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Looking for PC Desktop Amplifier

R.Muller

New member
Aug 20, 2013
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Hello all,

I am after a good desktop amp to power some bookshelf speakers which would be connected to my PC. I work from home a lot and like listening to music.

I have had a look at the NAD 3020 V2 as maybe one solution but wondered if anyone had any other recommendations?

Thanks in advance!
 

jjbomber

Well-known member
Dec 22, 2006
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R.Muller said:
Hello all,

I am after a good desktop amp to power some bookshelf speakers which would be connected to my PC. I work from home a lot and like listening to music.

I have had a look at the NAD 3020 V2 as maybe one solution but wondered if anyone had any other recommendations?

Thanks in advance!
Monitor Audio Airstream A100 is the other similar option. Secondhand? The Naim UnitiQute2 goes for bargain prices these days.

As a starting point, how are you connecting the PC? There's USB/Optical/HDMI/bluetooth/3.5mm etc. That might influence the choice.
 

R.Muller

New member
Aug 20, 2013
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Those options look good.

as I’ll be say relatively close to the speakers (at a desk) what would te recommendations be for bookshelf speakers? I do have space for floorstanders too.

for input I’d like USB or 3.5mm really for convenience .

id like something with good bass extension but not necessarily a sub.

for reference I have a Qacoustics 2000i system hooked up to a Pioneer VSX-LX70 in my living room and would like something with as much punch as that if possible :)
 

Pedro

New member
May 31, 2016
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I'd get active monitors like the JBL lsr305, Yamaha hs5 or Adam A5x instead. No need to buy an amp.
 

iMark

Well-known member
May 16, 2008
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If it's for a desktop only you could try to find a set of Harmon Kardon Soundsticks III. We have them in a study connected to a Mac and they're excellent. They were flogged over a year ago at very low prices. Amazon still sell them.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Harman-Kardon-Soundsticks-Desktop-Speaker/dp/B003ZXDOMA
 

JMac

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May 10, 2012
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What sort of budget are you looking at for amp and speakers?

My requirements are the same as yours and if I was starting over again I'd go for active speakers. Depending on room size and budget etc I'd look at the Kef LS50 wireless.
 

chelstondave

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May 23, 2010
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https://www.audiovisualonline.co.uk/product/32096/audiolab-m-one-black-compact-integrated-amplifier-w-bluetooth/

its has more definition than my old myryad stuff and well built. I would say it has a slightly dry lean sound and would expect that the NAD you mention would be warmer so depending on your speakers you would need to work out which might suit them better
 

davedotco

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Apr 24, 2013
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These are the basics at this point.

For example, I had a pair of Seiwin (Studiospares) SN4 actives, with 4 inch bass drivers for my desktop system, and I thought they were great. I had them on the small, Audio Engine desktop stands driven fron an AEX, even given the current price, about £140 pr, you can add the stands and a simple usb dac for about £200 all up.

On the other hand, you could have a pair of Kef LS50w wireless for about £2k. It's all up to you.

As an aside, my experience suggests that best results are obtained by keeping it simple and quite small. If I was doing this again I would go down a similar rout, with the choice of models dependent on budget.
 

R.Muller

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Aug 20, 2013
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Thanks for the input. I had a look at the KEFs. Would the NAD 3020v2 power these?

i am quite open to suggestions. I was hoping to keep speakers and amp under £1500
 

davedotco

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Apr 24, 2013
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R.Muller said:
Thanks for the input. I had a look at the KEFs. Would the NAD 3020v2 power these?

i am quite open to suggestions. I was hoping to keep speakers and amp under £1500
All the speakers I mentioned are active, so an amplifier is not necessary.

Frankly I would consider the Kefs, whether active or passive, to be over the top for a desktop system, partly because of their size and partly because they require proper stands, careful setup and quality amplification. In these situations I personally prefer a simpler, less capable system that works well in a compromised environment.

Talking of compromise, for desktop systems, I find it essential to keep the bass tight and controlled, stop the desk from 'singing along' and bass reflected from the backwall overwhelming the music. So smallish enclosures, bass drivers no bigger than 5 inch, some sort of desktop stand and a decent though inexpensive dac.

If you are comfortable controlling volume etc from the computer, then a simple dac is all you need. If you want a separate volume or other functionality then a dac/pre-amp is what you need, ideally one with asynchronous usb.

In fact, at this point it is worth taking a few moments to think about what functionality you require, where are you going to get your music from for instance or whether you need your computer sounds to work separately from music playback.

So using my own requirements as an example, I use Apple computers so my 'cheap' option would be to use an airport express into an inexpensive pair of 4 or 5 inch actives £200-300 all up. I would select and control everything on the computer, send it over Airplay to my system.

At the other end of the scale I might use a Yamaha WXC50 connected to my network driving a really tasty pair of 5 inch Adam Audio actives, this time including stands and cables about £1000. Unless I had some very special requirements, I do not think I would spend more than that.
 

jjbomber

Well-known member
Dec 22, 2006
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R.Muller said:
Thanks for the input. I had a look at the KEFs. Would the NAD 3020v2 power these?

i am quite open to suggestions. I was hoping to keep speakers and amp under £1500
Certainly would. NAD £400, KEF LS50 £800, Stands depends on personal choice, USB and speaker cables. In your case, that would probably be the first set up to demo.
 

R.Muller

New member
Aug 20, 2013
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Really appreciate all the feedback, especially the recommendations on the active speakers too.

