Posted on Fri 06 January 2023

audio setups early 2023

Of interest to highly technical budget-quality optimizing folks, mostly.

This is how I’m dealing with music playback in the house as of January 2023. My goals are reasonably high-quality music at a long-term reasonable price, while avoiding paid streaming services.

First up, storage. Music (and local video) is stored on the media center box, a Pentium G4560 (2 cores, 4 threads) PC with 8GB RAM and 4x3TB disks in RAID10. All the machines I’m going to mention are running Debian Stable. Disk space is usually at a premium, so at some point I will likely migrate to a 2 disk ZFS mirror, probably around 14-16TB usable. Music is largely ripped from CDs at 320Kb/s MP3 or FLAC; some is purchased digitally if available in those formats.

The media center exports a music filesystem via read-only NFS, and runs Owntone, a web-interface music player/server which can play to Chromecast Audio, Apple Airplay, and anything which can play an MP3 stream – Firefox and Chrome certainly can. Owntone transcodes to 320Kb/s MP3 as necessary.

Hooked to this via HDMI is a Yamaha RX-V675 7.1 channel home theater receiver, which feeds main speakers, center, surround, and front presence/elevation speakers. It has measured room equalization, albeit not the most capable on the market. Main speakers are PSB Century 800i (2.5 way towers, 1” dome over 2x 8” woofers, front ported, ports stuffed) sitting on Monoprice 12” powered woofers getting the same signal. After equalization, this can go down to 20Hz at 90dB (1m). There is also a PSB Alpha Subsonic 5 subwoofer for movie LFE. All of these things were bought new but with fairly large sale discounts.

In the living room is an old laptop with a SMSL Sanskrit 10th MkII DAC feeding Kali LP8v2 powered monitors. The DAC was on sale for half-price ($70) and the speakers were on sale for $200 apiece down from $250. The laptop uses equalization software when playing from the console/NFS, but not from the Shairport-sync remote client.

In my bedroom is a Google Chromecast Audio (sadly discontinued, $25 when new) connected to JBL LSR305x powered monitors, bought on sale from MassDrop at $170 for the pair.

In the office, my desktop feeds an Apple USB-C DAC ($9, no sale needed) to an optoisolator to a NAD 712 stereo receiver. I bought the NAD in 1998, new, no discount. It has a 1/4” headphone jack which automatically disconnects the speaker connections – a pair of Paradigm Monitor 3 Mark 3s. The usual headphones are Superlux 688b, Truthear Zeros, TRN V90s, or occasionally Sennheiser 280HDpro. The desktop runs equalization software (PulseEffects on top of PipeWire) that corrects each output, though it does have to be selected whenever I change outputs. The Paradigms were purchased used from a guy driving a white van, for $200 the pair – an excellent value.

Finally, the dining room has a computer hooked up to a TV and Cambridge SoundWorks PCWorks 2.1 system. PCWorks is (was) an amazing product: Two 2” full-range speakers in little plastic cubes and a 4” mid-woofer in a bizarre plastic bandpass box along with a 9W amplifier. It is absolutely an upgrade over any TV’s built-in sound, nicely adequate for background music, and ridiculously high value-to-price at $50 or so.

Currently unused but known to be functional:

  • a Yamaha RXV990 receiver (pre-HDMI era) with useful 2.1 capabilities and mediocre 5.1
  • a NAD T750 receiver (pre-HDMI) with similar capabilities
  • 2 Paradigm Esprit v2 narrow towers
  • 2 Paradigm MiniMonitor Mark 3
  • 2 PSB Century 400i bookshelf speakers

I expect some version of these to be gifted to the kids when they move out permanently.

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