Need help choosing Speakers or Amp

Posted by: ahchamna

Need help choosing Speakers or Amp - 11/08/12 02:40 PM

So I've been using headphones with my Yamaha CP5 due to a tight budget, but I've been saving up for some decent speakers.

Which speakers or Amp is recommended? Also which is better for simply home performance.
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Need help choosing Speakers or Amp - 11/08/12 03:23 PM

That's the million dollar question. It gets asked all the time here (so you may want to search the archives) but in short, it's almost impossible to make recommendations on speakers/amps because they sound so much different in different environments and it's really hard to A/B compare them. Also there is just a ton of hot air in the marketing of speakers.

I can sum up what gets said all the time here, though. There are a couple of ways of going.

1. You can get studio monitors. These are intended for nearfield listening, which is likely what you will be doing. They are self-powered and can be had in a variety of qualities. A standard recommended set would be KRK RP6's or something like that. However, they are designed for mixing and to reveal flaws in the music and can sometimes sound a little harsh. Also they tend to be VERY directional, so you really have to point them at your head to appreciate them.

2. Hi Fi speakers, with a home receiver are a pretty good choice. These are designed to sound good in a home environment. They may color the sound, but should probably do so in a way that makes it sound better, not worse. Unfortunately there is such a large amount of variety I can't make a recommendation. One does hear about polk floorstanding speakers fairly frequently here, but that doesn't mean they are the best choice.

3. Some people use PA systems. These are self-powered and simple, but are often made for large areas and optimized for volume levels that don't make sense in the house. My brother has a set he likes, but overall they don't have the best reputation here. There could be varying opinions on that, though.

4. Occasionally you find people using an actual amp that look like a guitar amp but is designed for digital piano. These have a poor reputation here. Their main plus is that they are rugged, loud, and small...for gigging.

5. There are plenty of people who just buy the best set of computer speakers they can find and hook those up. This will not give you top end sounds, but it's cheap and easy. I personally have a set of Logitech Z-2300's hooked up to my DP at the moment, but I don't particularly recommend them. When I have more space and money I'll probably get myself a set of Hi Fi.

Most of the time I just use headphones. That way I don't bother the other people in the family (and they don't bother me...two year olds can be a problem) and they always sound pretty good, though there is something missing when your body can't feel the sounds that your ears are hearing.
Posted by: Dave Horne

Re: Need help choosing Speakers or Amp - 11/08/12 04:24 PM

At the moment I have my job sound system set up but to be honest, I prefer listening through headphones.

If you're still going to buy an external setup, plan on spending more money than you allocated.
Posted by: ahchamna

Re: Need help choosing Speakers or Amp - 11/09/12 12:17 AM

I don't really plan on going for a outside speaker setting. The room I practice in is similar to the size of a dorm room in college. The dimensions are like 20 feet by 20 feet max (I'm not really good with square feet and such). Additionally, yeah I have looked at some of the other threads here. Unfortunately the search function gets a little clustered for me so its hard to narrow down results. I'm not sure if its my headphones or my preference, but it doesn't feel the same when I play with headphones on, I feel like somethings missing or the sound is too low. I currently interchangeably use a pair of Sennheiser 380 HD pro, AKG 240 MKII, and additional earphones and headphones. When I play with headphones I feel like the sound isn't reaching its potential. Also my digital piano is on max volume settings yet I can barely hear the sound with my AKGs, and for my Sennheisers I feel like it has a twangy quality (hard to describe) where no matter what volume level, it feels like its too loud. Maybe I just need better headphones for my CP5.

Anyway I took your advice and did some research on the 1-5. It looks like I'm going to skip the amp entirely because sound quality is what I'm looking for, trying to stay away from cheap sound. So i will probably just do some extensive research on Hi Fi and studio monitors.
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Need help choosing Speakers or Amp - 11/09/12 12:45 AM

Smallish speakers seem to work fine in small rooms. I've heard people talking about bookshelf speakers on the hi fi side. Like Audioengine 5's or something similar.

BTW you might want to think about using a different amp for your headphones. DP's vary in the quality of the built-in headphone amp. My Kawai has what seems like a pretty good amp, but perhaps the CP5 has a cheaper one and that could be your problem with the headphones.

