home stereo advice
April 25, 2005 6:32 PM   Subscribe

I've always played music through my PC & PC speakers, or through a cheap boombox/stereo. I get decent quality through my PC, but I'd really like to separate it out and get some good speakers for just for music. The problem is, I don't exactly know how to go about this.

I googled around some, but maybe for the wrong thing, because I've come up with nothing useful (its either extremely technical, or 'just buy a stereo'). I'm looking for general information about what exactly I'll need, how to set it up/wire it, etc.

At the moment, my picture is having a few rackmount(-ish, if not rackmount) things connected to some speakers and maybe a sub. I'd like to have a CD player, tuner, some sort of equalizer, and somehow some way to play digital music (I have a nice ogg/FLAC collection I'd like to be able to play) - I could use advise on this, too. At some point I'd like to be able to attach a turntable to the whole setup also, so I'd like the components to be separate, not just an all-in-one stereo system.
posted by devilsbrigade to Media & Arts (7 answers total)
 
I'm slightly confused - do you want your PC to be a part of the stereo setup?
posted by Dr. Wu at 7:14 PM on April 25, 2005


I'd like the option of using it, but I don't want the system reliant on it like it is now.
posted by devilsbrigade at 7:25 PM on April 25, 2005


You probably want to get a reciever (an integrated AM/FM tuner, power amp, and pre amp) a DAC (digital to analogue converter, part of a CD player) and a sound card capable of ASIO output (ASIO is a way of bypassing all of the internal audio processing your computer normally does).

I use a Marantz 2275 reciever with an Adcom GDA-600 DAC and a M-audio delta 66 sound card. However, I would recommend the Chaintech AV-710 sound card now that it exists, much cheaper.
posted by Chuckles at 7:41 PM on April 25, 2005


Most important piece of advice in buying speakers: go to a reputable audio store (NOT Best Buy) and test 'em out. Bring in a few CDs that you know really really well, and that encompass a wide sonic range. (When I did this, I used Captain Beefheart, Steely Dan, Julie Miller, and Guitar Wolf - make of that what you will.) Then sit in an otherwise quiet room and LISTEN really carefully to each album on a series of different sets of speakers. Listen for individual things: clarity, bass, treble, crispness, etc.

You WILL want a subwoofer. Takes about two albums' worth of getting used to, but once you have one, you'll wonder how you ever listened to music without one.

I found it very useful to buy a couple magazines like Stereo Review or various other Audiophile digests. This will give you a good idea about the range of options, range of prices, features you might want, etc. I highly recommend this. Many of them have monthly features about how to connect your various components, as well.

You should also consider if you want this stereo to take on home theatre responsibilities, as well; if you do, you may want to invest in a 5.1 or 6.1 setup.

Basically, this process can take quite a bit of time, but it's totally worth the investment. I did some fairly serious research before I bought my component system, and spent a good coupla hours listening to all kinds of different sets of speakers. Five years later, I'm utterly satisfied with my choices - my system sounds great.

Without knowing your price range, I can't give you too much specific information, but this should get you started.

(Is this at all helpful? I feel like it's semi-tangential to your question.)
posted by Dr. Wu at 7:43 PM on April 25, 2005


i dont know if this will help you in your decision making, but i've got something similar going on here in my home.
here's my system in a nutshell:
hp m390n media center pc
denon avr 1804 receiver
paradigm titan, adp, cc, sub 6.1 speakers

with this no-frills setup i am able to play thousands of songs stored on the pc thru the digital-in on the denon as well as record/playback tv and dvds.

the media center pc thing is a great option for handling all your media, not just music, thru one central server. several resellers are offering them these days. setup can be a bit troublesome, particularly if your connecting to a tv to get total functionality. but if your goal is just to play music, windows media center is a nice interface and any machine that comes with it bundled to xp pro will be more than capable of being hooked up to a nice receiver.

likewise, as speakers go, you need to look at paradigm. they get high marks from even the most critical listeners but they are, nevertheless, quite affordable. i am a hugh fan of their performance series.
posted by RockyChrysler at 9:03 AM on April 26, 2005


Believe it or not, there is a stereo amp available for less than $40 that is extremely small and sounds great. My brother just bought one to try it out and the sucker actually works.

Here's the manufacturer's page.
Here's a cheaper place to buy it.


You can attach any non-powered speakers (e.g. the kind you have connected to a dedicated stereo or home theater system) directly to the amp, and connect a mini-stereo to mini-stereo plug from the line-out on your PC to the input on the amp. Even audiophiles give this little device a nod of approval. (It runs on 8 AA batteries, or a not-included power adapter that you can get from Radio Shack.)

And the best part about this thing is that you have a bunch of money left over to buy good speakers. The brand I own and recommend to everyone as one of the best bang-for-your-buck deals out there is Axiom. All of their speakers are excellent, but for near-field monitor use I'd go with the M3ti. If you like what you see, check out their factory outlet for reduced price items.
posted by pmbuko at 3:38 PM on April 26, 2005


My setup:

Computer audio card optical out ----->
Harman Kardon Receiver optical in---->
Big speakers.

Computer audio card 3.5 mm stereo plug out---->
Computer speakers.

Simple.
posted by SlyBevel at 8:06 AM on April 27, 2005


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