Most non-fatiguing 2.0 nearfield setup for $1000

Hello everyone, first-time poster here. This might be a little lengthy, but I won't mind if you skip over it if you just want to recommend some laid-back speakers, a good amp, or a good dac that might be lesser known. Anything is welcome. Like the topic suggests, I'm trying to put together the most non-fatiguing setup (DAC+amp+bookshelves) that I can and my maximum budget is around $1000. My goal is to have something that's less fatiguing than silence. Okay, I'm kidding, but I'm just generally looking for something that's laid-back, warm, perhaps somewhat mushy is not a bad thing in my opinion. I realize that ultimately my own subjective listening will determine what's best for me, but any input would be greatly appreciated.

Right now I'm using an early 90's entry level Harmon Kardon receiver with JBL bookshelves that have gone through hell. I don't think it's bad, and many would probably enjoy it but I find it to be too fatiguing, even with some EQ applied. I find this setup to be too harsh for my liking, not terribly bad, but I'd rather give them to my parents or my sister if I can't enjoy it to its fullest.

Lately I've been considering a Peachtree Decco as my source. Perhaps I could stretch for the Nova but I'd rather not as money is tight. I'm not a tube person but whenever someone mentions "tube" there seems to be an unwritten rule that it's warm (not the tube getting warm, or maybe that's what they meant! ;_;), even if it may not be universally true. If getting a separate DAC, I don't mind USB or digital out, though I understand some (most?) onboard audio doesn't have the best digital out so I may need to get an inexpensive sound card for this purpose. In general, it seems to me that I should just go with whatever DAC is neutral, and I'd probably be pleased with an Emu 0404 USB. Cheaper internal audio cards like the Auzentech Forte and Asus Xonar Essence ST from what I've read may or may not have internal noise and may or may not be bright sounding.

If I had to get a separate integrated stereo amplifier, I might just go for something cheap like the Gizmo t-amp or something vintage off of craigslist. If you have better suggestions I'm all ears.

Speakers. Here's the fun part and probably most important from what I gather. Right now I'm looking at Ascend Acoustics CBM-170 SE, Energy RC-10, PSB Alpha B1, Av123/Onix X-LS and ELT525 (I think I might prefer the X-LS more), Triangle Stella, or whatever cheap Spendor bookshelves I can get my hands on in the US. I might even go for some Paradigm Atoms which seem to be all the rage these days though they're both "bright" and "not-so-bright". It's hard to go by such a subjective descriptor in my opinion, plus I don't know if people sometimes refer to their older Atoms which are supposedly nowhere near the new ones. Well, this is basically a summary of where my one month of research has led me. I hope I did not bore you, though I'm sure it did since I'm so green at this. Any input, criticism, commentary, answers, questions are appreciated. Thank you.

Oh, I almost forgot, but should I bother with tube buffers? I had no idea what the heck one of these things were until recently, so I have not yet been able to do much research but if anyone has anything to say about them, I'm eager to learn. Thanks once again.
Warm and mushy, eh? Well, I think I may know what you mean, though they aren't exactly a very flattering pair of adjectives. Tubes are probably a very good thing just in terms of warmth. Laid back in nearfield is a tough one and may have more to do with the speakers you choose than anything else. I'd go with a tubed integrated amp, like a Jolida 102B, Sophia SET Baby (disclaimer: I am selling one of the latter), or other EL84 based small integrated. This should run you from $350-450. Tube buffer stages are not really necessary (I assume you are talking about a DAC buffer). Just get a tubed DAC. I would recommend an MHDT Paradisea (has one tube in the output stage for that warmth and, um, mushiness you are after). Actually the Paradisea is a very natural sounding DAC...I wouldn't really call it "mushy" at all, but I think it will fit what you're after in context. These go pretty fast, but if you are patient and vigilant you should be able to find one for about $400. I would not use a soundcard - an external DAC will give you better results IMO. Ideally you want to take that conversion outside of the noisy electronic environment of a computer chasis. OK, I've spent 800 bucks of your 1k...that only leaves 200 for speakers. There were a pair of Omega Compact 3i's up for sale here that would probably be a nice match with a low-power tube amp in nearfield. I think they were around $400 though. You'll need something efficient if you go with the tube amps I suggested. There's a Klipsch monitor that I have not heard that is supposed to be very good. I like their older stuff when Paul still had a hand in things, but haven't really heard that much of the new stuff that floats my boat, but their RB5 monitors are supposed to be very good. I've seen them for as little as $275 on the used market. I don't know if they'd be laid back or "mushy" though. I'll defer to someone else on that one. I would say the general sense I get from your description points to tubes. I'd try to find some better adjectives though :-)

