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Best Speakers for FLAC, Computer Speakers to appreciate FLAC
Jp4ragon
post Dec 26 2012, 16:54
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Hey everyone,

I have been wanting to appreciate the quality of FLAC files over mp3 while listening to them on my PC and have been looking into getting a new sound system. My wife surprised me for Christmas and got me a Logitech z-5500, but after doing some research, I am under the impression that this is not a good system for being able to appreciate FLAC (lack of clarity on z5500, made for gaming, etc). Is this true?

If so and if I return the logitech, my budget is between 300-600 dollars and i'm looking for a good recommendation on speakers I can hook up to my PC to listen to FLAC; 2.1 is preferred because the room I have isn't best for surround sound. Anyone have any good recommendations? I'd really appreciate any input here.

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tpijag
post Dec 26 2012, 17:16
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You may be setting yourself up for disappointment. There is nothing inherent in the flac [or any other lossless] format that guarantees that a flac file will sound better than an mp3. Many level of mp3 bitrate are transparent [read as indistinguishable to the orginal lossless] to the ears of most humans.
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Jp4ragon
post Dec 26 2012, 17:21
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QUOTE (tpijag @ Dec 26 2012, 17:16) *
You may be setting yourself up for disappointment. There is nothing inherent in the flac [or any other lossless] format that guarantees that a flac file will sound better than an mp3. Many level of mp3 bitrate are transparent [read as indistinguishable to the orginal lossless] to the ears of most humans.
I was under the impression that with high-quality equipment and trained ears you can tell the difference between let's say, V0 and FLAC, with the FLAC sounding a bit clearer, deeper, richer. I know this isn't a guarantee, but I thought that the quality of your speakers and sound system can largely impact the quality of the sound of your music, no?

I guess what i'm saying is that I want to be able to listen to my music in all it's glory, so to speak.

This post has been edited by Jp4ragon: Dec 26 2012, 17:22
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andy o
post Dec 26 2012, 17:24
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"Doing some research" on audio equipment on the internet without having good guidelines will only empty your pockets faster, not make your equipment necessarily better. Start with the Terms of Service here, especially #8. You will notice that most people who claim FLAC is so much better than mp3 (especially if they claim "with good enough equipment") can't abide by that, and that should tell you something.
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Apesbrain
post Dec 26 2012, 18:19
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Although your assumption about FLAC being "better" than MP3 V0 may be flawed, there is nothing wrong with seeking higher performance out of your playback system. If you're currently using speakers of the quality that typically ship with a boxed PC (or internal to a laptop), then there may be much to gain in terms of frequency extension, low distortion, and stereo imaging from a speaker made by a competent manufacturer to a higher price point. What sounds "best", however, can only be left up to YOU. Others can tell you what they like -- which can be a good place to start -- but that's no guarantee the same solution will be the one you prefer.

Listen to some different speaker models or, if that's not possible, read some reviews from actual owners for ideas. Take into account not only the reported sound but the size and aesthetics of the unit (and warranty). Buy the model that best suits your individual preferences. There is no substitute for hearing a speaker in the place where you actually plan to use it, so be sure you can return it for a full refund if after a home audition you aren't satisfied (e.g. no "restocking fee"; you'll typically pay return shipping if you've purchased online). Give yourself time to listen before making a decision; any new speaker introduced into your familiar listening environment will sound "different" in ways you may not be sure you like at first. You may also need to experiment with placement of the speakers and, if they are sitting on your computer desk, mechanical isolation.

In your price range the first option I'd consider is the B&W MM-1 but that's just me: I've heard them, I like their design, and having owned B&W products in the past I respect the brand. If you have an Apple Store nearby, you should be able to audition this speaker there. I'm assuming from your post that you listen primarily while seated at your PC, but if you are looking instead for "room-filling" sound my recommendation might be for something larger depending on the size of your room.

