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Hello! Audio newbie looking for advice

bricko

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Hi everyone! :)

I'm an engineering student and former forum-lurker looking to start my journey into quality audio. I've been looking to get a decent system for a while, and this year I'm actually going to bite the bullet. I've been obsessing over speaker and amplifier reviews, and before I go in anymore circles I figured this would be the best place to learn some stuff and get some advice. The "best" speaker I currently own is an Anker Soundcore Motion + Bluetooth speaker which is great as far as small, portable, Bluetooth speakers go, but it is quite evident that it is not the best solution to a more-permanent setup.

Here are the details and constraints for what I'm looking for:
-Location: Nearfield desktop 2.1 setup in ~10'×12' room (might go 2.0 if I find a subwoofer unnecessary)
-Usage: The majority of the time these speakers will be used to enjoy music, but as I am a musician I would also like them to be accurate in order to use them for critical listening. They will be connected to my laptop as the main input source, and I would like to be able to connect to them via Bluetooth from my phone.
-Sound signature: I listen to a wide variety of genres, but when I listen to heavier genres (e.g. electronic music, rock, metal) I really enjoy accurate and solid bass reproduction. Regarding treble and mids, I would like something that is clear and smooth but not fatiguing to listen to for extended periods of time.
-Budget: ~$350-400 USD (If I could spend even less that would be preferable. This does not include a subwoofer.)
-Note: I own a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 interface so I don't think I will need to purchase a DAC.

Some powered speakers I am considering:
-Vanatoo Transparent Zero - $356: These are currently my favorite on paper. The amount of inputs and the subwoofer out with crossover option at 125/80 Hz combined with the small space and passive radiator make them incredibly attractive. (I'm not a fan of port noise.)
-JBL 305P MKII - $130 ea.: These seem highly recommended, but I am concerned about hissing that some people have noted with them up close. Also, I'm worried they are a little big for my desk.
-iLoud Micro Monitors - $300: These seem okay but I'm worried they will be cheap and plasticky.

Some passive speakers I am considering:
-Micca RB42 - $150: ZReviews gave these a glowing review, but I feel like he tends to do that for just about everything he listens to. I have heard these are incredibly inefficient and I will need a powerful amp to drive them.
-Pioneer SP-BS22-LR - $180: I have heard a lot of great things about these, but right now they're really expensive compared to prices I've previously seen them at.
-Regarding amps: I'm really not sure where to start. I've been looking at some from SMSL and Dayton Audio, but a subwoofer out with the crossover that removes bass frequencies from the passive speakers seems like a great feature and not one that I have been able to find.

The subwoofer I will probably purchase:
-Elac SUB1010 10" - $130

I really want to maximize audio quality for the money. I know there are many speakers and amps that I have not considered, and I hope that I can find some guidance from the incredible knowledge base of those who are active here on ASR. I would appreciate any and all help! Please let me know some recommendations you have that I did not mention. If you've made it this far, I commend and thank you for reading all of that.
 

BDWoody

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The Audioengine 5 might be worth a look.
They had a pretty solid review here on the site a while back.
How important are aesthetics?

1019201631_HDR.jpg
 

CDMC

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At your price point, I would highly recommend you consider used. $300-400 will net you a lot greater value in the used market, especially if you are willing to be patient. I would identify some speakers in that market and watch for them on places like hifi shark (Dynaudio, Kef, Revel bookshelf). In new, you may want to look at the Philharmonic Affordable Accuracy, which will be less than $400, but you will have to assemble yourself.
 
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bricko

bricko

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Thank you for the info! The A5+ is definitely something I will look into, and aesthetics are minimally important. I'd rather have something visually unimpressive that sounds amazing rather than something that looks better than it performs. @BDWoody, are you the owner of a set of A5+?

Regarding used: I haven't yet considered the used market, but I will take a look there. I usually prefer to buy things new because then I know what has happened to them (and also warranty support if there are any issues), but I can imagine that I will be able to save a lot of money and still get very good speakers. This is the first I've heard of Hifi Shark, and I really like that it searches across multiple websites! That's quite a time saver.

Lastly, the Micca MB42x and Neumi BS5 seem like great budget options, but I'd like to shoot a little higher. I appreciate the recommendation though!
 

BDWoody

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Thank you for the info! The A5+ is definitely something I will look into, and aesthetics are minimally important. I'd rather have something visually unimpressive that sounds amazing rather than something that looks better than it performs. @BDWoody, are you the owner of a set of A5+?

You're very welcome! I am indeed the happy owner of a pair of the bamboo finish A5+. I have quite a few sets of speakers about the place, but don't feel like apologizing for anything when they are all I've got playing. These are in the kitchen, and they have been nice little speakers.

