I want to build a hi fi system around my Macbook Pro, using iTunes. My budget is £500 and I mainly listen to classical music. Where do I go from here? Any suggestions would be most appreciated.
To be honest, you can build pretty much any system your budget will allow around a Macbook! First things first, do you have anything which could be used or any pre-conceptions on what you would like e.g. traditional amp and speakers, powered / active speakers, external DAC etc. etc. or are you genuinely starting from scratch?
Secondly, do you need the Macbook Pro to be remote from the hifi and / or yourself i.e. would you be looking for the Macbook to be connected directly into the system, or to stream to the system wirelessly? And how would you look to control what music you wanted i.e. direct from iTunes on the Macbook or remotely? If remotely, do you already own a smart device (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android phone etc.) which you could use to control it, or would this need to be included?
Hi Gabrielle, and welcome. Can I ask a question first; are you happy for the Macbook to be tethered to the system or would you like it to be wireless? The wireless option may be in danger of breaking your budget, though not necessarily...
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Many thanks for these quick replies!
I am genuinely starting from scratch and don't have an fixed ideas. I can control the Mac by my iPhone. I don't mind plugging in my Mac, but can see the point of wireless as well. Basically, I'm keenest on whatever gives the best sound.
Right. Well if you don't mind plugging in your Mac, I'd be inclined to spend your money where it will benefit sound rather than adding wireless functionality (which basically means adding an Airport Express for a hundred quid or so, which you can always do later).
Therefore, I'd be inclined to buy:
A DAC (digital-to-audio-converter, to improve the quality of audio output from your Mac);
If it were me I'd probably be looking at something like a Marantz PM6004 and a pair of Wharfedale Diamond 10.1s and a modest DAC like the CYP DAC just to isolate the audio from your noisy laptop. This would leave you a few quid left over for stands (essential) and cables (no need to push the boat out).
An alternative would be to replace the DAC and amp with the Onkyo TX-8050 which has a DAC built in; I can't speak for it myself but it's getting rave reviews from some respected members here (matthewpiano I know has a strong focus on classical and is running one with some Quad 11Ls to good effect).
Of course, there's always second hand, which could reap great benefits if you know what to look for...
IMHO £500 won't be sufficient for playing classical (unless you go for headphone). I'd look at a set of AVI ADM9T speakers with their own DAC and amp, just connect to the digital audio line out of the MacBook and your away, for about £1200
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Another option would be to go with an amp with built in AirPlay - this will allow you to stream music direct from iTunes (so Macbook doesn't need to be tethered to the system). The Marantz MCR603 is an example of a mini hi-fi system which does this and they're offering a free upgrade for the AirPlay system at the moment according to the website. This obviously has the benefit of playing standard CDs, standard FM and DAB radio, internet radio + USB port etc. for more flexibility in the future. If you really only want music from your Macbook, there's probably a better option with less functionality, but it's worth a thought.
Richer Sounds are doing a deal on this and some speakers which fits into your budget (clicky), like the Mission MX1s or the Dali Zensor 1s (though you'd need a bit extra for cables and stands unfortunately). Make sure you go take a listen first though!
I disagree, my system is OK for most classical music, it still isn't up to reproducing a full orchestra playing Mahler and the only item less than £500 was the cables
Perhaps not for your own lofty standards oh great one, but I think there are plenty of people who somehow manage to listen to and enjoy classical music on systems costing less than £500...
To add another option, take your MBP along to a pro-audio store and go listen to some active monitors. Plenty of options in your price range, Yamaha, Mackie, Genelec, KRK, Alesis and M-Audio to name a few. Better bang for your buck than 'traditional' hifi [IMO]
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Airport Express + Audio Engine A5 would get my vote as a "starter" system. Otherwise, I'm a little jealous of Onkyo 8050 owners as it seems the perfect piece of kit.
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OK - now I'm really getting confused. There are so many different options. If I increased my budget to £750, would that make these decisions any easier.
Thanks for all your suggestions though - you are all being tremendous help.
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