Music is probably the one thing we all have in common despite the fact we all like different genres – so we all appreciate how important good quality sound is, you want to be able to hear it how the artists and producers indeed it to be.
10 years ago I bought the Panasonic SC-PM37MD – minisystems back then packed as much functionality into them as possible, I mean, it did Minidisc, CD, Tape, FM, P-MD In, AUX, Optical Digital IN and Bi-wired speakers but like everything, it has to come to an end and in this case, the connectivity of the right speaker produced a lot of crackling, noise and often would result in it just not outputting anything so I figured it was time for a change. It had a good run, used heavily and definitely stood the test of time for a little system like this.
This time, my budget was much larger and I wanted a system that sounded amazing – I did huge amounts of research into getting an AMP with Optical Digital In (my computer output’s that) but the problem was, all the micro/mini AMP’s just didn’t do Optical Digital or had really poor quality DAC’s (converts the Digital signal to Analogue) so I thought to myself, I may as well get an Sound Card for the computer (that’ll be the only input I’ll be passing to the AMP) but obviously the Sound Card had to do Phono/RCA out (the red and white) to get the best analogue signal.
I opted for the Asus Xonar Essence ST (http://www.asus.com/Multimedia/Audio_Cards/Xonar_Essence_ST/) which you might be wondering, “why did you opt for a PCI card” well, the problem with having a high powered graphics card is it always covers 1 slot, that slot is usually the only other PCI-e slot and so, I had to go for PCI (top tip: when installing this card, be sure to read the manual before installing then you wont look like a tool when you realise it needs an external power supply from the PSU and have to open your computer again).
The reviews for the Xonar Essence were really positive about the sound quality and that’s definitely some that is quite clear in the output that it gives, very precise sound and if you want, you can just install the drivers – no need for the software – although it might be best to install that anyway, I turned SVN on (Smart Volume Normaliser) just because the ranges of volume are always so sporadic between different music files.
Because I now had Phono/RCA I had a lot more range of AMP so after some digging, came across the Denon D-M38DAB (http://www.denon.co.uk/uk/Product/Pages/Product-Detail.aspx?Catid=Systems&SubId=MiniMicro&ProductId=DM38DAB) – it has some amazing reviews and while yes it does only output 30Watts per speaker this isn’t about “how loud can the amp go?” I think this is really about “what kind of quality does the amp give?” – it’s easy to get a cheap amp to fill a room easily, but you want it to output music, not just distorted noise.
You can get that system with the Denon SC-M37 speakers as pictured in the link above but, I read on What Hi-Fi? that it might sound better with the Dali Zensor 1’s, I managed to get the amp for £179 and the Dali Zensor 1’s for the same price.
Unfortunately, I did have to take my first pair back as I noticed a slight crackling in the left speaker and the fact it sounded totally different to the right one – got a replacement pair that sounded perfect (guess I was just unlucky). Once all set up it just sounds amazing, the one thing that there’s speakers can do incredibly well is bass without drowning out the vocals or any notes. I can see why Dali have the reputation that they do, it’s difficult to miss something if you’ve never experienced it, I could never go back to my old system now – it just doesn’t even compare to this system.