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Which 5.1 analog speakers, Trying to find 5.1 analog speakers
Dragonne
post Nov 17 2013, 11:00
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I am completing a new build, and have decided that I will go with the Sound Blaster ZxR for several reasons. Given that, I need to upgrade my speakers. I intended to use 5.1 analog speakers because the ZxR supports Dolby Live and DTS Surround, which are both lossy formats. I don't keep everything in FLAC format just to use lossy speakers.

Anyway, I have been looking around and about all that I can find are low-end Logitech (z506) and Creative Labs (T6300). I have seen quite a few recommendations, but they all turn out to be discontinued.

The ZxR has a SNR of 124db which is bound to be much better than I would get from digital speakers or from low-end speakers.

Does anyone have suggestions for something a bit better than the Logitech or Creative Lab speakers? I don't want to spend thousands, but low hundreds is reasonable.

Thanks.
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ktf
post Nov 17 2013, 13:47
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QUOTE (Dragonne @ Nov 17 2013, 11:00) *
I intended to use 5.1 analog speakers because the ZxR supports Dolby Live and DTS Surround, which are both lossy formats. [...] just to use lossy speakers. [...] than I would get from digital speakers or from low-end speakers.

Could you explain what you mean by analog, digital and lossy speakers? AFAIK, all speakers are kinda lossy (depends on what you call lossy?) and all speakers are analog, except a few academic tries: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_speakers


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probedb
post Nov 17 2013, 14:03
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It just looks like you need either an active speaker package that has an amp and takes in analogue 5.1 (if you want the card to do the decoding) or far easier, just get a cheap AVR and some speakers, I think you could do that for low hundreds.

As already said I'm not sure what you mean by a lossy speaker?
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DVDdoug
post Nov 17 2013, 21:11
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I always suggest you go to a store and listen for yourself. Every speaker sounds different, different people have different preferences, and the specs for speakers are usually not that useful.

If you want to hear some really good speakers, I recommend that you go to an audio/video store and listen to some home theater speakers. Generally, they will be better than computer speakers, but you will need a receiver because unlike computer speakers, home theater (and hi-fi) speakers don't have built-in amplifiers (except for the subwoofer).
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Dragonne
post Nov 17 2013, 22:01
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QUOTE (ktf @ Nov 17 2013, 07:47) *
QUOTE (Dragonne @ Nov 17 2013, 11:00) *
I intended to use 5.1 analog speakers because the ZxR supports Dolby Live and DTS Surround, which are both lossy formats. [...] just to use lossy speakers. [...] than I would get from digital speakers or from low-end speakers.

Could you explain what you mean by analog, digital and lossy speakers? AFAIK, all speakers are kinda lossy (depends on what you call lossy?) and all speakers are analog, except a few academic tries: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_speakers


It's not that the speakers are lossy, it's the encoding format. Both Dolby Live and DTS Surround compress the audio data which results in data loss and degradation of the signal compared to directly driving the speaker. The digital data is sent over the optical link, decompressed, run through a DAC (probably low quality) and then to an amp to drive the speaker. The analog path has the uncompressed data drive a high-quality DAC which is then sent to the speaker and to an amp to drive the speaker. There are non-lossy Dolby and DTS formats, but they only support stereo and are not supported by sound cards.
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Dragonne
post Nov 17 2013, 22:06
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QUOTE (probedb @ Nov 17 2013, 08:03) *
It just looks like you need either an active speaker package that has an amp and takes in analogue 5.1 (if you want the card to do the decoding) or far easier, just get a cheap AVR and some speakers, I think you could do that for low hundreds.


That's the point of my question. So far I have found discontinued productions, low end Creative Labs and Logitech. Logitech has a slightly higher end z960, but its reviews are pretty much always "LOUD, good for gaming, bad for music - has trouble with high end sounds like violin".

