Help Me Build a Desktop Setup for $500-$750 (soft cap)

Hey all!

I’ve been heavily invested in researching various desktop setups over the last couple weeks and after multiple orders/cancellations feel that it’s best I get the help from everyone here to make this decision.

Relevant Info:

  • $500-$750 budget, but I am flexible here.
  • I live in the US
  • Can buy from pretty much anywhere
  • This will be used in my office for music/podcasts mostly. Music mostly.
  • Desktop use only, have IsoAcoustics ISO-155’s on order to use as stands.
  • These will be used at lower-moderate volume. Think a reasonable listening volume in a private office with the occasional bump. I would say it’s more likely to be mid-volume than low FYI.
  • Prefer passive, but totally open to Powered.
  • Amp needs to fit comfortably on a desk. No longer than 12" and ideally smaller. Width needs to be within 8" or so. Maximum speaker dimensions around 7-8" W x 12-14" H x 11" D
  • Don’t really want to upgrade down the road. This should be the setup I stick with.
  • I have ZMF Auteur headphones and like some bass response in my music. I would say I don’t want the music to be too heavily skewed one way and warm/neutral would be my preferred choice. Bright is not something I need.

I have considered a number of options so far and have things narrowed down to the following (am open to suggestions, these are just what I am currently considering):

Amp: Topping PA3, Parasound Zamp V3, Vista Audio Spark

Speakers: Elac UB5, Elac UB52, Triangle BR02, KEF Q150, Vanatoo Transparent One Encore

DAC: Topping E30 (I own this, so this will be used)

My thoughts: I like the footprint and cost of the PA3 but am concerned about it’s performance with UB5. If this amp could perform well with these the value proposition of PA3/UB5 is hard to pass up with the current pricing. I have narrowed down to Triangle BR02’s from various sources and other people’s advice, but I can’t deny the renown that the Elac stuff has. KEF is on the list due to thewirecutter’s strong recommendation. I am not opposed at all to purchasing used.

TLDR: Need help picking a setup from the list above. Please give me thoughts!


Looking to do similar but in a living room with a mini DSP and a cheap sub. Guess you can call it a desktop, plan on sticking the passives on stands top of the coffee table to simulate near field.

@Flaculence what are your current considerations and budget? I’m curious to hear what your thoughts are.

Im a cheapskate so the PA3/D30 get recommended round here for budget stuff. Pretty sold with Zreviews taste in speakers so think im going jamo C9II-93 when they go sale and a 10in sub. This will be the zenith of my venture into hifi.

I would say a parasound zamp v3 would offer decent amount of quality amplification for a pretty great price imo. After that I would just drop the rest of the budget into the speakers as that is what will give the best experience.

I don’t really have much experience with any of the speakers mentioned, so not much help there unfortunately. although I really do like my KEF Q100 on a desk.

one thing to note is that the Zamp does not have a volume control as it’s basically a power amp, i can’t recall atm but does the E30 have volume control? if not you would need something to act as a preamp/control.

The E30 has volume control built in, so I should be good there.

I’ll look into the Parasound amp and see what I can find pre-owned and narrow down the speaker choices on my own. Thanks for the input!