Usually with DP's, investment in very nice headphones is a good one since they are so often used with headphones. Though I have to say that the cans you already have aren't usually considered shabby.
Posted by: ONfrank

Re: Need help choosing Speakers or Amp - 11/09/12 12:46 AM

You may have to buy an amplifier anyway if you end up buying passive speakers or perhaps recycle an old receiver.
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Need help choosing Speakers or Amp - 11/09/12 12:48 AM

To clarify, "amp" can mean two different things. We often use it interchangeably with "receiver" here--the box that takes a signal and turns it into electrical pulses strong enough to drive passive speakers. This is how ONFrank used it. People who gig typically refer to the powered box with an actual speaker in it as an "amp," which is how I used the word.
Posted by: Vectistim

Re: Need help choosing Speakers or Amp - 11/09/12 05:12 AM

Originally Posted By: gvfarns

3. Some people use PA systems. These are self-powered and simple, but are often made for large areas and optimized for volume levels that don't make sense in the house. My brother has a set he likes, but overall they don't have the best reputation here. There could be varying opinions on that, though.


This is my solution, essentially I bought the cheapest system I could find where the speaker cabinets included 12" speakers - so the line outs from the keyboard go into the amp which then sends a signal to the speakers. If I'm using the native piano sound I'll leave the keyboard speakers running too. I find this works really well.

When I'm running my virtual organ software then obviously I turn off the keyboard's sounds. If I turn the wick up to half way and select some meaty 16' pedal stops I can get a very realistic feeling of playing a big church machine - although I need to check that the neighbours are absent first.
Posted by: ahchamna

Re: Need help choosing Speakers or Amp - 11/10/12 03:44 AM

Originally Posted By: gvfarns

BTW you might want to think about using a different amp for your headphones. DP's vary in the quality of the built-in headphone amp. My Kawai has what seems like a pretty good amp, but perhaps the CP5 has a cheaper one and that could be your problem with the headphones.


So should I get speakers with a headphone input so I could, instead, plug them into the speakers rather than the keyboard itself? Maybe it'll net better results and a sound. So speakers are at a double must if this is the case. I will do some more poking around since I haven't really come to a consensus of rather I should get a studio monitor or Hi Fi.

Additionally, Portability is a plus, but it shouldn't be sacrificed for the quality of the sound.
Posted by: Vectistim

Re: Need help choosing Speakers or Amp - 11/10/12 05:31 AM

Originally Posted By: ahchamna
Originally Posted By: gvfarns

BTW you might want to think about using a different amp for your headphones. DP's vary in the quality of the built-in headphone amp. My Kawai has what seems like a pretty good amp, but perhaps the CP5 has a cheaper one and that could be your problem with the headphones.


So should I get speakers with a headphone input so I could, instead, plug them into the speakers rather than the keyboard itself?


I suspect what gvfarns is referring to is dedicated headphone amps. I wouldn't have expected your headphones to need such a thing, unless the CP5 is outputting a fairly weedy headphone signal.
Posted by: Possum SP280Krome

Re: Need help choosing Speakers or Amp - 11/10/12 10:08 AM

A Gvfarns, said I would look into the Rokit's. I have the KRK R5's- I use them with my Juno in a 13x13 room but for 20x20 you might want the 6's.

I had Mackie MR5's and sold them- too much on the lower end.
I find the KRK's bring out the melody really well.
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Need help choosing Speakers or Amp - 11/10/12 12:16 PM

Originally Posted By: ahchamna
Originally Posted By: gvfarns

BTW you might want to think about using a different amp for your headphones. DP's vary in the quality of the built-in headphone amp. My Kawai has what seems like a pretty good amp, but perhaps the CP5 has a cheaper one and that could be your problem with the headphones.


So should I get speakers with a headphone input so I could, instead, plug them into the speakers rather than the keyboard itself? Maybe it'll net better results and a sound. So speakers are at a double must if this is the case. I will do some more poking around since I haven't really come to a consensus of rather I should get a studio monitor or Hi Fi.


Normally speakers will not have a headphone output, but you may want to use the headphone jack on a receiver (if you use one), external sound interface (if you use one), or get a dedicated headphone amp for the purpose.

There are two reasons headphone amps can matter (and I'm not saying they will in your case):

1. If your headphones are relatively high impedance, then some headphone jacks simply don't have the power to drive them properly. The ones you mention aren't 600 ohm behemoths or anything, but they do have higher impedance than cheapo headphones. A symptom of this might be if you have to turn the volume way up to get a decent sound on your cans.