HiFiShark is great, even for just a quick price check.
 

sweetchaos

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Welcome to ASR. :)

Well, you saw my list of bookshelves under 300usd, so there's lots of options, as you can tell. :eek:
The only problem is that until Amir or Erin measures it, we really don't know for sure.

I used @ mzkd's spreadsheet to narrow down the options:
- 400usd
- picked 3 or 4 on Amir rating, where
3 - Amir liked = relaxed panther award
4 - Amir loved = golfing/soccer panther award

Result:
1603331246639.png

That gives you the starting point.

Of these, the lowest bass measured was 41hz =>JBL 305P MKII
I have JBL 305P MKII and without EQ they sound bright.
But with EQ by @ flipflop (and put together by @ pierre on github), posted here, they sound just perfect.

Amir loved 2 from this list:
- philharmonic AAM (passive)
- wharfedale diamond 220 (passive)
So take that into consideration.

Sorry, I have no amplifier recommendations, as other members know a lot more.

A speaker you mentioned and not measured by Amir or Erin is:
- IK Multimedia iLoud Micro Monitors. Was measured by @ napilopez and he liked them. Although, some port cancellations are visible on the graph, so not perfect response as we'd like, but for the small size of these Micro's, I really don't think others can achieve better results. So if you need the smallest bookshelves possible, that should be on your list. But, if size is not an issue for your space, look at other, more capable options above.

Decent choice for subwoofer, but Erin just measured Monoprice 12" for US$100, which beat the rest of 10" subs.
Unless you're short on space (because Monoprice 12" is much bigger than other 10" subs Erin measured) and 40lb (aka 60% heavier than the rest), in which case go with Elac SUB1010.
And strongly consider 2 of either for best experience.
 
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bricko

bricko

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@sweetchaos, yes I did see your lists, and I applaud your efforts! It's so cool to have a database for this sort of stuff.

Based on the helpful information you've provided and some more research and thought, I've come to the following conclusions:

1. Although I was initially considering a pair of Vanatoo T0s or a *used* pair of T1 Encores, I feel like I really don't need to spend that much money for my first genuine set of good speakers. The overheating issue with the T0s that I've heard mentioned in some reviews is also mildly concerning.

2. I think I'm going to hold off on passive speakers for now, just for the sake of simplicity. I'm going to be in and out of dorms/apartments for at least the next few years, and until I have a more permanent residence I don't think I need to get too many components. The Pioneer SP-BS22 is incredibly tempting though lol!

3. My choice is now down to two active monitors: the JBL 305P MKII and the Mackie MR524. This review/comparison makes the Mackie seem like the better pick (in my inexperienced opinion of course), but I don't know if it is worth $80 per pair more than a set of the JBLs, especially when the minor frequency response differences between them can simply be EQ'd out (or so I think). I've heard that the Mackie will have better low-volume-level performance and next to no hiss when nothing is playing, but I can imagine the waveguide and tweeter on the JBLs will produce a wider soundstage. Furthermore, I've read that Mackie is not known for having excellent quality control, and I don't want to deal with an MR524 that is DOA. So I think the 305P is my top option at this point.

Since you own a pair of the JBL 305P MKII, there are a few questions I'd like to ask:
1. What do you think about them? Have you found the hissing noise to be bothersome in your usage? Is there any way to mitigate it if so?
2. If I wanted to hook up a subwoofer in the future, how exactly would I do that with these?
3. Should I perhaps consider getting them...in white? Is that taboo?
 

sweetchaos

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yes I did see your lists, and I applaud your efforts! It's so cool to have a database for this sort of stuff.
Thanks, I was just curious and was bored one day, and that's where it lead to :facepalm:...but I'm glad to see others are enjoying my efforts!

Mackie MR524
You don't want to look at someone's in-room measurements with a microphone, as there's too many things that can effect the quality, so it's really hard to say whether they're accurate or not. Basically, they're better than nothing, but still not good enough in my opinion.
Look at least quasi-anechoic measurements or better [full anechoic or Klippel's Near Field Scanner (NFS)].
Here's anechoic measurements of the larger model (called MR824):
1603434809409.png
Certainly not bad, and can be EQ'd.
But there's a worrisome region around 8Khz (looks like port cancellation?), so until Amir measures a similar unit, we won't know for sure.
There's been a request for either MR524/MR624/MR824 for Amir to measure, so i'm sure that'll happen in the future.

