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The realization that my desktop is my primary system...Please help me make it better!

dzerig

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First-time caller, long-time listener!

The realization hit me like a ton of bricks. I invest most of my time and money improving my "big system" in the living room, yet I spend 90% listening to the system in my small home office.

My current office system consists of the following:
  • Macbook Pro - Source is primarily streaming Tidal or Amazon Music, but I do use the external CD drive occasionally
  • Schiit Modius - USB in from MBP, XLR out to Mangius, and RCA out to Vali 2 for headphones (rarely used)
  • Schiit Magnius - Preamp connected to NAD Amps
  • NAD 2100 (x2) - Old school NAD amps with around 150 wpc bridged
  • ELAC Uni-Fi 2.0 UB52 - Speakers
  • Emotiva SE8 - Subwoofer
Because everyone loves pictures!
View attachment 334038 View attachment 334036
View attachment 334037 View attachment 334039

I am decidedly not in love with my Elac UB52 speakers. They are dull on the top end, missing the sparkle and detail I love. I don't have any grips with their mids or base, but it could be that I don't know what great sounds like. I think this is where I could realize the most significant improvement by upgrading.

My desk is tight, but there is enough room to accommodate bigger speakers. I have also pulled my desk away from the wall to get the backs of the speakers about 9 inches away from the walls. I had JBL 305P MkII previously; they sounded so good but would distort at higher volumes, and I had the NADs sitting unused in the basement, so I wanted to give passive speakers a go. The Revel M16's and the Ascend Acoustics Sierra 1 V2 are getting much love here; maybe they would be good options.

My budget is $1k; what would you upgrade next and why?
Focal 906 are on sale at $1k. They sound fantastic to my ears, and Focal are said to have a sparkly top end, giving you the detail you love! Plus, Amazon is allowing returns till the end of ti ... January.

You have a great system, NAD made great stuff back in the day.
 

gaz

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I have a similar situation, and replaced desktop actives with a 5.1 system with Audyssey XT32 room correction. I have a desk chair for work and a reclining chair in the corrected position for movies, gaming and serious listening.
I'm perfectly happy with the system. Perhaps the centre is unnecessary, but I wanted a complete set just in case and for future uses (Monitor Audio Monitor series at a killer discount).
Each speaker is on its own bookcase which solidly connects to the walls with no movement, on at least three layers of white tack. Surround are cubes firing upwards.
I suggest you review your room and choose the best position. Best wishes!
 

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OP
mad_matt

mad_matt

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Focal 906 are on sale at $1k. They sound fantastic to my ears, and Focal are said to have a sparkly top end, giving you the detail you love! Plus, Amazon is allowing returns till the end of ti ... January.

You have a great system, NAD made great stuff back in the day.
I really liked those Focal's when I listened to them at the local hi-fi shop in Boulder.
 

DRMLFL

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Hey,
everybody is talking about speakers and gear but nobody mentioned the following:
Try to rearrange the room. If I were you I would put the desk on the blue wall, right in the middle, because you would have then something like a symmetry in your room. And you should definitely remove the speakers from the desk because this creates an ugly bump in the frequency range from 150-300 Hz. I have the exact same problem in my room, so I will buy some stands next week. Your tweeter should be at ear level or slightly above. Then you WILL need to treat the room acoustically. Start with the early reflection points on both sides and on the ceiling right above your listening position. Bass traps are also good to tame the RT60 < 500 Hz which causes the biggest problems imho (I'm a hobbyist music producer with 20 years of experience).

So, in your case I would spend:
50-100$ in some speaker stands to get rid of the 150 Hz resonance from the desk
400-500$ in 2nd hand acoustic panels and with 2-4 bass traps on the front corners (GIK acoustics or similar), with 6 panels you could already tame flutter echos/comb filtering and with 4 bass traps get an "ok" RT60 <500 Hz
100-150$ for a 2nd hand Soundid Reference for headphones and speakers license + measurement mic. Room correction can really help and feels like an upgrade of speakers.

This will cost you roughly 700$, you'll save some money and this will almost feel like an upgrade. Trust me!
You could even invest a little more in speaker stands (maybe ZAOR Miza Stands) if you find the cheap ones to ugly.

Hope this helps. Stay focused!
Edit: typo
 
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DRMLFL

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radix

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I second the recommendation for monitors like the KH80. that's what I use on my desk, mounted on VESA clamp-on stands so they are ear-height and don't take desk space.

