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RE: help!

Streamed music from Spotify and YouTube is stereo not multi-channel. So really you don't want or need a multi-channel audio system. See my earlier email on suitable stereo DAC/Amp and speaker brands that you may find used in the UK.

The stereo option is where (ideally) a stereo external DAC pays off. Yes your computer has a DAC inbuilt and a little amplifier that serve the laptop's headphone output. You can use this into an integrated amplifier ( that means the pre-amp and power amp are in one box - what you will be looking to buy). However these components in a computer are very basic and are also working in a hostile environment (the inside of a computer is electrically very noisy and this will be picked up by these components). So the resultant sound will not be of very good quality. So all of us here who use a computer as an audio source connect it to the amplifier via a USB DAC. The digital HDMI or USB outputs cannot be connected to the analogue inputs of the amplifier, that's why the analogue to digital conversion needs to occur before the signal reaches the amp.

Having said the above, some amps have a DAC built in. Note that connectivity may be an issue here. Some amps only have a co-ax input for the DAC. They were built to connect a CD player not a computer. This means that the USB computer output has to be converted to co-ax in order to connect it which requires yet another piece of equipment. So if you are attracted to an amp because it has an inbuilt DAC make sure that it has a USB input.

As you are a student I am going to assume that when you refer to Spotify you mean free Spotify and not a paid for monthly subscription. Free Spotify and YouTube have low quality sound ( that 10 pounds a month sub. to Spotify brings much better sound and no ads). I said earlier that a 5.1 channel solution at your budget level would not give a great musical result. If you only use free Spotify then the sound quality is sufficiently impaired in the first place that I would then not consider the 5.1 idea to be poor as you are not going to get great musical sound anyway. However you may want to upgrade to the subscription and then a stereo solution is better. And if you do then you don't have to work out where to place 5 speakers and a subwoofer in a small room (although for your identified streaming purposes only two of the speakers and the subwoofer will be functioning in any case). Incidentally if you are living in shared accomodation then I don't think that a subwoofer is a great idea anyway as low frequency sound travels and will disturb your flatmates.

As I mentioned before, if you want to most TVs have analogue outputs for sound and these could also be plugged into the stereo amp so that you will also get stereo TV via your sound system.

Other streaming subscriptions are available; if you can afford 20 pounds a month ( I am assuming that it's a big ask here) you can then get full lossless sound from Tidal or Qobuz. Just thought that I would mention it. They also offer a 10 pound subscription which provides the same sound quality as Spotify Premium.

Edits: 05/27/17

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