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$2500 for System for Office with Standing Desk

ClearHearing

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I am new here. There is a lot of information on here but I find it hard to get some bottom line advice. Maybe some of you can get me started!

I have a home office that is roughly 13x13 in sq feet. I have an adjustable standing desk, so my listening position will change in height throughout the day. The standing desk is in the middle of the room. I could put speakers on the desk itself if you recommend that.

Say I wanted to spend $2500 on:

1. Amplifier (integrated likely)
2. Passive speakers
3. DAC if not built into the amplifier and much better than my 2021 16 inch MacBook Pro's DAC

I do care about imaging, depth, etc. I want to control any streaming or downloads from my Mac.

What would you recommend I get? If I don't need to spend the entire budget, that is great too!
 

617

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I'd get good active speakers and skip the amplifier; the best speakers available these days for desk use are all active, so you can save a couple bucks.

You could get a DAC or audio interface of some kind just as a way of getting the audio out of your macbook in a non annoying way and providing a volume control. A motu M2 is a good option but you could get a topping or SMSL or whetever unit; the performance of all these are excellent.

The best value monitors being made right now are by Kali audio; they have a lot of adjustability in terms of tonality to match your room and preferences. They make two subwoofers as well. The bigger in-8 units probably won't need a sub but they are around 18" tall. This may be advantageous - not having a sub is simpler and easier.

You don't really need to spend $2k to get very good sound on a desktop system, but if you want professional quality, just go on Sweetwater or B&H and buy the biggest Genelec or Neumann speakers you can get.

So to summarize, I would recommend, for that budget:
Kali IN-5 speakers - $700
Kali WS 6.2 Sub - $500
Some kind of dac with a form factor you like, maybe also with a headphone amp - $200

All told, $1400

Or, you could get the Kali IN-8 which are around $800 a pair and plug your macbook right into them with the appropriate cables. The DACs in apple products tend to be quite good, but a volume knob is nice to have.
 

sweetchaos

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Personally, I'd go active.

Without DSP:
1. Genelec 8040

With DSP:
2. Genelec 8330
3. Neumann KH120 II

Any balanced DAC. PEQ provided by SoundSource (MacOS app) (or similar).

But if you're keen on the passive route...

KEF R3 Meta for US$2200/pair. (note that R3 non-meta are US$1400/pair right now, but will clear out eventually)
Topping PA5 II for US$250.
Plus any balanced DAC. PEQ provided by SoundSource (MacOS app) (or similar).
 
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ClearHearing

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Thanks for the advice! I am completely new to studio monitors so I have some basic questions.

1. The Kalis are half the price as the Genelecs and the Neumanns. Do Amir's quantitative reviews indicate that there is a big gap in sound quality or is this based on a more subjective assessment of hearing?

2. Many of the mentioned studio monitors have digital inputs. Wouldn't it be better soundwise to drop the DAC entirely and connect these digitally to the Mac? If so, is it just a matter of buying a cable with USC-C on one end and whatever digital input is used on the other other end, or do you need to buy some intermediary box with a USC-C input and the digital output that the monitor takes?

3. Do studio monitors need to be angled to my ear or is operating them facing horizontally fine? If they should be angled, what hardware is best for this?

4. The Genelec 8330A for one comes with isolation feet. Is some isolation important to keep my desk from vibrating and the speakers from interfering with each other?

5. I have an existing turntable I would like to use from time to time. What is the best sounding way to connect it (at the end of a possible chain) to a studio monitor while making it easy to switch between the digital (Mac) and analog (turntable) inputs?
 

617

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Thanks for the advice! I am completely new to studio monitors so I have some basic questions.

1. The Kalis are half the price as the Genelecs and the Neumanns. Do Amir's quantitative reviews indicate that there is a big gap in sound quality or is this based on a more subjective assessment of hearing?

2. Many of the mentioned studio monitors have digital inputs. Wouldn't it be better soundwise to drop the DAC entirely and connect these digitally to the Mac? If so, is it just a matter of buying a cable with USC-C on one end and whatever digital input is used on the other other end, or do you need to buy some intermediary box with a USC-C input and the digital output that the monitor takes?

3. Do studio monitors need to be angled to my ear or is operating them facing horizontally fine? If they should be angled, what hardware is best for this?

