IMac Aftermarket Speakers

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by kirkf, Dec 14, 2009.

  1. kirkf macrumors newbie

    Jan 16, 2009
    I would like to add a set of good aftermarket speakers to my IMac. What would be recommended ($150-$250)?
  2. reallynotnick macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
  3. thegoldenmackid macrumors 604


    Dec 29, 2006
    dallas, texas
    Well, here's a shot.

    Let me start about by saying: sound is 100% subjective. Everyone's ears are different and while 100 of us can give you a recommendation - your ears are the ultimate judge. With that said, very rarely are you going to have the opportunity to test all the speakers we recommend or you find in one place (or even at all) some of the brands and models mentioned. You can spend $10 on a pair of speakers or $1,000 - if you can't tell the difference, it's just an extra $9,990. (no, seriously) So now let's get onto what I just described as a process that could be "worthess." I won't make judgement on anything I haven't gotten to hear, so those $1,000 Harman Kardons might be worth it, but...

    So, you want to know what's going to happen? A couple people are going to recommend Bose, soon the "Bose haters" and myself will tell you that's probably not the right idea (more on that later.) The Sound Sticks by Harman Kardon are going to get recommended shortly thereafter (if not before) - I'm going to tell you that these are also overrated, but perhaps not as much as the ones before. Next my old favorite the Altec Lansing FX6021s are going to get some love, at under $150 - I can't say they wouldn't tempt me; good luck trying to find that price though. Then we will get the Logitech Z-2300 and JBL Creatures. At this point in the discussion, there will be a couple of mass diversions. First, someone will swear to ___ that the $25 pair of speakers they found at Wal-Mart produce the greatest sound in the world. The Bose haters (and myself) will quickly attempt to bring back reality. M-Audio Studiophile AV 40 will get some love, go to the Apple store and check them out, they aren't a bad option, but I don't think they are the best. Next, someone will recommend getting yourself a good pair of headphones and explain to you that for the price, you aren't going to do better - while that is likely true in almost every case, it's not what you asked for. Next someone will tell you that there is no point buying computer speakers (more on that later). After that the Bose discussion will go on. Someone will recommend AudioEngines and pro monitors (more on both of those later) There will probably be some other recommendations, but at the end of all this, what you see above: sound is subjective, your ears, etc. That idea will be mentioned and probably agreed on - that doesn't really help you.

    Before all that happens, you'll likely be reading this post and my recommendation, which will generate some debate. My default recommendation for most users are the Swan M10s.
    My review and more questions answered, here. Thread I, got close but a lot of good audio discussion and answers about the M10s.
    Thread II.
    Swan M10 vs. M12
    Swan M10 vs. Swan 1080 MKII

    They are a 2.1 system that can be had for under $100 and produce results that are extremely impressive for the price range. Generally, most people swear by them, two cases of users not being happy with them have arose on here - but the overwhelming majority (4 out of 5 on here) seem to be extremely impressed. I will however make some warnings:
    • If you can't put the woofer box at near head level (plus or minus say three feet) these are not for you. The system is very directional and I wouldn't recommend these if you cannot get the woofer placed there.
    • If you are looking for earth-shattering bass that will annoy neighbors; these aren't for you. The Swans feature what most refer to as a "midwoofer." This produces an incredible accurate sounding bass, but it's not going to rumble - hence why you can place them at head level, as opposed to the ground. It's not to say that there is no bass, that would be a lie - it just may not be right for you.
    • If you want a system that is going to power a medium or large sized room, these aren't for you. They are plenty loud for desk use (turning these up beyond 65ish percent is probably going to be distateful for most users), but this is not a boombox for home DJ-ing.

