The state of computer audio....

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mustang_steve

Senior Audioholic
I swear it's gotta be a freaking joke...

The soundcards claim S/N ratios of 100Db, yet I can hear hiss on my Yammie at about 50pct (which even on my CD player only hisses at the top 10pct of the volume, and it claims hte same S/N ratio).

The speakers....I can't even find a proper starting point. Most designs are incredibly poorly designed, and the power output claims of the amplifiers in them are nothing less than disgusting (800w form a IC that takes in 2.5w...MOO!!). Frequency response claims are often far worse than even their "power output" claims (yeah a 2x4 speaker really hits 20hz...MOOO!!).

So far, I have yet to find a computer speaker that does not have at least one major shortcoming. Even my once-beloved Onkyo GX-D90 set had massive problems with the woofer design, and has recently shown quality issues with the tweeter as well, namely it looks like it's disintegrating...for a $130 set of speakers, that's just sad.


It just annoys me that these people try to sell off technology that would barely make it on a $50 boombox to us as quality...I really do want to see a few changes in teh next decade to PC Audio:

1) crappy pressed papaer cones: please stop it...trees died for those, at least have the respect to use polypropelyne...at the least it will sound far better than that flimsy ultra-thin paper...

2) crappy cabinets: at the least, polyfill them....even better yet, use wood...even the crappiest wood cabinet with polyfill will mop up on a cheap plastic enclosure anyday. Please don't port 2" speakers....let's be real here...

3) grabage amplification: Please leave your tiny amp chips at home, and build something decent. We don't need to hear power claims in the bajillion McTrillion of watts. Instead, how about putting up detailed amp section specs instead? Also consider using two amps, and putting one in each speaker, this design often works quite nicely.

4) overpricing: Yeah...$70 for two 3" paper cone, plastic enclosure radio speakers and a $3 MCM woofer in a ported peice of plastic with a whole frekaing real 30w for it all.....really good pricing....how about making a decent product and selling it at a decent price.


Yeah I know, this is all about htem making money, but for pete's sake, at least make something that's even worth the materials that went into it!

(Yes, I even have a dislike towards the Klipsch set...with the bass at it's lowest, it's still too much, and hte satellites leave a bit to be desired...but it's the closest to what computer audio should be.)
 
A

av_phile

Senior Audioholic
Mustang_steve, I can emphatize with your distress. As a PC audio enthusiast, you must be.

I once used a PC to archive my CDs. Very convinient as each disc gets its own file so that everytime I inserted a disc, the PC immeditately recognized it and played only my favourite selections from that disc that I had previously programmed, even 2 years ago. No home single cd player can ever do that. I never bought those sub-sat speakers for PCs as I was fortunate enough to have the PC close to my sound system to which it was hooked.

I've seen many sub-sat speakers for the PC and I agree with you that many may not even be worth the materials they're built with. Have you tried the Altec Lansing PC speakers? I don't use them but they look well-designed and on the PC of a officemate, can be room-filling enough.


mustang_steve said:
The soundcards claim S/N ratios of 100Db, yet I can hear hiss on my Yammie at about 50pct (which even on my CD player only hisses at the top 10pct of the volume, and it claims hte same S/N ratio).
This is a real problem. I had the same hiss but at max volume. Not distracting at normal listening levels, but the mere thought that it had was simply disconcerting. OTH, with my regular cd player deck playing a silent disc track from the Sheffield My Disc test CD and the preamp volume maxed out, the speakers are totally DEAD. That's why i've discarded my old pentium PC seven years ago as it didn't have that S/N i wanted as a serious audio enthusiast. And that's also my reservation for getting a new one these days. I probably have to research more on the right soundcard.

But since your soundcard claims 100db S/N, that should be sufficient. I would assume your cables are ok but you still get hiss. That can be unnerving. Try experimenting with another soundcard.

The speakers....I can't even find a proper starting point. Most designs are incredibly poorly designed, and the power output claims of the amplifiers in them are nothing less than disgusting (800w form a IC that takes in 2.5w...MOO!!). Frequency response claims are often far worse than even their "power output" claims (yeah a 2x4 speaker really hits 20hz...MOOO!!).
Yeah, marketing hype is the name of the game. Welcome to the real world.

