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Author Topic: Audiophile Speakers for Laptop  (Read 2011 times)

Michael S.

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Audiophile Speakers for Laptop
« on: May 02, 2024, 11:20:17 pm »

Looking to replace basic speakers for my laptop wth a nicer setup for music listening.  Budget is $300-$500 and would like the best options in this price range.  Will consider going a bit higher if there is a noticeable difference in quality.  Any suggestions?  I have looked at some systems from Audio Engine and Edifier on Amazon.

Aside from budget, the only constraint is space on my desk and would like smaller speakers, all things being equal.  If it is necessary to get somewhat larger speakers for the best quality, will consider a solution like mounting on wall.  Can go with a subwoofer below desk.

Are there any standouts in this price range or suggestions of brands to look at?
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mwillems

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Re: Audiophile Speakers for Laptop
« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2024, 08:42:01 am »

So these are not small, but both of these speakers are within your price range and both are really very nice: 

https://jblpro.com/en-US/products/306p-mkii (~$340-$400 a pair)
https://jblpro.com/en-US/products/308p-mkii (~$420-$500 a pair)

I'm currently using the larger of the two (the 308p) as computer speakers and am very happy with them for that use, and a good friend has the 306's that he likes quite a bit.  The 306's play down to 47Hz, and the 308's play down to 45Hz, so you could get by without a sub for either speaker unless that bottom octave bass is of particular importance to you for computer speakers.

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markf2748

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Re: Audiophile Speakers for Laptop
« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2024, 10:25:01 am »

Take a look at psb Alpha Series speakers for a computer desktop:
https://www.psbspeakers.com/us/speakers/bookshelf

I've been using the psb Alpha PS1 with a psb SubSeries 100 subwoofer for several years and I'm extremely satisfied.  They are no longer manufactured, but the larger woofers in the current models should do well.  psb makes a full range of high end well-respected audiophile speakers, and they are expected to carry the quality down into at least some of their smaller offerings. 

The psb Alpha AM5 have 5-1/4" woofers and should do a good job on the bass, but are just above your price range.
https://darko.audio/2021/02/psbs-alpha-am5-powered-loudspeakers-are-a-600-solution/

However, be wary and check out multiple reviews.  For example the psb Alpha P5 has been criticized:
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/psb-alpha-p5-speaker-review.15161/

Do you have a quality sound card or decent on-board DAC in your laptop?  If not, speakers with a built-in USB DAC or even a low-cost stand-alone USB DAC (~$200-$300) will likely make a large audible difference. I have an "audiophile" DAC (RME ADI-2 DAC FS) between computer and speakers, which of course helps enormously.
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dtc

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Re: Audiophile Speakers for Laptop
« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2024, 11:20:31 am »

I like the Audioengines, for example A2+ or A5+They have several options in the $250 to $500 range. Available on Amazon and place likes Crutchfield.

Also, some more ideas here...

https://www.tomshardware.com/best-picks/best-pc-speakers

https://www.pcmag.com/picks/the-best-computer-speakers
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Awesome Donkey

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Re: Audiophile Speakers for Laptop
« Reply #4 on: May 03, 2024, 11:23:09 am »

I've been kinda in the same boat, I've been thinking about getting new speakers (studio monitors) and possibly a new USB DAC.

For speakers I want something flat like reference studio monitors, without overwhelming bass - I'm not a bass fan. :P The current Edifier R2000DB bookshelf speakers I use are okay, but their only flaw is at the lowest bass control knob setting there's still too much bass which forces me to use either a hardware equalizer or an equalizer in MC's DSP Studio to reduce bass further. Not having to do that would be a requirement for a replacement.

Another requirement is a volume control knob - the bookshelf speakers I have right now I primarily control volume via remote as the volume knob is on the back of the right speaker and is out-of-reach and I see the JBL studio monitors linked are also like this. Ideally I'd like the volume control to be on the front of one of the speakers however I assume in cases with monitors that have volume control on the back I could 1) max the volume for both speakers on the back then 2) use a potentiometer like a Schiit SYS to control the volume of both? At least that would be ideal and within arm's reach.

I've been looking at the selection of studio monitors on Amazon. The one that caught my attention a little bit has been the KRK Classic 5" studio monitors but I believe they've been discontinued now. If I got any of their newer studio monitors I'd probably have to get a potentiometer that supports balanced (and ideally also unbalanced) output.

