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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm using an early version of the Mac Mini (upgraded as much as possible) and have purchased BOSE Companion2 speakers, to replace a Koss SWS320 System with a short. I've started to use the Mac for listening to some very delicate and intricate music and while the new BOSE speakers are OK they have minimal power and I think I can do a lot better so I'm returning them. I've become really mixed up about what to get to replace them. From the research I've done so far it looks as though my best bet for higher quality without extreme price is ORB Audio - however my budget requires that I go for used or refurbished - and it looks like people who buy ORB keep them since there isn't much available second hand (at least I couldn't find any) so it looks like they are "keepers".. So I've been looking at Altec Lansing, Logitech, and a few others (used) on ebay kijiji etc. I almost purchased Logitech 540 5.1 but found out just before I purchased that the Mac Mini can't handle more than 2.1 because there's only one plug available. As soon as I'm ready to buy something I hear something else that convinces me to keep looking. Can anyone advise me about what would be my best bet to do credit to the amazing music that will be gracing the speakers.
 

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Quite simply.. I couldn't recommend any "Quality" speakers for under $100.

You would do well if you could find a receiver that has a toslink input and some decent speakers to go with it.. but, I don't think you'll find that for under $100.

I've had good experiences with Logitech.. but, not in your price range. I owned the Logitech Z-5500's, which were superb.. and did the trick until I started to build my own custom system.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
To Vexel

Thanks for your comment, I will look for Logitech Z-5500's on ebay - kijiji etc... (what I want is Bang Olufsen but I've given up on the auctions as they always end up in the stratosphere).
 

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IMO you don''t want Logitechs if you are looking for intricate and subtle. You get the 5.1 Logitechs if you want gaming and big explosions. And you won't find Z-5500s under $250 even used.

I got a pair of Alesis M1Active 320USB's which sound good and allow you to connect via USB rather than to the average-quality analog out of the Mini. Tom Lee Music may still have them on sale for $99 a pair, or PM me for more information.

If you have 3 x - 4 x the budget, look at the AudioEngines.
 

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M-Audio AV40's, cost about $200 new, so $100 used is not out of the question. Try to pry a pair from an owner's hands might not be so easy, but there is always eBay.

I've had my pair for about 2 years; they replaced some Klipsch Promedia 2.1 units that cost about as much and were quite good, especially compared to the Bose's and Logitech's of the world, but pale in comparison to the M-Audio's.

They have an AV-20 model for less, but I've never listened to them. MacWorld has a review of the AV-40's online, if you care to check them out.
 

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I don't understand why you are looking to downgrade your speakers. The Bose Companion 2 is really the best bang for the buck when it comes to quality+compact size.

Anyways.. I couldn't find anything, for that price range (i paid 74.99$+tax 3 years ago) that offers such quality.

Anything else i have had, had worse sound quality, thought they offered more power. I also do not understand why you are looking to have more power.. The bose are certainly much better than the Koss you've had.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
To IllusionX:
Thanks for your analysis of my situation. Before purchasing these speakers I had already done a lot of research and the truth is these were the one's [Bose Companion 2] I'd first considered to purchase (three months ago) before doing any research at all, however, after deciding to look around first before making a choice, the "looking around" led me to Bang Olufsen sound equipment and then when I gave up on ever being able to afford those, I have been looking at Orb but again - nothing affordable for me is available right now.

Prior to the Koss system I had very good JBLs but my son "wanted" them so desperately that I gave them to him and in return I inherited his old Koss system he was discarding (not my choice). I really want something smaller than the great JBLs but never particularly loved the Koss. I replaced my PC with a Mac fairly recently having been stuck with PC systems before which always caused me so much trouble (virus heaven) that improving on the sound was the least of my concerns. After a stint with Ubuntu (which ended most -not all- of the battle with viruses) now I'm finally settled with my little Mac and can finally start building on something stable. I can now refine the sound. So actually I'm aiming to improve on what I first had to work with - the JBLs - the Koss was just a fill in system while I found my way back to my first love - Apple. My first PC was an Apple Mac 512 which I've always missed. But I was in business and back then using a PC was necessary.

The Bose certainly are a cut above the Koss system however the low power leaves me with a sense that I'm missing some of the dimensions of the music I'm listening to. I also need to upgrade the speakers in my sound system so the learning I've already done in my search and the assistance of those sincere souls who've been willing to give me advice here isn't in vain.