Its getting really hard to find quality analogue 5.1 speaker setups. The SNR for the low end is around 75db, for the z960 around 95db. But the sound card is 124db. Clearly, the speakers are going to be the weak link in the chain.
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Dragonne
post Nov 17 2013, 22:10
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QUOTE (DVDdoug @ Nov 17 2013, 15:11) *
I always suggest you go to a store and listen for yourself. Every speaker sounds different, different people have different preferences, and the specs for speakers are usually not that useful.

If you want to hear some really good speakers, I recommend that you go to an audio/video store and listen to some home theater speakers. Generally, they will be better than computer speakers, but you will need a receiver because unlike computer speakers, home theater (and hi-fi) speakers don't have built-in amplifiers (except for the subwoofer).


That doesn't work if they don't have them. So far everything I have found that is "home theater", except for the z960, doesn't take analog inputs. They are strictly Dolby, DTS and HDMI (which is still Dolby and DTS).
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probedb
post Nov 18 2013, 09:47
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QUOTE (Dragonne @ Nov 17 2013, 21:01) *
It's not that the speakers are lossy, it's the encoding format. Both Dolby Live and DTS Surround compress the audio data which results in data loss and degradation of the signal compared to directly driving the speaker. The digital data is sent over the optical link, decompressed, run through a DAC (probably low quality) and then to an amp to drive the speaker. The analog path has the uncompressed data drive a high-quality DAC which is then sent to the speaker and to an amp to drive the speaker. There are non-lossy Dolby and DTS formats, but they only support stereo and are not supported by sound cards.


We know what DD/DTS are and how they work cheers. You said the speakers were lossy. I don't think you understand perceptual encoding from your "data loss and degradation" comments.

QUOTE
I don't keep everything in FLAC format just to use lossy speakers.


You're mixing your definitions, it is not an analogue path from the lossless data to a DAC, it's analogue from the amp to the speaker.

QUOTE
That doesn't work if they don't have them. So far everything I have found that is "home theater", except for the z960, doesn't take analog inputs. They are strictly Dolby, DTS and HDMI (which is still Dolby and DTS).


I'd be very surprised if these speaker packages didn't take an analogue in in any form at all, even if it's stereo.

As I already said, you're better off buying a cheaper AVR and getting some proper speakers for it, that will support everything you want. It sounds like you're quite picky so you're going to be better saving for what you want instead of getting a cheaper product that you're not actually happy with. Try eBay or other such places and look for reviews online. I have a cheapo Logitech setup which is fine for computer stuff, it's also hooked to an AVR when I want to listen to music.
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ktf
post Nov 18 2013, 19:00
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QUOTE (Dragonne @ Nov 17 2013, 22:01) *
run through a DAC (probably low quality) [...] drive a high-quality DAC

I doubt you'll hear any difference. DACs usually aren't the weakest link, especially not with your budget. Any distortion or noise from a 'bad' DAC will be swamped by speaker distortion and amplifier noise, I really wouldn't worry about the DAC.

QUOTE (Dragonne @ Nov 17 2013, 22:06) *
That's the point of my question. So far I have found discontinued productions, low end Creative Labs and Logitech. Logitech has a slightly higher end z960, but its reviews are pretty much always "LOUD, good for gaming, bad for music - has trouble with high end sounds like violin".

I do have the Logitech z906, and I don't think they're bad. Sure, what you get is what you pay for. I only bought them to evaluate whether I would spent thousands of euros on surround or buy better stereo speakers(right now they're hooked up to an game console), but I've done a few listening tests on them. They aren't bad, but I didn't expect much for ~ € 270 incl. VAT. If you want something really good be prepared to spent thousands of $/€/ or something similar in another currency on speakers and acoustic treatment. It all depends on what you want, but you can't have your cake and eat it.

This post has been edited by ktf: Nov 18 2013, 19:06


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DVDdoug
post Nov 18 2013, 20:50
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QUOTE
That doesn't work if they don't have them. So far everything I have found that is "home theater", except for the z960, doesn't take analog inputs. They are strictly Dolby, DTS and HDMI (which is still Dolby and DTS).
I've never seen a home theater speaker that wasn't analog.

