Recently I blew a fuse and threw out my 80lbs Onkyo receiver together with the entire THX surround sound system. Okay, I did not literally throw that stuff out the window but instead sold it all for two-point-something grand. What had happened?
There were several reasons:
- I wanted to reorganize my apartment and the rear speakers were in the way.
- I don’t need surround sound; a good stereo image is much higher on my list. Really, surround sound sucks you into what’s happening on screen? Try a good story.
- I wanted to reduce my footprint, including power consumption. That Onkyo receiver was crazy power-hungry. Even when idle, you’d almost burn your fingers if you touched it. The next thing to go is the Samsung 52” plasma TV. That thing also doubles as a heater. I measured its consumption and when the image is bright, it eats well over 500 Watts. Think about that for a second. There’s no way you can power that with a treadmill. You’d need a horse to generate that kind of power. You’d also have to build a contraption that couples the horse with an electric generator.
- Apple TV is horrible for throwing a party. No sound is just as bad. It’s the music playing (or not) that makes all the difference and determines if the party still is in full swing at 2 am or you already have the cleaning lights on at half past midnight. At every party there will always be people who want to play something from their smart phones. That’s fine, but under no circumstances do I want to interrupt the music. So I wanted to have multiple inputs for that kind of devices, which can be faded in and out simultaneously.
I threw out my fancy surround sound system for this setup1:
I am now using a Behringer XENYX X1222USB mixer together with a pair of ADAM A7. They are amazing active speakers. I already had them but wasn’t using them often enough recently. Unfortunately, you can’t get them anymore, but above you can see the successor.
The price quoted is per speaker, not per pair, and they are totally worth it. My setup is that the TV out and two 3.5mm jacks (for smart phone, tablet) are connected to stereo sources. Video sources are connected to the TV, so whatever signal is playing on the screen will play on the audio out of the TV.
I find that this setup works really well. It sounds better than the previous surround sound system, even though that surround sound system was much more expensive. And using it is a lot more fun. I really like being able to adjust real faders. Sure, 100mm faders would be nicer still, but the tactile feel and responsiveness of 60mm faders is already much better than what any remote control could ever offer. Granted, the mixer is near the couch and desk, so your mileage may vary when trying to replace a home audio system with the setup I describe here.
The mixer also has a built-in USB audio interface. I have listened to a lot of music over this interface in the last couple of weeks and I have no complaints. Sure, there are better interfaces on the market, but this sounds great in my setup already.
When it comes to headphones, I like the more power-hungry kind like the ones you can see in the photo above. They sound amazing when connected to a decent headphone amp but flat, boring, and not loud enough when directly connected to a smart phone or laptop due to the impedance of the headphones. Read more about that topic here. All this is to say that I really like what I hear when I connect the headphones to the Behringer mixer.
Okay, this is my current audio setup. It is also great for working from home, I can either use the headphones or crank up the speakers until my ears hurt while coding.
I have some ideas on how to use the mixer closer to its originally intended purpose, but more about that another time. As the central hub for audio playback, it is already doing a really good job.