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18 March 2021    |    New products, Latest, Tutorials

Home Office Top Tips

KEF-LS50-Meta

LS50 meta

With clients having taken the recent lockdowns as an opportunity to improve their family entertainment systems, many are now exploring ways of adapting their home-office environments to suit the extended hours that they’re spending and working there.

Typically a Mac or laptop will be the “focal point” of such a space, however their shortcomings quickly become apparent when it comes to audio quality, simplicity and engagement.

music streaming interface

That’s not to say it’s all bad – many have taken their first steps into music and video streaming services whilst facing off with their iMac – but just about all have become quickly disheartened or just plain confused when they’ve looked at how to improve upon the multimedia quality and experience that their computer offers.

Fortunately, making things better and simpler is fundamental at Loud & Clear – after all we’ve been doing this with hi-fi systems, cinemas and smarthomes for over 25 years – and here we’ll apply our experience to make your workspace a much more involving place to be.

Frustrated-Zoom-Call-2

Better sound

As those who own a modern TV will attest, the sound quality from thin-screen displays generally ranges from poor to woefully unacceptable. Such problems are even more evident in computers, where even smaller speakers are expected to deliver a clear and dynamic sound for your Zoom and Teams meetings or for playing music to help you with your work.

And we know that, despite their limitations, the speakers are not the cause of the problem. Most computer audio is generated by a pretty nasty Realtek DAC/op-amp integrated circuit, itself buried in a motherboard full of noisy components and data buses. The audio will be sent through common networking, storage and processing conduits, often being degraded, distorted or lost along its travels. It’s actually a wonder we hear anything over the fans, power supplies and discs at all!

motherboard

Better then to “grab” the delicate audio signals as close to source as possible, quickly getting them out of their noisy computational environment and safely into something a little more suited to the task…

KEF LSX

KEF LSX

KEF LS50 Wireless II office

KEF LS50 Wireless II

KEF LSX and LS50 Wireless II

KEF provides USB and optical digital inputs on these active speakers, allowing us to intercept the digital audio signal from the computer, bypass its mediocre DAC and amplification circuitry and use something better. The LSX and LS50 Wireless II models employ commensurate digital to analogue conversion, similar to that found in a dedicated hi-fi products, before amplification modules power the drive units.

The amps and speakers are much larger than those found in a laptop, but sit neatly on a desk or on stands. Cabling and literature are included to get you up and running in minutes, turning ‘tinny’ PC audio into something more akin to a proper hi-fi system, letting you enjoy clear and dynamic conference calls (who are we kidding!) or lossless music streaming services like Qobuz, Tidal, et al.

KEF LSX   LS50 Wireless II

Totem Kin Play

Totem Kin Play

Totem Kin Play with Rega Planar 2

Totem Kin Play

Totem Kin Play

Canadian manufacturer Totem Acoustics employs a similar methodology to KEF in its active speakers, whereby delicate audio signals are captured from the computer before they become polluted by its noisy environment. Quality Digital-to-Analogue Convertors, pre-amplification and power amplification are built into the “master” Kin Play, which in turn feeds its internal drive units and those housed in the “slave” speaker.

In addition to optical digital, Bluetooth and analogue inputs, the Totem Kin Play is unique in featuring an integrated Moving Magnet phono stage, making this product the simplest and neatest should you wish to add a turntable to your office system. All cabling is included, and the Kin Plays are simple and quick to setup.

Totem Kin Play

If a pair of speakers atop your workspace isn’t viable we can help with an improved source for your headphones, again grabbing your audio source before it’s degraded by your computer’s hardware and software.

Or choose from a range of wireless, music-systems-in-a-speaker such as Naim Audio’s Mu-so & Mu-so Qb, Linn Series 3, Bowers & Wilkins Formation, Bluesound or Sonos.

Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 Digital

Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 Digital

Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 Digital

Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 Digital

Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 Digital

Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 Digital

Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 Digital

The Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 Digital has become a firm Loud & Clear favourite for use with headphones. This discrete unit effectively replaces your computer’s onboard soundcard for vastly improved playback quality when listening through headphones. Best connected to your PC or Mac using a quality USB cable, the Pre Box S2 derives your computer’s audio at source and employs its onboard DAC and amplification to deliver much clearer and more musical audio to the front-mounted headphone socket. Optical (TOSLINK) and SPDIF (coaxial) digital inputs are also included and can be selected via the front panel.

If you wish you could connect a power amplifier to the rear of the Pre Box and drive conventional speakers, however as a straightforward digital headphone amplifier we’ve heard nothing better at the price.

Naim Mu-so Qb

Naim Mu-so Qb

Naim Mu-so Qb

Naim Mu-so Qb

Naim Mu-so Qb

If a pair of active speakers leaves you too little desk real estate (we’re easing ourselves back into work-speak too!), Naim’s Mu-so Qb offers the perfect alternative.

Featuring a fully-fledged digital streaming engine (for your music streaming subscription service), Bluetooth and Airplay2 connectivity and an optical digital input (for your computer), the Muso Qb packs Naim’s famous audio quality into a beautifully crafted product measuring just 20cm cubed. The Qb produces far more weight and punch than those dimensions suggest so it’s capable of both rocking your room or adding clarity and definition to your Teams meeting. The Qb can also be integrated into a multiroom music system with other Naim components, giving you whole house “party mode”, or independent music streams to each room.

Naim Mu-so Qb