As for the USB DAC, that's a bit different. The USB DAC I currently use, the Topping D50s is actually still pretty good overall. However it has one major flaw that bothers me a great deal and is kinda a dealbreaker... its ASIO driver for PCM isn't exclusive but is exclusive only for DSD output. I like to use ASIO over WASAPI Exclusive because I can listen to music and load up things like YouTube videos without it displaying an error about the audio device being in use that happens when exclusive mode is enabled for WASAPI. With ASIO Exclusive I can be actively listening to music then in another app like a web browser I can start a video without error (no audio of course) then I can stop audio playback and audio in the video automatically kicks in. That doesn't work at all with WASAPI Exclusive.

The best ASIO driver I've ever used was Schiit's. Unfortunately since I have DSD tracks and DSD support in the DAC has become a requirement even though I'd love to just get another Schiit DAC and be happy. Oh well.

I'm more flexible with the studio monitors as there's multiple options, just need to know which have a nice flat output without overpowered bass but has good either on front volume control or works fine with a potentiometer like the Schiit SYS. Ideally unbalanced (RCA jacks) would be nice but balanced is fine too as long as a decent potentiometer is available in the same price range of the SYS (again, ideally does both balanced and unbalanced).

With the USB DAC I'd want one that supports up to 32-bit/768 kHz and DSD up to 512, ideally via both native (with ASIO or Linux kernel support) or DoP. The other requirement would be the ASIO output would need to be exclusive for both PCM and DSD.
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dtc

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Re: Audiophile Speakers for Laptop
« Reply #5 on: May 03, 2024, 11:42:46 am »

For a DAC, Audioengine has one and iFi has several. You might also consider a Wiim Pro or Pro+, which also gives you lots of streaming capabilities. The Pro + has a very good DAC chip. MC connection to Wiim is through DLNA.
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Awesome Donkey

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Re: Audiophile Speakers for Laptop
« Reply #6 on: May 03, 2024, 12:21:47 pm »

The iFi ZEN DAC 3 does catch my interest. However it's not stated if 1) it has an ASIO driver and 2) if the ASIO driver is exclusive for PCM (and DSD). Seems a little bit of a waste since I actually don't use headphones so its volume control would be wasted (unless it could function as a potentiometer for powered studio monitors but that's not mentioned either.
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Windows 11 2024 Update (24H2) 64-bit + Ubuntu 24.04 LTS Noble Numbat 64-bit | Windows 11 2024 Update (24H2) 64-bit (Intel N305 Fanless NUC 32GB RAM/500GB M.2 NVMe SSD)
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dtc

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Re: Audiophile Speakers for Laptop
« Reply #7 on: May 03, 2024, 01:10:47 pm »

Pretty sure for the iFi ZDN DAC 3 the volume control also works on the RCA outs.

"RCA output power: 1V-3.3V max. (variable); 2.1V fixed"

"Variable/Fixed Output: ZEN DAC 3 offers switchable variable or fixed line outputs. If you wish to use the unit's analog rotary volume control on the front panel, you should set the Variable-Fixed switch to the "Variable" position. This is recommended for connecting ZEN DAC 3 to a power amplifier or active speakers."

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AGAWA

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Re: Audiophile Speakers for Laptop
« Reply #8 on: May 03, 2024, 01:18:57 pm »

consider Klipsch, extensive choice
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Awesome Donkey

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Re: Audiophile Speakers for Laptop
« Reply #9 on: May 03, 2024, 01:20:00 pm »

Pretty sure for the iFi ZDN DAC 3 the volume control also works on the RCA outs.

"RCA output power: 1V-3.3V max. (variable); 2.1V fixed"

"Variable/Fixed Output: ZEN DAC 3 offers switchable variable or fixed line outputs. If you wish to use the unit's analog rotary volume control on the front panel, you should set the Variable-Fixed switch to the "Variable" position. This is recommended for connecting ZEN DAC 3 to a power amplifier or active speakers."

Oooooh, excellent! When I get a bit more time to do research I'll see if I can find any information on if it supports ASIO via a driver and if it does the ASIO is exclusive for PCM.
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Windows 11 2024 Update (24H2) 64-bit + Ubuntu 24.04 LTS Noble Numbat 64-bit | Windows 11 2024 Update (24H2) 64-bit (Intel N305 Fanless NUC 32GB RAM/500GB M.2 NVMe SSD)
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dtc

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Re: Audiophile Speakers for Laptop
« Reply #10 on: May 03, 2024, 01:37:26 pm »

In a professional studio environment, which ASIO was meant for, it is typically shared, since mixing different sources is pretty common. In that environment, however, the sound engineer typically has total control of all the possible inputs. Many consumer companies just use shared mode, rather than changing the driver to be exclusive. I don't think Topping is unique in having a shared ASIO. But, I do understand the desire to have an exclusive mode driver.
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Awesome Donkey

