Help Needed - Music Only System


I was hoping to get some advice on a potential new set up. I have all my music (about a 50/50 split of Apple Lossless files with various quailty mp3s) stored on my MacBook Pro. My connection is this:

MacBook Pro (iTunes) --> Airport Express --> PS Audio Digital Link III DAC --> Onkyo 608 Receiver --> KEF 3500SE Surround Sound Speakers.

I'm VERY pleased with how the KEF's sound with TV and Movies. Especially for their size (I personally like the eggs too lol). However, for music, I feel that the speakers aren't strong enough to produce the sound I'm looking for.

Long story short, I'm looking for options if I buy new speakers that are dedicated for MUSIC ONLY. So I would have my TV/PS3 connected to my Onkyo Receiver/KEF speakers but have a SEPARATE connection from my MacBook Pro to my DAC and then the new speakers. What do I need between the DAC and my Amp? A preamp? I've never really understood the difference between amps, preamps, and receivers.

I think I've got the speakers picked out but I think I still need some type of amp or preamp.

Thoughts? Not looking to spend more than $1000 (not counting the new speakers of course) Thanks so much!!!
If your Onkyo has two sets of speaker output terminals (a total of 8 speaker terminals) you can connect your DAC to it and then connect it to your speakers. Don't hook up two sets of speakers to the same speaker out terminals.

If you want separate amplification for your music only, if your DAC doesn't have a volume control you will need a preamp to control volume, etc., and then a power amp to drive your speakers (or an integrated to do both).

For $1,000 you can get a pretty good integrated amp (preamp and power amp in one box), tube or solid state. I think the best bang for the buck would be an integrated.

If your DAC does have a volume control some people like to connect their DAC directly to a power amp, skipping the preamp. Other people find that their system sounds better with a preamp (or integrated) in the system.
Just to be sure:
Integrated amp - preamp and power amp combined in one piece of gear.

Receiver - integrated amp with an AM/FM tuner included.

Preamp - you connect your input devices (cd players, DACs, tape decks, etc.) to it. You select which device you want to listen to, set the volume, it may have a balance control, etc. You then connect it to a power amp.

Power amp - usually has one input where you connect your preamp and a set of speaker terminals to connect speakers. It provides the power to drive your speakers.
I use a Macbook (itunes - apple lossless) through a PS Audio DL III directly into some Active Dynaudio BM5A speakers (XLR balanced). Absolutely amazing match up. Volume is controlled within the iTunes and it has worked excellent so far.
Perhaps you should explain that active speakers differ from conventional speakers in that they supply their own amplification.
The best speakers in the world will not clean-up the jitter from the AirPort Express. You are losing a lot of detail, soundstage, dynamics and depth with it, not to mention the distortion caused by the jitter.

I have many years of experience with the AE, AppleTV, Squeezebox, Duet, Touch, Sonos, Wadia 170 and others. I know what they sound like. I have modded them or added reclockers to all of them. I dont mod anymore BTW.

Consider a good reclocker in-line between the AE and the DAC. Then think about better speakers. Start with a good source first.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
I suggest that maybe you study up bit