It goes for many HT gears as well. Many have this P.M.P.O ratings that have no technical meaning nor real world correlation. But they can be very impressive to the uninitiated. Even among serious audio gears, the marketing hype abounds with less than candid and overstated power ratings measured under un-real conditions. But it's good to know what they really are and only patronize gears that we know are a truthful match to the promise in their commerical data sheets.


1) crappy pressed papaer cones: please stop it...trees died for those, at least have the respect to use polypropelyne...at the least it will sound far better than that flimsy ultra-thin paper...

2) crappy cabinets: at the least, polyfill them....even better yet, use wood...even the crappiest wood cabinet with polyfill will mop up on a cheap plastic enclosure anyday. Please don't port 2" speakers....let's be real here...

3) grabage amplification: Please leave your tiny amp chips at home, and build something decent. We don't need to hear power claims in the bajillion McTrillion of watts. Instead, how about putting up detailed amp section specs instead? Also consider using two amps, and putting one in each speaker, this design often works quite nicely.

4) overpricing: Yeah...$70 for two 3" paper cone, plastic enclosure radio speakers and a $3 MCM woofer in a ported peice of plastic with a whole frekaing real 30w for it all.....really good pricing....how about making a decent product and selling it at a decent price.
I have the impression powered PC sub-sat speakers are an after-thought to the multimedia craze this past 5 years. But I am almost certain that they are better than the built-in speakers in many multi-media PCs, right?

There are many good brands out there that are a notch above many entry level PC sub-sats. Like I said, Altec Lansing CAN be one of them. They're not using paper cones in their satellites, last I look. But if you really want serious audio out of your PC, I would strongly suggest that you get a respectable multi-channel power amplifier and use a more mainstream audiophile grade speakers and subwoofer. Hooked the amp to a multi-channel soundcard of superior quality and watch your hours go by viewing and listening. Many audio enthusiast I know go to this HTPC route. They get real high definition digital displays on their monitor besides. And some who can afford use industrial grade LCD projectors from Barco and Infocus for a larger display. They're basically enjoying digital HD earlier than most folks do.

Just my thoughts.
 
M

mustang_steve

Senior Audioholic
Yeah, I have a decent system on my PC now, but in the past I had to deal with these crappy PC speakers, and now I had a run-in with a friend who got a Harmon/Kardon speaker set (the clear one), that was rather overpriced for what it gave. The current system is a yahamka rx-496 reciever, and a set of Dayton Loudspeaker/Parts express BR-1 bookshelf kit speakers. Basically with speakers like those, i don't need a sub :)

Yeah, teh cables on teh PC soundcard are fine, used digital and analog outs. The card is an Nvidia Soundstorm (well, onboard, but it's consideren on par with an Audigy)...then used my old Live 5.1....both had the same issues. Just annoying knowing things like this happens so often. It seems you have to drop hunderds to thousand or more dollars on a pro grade card to get any decent "real" S/N ratio. Fortunately I listen to my system at such a low volume that I don't notice it as much...but it still bugs me.

Altec is one of the better brands, but they never fit my idea of good sound. The build quality is sure there though. If I was to get a system with "full-range" satellites, I'd just get a Cambridge Soundworks setup. Actually their top of the line 2.1 model does look good, but at over $400 is a bit pricey.

Especially after having nearly 10 years of PC multimedia experience, it jsut annoys me seeing hte exact same crappy speakers I saw in 1994 being sold today. Sure the moving cone design in loudspeakers is a design that is nearly 70+ years old, but that's no excuse for the increbily slow advancement of this segment of PC hardware. Video cards , CPUs, even motherboard chipsets have advanced so fast, that moore's law no longer applies. Given soundcards did improve a bit, but since the SB Live, there has been very little improvement I could see in the sound quality. Speakers have done far worse...even computer mice have advanced faster...that's just sad.
 
Rip Van Woofer

Rip Van Woofer

Audioholic General
I think most computer sound stuff is aimed at gamers. If the explosions go "boom" and the guts go "splat" somewhat convincingly, that's good enough for most!

Never tried them, but the Monsoon mini-planar sats and sub set were supposed to be quite fine.
 
Shinerman

Shinerman

Senior Audioholic
I have a set of Boston Acoustic speakers with sub that came with a Gateway computer about 6 or 7 years ago. They still sound really good. I have yet to hear anything that compares. I have been through 2 more computers and I still use them. They are not perfect by any means, but they sound better than anything else I have heard. The Klipsch are also very nice but I like the Bostons better.

