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Forward thinking Audio setup, How to get good audio in 2013
terataz
post Sep 24 2013, 11:11
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I can't find an audio setup to be in line with my needs.
I need suggestions on a versatile setup. These are my needs:

1) I listen to music 100% from online streaming services. Mainly Spotify Premium, 320kbps OGG
2) I'd like it to use it to listen to movies too trough my TV
3) I'll prefer to have it wireless, so that i can use it from all my devices
4) My budget is 350 euro max

I know i won't get true hifi with this money, but I believe audio systems setups have evolved in the last years and with a little bit of creativity, there's a lot you can get with that money.
I've looked at:

1) http://www.raspyfi.com/ : interesting, but quite a bit of work needed to get a good system up and running (hw and sw)
2) Sonos play 3 + hub: can't connect it to TV + not great sound quality + don't need a multi room setup
3) Bluetooth systems like Onkyo LS-3100: not bad, but lacking a bit on the sound quality side
4) Classic amp+speaker setup: not sure here, as some are lacking digital connections and wifi/BT

Suggestions appreciated

This post has been edited by terataz: Sep 24 2013, 11:47
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Apesbrain
post Sep 24 2013, 15:51
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Can't you get almost all you need using existing Spotify clients for PC/Android/iOS? Well, maybe not this:
QUOTE
2) I'd like it to use it to listen to movies too trough my TV

But I'm not sure what you mean by that. If you mean that you want your investment to also provide home theater audio, then Onkyo (and probably others) offer AV receivers with Spotify built-in:
http://www.eu.onkyo.com/en/spotify-and-onkyo-50268.html

BTW, there's no "not great sound quality" issue with Sonos.
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terataz
post Sep 24 2013, 16:15
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QUOTE (Apesbrain @ Sep 24 2013, 16:51) *
Can't you get almost all you need using existing Spotify clients for PC/Android/iOS? Well, maybe not this:
QUOTE
2) I'd like it to use it to listen to movies too trough my TV

But I'm not sure what you mean by that. If you mean that you want your investment to also provide home theater audio, then Onkyo (and probably others) offer AV receivers with Spotify built-in:
http://www.eu.onkyo.com/en/spotify-and-onkyo-50268.html

BTW, there's no "not great sound quality" issue with Sonos.


Thanks for your reply. I meant that I would like to be able to plug the speakers to my tv so to have better audio quality/surround while watching a film.
Onkyo av receivers will go over my budget . I was looking to the Onkyo LS-3100 which, without a received, will let me play any audio over BT

I never heard a Sonos playing, but my guess is that any speaker as small as a play 3 won't be able to produce anything near good a bass (50/150Hz).
Plus, it has not input connection so i won't be able to use it with my tv
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garym
post Sep 24 2013, 17:53
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QUOTE (terataz @ Sep 24 2013, 10:15) *
I never heard a Sonos playing, but my guess is that any speaker as small as a play 3 won't be able to produce anything near good a bass (50/150Hz).


One can connect the SONOS with analog out or digital out to your preamp/receiver (in the same way one can connect a CD Player to one's preamp/receiver). You are not limited to the SONOS speakers. I think most SONOS players don't even have speakers/amps.

So you could have, for example, a AV preamp/amp (or receiver) connected to speakers. Your TV can connect to this AV setup. You can also connect a SONOS, or a SQUEEZEBOX, or other things (a laptop feeding the DAC of your AV system) to the same AV setup. Then you can listen to your TV through the AV setup, listen to streamed music through same AV setup, or anything else connected to the AV inputs (CD Player, turntable, tuner, etc.).
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DVDdoug
post Sep 24 2013, 19:29
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I'll leave the wireless part to others...

For flexibility, you can't beat a home theater receiver (AKA Audio Video Receiver or AVR). Here in the U.S. I can find 5.1 channel receivers starting at about $150 USD. Just about any home theater receiver should have the power & "specs" for just-about any home set-up, so it's OK to economize. You can configure it for 2-channel stereo if you don't want 5.1 or 7.1 surround now, and you'll have the option of surround sound in the future. Surround is nice for movies & concert DVDs, and there are Dolby Pro Logic "Soundfield" settings for adding various effects (such as rear-channel reverb) when listening to stereo music.

