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powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

I really like the audioengine a2's for small computer speakers. Despite the teensy little woofers they have satisfying bass. They're also much nicer looking/feeling than MAudio's low end monitors.

The a2's were actually my replacement for a klipsch 5.1 promedia set that died. The promedias obviously destroyed the a2's in sheer desk shaking bass power, but the a2's overall sound is much nicer, especially for music.

edit: TenementFunster, AudioEngine's wireless dongle things work with any speaker, not just AudioEngine stuff. I love AudioEngine, but if you like something else better, just pick up the wireless set and use it with that instead.

powderific fucked around with this message at 21:19 on Nov 12, 2011

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powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

I feel like they're well worth the $200 and I have quite a few different speakers. Besides the sound, which I think is quite fantastic, they feel like $200. They're heavy, the finish is beautiful, etc. I haven't personally seen/heard anything in the price range that has the same combo of sound quality + aesthetic pleasingness.

Only thing I'd suggest is that you might try to get them off the surface of the desk a bit. They can sound a little boomy from being on a big flat surface. This is true of any speaker, but you don't notice it with sub/sat systems where the low end is all coming from a sub on the floor. I just put mine on a couple little stacks of books. If your desk has a hutch that'd probably work to.

Also: search for coupons before you buy, they ALWAYS have 10% off somewhere.

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

I've never heard them myself, but I remember reading a couple favorable reviews when they came out--though most suggested that where they really shine is high volume listening. $135 sounds like a good deal to me.

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

My ProMedia 5.1's died when a mosfet in the amplifier blew--apparently it happened to a significant chunk of the 5.1 systems and, once it happened, would keep happening no matter how many times you sent it Klipsch for the $80 repair. A lot of little repair services cropped turned up when I was researching my issues with it back then too.

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

I'm among a minority who don't care for the Swan M200s. I had some at work for a while and, while I never had a chance to compare the two directly, I much prefer my Audioengine A2s. The A2s impressed me right out of the box while the M200's were always pretty meh.

In my setup, the M200's were lean enough on bass that I generally preferred headphones for music listening. The A2's sound fuller and have much more satisfying bass despite the 2.75" woofer. I do think that the A2's are probably voiced to have a hump in the low frequency response to make them sound bigger, so that may be a disadvantage for some people.

For $400 I'd go for the Audioengine A5's. That said, I'm clearly an Audioengine fanboy.

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

First up, I'd say the same thing I said to someone earlier: they feel like $200 speakers. They're made of inch thick MDF, have a fantastic satin finish, and I do think that most people would be wowed by the sound they put out--as long as you're not expecting those little 2.75 inch drivers to defy physics. It won't have the same chest thumpiness as your 5.1 system but, to my ears, it's a much more pleasing sound all around and the bass is shaped in such a way that the music still has impact.

I have quite a few other speakers, including some DIY stuff with pricey components, and I find the A2's to be very satisfying for the money.

What kind of music do you listen to?

For your specific questions:

1) Three years after purchasing I'm having an issue with one speaker. Doesn't sound like the woofer is blown so much as maybe a connection is loose, or there's an issue in the amp. It still sounds fine most of the time but I'm going to send it in to get fixed. It's out of the two year warranty so I have to pay a $60 flat fee that covers fixing anything that's wrong (or a whole new set if they can't repair) along with return shipping. This seems pretty standard for audio gear repair out of warranty. Haven't actually sent them in yet so I'll have to report back afterwards. I'm not rough on them, but while I had them at work my coworkers moved them around quite a bit and they are not gentle with equipment.

2) I didn't buy stands, I just put them on some stacks of books. I would HIGHLY recommend getting them off the surface of your desk as they can get boomy otherwise (this is true of most any speaker though).

3) I think they're pretty loud. I use them in my one bedroom apartment when I'm cleaning or doing whatever and can hear them fine from other rooms. We used them in my office for a while and they sounded pretty good in a relatively large space.

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

I don't much care for M-Audio's stuff as it feels kindof cheap to me (at least anything in the same price bracket--I have no experience with their higher end stuff.) They're definitely "music" speakers rather than studio monitors. That said, I'd bet they sound much more neutral and balanced than the 5.1 system.

If you buy direct from Audioengine you have 30 days to return if you don't like the sound. Also: they almost always have a 15% off coupon available if you poke around.

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

While I adore the a2's, you are paying for the amplifiers. You could check out their passive speakers, the p4's. The extra size will help them reach bit lower. I'm not very up on cheapish bookshelf speakers or passive monitors as I've been more into DIY lately, but there are bound to be some decent options there as well.

