Upgrading From Basic Audio, Need Advice

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by Thunderbird, Dec 6, 2010.

  1. Thunderbird, Dec 6, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2010

    Thunderbird macrumors 6502a


    Dec 25, 2005
    Hi, I need a little advice on upgrading to a better computer-based home theatre system.

    I'm on an iMac (24" mid-2009), with a 2.0 Altec Lansing. That's it. I'd like to upgrade from this with about a $2,000 budget. (audio only). I've already budgeted seperately for an external monitor.

    First, I have a few SACD discs that I've never heard the SACD layer of, but I would like to. I understand one can't play SACD on computers, so it would necessitate connecting a discrete player. Secondly, I have lossless music files which I would like to squeeze the best sound out of. And lastly, I am planning to get an external 27" monitor for photo editing and watching movies.

    So I guess my potentially myriad questions boil down to:

    1). Is SACD quality sound noticablly better than standard CD redbook? If so, how much money does one need to spend in order to hear the difference? Is it within my budget, or should I just forget about it.

    2). What is the most straightforward way of connecting everything so that I can play music files from my iMac, SACD discs on a player, and use an external monitor, all with the least number of seperate boxes, DACs, amps and cables, etc. ? Could I make do with just a SACD player and an AVR and pass everything through the latter? Or is there an even simpler or different and better arrangement.


    Edit: Sorry forgot to add...I'd still like to go with a 2.0 system (not much into surround sound).
  2. ChrisA, Dec 6, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2010

    ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    First, before anything else find speakers you like. You shoud spend a bit more than 1/2 the budget on speakers.

    Next after you find speakers think about the room itself. Mostly can can avoid buying expensive room "treatmets" if you are willing to re-arange furniture but you may end up needing a few pannels so save some budget for that.

    Forget about the fact that you have a computer. As far as the amp knows the computer is just like a CD player.

    Buy any kind of integrated amp you like as long as it has two inputs, one for the SACD and one for your computer. Even after speakers and acoustic panels you should have about $600 left for electronics.

    There is a lot more to it than that but that is the order t think about it. When you audition speakers bring music you like and that you know well. listen for specific things in the sound. Can you hear this or that, not just if it is "good" or not. try to think of objective ways to rate the sound. hen remember your living room is not a profesionaly set up listening room and it wil take some effort to get the speakers to sound good at home. Save some budget for that.
  3. paolo- macrumors 6502a

    Aug 24, 2008
    I think it your set up mainly depends on how many speakers you want. Considering you have some SACD audio you might want to go with quadraphonic. But for the few tracks there are, you might as well invest that money in 2 higher quality speakers. I think an external DAC would benefit your music much more than a SACD system. It's the first time I hear about it, and I read a bit about it, and I don't really see how you would benefit from it, especially considering the players cost a fortune. You have to remember that most of that music was actually recorded in 16bit, 44.1khz or 24bit 96khz if it's recent. Or otherwise they could convert the tape masters for older stuff. But no mixing engineer in his right mind would use the full frequency range, maybe the dynamic range for some classical stuff. Seems mainly like a ripoff. On the + side, I wouldn't be surprised to see lossless digital releases to come in 24bit/96khz.

    I would get, in this order of priority, speakers, room treatment, amp, DAC. And don't skimp on the room, awesome speakers sound crap in a bad room, okay speakers sound damn decent in a good room.

    That should be a pretty straight forward set up: iMac -> DAC(via usb, firewire or SPID)-> amp -> speakers

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