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I was wondering if anyone would be able to help me, I am currently planning to buy separates and piece together a sound system that would suit my needs. However, I have no idea where to start.
I have a budget of £500 at the very most due to being a student and having very little available funds. I'm looking to set up a sub woofer, left and right speakers and a centre speaker. I know I need a receiver ect but I honestly cant get to grips with what fits what and goes where. I haven't even thought of what sort of wiring I would need and what connections I have to get.
My music taste does vary from say trap or rap music to indie ect but I want a real deep and tight bass but also a really clear and crisp audio. I did look into buying a pre assembled one such as a Sony 5.1 but after a small bit of research I found that I would get a much better sound quality for my money if I pieced together my own. I did not however expect it to be so complicated.
The only sound system I have owned is a trust GXT 2.1 pc system of which I picked up for around £70 on amazon. I have only read how much of an improvement can be made but I do not see how it could sound different if you know what I mean? so any pointers of what I should expect and look forward too would be greatly appreciated.
Sorry for the lengthy post but some examples, advice or any direction at all would again be appreciated.
Thank you for reading.
I think this would be about the best performance for the price for someone who wants a lot of rocking bass but still wants mids and highs to be decent. It's hard to get a good full range system in your price range. It's not going to be perfect.
Used: Very musical sound can be had on the cheap that can double as a quasi home theater, it's been done for yrs, way before home theater was a term.
I find examples with pics can be very useful, so a recommendation I often give.
Amp: Kenwood KA-4006 $130
A sweet sounding amp that punches WAY above its weight, and it has a phono input if wanted later
If more power is desired then the Kenwood KA-7100 has about double the output for about $170, a more modern design (although still vintage), a less colored output that might work better with the Polk and Infinity speakers above, but the Klipsch would be happier with the smaller Kenny.
Speakers option A: Klipsch KG -3.2 $150
Sensitive speaker that doesn't need a ton of power to reach concert levels and no sub required, horn driven highs so not to everyone's taste.
Speakers option B: Polk Monitor 5's $150
All around fine speaker with outstanding bass output, dome midrange so smooth highs, the earlier models with the silk dome tweeter (black not silver) are the best.
Speakers option C: Infinity RS-325 $130
Awesome little speaker, good bass, clear crisp highs, probably the best all around of the three but for one caveat, foam woofer surrouds. Very inexpensive to repair if necessary, or look for some recently refoamed. The foam last about ten yrs so I would imagine any that aren't in obvious need of repair have been.
Digital front end: Sony DVP-NS900V $80 without remote
Great CD, SACD player that originally sold for $1000 and can now be had for silly money. It will also do DVD of course but no HDMI if your tv requires it. Sony makes very inexpensive Blu Ray players for video anyway.
DACs can be had for cheap from places like parts express allowing any source going into the tv to be heard through any vintage sound system, so don't let that worry you.
Have fun with your search.
Kingshead, thanks but if you had read the thread or clicked on the OP's profile you would realise that the he is not in the USA. He is in the UK and none of the products that you recommend except the Sony are/were available here. There may just be a chance to find the Infinity speakers as they were distributed over here for a brief period but they would be pretty rare. Furthermore he does not want a CD, DVD or SACD player as he only streams music from his PC.
I am sure that you offer good advice to someone who is resident in the USA and is looking for a silver disc player based system .
It's called ebay. You're right, many won't ship over seas, but that's not the point, and if you had bothered to actually read MY post they were only examples.
As for only streaming, did you think maybe the OP might have an interest in some other digital based media if knowing how cheap it is to get such a capable player?
Why not let the OP speak for themselves, or are you just trolling.
Couldn't help myself, there.
No one has ever asked me to help them choose a Stereo. Well, maybe once. How many audiophiles does one meet in a lifetime? Not many unless you attend shows ;-)
Since, your from England, isn't Cambridge Audio a British designer and manufacturer of fine, mostly affordable, audio gear?
Anyway, not sure if my advice is really good or not, but why not get a relatively inexpensive stereo receiver, two nice monitor loudspeakers, a subwoofer as a bonus, because not absolutely necessary unless you are dancing to the music and have very considerate neighbors!
