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OCN's Most Recommended Audio Products

post #1 of 4115
Thread Starter 

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After many years this thread has finally been completely re-worked in a similar fashion to many of my other threads. The goal of the new layout is precision, tidiness and ease.  Many of you are familiar with what this thread is. It is a database of sorts of audio products that I recommend people venturing into audio for perhaps the first time or simply making their way up the ladder to try. These are all products that are tried and true. There are many other products out there that are not listed on this thread, but that are also potentially good options. This thread is not the be all end all of audio products. It is simply a map to help guide you on your audio journey. Most people do not have the time, ability, or money to spend trying multiple products. They just want what's best for their needs given their budget and appreciate a thread putting all of that information that would have taken them months of research to acquire. Audio is subjective to a large degree. While for the most part 95% of everyone that reads this thread will agree with the audio improvement you'll see with each product, there are some that 1) Won't hear a difference because they simply can't. This means their hearing is shot, they're half deaf for whatever reason or have a certain condition that doesn't allow them to pick up on a lot of frequencies that normal users would. Many people as they age also lose those higher frequencies. 2) Are not attentive or are untrained in the ability to pick out minute changes in sound including texture/bass impact and clarity as well as boldness or weight of an instrument/vocals.

 

I, and most people, agree that the largest change you can make is to upgrade from your onboard (motherboard's audio) to a sound card or dedicated external DAC (Digital/Analog Converter). Here you'll immediately notice just how poor your motherboard's audio is. Everything will become cleaner, livlier, less congested, more complex, and won't artifact for whatever reason. Everything after this initial upgrade will be much smaller and while IMO, still worth a bit of an extra climb if you're truly an audio enthusiast, understand that the upgrade from there will be much smaller than you initially stepping off onboard sound. I hope this does not confuse anyone into thinking that you only need a soundcard to get pretty much the best sound possible. That's not the case. To really get the most out of your sound, you should look into investing in an external DAC, plain and simple. As you read through this thread, consider to yourself 3 things:

 

  1. How much of an audiophile am I?
  2. How much do I really want to spend on this hobby?
  3. How awesome is Simca for doing this all for me? <--Focus on this one the most.

 

I previously broke down the thread into people that were gamers, people that were music lovers, people that were both and then the top tier audiophile. Instead, this time around, I'm going to break it into entry level, mid-fi and hi-fi. You'll notice most gamer-centric devices will be in the entry level, although for headphones, there will be many in the mid and hi-fi entries as well. Simply put, the soundcards which make up most of your gamer gear as far as the DAC is concerned is gamer focused, but not the be all end all. If you're a gamer, but want better sound, moving to an external DAC is the better way to go. You'll get better detail and better sound complexity.

 


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For those entering audio for the first time, your initial impressions are most likely, "on board audio sounds pretty good to me, I probably just want some headphones or new speakers." This is natural as you have likely not tried a sound card or external DAC to this point and if you've heard better speakers or headphones, they were most likely hooked up to a better source than your on board. While speakers and headphone upgrading will produce the largest difference in audio, having a good source to let you hear all the details the headphone or speaker has to offer is key. GET OFF ONBOARD SOUND! That is your goal. As soon as you do so, trust me, you'll be praising me like the goddess I am. Perhaps you're thinking, "Well, just how bad is on board and how much will I really hear? I mean, I have a pretty crappy pair of headphones and only logitech speakers, will that make a difference for me?"

To see the difference between on-board and a sound card read my other thread here.

 

So after reading that, you should have come away with "Yes, upgrading from on board to a soundcard or external DAC is the way to go." If not, go back and read it until that is the conclusion.

 

Entry Level Audio Interfaces
 
If your goal is to get an internal soundcard for your PC then there are basically 3 recommendations for you. While there are many other good soundcards, I no longer recommend them because at those price points you'd be better off moving to an external DAC and dedicated headphone amplifier. The headphone amplifier on almost all sound cards are trash and are not meant to amp expensive headphones. They're honestly meant to do not much more than make the volume louder, and louder =/= sufficiently amplified.
 