Shinerman
 
jeffsg4mac

jeffsg4mac

Republican Poster Boy
I just received from Adcom, My GFA 535 II that was sent in for repair. I also have an Adcom pre-amp that goes with it as well. I bought one of those Griffen Imics see it here imic I hooked all up to my *4 and tried out itunes new lossless compression It sounds pretty darn good, all I need is a better set of speakers. Maybe some paradigm Focus
 
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M

mustang_steve

Senior Audioholic
I decided to try to improve on my set of Onkyo GX-D90 speakers. My guess is all it needs are better drivers and a proper crossover (the one in it was just a simple cap jobbie on the tweeter).

The thing has a 3.5" woofer, and some incredibly tiny tweeter. I'm planning on moving towards a silk dome tweeter (titanium if silk wont fit), and a good solid mid-woofer (can't go any larger due to space restriction). For bass, I'll use my old Yamaha YST-215. That setup should sound great once I iron out the driver and crossover issue.

The onkyos are nice speakers, the cabinets could be more solid, and the crossovers better, but it has analog and digital (coax and TOSlink) inputs, and has a reasonably strong amp. My guess is that those speakers were designed for office cubicle listening, where the volumes are so low that the frequency peaks and driver limitations are not noticed. I think their detail is far better than the klipsch, and posibly better then my reciever/bookshelf setup, but it's the fact that I can't use them for more than a few hours without listneing fatigue, and can't listen to them at anything above conservative listening volumes that drives me nuts.
 
Rob Babcock

Rob Babcock

Moderator
I have a pretty listenable rig hooked up to my PC. For awhile now I've been using a Griffin Powerwave running from the USB output of my computer to drive a pair of JBL HLS-610's (med to large-ish 2 way Bookshelf speakers). The Pwave is basically a very good soundcard with a 40 watt Tripath digital amplifier built in. I can tell you, this rig really rocks. And it cranks out more than plenty of power for nearfield listening.

I've pretty much given up on PC/mulitmedia speakers. They're fine I guess if you need something very small, but I'd rather have good sound. I use my PC a lot for burning discs & I use Nero WaveEditor a lot, so it's nice to have a nice system to really be able to hear what you're doing. Plus I listen to music (wav files off my 2nd HD) a lot while I surf.
 
D

Dan Banquer

Full Audioholic
Sound Cards

One of the major problems in connecting anything to a sound card is that awful ground inside the computer. Try using a line level transformer such as a Jensen to isolate the grounds between your sound card and whatever you connecting to. I've done this with a set of small powered loudspeakers and the reduction in noise was very audible.
d.b.
 
M

Monkey Me

Guest
Rip Van Woofer said:
I think most computer sound stuff is aimed at gamers. If the explosions go "boom" and the guts go "splat" somewhat convincingly, that's good enough for most!

Never tried them, but the Monsoon mini-planar sats and sub set were supposed to be quite fine.
I have been using the Monsoon media14 for about a year.It's decent.Good with voices,but the sub isn't very good.Only $120 .Workable.
 
B

Biggus_Dickus

Audiophyte
Computer speakers suck. That's why I run an optical cable to my home stereo, via my Hercules Fortissimo sound card.
 
G

Gatorchong

Audioholic
I've got the Altec 641's. Got them new off ebay for about $100. Great for playing games. The satellites sound okay for music as long as you've got something else to concentrate on, ie. surfing the internet. Got bored, took the old paper 6 1/2 woofers out of the "sub," put in some peerless woofers, tightened up the bass a bit but not as much as I hoped. Turns out the old paper woofers aren't that bad, foam surround though, can't have that. But it's fun to crank up some techno every once in a while. At least Altec tuned the sub low enough not to produce anything but bass. You just miss some of that midrange from those little sat's.
 
Polygon

Polygon

Audioholic
I have very little to complain about with my Klipsch Pro Media 2.1s. More than anything I listen to music on them and besides the sub being a little boomy at times they sound great.
 
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Mark Duncan

Junior Audioholic
I hated my computer's sound system, so I moved my computer to my entertainment center, connected it via USB to my JVC Receiver, and now I can respond to audioholics on my 56" DLP TV, and use my good HT sound system to listen to music. I also piped the sub room line out of the receiver to my Russound multizone pre amp, so now I can listen to my computer music throughout the house and in back by the pool.

Mark

BTW, I am using the Gyration RF Wireless Keyboard and Mouse. They are awesome, and the range is great.
 

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