone done a comparison?

I'm not familiar with the original Sonic Impact amp, but the upgraded Super T ($159) was reviewed by Wes Phillips.

Wes explained:

Quote:
If $159 isn't affordable enough for you, you can buy the base model for $39, but you'll need to add a 12V DC power supply (or batteries), and you won't get the nice aluminum case, higher-quality RCA inputs, or five-way binding posts. And no, I'll tell you up front that I haven't compared the upgrade against the plain-vanilla model. Sonic Impact says it made changes based on the feedback of its audiophile customers, and that Tripath made more than 14 modifications to its chip, so you're not simply paying extra for the audio jewelry.

mchale
mchale's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Jun 11 2007 - 11:08pm
Re: Sub $500 setup


Quote:
I see the Sonic Impact T amp going for about $35. Is there a reason it's so much cheaper? Has anyone done a comparison?

Nicer package, Higher quality inputs & outputs, and they provide the power supply. I think these are all worthwhile if you plan to keep the product for any lenth of time. If you look around you can find plenty of reviews for both.

twofivesevenzero
twofivesevenzero's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Jun 19 2007 - 8:06am
Re: Sub $500 setup

Would I be able to attached a powered subwoofer to either or both of these recommended amps? I'm not looking to do that now, but maybe later, when the bank account refills.

bobedaone
bobedaone's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: Feb 1 2007 - 12:27am
Re: Sub $500 setup

No. What you're looking for on the back of the amplifier is a jack called "pre out" or "sub out". The Harman Kardon receiver I mentioned earlier has this feature.

smejias
smejias's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 7 months ago
Joined: Aug 25 2005 - 10:29am
Re: Sub $500 setup


Quote:
Would I be able to attached a powered subwoofer to either or both of these recommended amps? I'm not looking to do that now, but maybe later, when the bank account refills.

I asked Koby Koranteng of HiFi Logic about this. He replied:


Quote:
Yes you can connect a subwoofer to the Trends as long as it is a powered subwoofer. Just a straight connection from the speaker output jacks to the hi-input connection of the subwoofer. There is a caveat to this -- since the Trends is configured as a floating ground amplifier, and to be on the safe side, just connect only one side, ie. either the Left (+ & -) only or the Right (+ & -). But it works flawlessly.

I haven't tried this myself.

mchale
mchale's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Jun 11 2007 - 11:08pm
Re: Sub $500 setup


Quote:
Would I be able to attached a powered subwoofer to either or both of these recommended amps? I'm not looking to do that now, but maybe later, when the bank account refills.

In a small room you should get enough bass if you pick an efficient pair of speakers. If you're a basshead I think the HK that Erik_B pointed out would be a good solution. It's all about where you want to make your compromises.

twofivesevenzero
twofivesevenzero's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Jun 19 2007 - 8:06am
Re: Sub $500 setup

hmm, conflicting responses. I would think you could connect it just you indicated, Stephen, so long as it's powered. In connecting it to only one channel, is there a possibility of throwing off the balance? I would think that a powered subwoofer would have very little current draw, but still, I'm not sure.

bobedaone
bobedaone's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: Feb 1 2007 - 12:27am
Re: Sub $500 setup

Wow, I didn't know you could connect a sub that way. Thanks for the info, Stephen.

mchale
mchale's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Jun 11 2007 - 11:08pm
Re: Sub $500 setup


Quote:
hmm, conflicting responses. I would think you could connect it just you indicated, Stephen, so long as it's powered. In connecting it to only one channel, is there a possibility of throwing off the balance? I would think that a powered subwoofer would have very little current draw, but still, I'm not sure.

The gain of the Tripath chip is set by the ratio of two external resistors. If you want to dig a little deeper on the technical side of the Tripath amps this is the datasheet for the chip that is used in the super T-amp and the Trends Audio amplifier:

http://www.tripath.com/downloads/TA2024C.pdf

twofivesevenzero
twofivesevenzero's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Jun 19 2007 - 8:06am
Re: Sub $500 setup

So, it's looking like the Trends Audio TA-10.1 amp, along with either Polk Audio Monitor 30's or Aperion Audio Intimus 532-LR's. Anyone know anything about the Polks and how they compare to the Aperions?

mchale
mchale's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Jun 11 2007 - 11:08pm
Re: Sub $500 setup


Quote:
So, it's looking like the Trends Audio TA-10.1 amp, along with either Polk Audio Monitor 30's or Aperion Audio Intimus 532-LR's. Anyone know anything about the Polks and how they compare to the Aperions?

I don't have any experience with either of those models. Try them both!

smejias
smejias's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 7 months ago
Joined: Aug 25 2005 - 10:29am
Re: Sub $500 setup


Quote:
Try them both!

Right on.

smejias
smejias's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 7 months ago
Joined: Aug 25 2005 - 10:29am
Re: Sub $500 setup


Quote:
In connecting it to only one channel, is there a possibility of throwing off the balance?

I asked Koby about this, also. He says, "It will surely throw it off, but in a subtle way."

He also says he has some sort of a "gadget" that boosts bass while maintaining balance. According to him, it "takes the Trends amp to another level of sonic bliss." He promises more info on this soon.

Elk
Elk's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: Dec 26 2006 - 6:32am
Re: Sub $500 setup

You don't want to connect both speaker outputs on the amp to the subwoofer as you can hurt the amp this way. Unlike most conventional amplifiers, the L/R Negative (-) speaker binding posts of this amp are not tied to ground or to each other. Therefore, make sure that the equipment that you are connecting to them to does not tie these terminals together.

As an aside, it is common for TriPath based and IcePower based digital amps to have floating speaker grounds.

If there is a pre-amp out you can also use this to connect the subwoofer.

If you can connect only one channel to the sub, I suggest using the right channel. In classical music the 'cellos and the basses are on the right. In pop and rock the bass is usually in the center so it doesn't matter which channel you choose.

smejias
smejias's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 7 months ago
Joined: Aug 25 2005 - 10:29am
Re: Sub $500 setup

Thanks, Elk! This is very helpful, and interesting.

deadfeat1
deadfeat1's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 6 2005 - 2:39pm
Re: Sub $500 setup

I have a pair of Polk Monitor 30 speakers and like them a lot.I auditioned quite a few small speakers and found the 30s hold up very well against them. I use them in my workout room which is about 12 x 13. They are used with vintage equipment including a 15 watt Pioneer receiver from 1980 and a Tandberg 55 watt receiver from the late 70's. An eleven year old Denon CD player rounds out the system. They do take some time to break in. A subwoofer added depth. If you like the way they sound I don't think you can go wrong.

  • X
    Enter your Stereophile.com username.
    Enter the password that accompanies your username.
    Loading