The following that 3 soundcards I recommend based on price to performance ratio:
 
  1. Asus Xonar DG - This is less than $30 soundcard and will drastically improve performance over your on board sound. Don't let the price tag fool you, this is a legitimate upgrade over onboard sound, that's how bad your onboard sound is! The sound card has a ~150 ohm amplifier on it that's only sufficient for amping low ohm headphones like Audio Technica M50s. This headphone amplifier is not meant to be paired with a pair of Senneiser HD600s and up. The Xonar DG is the PCI version. There's also a PCI-E version called the Xonar DGX and they both perform exactly the same.
  2. Creative Titanium HD - This is now an aged card. It's no longer for sale, but if you can get your hands on it, it's an excellent sound card at ~$80. This will provide you with just about the best sound you can get via a sound card. As far as price/performance concerned, easily one of the best sound cards on the market. Many gamers are also very happy with the performance this card gave in many games at the time. The only downside to the Creative Titanium HD for some users is that it is only capable of driving ~330 ohm headphones. This honestly shouldn't be an issue, but if it is, then see the 3rd recommendation. An alternative to this would be the Asus Essence ST/X, which is also capable of "powering" 600 ohm headphones, but priced at double this amount, it's unfortunately NOT WORTH BUYING in most instances. Maybe if you can get the card for under say ~130 it would be worth the purchase. Otherwise, do not bother with this sound card.
  3. Creative Soundblaster Z - This is one of the more recently releases Creative cards. After the Titanium phase they released a set of dreadful cards called "recon 3D". It was all a gimmick and performed horribly. Do not EVER buy those cards. The Z series however, is a good soundcard. While I don't personally feel the Zx and ZxR are worth the price you're paying for it, you can choose to upgrade to those higher versions if you see fit. Specs will tell you they're better than the Z, but real world performance may not give you that impression. Ultimately, on many accounts, the ZxR faired WORSE than the 2 generation old Titanium HD. While I would rather have the Titanium HD over the Z, this is a viable option at this price, especially if you're on a very strict budget and need a sound card that will run 600 ohm headphones. The amplifier on this card will do the trick, but it's not recommended you run 600 ohm headphones off this unless you know you'll be upgrading in the near future and are getting a great price on the headphones now.

 

VxlG5eZ.png

 

If you find yourself either wanting to upgrade from your current soundcard or have decided it'd be best for you to skip the soundcard phase all together because your budget is higher, then begin to look at external DACs and amplifiers. Keep in mind if you're pairing these external DACs with speakers rather than headphones and the speakers are active, the speakers already have an amplifier in them and do not need an amplifier. If the speakers are passive then they'll required a dedicated speaker amp of some sort either via a dedicated speaker amp or receiver such as a Denon or Yamaha receiver (these are two brands I highly recommend and are usually at the forefront of sound quality). Keep in mind, for those new to audio, that a HEADPHONE AMPLIFIER will NOT power passive speakers. Likewise a speaker amp will not power headphones UNLESS the speaker amp has a headphone out. So trying to pair passive speakers with a Schiit Magni will not work. The following are DACs and amplifiers you should begin looking into. These are based around PRICE first, not performance. Just because something is priced higher does NOT mean it's better, although typically they are, especially if it's being recommended by me. If it's not better, I'll let you know.

 

  • $99 - Schiit Modi

 

The Schiit modi at $99 is an excellent, and I'd probably say the best DAC at it's price range. It comes in a beautiful housing, sounds good (if a bit cold and sterile), made and designed in America with mostly American parts. It's the go-to DAC IMO. Downfall is it's output connections.

 

NOTE: Keep in mind that this is simply a USB DAC. This means you can't directly plug your headphones into it. You'll need an amplifier to do that. You can; however, plug your active speakers directly into it.

 

Schiit Modi (Click to show)

 

  • $150 - Objective DAC (ODAC) - Designed by NwAvGuy - Produced by JDS Labs/Epiphany and many others.


This design is designed by professional electrical engineer, audio hobbyist and blogger, NwAvGuy. Depending on builder, options vary on the case design and output connections, however the main DAC design remains the same.

A list of sellers / builders can be found here and more information on the ODAC, including objective measurements can be found here.

