Developer squeezes primo sound out of a solid gaming rig [Setups] | Cult of Mac

Developer squeezes primo sound out of a solid gaming rig [Setups]


Premium audio components make this setup a sonic powerhouse.
Premium audio components make this setup a sonic powerhouse.

Premium computer setups for gaming are known for their eye-popping visuals, of course — but they need great sound, too. Today’s featured setup gets there with a killer display but also a raft of audio gear by companies like Aiyima, Burson, Kanto and Hifiman. The headphones, in particular, may make you green with envy.

Redditor IsTowel is a front-end developer and designer as well as a gamer. Their post about their “Working and listening station” outlines some pretty high-level gaming specs in a Mac and PC, dual-display setup — especially for stellar sound quality.

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Dual-computer, dual-display setup

IsTowel uses a new M1 Pro MacBook in addition to a small-form-factor gaming PC with unknown, but most likely formidable, specs.

“I have a gaming PC and a Mac hooked up to everything. All my peripherals go through a USB switch and then each monitor just has two cables going into the computers,” IsTowel said. “So to switch the gear I press one button and then sleep one computer and turn on the other. It’s pretty clean.”

The main display for games is a 27-inch MSI MAG274QRF Rapid-IPS Gaming Monitor. It offers 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution, a blazing fast 1ms response time and a 165Hz refresh rate. The display on the side in the photo is an HP HD monitor that IsTowel uses “just for glancing at my terminal or Spotify.”

IsTowel actually seems more keen on their MacBook Pro’s Liquid Retina XDR screen than the tricked-out gaming display for some purposes, however.

“I found that for monitors my gaming needs trump everything else,” they said. “So I wanted something with a good refresh rate and decent colors. For design, the only “need” I have is color accuracy when I’m actually building a design system. So when I really need to dial that in, I just use my Mac screen. But I also need to make sure it looks good on normal screens as well so I’m not too particular about it.”

Primo sound

When a Redditor asked about IsTowel’s “go-to amp,” the answer immediately focused on headphone use. Of the two amplifiers in the setup, that’s not too surprising, given that the Burson Audio Soloist preamp powers $1,600 Hifiman Arya Planar Magnetic Headphones.

If you’ve ever wondered what gear is really for audiophiles and what isn’t — this stuff is.

“The Burson under the shelf amps the headphones,” they said. “In this photo the XLR cable is unplugged in front of it. It also is used as a pre-amp for the other amp, which is sitting on top of the Schiit Bifrost. That amp is a little class D speaker amp which powers the speakers. So I control all the sound through the Burson.

“Behind the scenes I have 1 million cables,” IsTowel quipped.

And they’re truly happy with the top-shelf headphones.

“I love them,” they said in response to a question. “I went from some gaming headphones to Hifiman Deva to the Arya. That progression [meant] huge increases in clarity, frequency response and sound stage. I didn’t get the most out of the Arya until I put the Bifrost and the Soloist behind them. The sound just feels so full and immersive with just a touch of warmth. I haven’t gotten the chance to compare them to much though!”

For the record, the setup’s other amp — the “class D speaker amp” — is an Aiyima A07 speaker amplifier for a pair of Kanto YU 5.25-inch passive speakers. That’s some pretty good sound for when the headphones come off.

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