Cables: Decent $50 USB cable and maybe a toslink cable just to do some A/B
USB tweak: nothing for now, not sure how effectice they are to KEF speakers
Update v1.1: below is a system with separate amplifier, dac and passive speaker, which fits the $3000 budget
Speakers: Audiovector QR1. Looks amazing, and apparently sound just like they look. Of the 5 or so reviews I read, the only issue was the somewhat lack of bass frequencies, but that won’t matter with a quality subwoofer in the system.
Amplifier: Schiit Vidar, a powerhouse that can be put behind the computer (no buttons, volume, etc).
Subwoofer: SVS SB-2000 (sealed, very punchy and musical).
Everyone says that separates will never reach the price/performance of a KEF LS50 Wireless, but the above should be in the same ballpark at least, and provides more options for future tweaking and upgrading (and much better warranty).
Price would be around $3000 with a $500 sub, but the amplifier while good for its price is probably the weak link in this setup. It illustrates very well though why people say that KEF LS50 Wireless has such a high price/performance.
The KEFs are probably one of the best bargains in hifi right now. I’ve gone from an all-Naim separates system with Tannoy floorstanders to pretty much the system you’ve described (i.e. Kefs, HAF room EQ (in the next few weeks), REL T-7i sub, all via. USB). For me, in my situation, this system beats my Naim system (at well over £3k/$4k) hands down. No contest… yes, the Kef’s really are that good! It’s worth remembering that the Kef’s have dual mono / dual DAC setup in each speaker. It will take a lot more than $3000 to get an equivalent separates system to match the performance of the Kef Wireless… (you are probably already aware that Darko did indeed explore this question with a pair of passive KEF LS50’s… he suggested that you’d need $20k to match the performance of the wireless). And, no more worry about system matching or obsessive upgraditis…
If you are listening on a desktop, then I’d stick with something that does well at the approximate 1.0 m range. You’ll find comparisons with the Harbeth P3, ATC SCM 7/11 (maybe used), PSI A17, Amphion One15/18, Focal Solo6.
I personally went with Amphion One15 for my desktop setup powered by Amphion amp and cables. The only thing else I would have considered is the ATC SCM 20 ASL Pro Mk2 for that use. The phase on the Amphions is something else. They’ve worked quite well in the last two years. They also do really well at low levels.
(The other components are Bryston BDP-1, Torus 15, Dangerous Source, various Teradak LPS, AQ Jitterbugs.)
If you want to keep it simple and go active, then ATC (the recent smaller models) and PSI should be considered. Even Barefoot has a newer model out.
For passives, take your pick. I went with Amphion after doing my research. Best thing about them is that you don’t have to worry about finding an amp or speaker cables for them. Amphion provides them. Even the Anaview AMS modules used in the Amphion amps were designed by Anaview with the Amphion speakers as reference. So it’s a match.
I’m aware of one report so far on these forums. And nothing on the other two forums I visit (pinkfishmedia.net and avforums.com). I don’t think we are dealing with an epidemic of failing LS50W’s so, at the moment, its not something that concerns me.
Admittedly, the 1-yr warranty on the active components vs. the 5-yr warranty on the passive components is unbalanced to say the least. Clearly KEF are sticking with the standard 1-yr warranty that the majority of electronics manufacturers adopt. I’m not saying that’s acceptable (I would have preferred at least a 3yr warranty on the active components) but neither is it bucking the trend in the industry.
If you plan to keep all your components on the desk, then I’d recommend active speakers with a DAC/preamp combo.
Although, if you can keep the components on a shelf/rack beside the desk, there’s less clutter with the passive option. Instead of 2x signal and 2x power cables, you’ll have 2 speakers wires.
I have a 78 inch wide desk and can easily put my 27 iMac on the desk with speakers around the iMac at 1.0 meter length and still have enough space for 19" components. I still don’t do it. I like to keep it clutter free. No annoying LED’s either. It’s a cleaner look.
It depends on the space ultimately and what you are comfortable with, along with sound quality of the speakers.
Thats what I have now, a pair of Dynaudio X14A (active) and a DragonFly Red, and a cheap way to upgrade would be to upgrade the DAC to something like Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 Digital, together with a new sub. It wont be as good as the KEFs but will cost 1/3. An advantage though would be a decent headphone amp.
Look into Crane Song Solaris. I’m most probably going for that as my next purchase. It’s a top DAC designed by Dave Hill and comes with stepped volume control, and loved by people who have tried Weiss, Dangerous Convert-2, RME ADI-2 Pro, Benchmark DAC2/3, Mytek Brooklyn, Merging, Burl DA2, Forssell, Bricasti.
If you want to keep the same DA and upgrade monitors, there is PSI A17, Barefoot Footprint, smaller actives ATC.
I’d try to upgrade one at a time and get it right, rather than potentially compromising on both the DA and monitors. It depends on how picky you are though. I’m sure for your budget that you can get something that will satisfy you.
I wonder how this would compare in sound quality to the KEF LS50 Wireless:
KEF LS50 passive
Pro-Ject pre-Box S2 DAC
Price would be around $2000, and no Wifi, wireless, bluetooth, etc, but on the other hand a better DAC and more possibilities to tinker and have fun. Since the Vidar can be placed out of sight, its a pretty nice system for desktop use, with the additional benefit (compared to KEF LS50 Wireless) that it has a headphone amplifier included.
And 5 years warranty on the amp and speaker, and 2 years on the dac means its a little safer.
The problem for me is that LS50Ws remind me of a combination washer/dryer or modem/router. They never turn out to be good ideas. Stilll, as with the Harbeths, what about bass? You had a sub in your OP, but left it out here.
The Vidar is an interesting choice in that it can be one unit stereo or two units bridged. Balanced or unbalanced inputs. Yes they can be hidden, but they don’t have a trigger. I solved a similar situation with a smart outlet and Alexia. Price is right and Schiit has a good rep.
The most interesting is the DAC. Tremendous specs, reads better than the Wyred4Sound 1v2 or even 2v2 DACs. Seems to good to be true, still I bookmarked the web site. I’ve been reading your August thread.
In my window shopping, I may swap out my original DAC of choice, the TEAC, for the Pro-ject.
They are designed for desktop/computer use primarily. I really like them. I also saw this video…
food for thought.
I also have a pair of Adam A5X which I pair with chord mojo in another room. Excellent combo. That you could easily add an adam sub to. Not sure how much that would come to, but here it would come well under budget: Chord Mojo, A5X+SUB8 for example, around 2000usd; Adams are very clean and clear and great treble (ribbon tweeters); plenty of scope to look up the range if you want to spend more. Chord dacs are very musical and render instrument definition uncannily well (timbre?).
That may be, and it bugs me too, but I demoed them against my $5000+ system and, aside from the highs possibly not being quite as pristine as my Raal tweeters, they simply sounded better. Just more energy, presence, transparence, imaging and openness. The bass is amazing but maybe a little bloomy if pushed in extended bass mode - a sealed sub from svs or rythmik would solve that. As @Magnus is thinking.
There is simply no way you are going to beat these things with separates for $3000. In return you have to accept that it’s an all-in-one and you won’t be able to upgrade the Dac, etc. It’s a compromise that pains an audiophile tinkerer like me … I am still in the fence for this reason - my purist side is pulling hard!