4. The Genelec 8330A for one comes with isolation feet. Is some isolation important to keep my desk from vibrating and the speakers from interfering with each other?

5. I have an existing turntable I would like to use from time to time. What is the best sounding way to connect it (at the end of a possible chain) to a studio monitor while making it easy to switch between the digital (Mac) and analog (turntable) inputs?

1. Sound quality is not worlds apart. Genelec costs more because it is a professional product with various connectivity options Kali doesn't have. It's also made from cast aluminum, made in Finland, and has a better warranty. But sound quality wise, for musical enjoyment, the Kali are going to be fine, or better, since for the money you can get Genelecs with limited bass but you can get the Kalis with lots of bass. Generally speaking.

2. Yes, many of these have digital inputs and there's no reason not to use them. I like an outboard dac because it means I have a physical volume control. Sound wise, there's not going to be any difference between using a second dac, dacs are transparent for the most part.

3. Speakers have a certain angular window for ideal operation and ideally should be pointed at your ears. The kalis are actually designed to sound best a few degrees off axis. You can get some little foam stands that angle the speakers appropriately.

4. If you're playing loud enough to vibrate your desk, isolation feet will have limited value since vibration is also transmitted through the air. This shouldn't be an issue with near field listening.

5. If you have a second analog source I'd recommend some kind of preamp that has switching capability. Schiit makes some good ones. This could replace the dac, you can just plug everything into your preamp and be good to go.
 

AnalogSteph

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If you have a second analog source I'd recommend some kind of preamp that has switching capability.
Or plan B, get some sort of recording device for the Macbook and connect your phonopre to that. You can use playthrough in an audio recorder like Audacity, or have it record in silence and eliminate any problems with acoustic feedback. (In the olden days, much of the difference between solid midrange decks and higher end ones - like the Dual 600 and 700 series - was having a subchassis for better isolation.)

BTW, those Kalis aren't exactly tiny and may be a tad too big to be placed on a height-adjustable desk. Definitely a factor to keep in mind! Unless they'll be sitting on stands behind the actual desk.
 
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waynel

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I would go for Genelec 8030c or Neumann KH120s with stands and with or without a sub. Desk stands are critical for good sound. Without a sub you could use an audio interface such as a Moto M2. If you want to add a sub I’d suggest a MiniDSP flex and an SVS SB1000 pro.

Check out my standing desk system in the link below

Wayne
 

juliangst

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I also think that Neumann KH120 would be a solid choice.
For control I would add the MiniDSP flex digital (because the Neumanns have a SPDIF input) and get the Dirac Live license. You could also get a USB to Spdif cable and just use system volume.
 

waynel

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I also think that Neumann KH120 would be a solid choice.
For control I would add the MiniDSP flex digital (because the Neumanns have a SPDIF input) and get the Dirac Live license. You could also get a USB to Spdif cable and just use system volume.
I think the MiniDSP flex digital is a good idea with the digital input monitor options if you are not planning to add a sub but do want room correction. If you think you might add a sub then it would be easier to go with the MiniDSP flex balanced.
 

stren

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I was in a similar position, thinking about a variety of passive and active bookshelf speakers (R3, LS50WII, Genelec, Neumann KH120, Kali IN8v2), then DSP (minidsp flex maybe), amps (small hypex probably), cables (or not if active), subs (kc62, svs 3000 micro, sb1000pro, arendal). In the end I went with small and simple because my monitors don't leave too much space. Given the imperfect axis I went with coax speakers and chose the LSXII. They are not perfect or as good in terms of quality as I'd like but they are reasonable and leave me with a nice clean setup. I decided to not get a sub and see how the bass is, and at my volumes in a small room nearfield, honestly it's ok. If I want to really enjoy music then I go to the living room. This is more music while I work/think and honestly I'm not paying that much attention to it usually.
IMG_2579.jpg
 
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juliangst

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I think the MiniDSP flex digital is a good idea with the digital input monitor options if you are not planning to add a sub but do want room correction. If you think you might add a sub then it would be easier to go with the MiniDSP flex balanced.
You can also just add a cheap 20€ DAC to the digital flex to get analog outs for subs.
A setup with balanced flex is probably completely audibly transparent as well but I would want to avoid the addition A/D conversion inside monitors like the KH120ii
 
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ClearHearing

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OP here. Thanks for all the advice so far. Some more questions on DSP.