But you're right, that most home theater receivers don't have 5.1 or 7.1 analog inputs, and they only can handle the standard commercially available 5.1 or 7.1 formats via S/PDIF or HDMI. They usually do have 2-channel stereo analog inputs.

Unfortunately, FLAC is not a standard distribution format. If you want to play multi-channel FLAC, in your price range you're probably stuck with computer speakers. At much higher prices, you can find high-end multi-channel amplifiers with analog inputs, or powered (analog) studio monitors.

I'm not telling you to buy a home theater setup... I'm suggesting that you listen to a few, as well as a few computer speakers before you make a decision to buy. You'll learn 100 times more listening to speakers than you'll learn listening to advice. wink.gif

This post has been edited by DVDdoug: Nov 18 2013, 20:54
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Dragonne
post Nov 18 2013, 20:51
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QUOTE (probedb @ Nov 18 2013, 03:47) *
We know what DD/DTS are and how they work cheers. You said the speakers were lossy. I don't think you understand perceptual encoding from your "data loss and degradation" comments.

QUOTE
I don't keep everything in FLAC format just to use lossy speakers.


You're mixing your definitions, it is not an analogue path from the lossless data to a DAC, it's analogue from the amp to the speaker.


Sorry, I wasn't being precise in that statement. I know that its analog from the amp to the speaker. That is unavoidable. The point is the data path from the digital format to the amp. In on case it goes the sound card high quality DAC and then to the amp. In the second case the data is compressed (this is the first half the bad part!) then goes to the receiver which decodes it and then sends it through a DAC which is probably much lower quality (the second half of the bad part) and then on to the amp and then the speaker.

QUOTE (probedb @ Nov 18 2013, 03:47) *
I'd be very surprised if these speaker packages didn't take an analogue in in any form at all, even if it's stereo.

As I already said, you're better off buying a cheaper AVR and getting some proper speakers for it, that will support everything you want. It sounds like you're quite picky so you're going to be better saving for what you want instead of getting a cheaper product that you're not actually happy with. Try eBay or other such places and look for reviews online. I have a cheapo Logitech setup which is fine for computer stuff, it's also hooked to an AVR when I want to listen to music.


Most do seem to take stereo inputs, but not the full 5.1 or 7.1 inputs.

I'm not familiar with the AVR world, what would you suggest. I have also assumed that a package has tuned the speakers for their function and are matched to the amplifiers. I am not sure that I can do a reasonable job on that without learning more.

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Dragonne
post Nov 18 2013, 21:08
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QUOTE (ktf @ Nov 18 2013, 13:00) *
I do have the Logitech z906, and I don't think they're bad. Sure, what you get is what you pay for. I only bought them to evaluate whether I would spent thousands of euros on surround or buy better stereo speakers(right now they're hooked up to an game console), but I've done a few listening tests on them. They aren't bad, but I didn't expect much for ~ 270 incl. VAT. If you want something really good be prepared to spent thousands of $// or something similar in another currency on speakers and acoustic treatment. It all depends on what you want, but you can't have your cake and eat it.


I wasn't expecting to have my cake and eat it too. I was expecting to find something between $75 and $7500. I found a half-dozen, any of which might be good -- and all of which are discontinued except for the z906.

My primary focus is on music, played using foobar2000 from a FLAC format, but I don't want to close out other options.

I would have just gone with the z906 except for the multiple bad reviews.

If necessary, I will consider increasing my budget. But I need to know a lot more before I do that. I don't know a lot about speakers -- I just enjoy listening! I do understand how the sound data is manipulated and transformed. I use FLAC because I don't want lossy compression. From that viewpoint, I have two choices - lossy compression followed by digital transmission and analog transmission. Clearly only analog path avoids lossy compression. It also (probably) has the highest quality DAC converting the digital to analog. I also understand that the quality of sound is limited, not by the sound card DAC, but by the amplifier / speaker combination. But first, you have to get the data to the amplifier.

