I've been looking forward to this column because we're finally approaching the crux of the audiophile effort: piecing together a system to deliver profound musical enjoyment.
These past few months, we've looked down several rabbit holes and learned about audiophile music and new digital music delivery methods, among a few other things. If you missed any of these "audiophile basics" columns, you can always catch up online by looking for me via the "columnists" link at coloradodaily.com.
Now that we're up to speed, we can see the important fork in the road. A fork with many tines — this is the decision that sends us on one of a multitude of possible directions.
It's the question that should precede any audio purchase, which is: "How do I want to experience music or sound? How does it fit into my life?"
The best way to find an answer is by looking at examples. Today's column will cover a common one: the audio needs of a serious gamer. Say you're a video game slayer with three or four monitors and a bitchin' rig, and you want to experience all that modern game development has to offer sound-wise.
Your head and ears are probably staying in one spot all the time while you play, meaning you can take advantage of the amazing "soundstage" of a properly set up pair of desktop or bookshelf speakers.
Sure, headphones are a natural option, especially if keeping the sound low for roommates or family is important. But headphones just can't deliver a natural stereo field like two speakers can, because they're firing straight into your ears and they don't blend.
Two speakers, set up properly, blend in front of your ears to create a 3-D field of sound. And with new tech available today, you can appoint a gaming desktop with amazing sound quality on a meager budget — if you know where to look.
By the way, I would argue against looking at "studio monitors" for your desktop gaming system. Studio monitors are meant for the studio, and they are designed to be ruthlessly accurate. Some are downright hard to please, and little through them sounds as musical or fun as it perhaps should.
Here are two ways to approach the desktop gaming system. You can buy speakers and an amplifier separately, or you can buy speakers with the amp built in. You can carefully place a good set of high-value desktops like the Elac B5.2 ($249), or you can lean on the modern DSP (digital signal processing) inside something like the Vanatoo Transparent Zero ($359) to get the frequency balance right.
If you go the first direction, you can power them with a little amp like the Marantz PM5005 ($499) and take the signal straight from your computer's sound card.
If the latter, you'd want to take a USB signal from your PC and let the Vanatoos do the digital number crunching.
Pair either of these with a subwoofer (a must for gaming) and you'll have both a riveting sound setup for your gaming and a halfway decent audiophile system as well.