Friday, August 1, 2008
Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Talk" @ 06:00 AM
My digital wall project continues, inch by inch, but I've run into a bit of a snag: I'm having a hard time deciding on which type of audio implementation would be the best fit. As a refresher, here's how the wall looks today (the electrician hasn't come yet):
The question is, what's the best audio solution? The LG plasma TV I picked looks gorgeous hanging on a wall, so I didn't entertain the notion of putting one of those surround-sound bars on the bottom for more than a nanosecond - that would just look hideous. I briefly pondered trying to get a 5.1 system set up, but that didn't last long: having to hack into my ceiling for the rear channels would be messy, and since this isn't the primary movie-watching location in my house, it's overkill. There's also the question of where to put the centre channel. So I settled on a 2.1 system, which will be much easier to wire. Ah, wires! I want no wires to be visible when looking at this wall, so I have to be smart about how I position the speakers.
I also have to take into account two audio sources: the Dell Studio Hybrid Desktop that I ordered a few days ago, which will play DVDs and videos off the network, and the Roku networked media player, which will be the primary source for music. Why not do everything through one player? The Roku is incredibly reliable, simple, and very fast to get going. The thought of powering up a computer, and turning on a plasma TV just to play some music strikes me as incredibly inefficient. So two audio sources it is.
The question then is what's the best 2.1 system for my needs? Two choices immediately sprang to mind: choice one is a set of powered Audioengine A5 speakers, which I really liked and I know would do a great job. I'd likely pair them with a sub-woofer (maybe the Audioengine AS8), and because the A5's have two inputs, they'll work for my needs. One issue is that the A5's have one input on the back, and one on the top. I think I can get around the problem of having a cable sticking out the top by getting an L-shaped cable, something that would connect to the top then go immediately flat. Any suggestions for something like that? I've seen them, and I have a short version, so I just need to track one down that's long enough. Having to run power to the speaker won't be much of a problem because I'll be putting the A5 speaker with the amp in it on the right side, which will be the location of the conduit - so I'll just have to get a panel to either run power directly off of, or a connection to the conduit so I can drop the power cable down to the bottom port. Both the Roku and the Dell desktop will be on the right side of the wall, so I won't have to worry about running more than one cable to the left side of the wall.
The second choice would be to get a set of Orb Audio speakers. Orb speakers sound great, and are very small - the size appealed to me because the A5's are going to stand out on the wall due to their size. Unfortunately, because the Orb Audio speakers aren't powered, that means I'd need to get an amp - and we all know how big your average amp is: huge. I thought I'd heard about small amps designed for connecting to a PC that are essentially external sound cards designed to run non-powered speakers, but I haven't been able to find anything in my searches. What I really want is a sub-woofer that has a built-in amp to power speakers - any suggestions on that front?
Ultimately I'm leaning pretty strongly toward the Audioengine A5 speakers - since 90% of the audio being played will be music, I think they'll deliver better overall sound than the Orb Audio speakers, and with the A5's I have less complexity because I don't need an amp. I haven't made any final decisions yet though, so I welcome any suggestions the Digital Home Thoughts community might have.
UPDATE: The digital wall project is complete. Read all about it!
Jason Dunn owns and operates Thoughts Media Inc., a company dedicated to creating the best in online communities. He enjoys photography, mobile devices, blogging, digital media content creation/editing, and pretty much all technology. He lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada with his lovely wife, and his sometimes obedient dog. He's really hoping this digital wall project turns out as nice as it looks in his head.