NOTE: This is only a DAC. Therefore you must connect it to a stereo / headphone amplifier for it to work.

 

JDS Labs ODAC (Click to show)
ODAC_Angled_View.png

 

  • $100-$150 - Audioquest Dragonfly 1.0 and 1.2

The Audioquest Dragonfly 1.0 is a DAC the size and shape of a USB flashdrive that provides you with superior sound over the onboard of your laptop. It's mostly meant for laptops NOT for desktop use. The 1.2 version improves on the 1.0. The new price definitely makes it worth a buy for laptop users. Stay away from Audoquest cables though. Those are overpriced and NOT recommended.

 

Audioquest Dragonfly (Click to show)
AudioQuest-DragonFly-USB-DAC-1.jpg

 

 

  • $285 NwAvGuy Objective DAC (ODAC) + NwAvGuy O2 Headphone Amplifier combo


Includes NwAvGuy designed 'Objective 2' (O2) headphone amplifier combined with the ODAC within the same enclosure. Not factoring portable size and output connection considerations, this is by far the best value external DAC and amp combo on the market. See the ODAC and O2 entries in this list for list of sellers and links to detail surrounding this.

 

JDS Labs ODAC O2 Combo (Click to show)
LL

 

  • $300 Price Range - Cambridge Audio Azur DacMagic


Note:
The Cambridge Audio Azur DacMagic only has analog RCA and XLR outputs so for headphone input, you will need a separate headphone amplifier.

 

Cambridge Audio Azur DacMagic (Click to show)
dac_magic_front.jpg

 

$450 - Schiit Bifrost

 

Another DAC worth mentioning is the Schiit Biifrost at ~$450. While that price tag is a bit more than the DAC is worth IMO, it'll get you a nice housing, good sound quality, and it's made in the USA.

 

Schiit Bifrost (Click to show)
schiitbifrost_5.jpg

 

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The above were mostly neutral DACs that gave you exactly what was there. For those wanting to try tube DACs, there are 2 recommendations. Tube DACs color sound, but do so to many in a pleasing way. Tube DACs typically tend to increase soundstage, give focals more weight and have a few other "advantages." It's not for everyone, but for those wanting something different try:

 

  • $130-$165 - Aune T1

 

This Tube DAC comes with a Solid State Amplifier which isn't the best, but gets the job done and allows you listen to your headphones without requiring an additional headphone amplifier. It's highly recommended you find this on sale on Massdrop for $130.

 

Aune T1 (Click to show)
705748

 

~$450 - Jolida Glass FX Tube DAC III

 

Jolida Glass FX Tube DAC III (Click to show)
146382.jpg

Edited by Simca - 1/30/14 at 5:52pm
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post #2 of 4115
Thread Starter 

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If you're new to audio, you've probably already been bitten by the headset bug. You're coming here either looking for or have the impression that headsets are best for gaming. Sure, they're convenient, maybe even look cool, but they're extremely poor value and they typically are garbage.

 

Headsets target gamers with these impressions and charge them obscene amounts of money for what they're getting. You're overpaying for the convenience and for the mic. The mic quality is typically terrible, though some headsets have decent audio quality on the mic. The positioning and audio quality is almost always poor. Even if you manage to find a headset with a good soundstage, it'll still fail in the audio quality department.

 

Not all headsets are bad. If you MUST buy a headset, be prepared to have some money to blow, because the only headsets recommended now are:

 

  • $130 - Skullcandy Plyr 2 [Barely recommended]
  • $166 - Sennheiser PC360 [Best Value]
  • $256 - Sennheiser G4ME ONE/ZERO
  • $325 - Audio Technica ADG-1 [Only available in the Asia-Pacific market at the moment but can be imported. -[b]This is essentially an Audio Technica AD700X with a very good quality boom mic.[/b]

 

Worst mistake you can make is wasting your money on a headset thinking, "It can't be that bad." Most people do that then end up back here trying something new and saying, "Wow, can't believe I wasted my money on this over marketed garbage, should have read this guider off the bat"

 

Now that we're past that, let's move onto what you SHOULD use. A headphone+Microphone. In the previous layout we went according to price and gaming effectiveness. Yeah, let's junk that a bit. We're going to have a small section dedicated to gaming and then move onto music preference.

