Become an Audiophile with less than $1,000
The Internet, console and on-line gaming, DVD movies, and HDTV have
mostly displaced board games, reading, and the joy of simply listening
to music (multi-tasked iPod'ing at the gym or on your commute doesn't
count!) from the entertainment time budget of most American families.
To members of the younger generations (the 15 - 30 year old's out
there) or anyone who would like to gain a renewed appreciation for
the lost art of listening, I offer the following recommendation for a
complete and relatively low budget (< $1,000) dedicated music
Behringer TRUTH B2031A Studio Monitors + B2092A TRUTH Subwoofer
The sub is optional with these monitors, especially for low
volume listening, but it will clean up the mid/low bass, so it's
worth the investment. A footswitch is also optional, but it
will make checking the monitor/sub integration much easier.
CD/DVD Player: around $120
I don't have a specific recommendation here, but chances are
that you'll end up with a DVD player even though they have video
circuitry that you don't need (or want) for music. Pioneer,
Sony, Panasnoic, and Toshiba have offered budget CD/DVD players
with better than average CD Audio playback in the past. Chances
are excellent that you have a player already, but you'll want
one that you can dedicate to your new music listening system
External PC Sound Card: $30 to $80
Behringer F-CONTROL AUDIO FCA202 or U-CONTROL UCA202
A good CD/DVD player almost always sounds better than a PC
sound card, but if you prefer to play CD's and high bitrate
audio files using a laptop or media center PC, an external sound
card offers better performance with less noise/interference.
If your laptop or mediacenter PC lacks a FireWire input (necessary
only for the FCA202), I've had good luck with these Zonet models:
This will provide volume control and input selection (if you add
other devices, like an iPOD, Xbox 360, PC, etc.). This device has
other features that are only needed in a recording studio
control room (like the built-in talkback microphone), but it's
still not a bad sounding device for the price.
Even if you go the PC sound card route, you'll typically get
better results by setting the sound card volume at (or near) the
maximum level and using an external analog volume control. Most
sound cards control the volume digitally, so operating them at
less than maximum volume can reduce resolution.
Speaker Stands: $85
Shop around for stands that will place the speakers at ear level.
Something between 32" and 42"
These are not rock-solid stands, but will work in a pinch. Be
sure to keep small children and large pets away from them
because they are not hard to tip over! Consider buying or
building something that's more solid if this is a concern in
RCA Interconnects, one pair to run between CD Player and Preamp
3 feet long, $10
1/4" TRS to Male XLR Cables, one pair to run between Preamp and B2092A Sub
8 to 20 feet long, $44/pair
XLR Microphone Cables, one par to run between B2092A Sub and B2031A's
around 10 feet long, $30/pair
Available SACD Titles
DVD Audio Titles
DTS Surround Music
Swedish Music Shop
To the above, add a comfortable chair and a quiet room. Acoustics
are not terribly important for this system because the B2031A's are
near-field monitors. Placing them close to your ears will minimize
the amount of room interaction that you will hear.
Place the monitors on stands near the center of the room and less
than eight feet from your ears. The distance between the two
monitors should be the same as the distance between each monitor
and your head. Place the subwoofer on the floor between the
monitors. Toe the monitors in so that they are pointing directly
at your ears.
Connecting the cables should be obvious. Refer to the Behringer
owner's manuals for diagrams and details. If possible, plug all
five power cords into the same power strip. This will help to
Start with the input trim set to the middle position on the
monitors and sub, all other switches set to 0 dB, and adjust from
there. If the sub is setup correctly, switching it in and out with
the footswitch should produce no difference in loudness of the
bass...silly as this may seam. A correctly integrated subwoofer
only extends the bass to lower frequencies and takes some of the
workload off of the monitors which helps to clean up the sound.
Adjust the other switches on the monitors as necessary for your
room. Let your ears be your guide. Listening to unamplified
acoustic music for these adjustments will typically produce the
best results, especially if you are familiar with what these
acoustic instruments/voices sound like live.
To get into a listening mood, try to relax and let your ears "feel"
the music. By this, I literally mean that you should focus all of
your attention to what you are feeling with your ears. Try hard to
think of nothing else for an entire track. After this exercise,
don't be surprised if you notice things that you've never heard
before, even in very familiar music.
Listen carefully and at reasonable volume levels. You are
sitting in front of a system that's driven by over 800 watts of
amplifier power and is capable of producing clean output at sound
preassure levels in excess of 110dB! Overdoing it for extended
periods of time will cause irreversible damage to your hearing, and
that's not what you want if you hope to become an audiophile.
Consider investing in an SPL Meter and keep the levels below 90 dB
for most of your listening sessions.
Cheers and happy listening!
David C. Snyder <email@example.com>