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

Just thought I'd update on AudioEngine's support. After 3 years, my A2's developed some weird clipping on one channel. They were out of warranty but AudioEngine offers OOW service for a flat $60 bench fee. AudioEngine couldn't fix the problem so they sent me what appears to be a brand new set. Pretty darn pleased with that.

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

I don't know what the story is for desktop cards but I much prefer an external DAC to the headphone output on my laptops--mostly because the headphone outputs all seem to have a low level hiss that gets really annoying over time. I have a nuforce uDac at home and an Echo Audiofire 4 at work, both of which are much better than the internal output. The nuforce isn't even supposed to be a particularly good DAC. No hiss though, which is what I mainly care about.

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

I think the most important thing would be to get the speakers off your desk to ear level if you're worried about that muddiness. My Audioengine A2's and my normal bookshelves sound really boomy and muddy when directly on the desk surface.

If you're an audio snob I think your best bet would be to run a digital out from your computer either to an external DAC or a receiver with one built in.

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

Any good 2.0 speaker is going to sound crappy directly on the surface of a desk. You really do need to get them up closer to ear level and it's a shame there aren't better mounting solutions out there.

The reason they sound so boomy compared to the Klipsch system is that all the bass on the Klipsches is coming from the subwoofer on the floor, not the satellites on your desk. With the A2's, everything's coming from the satellites and there's a boundary effect with the desk that makes them boomy--and would make ANY good speaker sound boomy. To see what I'm talking about, set the speakers on stand away from the wall a bit (or even just pull them all the way to the very front of your desk) and listen without the EQ. You'll be amazed at what a difference it makes. Obviously they have to be sort of on the desk if you're using them with a computer so a bit of EQ'ing might be necessary anyway, but I managed to get mine far enough off that they sound great without.

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer


I don't know that those amplifiers are going to help you all that much. Especially not vs. the regular line out for speakers. The things you're looking at are more for recording studios where multiple people need to listen to the same source over headphones. They will probably sound better than the headphone out right on the speaker, but that's about it. I suppose they'll work for what you're doing but I think you need to start from "I want my music and games to sound better" and try to find the solution that fits best, because I don't think an amplifier or preamp is going to do that.

If you do want the source switching you're used to from a more standard home theater amplifier, you can get some decent bookshelf speakers for relatively cheap. I personally wouldn't shell out for an HT receiver and then plug it into something that's already amplified. It'd probably be a bit of a crapshoot as to whether the headphone out was any good too.

You might want to look at different speakers or a different set of headphones first. I personally don't much care for the sound from DT770's and am much happier with the Audio Technica ATH-M50's and AKG K701's I'm using now. IIRC, those Corsair speakers you're looking at are most sought out for being really loud rather than quality, so you might want to think about looking around for something else there too.

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

The Swans are very well regarded. People really like them and they get consistently good reviews. I found them to be a little light on the bass but most people don't seem to think so. I'm thinking they'lll probably be better than your current set, but you won't get the chest thumpiness of a subwoofer. I'm guessing the upper range will blow your current stuff out of the water but you might be disappointed if you really like to crank the bass.

Active speakers have amplifiers built in. Both the Corsairs and the Swans are active. They're what one usually thinks of when talking about computer speakers. Inactive, or passive speakers, need an external amplifier. This is what you think of when you're looking at a more traditional stereo or HT setup with a big amplifier/receiver.

Hob's stereo receiver would be to power passive speakers. Opening up to passive speakers gives you a bit more flexibility and may or may not lead you to better sound.

Subwoofers take care of the low end. They aren't strictly necessary for good sound--I don't own any subwoofers for any of my systems and don't miss them, BUT my speakers are all made for full range listening. You can also add a subwoofer later if you miss the very low end. This would be doable with those Swans you posted and would make a pretty badass system, I'd think. The subwoofer just needs to get the same sound as the speakers. Depending on the sub this could be from a splitter off your sound card or line level stuff from the speakers.

I totally feel your paint on having a separate knob for the headphones. This is what I use:

http://www.amazon.com/NuForce-uDAC2-Digital-Audio-Converter/dp/B003Y5FRNS

It's a good headphone amp / DAC thing. You plug it into your USB port, plug the speakers into the back, and then when you plug the phones into the front port it turns off the speakers and you control it there. I do that with my AKG 701's and a pair of Audioengine speakers and it works great.

powderific fucked around with this message at 18:07 on Jun 21, 2012

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

booseek posted:

Would something like this cheaper Behringer HA400 4-Channel Stereo Headphone Amp serve a similar purpose? I'm thinking that I can plug the amp directly into the card, then run my headphones and my speakers into the separate outputs on the amp. There is a knob for each output, as you can see. My concern is whether the signal would somehow be degraded with either the speakers or the headphones, or whether the amp in the speakers would somehow interfere with the Behringer amp that I would use to split the signal.

