Mid to high end desktop speaker recommendations

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by Verdanice, Dec 22, 2010.

  1. Verdanice macrumors regular

    Aug 13, 2007
    I'm looking to move my 35+ year old bookshelf speakers away from my desk to my TV as part of a revamp of my desk as a whole. I want to of course move my receiver with those speakers, so I am looking for a set of independent desktop speakers (that is, no receiver) that are fairly compact.

    My budget is not very limiting, I'm good with up to $600, maybe $700, but naturally for those prices for desktop speakers I'm looking for incredible sound, which can be tough to get out of compact speakers.

    My requirements are that, sound quality - really aiming high with that - and aesthetics. I want something to compliment my 27" LED Cinema Display and 15" MacBook Pro, on an mStand. I'm picky about aesthetics, I won't lie - M-Audio's stuff is too ugly, for example. I understand that this is limiting, but don't say I didn't warn you about the pickiness. I'm looking for either 2.0 or 2.1, most likely the former. I'm not going to 5.1, just not what I need, and honestly I'd prefer to go without a sub. I do need to be able to get some good volume out of these things sometimes, though not particularly regularly. Again, picky, I know.

    I've scouted out a couple candidates so far, but I know I've only scratched the surface.
    • Swans M10 - I've heard good things, but they're towards the lower end of my budget and are only satisfactory in the aesthetics department (look a bit cheap, especially that blue lit knob)
    • Paradigm MilleniaOne 2.0 - I've heard little about these ones because they're quite new to the market, but they seem to fit my requirements.
    • Bowers & Wilkins MM1 - I've heard generally good things, they look pretty damn good. One concern I had is getting some volume out of them.

    I know step 1 is to check them out in person, I'd never buy speakers without doing that - but some preliminary suggestions would be helpful! Headed to a shop tomorrow, hopefully, to check out some of their stuff (I know they have the MM1's). Again, any input is appreciated!
  2. RaceTripper macrumors 68030

    May 29, 2007
    I have the Swans M10 and think they are really pretty mediocre. For as much desk space as they take up I'm really not very impressed.
  3. Verdanice thread starter macrumors regular

    Aug 13, 2007
    Definitely the ones I'm least confident in of those three, thanks for the input!
  4. John T macrumors 68020

    John T

    Mar 18, 2006
    Of the three speakers referred to by the OP, those by B&W (who specialise in the manufacture of quality audio equipment), are the only ones that come close to his specification of "Mid to high-end desk-top speakers".

    However, it's worth bearing in mind that it is physically impossible to obtain anything reaching "high-end" from desk-top speakers and/or a computer. "Above average quality" is probably the best level that can be achieved with such a setup.

    What, if any, addition amplification is the OP planning to use? Obviously, this also can have a direct bearing on the resulting sound quality.
  5. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem


    Feb 19, 2005
    ^ read this guy's post and take note because he is right. I have the swan m10s and while they're good for my needs, they're not medium to high end even to my untrained ear.
  6. MacSignal macrumors regular

    May 8, 2010
    Previously, I have heard the B&W, Focal XS, and Audio Engine 2 and 5, and a variety of Bose. I am a 100% 2.0 guy and not particularly volume oriented. I listen to a pretty wide variety of styles of music .

    To my ear, the B&W sound the best of that group, with the AE 5 next. With commensurate "high end" amplification, I would expect the Paradigm to have the potential to be superior to both and meet your requirements for volume. But, I would also be surprised if that comes together for $600-$700.

    If you get an opportunity to compare the B&W to the Paradigm's, I hope you will post an update.

    While the B&W's sound nicer than the AE 5's, which sounded better than the Focal XS and Bose gear, none of it comes close to the quality of my mostly 20 year old audio gear: Creek integrated amplifier and JSE Model 1 (floor standing) speakers driven by a Proceed CD player.
  7. Verdanice thread starter macrumors regular

    Aug 13, 2007
    You're absolutely right, I'm not aiming high in the consumer sound market, just in this particular corner because it fits the needs of my setup physically. I absolutely love my old bookshelf speakers, but they're way too big for the desk area and don't match with anything. I wasn't planning on using any amplification, but I'm open to it - I still want to keep this compact, though.

    I think the M10's are out for the aesthetics and generally sub-par reviews outside of a few shining ones.

    The Paradigms look like they have potential, you're right, but as you said, they may require some additional gear (amp). Those AE 5's have very studio-like aesthetics, and that is enough for me, in this case, to reject them. In any other application aesthetics wouldn't matter as much, but I look at these things all day. I think I'll definitely be giving the B&W's a listen.

    Any other recommendations are welcomed! I'm having trouble finding much else in this type of speaker.
  8. brentsg macrumors 68040

    Oct 15, 2008
    I bought AE5's and enjoy them, but they ultimately got moved to a gaming setup in the family room. They are just too large.

    I bought the B&W setup and love it. They produce very nice sound, and consume very little desk. Also, they produce plenty of sound for my office.
  9. RaceTripper macrumors 68030

    May 29, 2007
    Also, a real dumb-ass thing about the Swans is that the satellite interconnect cables are permanently fixed, but not very long. You don't get much flexibility locating the mid/bass unit.
  10. Verdanice thread starter macrumors regular

    Aug 13, 2007
    Took a listen to the B&W MM1's today, and although it was a busy store, they sounded pretty fantastic, albeit slightly low on the bass. A legitimate concern is the volume limitation, the MM1's simply don't do loud output, but given how amazingly they do quieter output that might be no big deal. The salesperson also pointed out a few amp systems , given the increase in quality that's very apparent of course with a less compact system. In particular, he pointed out one over my budget, the Peachtree musicBox (can't find the Peachtree site). Very impressive sound.

