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Computer/desktop speakers

haen

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Hi.

I'm looking for a replacement for my computer (desktop) speakers. Right now I have a pair of M-Audio speakers that started to generate some noise (and produced a bit annoying hum/hiss when silent anyway). I still plan to fix them if possible to compare to whatever I decide to buy (just for fun and no profit). That way or another I went to https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?pages/SpeakerTestData/, picked up recommended active speakers up to $200 each and then when browsing the reviews I realized two things:
- none of the speakers conforming to those parameters seems to have a front headphones jack (or maybe a headphones jack at all),
- almost none of the speakers seems to have a front volume knob - I think the only ones are Audioengine A5+ (https://www.audiosciencereview.com/.../audioengine-a5-powered-speaker-review.13803/).

Now, I realize that the speakers on that list are not typical computer speakers, anyway both the things I mentioned above are pretty useful for me. Since those A5+ seems to be quite nice I started wondering if there is a way to somehow connect headphones to them, but I think they mention explicitly on their site (but I cannot find it now) that it isn't possible and they recommend their external DAC D1 to set up this configuration. Since my understanding about various connectors/standards and what they mean is pretty... non existent at this point of time I'm a bit lost. So few questions:
- does headphones jacks not make sense for those kind of speakers (for whatever technical reasons) or it just no one is asking for it?
- is an external DAC the simplest option here (although I would really prefer to avoid any extra stuff on my desk) or is it possible to somehow connect headphones to any of those speakers?
- is typical onboard computer sound card good enough to drive such speakers or are there some possible issues here (connectors maybe)?
- are there any typically recommended computed desktops speakers besides those on the review list?

I thought a little about a front-mounted audio panel (something like https://www.amazon.com/sds-Micropho...words=front+audio+panel&qid=1631039687&sr=8-3) but a) they are ugly, b) it won't be a optimal way to connect/disconnect headphones in my case.
 

Fenix84

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Yes, an external DAC is the way to go, you will have a noticeable upgrade in sound quality assuming you are coming from an onboard audio interface. The external DAC will have a USB connection that connects to your computer and will bypass the sound card on your computer. Also if you plan to spend a decent amount of money on speakers might as well get a DAC too.

I think the reason why none of those speakers have a volume knob or headphone jack is because they assume the buyers (audiophiles) to already have some interrace (DAC/Amp) that already has those options. Of course the other reason is design, people want a clean minimal look these days, knobs and connectors just ruin it.
 

sweetchaos

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For under $200/ea, I would point you to either:
1. JBL 305P MKII.
Measured by Erin:
1631043086052.png

2. Adam T5V
Measured by Amir:
1631043370878.png

You can install Volumouse (link) and control the volume digitally using your mousewheel.

For your headphones, my recommendation for simple wire management, is to get a 6ft (or so) aux extension cable, and plug into the desktop's aux slot. Then, when you want to use headphones, simply plug or unplug the headphones from the extension cable.
Visually, the cable is very thin, and won't change the aesthetic of your overall setup.

Alternatively, if you have an external DAC and/or headphone amp, you could control the volume using the knob.
In my case, the headphone amp is next to my keyboard, so it's easy for me to adjust the volume without moving the arm too much.

You could look at the
https://m.thomann.de/intl/mackie_cr5_x.htm?i11l=de_GB:NG.USD:EUR&o=1&search=1631041209

They have what you like. But i not say they are good or bad.
Not good...I wouldn't buy the Mackie CRx-X
Measured by Erin:
1631042932424.png
 

twsecrest

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For best audio quality, suggest not getting studio monitors loaded down with bells and whistles.
Audioengine A5+ are fine for those that like a simple hook up.
The Audio engine A5+ use a shared amplifier.
The more professional studio monitor comes with two built in amplifiers, one for the tweeter and one for the woofer.
Monoprice has a nice bang for the buck studio monitors, you could even add a sub-woofer.
https://www.monoprice.com/category/...sound-&-accessories/studio-reference-monitors
For more cash, suggest the JBL LSR 306 studio monitors (2.0).

Buy a DAC/headphone amplifier, with a line-output you can connect to the studio monitors.
 

Astrozombie

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I never knew that, wonder why they have 2 amps for tweeter and woofer. The 305 was on my wishlist in the future. Too much hassle for the desktop rn.
 

somebodyelse

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I never knew that, wonder why they have 2 amps for tweeter and woofer. The 305 was on my wishlist in the future. Too much hassle for the desktop rn.
They have separate amps internally because they use an active crossover. You don't see this from the outside - it just has a line level input and mains power input.
 

