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a short diary of some part of my life.

Posts tagged Speakers

There is no optical audio output at the back of the new Apple TV. It’s a big bummer for an audio enthusiast like me. I’m aware that there is a way around this but I need to have an AirPort Express, next to the Apple TV, connected to my DAC via its’ optical input or a powered speakers via its’ analog input. By having an AirPort Express in the audio chain, it’s going to add another complexity to my audio setup. What if the AirPort Expess goes bananas and I would have to fiddle with resetting or re-routing the audio output setting on the Apple TV to HDMI. I prefer not to use my TV’s HDMI to optical output. The sound quality is going to suffer.

I consider myself to be a minority user who likes to have the least hassle but also to have the best sound quality out of an Apple TV. But regular users will still face a major issue; with the older Apple TV, they can easily connect a separate analog audio line  to a powered speaker. Now, they cannot do it anymore with the new Apple TV. They need to have a TV with audio output jack(s). Usually, if the TV is not turned on, you won’t be able to pass an audio signal thru it. I have seen a lot of TVs without any kind of audio output.

you won’t be able to AirPlay audio directly to your speakers

I’m going to buy the new Apple TV but if I don’t like it, I’m going to return it. I don’t care about tvOS App Store. The UI looks awful. Now, there is a compelling reason to get myself a PlayStation 4. My Android-TV-equipped-Sony-TV might become my permanent Plex client.

I might buy the 3rd gen Apple TV just to keep it around for AirPlay.

Here are the scenarios that I’m considering:

  • new Apple TV -HDMI- Sony TV -optical- DAC -analog- powered speakers
  • new Apple TV -AirPlay- AirPort Express -optical- DAC -analog- powered speakers
  • 3rd gen Apple TV -optical- DAC -analog- powered speakers
  • PlayStation 4 -optical- DAC -analog- powered speakers
  • Sony TV -optical- DAC -analog- powered speakers

I’m seriously leaning towards the last setup. Perhaps, I should add, I will be installing a Wyred 4 Sound Reclocker before the DAC to whatever setup I end up with to improve sound quality.

How to Choose the Right Speakers

The way to find good speakers requires a little legwork and you can’t do it online.

  1. Take your iPod/iPhone, (portable) DAC, or favorite good sounding CDs to an audio store
  2. Chase the salesman away and pull out a yellow pad or whatever note-taking app you have in your phone
  3. Play the first song on every speaker in the store, regardless of price and write down notes on how they sound
  4. Repeat the process with all of your reference songs
  5. Figure out which speakers sounded the best with the largest number of songs
  6. Now look at the prices and see what the bargain is
  7. Buy the speakers and take them home and set them up, paying attention to room acoustics
  8. Get a good prograde equalizer and balance the response
  9. Now, enjoy your music

Nowadays, my music reference is set and won’t be changed anytime soon. I usually bring HeadAmp Pico DAC or Wyred 4 Sound mINT if the audio store allows me to drive their speakers with it. When I chose my speakers, I also brought along with me, speakers that I bought online but I personally know the owner of the audio store. This is a unique case. It’s not like I didn’t buy anything from the store, I bought a lot of stuff from the store.

As usual, rules of thumb: spend less on amp and DAC, more on the speakers, and a bit more on room acoustics.

I actually started with speakers system. I had many speakers brands that I can’t remember exactly the names are. My dad also bought a few expensive gear decades ago. Since he’s getting older, it’s time for him to step back and enjoy life. My exposure to headphones has been very positive. I do not consider my financial losses as cons. There are more pros than cons. I learned to be a good buyer, I learned to pay attention to what I hear and what I expect. Headphones can be very cheap and also very expensive. Cheap if you consider superb sound quality in one small package and relatively inexpensive. And expensive when you have found similarly priced decent speakers are actually better than headphones or when you go over the top on headphones for marginal improvements. What I mean by decent speakers are speakers that offer superb sound quality for the money. Let me tell you that there are not many of them. So you really have to step up your game and search for true high performance.

