2010 13' speaker vs 2011 13' speaker.

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by holycat, Jul 28, 2011.

  1. holycat macrumors member

    Aug 17, 2006
    Anyone out there finds that 2010 13' has a louder and crisper and punchy sound?

    As a previous user of 2010 13' (already sold it so I can't do head to head compare), I found that 2011 13's speaker is not that good compared to 2010 13'' :(

    Is that me or anyone else out there agree with me?
  2. hh83917, Jul 28, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2011

    hh83917 macrumors 6502

    Jun 30, 2005
    Yes, I felt the same way too. I still have my 2010 13" MBA so I compared them and the MBA 2010 speakers sounds better, more direct, and have a bit more bass. The 2011 13" MBA sounds sharp and the bass is not as good.

    I believe the reason is due to the extra backlit keyboard. With the 2010 MBAs the stereo speakers are directly below the keyboard without any cover over it. But, in the 2011 MBA, the speakers are actually below the backlit keyboard film which somewhat shielded/covered the sound from coming out of the keyboard gaps.

    Having both side-to-side playing music, I found the 2010 MBA much more enjoyable to listen to and I can listen to it all day. But on the 2011 MBA, the sound and bass are sharp and I do not enjoy listening to it over a short period of time. I guess having the backlit keyboard, you have to trade-up on speaker sound, but I don't listen to music or watch movies on MBA all day (I'd use headphones). I'd leave the movie watching and music listening to the home theater or my iMac with external speakers.

    PS: The MacBook Pro 13" doesn't sound as bad probably because the speakers are behind the thin metal strip on the side of the keyboard so maybe the reflects the sound better vs covered by the backlit keyboard film.

    *If someone willing to tear the MBA 2011 keyboard apart and play music, please let us know if it sounds better that way. :rolleyes:

    Pictures below from one of those tear-apart sites:

    MBA 2010 13" Core2Duo
    Speakers are right beneath the keyboard without cover, more direct sound

    MBA 2011 13" Core i7
    Speakers are covered by the backlit keyboard film, results in less direct sound

    Attached Files:

  3. mcpelto macrumors newbie

    Jul 23, 2011
    I've posted about this problem in a couple other forums. i compared the 2010 vs 2011 13" macbook air and the former has much better sound. more bass. i contacted support and there is an engineering notice about issues. my local store finally got stock in so i am exchanging today. if I find the sound is still bad in the new one I will chalk it up to the 2011's just having poorer speakers. i am just surprised that no review has picked up on this!
  4. hh83917 macrumors 6502

    Jun 30, 2005
    Yes, I've read about the "engineering notice" on the speakers too on the forums. I'm not sure if it's going to make a difference if one exchange for a new one if the "keyboard backlit film" covering the 2011 MBA is the culprit of the higher pitched and flatter sound quality.

    People are talking about returning due to heat and battery life on the 13" 2011 MBAs, but actually I'm pondering on returning mine due to sound quality loss vs my 13" 2010 MBA (the Core2Duo ones). I felt the sound quality difference is fairly significant... or maybe I'm just picky about sound. But can listen to the 2010 MBA play music all day, but I can't stand the higher pitch noise and flat bass in the 2011 MBA for a couple minutes.

    I did a little test by playing music while covering my 2010 MBA keyboards up and it did gave a similar high pitch and flat sound quality like the 2011 MBA. So maybe the sound quality loss is really due to design? I don't know, but mcpelto please keep us posted when you get your exchanged MBA, thanks! :)
  5. mcpelto macrumors newbie

    Jul 23, 2011
    exchanged for another 2011 air and the speaker quality is still not as good as the 2010 13". and yes, there is a SIGNIFICANT difference. im surprised no one has noted this in any reviews. i was lucky enough to be able to compare side by side but even without doing that you can tell the speakers are weak. i have noticed the heat issue, battery life isn't too bad, but i agree, the sound is the biggest let down.
  6. hh83917 macrumors 6502

    Jun 30, 2005
    Thanks for keeping the forum updated. That's too bad to hear that the replacement doesn't improve things. So I'm assuming it's some sort of a "design flaw" of the 2011 MBAs due to the addition of the keyboard backlights. I wonder if the original MBA (the oldest one that cost almost 3k) have the same issue because it got keyboard backlights too.

    I haven't tried any encoding yet so I haven't experience any heat problems so far, but I will later at night. The battery life is generally 30 minutes less than the 2010 MBAs. I'm thinking about whether I should just keep the 2011 13" i5, return it and stay put with my 2010 MBA due to sound/heat/and battery, or switch to the cooler 13" i5 like many did on the forums. :(
  7. virtuatony macrumors regular

    Mar 9, 2008
    I recently got the 2011 Air and was wondering why it didn't sound as good as my 2010, thank-you for explaining as now it makes complete sense.