AnalogSteph

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I think the reason why none of those speakers have a volume knob or headphone jack is because they assume the buyers (audiophiles) to already have some interrace (DAC/Amp) that already has those options.
Indeed. Basically every audio interface has a monitor volume knob of some description, and if not you can also buy a dedicated monitor controller. The speakers' input level trim is generally just used once, during setup. Active monitors come from the (home) studio space, so check music retailers.

Headphone outputs built into computer speakers are generally lousy. Some audio interfaces aren't too hot either in this regard, but others are perfectly acceptable. Check the YT channel of @Julian Krause, he has a whole table with headphone output performance data going.

You can also do a lot to reduce the need to access volume at all - equalize volume across applications, make sure your own collection is ReplayGain scanned etc..
 
OP
H

haen

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Thanks for all the answers!

Yes, an external DAC is the way to go, you will have a noticeable upgrade in sound quality assuming you are coming from an onboard audio interface.

Is there really better sound quality expected when using an external DAC compared to the onboard sound card? I thought that it should not be taken for granted, unless there is a subpar quality of the motherboard (components, isolation, interference).

You can install Volumouse (link) and control the volume digitally using your mousewheel.

For your headphones, my recommendation for simple wire management, is to get a 6ft (or so) aux extension cable, and plug into the desktop's aux slot. Then, when you want to use headphones, simply plug or unplug the headphones from the extension cable.
Visually, the cable is very thin, and won't change the aesthetic of your overall setup.

Well, I can e.g. control volume using the keyboard multimedia buttons or hover over a volume tray icon and use the mousewheel. But nothing beats a quick reach using the left hand to the volume knob and simple adjust. ;)

And about aux extension cable - what do you mean by that? My motherboard has typical line-in (blue), line-out (lime) and microphone (pink) ports. I can connect speakers OR headphones to the line-out port but not both at the same time.

You can also do a lot to reduce the need to access volume at all - equalize volume across applications, make sure your own collection is ReplayGain scanned etc..

All my stored music has ReplayGain info embedded for my 'normal' playback, still sound may come from any random app (Spotify, YouTube, webpages like Bandcamp, games etc. etc.) - I'm not sure how I could approach the task of equalizing volume across all of these. Anyway, it is not that I always use the same volume - sometimes I need to push the volume down just for few seconds, or push it down in the evenings etc. etc. As I mentioned above the volume knob is just the most optimal way for me to do that. Anyway, those Audioengine A5+ actually have the front volume knob, but they seems to be an outlier.

That way or another it seems that if I want to replicate my current setup I need an external DAC, which is bummer for several reasons - it means additional costs, more cables and boxes lying on or around my desk. Well...
 

Walter

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Thanks for all the answers!
Is there really better sound quality expected when using an external DAC compared to the onboard sound card? I thought that it should not be taken for granted, unless there is a subpar quality of the motherboard (components, isolation, interference).
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...te-z390-aorus-motherboard-audio-review.13083/
That link is a review of a motherboard with a well above average sound subsystem. It is about equal to a good but not great dongle. A good external DAC will give much better measurable performance than this motherboard, and audibly better performance than many motherboards. However, with your budget, if you have a motherboard with above average audio, it might not be the best use of your money.
 

AnalogSteph

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Is there really better sound quality expected when using an external DAC compared to the onboard sound card? I thought that it should not be taken for granted, unless there is a subpar quality of the motherboard (components, isolation, interference).
I mean, if you've got an ALC1220 with its 2 Vrms output going it might be completely fine. Still wouldn't have balanced output though, which is very much recommended to avoid trouble when using active monitors. If you're cheap, you could solve that particular problem e.g. with a Behringer HD400 plus assorted cabling (3.5 mm to 2x 1/4" TS, 2 pcs. 1/4 TRS to XLR).
And about aux extension cable - what do you mean by that? My motherboard has typical line-in (blue), line-out (lime) and microphone (pink) ports. I can connect speakers OR headphones to the line-out port but not both at the same time.
Don't you have a - I almost don't dare say it - front panel headphone jack? Yes, lots of cases are problematic, creating a ground loop right away and annoying you with corresponding unwanted noises, but you might get lucky (or perhaps be able to mod the thing if needed). I suspect some cases do it not just for cheap and simple EMI compliance but also to complement their super thin HDA connector wiring which might present a bit more shared ground resistance than you really want...

I haven't found a good option for "office desktop speakers" yet either. No fuss, unbalanced in, front volume for both, not too big, maybe 200€. I'm making do with JBL 104s plus EQ now (those had all the features but measurement wise turned out to be a bit of a bust). Older ADAMs used to have the ability of using linked volume at least (e.g. A5X).
 
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