After listening to the advice I'm getting I've decided that my best solution is to merge my Mac Mini and my sound system to get the best of both worlds... instead of upgrading each separately. I don't need two independant sound systems anyway.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
To Vexel - Two questions:
#1
Regarding your suggestion of searching for Z-5500s, and connecting to a receiver having a toslink input. I'm trying to find out if my JVC AXR 350 Stereo Integrated Amplifier has a toslink input (I have to rearrange the furniture to look at the back) and I'm not sure how to tell since I have no product information and I wasn't able so far to find that information from JVC online. I've found a pair of Z-5300E available nearby. Is this something that could work with the MacMini through your toslink suggested method?
Here's what the owner of the Z-5300E said:
"if you're in the market for the Z-5500 then these are essentially the same thing except for a few minor details that you might want to think about (Besides power output). First the Z-5500 (Digital Version) has coaxial AND optical inputs which allows you to connect these speakers to a Apple MacBook Pro for example which has an optical output. This is important because in order to properly transmit the 5.1 audio you need either need some form of digital signal or separate discrete analogue signals which the Z-5300E has in the form of one left/right front, one left/right rear and one sub channel. Most desktop sound cards accept this type of connection. To answer you question, depending on which year your MacMini was produced, it most likely outputs a digital signal through the means of an optical connection. Therefore your only option for true 5.1 audio is to get the Z-5500. Be careful when searching for a used set however since a lot of people are trying to get rid of the older non digital version of the Z-5500 which will be no different from mine."

So, this is where I'm at. Of course I'd rather have have true 51 audio than not, but price is a real issue for me so if using toslink (which I don't understand other than you have suggested it and you've obviously got the experience to know what you are talking about - so it sounds like it might be my solution) makes it possible that's the way I want to go. Can you tell me how I can tell if my JVC amplifier will handle this or not? My Mac Mini is an early one. It has one input for headphone or speakers and I've been told can only use 3.1 not 5.1 but of course I'd like to try for 5.1 if there is a way.

#2 IllusionX has suggested that going for this type of solution will actually result in lower quality speakers than the Bose Companion 2. Which, of course, would be somewhat "silly". Do you agree with IllusionX?
Thanks
 

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After listening to the advice I'm getting I've decided that my best solution is to merge my Mac Mini and my sound system to get the best of both worlds... instead of upgrading each separately. I don't need two independant sound systems anyway.
PCF, do you have an existing stereo system that you're currently happy with? If so, and you're plan is to listen to music on your Mac mini via iTunes, you might consider hooking the mini and the stereo together via an Apple Airport Express. It's a wireless solution that works with any Wi-Fi system you may have.

Alternatively, if you want a set of powered desktop speakers, you might look into a used set of Harmon Kardon Soundsticks. I've heard them briefly, in a colleagues office, and they sounded good. Not much at the bottom end, but what was there was tight and well behaved. The mids were adequate and the highs were detailed without being overly bright or sibilant. The funky design may not be to everyone's taste though.

Or headphones...?
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I'm using Seinheiser HD205 which are excellent for when I'm sitting at the computer but they are not wireless and it means I have to remain tethered to the computer, and nobody else can hear the music but me. Not the best way to live and listen to music at the same time.

The Harmon Kardon Soundsticks is a novel and creative idea. It really helps to hear from the ehMac experts... it is all starting to make more sense. I'm now seriously looking at merging my old wired sound system with the MAC and having only one sound system instead of two. I need to replace the gigantic speakers I'm using now with smaller ones.
 

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So, this is where I'm at. Of course I'd rather have have true 51 audio than not, but price is a real issue for me so if using toslink (which I don't understand other than you have suggested it and you've obviously got the experience to know what you are talking about - so it sounds like it might be my solution) makes it possible that's the way I want to go.
My bad.. I should have mentioned that "Toslink" is another word for "Optical."


I couldn't find any information on your amplifier at JVC.. nothing at all. Sorry I couldn't be much more help.

That said.. the suggestion for the Airport Express is a novel one if all you want to do is stream your music from your Mac Mini to your current receiver. The only thing is.. it's just music from iTunes, not any other audio such as movies.
 

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Just reading between the lines, you seem to be someone with a discerning ear who won't "just settle" for anything but none the less are, like all of us, constrained by a budget.