Have fun!
You should seriously consider the pair of Spica TC60's on these pages. They have good bass and an excellent midrange and clarity that you don't find at this price. They are discontinued but they mate well with solid state and tubes. You may also want to find a Scott Nixon Tube DAC to use on a DVD or CD Player like an Oppo and you will be pleasantly surprised. A very good tube integrated amp like the Onix SP3 MKII will truly surprise you as well. All the components mentioned perform above it's price point. I have lived extendedly with all the above items.
Good Luck
I assume you are going used based on your needs and budget. The Decco does fine and would not introduce any fatigue. I have used on with very revealing Epos M16is and it does well so a wide variety of speakers would work well with it. I find it too warm with matching Era D4s however. Another good option is to go with a solid $400 used integrated like a Puccini or Cambridge 640AV2, a Music Streamer + for $300 (awesome DAC for the $ BTW) and Era D4s at $350 used (little over budget but insanely good system). I have this set up with a Mac Mini and it is very musical and non-fatiguing. Going with the Decco used would afford you larger speakers for the balance of funds but nearfield, the Eras would be a great choice.
I'd second the Era's - great speakers - the 5's are even better if you can afford the extra $. McFavre4 - don't they require a bit more power (they are fairly inefficient, aren't they?). Another good choice in an SS integrated is a used Rega Brio 3 if you can find one.
spica 50 or 60
You're right, mushy, is a bit weird, how about buttery? :D

Thanks for all the suggestions, I'll have more time tommorrow to sort through them all and see what's currently for sale.
Okay, right now the only Spica speakers up for sale here are local pickup only, and the Era D5s have been sold. I'm wondering if my ears are even good enough to tell the difference between the D4 and D5 but it seems that the 5s might be a little smoother and less bright (not that I have even read anywhere that describes the D4 as bright). D5s are not sold brand new anywhere on the internet, right? I see one on ebay (hope the mods don't mind me mentioning this) but it's probably not an authorized dealer and it's not in black. Nearest dealer to me is over an hour away unfortunately (hey, at least it's in the same state).

For the dac and amp, the Peachtree looks to be the best bet for now but if I could score an MHDT Paradisea and one of the other amps suggested that would be sweet too.

Well, thanks for the help once again folks; the hunt continues :).
For the dac and amp, the Peachtree looks to be the best bet for now but if I could score an MHDT Paradisea and one of the other amps suggested that would be sweet too.

Beware that some of this stuff doesn't mix and match well. You do need to pay attention, specifically to the combination of amp and speakers. The Era Designs are great speakers - the 5's go lower and have a bit more impact overall, to my ears, than the 4's do. Spica TC50's are classics and available inexpensively. I don't think you can get drivers for them anymore so if you blow a driver you'll have to get it repaired. I owned Spica TC-50s for many years and I would definitely NOT call them warm, laid back, or mushy. They are lively speakers and outstanding imaging speakers, but they are more on the side of neutral. It certainly would not occur to me to use them nearfield as they are pretty large. Don't get me wrong, great speakers, especially mounted to good stands. Like the Era's they'd require some muscle to push as I don't recall them being that efficient. So if you go for an Era or Spica you will need a more powerful amp. The Nova would be fine for either. The amps I recommended early on would definitely NOT be fine as they are lower powered tube amps that are better suited to more sensitive speakers.
Thanks, sometimes I read that the wpc on tube amps can be misleading but I don't have any sort of intuitive grasp on how much juice I would need for any particular speaker. I think the Decco amp is made by the same people that make the Era Design 5 so I figured they might be a good match even if they aren't very efficient, but it's no good to just assume.

The Peachtree Nova looks like a great long-term investment, but it's going to make my wallet cry. In my previous post when I said "Peachtree" I meant the nova :).
System 1:
Musical Fidelity V-DAC (sweet) $299
Audioengine A5 powered speakers $325
Total system cost about $650 with shipping

System 2:
Cambridge Audio Dac-Magic (neutral) $425
Audioengine A5 powered speakers $325
Total system cost about $800 with shipping

System 3:
Music Hall DAC 25.2 (warm) $595
Audioengine A5 powered speakers $325
Total system cost about $1000 with shipping

I like making sure the front end is holding up its end of the bargain. The Audioengine's sound great and the better the feed, the better they sound.
More traditional systems:

System A:
Musical Fidelity V-DAC (sweet) $299
NAD C-315BEE Integrated Amplifier $349
PSB Alpha B1 Bookshelf Speakers $279
Total system cost about $980 with shipping

