Modern sound equipment in the last ten years has come a long way.
My first job was working for a music shop, working in the workshop weekdays building speaker, crossover circuits, repairing amps and mixers. We also did special affects, so I learn’t to repair lighting controllers. On Saturdays I would work in the shop selling audio.
I went to all the big shows in London, and was privileged to be able to listen to high end audio from vinyl and cd on systems costing hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Now it does not cost a lot to get quality a quality music sound, but with people using low quality MP3’s, bluetooth headphones many have not heard how good music can sound.
Now let me state, most of my casual listening is done through a set of wireless Apple Earbuds from streamed lossy format music on my phone. In fact let me state now, it is not worth listening to lossless format music using Bluetooth, but you can get high end audio at a budget price, and also not all lossy format music is the same; you can get quality lossy format MP3’s; that combined with a good CODEC over Bluetooth can give quality sound when combined with good noise cancelling headphones, but todays chat is not about mobile audio, its about audio in your home office.
An old laptop or desktop computer as your music source with some ripped CD’s lossless format, or a high quality streaming service, a £100 DAC and £100 wired headphones can go along way. Do try and go wired where you can for better quality.
So how do I get quality music in my office. Well I have seem some users with high end vinyl record decks and thousand pound desktop speakers, but whose office generally gives good acoustics?
In my office I keep things simple. In summary its a music library of losses ripped cd’s in my iTunes (now Apple Music Library), streaming from online music services and some quality budget active speakers on the desk.
First the source part of the system.
I have Roon software on my MacPro pulling all my music together and acting as a Roon end point. From the MacPro I have a high quality audio USB cable feeding into a DAC stage of the preamp on my desk. I used to go straight into my speakers from the line out feed on the Mac, but the digital to analogue converter in computers are decidedly average. Even adding a £65 DAC such as a AudioQuest DragonFly Black can add a great improvement to the sound of your system.
My preamp is a Schiit Asgard 3. This has the optional USB multi-bit DAC. Purists who complain that the multi-bit military spec DAC cannot touch a high end audio Delta-Sigma DAC, really need to give multiunit DACs a listen, on paper its certainly not as good, but its sounds nice and would certainly rival may £500 DACs available.
Asgard 3 with optional built in multi-bit USB DAC
Amplification and Speakers.
Its not a good idea going to high end on the speaker front for your home office. Over eighty percent of how it sounds is down to the room. You have some big floor standing speakers in a large empty room with a wooden floor? You can greatly improve the sound quality with a £50 rug from Ikea! Also the amp and speaks are a very important pair, if your going separate speakers and amp then remember to audition them together.
Speakers are either active or passive, all that means is that active speakers have the amp built in them. People used to look down on active speakers; they used to be the cheap low-end of the market, but this is now not so true.
The Asgard 3 has RCA phono output and single ended headphone jack. the RCA feeds the built in amp inside my Ruark Audio MR1 Mk1 speakers, these also accept bluetooth should I wish.
This system gives me great music in my office and with the headphone socket in a quality preamp I can also get even better sound out with a pair of quality open backed headphones.
This is a nice system and comes in under a £1K but would rival many above that. Its also easily upgradable. Adding a higher end DAC such as a Schiit BIFROST 2, or even going up to a Chord Electronics Hugo with some headphones gives sound that would be hard to beat, on the speaker front you could upgrade to KEF LS50 speakers or add a power amp and some nice Wharfedale’s but you need to remember that the room has a big impact on the sound of your speakers and going to high end may not be worthwhile in your office. Keeping it simple like I have and when you want higher end listening go to headphones, or if your lucky like us and have a room you can dedicate to music then build you dream system there.