ProAcs or B&W--Not hifi experienced, but luv music

I have a 5K budget for a compact system. I have looked at three systems. The 4K setup is a Linn Classik w ProAc Tablette Signatures. The 6K one is Rotel receiver w/ B&W 805s w/a Mac Book as the CD player and a Benchmark digital to analog converter. The store is giving me a discount on demo stuff. I would be willing to spend the extra $$$ as that includes a notebook, on-line radio, etc. I like both of these. The third option is B&O at 5K. This is pretty but the the sound doesn't justify the $$$. I enjoy listening to international, classical, putamayo, jazz, latin. Which do you think is the better system?
What happened when you listened. Those are totally different speakers (forget about the rest of the setup for a while and focus on the speakers). What did you like and dislike about each? This should be driving your choice, not what we think.

Either speaker is a good choice, but very different. Oh, about the B&O, that choice will really limit you in the future. It's fine for background music and for making a style statement, but not really good for serious music.

Why get a MacBook when an iPod Classic (80 or 160GB) will do everything you need for playback (use LossLess if you care at all about sound). You only need the computer if you don't have one and you don't need to go Mac merely to load an iPod. It's a poor choice for playing CDs as many good players are available for way less. In fact, I'd suggest a universal player, like the Pioneer DV 58AV or Oppo, so you have the option of higher resolution and multiple formats, beyond what the Mac or a CDP could do.

Keep in mind, you don't have to buy everything in one place. If you want the Linn and the B&Ws you can buy each separately.

Follow Dave’s advice!

Look at something like a Decware Select Zen Taboo model SE84TS (Tube Integrated) @ $1K, Decware HDT (High Definition Tower) Single Driver Speakers @ $1.7K w/Macintosh: MacBook @ 1.3K & buy good ICs & Speaker Cables. All told, about $4K. Not everyones cup of tea but I doubt you’d find something more musical near the price.
Dave, I think you are mistaken about using an Ipod as a source. Unless you are talking about buying the new Wadia Ipod digital music extractor and routing that to a good DAC, the output on an ipod is limited to analog using the Ipod's internal DAC. That will pale in contrast to getting digital out of a computer (e.g. thru USB) and converting it with a good d/a converter like the Benchmark. I agree with your comment about tuning in to the speakers though.

J4Tonks - I don't know the retail value of these items. If you are only going to listen to digital, I would can the Rotel receiver and see if he can hook you up with a good amplifier that can work well with the volume control on the Benchmark. Benchmark now offers a preamp version of their DAC - I think that meants that it has analog input, and you could use that for your preamp. Do focus on the speakers, the Proacs and the B&W's are very different.
I'm listening as this is all new to me. I have learned to focus on the speakers. I like the B&W as the ProAcs seem to be a little light in bass. However the B&W 805s that I listened to didn't work together at first. I'm going back to listen again. This is very confusing, but I think I will piece all this together, if you can help. Thanks. Jane
By the way -- I wanted the Mac and hard drive so I could store my music and to listen to internet radio. Please keep up w/the advise. I need it. Thanks, J
03-31-08: J4tonks said:
"I'm listening as this is all new to me. I have learned to focus on the speakers. I like the B&W as the ProAcs seem to be a little light in bass. However the B&W 805s that I listened to didn't work together at first. I'm going back to listen again. This is very confusing, but I think I will piece all this together, if you can help."

OK Jane, you are hearing like the rest of us. The Tablettes have exceptional midrange and highs, but they give up some bass in exchange for their small size. The problem with the B&Ws was that they were probably very poorly placed in the dealers listening room. Maybe, if you ask, the dealer will let you hear them placed better in a room without so many other speakers. You evidently were able to listen through and hear their fundemental goodness. I guarantee that they'll sound better in your home.

What music will you be listening to? Do you already have a CD collection? Are you really serious about your music, or a casual listener? Do you carry an iPod or iPhone or similar device?

Dave -- Do you think the ProAcs are better? They were shipped for me, since they are signatures, but I don't know if the retailer would let me take them to listen to next to the B&Ws then return if I like the B&W better. Thanks, Jane
Jane, I would say this: take your time, don't feel pressured in to anything. In this day and age, when so much hifi gear is sold used (on this site), your dealer is lucky to have a client who wants to work with him in the traditional way. He should certainly be accomodating.

