Computer Sound Thread: "I must be an idiot..."

Discussion in 'Computers' started by Rory Buszka, Jan 6, 2004.

  1. Rory Buszka

    Rory Buszka Supporting Actor

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    Ok, so I have been home from college for about the past two weeks and I have been running my music through a pair of old Labtec speakers. When most people think Labtec speakers, they think cheap crap speakers, but these were really something else. Forone thing, they only featured 3" drivers, but they had a very good bass enhancement circuit, and just overall sounded very good for their price. So the other day when they finally bit the dust after about four years, I was more than a little sad to see them go. I opened my wallet to see how much Christmas money I had left. I found about $100, so I figured that I would head over to my neighborhood Best Buy and see what they had to offer.

    Upon arriving, I saw that there were four models in my price category: the JBL Duet, the Bose MediaMate, the Logitech Z-3, and the Creative I-Trigue. I don't remember which model of I-trigue it was, but it was the one with the three micro-drivers in the satellite. So I gave a listen to each one.

    First I listened to the JBL (Harman Multimedia) duets. The Duets are a single-driver job with a special surround that helps the driver cone have a cleaner stroke. Yet I found that when I listened to them, they were very much lacking in bass, and the sound just sounded thin. They did not turn up very loud, but they did not distort at their maximum volume.

    Second, I listened to the Bose MediaMate. At first I wan't inclined to think much of these speakers, because they were Bose. I don't have a lot of respect for that company when it comes to putting out a product that actualy gives you everything you pay for. These did not seem to distort the sound all that noticeably, and they had good bass for a two-piece set. In addition to bass equalization, they say that the speakers have "spaciousness-enhancing circuitry". Fun.

    Third, I listened to the Logitech Z3. These are some good-looking speakers, in my opinion, but the sound from the satellites seemed too thin for me, without much midrange and a lot of bright treble. The subwoofer did not impress me. I might have picked this one if its sub did not seem so boomy, and it had a lot of midbass coming out through the sub.

    Lastly, I gave the Creative I-Trigue a listen. In the past, I have not been all that impressed by Creative's subwoofers. I have found them to be quite boomy and full of midbass, and they tend to run out of gas quickly when the volume gets turned up. This one had a little more kick than I was expecting, but it still had a lot of midbass, which I do not like to hear from my subwoofers.

    It became clear to me that I would be making sacrifices if I bought either of the three-piece systems. The boomy subs would screw up the stereo imaging, and the satellites had some very harsh treble. So I went back to look at the two-piece sets. The JBL Duet had a smooth midrange and a present treble, but my old labtecs also had BASS, which was something the JBLs lacked. Then I listened more closely to the Bose. I thought, "I must be an idiot for giving this much attention to a Bose product", but as I listened both in the near-field and far-field it became clear that the Bose had the Duets outgunned in the bass department. They had a lot of air flowing through the bass ports, and the sound was quite full for such a small speaker. So, reminding myself that I'd probably regret it later, I picked up the MediaMates and took them home.

    When I unpacked them, I found a lot of attention to detail in their aesthetics, and their "graphite" enclosures looked quite handsome sitting on my desk. That's the thing Bose has always had - aesthetic appeal. I immediately began to put these things through their paces, looking for their weaknesses. I found that they have that same sort of patronizing sound that many Bose products have, with a lack of extreme treble extension. On closer examination, both speakers feature the same driver that is used in the Wave Radio, the one that is loaded into the Acoustic Waveguide. I played a wide variety of music, from Five Iron Frenzy (my favorite Ska band with great production quality) to Train, and almost everything in between. Overall, I decided that they had quite a bit of bass for their size. They are a bit smaller than my old Labtecs, but they had some fight in them. I later found they did indeed have some extended treble, but probably not beyond 18KHz. They had surprisingly good midrange, with lots of detail on things like acoustic guitar. I found their bass to be a little loose, and big bass notes set their little woofers hopping. Their sound does seem quite "spacious" as advertised, and I think I enjoy them a little better than the old Labtecs. They seem to have a more powerful amplifier in them, which did not really run out of gas like the Labtecs tended to when the bass got real deep and loud. I think they may have some compression circuitry in them, because they tended to sound more flat and less dynamic as the sound got louder. They did play quite loud, and it was only at high levels that I began to notice that kick drums and loud bass caused the internal circuitry to really clamp down, lowering the volume until the transient had passed.

    Overall, for $99 these are some fairly listenable two-piece speakers. They sound small, but to a cetain extent this is inescapable because they ARE small speakers. Their bass is a little loose and lacking real depth, but what do you want from a 3" full-range driver? They go loud, while staying cleaner than the old Labtecs would have. They are just a little artifical-sounding, but that is probably because of their plastic cabinets. I think these should have only cost $79, not $99. Friends don't let friends buy bose, but in the case of these little multimedia speakers, that might not be such a sin.
     
  2. Tekara

    Tekara Supporting Actor

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    Well hey, you know what? I use Bose for my computer audio too.

    Though, I'm using an acoustimass5 set that is a handmedown from my first home theater. The response range on Bose speakers seems to work pretty well with compressed audio since neither plays extremes.
     
  3. Rory Buszka

    Rory Buszka Supporting Actor

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    I have had no major complaints with the Bose computer speakers. The enclosures had a tendency to vibrate in sympathy with the driver cones, muddying up the bass at high levels, but I don't think it's that big of a problem. Up in my dorm room at Purdue University, I use my big high-fidelity stereo but I needed something passable to use at home while my stereo stays at school. For most stuff, these Bose speakers seem to be up to the task. I might build a little transmission-line subwoofer with a 5" driver to supply these things with some extra bass but that will definitely come later.
     

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