What are the top three best audio systems for the Mac?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by hajime, Apr 27, 2011.

  1. hajime, Apr 27, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2011

    hajime macrumors 601

    Jul 23, 2007
    Hello. I have a 17" MBP. When watching TV/movie or play games/classical music from it, the quality of the speakers do not seem to be very good. What are the top three audio systems for the Mac/PC these days? My room is not very large but I may move the system to a larger room later. Not sure yet. I want a system that immerses me in a realistic 3D environment. Are the Logitech speakers with THX good? Thanks.
  2. Consultant macrumors G5


    Jun 27, 2007
    What's the budget?

    You can go from headphones to things more expensive than the MBP.
  3. darkcurse macrumors 6502a


    Nov 5, 2005
    Get an external audio interface (USB or Firewire doesn't really matter at this point in time) and then hook up your speakers to it. Makes a world of difference.
  4. Roy G Biv macrumors 6502

    Roy G Biv

    Dec 26, 2010
  5. hajime, Apr 27, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2011

    hajime thread starter macrumors 601

    Jul 23, 2007
    Thanks for the info. Budget is probably less than $200. I am not an audiophile but I certain hope to get something that immerses me in a realistic 3D environment. I use both Mac OS and Windows 7 64-bit via Bootcamp. I have a Shure 115 headphone for outdoor use already. I don't know how to make the settings to make the sound better. It would be a plus if I could use plug it in my HD TV in another room. However, it is not necessarily at the moment. Given the limitation of the built-in speakers, I wonder how good the software solution could be...I shall try out the demo. It is an interesting idea though.

    A few questions:

    1. All speakers can plug into the audio jack of the computers. Why some manufacturers (such as Logitech) say that their products are only compatible with Windows not the Mac?

    2. Logitech also mentions that some of their products are for laptops. What are the differences between speakers for the laptops vs those for the desktop? They seem to be the same.

    3. I can think of several interfaces: audio jack, USB, Firewire (as mentioned by darkcurse), wireless. What are the pros and cons of these? In case of Wireless, will it interfere with other wireless devices such as the Apple Wireless keyboard and mouse?

    4. Are there cool speakers that match the Mac design?

    5. From old postings, I read that Creative's speakers are better than Logitech's speakers. Altec Lansing's seem to have better ratings. Is this still true?

    6. Over 10 years ago, it was good to have a subwoofer. How about these days?

    Thanks again.
  6. DaREdBaRoN macrumors member

    Jan 9, 2009
    The only way you can get a realistic "3D" effect would be a surround sound system with a receiver and at least 4 speakers. I dont know if games for mac or pc support 5.1 audio though. A decent home theater in a box will run $400-$600 but you can hook it up to your HDTV or your Mac.
  7. kuebby macrumors 68000


    Jan 18, 2007
    To answer some of your questions...
    1. It's probably the included software, not the hardware, which is only Windows compatible. I can't think of a reason the speakers themselves wouldn't work with a mac.

    3. I'm pretty sure you can get surround sound via USB/FW but not via the headphone (1/8") audio jack. Wireless speakers shouldn't interfere with your KB/mouse (since those are bluetooth).

    4. Soundsticks

    6. If you like strong bass you definitely want a subwoofer.
  8. hajime thread starter macrumors 601

    Jul 23, 2007
    In that price range, which system(s) do you recommend?
  9. BigRedOne macrumors regular

    Nov 29, 2007
    +1 on the Audioengine A5's. Very nice speakers, I really enjoy mine.
  10. DaREdBaRoN macrumors member

    Jan 9, 2009
    This Yamaha system here is pretty nice, I have it in my bedroom for gaming on my 360. I've also seen a Denon system with Boston Accoustic speakers at Best Buy for $600.
  11. Bye Bye Baby macrumors 65816

    Bye Bye Baby

    Sep 15, 2004
    i(am in the)cloud
    I really like:

    1. B&W desktop speakers

    2. Bose Companion 5
  12. sine-nomine macrumors regular

    Jul 25, 2007
    Finer stores everywhere.
    I'm not entirely sure of whether you're wanting 5.1 surround sound or just a 2.0 or 2.1 stereo setup with good imaging, but here are a few suggestions:

    Powered speakers (amp is built in, just plug them into the headphone out on your computer and listen):
    AudioEngine A2 or A5 get extremely good reviews, and are fairly compact if space is a concern.
    Swan M10s generally also get good reviews, though they have this weird "midwoofer" that should ideally be placed at roughly ear-height.
    Swan D1080MkII 08s might be something you should consider, though reviews are hard to find.
    M-Audio AV-40s can be had for $150 or less, and were at the top of my list when I was shopping for speakers a short time ago. Best Buy stocks them, so at least you'd have an easy way to pick them up (and possibly return them if you didn't like them).

    Logitech Z-5500 or Z-506 - I've read good things about them on these forums from time to time, and the 506 is available at Best Buy, so you might be able to stop in and have a listen. With an optical connection, both should be able to provide you with 5.1 audio from DVD Player, Quicktime or VLC. They are also pretty cheap, so while they not provide quite as good a sound as something like the AudioEngine A5s, they might be just what you're after.