My plan is to visit an audio store and ask if any of the mentioned speakers in this forum can be demo’d.

appreciate it, thanks
 

rainsoothe

Well-known member
Apr 30, 2012
330
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19,070
Hi. Placing speakers on the desk is a bit tricky, since you will get a lot of resonances. If you wanna spend big(ish) and go the hi-fi route, you will get a lot of milage from a second hand Naim Unitiqute 2 and a pair of Neat Iota, which are especially designed to go in bookshelves and/or near walls.

On my desktop system, though, I went a MUCH cheaper route - Yamaha HS7 studio monitors (active) + Tascam US 2x2 audio interface for volume control duties. Also, very importantly, the speakers are sat on a pair of Iso-acoustics mini-stands, that work well with the Yamahas. They failed to do so with the Adam A5X, because their front ported bass is really strong, and it would bounce a lot of mid-bass frequencies off my desk. Of course more expensive/better variants are out there, like Dynaudio Lyd 5 or 7, which are defo worth a listen.
 

JMac

New member
May 10, 2012
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That being the case, what about something dedicated to computer, say the Focal XS?
 

Barbapapa

New member
Feb 13, 2016
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I've been in a similar situation several years ago. If I understand you correctly, you will use the speakers on your desk, probably left and right of a computer monitor? Some other questions, which may be relevant:

- What is your room size? When I started out I used a Sony UDA-1 which worked fine (and looks nice) in a small room, but after I moved to a much larger room, it clearly couldn't cope with the higher power requirements.

- Do you only need an amp, or would it be a plus if it has an internal DAC as well? This would keep the box count down.

- Do you find size/looks important? I would suggest taking looks into account, as you will spend a lot of time seeing those speakers and amp. If the amp is to be on your desk, it is useful to have a fairly small box, but this restricts choice.

- Also, do you want a volume knob or are you okay with digital volume only? Personally I find a volume knob very handy if you quickly want to turn down volume (e.g. when the phone rings).

I currently use a Sonneteer Campion (not on the desk but at a side table) with the Sony as DAC/pre-amp on the desk. For speakers I use alternatively Amphion Ion and Harbeth P3ESR. The Harbeths are very good (and surprising amounts of bass), but possibly a bit large. The Amphions are smaller and thereby optically better. Both also sound good when at low volumes, which I find important for keeping my hearing and good relations with neighbours.

For dealing with resonance you can buy monitor pads.

If you find a lot of bass important I would suggest going for smaller speakers on the desk, and a sub for the bass.

Given what I as yet can gather from your requirements, I would go for a fairly compact amp and smallish but good speakers. I haven't much personal experience, but can point you to some items that have received good reviews.

Amp:

- Heed Elixer.

- One of those TEAC dac/amps (AI-101DA, 301DA, 501DA): these are really small and look good. I'm not sure how you feel about Class D amplification, though.

Speakers:

- Amphion (several ranges and sizes, they all look similar)

- Ophidian Minimo (davidf at this forum sells these, as well as Amphions): If I didn't already have speakers I would seriously consider these.

- Quad S-1 (looks really good).

These are as far as I know/can gather refined, which I prefer. My brief impression of Dali Zensor Pico (which is also small) and Q Acoustics is that these are better at medium-high volume.

Even smaller are Cambridge Minx 21, but you would need a sub woofer with these otherwise they are too bass light.
 

Barbapapa

New member
Feb 13, 2016
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In addition to my previous post:

- I would take into account that at close range (near-field listening) it is important that the set also works well at low volume. You may easily find yourself listening for hours on end behind your desk, and it is not a good idea to do so even at medium volume.

- Size is difficult, as even fairly small speakers like the P3ESR (30 cm high) seem quite large close up (at 1 meter distance).

You might also consider some of the newer Sonus Faber, which may be available at low prices (Chameleon, Toy, Principa) but I'm not sure how good these are. Or an older Quad 11L2 or 9, ProAc Anniversary Tablette.
 

Barbapapa

New member
Feb 13, 2016
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jjbomber said:
Nope. Amp on the desk, speakers on the bookshelf or floor. *dash1*
I may have overlooked this, but did he really say that the speakers would be on the bookshelf or floor?

As far as I can see he only stated:

R.Muller said:
as I’ll be say relatively close to the speakers (at a desk) what would te recommendations be for bookshelf speakers? I do have space for floorstanders too.
This suggest that the bookshelf speakers will be on his desk, but admittedly this is not entirely clear. Your smilie still seems somewhat hastily posted.
 

jjbomber

Well-known member
Dec 22, 2006
602
176
19,070
Barbapapa said:
I may have overlooked this, but did he really say that the speakers would be on the bookshelf or floor?
Yes. He will be seated at the desk, not the speakers. He wants an amplifier for the desk. The bookshelf speakers will be on the bookshelf, though he may consider floorstanders.
 

kukulec

Well-known member
Jan 25, 2015
40
7
10,545
hello, i use my cxa80 and i22 connected to pc, and generally sit colse to the speakers. if you really want to enjoy music, either chose active speakers, or allocate more money on a strong amplifier and less on speakers.
 

R.Muller

New member
Aug 20, 2013
3
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0
Hi all,

i think i have narrowed it down to these combinations for my office. It is true that I had planned to put the KEFs on some stands or the bookshelf although I’ve also seen mini stands for desks.

after plenty of googling, these are my final options:

1. Cambridge audio CXA 60 with Qacoustic 3050 floorstanders

2. KEF LS50 and the NAD 3020 V2

3. Qacoustic 3020i bookshelf speakers with the NAD 3020v2 and a BK electric xls200 sub

the system will be only for music. I’m taking a listen to these combinations this weekend hopefully
 

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