Any of that style headphone amp serves a similar purpose and I can't comment much on their quality. I don't see much talk about them in headphone threads, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything bad. I don't think it should hurt you too much--anything in the signal chain is going to degrade things to some degree, but I can't imagine it'd do something weird like crosstalk.


booseek posted:

When you say that "The subwoofer just needs to get the same sound as the speakers," you're referring to the source, in this case the sound card?
Most subwoofers can take either output from a sound card/receiver, OR you can pass the cable that connects the speaker with the amplifier to the speaker without through a separate set of terminals on the back. Not sure what connectors the Swan has, but it'd probably be easier to come off the sound card.

booseek posted:

The other reason I'd like an amp is for my headphones. If I choose the right one, would it necessarily make them sound better?

Also -- would you recommend an ASUS Xonar Essence ST/STX to replace my X-Fi XtremeMusic? I don't care for EAX effects, just high quality sound. It's all within my budget, but if it doesn't sound much better, or only 10% better, it's just not something that I'd like to spend on. Is it much of an upgrade? I know that the ST/STX comes with a built-in amp that most reviewers say is great, which is important for my headphones. Would this sound card amp work if it is run into the Behringer amp to split the signal and feed it into the headphones? If so, I can just forget the more expensive amp, get the Behringer, and get the ST/STX for its headphone amp and better overall sound quality.

An amp might make your headphones sound better. DT770's supposedly have very high impedance, which is where headphone amps make the biggest difference. Thing is, most people aren't talking about the kinds of headphone amps you're looking at. They're more thinking audiophile specific stuff rather than studio stuff. I honestly have no idea how the two compare.

If I was you, I'd probably go with something like the U-Dac. It does everything you're looking for and is relatively cheap.

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

The NuForce does have a decent amp built in for the headphones, and has the knob. It's its own sound card--you don't need anything else.

Another thought I had was that you could get the udac for your headphones and then just use the xifi for the speakers.

For connecting, it'd be easiest if you found a sub that had a passthrough for the RCA (that sub doesn't.) Just running a splitter might work but I have no experience with subs so I can't be much help. Any of the other cards you listed will have an output specifically for the sub.

I sincerely doubt you'd ever hear a difference between those two xonar cards. The speakers/headphones you use are going to have far more effect on the sound you get than the card.

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

Do you know which version of the DT770's you have? There are a bunch of different ones and how much difference an amp makes will really depend on that. In general people seem to think that they're a headphone that's well suited to amplification. You should really check the headphone thread to see which one people are recommending right now--maybe the ones you're looking at will work, but I've never seen them recommended.

I think your best bet for what you want to do is probably the cheaper Xonar card with a headphone amp recommended in the headphone thread. That'll let you do the subwoofer later if you want without too much trouble and will give you the volume control you're looking for. I can't really tell you if the NuForce is better or not as I've not compared the two. I think it sounds great compared to my macbook's output and the output on my motherboard, but those are hardly a high bar.

Your sound card manual will tell you which hole to hook your sub up to. You might need an RCA to 3.5mm but that's all.

edit: saw your edit. If you do figure out the volume button thing the stx might be a good choice as it does seem to have an amp well suited to your headphones, but it doesn't look like it has an output for the sub, so you'd have to figure something out there. I don't think it'd be insurmountable but it's worth remembering.

powderific fucked around with this message at 01:57 on Jun 22, 2012

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

Well, I doubt there have been any advances since then in the 5.1 pc speaker market, or audio in general. It's more that people seem to be moving towards higher quality two way speakers that look like something you'd see in a studio or 2 channel setup rather then the sub satellite style systems. Two way speakers tend to sound better than sub/satellite systems (this is a broad generalization obviously).

There are probably more two channel style setups designed for computers than there were ten years ago, but it's not new technology. It's just a different setup that has always been better seems to be more common now. I'm not sure why this shift has happened--perhaps computers have become a default media consumption device for many, and the demand for quality has gone up as a result? In any case, you should see if you can find a good two channel system to listen to and see how you like it compared to the sub/satellite systems. AudioEngine A2, M-Audio AV40's (and studio monitors in general), Swan M200's, or even small bookshelf speakers.