    Guess you need to choose whether or not the slightly better sound quality is more important than a backlit keyboard...
  8. hefeglass macrumors 6502a

    Apr 21, 2009
    its funny, I've never owned an air until getting this 13, and honestly, its MUCH MUCH louder than any laptop I have previously owned..especially for not even having speaker openings anywhere other than through the keyboard.

    as soon as I read this thread title I figured it had something to do with the backlit keyboard. And after seeing those pics, its obvious.

    mac users are easily the hardest to please...i have never seen or heard of any other company who has the stock and would allow so MANY people to play the lottery like apple does. I am using my third 2011 macbook air right now (only exchanged for upgrades though, never for the same model)..i guess with the high prices we pay we pay, they can afford it.
  9. jackyyeow macrumors 6502

    Jul 5, 2011
    The backlit layer double as a protective layer to slow down the water going in. But there goes your backlit perhaps. :D
  10. meistervu macrumors 65816

    Jul 24, 2008
    Thinking outside the box

    I don't have a 2010 Air, but I have used PC laptops (luggable) that got pretty loud speakers. The company that made them make the speakers a selling point. It's amazing how much sound you can pack in if you have 0.5 inches to play with and are not concern about the weight.

    On the other hand, I couldn't care less because there is really no way to get good stereo separation from laptop speakers placement. My solution: a good set of headphone, or Airplay speakers.

    Currently, I have a set of AudioEngine A2 paired with an AirPort Express. The whole set up costs about $300. As long as I am in the same room with these speakers, my MBA will sound better than anything come from any laptop. I will take the weight and size saving, and on top of that better sound.
  11. Esquire1 macrumors member

    Jun 4, 2010
    If you were that picky about sound, you wouldn't be using built in laptop speakers, of any make or model laptop :p
  12. sloan47 macrumors member

    Aug 3, 2011
    I have a 2010 and a 2011 and I honestly can't tell *that* big a difference between them. I have to have both sitting side by side to tell the difference. :confused:
  13. superego macrumors member

    Jun 24, 2009
    Then either there's some variation when it comes to the speaker sound quality, or others have better hearing. Hearing is always subjective to a degree.
  14. DustinT macrumors 68000


    Feb 26, 2011
    Agreed. A $10 set of headphones would be almost incomparably better than the built in speakers, even the huge ones on the MBP 17". There's so many options now with airplay, bluetooth, wifi audio, etc... that I can't see where this makes such a high difference.

    I used my 15" MBP to fill a 1500 sq^2 loft with sound while I was working up there yesterday. Did it sound as good as my NAD t747, Infinity Primus 362 floor standing speakers? NO! But, it was good enough considering what I was doing.

    Don't sweat it, peeps. Get some speakers and rock on!
  15. MacLappy macrumors 6502

    Jul 28, 2011
    Macbook air base 13s here. Actually it is quite noticeable. Not just the volume but also the clarity of the sound. On the plus side... If you never owned the 2010 you would probably not notice the difference. :D
  16. alecgold macrumors 65816


    Oct 11, 2007
    does this also mean the 2011 is a bit less sensitive to drops of liquid on the keyboard? The 2010 was very claimed to be very susceptible to this....
  17. shayan- macrumors newbie

    Feb 13, 2012

    u may have a point (I also noticed it on my 2011 MBA), but if u really think about it, when the 2010 model came out with no backlit everyone was disappointed; now that it's back, suddenly speakers in the new model "aren't as loud as the 2010 version". I guess that's the price we pay for having a backlit keyboard? lol
  18. PM-Performance macrumors 6502

    Feb 12, 2012
    As another user stated above, I think the speakers are surprisingly nice for the size. I have other laptops that these sounds significantly better and in a smaller package.
    Frequency response might not be the best for audiophiles, but still leaps and bounds better than other laptops I have.
  19. TheRealDamager macrumors 65816

    Jan 5, 2011
    The speakers in the Air, for me, are a "nice to have". The backlit keyboard is a "must have".
  20. PM-Performance macrumors 6502

    Feb 12, 2012
    I feel the same way!
  21. alphaod macrumors Core


    Feb 9, 2008
    I've never used my backlit keyboard, so for me the speakers are more important than the backlit keyboard. Backlighting keyboards to me is just something else to break when out of warranty.
  22. wootang00 macrumors member

    Apr 20, 2010
    I'm comparing both my 2010 13" MBA with my 2011 13" MBA..

    The biggest difference is that the 2010 sounds CLEAN, where as the 2011 sounds MUFFLED next to it.

    Also.. the max volume is lower on the 2011 than the 2010.. I wish this wasnt the case with the 2011... i'll have to confirm to see if I received a refurbished dud tomorrow with a friend of mine. He has a 2011 13" MBA as well.


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