• Taz

My Bedroom HiFi System - Old Meets New!

I've never been happy with the sound quality of my bedroom speaker-based system so have recently decided to fix the sound. I have a very good headphones system in my bedroom, but sometimes I just don't want to wear headphones and prefer to listen to music through speakers. Over the years, amplifiers have come and gone and speakers have come and gone.

My requirements for a bedroom system are:

  1. Must be very compact as it's sat atop a chest of drawers;

  2. Must sound good at extremely low listening levels - this is a very tough ask!

  3. Must be fairly affordable - it's a bedroom system so I don't need high-end components;

  4. The system must have a touch of nostalgia about it rather than just consist of black boxes.

In late 2020, I found the amplifier for me: a 1970s Rotel RA-314 integrated amplifier.

It looks stunning, sounds pretty special and just has something about it that my modern amps don't have.

The sound is rich, smooth and sophisticated.

One of the line-level RCA inputs (Tuner) does not work possibly due to a bad solder joint, but I'm using it with an iFi Zen Blue Bluetooth receiver so I only use the Aux input.

My Android phone connects to the iFi Zen Blue over Bluetooth LDAC so the sound quality is pretty good. I'm running USB Audio Player Pro on my Android phone so it produces the best possible quality sound that the phone can produce (bit-perfect replay for local files and TIDAL streaming).

It's a nice mix of the 1970s with the 2020s.

So, that's the source and amplification side of things sorted. Let's talk about the speakers. I did have Q Acoustics 2020i speakers in place originally and they are exceptional budget speakers. Size-wise, they're also fantastic for a bedroom - very diminutive. The shape is unusual in that they are deeper than they are high. The sound is polite and clear.

But, there was something missing in the music for me: some nostalgia and musicality. I needed a step up in sound quality and musicality, but the size limitations were going to present a challenge in finding suitable replacement speakers. After a fair amount of research, I was given a suggestion: Dynaudio Audience 42 speakers. Looking into these, they get excellent reviews and, importantly for me, are as diminutive as my Q Acoustics 2020i speakers.

I managed to track down a pair in good condition. The only issue was 'dimpled' tweeter domes. Researching more, I found that this should not present an issue with sound quality.

I managed to pull out the dimples to some extent using very sticky tape folded over on itself and gently dabbing at the tweeter domes. If you try this on the tweeter domes of your own speakers, then you do so at your own risk! It worked for me, mostly.

Specifications for the Dynaudio Audience 42 speakers are as follows:

  • Frequency Response: 53Hz-23kHz +/- 3dB

  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 170x282x246mm (7"x11"x10")

  • Finishes available: Cherry, Rosewood, Maple, Ash - I have the maple finish

  • Cross Over Frequency: 1800Hz

  • Weight: 4.8kg each

  • Sensitivity: 86dB

  • Impedance: 4 Ohms (ranges from3.7-18.7 Ohms across the audio band)

It was the sensitivity and impedance that were of interest to me. In a bedroom I need to have the volume very low. This means that the amplifier volume control is barely moved from zero when then music becomes too loud with regular 8-Ohm high-efficiency speakers. With these less-sensitive speakers presenting a 4-Ohm load to the amplifier, I can drive the amplifier a little harder to it gets closer to its sweet spot.

The speakers were cleaned up and the cabinets polished with beeswax. Screws front and back were retightened very gently where they were a little loose. The binding posts were cleaned with Caig Deoxit G5.

These little speakers used to cost 850 USD per pair when they first went on sale many years ago, and were the entry-level speakers of the Dynaudio back then! That's some pedigree. They are built very solidly and are heavy for their size.

The fabric-dome tweeter is 28mm and the mid-woofer is around 150mm.

On the rear of the speakers are two gold-plated, recessed and slanted upwards. binding posts that take 4mm banana plugs.

There's also a flared bass port that is around 45mm in diameter - I have ordered 45mm aftermarket foam bungs to see if they make a positive different to the bass as I have the speakers positioned very close to a rear wall. Ideally, they should be positioned more than 50cm from a rear wall but I simply don't have any space available in my bedroom. I'm also going to experiment with toe-in, as well as grilles on and off.

The speakers are connected to the Rotel RA-314 amp using short lengths of QED 79-strand speaker cable, which is a good quality budget speaker cable, and also adds a touch of nostalgia to the system. The speaker plugs at the speaker end are Fisual Easy-Fix Banana Plugs, which are 24-carat gold plated and are an absolute bargain: 8 plugs for less than 10 GBP when I bought them in December 2020 from Amazon UK. They are also the easiest speaker banana plugs that I've ever worked with. Two small grub screws secure the speaker cable.

The speakers are placed on Nordell Audio's foam isolation pads (the small size). These were purchased from Amazon UK and cost 14 GBP for a pair back in November 2020. They decouple the speakers from the surface they are resting on and I have noticed an improvement in sound quality - the sound is slightly less boomy. These foam isolation pads are split and angled so that you can create a level, downward-sloping or upward-sloping base for the speakers. I have them set in their default level position.

So, my journey to build a small HiFi system for my bedroom is now at an end. I'm finally happy with the sound. The old has met the new and it sounds very sweet indeed.

It's been a journey of several years. I hope that you've found this article an interesting read. If so, please take a look at some of my other blog posts. Here's a link to the Home page of my site:


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