^^^^ I may be remembering wrong, but it seems like it wasn't nearly as common to hook "good" speakers up to your computer ten years ago. The PC speaker market's last real advance was combining surround satellites with a powerful-ish sub. It's like the market apexed with the Klipsch ProMedia series and never went anywhere else. The only other change I can think of would be Logitech's set that could decode dolby streams. There are probably a lot of interesting market factors you could trace explaining why PC speakers were traditionally sub/satellite system (limited space on the desktop, lower quality audio not needing much more, ???) and the current trend towards higher quality two channel systems that have been possible for ages. ^^^^^^

powderific fucked around with this message at 20:41 on Jun 27, 2012

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

I think it'd probably be best to find a software solution that lets you use a hotkey on your keyboard instead of a piece of hardware as you're still going to want to switch from 5.1 to 2.0 in your sound card settings.

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

Reads like it uses some kind of capacitor thing to store up energy.

They look neat and I'd be really curious to hear some impressions if anyone's heard them. I seriously doubt they'll sound as good as the A2s considering they're relying on a full range driver. On the other hand, they're probably much better than most USB powered speakers and cost half as much as the A2's.

Here's a less positive review: http://peripherals.about.com/od/speakersandheadphones/fr/Olasonic-Tw-S7-Review.htm

If you really like the shape and USB power is a factor, I'm sure they'd be good. But one amazon review suggested that they're "completely outclassed" by other powered speakers in the price range and specifically mentioned the $75 creative gigaworks, and many of the glowing reviews focused on how they compare to other USB speakers.

http://www.amazon.com/review/RKSIRJ0AZOBD4/ref=cm_cr_pr_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B0052L6RR2&linkCode=&nodeID=&tag=

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

Think maybe you have a ground loop going on, which might still be a problem with the other set.

http://siber-sonic.com/electronics/GLoopwhatis.html

I can have both inputs connected at the same time with no hum issues.

powderific fucked around with this message at 00:28 on Jul 22, 2012

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

I'm not knowledgeable enough to give great advice, but I think having both of your sources on the same strip as the speakers would be the best way to test it. It's worth trying anyway.

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

Getting a set of bookshelf speakers and an amp is a great way to go, but I don't know that those particular items would be the best. Looks like the amp is really more like 15 watts? You'd probably want more than that unless you were looking at really efficient speakers. Even so, the studio monitor style speakers people in this thread have been looking at are excellent and aren't really what people are talking about when they say computer speakers suck (mostly anyway).

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

It's been a while since I last bought an amplifier so I don't have any great tips. Parts Express has a neat squarish amp that should be powerful enough and looks like it'd work well on a desk. I have a Panasonic XR55 which is a great stereo amp if you can find one.

If you're looking at that price range, do check out the Audioengineusa A5+ and A2. They're great, self powered speakers and they might be a bit better than those Polks.

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

Well, the only speakers I can think of like that are AudioEngine's A5, so it makes sense that that's how their wireless adapter would be designed. You should check out that combo though, AudioEngine's wireless is reportedly fantastic and you won't have to worry about things like latency. And their design's are in a similar vein to some of the stuff you're already looking at.

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

Electric Bugaloo posted:

The Nocs NS2 look virtually identical to the Audioengine A2 (at least in the renderings on the Nocs site), aside from the extra color options. I wonder how they'll stack up sound wise.

Yeah, they are pretty drat similar looking. Audioengine designs and manufactures all their drivers in house and they've been making the a2 for years now. I have a set that I love. The nocs look like they may have been inspired pretty heavily by the a2's.

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

At that price you're awful close to the Audioengine A2's, wich are my number one recommendation: http://audioengineusa.com/A2B-Powered-Desktop-Speakers#.UGBvs6TybsE

If I was going to do the Altec Lansing's I'd probably go for an even cheaper set.

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

I'd just get something that has a decent number of high reviews so you know it's not going to poo poo the bed immediately. This may just be me, but I feel like with 2.1 computer systems, the expensive sets often still don't as nice of sound signature as monitor style stuff like the AudioEngines. There may be a small improvement over lesser models, but it seems like you're mostly paying for sheer wattage.

Even the set just a notch down in the series is only $50 http://www.amazon.com/Altec-Lansing-VS4621-Computer-Speaker/dp/B0038W0NEU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1348522110&sr=8-1&keywords=altec+lansing

Heck, at that price you could get the speakers AND a nice set of headphones that'll blow pretty much any speaker in you price range out of the water: http://www.amazon.com/Audio-Technica-ATHM50S-Professional-Monitor-Headphones/dp/B004ZG9TMA/ref=pd_cp_MI_0

Harmon Kardon does still make the Sound Sticks if you wanted to stick with them, though it'll cost the same as the more expensive Altec Lansing set and you're paying for how cool they look more than anything.