QUOTE
...but my guess is that any speaker as small as a play 3 won't be able to produce anything near good a bass (50/150Hz).
Speakers will have a bigger effect on sound quality than anything else (assuming no compression artifacts from the streaming audio) and, every speaker sounds different. Of course, there's more to sound quality than size. But physics does come into play, and you cannot get deep bass with 4-inch woofers. I'd suggest at least a 12-inch (30cm) subwoofer or speakers with 12-inch woofers. Again, here in the U.S. I can find a "powered" 12-inch sub for about $150 USD. (I have not heard that sub, so I can't say anything about its sound quality.) Home Theater Receivers generally work with 5 passive (un-powered) speakers and a powered sub.


I suggest you go to an audio/video store and listen to a variety of speakers. And I'd suggest listening to both stereo and surround set-ups. You'll probably see (and hear) lots of speakers that are above your price range, and you may not end-up buying from that store, but it will be educational.

Since your budget doesn't allow for great speakers, you might consider adding a pair of headpones (now or later). I'd say high-end headphones are 1/10th to 1/5th the cost of high-end speakers, so most people can afford a really good pair of headphones.

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Apesbrain
post Sep 24 2013, 22:26
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QUOTE (terataz @ Sep 24 2013, 11:15) *
I never heard a Sonos playing, but my guess is that any speaker as small as a play 3 won't be able to produce anything near good a bass (50/150Hz).
Plus, it has not input connection so i won't be able to use it with my tv

A bit over your budget, but this might suffice if your TV has digital audio out:
http://www.sonos.com/introducing/playbar

Or the less expensive (~300 euro) Play 5 has analog line in. Put it under/above your TV and wire it to your router. It will play whatever you choose including Spotify controlled by the Sonos PC or mobile app. It also acts as a wireless base station for other Sonos devices. Looks like you can leave the TV connected and select "Line-In" whenever you want to hear it. Here's some more information:
http://blog.sonos.com/tips-and-tricks/tip-...ne-in-on-sonos/

If you invest some of your remaining 50 euros in a Bridge, then you won't need to wire the Play 5 to your router and you can move it wirelessly about your home as you need (after disconnecting the TV).

Anyway, all this Sonos stuff can get expensive but you have the option to start small and expand your system to other zones over time.
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DigitalMan
post Sep 25 2013, 04:23
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Why not just use your smart phone, a phone docking station, powered speakers and a cheap analog switch to route the docking station or the phone to the speakers?


--------------------
Was that a 1 or a 0?
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yay101
post Sep 25 2013, 09:07
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Whats wrong with a Pi? Or a Cubox? Both can stream everything you need with native apps, you can even set up one of the xbmc based distributions and get what you want for next to nothing with a remote control app, upnp control, upnp streaming from whatever devices you have around etc.

For example Pi or Cubox $45
Cheap external DAC assuming not using HDMI to tv $30
All the rest for speakers / cables.

Maybe some relatively cheap GOOD speakers like the audioengine A2's.

Done.

What would be wrong with this setup for you?
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Brand
post Sep 25 2013, 10:22
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Granted, I haven't done a lot of research recently, but to me it looks like good dedicated media players are lacking, especially when it comes to audio, since they often don't have simple features like gapless playback.

I'd consider something like a nettop PC (running XBMC or similar) and a regular receiver with HDMI I/O.
Once you have an actual PC you're pretty much set on the digital side for both audio and video.
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garym
post Sep 25 2013, 11:58
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QUOTE (Brand @ Sep 25 2013, 04:22) *
Granted, I haven't done a lot of research recently, but to me it looks like good dedicated media players are lacking, especially when it comes to audio, since they often don't have simple features like gapless playback.


although sadly now out of production (but available on the used market) the Squeezebox Touch does true gapless playback, handles FLAC, WAV, ALAC, mp3, m4a, OGG, WMA, and handles 24/96 files out of the box and 24/192 with a free software "plugin". They have RCA analog out, S/PDIF and toslink digital out (all 3 live simultaneously). They work with wifi or ethernet connection. And multiple players can be perfectly synched for playback in different rooms (or the same server can feed different things to the different players).