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Re: Audiophile Speakers for Laptop
« Reply #11 on: May 04, 2024, 01:02:23 pm »

Yeah, I only need ASIO to be exclusive to workaround the audio renderer errors that appear attempting start video playback on YouTube in Chrome while using WASAPI exclusive, for example. I've explored other options but unfortunately I don't think there's any way around it other than ASIO exclusive. Schiit's ASIO worked beautifully this way but unfortunately for me DSD in my library became a thing. :P
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Windows 11 2024 Update (24H2) 64-bit + Ubuntu 24.04 LTS Noble Numbat 64-bit | Windows 11 2024 Update (24H2) 64-bit (Intel N305 Fanless NUC 32GB RAM/500GB M.2 NVMe SSD)
JRiver Media Center 32 (Windows + Linux) | iFi ZEN DAC 3 | JBL 306P MkII Studio Monitors | Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Headphones

Awesome Donkey

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Re: Audiophile Speakers for Laptop
« Reply #12 on: May 10, 2024, 03:12:49 pm »

Yeah, I only need ASIO to be exclusive to workaround the audio renderer errors that appear attempting start video playback on YouTube in Chrome while using WASAPI exclusive, for example. I've explored other options but unfortunately I don't think there's any way around it other than ASIO exclusive. Schiit's ASIO worked beautifully this way but unfortunately for me DSD in my library became a thing. :P

So I did get a iFi ZEN DAC 3 and... as I was honestly expecting it doesn't use ASIO exclusive for PCM. I guess I have to finally accept that no matter what DAC I get, it likely doesn't support it. That said, I actually might've found a different workaround for the audio renderer error thing with WASAPI, we'll see.

The iFi ZEN DAC 3 is amazing, simply put. It plays everything I've thrown at it and more... I even got the infamous MQA working through MC32 to the ZEN DAC 3. I like the volume control too, so if I decide to replace my speakers with powered studio monitors I can control the volume with them and use balanced outputs to the speakers. I also picked up a pair of AT ATH-M50x's and they sound great too with the DAC and its built-in amp. So even though I'm a little bummed about ASIO exclusive not working for PCM I'm quite pleased with this DAC upgrade.

IF I replace my speakers with studio monitors right now the ones in consideration are the KRK 5" Classics, the KRK ROKIT 5s, the Yamaha HS5s and finally the Audioengine A5+s. Would love to hear if anyone is using any of them what they think. :)
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I don't work for JRiver... I help keep the forums safe from Viagra and other sources of sketchy pharmaceuticals.

Windows 11 2024 Update (24H2) 64-bit + Ubuntu 24.04 LTS Noble Numbat 64-bit | Windows 11 2024 Update (24H2) 64-bit (Intel N305 Fanless NUC 32GB RAM/500GB M.2 NVMe SSD)
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AGAWA

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Re: Audiophile Speakers for Laptop
« Reply #13 on: May 11, 2024, 03:56:04 am »

Neumann or Genelec is a way to go. i prefer Neumann.
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dtc

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Re: Audiophile Speakers for Laptop
« Reply #14 on: May 11, 2024, 07:23:12 am »

Neumann or Genelec is a way to go. i prefer Neumann.

Good speakers at a different price point. At that level there are lots of options for bookshelf speakers, not just monitors. But most are pretty big for an actual desktop.
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Michael S.

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Re: Audiophile Speakers for Laptop
« Reply #15 on: May 19, 2024, 01:19:50 pm »

I ended up getting AudioEngine HD3's:

https://audioengine.com/shop/factory-refurbished/hd3-wireless-speakers-refurbished/

These are excellent desktop speakers.  Things I like about them:

* sound quality is leaps and bounds better than the basic computer speakers they replaced
* They take up little room on my desk and are small enough to eventually fit into my other computer desk hutch if want to move them off the desk someday
* setup and operation is easy and trouble free
* they have a built in DAC that overrides my laptop's generic sound chip and further improves sound
* they look great with my woodgrain desk and furniture

I took a chance and purchased the refurbished version from AudioEngine.  Normally I am hesitent to buy refurbished but figured there was a better chance of getting a good result coming directly from the company.  The condition is excellent, pristine and indistringuishable from new.  I am a happy AudioEngine customer.

I have no doubt that even better sound is possible but can't imagine matching the quality with anything else for $279.  It might be necessary to spend several times that to achieve a significant and noticeably better result.  I will add a S6 subwoofer at some point to fill out the bass.