    So, if not the Swans? All of the following I have gotten to hear, some I have owned, others not so much... Anyway here's a list and my brief thoughts:
    • Klipsch Pro Media 2.1 - Don't buy the second version of these, there was a huge gap in quality. This system is extremely loud and features decent accuracy. It's not like the Swans in that sense, but they aren't bad at all. Just find the first generation.
    • Cambridge Soundworks SoundWorks 2 - Need something small on your desk? The satellites are tiny, but the sound is anything but. Trying to find these aren't the easiest thing in the world, but I doubt that you'll be disappointed.
    • Logitech Z-2300 - The alternative to the Klipsch are these. The low-end is not as powerful as the Klipsch, but they do well as the little brother to the Z-5500. Very similar to the Klipsch Pro Media 2.1.
    • Altec Lansing FX6021 - Need something to match your 30" Cinema Display and your Mac Pro, here's what you wanted. Oh, by the way - they sound good too. Head to your local Apple store to take a listen.
    • Swan D2000 MKII - These are bookshelf-esk and sans subwoofer. Powered speakers that make music sound beautiful, if you don't have room for the midwoofer - these aren't a bad start.
    • Creative Sounds T40 - Needed something even more on a diet, Creative made the T40s. The bass can't replicate the lack of a subwoofer, but the tiny package delivers a huge and accurate punch.

    If you like to watch movies or play video games: the answer is fairly easy, Logitech Z-5500 (or similar model.) These feature a ridiculously powerful bass in a THX-certified 5.1 package. This system is designed for gaming and movies, not to say music sounds awful - but the bass overwhelming at times, that's an understatement. If you are wondering, most Mac computers can connect to these via Toslink meaning no external sound card needed.

    If you want to spend a $1000 on computer speakers: don't. Go and buy yourself a home theater system with a proper amp and proper bookshelves.

    My thoughts on Bose. Audiophiles will tell you never to buy Bose. People like me, that want to be audiophiles will tell you not to buy Bose. I don't think they sound awful, but when you place the price tag next to them, then they start to sound awful. For the most part, the Bose stuff is mid-range stuff at top range prices. With that being said, if you are satisfied with your purchase, then more power to you. To say that Bose is "junk" is probably a little overstating it, because they are no worse then any of the other companies. But, to say that they are the best, is giving way too much credit. I love my 901s, but I believe that the in-ear headphones belong only in one place, the trash.

    My thoughts on AudioEngine. I really feel like the Mac community just got duped into the Bose story again. Are they bad? no. Are they overpriced? yes. I feel that AudioEngine has done an incredible job targeting the high-end computer speaker market, but I really wasn't impressed with the A2 or A5 for the price. There are quite a few consumer and professional applications that will achieve the same result. Some people swear by them, just like Bose. If one wants wireless speakers, their adaptor might be the best route to go.

    My thoughts on pro monitors. It's what I use, but I do little mixing now-a-days. They aren't the greatest speakers for personal enjoyment and they definitely aren't the best value. I love my KRK museum (V88, V8 Series I, E8T), but I don't need them to enjoy music. The Swan M10s aren't going to come close to the KRK set-up; but I don't even want to imagine the tiny fraction of the price. Many will tell you that the monitors can produce sound that is "painful." (Shrugs) I can say that there are times in which listening to music for hours straight became annoying, but... In short, stay away unless you are doing mixing - it will save you the money. ​

    Lastly, some notes about soundcards and outputs, etc. There are three main ways to get sound to the speakers. First, is the option most users use - standard 1/8" audio cable directly to them, for most 2.1/2.0 systems this work. If you have a 5.1 system you run into some additional options. First, you can buy a cheap splitter from Radio Shack, this is the cheapest option and will produce sound in all five speakers - but, it will not produce true surround sound. You might be able to use a Toslink cable, but some speaker systems do not support it. If all those options work there are plenty of external sound cards that will allow you to do what you want. Obviously you can use an external sound card or Toslink connection on a 2.1 system, but it may not be required. Every speaker system is different, etc.

    Speakers Discussions Are Rampant:
    A good example of my comments are found here.
    Here is one thread for $100 USD. Good Discussion.
    USB Speaker Discussion Here
    Here is another discussion
    Wireless Thread Here...although it diverged.
    2.0 Discussion Here
    $200 Discussion Here
  4. rgarjr macrumors 603


    Apr 2, 2009
    Southern California
  5. nyprospect macrumors 6502

    May 3, 2004
    Wow i'm looking for a pair myself.That was a really great post.Very nice of you to help the op out like that.:)Love this forum.

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