Barna Mink’s Homepage - Audio Setup

Barna Mink’s Homepage - Audio Setup

On this page I will describe the equipment I use to listen to music; both my home system as well as my preferred headphones.

Home System

Though most people who see it are impressed by my home setup, it really is quite far from being an audiophile system. Most components are low end / entry level. I also don’t consider myself an audiophile – and just like everyone else, I marvel at the beauty (and expense) of true audiophile setups.

On the other hand, I did spend a lot of time thinking about and evolving this system to fit my preferences and – I think – have learned a good amount about audio systems. But, to repeat the disclaimer, I am not a “real” audiophile, nor am I a sound engineer.

Here’s a rundown of the features of the system:

The system consists of a turntable; an audio rack containing the amplifier, a mixer and other useful components; a pair of bookshelf speakers and a subwoofer. It sits on/in a table + audio rack that I built myself. BTW, it all is connected with cables I made myself.

The most important design principle of the system is that it is modular – I dislike using components that combine more than one function and boy, are there a lot of those around these days (receivers, powered speakers with bluetooth, etc). I however go out of my way to find “unitaskers”. It allows for building a system that has precisely the features I need and no more, as well as for maximum flexibility as my needs – and audio technology in general – evolve.

In addition to this stationary setup, I also have a nice headphone setup which I will describe as well.

The Turntable

Audio Technica AT-LP120-USB. This is a very popular, classic workhorse in many home setups (and DJ booths). It has every feature one needs in a turntable, including a built-in preamp. It also can output sound through a USB cable (for ripping or sampling). I’m still using the cartridge that originally came with it.

It is very reliable – over the years the only thing I ever needed to fix was the cue lever mechanism, which lost its softness and started to slam the needle onto the records (ouch). A little … gel and things are back to normal, baby-smooth lowering of the needle onto the record.

In terms of accessories, to aid turntable setup, I have a small scale, an aligment tool, a bubble level. To clean records, I use an anti-static brush. For deep cleaning of records (eg. ones I buy used and come dirty), I employ the .

The Speakers + Subwoofer

My speakers are a pair of Sony MB-350H. By now these are 15 years old (they were one of my very first Amazon purchases!) and long out of production. I still love them though, they have always sounded great to my ears and since I never drove them hard, there is no reason why their quality would have declined. They are rated at 120W @ 8 ohms so need a non-trivial amp to drive them.

A more recent addition is the subwoofer, a Polk Audio PSW10. This is one of those things that are so cheap that they should be bad, but are reviewed really well online. I guess there’s not much to a subwoofer. A ten inch sub is plenty for most rooms! (Subs should blend in and not really be noticeable.)

This sub has a lot of features making it versatile and usable in many different setups. You can drive it from your amp if it has a sub out, or you can run the speaker signals through it (this is what I do).

The Audio Rack

Mixer: it is actually hard to find mixers with a lot of inputs and no frills. So I was excited to pick one of these up.

Amp:

Level adjustor / remote

Raspberry Pi 3B+ with : This raspi has only one purpose: to run raspotify and so show up as a Spotify device on the network that can be streamed to from phone / laptop.

Bluetooth Receiver

Audio Interface:

Bass RBI:

Compressor:

VU meter

Power supply

Headphone Setup:

Apple Airpod Pro: I always have these with me. They are great all-purpose true wireless earbuds. Apart from music, I use them for podcasts, YouTube, meetings, etc. The noise canceling is great, as is the transparency mode. I have switched to these as my main airplane headphones. In a pinch, I even use them at times with Logic to make tunes. The only criticism I have is that when listening to music, I find that I have to crank up the bass in Spotify’s EQ. But that’s not the end of the world. Bottom like is that they’re brilliant.


beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro 250 – these are my “nice” cans that I use the majority of the time when listening to music over headphones. They sound awesome. They have open sides (literally), meaning there’s zero noise canceling – in either direction. You hear everything that’s around you, and everyone hears what you’re listening to. The flipside is that you get a very natural sound and feel – as if the music is playing on a high end system in the room you’re in – and very little “headphone fatigue” even after a lot of use.

These headphones have high impedance (250 ohms), so they can’t be driven directly from a phone or most other audio sources (though I find that my MacBook Air just scrapes by in a pinch). Rather, they require the use of a headphone amp. And since iPhones don’t have a dedicated audio out anymore, I now use a Bluetooth headphone amp, the EarStudio ES100 MK2. In this case, Bluetooth works flawlessly. BTW, Apple is getting beat up over this, but I’m not at all sad about the loss of the iPhone’s audio out. I love the portable aspect of the bluetooth amp and don’t miss the days of walking around looking like an android with all the wires from phone to amp to headphones.

The only thing that ever broke on the headphones was the audio jack. I did have to replace it – which is a trivial task (and you don’t need to buy gold-plated jacks, that’s not how conductivity works!)

Speaking of not breaking things, I haul this setup around in a Slappa duro-shock case. It’s bulky, but really protects the headphones.

Other noteworthy headphones:

Bose QuietComfort II: these are fantastic, I have flown many miles with these. They just have been superseded by the Airpod Pros. One less thing to carry.

Nuraphone: I’m torn over these. I’m a fan of the low end and these have the most fantastic bass I have ever heard. It really is something. On the other, I just could not get used to the peg-in-the-ear aspect. It feels strange, and wearing them properly is fidgety. It is very easy for these to slide down on your head, resulting in the headhones basically resting on your ear canal (via the pegs that reach into your ears). By the time you notice your ears (and/or head) are hurting.