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Old 21st August 2008, 02:01   #1
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Default Decent computer audio on a budget

Since I moved my main audio setup to a dedicated silent music PC, I needed a cheap audio setup for my main desktop. My budget was as low as possible with the only constraint being that the setup must sound decent. Since I was in no hurry I was looking for deals everywhere. There were many candidates

Altec MX5021: The universal favorite with which one can't go wrong. However since I had one which I donated to my brother :P, I wanted something different.

Klipsch Promedia 2.0: Decent speakers for a desktop. However a history of amp and volume pot failures made me stay away from these.

Audio Engine A2: Probably the perfect desktop speakers these days. Only issue with them is a slight bit of bass bloom which I can't stand.

Active Studio Monitors: Stuff like the Wharfedale Diamond Monitors, Tannoy Reveal 5 etc - Ruled out as most are way too pricey.

DIY: The other option was a self built single fostex driver bookshelf. Suggested by a friend... however too impractical doing all the carpentry crap.

M-Audio BX5: This is something I was really considering until something else happened.

Buy.com suddenly had the Jamo E700 bookshelf on sale at 64.99 each. The price was down from over 150 each. I had a 20$ off coupon on top of that. So I finally grabbed a pair of these for ~125$ shipped. Killer deal I say as even DIY'ing something similar would have costed more. After spending the better part of 6 months, these finally arrived last month.
The speaker consists of a 4" woven fiber glass mid-bass driver and a 1" silk dome tweeter. Quite small at around 10 inches tall and suits the application perfectly.

Getting an amp: I initially thought of driving these with a Class T amp. However after testing them with my mccormack, I realized that these are quite power hungry. So I needed an amp with a little bit more power.

So begins amp hunting... the new options for a cheapo amp are quite limited - norge or pulz or yamaha. I'm not a big fan of any of these. The other option was looking at the used market. However finding a decent stereo integrated is hard. Found a few NAD and Marantz amps on sale on other forums but none of these actually interested me. A call to my friendly used hifi dealer got me some surprising info. There are quite a few exotic amps selling for peanuts just because they don't come with a remote :rofl:. Mass market brands sold for more just because no one wants an amp without a remote.

The fella had a vintage Sansui, a Cyrus 2 integrated. Tested both and neither seemed in very good condition. I was very dejected and nearly felt like pulling the trigger on a norge. However the very next day i hit paydirt. Someone had a hardly used Musical Fidelity A1 integrated for sale for what appeared to be peanuts. Heard it with both my speakers and my jaw dropped at the sound quality. The amp appeared to be in brilliant condition for something nearly 20 years old with not a scratch anywhere and infact was the A1-X model with higher quality caps, better heatsinks and a larger toroidal transformer than the normal model.

A little history on the A1 - its Musical Fidelity's most iconic and controversial amp. Its a 20 watt pure class A integrated and at 399 pounds 25 years ago, was probably one of the cheapest well known Class A amps ever. The controversy arose over the fact that not all 20 watts were class A. Only the first 10-12 watts are actual class A and it goes into class AB beyond. The sound is absolutely unbelievable. No hint of harshness or glare, a smooth extended top end, extremely firm grip on bass and an almost tube-like creamy midrange. In typical musical fidelity tradition, its not the most transparent amp but it does sound very natural and has a lot of warmth. One has to listen to a Class A amp to know how good one sounds. Plus the drive in this little amp is just unbelievable. I haven't seen this kind of driver excursion even with my 125 watt mccormack.

So there you have it... a very nice sounding desktop audio setup for well under 15 grand that absolutely kills anything else under 50k in musical enjoyment. Here are pics of both.
Attached Thumbnails
Decent computer audio on a budget-untitled1.jpg  

Decent computer audio on a budget-untitled2.jpg  

Decent computer audio on a budget-dsc00002.jpg  


Last edited by reignofchaos : 21st August 2008 at 02:07.
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Old 21st August 2008, 07:25   #2
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50k is a budget, but I don't think anyone would define this as a budget system

sweet equipment Chaos dada, congrats
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Old 21st August 2008, 09:17   #3
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Congrats, reignofchaos! Like they say, seek and ye shall find, huh? Enjoy!

@greenhorn, he got it done for under 15K. He said it would kill comparative setups that run to anything under a 50K limit.
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Old 21st August 2008, 09:24   #4
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whoops , 15K

Me want !!!!!
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Old 21st August 2008, 09:47   #5
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Its well under 15k including cables, banana plugs etc. Under 20k if you include the source as well.
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Old 21st August 2008, 13:06   #6
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ROC, give the A1 a lot of air, the top gets pretty hot. I liked them amps too but they were a bit power shy for my application. For desktop sound they should be perfect. You dont want anything that is too revealing/hot sitting that close to the speaker.

The Bass bloom in the Audioengine can be controlled if you put them on small stands say 5-6" off the desk. However sitting so close to the speaker I'd consider a fullrange say a Tangband or FE107/127 in a bass reflex box.
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Old 21st August 2008, 13:11   #7
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congrats thats a nice looking step up, im sure sounds even better.

OT : can anyone tell where can i avail a bluetooth audio receiver , which i can use to connect wirelessly to my laptop and then connect the receiver (with wires to the amp/speakers) .There are many brands on the net Sony/philips/ logitech/sony ericsson. but could not locate any in bangalore/india
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Old 21st August 2008, 13:39   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by navin View Post
ROC, give the A1 a lot of air, the top gets pretty hot. I liked them amps too but they were a bit power shy for my application. For desktop sound they should be perfect. You dont want anything that is too revealing/hot sitting that close to the speaker.

The Bass bloom in the Audioengine can be controlled if you put them on small stands say 5-6" off the desk. However sitting so close to the speaker I'd consider a fullrange say a Tangband or FE107/127 in a bass reflex box.
Yup it does get hot. When they are playing, I always turn the ceiling fan on for air circulation. That and probably the fact that it is just 20 watt are the only two problems with the amp. I like it a lot.
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Old 21st August 2008, 14:06   #9
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man thats a really sweet set up and that too a really nice deal! good stuff! how are the lows?!
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Old 21st August 2008, 14:41   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A S H V I N View Post
man thats a really sweet set up and that too a really nice deal! good stuff! how are the lows?!
Well to be honest its great for the size of the speakers... extends upto 60Hz or so but let me tell you this is not a setup for bassheads. It won't give one a kick in the gut so to speak but if cranked up does generate fairly good sound pressure levels.
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