    Anyways, that's where I'm at, no decisions yet!
  11. brentsg macrumors 68040

    Oct 15, 2008
    The MM1's really excel in near-field listening. They still sound good on the other side of the room, but they simply aren't designed to "fill a room" with sound.

    How large an area will you have?

    I really can't imagine an in-store audition really telling the tale, simply due to the size of the area and all the background noise. If the Apple store will allow a return, I'd recommend a home demo.

    Also, despite the design intent they will do a bit more than you'd think. I have mine on my desk in a home office in the basement. If I get carried away the wife will come scold me to turn them down, and she's upstairs in the living room. That being said, even something like the AE5's could be somewhat enjoyed from an adjacent room, where the MM1's will just produce annoying noise.. if that makes sense.

    I'm way past my "loud music" phase, so I appreciate that the MM1's excel at low volume. The old Klipsch speakers I had previously really had to be turned up a bit too loud or the sound was unbalanced and muddy.
  12. occams razor macrumors regular

    Nov 21, 2010
    Salem, OR
    I will be purchasing the A5's myself. I have listened to all the speakers listed and I fell they are the superior speakers over all. They accel in many ares where the other speakers are just strong in one or two. I plan on using them with a airport express plugged into the back of them.
  13. Verdanice thread starter macrumors regular

    Aug 13, 2007
    I picked up the MM1's, prepared to return them in the 14 day window if I wasn't totally satisfied.

    So far, I am. The output has so much depth and range, it weirded me out a bit at first, thinking there was too little treble, but I think my ears just need adjusting because it's so warm and 'natural' sounding. I'm incredibly impressed especially taking into account the form factor. They're beautiful speakers, match the 27" LED display perfectly, overall do exactly what I want them to. The volume isn't crazy, but fortunately they will handle the level I want properly before losing grace. I find I'm more inclined to listen to them at a somewhat lower level, not because it's not as good loud but because it's not really necessary to pump them up. Besides, with my old speakers moved to the TV, I can Airplay to the Apple TV and the MM1's simultaneously and get the volume out of those, and the intricacies out of these when I have a lot of company.

    The remote is silly - works about 1/3 of the time for me and requires a fairly specific press to activate a button properly (not too hard, not too soft). I think that's my only complaint.

    Recommended, going to continue putting hours on them and running them through their paces to ensure they're right for me. Feel free to ask if you have any questions about them.
  14. MonkeyClaw macrumors regular


    Feb 18, 2006
    Asheville, NC
    I just got a pair of these, trust me, you won't be disappointed. These babies sound incredible, tight but not overpowering bass, very clear and vibrant mids and highs. The soundstage is very precise with incredible directional qualities. And on top of that, the bamboo ones are sexy as hell. I just didn't think there was something of this quality at such a reasonable price point.
  15. mrdm macrumors regular

    Jul 21, 2010
    AE a2 all the way...

    These speakers are incredible - very accurate, decent base and very good looking. They've opened up through many hours of listening and rival anything I've heard in a desktop speaker. Highly recommend. IMO - you are overpaying for the A5s for nearfield use only. They have the same tweeter.
  16. thewongster macrumors newbie

    Jun 13, 2010
    I own the M10's and I really enjoy them I think they are the best value in its class. However, I do wish I would have invested in some of Swan's higher-end stuff. I don't think it is at all fair to compare the M10's to the Paradigms and the B&Ws, there not even at all in the same price range. To be fair compare them maybe to the Swan M200MKIII which sells for $289 at audioinsider.com. But even then! those are well below your price range so I would maybe even compare them to the Swan T200. I don't have much experience at all with the other 2 swan products but they most certainly must be better then the M10's!
  17. Nautilus86 macrumors newbie

    Aug 30, 2010
    If aesthetics was what you were looking for you should have gone for the Bang & Olufsen beolab4 (PC + Mac). Sound quality is excellent and looks are awesome. They come at a price though ($ 900-1000).
  18. fortunecookie macrumors regular


    Dec 3, 2010
    Never heard of those speakers. What I use though is Logitech Z5500 & I'd recommend it to anyone looking a nice set of speakers.
  19. silverbillet72 macrumors newbie


    Dec 5, 2010
    Bose recommendation

    I have had some terrible desktop speakers in my day and have come a long way with my desire for perfect sound. After trying just about every speaker in my price range, I decided to try to main (cookie cutter) conventional speaker that were being sold everywhere= the Bose Companion 3 set-up. I was blown away with just of taste of tunes played at the local best buy demo stand. For just under 300 bucks, I have the greatest sound that amount of money can buy. Very pleased and would challenge anyone with a more expensive set-up to listen to them, even at low volume they are a very well balanced group of speakers. Go to best buy and check em out!
  20. Transporteur macrumors 68030

    Nov 30, 2008
    Instead of settling with overpriced computer speakers, I recommend a 2.1 home cinema system. They generally are much better priced.

    Personally, I use a 2.1 BOSE Acoustimass system for about 10 years now and I don't think that I will ever replace it with something smaller. Those little cubes are almost invisible on the desktop and the (active) sub doesn't bother under the desk.

    I just took a quick look at their website and they don't seem to make the 2.1 Acoustimass any more, seems that they replaced it with the CineMate system. I haven't heard it myself, but I figure you get much more from it than from those Swans or (IMO) overpriced B&W desktop systems.
  21. GTJ macrumors newbie

    Apr 23, 2005
    Audioengine A2's. Cant be beat for size vs quality/volume. I bought a pair for my bedroom hooked up to a airport express and their incredible. The A5's are to big for desktop speakers. Check some of the reviews on their site. Great little speakers.
  22. RaceTripper macrumors 68030

    May 29, 2007
    Has anyone tried one of the Jawbone Jamboxes. I'd consider dumping my Swan M10s and getting one.

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