Have you had the NAD's tested? Those amps are from the 80s, yes? It may be there's some caps that need replacing. There are ways of using REW to test the output of an amp into a dummy load. Or if you have other speakers, you could try them and see if the highs are flat too. But monitors are the way to go for desktop.
 
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mad_matt

mad_matt

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I second the recommendation for monitors like the KH80. that's what I use on my desk, mounted on VESA clamp-on stands so they are ear-height and don't take desk space.

Have you had the NAD's tested? Those amps are from the 80s, yes? It may be there's some caps that need replacing. There are ways of using REW to test the output of an amp into a dummy load. Or if you have other speakers, you could try them and see if the highs are flat too. But monitors are the way to go for desktop.
Yeah I probably should get those Amps tested. Does anyone know a good shop in the front range to work on amps?
 
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mad_matt

mad_matt

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SoundSource is excellent in conjunction with REW or ARC (if automatic correction is preferred).
Audio Hijack and Element are also good candidates.
Dirac Live is somewhat more expensive but possibly the best performing option. In my experience, its filter calculation is very similar to that of ARC.
Thank you for this suggestion! I finally got everything needed to do the ARC auto-correction. I am honestly blown away by how different my system sounds in my office. I am still learning about everything ARC does, but the initial impression is incredibly favorable.

Here is a screenshot of the initial measurements vs corrected.
Screenshot 2023-12-31 at 8.42.15 PM.png
 

Weeb Labs

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Thank you for this suggestion! I finally got everything needed to do the ARC auto-correction. I am honestly blown away by how different my system sounds in my office. I am still learning about everything ARC does, but the initial impression is incredibly favorable.

Here is a screenshot of the initial measurements vs corrected.
View attachment 338796
I'm glad you're pleased with the results! A couple of little suggestions would be to set the Correction Type to Sharp (this will help to sort out the remaining peaks) and adjust your target curve to form a gentle slope from 0dB at 100Hz to about -4dB at 10KHz. That should sound a little bit more pleasant, as it approximates the ideal in-room curve.

Pulling your 15KHz point up a little bit to counter the tweeter's rolloff might recover some missing sparkle.
 

anotherhobby

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The realization hit me like a ton of bricks. I invest most of my time and money improving my "big system" in the living room, yet I spend 90% listening to the system in my small home office.
I had this same realization 3 years ago when my career switched to optionally fully remote. My office will likely be my primary listening system for as long as I can see into the future, so any investments I make in my office have a long runway of enjoyment.

Try to rearrange the room. If I were you I would put the desk on the blue wall, right in the middle, because you would have then something like a symmetry in your room.
This is the same thing I thought when I saw the pics in the first post. If possible, put your desk a long a wall where it is centered left to right. If you have the opportunity for a symmetrical layout, you should take it. It's also free to play around with room layouts.

For your $1000 that you'd like to invest now, I'd do the speakers. I've owned the Focal 906's and I would echo the recommendation on them. For my desk I ended up choosing Revel M105's which I would also recommend up there with the Focals. I found mine used online for $800/pr.

You have plenty of time to slowly piece together the rest. For subs, I'd recommend going with 2-4 smaller ones instead of a big single sub. I built four 8" subs for my office for $1500 total, and I'd take them over one of the $2500 JL Audio e112's that I use in my main system every day of the week.

Room treatment made for a really big upgrade, but won't fit in your current budget, and probably won't have quite the same impact as new speakers. I did mine in a few phases but ended up with:
  • Three 4" thick 2'x4' absorber panels between the desk and front wall
  • Two 4" thick 2'x4' absorber panels for side reflections (one to each side)
  • Four GIK 6" Alpha series diffusor/absorbers on the back wall
  • Two GIK 4" Alpha series diffusor/absorbers on the ceiling above me
It took me about 2 years to piece together and upgrade to what I have now.
 

street19

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For my desk I ended up choosing Revel M105's which I would also recommend up there with the Focals. I found mine used online for $800/pr.

+1 For Revel M105's with a sub. That's what I have at my desk at work, in my home office, and also in my living room. If you can find a pair used, absolutely jump on it.


Revel M105 bookshelf speaker Spinorama CTA-2034 Predicted In-room Frequency Response Measureme...png
 
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