2. The actual built in amp may not be of high quality. Of particular note is the output impedance of the amp itself (which is a statistic that is very hard to find). Apparently, what you want is for the impedance of the headphones to be at least 8 times higher than the output impedance of the amp. Don't ask me the details of what that means, but apparently it's true. And cheap amps have high output impedance. Apparently this shows up in yucky or wimpy sounding lows. Very high quality headphones are high impedance so the associated amps don't need ridiculously low impedance, but then they need a lot of power to be able to drive them.

The only reason I mention the headphone amp is that I have two different external interfaces and the onboard amp. And the same pair of headphones sounds different depending on which of those amps I use. I'm not going to say that one sound better than the others, but they do sound different.

Headphone amps are kind of a mystical audiophile thing and it's hard to find a concrete way of comparing one to another, so treat all the above with a healthy dose of scepticism.
Posted by: MacMacMac

Re: Need help choosing Speakers or Amp - 11/10/12 12:39 PM

Actually, it's not at all mystical. It's just that the internet is full of contradictory nonsense, leaving things to appear nonsensical.

BTW:
1. High quality phones need not have high-Z. It depends on the application. Many high quality phones are available in multiple impedances.

2. High-Z phones (or high-Z any-load) require higher signal voltage at lower current levels. Low-Z items require higher current at lower voltage levels. The latter is the situation with MP3 players; their low battery voltage dictates that they can only produce low voltage levels at the output ... so they're designed with low-output impedance, suitable for driving low-Z phones.
Posted by: sullivang

Re: Need help choosing Speakers or Amp - 11/10/12 09:23 PM

I've read that high impedance headphones have (or MAY have?) a lighter voice coil (which means a lighter speaker) because the wire is thinner. Apparently a lighter speaker is easier to control, which results in better fidelity. IF (and that's a BIG IF) this is true, then it may well be best to try to get high impedance headphones, but only if one will use a suitable headphone amp. So, if one has the luxury of choosing both the headphones and the amp, then it may well be best to get high impedance headphones. If one already has audio equipment, and wants to get headphones that are suitable for that equipment, then high impedance headphones may not be appropriate. (as MacMacMac said - one example of equipment that is generally NOT suitable for high impedance headphones are MP3 players)

It may well be that the coil mass issue has been solved, and/or, the issue has been overstated - I don't know.

Greg.
Posted by: MacMacMac

Re: Need help choosing Speakers or Amp - 11/10/12 09:29 PM

That seems odd. A higher impedance voice coil will have more turns of wire, making it heavier, not lighter.
Posted by: sullivang

Re: Need help choosing Speakers or Amp - 11/10/12 09:39 PM

Extract from the Beyer Dynamic FAQ

"Different impedances
The higher the impedance, the more power is needed to get a proper output volume from the headphone:
32 or 80 ohms = mobile use with laptop, MP3 Player, portable recorder etc..
250 ohms and higher = for permanent installations, headphone amplifiers etc.

Background:
Impedance ist the AC resistance of the headphones' voice coil, which is connected to the headphone amplifier. A impedance of 0 ohms would be a short-circuit of the headphone amplifier output; the headphone amplifier supplies an extreme current and after getting very hot, it either turns off automatically - or dies. The other side of the story is infinite resistance (broken cable); no current flows, but also no audio signals arrives - so, we have to be in between these two: 0 and infinite.

In general, headphones with low impedance are designed for use with mobile devices; mobile devices use low power from batteries and therefore also the output power is limited. A low impedance headphone can play (slightly) louder at a low power output. But why high impedance headphones?

The impedance is determined by the voice coil (dynamic headphones), which is a winded copper wire (coated to avoid a short-circuit). This copper wire is available in nearly every length, but not in every gauge (thickness) and a thicker wire has less resistance than a thin wire ("less fits through"). The magnetic field of the voice coil depends on the number of windings of the coil, causing a low impedance system to use a thicker (also heavier) wire and since the membrane foil can't be infinitely light-weight, the moving mass (voice coil and diaphragm) is relatively high. It's pretty clear that a higher mass can't move as easily (following an audio signal) as a lower mass. This low mass can easily be accomplished with thinner (lower weight) wire, but the thinner wire has a higher impedance. This means that the DT 770 PRO with 250 ohms sound more natural, but plays (depending on the used headphone amplifier) not as loud as the 80 ohms version.

