Single Status Update
Since I know some of you enjoy the occasional hardware discussion, I'll talk a little about my Christmas hardware purchases. A new SSD, and a desktop chip amp!
First, the SSD. My main drive unfortunately being a low RPM caviar green, I decided that a little SSD speed would be more in line with the rest of my current specs. This is my same build from 2009, slowly upgraded; a 3.1ghz quad core Phenom II, 8 GB of (DDR2 lol) ram, and a Radeon HD6950 2gb. I had discussed the option of getting an SSD with Huy when I was initially looking to set this computer up but it was prohibitively expensive then and not in line with my $400 initial budget.
Having finally taken the step however, WOW. I got a 120GB Sandisk Extreme, of course running it on 3GB SATA due to my motherboard, but still extremely impressive. Boot times, program loading times, everything, just snappy. Wasn't even a pain to reinstall windows. Back then Huy had mentioned that my game loading times wouldn't drastically improve, but for the few big games I can afford to put on the drive, the difference really is night and day. I highly recommend anyone building anything to get an SSD; low capacity drives are fine if you don't play modern games, but if you do, get as much storage as you can afford on your budget.
Also, some resources for anyone looking to tweak their SSD that I found helpful: http://www.overclock.net/t/1156654/seans-windows-7-install-optimization-guide-for-ssds-hdds Pick and choose the features that seem right for you, but the guide gives you enough information to tell if you want to apply each step and makes it all very easy to understand and execute.
Steam's extremely welcome feature that supports having multiple steam directories on multiple disks, just recently added, is making the whole process of reorganizing my library so much easier. It's almost mind boggling that it wasn't added sooner.
NOW, FOR AUDIO!
I was unfortunately without any audio equipment capable of pumping music through my bookshelf speakers after my move to California, as my receiver broke in transit. This has made me terribly sad for nearly a year. But all that has changed, with my new addition, the Topping TP30! This little sucker is about the size of a paperback book. It's a DAC, so it'll do all the digital conversion if your sound card sucks, and has an RCA input as well. It has speaker wire output, and a mini headphone jack in front.
It's designed to power high sensitivity, small bookshelf speakers, and it does its job quite well; when cranked up it has enough juice to fill my bedroom very nicely, though it won't blow the walls down. It's rated at about 15 watts per channel, though if you need a little more there are similar models in similar price ranges, though mostly analog only. The headphone jack does its job well, automatically cutting off the speakers when anything is plugged in, which is a rather nice feature in my book though some would prefer the option of having both. It powers my Beyerdynamic DT-770s decently, though it's much better than nothing, which is what I was using before.
In terms of sound, what it provides is very clean, and very neutral. Not excessively lively, definitely not rich and lush. More analytic in its approach. Which paired with my naturally rather boomy but positionally impeccable headphones makes it a great balance for gaming. The TP30 is unabashedly digital; no warm fuzzy analog vibes from this machine.
Overall, if you want to run bookshelf speakers rather than some crummy computer speaker setup, the TP30 is an exceedingly practical option, and pretty affordable at about $80 new. There are less expensive 'chip amp' options out there too, but most cheaper ones forego the headphone jack and USB DAC; the headphone jack for me was a necessity, and the USB DAC a very welcome bonus. The size, weight, simplicity, and next to negligible power usage compared to a full sized integrated amp or receiver means it just makes sense for someone wanting high quality audio from their computer.
But the bright blue LED ring around the volume knob makes me want to gouge my eyes out. That is all.
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Ah, good old Minimus-7s, the radio shack bookshelf speakers that have no business sounding as good as they do. I can certainly imagine that setup, sounds nice. I need to access the front of my Topping all the time though so I can't hide it. I might just open the box up and get rid of the LEDs, the on switch is enough of an indicator to me that it's working.
It's so nice to read a thread written someone who does it right for a change.
A chip amp like that is a great idea, I didn't even realise little amps like that existed, and so cheap. My receiver died ages ago and I ended up just buying some Logitech speakers from Staples. If I'd known about those things, I'd have bought one!
Just traded desks with someone else in the house and I finally have the space to get my triple monitors going again, and house the speakers in the back with more than enough room left over.
Simultaneously activating my integrated graphics and PCIe card was a lot harder than the last time around, when both had drivers from the HD4000 series. It was kind of funny, I had to make the machine BSOD to get it to eventually work.