Audiophile quality speakers

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by DianeK, Nov 2, 2013.

  1. DianeK macrumors regular

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    #1
    I have ordered the Focal Bird 2.1 system but am now having second thoughts about a couple of things:

    1. They are not magnetically shielded and will be used within a foot of my iMac or MacbookPro. Is this a problem?

    2. The DAC with subwoofer is meant to sit behind the computer. My computers have spinning drives, not SSD. Would vibration from the sub cause hard drive corruption?

    Any advice would be appreciated. Why do I think of these things after I hand over my money? Hopefully I can cancel my order Monday and get a refund if the above issues are indeed significant.

    Diane
     
  2. priitv8 macrumors 68020

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    #2
    I think magnetic shielding only makes difference in close proximity to CRTs.
     
  3. bluespark macrumors 65816

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    #3
    I have used a Focal XS 2.1 system with my 27" iMac setup for years. I think they are similar to the Bird in relevant respects. No issues whatsoever.
     
  4. DianeK thread starter macrumors regular

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    #4
    Thanks for chiming in. The XS speakers are magnetically shielded whereas the Bird and Little Bird are not. There was nowhere in my city to audition the XS. That said, I listen to classical music almost exclusively so was looking for a system that would be very well balanced with a good, open sound stage. How would you rate the XS in that regard? Given they operate through the USB, is there compression in the music transfer?
    Thanks again
    Diane
     
  5. Prodo123 macrumors 68020

    Prodo123

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    #5
    First of all Focal Bird sounds like one of those overpriced sound kits that are sold in Brookstone, especially since it lacks any kind of technical data to support its audio fidelity.

    Moving onto the issue at hand, you want a good audio setup. If you're able to afford the Focal Bird you have a generous budget. For any audiophile setup you need a quality standalone DAC, such as the oDAC (Objective DAC). I would vouch for the oDAC to be the best bang for your buck, holding its own against $600+ components. Choice of DAC would mostly lie in personal preference and taste, but most audiophiles consider 24-bit 96kHz to be the bare minimum for a good DAC.

    Then what I would recommend getting are:

    1. Active subwoofer + Active studio monitors or passive bookshelf speakers with standalone amp. These you can go on a site like Musician's Friend. Behringer, Yamaha, M-Audio, Audioengine, etc. have quality monitors. These tend to outperform any and all kinds of "audiophile" products, projecting music as what they are supposed to sound like. That would make sense since these are made for music production mostly.
    However if you are going for a specific kind of sound signature, such as those found in Grado and Bose, then you might want to look into different kinds of speakers. Another con that studio monitors have are size; they are almost as your desktop printer.
    Standalone components give you the most flexibility and often times the best sound, but you really some know how and experience to get the most out of it. Also it might not look the best.

    2. Active 2.1 system. Swans M10 comes to mind. These aren't common among audiophile-quality products since most of them don't have subwoofers (the main speaker cabinet can reproduce the subwoofer range in most cases; the subwoofer then only serves to give the vibration feeling and nothing else). But the few that do get a lot of hype in the audiophile community tend to be very good, such as the Swans M10.

    As for cables any kind of decently-shielded cable will do. Don't fall for the Monster snake oil.

    Subwoofer vibration won't really harm your computer hard drive. Laptops already have shock absorption built in, especially with the MacBook Pro's hard drive cage. As for the iMac, the aluminum body will absorb most of the vibration before it gets to the hard drive anyway.

    Not necessarily true. The switching power supply found in most computers may create interference with unshielded audio components. This is most prominent where cables are really long, but can still be found in small scale setups such as home audio.
     
  6. priitv8 macrumors 68020

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    #6
    Well, I lost you here :confused:
    Shielded speakers have their rare earth magnets compensated so that they don't emit static magnetic field, which would interfere with the deflection system of CRT-s. LCD panels don't have electromagnetic deflection system, so they wouldn't care about the magnetic field of the speakers.
    Electromagnetic noise from switching power supplies is a different story, but I can't see their relation to speakers and LCD-s.
    Also on the same topic:
    http://www.avsforum.com/t/894396/magnetic-shielding-what-is-it-worth-and-why
    http://forums.cnet.com/7723-7596_102-286893/lcd-tv-and-non-magnetically-sheilded-speakers/

    Or did you mean, that magnetically shielded speakers would be immune to noise generated by switching power supplies?
     
  7. Prodo123 macrumors 68020

    Prodo123

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    #7
    Well you did say that shielding would only make a difference near CRT tubes. I'm just pointing out many other sources that may cause interference. PSU noise, nearby radio stations, microwaves and the like all generate electromagnetic noise that shielding protects against.
    But you are correct in that LCD panels generate little to no EMR. Unless the monitor itself has a PSU built in to it, as is the case with the iMac. Then that may cause problems.
     
  8. priitv8 macrumors 68020

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    #8
    At the bottom line - I wouldn't worry about the speakers being not magnetically shielded if the display they are close to, is of LCD type.
     
  9. Rizzm macrumors 6502a

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    #9
    I just ordered a pair of AudioEngine A5+ and SVS SB-1000 for my desk setup. I wanted a sub with a built in high pass filter (it's 80Hz on the SB-1000) so that I didn't play the mains full range while the sub was still playing 80Hz and below.