 

  • $36 - Superlux HD681 Evo

 

Lack slightly more bass than the 668B's, but because of this trade off are even better for gaming. The comfort should be similar to the HD668B's.

 

  • $50 - Samson SR850/Superlux HD668B

 

These headphones are cheap, slightly uncomfortable, but have great bass and soundstage. They're excellent for gaming, provide you with bass you typically don't get on entry level headphones and headsets and did I mention they're cheap!

 

  • $74 - Creative Aurvana Live!

These are really good for gaming, much more comfortable than the Samson's and prove nice bass to go along with your music and gaming. Highly recommended at it's price.

 

  • $128 - Sennheiser HD558

 

The HD558s follow a nice heritage for a headphone that was great for gaming back in the day the HD555's and improve upon that headphone. It comes at a higher price point, but so does everything it seems these days. These lack bass, but make up for it with excellent detail and a really good soundstage.

 

  • $130 - Creative Aurvana Live 2!

The Creative Aurvana Live 2's are the successors of the Creative Aurvana Live!'s which are actually still on sale. Perhaps successor isn't the right word.. perhaps these are the next step ups from the original CALs. These improve upon everything the CAL's did right. They're not bad looking on top of it all, but they do come at a higher price tag.

 

  • $145 - Audio Technica AD700X

The AD700s were king for gaming a few years ago, and these are it's replacement. They're pretty similar to the AD700s in many respect, although improved in other areas. They're also black instead of purple, so that's a bonus. It all comes at a higher price tag though...a $52 higher price tag. The soundstage on this headphone is even larger than the HD558, but some believe the soundstage to be almost artificial/too large. Imaging and positioning make this a great headphone for gaming at the price, but the lack of bass make it's use beyond gaming not very appealing. Detail on the headphone is also good, like the HD558s.

 

  • $150 - Beyerdynamic DT990

 

Often times you can find the Beyerdynamic DT990s at this price range. They are good for gaming with a large soundstage. They also provide you with very punchy (if slightly bloated) bass. So it's a very fun headphone. It requires amplification, but hard to beat this headphone if you're looking for a gaming headphone with bass.

 

  • $220 - Audio Technica AD900X and AKG Q701

 

The Audio Technica's build on the AD700Xs and improve them in almost everyway, most noticeably bass and an even larger soundstage. Detail is slightly improved, but not by much. If you're looking for a closed back version or a version with even more bass, the A900X's are your best bet. The best part of the AD900X's are that they do not require an amplifier.

 

The AKG Q701s are highly recommended though. They deliver an amazing soundstage, excellent detail, they're musical...but they need to be amped. Make sure to pick up a Magni at the very least, although they will run off a soundcard if you need to, just not well. They unfortunately lack the bass to really enjoy these headphones on a large list of genres, but many can make due because that's how awesome this headphone is.

 

 

Now that we've wrapped up the gaming headphones, let's move onto music.

 

There are some brands that are specially designed towards a certain genre of music. Let's get these out of the way first because these headphones are more extreme than others and I like to recommend headphones that are generally good at everything, but not everyone wants a headphone that is good at everything, just really good at one thing. These brands are Grado, which is great for rock music and Ultrasone which really shine for electronic music and stuff with a lot of bass.

 

Rock

 

Entry level wise the SR80i is an excellent choice followed by the Allesandro MS1 which is basically a Grado, but made by another company. If you want to move higher up the chain, the SR225i's are an excellent choice. Beyond that check out the RS-1s or Allesandro MS2s. The higher up Grados are very interesting, but also very expensive and you really have to love the Grado sound to spend into those.

 

Electronica/Bassy

 

Sony MDR-XB500, 700s, 1000s.

 

Bass, bass, bass. Personally not a fan of the XB Series. They feel like marshmallows or pillows on my head and the bass is not something I enjoy, but many bass lovers adore these. I suggest you audition them before purchasing.