The 805's are very nice speakers. Do they come with stands - they should - and they should be set up a bit "out" in the room. I'm not too sold on the Rotel receiver - I think you could do better. I think you want a warm sounding amplifier, not too sterile, with the B&W's. As I said before, if you are purely listening to digital and internet radio, you can use the Benchmark as your preamp. I think the Benchmark is a bit sterile sounding, all the more reason to get a warm sounding amplifier.

Not sure what you mean about the 805's not working together. That's a bit of a red flag - please explain. Also, be aware that the Benchmark has had a few iterations over the years, and the newest version is the best. I don't know how old the dealer's demo is, but this is something to consider.

Finally, make sure you rip your music to the hard drive using a lossless format, such as FLAC or Apple Lossless (for itunes). You will want to buy an external hard drive (they are cheap) to back up all your music.

Hope that's not too much information. Peter
03-31-08: J4tonks said:
"Dave -- Do you think the ProAcs are better? They were shipped for me, since they are signatures, but I don't know if the retailer would let me take them to listen to next to the B&Ws then return if I like the B&W better."

Oh! Generally I prefer ProAcs to B&Ws, since I'm very critical of the midrange and highs. They really get female voice and trumpet (I play trumpet) right and I'm very sensitive to that. I was trying to let you direct us rather than impose our priorities on you.

The ProAcs are less forgiving than the B&Ws; therefore, I'd never pair them with a laptop-based front-end. If you're critical, then you'll want a CDP or universal player (my preference). You'll need a good amp, since the ProAcs will reveal ANY weakness in your chain; however, it'll reward a well set up system. (The Linn/Rotel will likely jump that hurdle)

Ok, I'll spill all. I think the first dealer, with the ProAc/Linn/Rotel system is steering you to better sound. I was concerned however that you might want more bass. Personally, before I could afford true full-range speakers, I opted for small monitors with exceptional midrange and imaging (no longer available Celestion SL-600). The ProAcs fill that bill, but you'll sacrifice bass extension. I wanted to hear what you said about the B&Ws first.

The ProAcs driven by the system they're driving the B&Ws with will sound harsh and thin, so a side-by-side will be futile. What you really need is the B&Ws in the Linn/Rotel system for a valid comparison.

So, your priorities are what's important. Both speaker systems are valid and neither would be a "mistake"; however, if it were me, I'd go for the ProAc/Rotel/Linn system and make the computer purchase a separate decision.

Try a used pair of ProAc 1sc's on good stands. They are the signature ProAc sound. I think you will like them and not consider any of the current ProAc's or B&W. I have ProAc 140's and 1sc's. The latter sound better then the 140's, you figure.
The dealer was going to help me set up the Mac so I didn't drop much data in my copy. I do not own any MP3s as I don't care for the sound quality. I have my music turned up in my car and have it on in my room constantly. I want to listen to internet radio -- hence the Mac. I enjoy putamayo, classical, jazz, international and some opera. I want to hear the swish on the drum and the slide of fingers on the guitar so I guess I can be serious a serious listener.
I'm working w/two dealers. One has the Linn w/ProAcs and the other has the Rotel w/B&W. I'm going to borrow some demo Tablettes and compare them w/the rotel & B&W 805 system. I think the second dealer will allow that. However I don't think the first dealer will let me test the signatures and I'm afraid I'll go w/B&W because the tablettes will be light on the bass.
Regarding the 805s -- I had read on the internet that they 'don't work together'. I had noticed when the dealer set them up and I listened close to the speakers that I heard bass from one and the rest from the other. Then I backed up and they sounded OK. So I'll be focusing on that issue when I hear them again. A big red flag... Again -- Thanks, Jane
Don't evaluate with your ear near a speaker. The larger the speaker the more discontinuity you'll hear. Back up to the listening position.

Take some of your favorite most complex music (with lots of things going on) to test coherance. If things "don't work together" you won't be able to pick out details within a large group or things will seem slightly muddied or unfocused. Really good systems let you hear the details, not with just solo classical guitar, but when lots of things are going on.

Don't be embarrassed to go back a couple of more times. You'll learn more and more as you realize what to listen for.

That's what I hear with sony, bose, b&o -- no clarity within a complex piece. When the flute comes it, I want to hear it clearly and not as a flat sound -- I want to hear the wind.
Peter or Dave -- could you recommend a good receiver to go w/the B&W 805? I'm not sure I'd have the guts to purchase Decware Select Zen Taboo. But...
After re-reading all this I get the impression that the ProAcs might be the better choice. I don't need a big bass sound. J
On the internet radio front, you may want to investigate a decent USB sound card/DAC unless someone here can vouch for the Mac's internal sound card. Also, at least on my Windows laptop, the difference in sound between running the laptop on battery versus AC is not a subtle one (much lower noise), so a higher value battery may be a wise investment. There are many great internet radio stations out there to listen to. My favorite is Radio Paradise's 128k AAC feed.