HEADPHONES IS EXPENSIVE

Like many small things or miniaturized things, they tend to cost much more than their bigger counterparts. In my opinion, this is true with headphones. They do cost a lot of $$. For those who think headphones setups are smaller than speakers. Well, you have to look around. There are extremists who own headphones amps bigger than speakers amps. These extremists can be easily found and there are many of them by the way. It’s kinda funny to look at those monstrous headphone amps, considering the headphones themselves are much tinier than a set of speakers. They are often more expensive than speakers amps. I think people got off on the wrong foot when they consider the bigger the better (headphones amps), the more expensive the better (headphones and headphones amps). It just does not work that way. Yes, there are differences between more expensive headphones and cheaper headphones, but how much differences are we talking about? Subtle! Actually, you can find much cheaper headphones outperform the more expensive ones. But then again, there are bone-headed audiophools who think cheaper headphones suck, no matter how good it actually performs.

SPEAKERS NEED SPACE

In my opinion, headphones may save tons of space and tons of $$ only if you do not spend crazy money on big-honking headphones amps and DACs. Headphones are arguably able to reveal a bit more details (this is arguable, headphones drivers are practically centimeters away from your ears. if you stick your ears closer to the speakers drivers, you’ll hear more details than say, sitting 10-feett away from the speakers) than speakers but what about the other things like imaging, soundstage, resolution, and presense. Those areas are where headphones fall apart if compared with a good speaker system.

I’m not going to cover much about what smaller headphones amps are better bigger headphones amps or what cheaper headphones are superior than more expensive headphones. I’d say, earn your education, and experience them by yourselves. You will have much better understanding about various headphones and headphones amps that way.

Speakers use big drivers, woofers, and etc… There are many options that you can choose from to build your perfect speakers. Dome tweeter Vs. Ribbon tweeter for example… They are very different. I own an Audez’e LCD-2. In my opinion, it is the best headphones out there. It is beautiful, produces superb sound quality but poorly made. But it still cannot match my Selah Audio speakers which sports RAAL riboon tweeters, Accuton ceramic dome midranges, and Scan-Speak Illuminator woofers. The crossover that Rick Craig of Selah Audio designed is also superb. Add that to the marvelous mix of high performance tweeters, midranges and woofers, it will give you an audio nirvana.

The only three advantages of having a headphones system over a speaker system are:

  1. space saver; audiophile headphones itself is no bigger than mass-produced headphones and the amp itself is much smaller than a speaker amp. One doesn’t need a dedicated listening room which is almost a must for a speaker system. It demands acoustics perfection.
  2. $$ saver if one is looking for a superb sound quality for a lot less $$. With headphones, one doesn’t need to worry about the acoustics of the room. The cost to treat a room is very expensive. I spent over $3.5k to get the ‘proper’ room & speakers correction technology from DEQX.
  3. reveals more details; again, this is arguable, the drivers are very close to the ears.

I currently don’t have enough space for my speaker system, so what I used now is my headphones system. I’m very satisfied with it. Until I find a proper space, I’m going to use my Grado RS1i. But once I installed my speaker system, my headphones system will no longer be my main audio system.

Happy Listening!

I found these yesterday:

http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=88605.new;topicseen#new

http://www.soundstage.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=143:von-schweikert-audio-unifield-1-loudspeakers&catid=55:full-length-reviews&Itemid=4

It is no surprise to me. I wrote how overpriced audio gear can be in some of my posts. But frankly, I didn’t expect a well known brand like Von Schweikert to be that overpriced. I love the speakers they make, I have listened to a few of them at RMAF last year. Since I was very satisfied with my speakers, I didn’t bother to ask for their prices.

Audio gear can be very very overpriced and only a few of them offer real performance. For example, I love ModWright’s preamps and amps. They make high performance gear. But if you look around, there are a few alternatives that can match or even outperform ModWright gear. I can’t blame their prices because they are built in the US. But the thing is, it’s not about where it’s made but how it performs and what you really get in the unit. I personally do not want something that has been done before. If I want to splash my hard-earned money, I would like something ground-breaking. Something that has not been built before.

Now, the bad thing is, most of the overpriced gear out there offer little to no performance gains. Some of them are not even well designed and often use bad designs. Customers are often blinded by the hypes of a product and how it looks like externally. I understand that most people prefer pretty looking gear but there are too many bad guys out there who want to make easy money out of our own stupidity or lack of expertise in this field. We have to be aware of these things.

Get your head up and look for the best engineered gear that you can buy. That’s what I do. And it works pretty well so far.