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Help Selecting a PC Audio Setup

Absonic

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Joined
Feb 12, 2021
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Hi everyone,

New user who has read some of the ASR reviews from time to time (I am not a big audiophile though) but have great respect for ASR as the reviews are done by passionate people doing things properly and who know much more than I will (and probably some manufacturers) in the audio field. I was hoping if someone could help me out with picking a ‘good’ set of passive speakers for use with my PC. Some background on my first foray into better PC audio:

I purchased a Creative AE-5 (worst piece of equipment I have ever purchased in my life), some Fostex PM0.5d speakers (L/R) and the Fostex PMsubmini-2 subwoofer to upgrade from the Creative Gigaworks T40 series II that I had. To put my experience in a brief and polite manner the AE-5’s software was unreliable and at one point it increased the headphone volume on my ATH-AD700s by itself (the AE-5’s DSP did I believe, as the Windows audio remained constant) while wearing them to an extreme level. The AE-5 also made the PM0.5d speakers sound lifeless and rather clinical. So the AE-5 was a waste of money and while my decision to purchase it was based on other things it offered besides audio (like not taking space on my desk and coming with Alchemy for older PC games, which is another story in itself) it proved I had little insight into making 'good' audio purchases.

Unfortunately, I was unable to listen to the Fostex speakers in person before I bought them, but they went on a decent sale online and I thought sure why not, a decent set of speakers would be good and all I need then is a good DAC. The Fostex minisub subwoofer wouldn’t take up much space on my desk so I got it as well. When the PM0.5d speakers arrived and I plugged them in they had an unacceptable level of tweeter hiss and so I could not stand using them for near field listening. The sub is ok, but frequency response is definitely not low enough for me (probably a good response though considering the size of its cabinet). The PM0.5d and sub were relegated to the TV room which still struggles to this day to sound clear and decent (another topic for another day).

Chance would have it that an electrical storm blew the HDMI inputs and outputs on a VSX-1020 that I had. I removed the HDMI chips and it turns on and seems to work (but with no HDMI!). When I play the radio on the VSX-1020 to the PM0.5d speakers they sound great, but since the Fostex connect via the analogue outs (not speaker outs) on the VSX-1020 I cannot do room calibration on them. I also cannot route optical in to the analogue outs for playback by the 0.5d speakers, so basically my source inputs are extremely limited and there really isn’t much point in putting the VSX-1020 in the audio chain with the Fostex.

So now my intention is to use the VSX-1020 with an optical connection from my PC with a set of passive speakers sitting on my desk. I was tempted to bypass the amps in the 0.5d speakers and run them biamp from the VSX-1020 – hopefully no tweeter hiss but I imagine that the impedance of the tweeter or mid is too low (though I haven’t checked) for the VSX-1020. Comments? Am I too crazy?

The more sane route is to purchase a set of passive speakers (I’m in Australia). People say good things about these budget passives for their price: https://voll.com.au/product/b50/ but I am concerned they will fall short of my expectations and end up being another regretful purchase. So I am looking at a few other speakers below:
Dali Spektor 2
Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2
Elac Debut B5.2
And something that is a bit out of my price range: Bowers & Wilkins 607 S2 Anniversary Edition (but if it was worth the extra I would consider it, found online on special at $850 AUD and I’d rather buy one good thing once than 10 bad but cheap things).

Not sure if the sub would add any value if using alongside any of the passives listed above. Intended uses include games and music, but to be honest I just want something that is easy on the ears, is clear (I want to hear the subtleties in the music come through and understand speech without it being muddled), smooth and has some life to it.

Then the next part of the question would be how to use my headphones (Audio Technica ATH-AD700) with the setup – the AE-5 blew my ears out and so I don’t want to plug headphones into the headphone jack on the VSX-1020 (as having speaker amps in the same enclosure that I am plugging headphones into is scary). Looks like my best choice would be to buy an optical splitter and use a separate headphone amp (one day I would like to try a good valve amp).

Would anyone with more insight than myself like to comment/make suggestions and put me on the right path?
 

zzz2496

Member
Joined
Aug 26, 2020
Messages
23
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Location
Indonesia
Hi @Absonic

I'd go with active system - please excuse my comment. My current system are all active speakers. I use PC (and Macs) to play my music. I don't use headphones, so can't comment much on that. My current system consist of these components:
PC: Lenovo Legion gaming laptop running Windows 10, and iTunes as my preferred media player (my library is managed by iTunes since 12 years ago).
Mac: 2013 Macbook Pro 15".
DAC/preamp: NAD M51 Master series.
Speakers: 2x ADAM AUDIO S3X-H.
Subwoofer: 1x ADAM AUDIO SUB24.

For me, using an active system, especially from ADAM AUDIO is the best. The first speaker that "opens" my audio horizon was ADAM AUDIO A7x. That speaker destroys my notion of "speakers are just that, speakers - nothing more nothing less" then changed it to "HOLY SHIT OH MY GOD WHAT THE F IS THIS ?!?!?!?!?!". Minimal tweeter hiss, good bass response, though not too low, enough SPL before distortion kicks in. If you can have a listen, try listening ADAM AUDIO A7x. If you need subwoofer, I suggest you get two of ADAM AUDIO's SUB10, if you want to listen to the lowest octaves with authority, maybe SUB12 or SUB15, but always get two units.

Oh yeah, for speaker isolators between speaker and your desk (if you don't have a speaker stand), get ISOacoustics's - this is a requirement, also get it for subwoofers too. With 2x A7x and 2x SUB10, I think you'll be happy. I'm not much of a passive speaker guy, don't quite like the idea of using passive speakers...

Well, good luck !!

PS. if you do get the subwoofers, I think you'll be in for a surprise...
 
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