 

Ultrasone 580, Pro 550, 650, 750, 2400 and Pro 900 are all good headphones to look into. Each is a little different from one another, and some just build up on a previous version. The 80s and 50s (after the initial number) signify different versions which have a different signature. I personally prefer the 50 series over the 80 series. Either way you either love or hate Ultrasone. They're very V shaped.

 

 

 

Now that I've taken care of the extremes, let's go by pricing from here on and I'll mention a few, not all, but a few great headphones are many price levels.

 

  • $50 - Samson SR850

 

Bassy, good soundstage, good detail for its price, doesn't require amplification, a bit uncomfortable.

 

  • $74 - Creative Aurvana Live!

Great all around headphone that's comfortable and priced well that doesn't require amplification. Excellent for gaming.

 

  • $75 - Fostex T50RP

These are a very inexpensive planar magnetic headphones. They provide excellent sound quality that rivals headphones beyond double it's price. They're not great for gaming, but they're an all around headphone. Downside is they really should be amped.

 

  • $165 Beyerdynamic DT770/DT990

 

These headphones are bassy and bassy in different ways. The DT770 focuses on sub bass while the DT990s focus on mid bass. The DT990s are open/semi-open while the DT770s are closed. Both present harsh highs that some cannot get used to, but both are excellent headphones at a great price.

 

  • $220 - Beydynamic DT880 600 ohm

These are excellent headphones that do a bit of everything, but don't excel at anything in particular. Many see them as better than both the DT770 and 990, although they don't have the bass the others do. They have an OK soundstage. I wouldn't use them for gaming personally, but you could get away with it if you needed to. They provide you with excellent detail and amazingly sharp and crisp highs that really let you enjoy drums. It's almost a bit too much at times though admittedly, and some may not get used to the highs, especially at high volumes. These absolutely require amplification.

 

  • $250 - HiFiMAN HE-300

 

The HE-300 are HiFiMAN's entry level headphone (which are actually Mid-Fi). They're priced very well, but use the dynamic driver instead of HiFiMAN's planar tech.

 

  • $300 - HiFiMAN HE-400

Available for a limited time the HE-400s are currently on sale for $300 while usually having been $400. They use HiFiMAN's planar magnetic technology which allows them to be open sounding headphones with nice bass. These are excellent value, but require amplification. They also are a bit harsh in the highs, but you can live with them with some EQing. Reason they're so cheap is that they're being phased out for a newer lighter version.

 

  • $400 - Sennheiser HD600

 

This is an excellent headphone that's neutral sounding and very good for certain genres like classical and jazz. Not my cup of tea personally, but many audiophiles praise this headphone.

 

  • $450 - Sennheiser HD650

The HD650 is more my cup of tea. A darker sounding headphone with good bass, very airy sounding and great vocals with the highs rolled off. These sound fantastic with an OTL tube amplifier. Try to get a more recent version, as they fix the cracking issues and most of the "veiled" complaints the previous versions suffered from.

 

  • $600 - HiFiMAN HE-500

 

This is where world class headphones begin. These are among the best headphones on the market. The HE-500 does a little of everything right. See my review for more. It's the next step above the HE-400. Largest difference is that it kills the annoying highs the HE-400s presented. Vocals were also superior on the HE-500s. These seem to have more subbass than the HE-400s but the HE-400s had more mid bass.

 

  • $1200+ - Audeze LCD-2, Sennheiser HD800, HiFiMAN HE-6

Flagship headphones for almost all these brands. Audeze has the LCD-3 now and Sennheiser does have some electrostatic headphones, but these are the main 3 in this price range. The HD800s are mostly known for their very revealing, detailed nature and wide soundstage. The LCD-2s are known for their bass, their vocal lushness and rolled off highs. The HE-6s are excellent at everything.

 

fELtPHb.png

 

Well, Simca, that's really wonderful, but what microphones would I be using with my headphone if you insist they're better than a headset?

 

Well, lucky for you I have several mics of different audio quality caliber that I can recommend you. Here are some at different price points. Almost unilaterally the higher the pricepoint, the better the mic.

