DAC to Powered Monitors - Anyone?

Anyone connect your DAC to a powered monitor such as the Focal Trio6 or Focal Shape Twin? Genelec?

How do you like it?

These are powered studio monitors that you hook up with a balanced cable.

Why I am asking… some curiosity, possible use with a very lite home studio … I am looking at buying some powered monitors for my RD-2000 keyboard… got me thinking…

Bruce in Philly

Hi Bruce,

Got a set of Focal Shapes in another room, since I had some idle time (haha) curiosity got the better of me and so I tried that with my DSjr. Quite underwhelming, lots of info but the musicality and the authority were gone.

DAC is way too good for the speakers I suppose. Will try and get my hands on the much better Barefoot 35’s surely the synergy will get much better.

I have a couple of sets of studio monitors set up exactly this way, although not with a PS Audio DAC. Works great.

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So… tell me about these near-field monitors… have you hooked them up and tried them out in a big room as if they were your primary stereo system speakers? How did they do?

So here is a real question I am wrestling with… I was thinking about changing the amp and speakers I use with my Roland RD-2000 keyboard to maybe those Focal powered monitors. But I am worried about doing this as the monitors used to demo these keyboards are AWFUL! In the music stores, Philly and NYC, I would turn off the monitors and plug in my Grado RS2 headphones directly into the board. Totally different experience and there I could understand the quality of keyboard sounds. The monitors I heard in music stores always sound super hard and … bright is not quite the word… but just hard sounding and they never had bass. A nice keyboard like my RD-2000 has some really nice grand piano sounds that go deep and full.

My keyboard amp is an old Adcom GFA 545 II and old, big ADS bookshelf speakers. The sound is a bit hard, tubby and bloaty but not real bad when playing these big full grand piano sounds. I think the amp is the problem with the top end, and the speakers the bottom end. I want better sound for the keyboard. I have the speakers mounted 2 feet from my head, over the keyboard on the left and right side pointed in to me. I love playing (actually plonking) in that sound field.

Bonus question: I was told near-field studio monitors sound awful as a home stereo speaker… why? They are supposedly designed to be ruler-flat response. Why is this a bad thing? (I remember an interview with the late John Dunlavy and he noted his first priority is ruler-flat response.)

So, I am just afraid replacing this with a pair of Focal powered monitors for about $2,200/pair is going to sound more like an awful public address system.

BTW: I have never met a musician who cared about sound quality as much as I do… another why?

I view these keyboard speakers like home audio reproduction… because that is what they are doing when they are playing grand piano sounds from my RD-2000. Guitars are different as the amp is part of the sound generation… with a keyboard, the sound system is playing back, not a part of the creation.

Tonight I am dusting off my old Nikko EQ-1 10-band equalizer (circa 1977) and see if I can’t tame the response curve… going to hook up Realistic SPL meter, hook up my Android phone with a tone generator… and level the field (no tariffs needed). (Sad state when you get all hot and bothered about getting your SPL meter to jump at a bunch of tone curves… back in the day I would be in some bar trying to…)

Bruce in Philly

Despite protestations to the contrary, many audiophiles do not like flat frequency response and phase accurate reproduction. They want sweetening - warm, rich, euphonic sound. Thus, they find studio speakers anathema.

Keep in mind they typically have only heard inexpensive studio speakers, such as the demo speakers you mention. Bad speakers are bad speakers. Good studio monitors are far from inexpensive. The Barefoot Sound MicroMain35 Gen2 mentioned above are ~ $10,000.

I listen to my studio monitors nearfield, in a studio. But you can back off 15 feet and they still sound great.

I have a pair of Dunlavy SC-IV/A. They are wonderful speakers. They are superb home audio transducers. Many studios still use them as well.



Exactly. Therefore looking to upgrade my small Focals and get those Barefoots. Maybe teh 27’s if the 35’s are proven to expensive read Missus Will Murder Me, :slight_smile:

Excellent choice!

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I just EQd my ADS/Adcom setup… sheesh! My 10-band Nikko equalizer looks like the swiss alps!

If you are thinking this 1977 vintage piece of equipment will kill sound quality, well you are wrong. It already is not very good and this thing made it sound well… less turdy.

I used and old Stereophile test CD to make this work… it has 1/3 octave warbles… just fantastic and far superior than single frequency test tones. I set my meter to SLOW response and the old fashion VU meter stays steady. 1/3 octave warbles are great for smoothing and ignoring single frequency standing waves. John Atkinson did a nice job with these tones.

The challenge was the 1/3 octaves don’t match a 10-band equalizer… the equalizer has a slider for each octave (doubling of frequency) and the bumps and valleys don’t match what I was reading so a ton of trial and error and you just have to make it as smooth as you can get it.

I tested it with some Dave Brubeck I am intimately familiar with… boy it sound 10 times better with the Nikko EQ in there. I can see (or remember) why these EQs were so popular back in the day… they really did improve turdy equipment! Don’t let anyone tell you can’t polish these things… you can.

Here is a picture of the rig with the Realistic meter in the foreground… I actually had the meter set up deeper into the room… and my beloved Accuphase CD player and processor. The Nikko and Adcom amp are on the floor. Those two rods in the middle support my laptop for connection to the Roland … I do fantasy arranging… fantasy because my skills are also turdy. Beer is a nice polish for turdy talent.

I guess I will start looking for some powered monitors… maybe go used… anybody have a recommendation for something around $2k used?

Bruce in Philly

Those Dunlavys … wow… I didn;t know studios used them. I can within a hair of buying a pair but I purchased some Martin Logans instead… they threw a more precise sound field… but they had other big weaknesses… shoulda nailed the Dunlavys instead.

Bruce in Philly

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Hi efete

The Barefoots, using a DSP crossover and will convert any DAC’s analogue outputs to digital (and PCM192kHz at that…). So you will always be using the Barefoots internal DACs unless you feed it a digital signal.

Was this your plan?


Edit: So you will always be using the Barefoots internal DACs, whether fed analogue or digital. Better to feed it digital in this case (skip the A-to-D and 2nd D-to-A conversion).

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It’d be in my office, a modest listening situation I suppose playing out my Olive 04HD or perhaps a Sony HAP if I can find one. Pity that, in the latter scenario, DSD would make no sense as it’d be converted to PCM huh :frowning:

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Now the Focal Shapes are connected straight to the (desktop) computer as I just listen to a bit of music while working (video editing bores me to death).

You’d be surprised how many people use their favourite DACs to feed DSP active speakers and swear it sounds better than the speaker’s digital input - and it’s clear all analogue inputs are digitized to PCM192kHz… That’s fine of course, you can like whatever you want.

But it’s not something I would do (double D-to-A conversions).

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Sorry for coming in so late.

Have used a couple of cheaper DAC/preamps and four different active monitors. They worked very well together.

Studio gear is for work (honesty is essential) while home audio is for entertainment (where honesty is secondary). Many (most) audiophiles want their version of the truth.

Suggest looking into JBL 705P/708P reference studio monitors ($2000/4000 MSRP per pair).

My guess is that the internal DACs in most active monitors are an after though and meant for convenience or backup.

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