Friday, April 6, 2012

Fun Sound Project

So I got up one morning earlier this week and, as usual, stopped off at the espresso machine in the kitchen before going on in to the home office.  I then followed routine by restarting the VirtualBox Windows XP image in preparation for signing in to my work place's vpn, and reached over to turn on the sound system.

No sound.

My expensive Creative AWE 7.1 surround system had died.  Crap.

That got me to thinking: I'd never really liked the Creative surround sound system all that much.  No matter how I adjusted it, the sub woofer always produced lows that were just too boomy, and the mid-ranges were harsh.

I mulled over what to do throughout the rest of the day, and then started searching for an alternative that evening.  Here's what I came up with.  Since I only use the sound on my office system to play music from my archive of ripped CDs (purchased over the last 20 years -- I have lots of music), RadioParadise, and the local NPR station, and maybe to watch some news video and a little Youtube, I decided to go with a plain old stereo sound this time.

I dug around a bit and found this, the Pyle PVA2 amp.  It's only rated at 60 watts, but that should be plenty for how I intended to use it, and it only costs $54 at!  It's got decent specs, so I figured it would sound ok.

  • Power Output: 2 x 12w (8 Ohm, RMS), 2 x 24w (4 Ohms RMS), 60w max peak
  • 2 microphone inputs
  • DVD VCD-CD tape karaoke input selector
  • 2 mic volume controls, treble/bass controls, and master volume control
  • Frequency range: 20-20khz

Now, what about speakers?  I know!  I have these wonderful old '90's vintage Celestion 9 speakers that have been stored away for about the last 8 years.  These Celestions are still some of the best speakers I've ever listened to.  So I dusted them off and parked them temporarily on my desktop.

My home-built workstation is running Mint 12 and has an Asus M3N78-VM motherboard in it with a VT1708B 8 -Channel High Definition Audio chipset - that's what will drive the system.

I plugged it all together, and wow!  Do those Celestions ever sound good!  I hope they never break, because they haven't been made for years, although a quick check showed that replacement parts seem to be available.

The system sounded so good, that it got me wondering:  how much of the quality is the speakers & amp, versus the on-board audio chipset?  To find out, I bought another 3.5mm - to RCA stereo cable, and hooked up my little Acer Aspire One netbook.

Pardon the messy desk.

I already had Clementine installed on my workstation, so I installed it on the netbook as well and quickly had it scan my music collection.  Clementine is a clean fork of the old KDE Amarok 1.4, back before the folks at KDE garbaged up Amarok 2.x with a bunch of unneeded features and a clumsy, un-intuitive interface.

Then I set up a side by side comparison, where I started the same playlist on both systems, and switched between input sources on the Pyle.

I could not tell a difference.  So, bottom line:  if you want a low-cost, good sounding stereo music system, here's one option.  But you'll have to find your own Celestion 9 speakers.


No comments:

Post a Comment