1. Is there any testing of miniDSP vs the proprietary DSP software sold by each of Genelex and Neumann?

2. Is there a benefit to doing DSP BOTH with miniDSP and with the monitor manufacturer's software?

3. If using miniDSP alone is better, shouldn't I buy a monitor without DSP to save money? Or are there other advantages of these newer monitors with DSP?
 

waynel

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OP here. Thanks for all the advice so far. Some more questions on DSP.

1. Is there any testing of miniDSP vs the proprietary DSP software sold by each of Genelex and Neumann?

2. Is there a benefit to doing DSP BOTH with miniDSP and with the monitor manufacturer's software?

3. If using miniDSP alone is better, shouldn't I buy a monitor without DSP to save money? Or are there other advantages of these newer monitors with DSP?
I'd pick option 3, I think that the MiniDSP DSP is more flexible and better than the propriety solutions from Genelec and Neuman and it will also handle 3rd party subs as well as the crossovers. If you go with the MiniDSP flax balanced I'd recommend the analog K120s or 8030c's and an SVS SB1000 pro or two.
 
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ClearHearing

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I have questions about my standing desk.

If I get a subwoofer and move my standing desk up and down, the distance between the subwoofer and my head and between the subwoofer and the studio monitors on my desktop will change. Will these changing heights to the subwoofer mess up the DSP calibration?

Also, even without a subwoofer the DSP calibration has something to do with the room. If I calibrate in say a standing position and then move my desk down to a sitting position, will the DSP sound be worse than if I didn't use DSP in the first place?
 

waynel

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I have questions about my standing desk.

If I get a subwoofer and move my standing desk up and down, the distance between the subwoofer and my head and between the subwoofer and the studio monitors on my desktop will change. Will these changing heights to the subwoofer mess up the DSP calibration?

Also, even without a subwoofer the DSP calibration has something to do with the room. If I calibrate in say a standing position and then move my desk down to a sitting position, will the DSP sound be worse than if I didn't use DSP in the first place?
You have 3 options
1. Optimize for sitting or standing (pick one)
2. Set 2 presets in the MiniDSP (one for sitting, one for standing) and just switch between when you rase or lower your desk
3. Use the Moving Microphone technique and average with both sitting and standing positions.

An advantage of the MiniDSP flex is that you can set 4 different presets and toggle between them with one button on the remote or push and twist the volume knob on the unit. If fact you can set it up like this

Preset 1 : Sitting
Preset 2: Standing
Preset 3: average of both
Preset 4: something else like no subs or different room curve.
 

GXAlan

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3. If using miniDSP alone is better, shouldn't I buy a monitor without DSP to save money? Or are there other advantages of these newer monitors with DSP?
I think the jury is out on which is better.

With the Genelec and Neumann systems, they know the speaker identity and data like compression. Dirac only assesses at a single volume. It shouldn’t matter at low SPLs, but the factory setups can leverage knowledge and data that Dirac will not have access to.

Sometimes factory systems don’t matter (say Sony consumer speakers with Sony consumer room Eq). In contrast, you see Onkyo doing unique things with Klipsch speakers like Eq and crossovers.

Genelec and Neumann are such flagship audio companies that their systems are likely able to take advantage of the internal data, even though it is mostly likely to be audible at extremes only.
 

waynel

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I think the jury is out on which is better.

With the Genelec and Neumann systems, they know the speaker identity and data like compression. Dirac only assesses at a single volume. It shouldn’t matter at low SPLs, but the factory setups can leverage knowledge and data that Dirac will not have access to.

Sometimes factory systems don’t matter (say Sony consumer speakers with Sony consumer room Eq). In contrast, you see Onkyo doing unique things with Klipsch speakers like Eq and crossovers.

Genelec and Neumann are such flagship audio companies that their systems are likely able to take advantage of the internal data, even though it is mostly likely to be audible at extremes only.
Compression / different volume level calibration is not going to matter one bit with these speakers unless you plan on going deaf!
 
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ClearHearing

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The SVS SB1000 Pro subwoofer was mentioned. Are there some other high quality subwoofers that people recommend?
 

waynel

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The SVS SB1000 Pro subwoofer was mentioned. Are there some other high quality subwoofers that people recommend?
I mentioned it because it’s the smallest halfway decent sub that I’ve found. You can do better by going bigger but you will do a lot worse by going smaller.
 
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