One other thing, listening to my music "in all its glory" often means listening louder than my housemates or neighbors would prefer I do. For this reason, I often listen via earphones and find it a very satisfying experience. There are some fine-sounding models available for a fraction of what you are willing to spend.
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pawelq
post Dec 26 2012, 19:44
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Make sure you try small studio monitors, these are usually very clear, transparent, capable of reproducing timbres very accurately. From tiny and cheap Yamaha MSP3 ($165 each, note that prices of studio monitors are usally per monitor not per pair) to serious Genelec or Adam-Audio there is plenty to choose from.
Two caveats:
- they usually take balanced XLR or TRS as input, sometimes RCA as well. You will need an adapter when connecting to a computer with consumer audio card, or to a CD player.
- they may have no volume control, or separate volume control for each speaker, sometimes on the front, sometimes on the back. Rarely, and AFAIK only in smaller and cheaper models (e.g. Adam AX3) can volume of both speakers be controlled with a single control. If you can't or don't want to control it at source, you may want to add something like this: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/5939...log_Stereo.html


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Nick.C
post Dec 26 2012, 20:15
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QUOTE (Apesbrain @ Dec 26 2012, 17:19) *
Although your assumption about FLAC being "better" than MP3 V0 may be flawed,

Although we should be very careful to be clear that FLAC should sound no worse than MP3 - FLAC is lossless after all.


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Jp4ragon
post Dec 26 2012, 22:28
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Okay well then it's a bit more complicated than i'm making it. Does anyone have any input on the current setup then--the logitech z-5500? Is it a good quality system?
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ech3
post Dec 27 2012, 00:37
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I would say be appreciative of the gift your thoughtful wife gave you for Christmas.
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Jp4ragon
post Dec 27 2012, 00:47
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QUOTE (ech3 @ Dec 27 2012, 00:37) *
I would say be appreciative of the gift your thoughtful wife gave you for Christmas.
Well that goes without saying; though of course, this being her gift to me in no way effects whether or not I return it because we're going for quality here, and not just settling. I just want to make sure it was worth to drop that much on a sound system and if the investment was a good one.
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Porcus
post Dec 27 2012, 02:26
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If you want detailed sound which may increase your chances of telling lossy from lossless (or, rather, increase the bitrate required for transparency), then rather than spending money on expensive speakers, try
- good headphones; if you want a reproduction that doesn't mask differences, you can get it much cheaper than speakers
- choose signals that are easier to tell apart. Which basically means, listen to signals for the sake of training artifacts detection, rather than for the enjoyment of music. (Does that sound ri-D-Q-lous? Sometimes it is fun to play mindgames or eargames, but I'd rather just play music.)


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FreaqyFrequency
post Dec 27 2012, 02:45
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The Z-5500 is a phenomenal system for 2.1 playback. In fact, Logitech's current flagship is actually a step *down* from the Z-5500 in my esteem. If your computer has an optical output, disconnect the three surround speakers and use it as a 2.1. If you're running Windows, there's a built-in feature that allows you to adjust the system to your room using a microphone. That's exactly the setup I'm running presently, and it sounds crystalline. You'll never achieve genuine studio monitor + acoustic treatment accuracy that way, but it sounds great just the same.

Also, it's important to stress that a well-encoded, one-pass mp3 will be absolutely indistinguishable from a lossless original to your ears. The price and/or quality of the system on which you're listening doesn't factor in, since it's your ears which are taken into consideration with the perceptual coding rather than the playback system. There are still plenty of good reasons to keep FLACs around, but don't lose sleep worrying about audible playback quality differences.

This post has been edited by FreaqyFrequency: Dec 27 2012, 02:46


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DVDdoug
post Dec 27 2012, 02:59
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I've never heard those speakers...

I always recommend that people go to a hi-fi or home theater store and LISTEN to some speakers. You don't have to go in and buy speakers on your 1st visit, but it's a good idea to listen to several different speakers in different price ranges to get a feel for what you like.