The transducers of the 80 ohms versions are stronger and more powerful, a bit more low-mid accentuated and therefore this version is ideal for powerful reproducing of low-frequency material f.e. coming from a bass guitar. The 250 ohms version sounds more smooth and voluminous and can be used for mixing situations within the studio to analyse the whole mix."

Greg.
Posted by: MacMacMac

Re: Need help choosing Speakers or Amp - 11/10/12 09:45 PM

Most of that makes sense. In particular: it seems they use thinner wire on high-Z phones (rather than longer wire). And that would explain why high-Z diaphragms weigh less.

But one thing seems odd: "The higher the impedance, the more power is needed to get a proper output volume from the headphone."

Why would that be? If the high-Z diaphragms are lighter, it would take LESS power to get proper volume.
Posted by: sullivang

Re: Need help choosing Speakers or Amp - 11/10/12 10:15 PM

Perhaps they meant more voltage? FWIW, I've just made a post about this issue on NwAvGuy's blog - I'm curious to see what he thinks of it.

I've emailed Grado too, because their range seems to be all or mostly low impedance (~32 ohms), but of course they have a very good reputation.

Greg.
Posted by: maeaguilar33

Re: Need help choosing Speakers or Amp - 12/14/12 08:50 AM

Yamaha RX-V667 7.2-Channel: Best Home Theater Receiver + Yamaha P105 (+L85 and LP74 pedals) Piano + Yamaha DXR12 Speakers

= The Best Mini-Bar of Yours! smile
Posted by: dmd

Re: Need help choosing Speakers or Amp - 12/14/12 10:15 AM

Well, for what it is worth ....

I just added a pair of FOCAL CMS-40 powered monitors to my ES7 system and the result is great. Very clear sound. I could not be happier. I had been using Yamaha HS80M powered monitors and they were to harsh. The Focals have a very soft, clear sound.
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Need help choosing Speakers or Amp - 12/14/12 10:26 AM

Well that's worth a lot, I'd say. Good to find someone who has studio monitors they really like. Now if only you had the KRK's and could compare them.
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Need help choosing Speakers or Amp - 12/14/12 10:30 AM

Originally Posted By: maeaguilar33
Yamaha RX-V667 7.2-Channel: Best Home Theater Receiver + Yamaha P105 (+L85 and LP74 pedals) Piano + Yamaha DXR12 Speakers

= The Best Mini-Bar of Yours! smile


Those speakers are powered, aren't they? Gets rid of the need for the receiver.
Posted by: scorpio

Re: Need help choosing Speakers or Amp - 12/14/12 10:55 AM

What about Yamaha MSR100 powered speakers? Has anyone tried these? I assume they are not directional monitors. And no need for an amp. Please correct me if I am wrong.
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Need help choosing Speakers or Amp - 12/14/12 11:11 AM

I think you are right. These are powered PA speakers so no amp needed. Based on what I'm reading they would be great for public performance. The conventional wisdom here in the forum is that PA speakers are not great for small rooms because they are optimized for high volume. Still, my brother uses PA speakers with his DP (in a pretty big room, though) and has never complained.

I can't comment on that particular model as I have no experience with them.
Posted by: dmd

Re: Need help choosing Speakers or Amp - 12/14/12 11:39 AM

Originally Posted By: gvfarns
Well that's worth a lot, I'd say. Good to find someone who has studio monitors they really like. Now if only you had the KRK's and could compare them.


Well, it is odd that I don't have them. I seem to have everything else. LOL ...

As you know, I have been on the trail of this "perfect" sound for quite some time now. I can tell you that the combination that I now have seems to be it.

Of course, in this business it seems that perception can change overnight so I may be overstating ... again ... but I can only tell you that this setup that I now have feels and sounds so very good that it inspires me to practice.
Posted by: Dr Popper

Re: Need help choosing Speakers or Amp - 12/15/12 06:32 AM

Originally Posted By: DennisKuv
What about Yamaha MSR100 powered speakers? Has anyone tried these? I assume they are not directional monitors. And no need for an amp. Please correct me if I am wrong.


Not bad but the MSR250 are nicer for piano and the MSR400's nicer still but by then you might as well get a pair of K10's.
Posted by: ahchamna

Re: Need help choosing Speakers or Amp - 01/16/13 06:09 PM

Considering the KRK 6 or 8's, but I have yet to actually go into the store to test them. Thank you for the feedback!