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Good quality desktop music speakers for a small room

naaitsab

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I'm currently using a Marantz SR5005 with a Mordaunt Short Premiere 5.1 setup. Which have served me well over the years. But I'm planning on swapping my desk with a slightly smaller standing desk model. So the amplifier needs to go and the speakers need to move from the wall to the desk. I have 2 27" monitors so the space is quite limited on the planned 140cm wide desk. So I already take in account 2 side desk clamps for the speakers. Also the amp can get quite warm which is not ideal in summer and I also guess it takes quite some power.

The room is about 2.75 meters wide and about 4m wide. With the desk situated on the longitudinal wall so there is about 1.5m of room behind my chair. And any acoustic paneling will not survive the approval factor. Ceiling is about 2.5m high. Wall behind me is covered in thin carpet and the others are just drywall covered with paint. So to summarize, acoustics are not great.

For my HD660s I got a Schiit Asgard 3 with the built-in DAC. So I don't require a headphone option in all this. This setup is a bit too neutral to my taste as it lacks a bit in the lows, it does sound amazing with instruments and vocal. But that's another story. I do require a extra USB DAC as I want to remove my dedicated soundcard from the PC and if possible stay clear of any modified driver crap.

I mostly listen to pop, electronic and sometimes classical. I game on the system and watch movies. Low-end does not have to be that loud as the house is quite noisy so I want to limit nuisance. So I'm planning to reuse my current sub as it's more than powerful enough and has a LPF and dual-channel coax inputs. Not sure if it scores high in any scorelist but as far as I know a sub in a low requirement situation is by far the least important factor. But if it can be replaced by just 2 monitors it would be a bonus. Music is not always on that loud, I also use it as background music for when I'm working so the setup also needs to work good at that level of volume. Can be the entire day in the room so any tweeter that is known to cause fatigue is not high on the list. Anything that has an audible hiss from my listening position 0,8~1m away from each monitor, is a no-go. Especially if the music is off.

Budget is €1500 for the kit (DAC, XLR cables, 2 speakers and IsoAcoustics frame/pucks). But willing to flex it a bit if there is far better choice. I tend to buy stuff for 10+ years so a bit extra is no problem. But is has to be quality stuff.

DAC:
Requirements: Works with Windows 11 over USB. Has good drivers or can use the built-in Windows ones. Needs to have a physical volume knob.
Nice to have: small formfactor and sleek design. Bus powered.
What I have found so far:
-SMSL DO100. seems a bit hefty but judging from the reviews on here it's rock solid. Has XLR and Coaxial so can use monitors balanced and can reuse my sub.
-Focusrite Scarlett Solo is also popular but looks quite clunky and I'm not sure if the DAC is even on the same level as the DO100. A plus would be I could use the mic from the Adams A-series Sonarworks integration. It's also bus powered. As I get the impression the DAC part is not it's focus I'm more geared towards the DO100

Speaker requirements: Good quality and not to big. For this setup I think a 'nearfield' studio monitor would be the best choice. But I'm not going to mix on it, so I don't need a reference type of sound. Just good quality audio with allowance of a bit of let's call it color to it. Which makes the choice a bit limited as the goal of many if not all studio monitors is to be as close to reference as possible. Also the room might require tweaking so DSP would be nice or maybe even required.

For that reason I've selected a few Studio Monitor speakers.
-Adam T5V. Seems to be a good allrounder with a "fun" sound. T7v and T8v are deemed to big and from what I understand would also not fit my room size and require some volume to work.
-Adam A7V. Definitely a big step up in price but comes with a way more advanced DSP and forward facing bass port. The consensus about the A4v is that it's quite mediocre and has port issues. On the other hand it's a lot cheaper and perhaps for regular music listening it might be more than enough? The 'UNR' DSP setting judging from reviews would be the better setting for my non-mixing 'hi-fi' needs.
-Kali IN-5. It seems to lack quite a lot in highs compered to the rest? Also everyone seems to say get the IN-8 V2 due to a tweeter hiss fix. But the 8s are very big. So I guess this kinda closes the door on Kali?
-Neumann KH 80. Has iPad only DSP which I don't have and I'm not really keen on supporting this vendorlocking behavior. So this kind of results in the KH 120 A which has a somewhat limited psychical DSP.