The other advantage of a laptop in your rig is using a desktop as a remote server for your laptop via wifi and iTunes.

No experience with either speaker -- maggies and tubes here.

Good luck
Yes, you sound more like a Tablette person to me. Have you seen this review of the Classik?:
I think it would handle the B&Ws also very well.

I know that I'd prefer the Linn/ProAc system more.

Remember - Jane is talking about using a Benchmark DAC with the laptop. This means it is either a USB Dac, or there is a USB->SPDF converter involved. In either case, she should be able to get sound atleast as good as a CD player with that setup, as long as she uses a lossless digital format for storing music. The internet radio won't sound as good, but what the hay - if you like the musical selection, enjoy it as you can (I enjoy streaming recorded grateful dead concerts and the sound doesn't bother me). So Jane - don't worry about your source if you are using the Benchmark and a laptop. Also, Apple is a better choice than PC. So you're good on that. I would also say that there are other USB DACs that may even better the Benchmark for less money - such as the Paradisea available on Ebay ($650). The problem is, when asking for opinions on this site, you are going to get referred to gear your dealer doesn't sell, and it sounds like you are already committed to working with the dealer.

Why do you need a receiver? Can you get by with just digital sources? If so, find a good solid state amplifier that has a warm sound (to compliment the more analytical sound of the B&W and the Benchmark), and that has a good impedence match with the Benchmark. I don't have a suggestion - you might want to search for some threads on the B&W here on agon to get recommendations. But what if they are amps that your dealer doesn't sell?

In the above case, you are using the Benchmark's volume control as your preamp. Just digital input. No FM tuner. What do you think?

So, you are going to have to choose. Either give us a list of what your dealer sells, or be open to buying other stuff beyond what your dealer sells. If it were me, and I didn't need FM radio, I would go for the laptop, buy a Paradisea USB DAC on Ebay, get the B&W's, and get a complimentary integrated amplifier for the B&W's.

All the Best, Peter

PS - I probably would miss the bass!

PPS - Can you make your dealer still happy by buying some stuff from them, and go elsewhere for other???
Here is a thread for integrateds to go with the 805 signature. Similar amplifier manufacturers may apply to the 805:

You may also consider tube amplifiers. I haven't heard the Tablettes - but most importantly, go with the sound you like!
Yes -- I saw the Classik review. I had that delivered, but the dealer made a mistake in color (a girl thing -- plus Linn has stopped production of the black) so I may just look for demo/used equipment. I'm going to listen to both the ProAcs and B&W on the Rotel tomorrow and let you know what I think of sound. I'll ask the b&w-rotel dealer if he'll let me mix and match from other dealers. I just may back off and take my time. Thanks, J
I believe what I may do is purchase equipment that is used/on consignment/refurbished. I'll look for the Linn Classik, a pair of ProAc's 1sc, a Paradisea USB DAC, and a Mac Book w/seperate hard drive for internet radio and music storage. Tiger/anyone else -- why do you like the 1sc better than the signatures. And Peter -- is the Paradisea really better than the Benchmark and please explain. Dave -- what do you think about any of this? The reason I went w/the signitures is that I'm working in an area that is longer than one room and I wanted the speakers to 'throw the music' without me having to turn the volume up as I leave that one room. I know I'm being reduntant w/the CD players being in both the Classik and the Mac, but I wanted the flexibilty to allow my 17yr. to borrow the Mac. Do you think I can pick up good, slightly used product here? Is there anything else I'll need? Thanks for your input, Jane
Where can I find a Paradisea USB DAC? I've looked on Ebay and on-line. Help, JAne
Hi Jane,

I have heard the 1sc's, and I (personally) like them alot. I'm not sure you will get their full effect when you are working, far away down the long end of the room, but when you are sitting closer in, relaxing, their musicality and imaging should be wonderful. I'm not sure what matches them best - I think they like some power - so if the Classic isn't it, I might consider a Plinius integrated like the 9200 which has power and also beautiful midrange and just good all around. You'll need good solid stands for your Proacs.