My pick is for JBL 305P MKII...biased opinion, since I have them, lol
1. Yes, I love them, but only with EQ that I mentioned. I used EqualizerAPO and then PEACE for Windows to EQ these. Without EQ, I can probably listen to these for about 30 min before I get a slight headache...that's the brightness hitting you after a while.
I'm sitting only 3ft from tweeter to ear and can hear the hiss, but only if the volume at the back of the speaker is set above 7 (on the dial). I set mine at 7 and I don't hear it, and it gives me plenty of sound volume. But for longer distance away from the tweeter, you can just max that out to 10.
2. Just get the JBL LSR310S subwoofer (now for US$350, but was $300 earlier this year, and $240 last year), which was basically made for these (specifically it was made for JBL LSR305 [Gen 1] model, but it's basically the same as this model). See manual for how to hookup.
Just use XLR cables.
2020-10-22 23_42_38-3-series-owner-s-manual.png
3. White is great if it matches your decor. I personally love white, but it wasn't available here in Canada when I was purchasing. But if purchasing again, I'd probably go white, as I dig the look. Again, personal opinion.
 

BDWoody

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3. My choice is now down to two active monitors: the JBL 305P MKII and the Mackie

I don't think you could go wrong with either. I don't know the Mackie's, but would certainly take a listen.
Can you get both for an in house audition?

I seem to have become a JBL guy, so would naturally lean that way, but for no particularly good reason other than I like the 11 various JBL's I've got hanging about the place.
 
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bricko

bricko

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Hey all, I'm happy to say that I was able to visit a Guitar Center down state today to test out the monitors they had available there, and the 305Ps were on the shelf! They unfortunately didn't have the Mackies, but they had monitors from Alesis, KRK, M-Audio, and Sterling Audio. After listening to all of them, I can say that hearing the 305Ps in person confirmed that they would be my next purchase. They sounded significantly better than the other monitors there. I noticed the KRK 5" had louder bass, but they colored the upper treble in a way that did not impress me. I ordered a pair of white 305Ps almost immediately after I got home, and my excitement could not be greater! Thank you so much for your help in my decision. I think I made the best use of my money, which is a very satifying feeling.

@sweetchaos I appreciate the EQ that you mentioned. I will definitely try it out if (and when) I find the sound of the 305Ps fatiguing. Also, I guess it's time to start saving up for the LSR310s haha!
 

Head_Unit

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a subwoofer out with the crossover that removes bass frequencies from the passive speakers seems like a great feature and not one that I have been able to find.
Yup. The solution, unless you're crammed for space, is to get a used AVR. Nothing wrong with running one in two channels, and if it has Audyssey or Dirac those can really help some bass anomalies. But I think I'd chase the active route more, maybe these
https://www.audioholics.com/bookshelf-speaker-reviews/presonus-eris-e8-xt or the Vanatoos you mentioned
https://audioxpress.com/article/fre...atoo-transparent-one-encore-powered-speakers/
 

Toto77

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Hey all, I'm happy to say that I was able to visit a Guitar Center down state today to test out the monitors they had available there, and the 305Ps were on the shelf! They unfortunately didn't have the Mackies, but they had monitors from Alesis, KRK, M-Audio, and Sterling Audio. After listening to all of them, I can say that hearing the 305Ps in person confirmed that they would be my next purchase. They sounded significantly better than the other monitors there. I noticed the KRK 5" had louder bass, but they colored the upper treble in a way that did not impress me. I ordered a pair of white 305Ps almost immediately after I got home, and my excitement could not be greater! Thank you so much for your help in my decision. I think I made the best use of my money, which is a very satifying feeling.

@sweetchaos I appreciate the EQ that you mentioned. I will definitely try it out if (and when) I find the sound of the 305Ps fatiguing. Also, I guess it's time to start saving up for the LSR310s haha!


Interesting.... I also bought a pair of 305s from guitar center last week and feel that the upper midrange boost is too much. Im thinking of getting the kali lp6s or the krk rokit 5s. Have you heard the kalis?
 
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bricko

bricko

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@Toto77 Please have my apologies for not responding sooner, somehow I missed the notification. I unfortunately have not heard the Kalis, but I would love to eventually. I agree that without equalization the 305s are unpleasant to listen to for an extended period of time. I only ever use them with the EQ sweetchaos mentioned in post #9, slightly modified for my living space and the accompanying room modes. I've been using the Loudness Correction plugin built into Equalizer APO as well, which I personally really enjoy for low-level near-field listening because it fills out the low end so much and helps compensate for the harshness of the upper end boost as well. If you haven't tried that, I highly recommend it!

Back to your original query though, I have heard from other sources that the Kalis are smoother sounding than the 305s. I was heavily considering them before I bought my 305s but they were simply too large for my desk haha!
 
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