Q I'm interested in putting together a system with excellent sound that can be controlled through a computer. I have several thousand CDs and am thinking of importing them all into iTunes using a couple of large hard drives for storage. My fantasy is to have a system with the Ohm speakers you recommend, controlled at my Barcalounger by an iPad.
Can a system costing $5,000 to $7,000 (not counting computer hardware) be put together where the music on the hard drives can be controlled remotely and played on a high-quality stereo system? And if so, what do you recommend?
A This is easier than you think, and similarly minded readers can scale down the cost with more affordable audio gear. Some people might already have everything they need.
For the computer, I recommend an iMac, because it has an optical digital audio output. Use iTunes to import and play the music, using AIFF or Apple Lossless Compression. This will retain 100 percent of the sound quality. There is a free app for iPad or iPhone called Remote that controls iTunes on your computer via your WiFi network. Put it all together, and you have a music server that can be controlled with your iPad or iPhone.
Use an optical digital audio cable to connect the computer to an audiophile-quality digital processor/preamp. I'd buy a used one since all you need is a unit that supports two-channel stereo through an optical digital audio input. Any Dolby Digital processor does that, and high-end models have depreciated like rocks because HDMI and the new lossless audio formats have made them obsolete for home theater.
A Proceed AVP processor/preamp sold for $4,600 when new but today sells for $500 at most. The computer and the Proceed AVP will deliver an audiophile-quality signal to your amplifier.
For the amplifier, check out Emotiva (www.emotiva.com) because it makes great amplifiers that are affordable. Two-channel stereo amplification will cost $389 to $729.
I own several pairs of Ohm speakers (www.ohmspeakers.com) and believe they are worth every penny for those who want the best. The handmade-in-the-USA speakers start at about $1,000 and use unique technology to create beautiful sound that seems real and has great presence. Get the Ohm Walsh 3000 ($4,000) or Ohm Walsh 4000 ($5,500), depending on your room size.
Without computer hardware but with the Walsh 3000s, Emotiva amp and used high-end processor you would be under $5,000. Even the Walsh 4000 system will come in comfortably under your $7,000 maximum. This system could be built on a much smaller scale, with a $1,000 pair of MicroWalsh Talls and a decent digital receiver for $500, for $1,500 total. It would definitely sound fantastic, but the big system would be nirvana.
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