    If you're interested in a more flexible solution, you should consider going with unpowered speakers and a separate amplifier. This will generally be a more expensive option, but you can pick and choose from just about any speaker out there that you like, and can try out different amplifiers to get just the sound you want.
    For example, AudioEngine has the P4 and N22 speakers and amp, which I've heard very good things about.
    You could also try the Dayton DTA-100a T-amp, or their APA-150 class A/B amplifier, and then shop around for speakers you like to go with it.
    There are a huge number of possibilities going this route, but it might be worth it if you want to put in a little more time listening and researching, and a little more money to get the best sound.
  13. trip1ex macrumors 68000

    Jan 10, 2008
  14. sliceofman macrumors newbie

    May 26, 2007
    Well i have to say that tho i'm not a terribly big audio buff i enjoy my JBL Creature 2's ( which is now the creature iii http://www.amazon.com/JBL-Creature-III-Self-Powered-Multimedia/dp/B002TLSTGA )

    for a small room and not trying to disturb the neighbors too much for a cheep but reliable 2.1 i'd vote for these. but if u want something with power for under $200 the Soundsticks are the way to go.

    sadly it seems you're not gonna get much options for a surround sound for under 200
  15. Roy G Biv macrumors 6502

    Roy G Biv

    Dec 26, 2010
    Avoid anyone who recommends Bose. While not necessarily of the devil, Satan is probably acting through them by some indirect means.
  16. byocrysis macrumors regular


    Nov 10, 2007
    San Luis Obispo, CA
    Like someone else suggested, in your price range, M-Audio AV40s. You will not be dissapointed :)
  17. MagnusVonMagnum macrumors 601


    Jun 18, 2007
    You could spend a fortune on any type of audio/monitoring system, but with a budget of $200, I think Klipsch's ProMedia 2.1 (usually around $140-160, sometimes less on sale) is the best sounding powered sub/sat 'computer' speakers I've ever heard. I even bought a pair to use in my bedroom with an Airport Express.
  18. rawdawg macrumors 6502

    Jan 7, 2009
    The Peachtree Audio Decco2 with Era 4 speakers are my bet and that exactly what I just got. I got lucky though and found it for $1000 on ebay. New it's almost $2000. I added a Emotiva Sub-12 for $450 and I have one hell of a system.
  19. benjayman2 macrumors 6502


    Sep 1, 2010
  20. hajime, Apr 29, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2011

    hajime thread starter macrumors 601

    Jul 23, 2007
    How about the following speakers compared with the ones we posted?

    Altec Lansing
    InMotion Air - IMW725
    FX 3022 Expressionist Bass
    Octane 7 - VS4621
    Expressionist Classis - FX2020

    Z906 (I know this is over budget)

    Soundsticks III

    Duet II
    Creature III
  21. amarcus macrumors 6502

    Feb 26, 2008
    London, UK
    One more vote for the A5's!
  22. MagnusVonMagnum macrumors 601


    Jun 18, 2007
    The A5 is ~$300 and therefore out of his budget range. I still say Klipsch PM2.1 is the way to go for under $200 (~$160). Clean mids/highs and pretty darn good bass for a little powered sub when put int the corner. It's only good for sitting close or filling small rooms, though. But for what you get for $160, it's downright amazing. Most systems royally suck until the $1000 range for a decent sized room (at least a $500 sub, $2-300 pair bookshelf plus a small receiver will easily run you that much and it will only be 'good', not great.) What Klipsch can do for a small room is truly unreal IMO. Everything else I've heard at local computer shops that's made 'for computers' has sucked something awful. And I mean AWFUL.
  23. jtara macrumors 65832

    Mar 23, 2009
    Start with something that sounds decent. You probably aren't going to get that in "surround sound" on your budget. And forget the .1 (subwoofer). The "subwoofers" that come with Logitech, Creative, Cambridge Soundworks, etc. are a joke. Sure, you can hide that rattling piece of **** somewhere and have little, tiny, cute speakers. And awful sound.

    Just get a pair of powered studio monitors. The suggested AudioEngine model is a good start. Check out M-Audio and Behringer, as well. I'm pretty sure Beringer has something in your price range. These speakers all have bigger drivers than the so-called "subwoofers" in the packages with the cute little speakers, so you can dispense with the subwoofer (or add a REAL one if/when you think you need it.)

    For surround sound, you will need either a desktop with a card with multiple analog outputs (common for PCs, only gonna work for a Mac if you have a Mac Pro), an external USB interface (adding $50-$100), or USB speakers. Not sure about surround support for USB speakers.

    I'd suggest just getting a pair of powered studio monitors, and upgrading to an external USB interface and surrounds if/when you can afford it and feel the need.

    Forget any of the "fake" surround solutions. They are generally gimmicks. There is SOME validity, as they make use of SOME of the psycho-acoustic effects that help us locate sounds, but they aren't very convincing.

    For example, one way is modeling the effect of the ear lobes on sounds arriving from the rear. The earlobe causes a mid-frequency dip, so a mid-frequency dip will to some degree fool the brain into thinking sounds that arrive from the front are arriving from the rear. You hear the primary sound coming from the front speakers. Then, after a short delay, you hear the "dipped" version coming also from the front speakers. You get some perception that the sound is coming from the rear. I have a pretty high-end version of this on my TV - a $1000 speaker bar from Definitive. Believe me, it really doesn't work. I use real surrounds on my TV, and cut-out the "fake surrounds" in the bar. I only use the built-in surround when viewing from a different room on a swivel, when in the living room I switch over the the real surrounds and there is NO comparison.

    Another trick is aiming additional speakers in a single enclosure to bounce off the walls, etc.
  24. hajime thread starter macrumors 601

    Jul 23, 2007
    Thanks for the interesting info. While I am trying to decide which set of speakers to buy, I tried out the software. At least for the MacBook Pro 17", it is better to have it. While most of the settings are not very useful (at least for the non-expert), I found the "Defaults -01 Default Preset settings" together with "3D - Normal (x2)" quite good. Any other better settings? Thanks.

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