System B:
Musical Fidelity V-DAC (sweet) $299
Cambridge Audio Azur 340A Integrated Amplifier $349
Cambridge Audio S30 Bookshelf Speakers $219
Total system cost about $920 with shipping

System C:
Musical Fidelity V-DAC (sweet) $299
Fatman RED-i Integrated Amp w/Speakers and iPod Dock $599
Total system cost about $950 with shipping

I really recommend you check these out if possible. Great near-field listening for under a grand.
Thanks, I'll check those out. The Fatman RED-i Integrated Amp looks pretty damn cool, and I've never even seen it before.
For some time now I planned for my PC a pair of LS3/5A's, a nice D/A converter/preamp and a B&K ST-140. I recently heard a set of Michael Kelly-designed Peachtree D4's make LS3/5A's sound like a boom box by comparison. So convinced, I just finished putting this together:
$700 Peachtree Audio D4's canted back on Tiptoes
$170 ASUS Xonar Essence ST/STX soundcard
$150 (eBay) NAD 3225PE Integrated
Kimber PBJ's

It came in at a pinch over $1K. The system has been burning in a week now, and in the nearfield anyway, it is more transparent and revealing than my all-Arial main system based on 10T's. Not "sweet" so much as stunningly transparent and neutral, but not as a characteristic so much as a means by which the emotional content of the music is communicated, along with every vivid detail within. I wound up listening to all my fav recordings, some making me tear up afresh. I will likely upgrade the NAD one day to a B&K ST-140 and use the PC as a digital "preamp". (That'll yield some sweetness!)
PC USB out to HRT II+ DAC to NHT passive volume controller to HT M00 powered speakers. Compact, accurate, punchy, non-fatiguing and actually can image reasonably well flanking a double flat screen set up.
The dates in this thread are old but you may be here for the info so I'll post my pinion. You can see reviews for these components on and several relevant blog posts including one about tube buffering digital-sourced music.

Disclosure: I'm an Audioengine Authorized Dealer, passionate audiophile, and blogger. My orientation is having fun squeezing out the most performance I can per dollar. I build systems and listen to everything I sell. I will allow you a 30 day audition if you buy Audioengine stuff from my web site. Then you can judge for yourself.

For this spec, I highly recommend a set of Audioengine A5+ powered studio monitor speakers. A monolithic amp is built in so that eliminates the need for an external amp. These speakers are neutral and transparent assuming good input. Also very powerful for the size and with excellent bass response. These speakers are supreme best buys and should cost 3X the asking price or more -- $399 to $469 depending on the finish. If your budget allows, add an Audioengine S8 Sub for greater bass extension and power ($349.)

Audioengine D2 Wireless DAC -- It has the wonderful Burr-Brown PCM1792A 24 bit DAC chip. D2 takes optical or USB input. The wireless ability is phenomenal. Works without dropouts or noise and does not burden your home network, it sets up its own. My D2 transmits through 4 walls, 2 of which are solid, steel reinforced concrete. The wireless and optical aspects provide good isolation. Cost $599 and you can add more receivers to set up a total of 3 audio zones within 100 ft. radius.

With a wireless DAC you are not confined to having your computer (or digital source) close to the speakers. It can be 100 ft. away.

This setup will make all your music reach it's highest potential whether you play lowly Mp3's or 24/192 digital files.

If your budget is tight, back off to the Audioengine D1 DAC at $169. This makes your system a tabletop or rack setup but the cost is only $169 and you still get a nice DAC chip -- the Asahi Kasei AKM4396, a sweet sounding 24 bit item.

The Decco is a waste of money though it sounds good. Instead, get a Bravo Audio Ocean Tube headphone amp ($125) and use it in the signal path as a tube buffer (preamp.) Upgrade to a premium 12AU7 tube and you'll never hear the source as digital. The tube creates great smoothness and mellow sweetness without adding the usual faults of tube amplification. Totally non-fatiguing music results.

One more thing: this is not nearfield only. The nearfield aspect is available for sure. But these A5+ Speakers can power a good-sized room of 350 sq ft or more.

Non fatiguing? You bet, listen all day to this like I do every day. Questions? Other concerns? Check out to get answers and discover the best of computer audio.

Enjoy the music.
Sorry to beat up on an old thread but I cannot resist.

1. AE D1 as DAC and Pre-amp ( $169.00)
2. Adam Audio F7 ( $800.00).

Simple and straight forward. I use them as my nearfield listening system. IMac is my media server.