 

  • $9 Zalman Clip on Mic

 

This is about the lowest you can go as far as mics are concerned. They pick up a lot of background noise and are generally not the best, but they do strap onto your headphone cable or shirt for ease of use. It's $9 making it it's largest selling point.

 

  • $12-23 - Logitech Labtec Desktop Mic 600

 

This has better sound quality than the Zalman. Depending on the volume level you set the mic to it can pick up a lot of background noise or a lot less. I suggest you use ~60% volume on this mic and it should do rather well. Downside is it's on your desk, not as cool and if you play far from your desk, not helpful at all.

 

  • $32 - Samson Go Mic

It's small, it's kind of odd really, but it is really a huge step above the other two options below it. Your voice will come across clearly, and it'll block out a decent amount of background noise.

 

  • $40 - AntLion Mod Mic

 

This is the mic most headset gamers dream of. They'll turn your headphones into a headset. They clip on the side of your ear cups through some sticky mechanism so that it won't damage your headphones. Mic quality isn't the best and is outdone by cheaper, solutions, but you're paying for what it is, the convenience and coolness aspect, though each release makes the SQ better.

 

  • $50 - Audio Technica ATR2500

 

This is where you begin to step into the podcasting and more professional mic area. At $50 the Audio Technica ATR2500 presents serious value for the money. You'll kill off a ton of background noise, come across rather clearly if slightly stuff sounding (I call it podcast sounding).

 

  • $80 - Samson C01U

 

At this pricepoint, the Samson C01U provides improved performance over the ATR2500, a different look and a different color.

 

  • $86 - AKG D5

 

The AKG D5 provides excellent voice clarity. This is really a mic that focuses on singing and vocals.

 

  • $92 - Blue Yeti

This is one of the best mics you can get under $100. It has many recording settings allowing you to change basically the sensitivity and how the mic records. It is the clearest mic under $100, but also pics up slightly more background noise than it's top competitor. Still, if you're in a quiet environment and want absolutely crystal clear mic pick up, this is your best bet. Downside, it's silver, and IT'S ENORMOUS. Honestly, it's like a massive toy girls use to enjoy themselves privately. Or guys..guys could use it too. Not judging.

 

  • $98 - Audio Technica AT2020

 

The Audio Technica AT2020 is primarily a podcast microphone that does an amazing job at destroying background noise. You really won't hear background noise on this thing. The only downside is that it's a bit congested sounding which as I mentioned earlier is podcast sounding. Other than that's it's a pretty mic, black and heavy duty. It's also not ginormous like the Yeti.

 

 

After you've selected your mic there are just 3 more things you should consider:

 

  1. A pop filter - This helps stop the P sounds from creating a puff sound on your mic.
  2. A shock mount - this prevents any shaking that may be occurring from vibrations of your desk from messing up the quality of your mic. Some swear by this more than others.
  3. A mic stand - While typically most of the mics come with some kind of cheap stand, you can really improve on that design to ensure your expensive mic doesn't fall over or simply being able to move the mic away when you're not using it. Mic stands can range in price and practicality. Some are arms that connect to your desk so they hang in front of you in use , and some are just on your desktop and don't move at all.
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post #3 of 4115
Thread Starter 

20Sznz7.png

 

Headphone amplifiers are almost required for certain headphones. Not simply for loudness of music in order to hear it at all, but rather to allow the driver to perform optimally so that you're getting the best sound out of it as possible. There are two types of amplifiers: Solid State Amps and Tube Amps.

 

  • $99 - Schiit Magni [Solid State]

 

The Schiit Magni is an excellent headphone amplifier at $100. It's by no means the best, but it'll do the job with almost any headphone you throw at it. Amazing value in this amplifier and it even comes in a lovely casing. Made in the USA.

 

  • $150 - The O2 Amplifier [Solid State]

This amp, designed by professional electrical engineer, audio hobbyist and blogger 'NwAvGuy', has been designed to bring extremely good performance at a bargain price. This amp will suit any headphone or earphone, and directly compares and even beats scientifically to headphone amps 5 - 10 times it's price. It is an open source design as well. More information about it, including properly conducted objective measurements can be found on NwAvGuy's blog here.