If you are mostly interested in listening to music, you may not need surround sound. However, I use a Dolby Pro Logic II "soundfiled" setting to send a little artificial reverb to the rear channels when I'm listening to 2-channel stereo.

Every speaker (and every headphone) sounds different, and you need to find a speaker you like. The specifications can tell you something, but they don't tell you that much useful about the sound. The "best" speakers cost thousands of dollars and most of us can't afford them, or just don't want to spend that kind of money. Speakers are not like electronics (CD players,amplifiers, etc.), where you can get equipment that's better than human hearing at relativly low prices. I wouldn't make a choice based entirely on price, but to a large extent, "You get what you pay for."
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Jp4ragon
post Dec 27 2012, 05:24
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Thanks for the input and feedback everyone; I've learned a lot of stuff just from your responses and the research i've done based on some of the things you guys said.

QUOTE (FreaqyFrequency @ Dec 27 2012, 02:45) *
The Z-5500 is a phenomenal system for 2.1 playback. In fact, Logitech's current flagship is actually a step *down* from the Z-5500 in my esteem. If your computer has an optical output, disconnect the three surround speakers and use it as a 2.1. If you're running Windows, there's a built-in feature that allows you to adjust the system to your room using a microphone. That's exactly the setup I'm running presently, and it sounds crystalline. You'll never achieve genuine studio monitor + acoustic treatment accuracy that way, but it sounds great just the same.

Also, it's important to stress that a well-encoded, one-pass mp3 will be absolutely indistinguishable from a lossless original to your ears. The price and/or quality of the system on which you're listening doesn't factor in, since it's your ears which are taken into consideration with the perceptual coding rather than the playback system. There are still plenty of good reasons to keep FLACs around, but don't lose sleep worrying about audible playback quality differences.
I am currently in the process of upgrading my sound-card as well, and I want to get one that allows optical output. How come you disconnect the other three speakers? Is it just an individual preference kind of thing?
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FreaqyFrequency
post Dec 27 2012, 07:04
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I'm not watching movies on this system these days, I don't have a catalog of 5.1 music, and I have nowhere to put them, hence their chronic hiatus. biggrin.gif


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Funkstar De Luxe
post Dec 27 2012, 10:29
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If I was you, I'd buy some Yamaha HS-80M. Cheap, good, easy to use.


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Woodinville
post Dec 27 2012, 10:42
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My observation is "um, not computer speakers". FLAC should be no worse than any other media from CD, ever, of course.

I will point to various MPEG tests that show while MP3 and AAC have very, very good results, they do not in fact manage, in the MPEG tests, to be indistinguishable from PCM.

But they are (*(*& good.


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garym
post Dec 27 2012, 14:52
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I've had very good luck with audioengine A2 speakers on my computer.
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tuffgong
post Jan 11 2013, 06:06
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I bought the b+w mm-1 usb computer speakers used for around $450. Blows anything else out of the water. Built in high quality dac. BI-AMPED miniature speakers, run by 4 18watt class D amps. Clean down to 57 hz. --All-- the reviews mention that you can definitely hear the difference between wav and mp3.
So you can buy an audioengine, which trys to handle both upper and lower with just one amp, and still requires a usb dac, and still requires some nice mini xlr-rca cables or whatever you connect it with. Or you can buy the mm-1 and forget it. I'm running virtual audio cable and added another usb dac to run my b+w asw610 sub, so now I have the sub to do 27hz-57hz, portable full spectrum dominance from any computer.

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saratoga
post Jan 11 2013, 06:42
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QUOTE (tuffgong @ Jan 11 2013, 00:06) *
I bought the b+w mm-1 usb computer speakers used for around $450. Blows anything else out of the water. Built in high quality dac. BI-AMPED miniature speakers, run by 4 18watt class D amps. Clean down to 57 hz.