The Logitech Media Server runs on linux, windows, Mac, and has no limits regarding number of files, reads standard and custom tags, and has lots of 3rd party plugins to do even more things. There's also a very active user community supporting these devices (and even working to create replacement devices (see forums.slimdevices.com).

I have a whole house full of these devices and have used them trouble free for many years now to stream a collection of about 75,000 FLAC files (plus internet radio, spotify, pandora, and siriusXM). And I can control everything from my laptop, the TOUCH itself, or the iPeng app on my ipad or iphone. Bottom line: I couldn't be more pleased with the setup.
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terataz
post Sep 25 2013, 12:16
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Thanks guys for all your replies.

Couple of points to note:

- No local file library/metatag to organize (audio or video): all my entertainment is streamed (netflix, spotify,etc)
- No NAS, cd player, dvd player, etc.
- No too much fiddling (no time)
- Good sound quality for the money
- Possibility to send content/control via wireless (pc,tablet,etc)


@DVDdoug:
QUOTE
I suggest you go to an audio/video store and listen to a variety of speakers. And I'd suggest listening to both stereo and surround set-ups. You'll probably see (and hear) lots of speakers that are above your price range, and you may not end-up buying from that store, but it will be educational.

Always a good suggestion: will do. Headphones no good as my gf won't be happy smile.gif

@Apesbrain
QUOTE
A bit over your budget, but this might suffice if your TV has digital audio out:
http://www.sonos.com/introducing/playbar

No keen on soundbar in general. See DVDdoung explanation on speaker
Sonos Play 5 + hub was one of the possibilities , but it does not work with Linux (all my machines are linux based)

@DigitalMan: because i also have pc, laptop and tablet and i want to control from there too

@yay101: you're correct. that's the kind of setup I have in mind. My issue is with xmbc, which seem a bit of a stretch for my needs: lots of unrequited features and a bit of fiddling around to make it work (Plugins, configs,etc).
Also what would i need to attach an analogue device to this kind of setup? (think turntable)

@Brand: that's correct. A pc (either nettop, Pi,cubox or similar) possibilities are endless. It' just a matter of finding the right distribution that will allow me to do just what i need.



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boombaard
post Sep 25 2013, 16:59
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If I might offer up a suggestion for a set of speakers to test, be sure to include the Cambridge Audio S30 in whatever lineup of speaker sets you do consider.. They are very good value for money (can be gotten for around 180/$200, less if you get lucky with a sale), and have a decent low frequency response given the speaker size, too.
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terataz
post Sep 25 2013, 19:10
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After a bit of research, I'm tempted to go for this kind of setup:

1) Wireless RaspberryPi with xbmc or raspify
2) Cambridge s30 speakers
3) Scythe Kama Bay 2000 Revisione B amp
4) Hifimediy Sabre USB DAC 2

All this will come to around 350 euro and i believe will give me a good starting point for a versatile audio system.
What do you guys think?

@boombaard
Thanks for the suggestion . I had those in mind too. They'll most probably be part of the setup
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cliveb
post Sep 26 2013, 08:22
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QUOTE (terataz @ Sep 25 2013, 19:10) *
After a bit of research, I'm tempted to go for this kind of setup:

1) Wireless RaspberryPi with xbmc or raspify
[snip]
4) Hifimediy Sabre USB DAC 2

Has your research included checking whether your chosen DAC will work with the Pi? It is well known that the Pi's USB implementation has issues and whether it works with any given USB DAC seems a bit hit-and-miss. Playback at high sample rates can make things worse. It could be that you'll have no problems with the Sabre, but it's equally possible it won't work.
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probedb
post Sep 26 2013, 10:14
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QUOTE (terataz @ Sep 25 2013, 19:10) *
1) Wireless RaspberryPi with xbmc or raspify


You can also get Raspbmc smile.gif
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terataz
post Sep 26 2013, 10:25
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QUOTE
Has your research included checking whether your chosen DAC will work with the Pi? It is well known that the Pi's USB implementation has issues and whether it works with any given USB DAC seems a bit hit-and-miss. Playback at high sample rates can make things worse. It could be that you'll have no problems with the Sabre, but it's equally possible it won't work.