If a small dac+amp combo and 2 unpowered "dumb" speakers would be a far better choice let me know. I'm not afraid to spend a bit on the set but it needs to be realistic for the usecase (no audio work). But if monitors would be a total waste of money or in this price range sound worse than I have now. I'm more inclined to limit the search to a small amp-dac combo and reuse 2 speakers and my sub. But a small high quality 2.1 dac-amp is not really something I've come across that often or are extremely expensive like the SMSL VMV A2

Any help with deciding would be much appreciated. I'm located in EU so not all US based brands are available or might be grossly overpriced. I selected 3 brands that are well stocked here and seem to score high on the "get this" list by many.
 
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unpluggged

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So this kind of results in the KH 120 A which has a somewhat limited psychical DSP
It has no DSP (not even "psychical", whatever that could mean), it's purely analog.

Neumann KH 80. Has iPad only DSP
Wrong. The DSP is in the speakers. iPad can be used to control it and set up room correction, as well as a desktop-based MA 1 calibration system. Other than that, you can configure the DSP filters with the switches on the back of the speaker.

I'd go for a pair of KH 120 A and later add a KH 750 DSP to extend their bass response and apply room correction filters. They are superior to all the models you mentioned despite their age and all-analog design. And for your room size, you don't need to be worried about SPLs.
 

twsecrest

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For the HD660s how does the sound compare, with plugged HD660s into the Asgard or into the Marantz SR5005?

Page 35 and 69 of the Marantz SR5005 manual show how to do a stereo "2.1" setup, with your current hardware.
And it would not cost you a single Euro.

But me, I would rather go with a 2.1 setup, studio monitors with a sub-woofer (self-powered) that comes with line inputs and line outputs.
The Schiit Asgard comes with Pre-out, connect that to the line-input on the sub-woofer.

Self off the Marantz SR5005 and the complete Mordaunt Short Premiere 5.1 setup.
 
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naaitsab

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It has no DSP (not even "psychical", whatever that could mean), it's purely analog.


Wrong. The DSP is in the speakers. iPad can be used to control it and set up room correction, as well as a desktop-based MA 1 calibration system. Other than that, you can configure the DSP filters with the switches on the back of the speaker.

I'd go for a pair of KH 120 A and later add a KH 750 DSP to extend their bass response and apply room correction filters. They are superior to all the models you mentioned despite their age and all-analog design. And for your room size, you don't need to be worried about SPLs.
Well perhaps tuning or filtering is a better, more allround word than DSP. As the KH indeed have switches, so do all the other brands. But I guess the amplifier in the Kali and Adam works more modern so to speak.

In what regards would you deem the KH superior instead of the Adams or the Kali?

For the HD660s how does the sound compare, with plugged HD660s into the Asgard or into the Marantz SR5005?

Page 35 and 69 of the Marantz SR5005 manual show how to do a stereo "2.1" setup, with your current hardware.
And it would not cost you a single Euro.

But me, I would rather go with a 2.1 setup, studio monitors with a sub-woofer (self-powered) that comes with line inputs and line outputs.
The Schiit Asgard comes with Pre-out, connect that to the line-input on the sub-woofer.

Self off the Marantz SR5005 and the complete Mordaunt Short Premiere 5.1 setup.
The 660's have a more "clean" sound than my 595's if I plug them into the Asgard. So for electronic or bassy music they sound a lot better. But anything concerning vocals or instruments, the 660's are vastly superior. It just lacks some kick.

As stated in the beginning, the Marantz needs to go, it can't fit on the desk anymore. So that's off the table. I will probably set it up in a spare room or store it for later use.
 

unpluggged

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But I guess the amplifier in the Kali and Adam works more modern so to speak.
What is this supposed to mean and how is it relevant to their performance?

In what regards would you deem the KH superior instead of the Adams or the Kali?
Just compare their measurements, unit-to-unit variation consistency, comprehensiveness and reliability of their published specifications, manufacturer's support level, and target market segment.

They might sound not that different, but when I get Neumanns (or, for that matter, Genelecs), I'm sure they will perform up to the promise, and if I set their sensitivity to 94 dB at 0 dBu at 1 m, I know this is the SPL they will put out if I set my volume to −4 dB at +4 dBu reference level.

And they indeed sound great. And I can't hear them hiss (speaking of "more modern amplifiers").
 

erniek

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What is this supposed to mean and how is it relevant to their performance?


Just compare their measurements, unit-to-unit variation consistency, comprehensiveness and reliability of their published specifications, manufacturer's support level, and target market segment.

They might sound not that different, but when I get Neumanns (or, for that matter, Genelecs), I'm sure they will perform up to the promise, and if I set their sensitivity to 94 dB at 0 dBu at 1 m, I know this is the SPL they will put out if I set my volume to −4 dB at +4 dBu reference level.