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

I've never heard the A5's but friends that have them say they're great. The bamboo looks soooo nice too. They can pump out more volume and they have deeper bass response, and you get a volume knob on the front and USB charging port on the back. If you've got a bigger space it'd probably be worth it, but the A2's are still pretty great for such little speakers. I used them as my main system for a while during a move and they still had enough volume to be fun even in a medium/large room.

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

There's a lot of discussion in the thread after that from people, including me, who don't care much for the ProMedia's sound. That, and they tend to die after a couple years. We've gone over it several times in this thread, but 2.0 powered "studio monitor" style speakers tend to sound better more traditional 2.1 pc speakers. My default recommendation is the Audioengine A2. Other people who've picked them up have chimed in over the last few pages. They're not the only option, of course, but they're what I have experience with and they're consistently well reviewed.

We should probably make a new thread that goes over all this stuff.

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

I just want people to have good sound

That's a good way of describing the difference, and the size thing is really important. I've had full size speakers on my desk before and it can be more of a pain than it's worth. The A2's (or just 2's now, apparently) are so tiny you can make them work anywhere. They're actually small enough that I'll even take them with me in a backpack on occasions where I'm traveling by car and want good sound at my destination.

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

I think part of it is because this thread is so low traffic there isn't a huge sample size. There are definitely other options, but the AudioEngine's are a great value for the money in sound, looks, and service if anything ever goes wrong.

The ProMedia's probably keep coming up be because, besides being a good 2.1 set, the series has been out for 12 years now and a lot of people here have experience with them. I don't know that there are many other PC speakers that have had that long of production run. If the amp hadn't died I'd probably still be using the 5.1's I got when I graduated from high school somewhere.

There are actually quite a few other systems I'd really like to check out if I had the money or could borrow:


And beyond that there a whole raft of DIY speaker designs that I'd like to test out but just haven't had time. Someone did a self powered Overnight Sensations MTM set that looked fantastic.

powderific fucked around with this message at 17:34 on Sep 28, 2012

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

Get the 2.0's if they sound better to you. You can always add a subwoofer in later if you feel like you need it—you'll wind up with a way better 2.1 system than most off the shelf 2.1 systems. People usually recommend having a subwoofer for gaming and home theater use so you can get the lowest rumbles that even really, really good 2.0 speakers don't usually hit due to limitations of their small-ish woofers. But you're likely sacrificing pretty much everywhere else in SQ to get those rumbles (and the rumbles won't be as rumbly as those from a sub you add to a 2.0 system.)

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

You can just get an RCA to mini jack adapter. If the onboard output winds up being really noisy you could look at something else, but it's probably fine.

That sub is probably not a great match for your swans. I'd leave it off or get a regular home stereo sub if you need more thump. That said, since you already have it, you could just grab a second adapter and hook it up to your sound cards subwoofer output (I think most sound cards Will have one). Match the levels with the volume knobs and then just adjust everything with the windows software volume.

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

I've never seen anything else for deals, but the coupon is pretty much always available. If it's any help, they don't feel like a high margin item by any means. $200, while more than most PC speakers, feels like a good value once you have them in hand. They're just so nicely put together. Audioengine's service has been great to me as well.

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

I've listened to the Audyssey's, but not really for long enough to get a good sense of how they compare. The Audyssey's sound a bit punchier in the bass region. IIRC, Audyssey uses some DSP to get their sound where Audioengine just does traditional speaker/crossover stuff. If you have any way to listen to both I'd recommend it as they're both good and one might appeal more than the other.

My experience with the A2's has been great, and it seems like most others in the thread who've tried em like em. They're a safe bet. (I think they look nicer too.)

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

Unless your onboard audio is incredibly noisy or something, what sort of gain do you expect to get from plopping a USB dac on that system?

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

The sub from your promedia speakers probably won't be a great match for the p4's--you'd be better off using your ht sub or just going for the a5's.

powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

Oh, also, they have a close out section with refurbished stuff that's in really good shape, though there isn't always everything in stock. There's also almost always 15% off coupons floating around.

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powderific
May 13, 2004



Grimey Drawer

If I'm doing FPS's where directional sound matters I'm almost always wearing a headset so I can do voice comms. For me, speakers are more for music, games where direction sound doesn't matter as much, and movies. It's also easier to convert a good 2.0 system to surround if you want than it is to find a 5.1 system that comes close to similarly priced 2.0 systems for music and other stuff. I'm not sure you can even find anything close to Audioengine, Audessey, Swan, etc. quality without doing more of a HT setup or something ridiculous from Blue Sky.

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