I would consider buying discrete amplifiers / speakers if I had a clue as to what I am doing in that area. That is also the area where you are looking at $500+ per amplifier plus the speaker so it is higher end. A receiver that has analog inputs, includes the amplifiers and is matched to the speakers is probably a better choice for me. So I am looking in the mid-range (say under $1000), but hopefully better than toy speakers.
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washu
post Nov 18 2013, 21:45
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QUOTE (Dragonne @ Nov 18 2013, 14:51) *
Sorry, I wasn't being precise in that statement. I know that its analog from the amp to the speaker. That is unavoidable. The point is the data path from the digital format to the amp. In on case it goes the sound card high quality DAC and then to the amp. In the second case the data is compressed (this is the first half the bad part!)

Why would the data be compressed if sent over a digital connection? Both SPDIF and HDMI are perfectly capable of transmitting raw PCM, and HDMI can do this with more than two channels. If you were playing a multi-channel FLAC over HDMI there would be no compression unless you specifically configured your system to do so.

QUOTE
then goes to the receiver which decodes it and then sends it through a DAC which is probably much lower quality (the second half of the bad part) and then on to the amp and then the speaker.

Why would the DAC be "much lower quality"? Maybe in really cheap computers speakers, but in the z906 or any decent AVR they DAC is by far the least point of concern. DACs are a solved problem.
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probedb
post Nov 19 2013, 09:26
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If you want multi-channel digital out, your best bet is probably a gfx card that has a HDMI output. Most can output multi-channel LPCM over HDMI and as far as I'm aware every AVR with HDMI can decode LPCM and has been able to for years. This would also mean you could use TrueHD/DTS-MA if you so required.

Have you actually tested anything yet? You seem to be of the assumption that cheap DACs are rubbish.

washu, the OP was talking about sending DD/DTS over S/P-DIF, not that I expect the OP has done listening tests to find out what is acceptable but rather assumes that the word compressed means rubbish.

This post has been edited by probedb: Nov 19 2013, 09:27
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Dragonne
post Nov 19 2013, 09:55
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I believe that I may have found a solution.

Sound card ==> Emotiva UPA-500 5 Channel Power Amplifier ($349) ==> 5.1 speakers (LFE w/amp)

With reasonably priced speakers (to be researched), I think that will do the job. The amplifier is all analog (of course) and doesn't include anything in an AVR which isn't needed and which drives up the cost. The UPA-500 can drive 80 watts on each channel simultaneously into 8 ohm speakers and 120 watts into 4 ohm speakers. It appears to have a very flat response curve, has a THD + noise of less than 0.01% and a SNR of 96 db at 1 watt which increases to 117db at load. There is also an UPA-700 which is 7 channels. It also does 80 watt per channel at 8 ohm, but only 100 watt at 4 ohm. Same total power as the UPA-500. Otherwise the specifications are essentially the same.

Does this sound like an appropriate solution? So far as I can tell, I should be able to drive the UPA-500 directly from the sound card (it only needs 0.85 V swing with a 47k impedance which the sound card should be able to provide), and in turn directly drive the speakers (except for the subwoofer which would be directly driven from the sound card). All volume control and speaker equalization would be from the computer.

http://shop.emotiva.com/products/upa500
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Dragonne
post Nov 19 2013, 20:25
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Update -- I am tentatively targeting the Energy Take Classic 5.1 speaker set ($349). That puts the total at around $700, depending on shipping. And the Energy Take Classic 5.1 should be available locally for me to listen to. Not that listening to speakers in a crowded showroom floor tells you (or at least me) much at all. The first line of attack in something like this is always research and reviews.

So, the total solution is

Sound Blaster ZxR ==> Emotiva UPA-500 ==> Energy Take Classic

with no other components (other than wires) required.