My only suggestion for improvement would be for AudioEngine to include a set screw to attach them to the metal stands (they just sit on top of them with no attachment).  Those of us who live in California and experienced earthquakes like Loma Prieta where large, heavy objects flew off shelves have reason to fear what can happen in these situations.  I wrapped my HD3's with velcro ties around the stands and created plastic tie down clips that secure the stands to my desk with removable mounting strips.  My little buddies are safe when the next big quake comes.
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Awesome Donkey

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Re: Audiophile Speakers for Laptop
« Reply #16 on: May 26, 2024, 02:21:15 pm »

I'm about to pull the trigger on some new studio monitors to go with my new iFi ZEN DAC 3. These are currently my three final contenders (though not set in stone)...

- KRK RP5G5 ROKIT 5 Generation Five
- JBL 306P MKII
- Kali LP-6 V2

I forgot to mention above, but the types of music I listen to are more on the rock and metal spectrum (rock, hard rock, heavy metal, extreme metal/dijent, progressive rock and metal, a little death metal, etc.) with some rap/R&B and pop music. Ideally the monitors I'm looking for should sound "clear", especially when the volume is turned up. I'm generally not really a fan of bass - I like a little bass, but most speakers I've used overdo the bass which, to my ears, distorts the clarity of the music. If I had to think about it, I am more of a fan of treble, only because it makes things sound more "clear" though I also quite like flat.

So... any final thoughts?
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Windows 11 2024 Update (24H2) 64-bit + Ubuntu 24.04 LTS Noble Numbat 64-bit | Windows 11 2024 Update (24H2) 64-bit (Intel N305 Fanless NUC 32GB RAM/500GB M.2 NVMe SSD)
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Awesome Donkey

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Re: Audiophile Speakers for Laptop
« Reply #17 on: May 30, 2024, 11:19:06 am »

Decided to get the JBL 306P MKIIs after doing comparisons. Should be here in a day or two, I'm excited! :D
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I don't work for JRiver... I help keep the forums safe from Viagra and other sources of sketchy pharmaceuticals.

Windows 11 2024 Update (24H2) 64-bit + Ubuntu 24.04 LTS Noble Numbat 64-bit | Windows 11 2024 Update (24H2) 64-bit (Intel N305 Fanless NUC 32GB RAM/500GB M.2 NVMe SSD)
JRiver Media Center 32 (Windows + Linux) | iFi ZEN DAC 3 | JBL 306P MkII Studio Monitors | Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Headphones

mwillems

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Re: Audiophile Speakers for Laptop
« Reply #18 on: May 31, 2024, 09:39:47 am »

Decided to get the JBL 306P MKIIs after doing comparisons. Should be here in a day or two, I'm excited! :D

I hope you enjoy them!  I mentioned up thread that I've got a pair of the 308P's which are very similar and I like them a lot. 

There's a nice review here with a suggestion or two for DSP: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/jbl-306p-mk-ii-review-studio-monitor.18505/
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Awesome Donkey

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Re: Audiophile Speakers for Laptop
« Reply #19 on: May 31, 2024, 02:16:42 pm »

They arrived an hour ago and I initially had issues with lower volume from the left speaker which seems to be either caused by a flaky third-party 4.4mm to XLR balanced adapter cable or because I'm powering the DAC over USB. After messing with it for over 30 minutes I finally got the third party adapter plug in the right position to get it working with both speakers so I went ahead and just ordered both the iFi Power2 AC adapter and the iFi 4.4mm to XLR balanced adapter cable which will be here Sunday. Damn, I was hoping to get away with not having to get either, oh well. I'm also using the Cable Matters XLR cables from Amazon, but I'm also open to alternatives if there's any better ones.

As for the sound after I got both sides working? AMAZING. Applied the recommended 1516Hz EQ via parametric EQ from that topic and no issues whatsoever. I know what I'm doing the rest of the day. :D

EDIT: The iFi power and 4.4mm to XLR cables did the trick and solved the issue I initially encountered. Also applied the PEQ recommendations posted by Maiky76 in that topic. Superb.
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I don't work for JRiver... I help keep the forums safe from Viagra and other sources of sketchy pharmaceuticals.

Windows 11 2024 Update (24H2) 64-bit + Ubuntu 24.04 LTS Noble Numbat 64-bit | Windows 11 2024 Update (24H2) 64-bit (Intel N305 Fanless NUC 32GB RAM/500GB M.2 NVMe SSD)
JRiver Media Center 32 (Windows + Linux) | iFi ZEN DAC 3 | JBL 306P MkII Studio Monitors | Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Headphones
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