Alternatively, NAD has similar offerings that look modern, with builtin DAC, which I think you really want.
Yes, it bypasses the home theater, > 2 loudspeakers paradigm, but IMO may be better suited to music within your budget.
Loudspeakers, well, I have some PSB Titans that sell for just over $200 and coupled with a subwoofer, many people could be plenty happy IMHO.
First of all, you really need to be more informative in your topic title.
You have had very good advice from PAR.
I recently came upon good reviews of Sony STR DH 550 5.2 channel Receivers. For your small room you could get Q Acoustics 3020 speakers. If you need more bass you could check out subwoofers. The little Dragonfly DAC is very good at less than $100.
You say that you want a "sound system". Do you mean by that a system whose purpose is to play CDs, audio streams, maybe LPs? Or do you mean a sound system to play movie soundtracks coupled with a screen? Do you want to play multichannel audio recordings, if so from what source?
You have thought about speakers and a receiver ( why a receiver, are you interested in radio or are you using the term to describe a multi channel processor/amp?) but have not so far let us know what entertainment sources you want to use. You have, however, let us know your musical tastes which initially imply to me that you may really want a stereo system and not a 5.1 multichannel one.
If you can give us better steer on these issues then we can let you know what hardware you may need. With a very limited budget, broadly speaking, the simpler you can make it (i.e. fewer features) then the better quality equipment you may be able to afford.
What size of room is it to go in?
Do you want new equipment or are you happy to buy used?
Thankyou for replying!
well, at the moment I have my laptop connected to my TV via HDMI cable and basically use the television as the primary screen for the laptop. I use the laptop for watching films ect but mostly music so would want the audio in sync to whatever I am listening to or watching on my laptop.
yea sorry for my lack of knowledge on this subject it is all very new to me haha but yea from what I could gather I thought I needed a reciever/amp (I don't know the difference) to plug and power the speakers and sub and also, connect it to the television or laptop.
I wouldnt be plugging anything else such as dvd players or game consoles into it as I have neither haha. The size of the room will be 3.40m x 2.46m. Also yes I would be happy to use used equipment due to only just realising how expensive this could get!
Thankyou for taking the time to reply.
Thanks for your response.
I see you are in Somerset, a nice part of the world. Bath Uni perhaps?
If you want to deliver the soundtrack of everything on your screen to the system then there are two approaches:
1. Have a basic 5.1 system connected to a receiver by HDMI from your laptop as source. That would give you surround sound streamed movies and TV and streamed audio e.g. Spotify or Deezer ( subject to subscription contracts, licence fees). The downside is that on your budget you really won't have much to spend on 5 loudspeakers and a subwoofer . Say you spend 200 pounds on the receiver/processor/amp. That gives you only a 50 pounds budget for each speaker. Also my experience with cheap multi-channel receivers is that although OK for movies their musical ability is limited.
2. Continue using your TV as is for movies and broadcasts and continue using the laptop as your music source but connected to the audio sytem via a DAC. Major on having a decent stereo audio system for music. You can then find products from good manufacturers with a reputation. Being a student should give you every opportunity to find out about different sorts of music too from what I hope will be new friends and acquaintances.
I won't specify exact pieces of equipment as there is so much out there and used prices are so variable. However being in the UK you (we) are lucky in that we have always had a very inventive and high quality domestic audio industry with a worldwide reputation. If you allocate your budget you should be buying:
1. A DAC, preferably a USB DAC. This takes the digital audio from your computer and turns it into an analogue signal to be fed to the amplifier. Although the computer has such a device it will be a pretty much compromised thing. I would suggest something from Arcam (used RDAC?) or Cambridge Audio. Spend, say, 150 pounds.
2. A stereo amplifier. You have small room so massive power is not required. Look at one with, say, 50 watts a channnel. Note: ignore power output specified as music power. This is just a way of playing with numbers. Look for the power expressed as RMS power into ( usually) 8 ohms. I suggest looking at Creek, Arcam or Cambridge. Another 150 pounds. You can also usually send the TV sound in stereo to the speakers via the amplifier. Look for some RCA sockets on the rear or side of the TV. NB: Some amplifiers have the DAC built in which may offer a saving.