 

Tube amps are recommended for people looking for a certain sound and that are pairing a certain headphone that works well with a tube amp with it. There are many tube amplifiers out there, but here are just a few:

 

  • DIY - Millet Max Hybrid [Hybrid Amp]

 

  • $230 - Darkvoice 336SE

  • $350 - Schiit Valhalla

  • $450 - Schiit Lyr

  • DIY - Bottlehead Crack [w/ Speed ball upgrade] [OTL Amp]

 

  • $650-$750 - La Figaro 339

 

Beyond $1000 there are many high end audio companies with very nice tube amps such as RedWine Audio, Cavalli, Leben and many DIY options that use transformers.

 

Please understand that the price =/= performance when it comes to tube amps.

 

 

uQBet0Q.png

 

Try to avoid PC Speakers if you can. I understand everyone has their own budget. If you absolutely cannot afford a 2.1 set up, please use either the Creative T3130 at $75 or the Klipsch ProMedia 2.1s for $99.

 

As far as active speakers are concerned:

 

$120 Price Range:

  • M-Audio AV40


$180 Price Range:

  • Swan D1080MkII08

 

$220 Price Range:

  • Alesis M1 Active 520

 

  • M-Audio BX5a


For those that just want 2 speakers and no subwoofer for whatever reason and want some bass in their active speakers:

 

  • Audioengine A2


While they're not the highest fidelity speakers you can buy, they serve well for those wanting no hassle speakers that can be plugged in with some bass. To be honest though, the speakers have quite a bit of mid-bass that sometimes infringes upon music. Many people love their Audioengine speakers though. Has a built in tweeter to provide some bass without a subwoofer. Adding a subwoofer is always beneficial though, but if you were to, I would suggest buying other speakers.

 

  • Paradigm Titan


$280 Price Range:

  • Swan M200MKII.


$300 Price Range:

For a little over 300, the KRK Rokit 8 began to show up used for about 320 dollars.

 

  • KRK RP5 Rokit G2

 

  • Mackie MR5MK2


After this price range, you should do personal research on speakers, have a receiver/DAC and create a separate thread to be catered to personally. Look at brands such as Adam Audio, Neuman, Focal, Genelecs, Dynaudio etc.

 

 

R9KOmB8.png

 

$40 Price Range:

Dayton B652

$80 Price Range:

Pioneer SP BS21

$100 Price Range:

Infinity Primus P153

A good pair of monitors that can be found for 75 dollars per speaker. Infinity Primus is a sub-company of Harmon Kardon and these speakers sound fabulous. I own a pair definitely recommend them.

If you live in the UK, you might be able to find a pair of Wharfedale Diamond 9.1 for under 150 used. Sadly, if you live in America these speakers are significantly more expensive.

$120 Price Range:

Infinity Primus P163

They provide slightly more bass than the P153s, but the mids are not as sweet.

 

Mid-Fi Speakers

 

$400 Price Range:

  • Polk Audio RTi A3

 

Hi-Fi Speakers

 

$650 Price Range:

 

Ultimately you'll be faced with 2 real decisions among many competitors at this price range. The Bowers & Wilkins 685s and the KEF Q300s. I was faced with this decision and have listened to both. I prefer the KEF Q300 sound more. It seems to have more weight to the sound with better vocals than the B&W 685's, but the 685's are also very much loved by people into "British sounding speakers." The KEFs at the very least had better bass and ultimately made me keep them over 685s.

 

$800 Price Range:

 

Audio Note AX-2

 

Even better sounding than the KEFs by a bit, but these speakers are never on sale. You'll be hard pressed to find these below $800, but if you do, they're fantastic speakers.

 

9J9t44k.png

 

$90 - $130 Price Range:

Dayton SUB-800 ($90), Dayton SUB-1000 ($110), Dayton SUB-1200 ($130)

$190 Price Range:

 

  • BIC America F12


$250 Price Range:

 

  • Polk Audio PSW505

 

Quality Subwoofers

 

Beyond this price point you can start really getting into solid performing subwoofers. Look for brands like SVS, Velodyne, HSU, Premier, Outlaw, Rythmic, Epic, and Sunfire.


