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The $700 Amp/Speakers Challenge

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#1
OK, you have 700 US dollars in your pocket - not a penny more! :) You need an amp, and a set of speakers for a small/medium-sized room. Your goal is to put together the absolute best, most highly-focused and straight-forward "bang for the buck" 2.0 system possible. No subs. No powered speakers. No muss no fuss. Just a good clean amp and a set of speakers. The source will be your laptop through a DAC you already have. GO!


(and yes, the "you" in the above paragraph is ME, lol)
 
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#2
As Amir’s tests have shown, a good inexpensive amplifier outputting gobs amount of power is hard to find. Sub $700 speakers tend to come in bookshelf form and have lower efficiency. In other words, they need a lot of clean power.

I would go with something highly efficient and try to find a lower power amp. Have you looked at Klipsch RP600M? It’s $550 a pair on Amazon and is 96db efficiency. You could probably pair it with a 50W amp and be fine.
 

amirm

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#3
One of my hopes in doing speaker testing was to find good budget speakers. As it is, we will be able to answer the amplification question one day but not the speaker.
 
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#4
OK, you have 700 US dollars in your pocket - not a penny more! :) You need an amp, and a set of speakers for a small/medium-sized room. Your goal is to put together the absolute best, most highly-focused and straight-forward "bang for the buck" 2.0 system possible. No subs. No powered speakers. No muss no fuss. Just a good clean amp and a set of speakers. The source will be your laptop through a DAC you already have. GO!


(and yes, the "you" in the above paragraph is ME, lol)
Used Rotel or Adcom amp, maybe a set of paradigm studio 40's or whatever else I could find with what $$$ I had left.

The powered speaker area really does have some great choices in that range...I like my audioengine's a lot, and those are half your budget, but your mission statement excludes them.
 

andreasmaaan

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#6
It's a pricepoint where actives rein supreme I'm afraid.

But if you're wedded to the idea of passives, I'd look at KEF Q350 perhaps. They are reasonably sensitive for a small speaker, with a smooth response both on and off axis, apart from a (possibly rather charming-sounding) mild dip in the presence region, and nothing terribly wrong with them.

The RRP is $650/pair, but they seem to go for less if you hunt around. Would hopefully leave you up to $200 to spend on a cheap-ish amp.
 
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#7
My recommendation if you insist on 'new': Buy some Kef Q150's when they go on sale for $299 (2x per year it seems), and build a Neurochrome Mod-86 from the kit/parts. Should be able to pull it in under $700 total if your DAC has volume control (if not, add $100 for a JDS Atom). As others have said, this is trickier than it seems since 'we' really haven't run across a lower-cost amp available new that measures well (yet).

I've run this combo with a Khadas Tone Board and JDS Atom and for a sub-$1k system all-in it's REALLY good.

Otherwise, I'd say go used which makes it hard to make specific recommendations, but be patient. For example I managed to pick up a set of the big Acoustic Reality pyramid speakers (all Scan-speak drivers) for $400 since they were taking up space (originally $5-8k based on what I can find), and with a $250 Emotiva Bas-X amp they sound pretty darn good.
 
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#9
Used Rotel or Adcom amp, maybe a set of paradigm studio 40's or whatever else I could find with what $$$ I had left.

The powered speaker area really does have some great choices in that range...I like my audioengine's a lot, and those are half your budget, but your mission statement excludes them.
Granted I haven't heard either but the Adcom GFA-535 goes used for around $175 and the Paradigm Studio 40s go for around $500 on ebay. I've been tempted by the GFA-535 and I don't need another amp at all and I'm a fan of the Paradigm speakers so BDWoody's suggestion would be what I'd go with.
 
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#10
If you really need a passive setup, I'd take the cheapest Yamaha amp (A-S201 here) and something like the Dali Zensor 3 (had a very good experience with the Zensor 1) or KEF Q350.
You could use a cheap power amp like https://www.thomann.de/intl/the_tamp_e400.htm too, but I don't have any experience with them; anybody tried the Yamaha PX serie, by the way?

But you really should consider actives. I personally recommend the Yamaha HS7 or HS8 at this price point.
 
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#12
I'd love to hear the reason against actives in this application - it seems to literally be what most were designed for. Although 'best' is subjective and mostly depends on you, "highly focused" and "bang-for-the-buck" - especially considering source in this case, seem to almost demand active monitors. I guess unless you add "and I want to listen in a huge room from far away" to the mix.