I have owned both the Paradisea and the Benchmark DAC, and strongly preferred the Paradisea for its natural sound. I have compared it back to back with my (expensive) Electrocompaniet CD player, with no particular preference, both very good. I definitely like it more than the Benchmark, which I find a bit too detailed and cold. A friend of mine just bought the Benchmark on 30-day trial, I lent him my Paradisea, the rest is history.

One nice thing about buying the Paradisea is that you can use an external CD player for a transport. If you didn't buy the Linn and bought a Plinius integrated, you could buy an inexpensive CD player or DVD player as a transport (e.g. the Oppo which costs $200 and sounds quite good even on its own) and plug its digital out into the Paradisea as well. Both would use this exellent DAC.

Looking at system cost:

Proac 1sc $1200
Plinius $2200
Oppo $ 200
Paradise $ 650
Stands $ 250
Cables $ 250
Laptop $????
Hard Drive $ 130

The total is $4900 plus laptop. Maybe a cheaper integrated (though I'm sure the Plinius would be killer!).

In this system, the only things you'd need to buy used are the speakers, the stands, the integrated and maybe the cables. The CD player and DAC would be new. I think you run little risk by buying the speakers used, and if you choose your seller right, little risk with the amplifier. I do feel bad if I've steered you away from a dealer though - we need relationships with dealers, we need to support them, and people need the support that only dealers can provide. That being said, if you don't feel like you were getting to where you want with your dealers, that speaks for itself. You'll need to decide between working with the dealer and buying online. One option would be to buy the Proac 1sc's and a suitable amp from the dealer.

Best of luck, Peter

Take a moment to visit a local Guitar (music) store. Audition some active speakers in their home studio setup and see if you find something you like. A lot of musicians use these type compact speakers with Mac's and PC's. They will not have the models you mentioned but you will find a great variety of compact systems - typically they carry a dozen "monitor" brands such as KRK, Dynaudio, Genelec, Adam, Focal, NHT in prices ranging from a few hundred to around $4500 for a pair of the Genelec 8050A (which is simply awesome). Remember this includes the amp which is built into the you could even consider the Genelecs on your budget.

To me when you buy gear it should be a no brainer - i.e. you should just absolutely love the sound...there should be no question or doubt. Reading between the lines, I just don't get the impression that you are all that enamoured with anything you have heard so far... and playing one speaker against one other speaker is not likely to get the optimum equipment for your tastes (just the better of two speakers - obviously). You may also find a less structured sales pressured enviroment for listening especially if you find a young musician working in the store to help you out and you bring your own CD's. Just a thought even if you simply use it as another data point...
Hi Peter,
I found some Proac 1sc in the cherry -- so that is exciting. What is the Oppos for $200 and what is that for? I don't want to put a system together and find I'm missing something. I still haven't found the Paradise -- looked on e-bay, too. But thanks -- you've been a great help. Shadorne -- what an excellent idea! I'll do that tomorrow. Thanks everyone, Jane
The Oppo is a universal disc player CD/DVD/SACD/DVD-A/mp3 etc. It does two-channel or video. It's a very good value.

Dcstep: The Oppo is a universal disc player
CD/DVD/SACD/DVD-A/mp3 etc. It does two-channel or video. It's a very good

Check "completed listings" and search for "Paradisea". Make sure you get the spelling right. If there are none on there currently, he will list some soon. Just buy one using "buy it now". Here is one listing:

The Oppo is if you don't buy the Linn, then you want a CD player. It is a good value, and you can input it into the Paradisea DAC, it may sound even better that way. You can buy all your cables from Blue Jeans cables.
You can educate yourself on both the Oppo and the Paradisea by searching on those words in the forums. I believe Oppo has a new model out - you'll need to read up and figure out which one to get. It's also a great DVD player.
04-01-08: Aktchi asked?:


Not yet, but I bet it happens this year.

Thanks -- I'm going to another music shop this afternoon. Esp. thanks re: disk player. Don't want to spend $ on that and get junk. J
I found the Linn Classik on this site, but I'm not sure what I have to do to purchase it. Do I have to buy a membership and then bid on it, or do I just contact the seller via e-mail? Thanks -- Jane
I've sent for the Classik. Now I need the ProAc 1 sc's. I've seen the ad on this site, but if you folks hear of or know someone who's willing to let their 1sc's speakers go, please let me know. Not only am I listening to you, I'm hearing you. Thanks, Jane
Good luck Jane. Keep us informed of your progress. Peter