Since I'm a bit of a nubie in this area, I welcome feedback about this solution -- or even it will work, better selections. I think it is right, a bit more than I had planned on spending, but still affordable and probably close to the best that I can do for sound quality for under $1000.
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Arnold B. Kruege...
post Nov 20 2013, 15:34
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QUOTE (Dragonne @ Nov 19 2013, 03:55) *
I believe that I may have found a solution.

Sound card ==> Emotiva UPA-500 5 Channel Power Amplifier ($349) ==> 5.1 speakers (LFE w/amp)

With reasonably priced speakers (to be researched), I think that will do the job. The amplifier is all analog (of course) and doesn't include anything in an AVR which isn't needed and which drives up the cost. The UPA-500 can drive 80 watts on each channel simultaneously into 8 ohm speakers and 120 watts into 4 ohm speakers. It appears to have a very flat response curve, has a THD + noise of less than 0.01% and a SNR of 96 db at 1 watt which increases to 117db at load. There is also an UPA-700 which is 7 channels. It also does 80 watt per channel at 8 ohm, but only 100 watt at 4 ohm. Same total power as the UPA-500. Otherwise the specifications are essentially the same.

Does this sound like an appropriate solution? So far as I can tell, I should be able to drive the UPA-500 directly from the sound card (it only needs 0.85 V swing with a 47k impedance which the sound card should be able to provide), and in turn directly drive the speakers (except for the subwoofer which would be directly driven from the sound card). All volume control and speaker equalization would be from the computer.

http://shop.emotiva.com/products/upa500



I love to pick on the UPA500 because its pretty much an AVR without a whole lot of useful things that all modern AVRs come with. For the about same money you have the choice of any number of AVRs that have 5 or 7 power amps, as well as nifty things like a master volume control, bass management, a lot of digital decoders, a remote control, automated system optimization (Audyssey, MCACC, YPAO etc.) etc.

I don't know what country you are in, but in the US a high value, high quality route every day can be found by searching by price for Denon AVRs at http://www.accessories4less.com/ .
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Dragonne
post Nov 20 2013, 20:51
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QUOTE (Arnold B. Krueger @ Nov 20 2013, 09:34) *
I love to pick on the UPA500 because its pretty much an AVR without a whole lot of useful things that all modern AVRs come with. For the about same money you have the choice of any number of AVRs that have 5 or 7 power amps, as well as nifty things like a master volume control, bass management, a lot of digital decoders, a remote control, automated system optimization (Audyssey, MCACC, YPAO etc.) etc.

I don't know what country you are in, but in the US a high value, high quality route every day can be found by searching by price for Denon AVRs at http://www.accessories4less.com/ .


True - the UPA-500 is an AVR without all of the useless things that I don't need, like a master volume control, bass management, digital decoders, etc.. Virtually all of that (except the remote control) is provided by the computer. That means that I don't pay for features that I don't need. Anyway, the UPA-500 is intended to be used in a discrete component system. Emotiva also has a receiver that hooks up to the UPA-500 and, when used together, gets very good reviews compared to even an expensive all-in-one AVR.

And, can the power amps on those DVRs drive 120 watts into all five channels at the same time? the UPA-500 can and the vast majority of AVRs can't because they skimp on the amplifier section to cram all of the other stuff in.

And, a quick look at that URL gives me Denon AVR-4520CI at the low, low price of $1549‎ -- and which does NOT have analog 5.1 inputs. It has 8 stereo analog inputs. It can drive 150 watts per channels, I don't know if that holds up for all channels at the same time.

The purpose of this is not to build a home theater system, but to build a computer sound system. So targeting the features that I need (amplification and speakers) can get me much higher quality for a lot less money. I can play DVDs and BluRay via the computer (from four different optical drives). If I wanted (and I don't) I can add a tuner. I can encode / decode to any format I want, in real time. I can take analog inputs and digitize them. True, if I want a bunch of analog inputs then I would need to buy a switcher. Not that I know why I would need them. I suppose I might want to add a tape deck or a turntable, so that might be a possibility. But even so, that would be a minor cost compared to a really high end DVR that has everything, including 5.1 analog inputs.
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