I mean if you can get some great monitors that will be accurate, optimally powered for their components, etc. and the only downside is they don't look quite as nice (possibly, some look great too IMO) - why not? No matter what, speakers are more subjective - so just because I love them doesn't mean you will. That's also a 'win' in the actives column... you can audition tons if you're near music shop that has pro gear. Many also have very generous return policies which allow for 2-4 week auditions (provided they get returned like new of course). I've got the new Adam T7V's running in a family room on surround duty... and I'd put them up against anything under $1000/pr on the passive side in a heartbeat! I'd even say the same about the JBL 305P's and they were $99/ea on sale! Even at twice the budget I'd probably say "better actives" before thinking about budget passives.

Regardless I'll throw out a couple recommendations on the passive side: PSB Alpha B1 - although you won't have much low end, they measure well and have been consistently reviewed in the top of their price bracket ($280/pr new). Another possibility would be the Elac Debut B6, which are even cheaper, will go a little lower/higher, and also review & measure well. As far as amp... that should be easier just looking at the tests here, right?
 

FrantzM

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#13
Pioneer FS-SP52 towers ($260 per pair) and Onkyo TX-8020 2-channel receiver ($120). $380 total, $320 to spare. All Amazon Prime.
I like that one!!
But I would insist a better bang for the buck!
A pair of JBL 308 @ 500
A pair of RCA to XLR cables @$30

No fuss. Plug and Play!

1562799817470.png
 
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#14
Found my NAD 705 at a flea market for $20 and my Focal 706’s on Craigslist for $200, then got a SVS PB1000 on sale for $425. Does 2.1 qualify if it’s still under $700?
 
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#15
depending on of where you are, look for bargains on the Local Kijiji, ebay , pawn shop and get your money ready to catch the deal. Like an older Harman /Kardon , Onkyo , pioneer elite, or better ( $60- $175 ) and speakers ( $150-300) then buy some decent inexpensive cables and a good DAC. Dx3 pro will do, or use your sound card on the computer.
 
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#16
Found my NAD 705 at a flea market for $20 and my Focal 706’s on Craigslist for $200, then got a SVS PB1000 on sale for $425. Does 2.1 qualify if it’s still under $700?
I got a Yamaha RX-570 receiver for $79.99, the one with the dodgy source switch, which I fixed. And a pair of B&W DM1400's for $175.00, on one mid-woofer the voice coil was rubbing slightly so I rotated it 180 degrees and it hasn't missed a beat since, my D30 DAC cost $140.00 and using an old desktop PC as a music server. Total $395.00 Aud which is $270.00 Usd.
 

nightfishing

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#17
Elac ub5s arent too hard to drive (much less so than my kef 350s.) $349

Lots of used options in the $351 (lol) range if all you want is 2.0 or 2.1

I have a 20 year old hk receiver driving them in my workshop at the moment. Plenty of power for a smallish room.
 
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#18
I like that one!!
But I would insist a better bang for the buck!
A pair of JBL 308 @ 500
A pair of RCA to XLR cables @$30

No fuss. Plug and Play!
Not to mention arguably the closest to full range you're likely to get at the price considering the "2.0 only" aspect. Though I chose the 305's because I felt the midrange was better than on the 308's - and was willing to sacrifice a little bass to have it.
 
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#19
oh yeah i could look around for used stuff of course, but the challenge here is a new gear within the budget. :)

as far as the reason for passives, i just like them better, and might want to upgrade in the not too distant future.

the Andrew Jones towers and Onkyo receiver were a considered option of mine.

oh, and I'm not much of a bass head. but could add a sub later as well

I have a good DAC. And don't bother suggesting good cables. ;) lol
 
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D700

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#20
oh yeah i could look around for used stuff of course, but the challenge here is a new gear within the budget. :)

as far as the reason for passives, i just like them better, and might want to upgrade in the not too distant future.

the Andrew Jones towers and Onkyo receiver were a considered option of mine.

oh, and I'm not much of a bass head. but could add a sub later as well

I have a good DAC. And don't bother suggesting good cables. ;) lol
Then drop down to the rp500ms new, with the Onkyo new, that should be right at budget, I ran the precursor to those speakers for years in an office, great sound. I think you could drive Klipsch with a clock radio if you had to so Onkyo will be plenty.
 

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