TOS# 8. All members that put forth a statement concerning subjective sound quality, must -- to the best of their ability -- provide objective support for their claims. Acceptable means of support are double blind listening tests (ABX or ABC/HR) demonstrating that the member can discern a difference perceptually, together with a test sample to allow others to reproduce their findings. Graphs, non-blind listening tests, waveform difference comparisons, and so on, are not acceptable means of providing support.

QUOTE (tuffgong @ Jan 11 2013, 00:06) *
--All-- the reviews mention that you can definitely hear the difference between wav and mp3.


A good sign that you've found ignorant reviewers.
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greynol
post Jan 11 2013, 06:51
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QUOTE (tuffgong @ Jan 10 2013, 21:06) *
--All-- the reviews mention that you can definitely hear the difference between wav and mp3.

If true then it doesn't speak very highly about the speakers, though I don't expect the authors to understand why that is. More likely all those reviews are the usual useless placebophile fluff written to get obsessive compulsives to part with their money.

This post has been edited by greynol: Jan 11 2013, 06:52


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tuffgong
post Jan 11 2013, 07:09
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QUOTE (greynol @ Jan 10 2013, 23:51) *
QUOTE (tuffgong @ Jan 10 2013, 21:06) *
--All-- the reviews mention that you can definitely hear the difference between wav and mp3.

If true then it doesn't speak very highly about the speakers, though I don't expect the authors to understand why that is. More likely all those reviews are the usual useless placebophile fluff written to get obsessive compulsives to part with their money.


This is a great youtube video of the mm-1, I hope the quality comes through:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXIWUYq6Ns4
It did for me. The review that mentions they can hear a difference between bit rates is here:
http://www.tonepublications.com/review/bws...table-speakers/
I found others mentioning that they could tell the difference but would rather not go google hunting atm sorry. Perhaps the word all for dramatic effect was the wrong word. Most? Doesn't have the same ring as all.
P.S. These little tiny speakers disappear in the sound field, it's really quite amazing to hear music coming from your center, like a perfectly phased multi thousand speaker would do. Just missing some bass.

This post has been edited by tuffgong: Jan 11 2013, 07:15
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greynol
post Jan 11 2013, 07:14
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I'm not trying to suggest the speakers are bad or even something short of excellent (I don't know or have an opinion either way). What I'm trying to point out is that anecdotal reviews have no place on this forum.

This post has been edited by greynol: Jan 11 2013, 07:19


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tuffgong
post Jan 11 2013, 07:19
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Oh I see your point now, sorry haven't posted in a long time. Scratch any sort of emotion in my comments, didn't mean to detract. The O.P. should definitely check out the mm-1, they might like it. We'll just leave it at that smile.gif

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Rescator
post Jan 11 2013, 09:18
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QUOTE (greynol @ Jan 11 2013, 07:14) *
I'm not trying to suggest the speakers are bad or even something short of excellent (I don't know or have an opinion either way). What I'm trying to point out is that anecdotal reviews have no place on this forum.


*nod*

I'd like to add though that the Logitech z-5500 is THX certified.
Which does mean they are (or at least should be) approved per some certification process, and Logitech need to ensure they remain so (in mass production) or they will no longer be allowed to use the THX logo.
I did not look into the THX certification for home equipment/PC gear etc. But I can assume the THX specs either matches the industry standard or slightly surpass it.
I'd suggest to look up the THX specs and certification for those speakers. I do not recall if this exactly, but THX is supposed to be a "Hi Fi" standard, so minimal noise/distortion/coloration, as true as possible to the original material.

THX certification exist for cinema/special setups, home cinema/studios, living room/hifi, computer gear/consoles.
There are differences in the certification for these areas, but do guarantee that a certain minimum standard has been met.
Then again, there is a reason why Lucasfilm and Dolby and DTS etc travel around the world constantly calibrating theaters (and other special setups), even the best gear can sound like crap if setup wrong.




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