Good cost effective 5.1 speakers? Reference stereo speakers?

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by TheStrudel, Feb 22, 2008.

  1. TheStrudel macrumors 65816


    Jan 5, 2008
    So I now have my Mac Pro, and it's time to upgrade from my Logitech X-540s to a speaker set that goes S/PDIF through the digital audio ports (also, getting off using the firewave would be nice as well). I'd like to get a nice 5.1 surround system in the $200-$500 range for fairly accurate reproduction of music and movies and other such things (preferably THX certified); I could use surround monitoring for my video editing. I've been thinking about the Logitech Z-5500 but I keep hearing it's rather bassy and not necessarily the best to use for music and whatnot. Are there any recommendations? I'm not exactly so boned up on my sound technology, so I could use some help here.

    Additionally, if anybody knows of a stereo monitoring set in the $100-$300 range that has accurate reproduction, that would be helpful too.

  2. Avatar74 macrumors 65816


    Feb 5, 2007
    PC speaker systems like Logitech are pretty horrid, in my view. On the one hand you're mentioning a price range for PC speakers, on the other hand you're looking for accurate reproduction.

    My advice? Pick one. Most of the time you can't have both.

    I use a pair of KEF Q-compact bookshelf speakers coupled with a 100-watt per channel amplifier... but then my amplifier was free as I already had it. A surround setup of accurate reproduction for video editing is going to cost you around $1000-$1500, such as the BlueSky Pro Desk system.

    It goes skyward from there if you want studio reference monitors like Tannoy, Westlake, etc. but if you can justify these, you can write them off as a business expense. If you aren't running a business then you don't need accurate reproduction and just go with whatever does the job cheaply.

    I guess I'm a bit miffed when I hear "accurate reproduction" thrown around like people know what that means. Most "audiophiles" don't have a clue what that means.. though they'll write post after post insisting on it.

    REASONABLY accurate reproduction can be achieved pretty easily. Those KEF's I bought... they were being discontinued and I picked up the pair for $140. But then again, multiply $70 x 5 = $350. Add a surround receiver and you're up above that $500 range.

    I figure you'll have to spend at least $1000 for reasonably accurate surround sound reproduction. I don't trust the THX licensing program as it's no longer managed by Lucasfilm, and they have now reduced their criteria to market the THX name to the average consumer... albeit at vastly inferior quality to the original THX reference criteria developed by Tomlinson Holman in 1982.

    You will not find a THX Ultra 2 system for $500... and there are comparable systems out there that meet the criteria but cost far less simply because the manufacturers (Yamaha is one of them) refuse to pay the hefty licensing fees that force them into a higher price bracket on the shelf.

    Can you state which your preference is? Low cost or high fidelity?
  3. TheStrudel thread starter macrumors 65816


    Jan 5, 2008
    Thanks for the reply.

    I think fidelity is more important to me at this point, and I could start off by getting a stereo set and then expanding it into a surround set when the time came, but there are some features I'd like in whichever system - namely, the ability to go with an optical connection out from the mac pro, having a receiver/subwoofer central unit that is neither too large nor too expensive.

    With what you've said, I guess THX certification is something I can ignore. More accurately, I'd kind of like some of the hardware features of the Z-5500s, but with more sound accuracy. Fidelity is more important to me than price at the moment, but if you know of a system that would present a reasonable balance between the two, that might work as well, as there isn't a lot of demand for surround and extra high quality in my editing work at this time (a lot of it is going to the web, with rather less high-quality intent than I usually prefer).

    It needn't be 100% accurate if that is just too far out of my price range. So I'd be willing to spend as much as $300 on a stereo monitoring system now and then expand it to surround when the time came later. While we're on the subject, how is a system like the M-audio Studiophile DX4 Professional speakers?

    Thanks again for replying. I'm glad someone who obviously has a lot of experience with this like you helped out.
  4. amik macrumors regular

    Dec 11, 2007
    Here is what I would do:

    Find a used receiver that accepts optical input. A decent receiver is all you need, maybe 35-50 wpc and digital to analog conversion, from a decent manufacturer, that's it.

    Find a used pair of decent bookshelf speakers. A $300 budget is perfect for used starter equipment. Tons of used entry-level gear is sold everyday when people get bit by the upgrade bug. Scour audiogon, ebay, craigslist, and for sale forums on audio websites (avsforum, diyaudio, audioholics). A few names I would look for: PSB, NHT, B&W, ERA, KEF. Don't be worried if they look a little older. I've got some Thiels and B&W Matrix series speakers from the mid 90's that still sound fantastic even up against newer competition.

    Once you procure some equipment, run the optical out of the mac pro to the receiver and hook up the bookshelf speakers. You're done.

    Don't worry about accuracy. If you heard perfectly flat accurate reproduction of 90% of today's generally awful recording's your ears would be offended. What you really want is decent tonal balance which you will find with many bookshelf speakers, but very very few computer-specific speakers. If you need accurate reproduction for editing work, headphones are probably the easiest way to get there.

    The reason I suggest a receiver + speakers rather than active monitors is flexibility. With the receiver + speakers, you can upgrade the speakers or the amplification/processing independently rather than being stuck with the amplification/driver combo of the active monitors. It also makes it easy to get to surround sound by just adding speakers later.

    Watch you're wallet. This hobby gets expensive quick. :D

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