3. Speakers. Your room size means that behemoths are out of the picture ( and budget). Look for excellent bookshelf models. Yes they will have good bass driven by a good amplifier. Try Kef or Wharfedale ( ebay UK has a pair of Whartfedale Diamond 10s on right now for £149 ( that's the region of the budget).
You will need some stands for the speakers and some interconnect and speaker wires. That's your 500 quid spent.
There are, of course, lots of other good products out there ( not all British) but I have stuck with good brands that can easily be found within your budget in the UK. If you find something else that you fancy then just ask here for an opinion on it.
unfortunately not! my university is in the south of wales and then third year university of London, will make a change from the excessive amount of sheep I suppose.
okay, im trying to take on board everything you have said. So am I right in saying, that if I bought an amplifier and wanted to use my laptop as the source then a DAC is essential?
My original plan was to have my laptop connected to the television via HDMI and then the television connected to an amp via the HDMI ARC to the amps HDMI OUT which would be connected to speakers and sub ect. Then choose the television as the playback device on my laptop and pray it works out and plays the audio, would I also need a DAC for that? and more importantly, would that even work?
I apologise if i come across as ignorant, i'm just very slow at getting my head around this, who knew it involved so much!
I had a vague picture in my head of having an AUNA AV2-H388 amp and then wiring a yamaha ns sw 050 subwoofer along with some Denon SCF109 Speakers. It was then I read somewhere I cant connect powered speakers to an amp and realised I really had no clue so should seek help before buying something that doesn't work!
Again thank you for your advice, I have learnt more here than about 3 weeks of googling haha, much appreciated.
O.K. I think that we are at slightly cross purposes.
This forum is basically concerned with getting the best musical reproduction from electronic components. This is why I was asking things like " You say that you want a "sound system". Do you mean by that a system whose purpose is to play CDs, audio streams, maybe LPs? Or do you mean a sound system to play movie soundtracks coupled with a screen? Do you want to play multichannel audio recordings, if so from what source?"
You haven't given me an answer on that and all I know is that you are asking if A connects to B. But I don't know what your purpose is in doing this.
All I can say is that an HDMI ouput from a computer can connect to an HDMI input on an A/V receiver. HDMI is a digital interface. It has to be converted to analogue to provide a signal that can be amplified to drive a loudspeaker so that you can hear something. An A/V receiver accepts the HDMI input, converts it to analogue and amplifies the result. You connect the speakers to the receiver. Yes, the TV and HDMI ARC also connect to the receiver. The link is to a quick set up manual for a typical A/V receiver so you can see how it all goes together.
If you use powered speakers then the receiver has to have a "pre-out" facility or you need an A/V pre-amp/processor that does not have a power amp section. The latter would, I think, usually be a high end component probably outside of your budget, but you never know you may be lucky.
As you haven't told me if movies or music are the most important to you I cannot help you much further beyond saying that if music is the most important then this is not the optimal way to do it given a 500 pound budget.
Okay, I'm starting see.
I would want it for Spotify, YouTube ect so I think that would be audio streams? And also streamed music so basically anything I decide to play from the laptop and the laptop would be the source.
I hope this helps a little more.
Thankyou for your detailed replies!
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.
Free Spotify and YouTube have low quality sound ( that 10 pounds a month sub. to Spotify brings much better sound and no ads). .... 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.
I'm not sure what's available to UK students, but US students pay half of PAR's quoted subscription rates. I'm a very part-time ("super-casual") graduate student, and I discovered that Tidal and Spotify offer 50% discounts to students across all tiers. So, I subscribed to Tidal HiFi for $9.99 per month. And then my life changed.
I would hope(?!) that something similar is available internationally -- from at least one of the services. It will pay to search around.
It's been interesting to watch this thread develop :) Good luck!
Thanks. That is very useful.
Only Spotify offer a student discount in the UK. The OP can only take advantage of this if his college/university is affiliated to the NUS ( National Union of Students).
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