And they indeed sound great. And I can't hear them hiss (speaking of "more modern amplifiers").
I know many have opinions of various speakers but my original KEF Ls50's are used in various small room environments. It has been hard to fault these wonderful sounding speakers for their all encompassing flexibility in any environment.
 

Zapper

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How about Genelec G One, Two, or Three, depending on the size & volume you desire (or the almost identical 8010A, 8020D, or 8030C). Several of these are reviewed on this site. There are two matching subwoofers, the F One and Two. I think the Genelecs are more accurate and better engineered than Adam or Kali. The subwoofers have internal DACs and digital inputs.
 

pablolie

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I know many have opinions of various speakers but my original KEF Ls50's are used in various small room environments. It has been hard to fault these wonderful sounding speakers for their all encompassing flexibility in any environment.
Especially if cut off around 80Hz and paired with a well-placed sub. Keepers, in any way, against many other worth 5x more.
 
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naaitsab

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So after a lot of searching, referencing and consideration I've made a different 'wish list' for the new setup.

DAC: SMSL SU-1.
Has USB-C input and power, so single-wire solution. Needs a slight driver tweak to 'always on' mode, unless this will be changed in a future firmware. It seems the drivers are quite generic so no dependency on proprietary SMSL/Chinese-nobrand drivers. Most reviewers state it's very good for it's price point but point out the annoying popping. Which can be fixed if you change the driver setting (Windows only it seems).

AMP: SMSL A300
For this size/nearfield/low-volume setup a Class D amp will probably the only reasonable solution. To continue with the praise some SMSL products get I decided to settle on the A300. It seems quite powerful and does not mess with the output. Some state it's more of a 'Class A tone' than a regular Class D. My current Marantz is afaik a Class A and I kind of like it's tone. And it has a subwoofer out with a low pass filter so I can use my current sub. The built-in DAC is sadly utter garbage so no single device solution. But I can use the SU-1 to also use 2 other inputs beside the PC if desired. Not really sold on the flush control wheel but this can always be remedied by 3D-printing a new knob if it annoys me.

Alternatively the SMSL SA400 came around but that seems to run very hot and has an annoying fan (with computer desk distancing in mind this is a no-go) and most reviews conclude it's not really worth it's price. On which the A300 does stand out on it's price-performance ratio.

Speakers:
A lot of people seem to recommend these speakers in this price and size range so I'm looking int getting a pair of KEF LS50 Meta's. They should fall well into the range of drivability for the A300? One of the reasons to go for passive speakers is that they don't break. Well apart from mechanical damage caused by me or when it get's very old. Spending the same amount on active speakers which after the warranty period can become very expensive bricks if the amps go out. I'd rather buy a new €200 AMP than a €1500 speaker set.
 

ZolaIII

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Stick to Neumann's for their quiet amplifier from active one's. I assume it's a Windows PC in which case you can use JRiver WDM driver as system level DSP.
Best regards and have fun!
 

Klonatans

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If you go the passive speakers route, I'd recommend to buy second hand and to inspect the speakers before purchasing them, so you can save some funds. Apart from KEF, there are plenty other good speakers from European brands like Elac (BS series with AMT tweeter), Quadral (Aurum series with ribbon tweeter), Audio Physic, Dali, XTZ, Scansonic to mention some. I've found incredibly affordable offers in a local add service called Kleinanzeigen in Germany if you happen to be in this country.

As to SMSL, while the products of the brand has SOTA measurements, the reliability isn't that stellar (you can read plenty of reports on faulty units here). I wouldn't discard a decent class AB amp from a European brand.
 

TonyJZX

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smsl tends to have better reliability than most

i'd love to see cases here

i have the a300 and c100 and this is a fine setup for $300

the AL200 for $250 is good too

the A300 should be doing a real world 70w at least and i've powered everything i have down to 77dB speakers without any issue
 
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naaitsab

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Stick to Neumann's for their quiet amplifier from active one's. I assume it's a Windows PC in which case you can use JRiver WDM driver as system level DSP.
Best regards and have fun!
I'm not really sold on the active monitor setup after some researching. As said it moves the things that can break into the most expensive part of the setup. Also there aren't any local shops that have decent speakers in both categories. It's either a "DJ shop" with monitors or a "HiFi shop" with good speakers. And for a proper comparison I would need to listen to both in the same room, on the same source with the same music. Skimming trough multiple forums and Youtube about the subject 70/30 seem recommend "classic" speakers over monitors for music listing. As most monitors are designed from the ground up for accuracy for mixing and not for pleasure. This kind of makes sense to me. It does not make it bad speakers but perhaps not best suited for my needs.

