Integrated with DAC or Powered Speakers for Desktop Computer Listening


I'm trying to assemble a good sounding (but budget) system for my home office desk.  The speakers need to be on the smaller side, due to space concerns.  I would have room for a component on the desk, but would prefer a smaller footprint.  My main intent is to play music from my iMac computer.  I have two hard drives full of CDs that I had ripped as FLAC files in the past, and a large iTunes library.

I've read a lot about powered speakers for the desktop (Vanatoo, Kanto TUK, etc.) and they might end up as the right solution.  Alternatively I'm wondering if buying an integrated amp with a DAC and using some old Anthony Gallo Due speakers might be a better solution.  The Due speakers have a small footprint and worked well in an older TV room set-up we had years ago.  

Am I right in thinking that picking an option with a DAC will sound noticeably better than simply running it from an aux cable?  If so, I think I would need to pick an alternative with a USB input, correct?  Many of the 'computer-friendly' powered speaker systems now have a USB input, and some of the integrated amps do as well.

If the integrated amp is a better solution, I've researched the PSAudio Sprout 100, the Audiolab M-One, the Rotel A12 and the Parasound New Classic 200.  Would any of these be better or worse, or do you have other suggestions?  

I appreciate your help!
Ag insider logo xs@2xazkeith
I really like the NAD 3020D as a tiny digital integrated.

Best,

Erik
I have used the KEF LS50 on a desk and it was not ideal. I even put them on isoACCOUSTIC stands which improved the sound because it raised  the speakers from the the desk.

Today if I was to put something on my desk again I would try the powered KEF LS50W Meta. These have DSP for desktop situations. It is also supposed to be better than the old LS50,which I still love. The other KEF option I would consider is the LSX (I think) that is also a powered speaker but smaller than the LS50W.

If you have the space consider putting the speakers behind you. It works rather well. Take a look at my home office photo on my Virtual Systems page. I have 6 monitors connected to 1 computer and still have perfect sound.

As an FYI - I moved my KEF LS50 to another room and bought a Benchmark AHB2 amp to drive it. I love this combo.
I have found that an external DAC, when the file source is internal or external hard drives, is my preferred option. I use a USB powered hub to avoid noise from computer electronics. Currently waiting on a Furman power strip to quiet it further.

Anyway I have 
JRiver Media Center 27> HRT Streamer HD USB DAC> NHT PC Passive Volume Control> KRK Rokit 8 sub>ADAM Audio T7V monitors.

Waiting on a Luminous Audio Axiom II preamp to be able to use the HRT Streamers (and KRK and ADAMS) balanced inputs and outputs.

I decouple the monitors with Auralex foam.

Very happy with this setup, hoping the tweaks of the Axiom and power conditioning clean things up even more.

I plugged my computer into outlet on different phase (I use WiFi). Digital transmission may produce timing jitter that will translate to added noise, proportional to signal and present only when music is present, causing loss of clarity (during gaps it is completely silent). Should your PC be built for this purpose - it depends. If you use WiFi then computer doesn't matter (I use it for other tasks while playing music). Same goes for Ethernet o 192.168.0.1 r USB. Slower computer might be even better polluting less (lower speed, lower power). With S/Pdif it might be better to dedicate computer to this task only. You will have to experiment, but people reported better results with faster dedicated computer, free of other tasks.