AudioEngine A2: Little Big Speakers

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bsoft
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Post by bsoft » Mon Jun 09, 2008 12:34 am

Here's the thing: most people don't buy computer speakers for audio quality.

The purpose of PC speakers, in my book, is to reproduce sound for stupid YouTube videos, email notifications, and perhaps the occasional internet call.

PC Gamers generally don't use speakers. Voice chat is an essential part of most multiplayer games nowadays, which means that you're wearing a headset. And the last thing you want is your game sound (or another person's voice) bleeding through into your microphone. That means that you're probably using the headphones built into your headset.

Personally, I use a Logitech ClearChat Comfort USB. It was $20, and it does the job. I can hear other people, and they say that I sound good.

People who listen to music seriously don't do it on their PC anyway. They're listening to LPs, SACDs, or at least regular CDs.

You can tell these people about the tests that show 192kbps LAME-encoded MP3s to be indistinguishable from the original uncompressed PCM. But they insist that MP3s aren't as good. In fact, many of them insist that LPs are better still. I have friends who believe this, and they make a good point - 44.1 kHz is perhaps barely adequate to encompass the entire range of human hearing, and 16-bit integer samples are almost certainly inadequate to represent a broad dynamic range, especially with the terrible compression that is so common in modern CDs.

But, you know what? CDs sounded better than LPs nearly all the time. Yes, with the right equipment and care, LPs take the lead. But most people who ever listened to LPs did so on cheap turntables and cheap amplifiers.

Compared to the vast majority of popular music storage and playback formats ever widely used, MP3s have superior audio quality. We can quibble about the DACs in today's iPods, but the fact is that by any objective historical standard they are quite good.

So I guess I don't get the point. If you're really an audiophile, you wouldn't be caught dead using a PC sound card for music playback: there's just too much noise in the PC. And if you're not, the $30 Logitech speakers I have are fine for beeps and bonks and the occasional YouTube video.

The one way you can really get around this limitation is digital optical. You take the soundcard DACs out of the loop, you eliminate the possibility of ground loops (which are quite common with grounded PC cases), and you eliminate the possibility of that all-too-common PC digital nose from getting into your amplifier.

lm
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Post by lm » Mon Jun 09, 2008 12:58 am

No. Please no spcr speaker reviews. Honestly, there are MANY places that specialize in that already, and compared to those others you don't have anything new to give.

You've said that the number 1 bottleneck for reviews in spcr is manpower, and walking into stray paths reduces that unnecessarily.

Your reviews in silence-related computer parts make very much sense, because nobody else does them, at least not so detailed. But audio, there you are not the specialist that outcompetes others.

And what comes to this review, how on earth should I be able to even judge the sound quality based on that subjective analysis, as they are not really compared to anything else.

Audio is all about the battle between subjectivists and objectivists, and I'd rather not even find out which one you really are, and happily keep reading your reviews about devices that are directly related to silencing computers.

MoJo
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Post by MoJo » Mon Jun 09, 2008 3:32 am

bsoft wrote:People who listen to music seriously don't do it on their PC anyway. They're listening to LPs, SACDs, or at least regular CDs.
I have to disagree with you here. Most music is not available on LP or SACD so CD is the only option, and more over not everyone agrees that LPs always sound better. I can cite a few CDs I think are superior the LP version - the original release of Brothers in Arms for example.

Also, there are some damn good soundcards now. Onkyo for example, EMU or even some of the Creative cards (especially with mods). In fact, even relatively cheap cards like the AV710 or Philips Ultimate Edge are not half bad. Of course, most of us use an external DAC these days.

Hardrain
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Post by Hardrain » Wed Jun 11, 2008 5:53 am

I'm for reviewing speakers, as long as there is some selectivity as far as what is reviewed. SPCR doesn't review every single fan, power supply, heatsink, etc.; the ones they do review seem to be ones that might interest the "silent PC enthusiast" crowd. I find it interesting also how a particular thing works within a quiet/silent PC environment.

Let's not pigeonhole the places and settings people might use things as well. If I had a small office, I might not have the space for a dedicated audio system. I like to listen to music at work, so these with a nice sound card might sound pretty good.

noneedforaname
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Post by noneedforaname » Fri Sep 26, 2008 12:04 am

I'm considering whether I should buy these or not. One of the cons, according to a short review I found in Swedish, is apparently that the speakers give away a humming sound when not in use. Can someone with experience of these speakers tell me if this is correct?

MikeC
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Post by MikeC » Fri Sep 26, 2008 7:25 am

noneedforaname wrote:I'm considering whether I should buy these or not. One of the cons, according to a short review I found in Swedish, is apparently that the speakers give away a humming sound when not in use. Can someone with experience of these speakers tell me if this is correct?
Not our sample.

expxe
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Post by expxe » Mon Nov 30, 2009 4:34 pm

i am a fan of these speakers, was a little surprised that a goggle search for these lead to spcr :D

Cistron
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Post by Cistron » Tue Dec 01, 2009 5:05 am

noneedforaname wrote:I'm considering whether I should buy these or not. One of the cons, according to a short review I found in Swedish, is apparently that the speakers give away a humming sound when not in use. Can someone with experience of these speakers tell me if this is correct?
I would say this depends on your soundcard. Which is one of the reasons why external DACs usually sound better. There is simply less electronic noise off a cramped motherboard.

By the way, for the same price I got decent amplifier and bookshelf-speakers off eBay.

frostedflakes
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Post by frostedflakes » Wed Dec 09, 2009 8:54 pm

Recently picked up a pair of these speakers ($200 is pretty steep IMO for desktop speakers, but I could justify them for $120 on eBay after Bing Cashback). In terms of power, they should be comparable to the Klipsch 2.0 speakers I had before, I think both are 15w RMS per channel. If that's the case, they should be more than adequate for nearfield listening. Haven't really had the chance to crank the volume yet, I mainly wanted to comment on the fit and finish of the speakers. FAR superior to the Klipsch in this respect, which is to be expected I guess, considering the MSRP of these is twice that of my old speakers. The volume pot, for example, is much more robust and feels like it will hold up better with time. And the black resin finish on the speakers is *beautiful*. I have high hopes for these speakers, they should last many, many years; they reek of quality. I'm not much of an audiophile, but I'm sure I'll be equally pleased with the sound they provide.

Lucien
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Post by Lucien » Thu Dec 10, 2009 7:03 am

frostedflakes, as a fellow Klipsch 2.0 owner (Promedia) I'd be very interested in hearing your opinion on how the A2s sound. I was a bit dissapointed with my Klipsch, but then again, it was also a downgrade from an Altec Lansing MX5021 (2.1 system) for me. The volume pot has been particularly annoying - my left speaker is notably softer in volume than the right.

frostedflakes
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Post by frostedflakes » Thu Dec 10, 2009 3:52 pm

That's actually part of the reason I bought these A2s, was having an issue with low volume from the left speaker on my Klipsch. Amp issue I guess? I never really bothered trying to troubleshoot it, was a good excuse to get a new set of speakers.

Like I said, though, I'm not much of an audiophile, so I really don't have much of an ear for this stuff. To me the A2s don't sound better or worse than the Klipsch, but someone who knows what to listen for could probably hear a difference. And I still haven't had a chance to really push the volume up on the A2s, but I suspect they'll be able to go louder than the Klipsch without distorting.

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