Or would you categorize the Neumann into "regular" powered shelve speakers, like the KEF LSX setup?

If you go the passive speakers route, I'd recommend to buy second hand and to inspect the speakers before purchasing them, so you can save some funds. Apart from KEF, there are plenty other good speakers from European brands like Elac (BS series with AMT tweeter), Quadral (Aurum series with ribbon tweeter), Audio Physic, Dali, XTZ, Scansonic to mention some. I've found incredibly affordable offers in a local add service called Kleinanzeigen in Germany if you happen to be in this country.

As to SMSL, while the products of the brand has SOTA measurements, the reliability isn't that stellar (you can read plenty of reports on faulty units here). I wouldn't discard a decent class AB amp from a European brand.
I've checked the regular market places. They are quite flooded with either old bulky stuff from grandpas attic, tower/floorstanding speakers or plain bad quality 5.1 sets. But I could look around for some more HiFi orientated forums. Still I don't really mind spending a bit more to get new stuff. On analogue speakers this is not really an issue if it's not antique but on electronics I want it new.

I plan to buy the AMP from a retailer in the EU, which by law has a 2 year warranty. If it dies after that I'm sure there are new products around as the low-price-good-stuff category seems to get more and more products. As with most Chinesium stuff the QC is non existing so I would expect it having a higher change of it being a DOA. Some shops offer a DOA check for this exact reason so could ask if they can do that for me.

Most European AB amp's are quite bulky and expensive. While the latter is to be expected, one of my goals is to seriously downsize the equipment due to a smaller desk. My current Marantz outputs a lot of heat. So in the summer I tend not to use it as it measurably heats up the room it's in.

smsl tends to have better reliability than most

i'd love to see cases here

i have the a300 and c100 and this is a fine setup for $300

the AL200 for $250 is good too

the A300 should be doing a real world 70w at least and i've powered everything i have down to 77dB speakers without any issue
I think with Topping they are about the most respected "don't pay for the brand, just the goods" stuff from China in this price range. I would not spend 500+ on their kit but some of their more budget orientated devices seem to be very solid. Common complaint is the useless remote but I don't intend to use that. And QC is a China wide issue, but is realistically also reflected in the pricetag.
 

Trell

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As most monitors are designed from the ground up for accuracy for mixing and not for pleasure. This kind of makes sense to me. It does not make it bad speakers but perhaps not best suited for my needs.
It doesn’t make sense. They are neutral and works great in a desktop setup. If you want some coloration to the sound you can add that with EQ.

one of my goals is to seriously downsize the equipment due to a smaller desk

Active monitors is an excellent way to do this downsize.
 

Zensō

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It doesn’t make sense. They are neutral and works great in a desktop setup. If you want some coloration to the sound you can add that with EQ.



Active monitors is an excellent way to do this downsize.
I agree. Coloration in the speakers is baked in, you’re better off to start with an anechoically flat speaker and add color through DSP as desired.

High quality studio monitors are quite durable. Like others have suggested, I’d recommend Genelec or Neumann, it’s hard to go wrong with either. The 8030C is a good compromise between size, price, durability, and sound quality.


Here’s a quote from the review:

“Some audiophiles like to say there is a dichotomy between accuracy and good sound in speakers. They need to listen to a speaker like Genelec 8030C to change their mind forever. Accuracy is what we need to reproduce all that is in our recording without permanently boosting and lowering some frequencies/tones.

“Importantly, accurate speakers provide similar pleasure when listening to well recorded music. Despite having very different pedigrees, I find the Genelec 8030C just as nice sounding as my Revel speakers. There is an incredible "rightness" that clicks when the response is kept flat in 200 to 4 kHz or so. Delight sets in and you melt in your chair, enjoying well recorded music and appreciating the art instead of speaker bringing attention to itself. There is no "oh that sounds bright" or "why is the vocal recessed."
 