Thanks for pointing that out. I choosed the DAC from this list http://www.raspyfi.com/the-right-usb-dac-f...r-raspberry-pi/ .Finger crossed smile.gif
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yay101
post Sep 26 2013, 14:22
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QUOTE
@yay101: you're correct. that's the kind of setup I have in mind. My issue is with xmbc, which seem a bit of a stretch for my needs: lots of unrequited features and a bit of fiddling around to make it work (Plugins, configs,etc).
Also what would i need to attach an analogue device to this kind of setup? (think turntable)


XBMC is deceptively easy to use these days, i don't know the last time you used it but these days even using jack output (once terrible to set up) is as simple as setting it. Analog is up to your DAC, you obviously want one that has the input you require, and of adequate quality.

PS. Also Pi USB is flaky on anything over 16 /48000. This is why i suggest getting a Cubox instead, that and the performance increase.

This post has been edited by yay101: Sep 26 2013, 14:24
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aztec_mystic
post Sep 26 2013, 16:09
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QUOTE (probedb @ Sep 26 2013, 11:14) *
You can also get Raspbmc smile.gif

I have dropouts on a Pi running Raspbmc and a DAC from the recommended list of "compatible" DACs. It ran fine for a while, but ever since a software update of raspbmc (which happen frequently), I get dropouts when using the external DAC.

I consider myself somewhat competent in Linux. I tried tweaking quite a few settings, including audio buffer sizes, to no avail. I could reduce glitches substantially, but not eliminate them completely.

Based on my experience, I'd recommend something more powerful. Even a 2 1/2 year old smartphone like the Nexus S scores roughly *three* times as high as a Pi in single-threaded CPU benchmarks. I realize most smartphones won't work unless you got good WiFi coverage and the smartphone has decent line-out quality (or works with external USB DACs). I just wanted to mention this to put the really low performance of the Pi in perspective. Of course, the upside of the Pi is that it has a huge community.

This post has been edited by aztec_mystic: Sep 26 2013, 16:12
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terataz
post Sep 26 2013, 16:53
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I have dropouts on a Pi running Raspbmc and a DAC from the recommended list of "compatible" DACs. It ran fine for a while, but ever since a software update of raspbmc (which happen frequently), I get dropouts when using the external DAC.

I consider myself somewhat competent in Linux. I tried tweaking quite a few settings, including audio buffer sizes, to no avail. I could reduce glitches substantially, but not eliminate them completely.

Based on my experience, I'd recommend something more powerful. Even a 2 1/2 year old smartphone like the Nexus S scores roughly *three* times as high as a Pi in single-threaded CPU benchmarks. I realize most smartphones won't work unless you got good WiFi coverage and the smartphone has decent line-out quality (or works with external USB DACs). I just wanted to mention this to put the really low performance of the Pi in perspective. Of course, the upside of the Pi is that it has a huge community.
[/quote]


good points, which seem to be addressed with the Raspifi distro, as they write in their project page (http://www.raspyfi.com/project/).

QUOTE
-Supports almost all DACs
-Bit perfect playback (up to 32bit 192 khrtz)
-Only few process are active, less is more in audio reproduction
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aztec_mystic
post Sep 28 2013, 09:26
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QUOTE (terataz @ Sep 26 2013, 17:53) *
good points, which seem to be addressed with the Raspifi distro, as they write in their project page (http://www.raspyfi.com/project/).

RaspyFi is based on Raspbian, just like Raspbmc is. I wouldn't be so confident that they fixed audio issues which appear in the underlying Raspbian distro.

QUOTE
-Supports almost all DACs
-Bit perfect playback (up to 32bit 192 khrtz)
-Only few process are active, less is more in audio reproduction

How does any of the above imply that the point I've made has been addressed by the Raspyfi distro? I mean, I'll test, I have another SD card coming my way, but I'm skeptical. Particularly the last point "only a few process [sic] are active, less is more in audio reproduction" seems highly dubious.

This post has been edited by aztec_mystic: Sep 28 2013, 09:27
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