    I'll can give you my impressions if you're interested. I'm no audiophile but I can definitely appreciate quality sound.

    No DAC for the moment; not sure if I'll notice the difference since I don't have experience with sound cards. Output straight from the 3.5mm jack on my MacBook. Typically listening to 256kbps AAC files.
     
  10. bluespark macrumors 65816

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    #10
    Apologies, Diane -- I didn't return to this thread until tonight and missed your follow-up question. I, too, am primarily a classical listener, and I am very pleased with how the Focal XS speakers do, given their price point and size. They are much more neutral than most other small computer monitors, many of which are what I would call "spikey" in that they emphasize certain frequency ranges over others. (For example, AudioEngine speakers, which are fine for what they are, are tuned to emphasize the upper midrange and roll off considerably after that. The Focals, by contrast, are pretty neutral throughout, which makes them better for the large frequency range exploited by most classical music.) They also do decently well with respect to soundstage, but with the caveat that they are near-field monitors and can't touch high quality traditional (i.e., non-computer) loudspeakers in that respect. The USB DAC, which is built-in, works really well. I notice a significant difference between lossless files and compressed AAC files with these speakers -- always a good sign. The subwoofer is just okay.

    Overall, for their intended purpose and relatively low price (yes, I know there are many cheaper options out there), I couldn't be happier with the XS set.
     
  11. Prodo123 macrumors 68020

    Prodo123

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    #11
    Again, the PSU inside the iMac will be causing interference.
    Most well-made speakers are shielded properly to prevent this kind of blemish.
     
  12. priitv8 macrumors 68020

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    #12
    OK. For me the speaker shielding only meant magnetic shielding. Until now :D
     
  13. SimonUK5 macrumors 6502

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    #13
    What? If your into any sort of audio seriously i don't even know how you can say that? Focal are one of the biggest makers of drivers, and cabs....
     
  14. Htin macrumors regular

    Htin

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    #14
    bought the MM1 B&W not sure if these are audiophile for you...
     
  15. Prodo123 macrumors 68020

    Prodo123

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    #15
    GM is the world's biggest carmaker but that doesn't mean they make the fastest cars.
    Focal may be a big audio company but they are far, far from truly high fidelity audio component quality that only boutique brands can achieve.
    I promise you at the same price point a pair of headphones from Audeze (planar magnetic, extreme high performance drivers) or other professional audio equipment maker will sound much better than Focal.
     
  16. SimonUK5 macrumors 6502

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    #16
    And i promise you that you are wrong. Focal drivers/speakers and headphones are in nearly all studios that are worth anything.
     
  17. Prodo123, Nov 15, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2013

    Prodo123 macrumors 68020

    Prodo123

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    #17
    That would be the Yamaha NS10 and all of its variants, found in literally all major and minor recording studios for monitoring purposes.
    Headphone wise that would be the Audio Technica ATH-M50, used by DJs and pros more than any other portable headphone.
    Focal has absolutely no place in the studio. Its products have ridiculous coloration that would make mastering music absolutely horrendous. If all music was made on Focal drivers we might as well stick Skullcandy in all of our ears and blast music at full volume and call that hi-fi.
    No, what Focal is great at doing is the same thing Bose does: color the music in a more appealing way such that although it deviates from what it's supposed to sound like, it sounds subjectively nicer. But the fact remains that Focal's drivers end up making the sound inaccurate, and therefore do not belong in studios where accuracy is paramount. In a personal audio setting such as the OP's, it depends on the listener on whether he or she likes the sound signature. But even then you have much more attractive choices at less than half the cost of Focal's ridiculously overpriced and overmarketed products.
    You're arguing against an audio engineer by the way.
     
  18. John Kotches macrumors 6502

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    #18
    You lost all credibility here.

    Focal's JM Lab badge with their Utopia line of speakers is simply superb. They are quite "boutique".
     
  19. iBug2 macrumors 68040

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    #19
    Focal sells 200K costing speakers, and they are considered one of the best speakers ever made by all audiophile magazines all around the world. Are you kidding me? They are one of the top brands in sound reproduction. That doesn't mean all their speakers are amazing obviously, but they are no joke. I used their Solo BE speakers for nearly 5 years as nearfields and they had great sound for the price of 2000 Euros.
     
  20. bluespark macrumors 65816

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    #20
    Agree with most of the other posters here: Focals are excellent, and are well-regarded for good reason. Before this thread, I had never heard anyone claim otherwise.
     
  21. John Kotches macrumors 6502

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    #21
    This reminds of the little known R&D offshoot of Pioneer, TAD. They have some brilliant products, unfortunately priced just as brilliantly.

    Their coaxial beryllium drivers are something you should check out sometime.
     
  22. DianeK thread starter macrumors regular

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    #22
    I'm a little late returning here myself :eek:
    I did end up getting the Focal XS 2.1 and couldn't be happier. I'm still in the break-in period but honestly I can't imagine them sounding any better than they do now. Are they premium-priced for computer speakers - yes. Are they worth it - absolutely!
    Diane
     
  23. bluespark macrumors 65816

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    #23
    Glad to hear you're enjoying them -- I think you made a great choice!
     

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