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TonyJZX

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i agree that here we strive for purity... i do get that some of us are wanting Genelecs and that sort but I admit I do kind of enjoy 'busted' systems

eg. a marantz integrated with say... some of kind of warped English speakers... eg. like LS3/5a - i know this will bench like crap but i dont mind the sound coming out
 

ZolaIII

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@naaitsab I don't think you got the things right... all do there are pasive monitors they are very rare and rather expensive today. Main difference between the speakers is they dispersion pattern (horizontal mainly but also vertically for multiple tweaters designs) or how wide it is. For monitors it's narrower to medium wide so that you get more direct sound than refractions and in near feald listening conditions. More series and bigger speakers are designed to have wider pattern so that direct sound gets mixed with room refractions and enhance it's loudness so that they can fill bigger room, of course those are for far to mid feald. Active speakers from reputable brands as Neumann, Genelecs, Yamaha... will last you for long and if they have older AB class amplifier they will be serviceable afterwards.
 
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naaitsab

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@naaitsab I don't think you got the things right... al do there are pasive monitors they are very rare and rather expensive today. Main difference between the speakers is they dispersion pattern (horizontal mainly but also vertically for multiple tweaters designs) or how wide it is. For monitors it's narrower to mid so that you get more direct sound than refractions and in near feald listening conditions. More series and bigger speakers are designed to have wider pattern so that direct sound gets mixed with room refractions and enhance it's loudness so that they can feel bigger room, of course those are for far to mid feald. Active speakers from reputable brands as Neumann, Genelecs, Yamaha... will last you for long and if they have older AB class amplifier they will be serviceable afterwards.
Yeah I get that. What steers me away from buying anything labeled as 'studio monitors' is their fixation, in marketing, reviews and naming to be as reference or neutral as possible. Like the linked article states, music that is lower quality and/or badly mixed will light up like a Christmas tree on reference speakers. Absolutely necessary for people who work with music for a living or hobby but not for casual listening. Well at least not for me. So unless speakers like Neumann and Genelecs sound inherently warmer, are forgiving and more vivid in their sound output out of the box than lets say a Adam A4V it feels like buying the wrong gear for my purpose. And a heavy reliance on a EQ, if it's even up for the task to begin with seems to be the wrong way around.

My Schiit Asgard + HD660s combo is very neutral, it's something the 660 is known for. Great for listening to classical and vocal focused low bass oldies like Skeeter Davis on FLAC. But for music with more flair to it like metal, dance, pop and gaming. I find them very boring, so boring in fact that I would call that combo terrible for those music types. My in comparison cheap HD555 blows it out of the water in those genres, which I listen to way more often. Due to it being a lot warmer, way better bass and sounding more alive/vivid. So hence I'm not keen on spending a boat load of money on gear that is praised as being very neutral and reference again.
 

Trell

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Yeah I get that. What steers me away from buying anything labeled as 'studio monitors' is their fixation, in marketing, reviews and naming to be as reference or neutral as possible. Like the linked article states, music that is lower quality and/or badly mixed will light up like a Christmas tree on reference speakers. Absolutely necessary for people who work with music for a living or hobby but not for casual listening. Well at least not for me. So unless speakers like Neumann and Genelecs sound inherently warmer, are forgiving and more vivid in their sound output out of the box than lets say a Adam A4V it feels like buying the wrong gear for my purpose. And a heavy reliance on a EQ, if it's even up for the task to begin with seems to be the wrong way around.

As we wrote above: It's nothing wrong with adding EQ to your taste using DSP!

This is what I do in the form of the Dynamic Loudness feature of my RME ADI-2 DAC FS, and for me that sounds better when listening at lower volumes. I also use tone (bass/treble) controls, depending on content.

And yes, I'm a casual listener with my Genelecs, and so is my wife with another set of Genelecs for desktop use.

But of course you should try the active monitors at home to hear if you like them, and choosing a retailer with good return policies is very helpful here.
 

ZolaIII

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@naaitsab well bottom end will sound the same crossed with same sub (one you already have and want to keep). Well it's not that most of the "studio monitors" are very neutral or speakers in generally. Some gernes, mostly more modern club mixes either pop or electronic are rather compressed and don't sound very good if not played very loud which of course doesn't go well with small speakers or desk top anything. You should read a bit about equal loudness normalisation which dose help for listening on lower sound pressure levels (with drivers that can hold for it if it's either the good low distorsion in low bass headphones or such sub) but it still doesn't do wonders especially with more energetic gernes. What it does is that it boosts low bass and a bit highs on rather low SPL levels.
When it comes to speakers room influence will always be present and hopefully possible to menage with digital sound processing (EQ, room correction and such). Take your time and read about some of the things I mentioned, try having fun while at it and don't rush with the purchase. Try to buy from the place where you can return the gear with minimal financial lose if you are not satisfied.
 
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