Edited by Simca - 1/31/14 at 5:06am
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post #4 of 4115
Nice guide! biggrin.gif
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post #5 of 4115
Looks good, but you neglected the home theater HD. If you want loss-less surround sound, EAX, and the ability to use the higher quality DACs in a nice receiver, it's your only option. Sure it's a niche product, but it deserves a mention.

Otherwise, great job man!
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post #6 of 4115
nice one mate
Although i have a small point
In the comparision between the STX and th ST you did'nt mention the daughter chip (the H6)
I dont know ,but i think some people might care about such thing
And again really great work

EDIT small numbering issue
Its (4- audiophiles) wirtten 3 again
Thats all
Edited by Crag - 5/13/11 at 3:02pm
 
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post #7 of 4115
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Varjo;13493488 
Looks good, but you neglected the home theater HD. If you want loss-less surround sound, EAX, and the ability to use the higher quality DACs in a nice receiver, it's your only option. Sure it's a niche product, but it deserves a mention.

Otherwise, great job man!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Crag;13493521 
nice one mate
Although i have a small point
In the comparision between the STX and th ST you did'nt mention the daughter chip (the H6)
I dont know ,but i think some people might care about such thing
And again really great work

Yes, please continue to give me suggestions on what to add to the list. This is exactly what I'm looking for. I will most definitely add these things. I'm currently writing up the headphone section first though, so please give me a few hours to get to it, but I will most definitely get to it.

I was also reminded by SavageBunny that it wasn't so apparent that if someone doesn't have a PCI-E slot they should go for the Xonar D1 which is the PCI version. I will also add that very soon.
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post #8 of 4115
One more note, I can personalty attest to the quality of the Zero DAC. It's pretty fantastic for such a cheep pricepoint. I use one to drive a set of HD650s and it does a great job.

Edit:

Since you're writing a headphone section I figured I'd weigh on on a few I have played with.

I really like Scheinhizers for their musicality. They aren't the correct choice (generally) for heavy beat driven songs, but they are musical, accurate, have a wide soundstage, and have a nice, clear, "laid back" sound that is the Sennheiser signature.

Also, if you're doing a headphone and soundcard section, make sure you mention the huge advantage that having a card with either Dolby Headphone or CMSS-3D brings to the table for movies. It really is a much more pleasant experience listening to dialogue with either of those two enabled. It keeps the voices from all sounding like they are in your head.

The hd555s are a great place to start, and have nice positional accuracy for videogames, though are a tad base light. I would caution people against the hd595s, I find them to be an odd headphone. The sound doesn't match most of the other Sennheisers, it is a heavier sound.... I really wasn't a fan.

Obviously, for the higher end, the 650s are amazing. With an amp driving them they can literally do it all, one of the most amazing and versatile headphones I have ever listened to, they rival my ascend 340SEs for clarity and sound-stage.

For a more base heavy experiance at right arround 100 bucks, I liked the ATH-A700s, though not as accurate as the 555s, the base is larger and the sound is still nice.

I was less of a fan of the open backed ATH-AD700 version, I found it to be slightly upstaged by the hd555s.

Anyway, just figured I'd weigh in.
Edited by Varjo - 5/13/11 at 2:48pm
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post #9 of 4115
I'd like to mention the Sennheiser HD201 for the $30 price point. I used to be a hater of headsets/headphones, with my experience of such not that favorable with the headphones/headsets I'd use as either bulky, uncomfortable, heavy on the head and wears out my earlobes after half an hour of use.

These Sennheisers, they're awesome. That's the only word for it. Albeit an entry level set of Headphones, they've got great bass, noise cancellation, very pronounced mid-tones and in closing I have been turned and actually prefer them over my large speakers these days. Mainly because I've somewhat gotten conscious about having my volume up too high in the wee hours of the morning.. =P
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post #10 of 4115
Nice list. Denon D2000 are a good higher end buy when they go below 300, as they frequently do. http://www.buy.com/prod/denon-ah-d2000-high-performance-stereo-headphone-stereo-denon-ah-d2000/q/sellerid/18465621/loc/101/206928680.html
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