If you are going to run your iTunes library through a better quality hifi system, and given what I think are your criteria regarding what is "good sound", I would avoid streaming solutions and go with good old copper or optical connections. That may mean moving the Mini close to your audio system.

The Airport Express is great at getting music wirelessly around the home, and is better than most of the competition, but falls short quality wise, once you get past a certain point in your expectations. It's great for mp3s/AAC or other lossy compressed music, but you seem to be more demanding than that. If that's the case, I would spend my money elsewhere on the system, if necessary.

As it is now, all you need to do is run a cable or two and move the mini, spending nothing in the process. Any upgrades would probably center around a good USB or FW D/A converter, but if you have an optical input on your system now, go with that and see what you think. If you need to use the analog output of the Mini, you may then want to think about the USB/FW D/A converter; the built-in D/A converter on the Mac is adequate but nothing more.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 · (Edited)
Answer to

I can't say I'm particularly happy with my sound system. It's old. Although I'm happier that I have a sound system instead of no sound system but I'm definitely not going to be upgrading everything on it anytime soon. It turns out my amplifier is 15 years old and I have one of the earlier Mac Mini's. It seems that everything I own is analog - including the Mac Mini. In the specs it says that this Mac Mini system does not contain any Fibre Channel devices. My son says I must get a new audio card for the Mac before I'll be able to feed the audio into my sound system. If I do wouldn't that mean that the Z-5300E speakers should work without too much trouble?
 

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Stop the head spinning ... it's not worth it.

Analog = what you hear, what your speakers make, what the band was making when it was recorded. No analog ... no sound.

Digital = a storage and processing stage. Because the band plays in analog, it needs to be converted to digital if we are going to use digital (and computers only do sound that way). Because we hear in analog, it needs to be converted back from digital to analog if we use computers, since all they do is digital.

The only question is, when and where do we do the translation from analog to digital, and back. You have choices here, and what you choose will determine what kind of money the project will demand. Free (or nearly free) is certainly possible.

The age of your Mini or HiFi may not really be relevant to your goal, nor are they necessarily drawbacks ... both can do adequate jobs with sound, and modern Mini's don't do the digital-to-analog conversion any better than old Mini's. The age of the Mac is not an issue. Relax.

The age of your hifi may or may not be an issue, but broadly speaking, it probably isn't. All Minis will output analog audio, if that's what your hifi wants to see. Relax again.

All you really need is a 3.5mm mini stereo phone plug to 2x RCA plug cable. They sell them literally everywhere, and although the very cheapest thing on the planet may not be the best idea, the mid-priced stuff goes for numbers like $5 and $10. Good enough.

Hook that up, and then decide if you need to spend more money.

Note that "going digital" won't get you better sound, necessarily, and certainly won't until you've spend in the three figures.

Hook up what you have and think about it. Chances are, you're OK with it as it is.
 

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The challenge with buying powered computer speakers is that most of the reviews are written by gamers (who want bass and a good soundstage) or video watchers (who want big booms (THX) and Dolby 5.1 sound). And in general, computer speaker manufacturers tend to target these lucrative markets.

That leaves music listeners – who care about things like detail, musicality and transparency – out in the cold. Normally, the last place I'd look for an audio review is CNET. BUT...try this page of recent reviews.

I think these reviews might be more credible than most because 1) they give good reviews to products I've either heard and enjoyed (HK Soundsticks) or that other music listeners seem to respect (M-Audio) and 2) the reviews actually discuss music.

Getting good detail from music usually requires superior tweeters and nuance requires a rich midrange. I'm not sure how well $100 computer speakers will deliver on these, but it sounds like you have some choices near that price range, particularly if you can find them used.

(As for me, I still prefer listening to music from my 20-year-old stereo! :) )
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
plus

I'm grateful to you, Honorable Gord. Thank you for your considerate and considerable guidance.

digidog - your comment rings a harmonious chord with me! - and thanks to the experts here at ehMac I'm beginning to find my way from very confused to hopeful of finding the right solution.
 

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Z-2300 for $100

PCF, not sure if you're still visiting ehmac, but if you are, here's a follow-up. There was some talk about Logitech speakers and their relative value. Well, Best Buy has Logitech Z-2300 for $100 ($131 off their regular price). They appear to be well rated by the users on the best buy site and by cnet.

They're out-of-stock online, but it looks like they will ship them at that price when they get a new shipment. Or you could check your local BB store.
 
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