LAPTOP MUSIC!!

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Hi everyone,

I currently use my laptop to rip cds or download music and play it using itunes and very basic creative 2.1 speakers worth around £100.

I have a buget of £800 to upgrade this system, but still wish to use my laptop as the source.

Initially I thought amp and floorstanders but a mate told me that the soundcard in my laptop would reduce the quality.

Should I:

1. Upgrade the sound card?

2. Use a DAC?

3. Get something with USB connection like the CAMBRIDGE AUDIO AZUR 651A?

I would appreciate your opinions and advice as I am a complete newcomer and I am not entirely sure how the technology works!

Thanks!
 

quadpatch

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Yeah the soundcard in any laptop is going to be rubbish by default or ok if you can even find an upgrade - Get a decent asynchronous USB DAC and output bit perfect audio to it using ASIO or WASAPI, then output that to your amp via phone (like a CD player). What amp do you have btw? Also what software do you use to play the audio? I assume this is a Windows PC, which OS is it running?

A dedicated DAC (or DAC + headphone amp / pre amp) is your best option for quality stereo audio. However it's worth pointing out that if you need 5.1 the best you can hope for is a passthrough afaik, is this just for stereo?

What connections do you need, do you need a headphone amp built in and how much do you have to spend on it? (all £800 or is that for other stuff too?)
 
A

Anonymous

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There is another route which to get active speakers. They contain an amp and one I can think of which is in budget, the B&W MM1 also has a DAC in it. You can get loads of DACs for less than £100 and then you have a great budget for actives.

An off board DAC probably, but not necessarily will be better than you soundcard. A mate has some Mackies which run straight froman Acer laptop and sound superb.

Have a look at local pro audio shops as well as traditional hifi for active speakers, since active speakers have been used a studio monitors for years.
 
A

Anonymous

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Thanks for the help guys,

In response to quadpatch: I use itunes software, windows 7 operating system and I am looking at stereo audio.

What are ASIO and WASAPI?

I am starting from scratch and £800 is the total I can afford.

I was thinking of the cambridge audio Azur 651A integrated amp. I have read that you can plug your laptop into the 651A and the USB audio processor extracts audio data directly from the hard drive – bypassing its soundcard – and takes care of the digital to analogue conversion process. I am keen on this option as it seems the simplest and costs £450, leaving £350 for speakers and cables.

What do you think?
 

MajorFubar

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Hell YouAndI, both ASIO and WASAPI are drivers for getting 'bit perfect' audio from your computer's hard-drive to your DAC (or to the Cambridge amp you've suggested, which has its own built-in DAC). You'd think that Windows just does this natively but it doesn't, there can be quite a bit of behind the scenes processing which can result in the full resolution of the source sound-file being lost on its way to the DAC. I'm sure there's a very technical explanation for how they work, but in layman's terms that's what they do.
 

Overdose

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These are nice, but will max out your budget, depending on what offer the seller would take. V Nice though.

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Dynaudio-BM6A-Monitors-MKII-mk2-/330706534557?pt=UK_AudioVideoElectronics_HomeAudioHiFi_HiFiSpeakers&hash=item4cffa5409d

Nice, but no postage, are you local to this one?

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Mackie-HR824-MONITOR-High-Resolution-Powered-Monitor-pair-/320876116332?pt=UK_ConElec_SpeakersPASystems_RL&hash=item4ab5b4f96c

I have these and a sub, sub not neccessarily needed, but nice to have.

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Dynaudio-BM5a-Active-Studio-Monitors-Pair-/280850007882?pt=UK_ConElec_SpeakersPASystems_RL&hash=item4163f7074a

I also have one of these.

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Edirol-UA-25-24bit-96kHz-Audio-Interface-/220983473392?pt=Midi_Controllers&hash=item3373a434f0

These are just some ideas, but there are many options for active and passive solutions. Good hunting
 
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Anonymous

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So from my laptop, general 'route':

Source + WASAPI/ASIO > DAC > Amp > Speakers

If that is the case I have the following options:

[*] DAC + Amp + Speakers e.g CA DACmagic plus + CA Topaz AM5 + Tannoy V4 = £750[*] DAC/Amp combined + Speakers e.g CA AZUR 651A + Tannoy V4 = £730[*] DAC + Amp/Speakers combined e.g CA DACmagic plus + Dynaudio BM 5A = £740[*] DAC/Amp/Speakers all combined e.g CA SLA25 = £200

Clearly option 4 is roughly quarter the price, anybody know of any more expensive versions of option 4?

And the main question....which option do I go for in terms of sound quality, ease of connecting to other sources (TV, DVD player or CD player) and scope for the future????

Thanks for the help so far guys!!
 

MajorFubar

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Yes there are active speakers with DACs at many price points, including such as the AVI ADM9 with a street-price of about £1,000. They blow your budget a bit but many fans say the sound cannot be bettered by a separate DAC/amp/speakers at the same total budget. Biggest problem is they're not ideal for a multi-source set-up.
 

SteveR750

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If you are using a Windows 7 PC then I would get rid of itunes, AFAIK you cannot configure it to output bit perfect. It's worth spending a few dollars on a decent media player (I use J River's MC17), and setting up ASIO / WASAPI event setting etc are a doddle. There are a few similar programmes, Winamp I think is another. You would be surprised what quality is possible streaming from a computer when it's set up right.
 

Overdose

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I am biased, but the best flexibility would be using the DACmagic as preamp with the BM5As (or similar at this pricepoint, Mackie HR624 etc). I will hopefully move onto a DACmagic plus myself, before upgrading my BM5As further in the future.
 

Craig M.

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Overdose said:
I am biased, but the best flexibility would be using the DACmagic as preamp with the BM5As (or similar at this pricepoint, Mackie HR624 etc). I will hopefully move onto a DACmagic plus myself, before upgrading my BM5As further in the future.

i think this is the route i would take. ken rockwell thinks the dacmagic+ is superb.

if you can stretch to the avi adms, they are fantastic. you could probably buy a cheap gizmo to give more inputs.
 

quadpatch

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Craig M. said:
i think this is the route i would take. ken rockwell thinks the dacmagic+ is superb.

Ken Rockwell? really?! I hope his opinions on audio equipment are better than what he says about camera equipment. I truly hate the thoughts that dribble from that idiot's tiny little mind! I'm a Nikon user btw so I don't hate him for being a fan boy.

He's a great example that anyone can write and review things but they probably shouldn't.
 

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