Recommendations for computer speakers

I got a pair of these, for use by my old MacPro, and iPhone. Not cheap. But they sound amazing and I will be using them for years I reckon:

Using a pair of Yamaha HS5i’s connected through a Behringer UMC202HD audio interface. Those speakers are powered and self amplified and actually have two amps each: a twitter amp and a woofer amp. They are mounted on the wall behind and above the screens, so the stereo sound comes from somewhat above the center of the desk.
The audio interface also (phantom) powers a pair of condenser mics, a shotgun (RODE NTG4) and a cardioid (Mackie EM-91C) - for the different purposes and levels of external noise. It is connected to and powered from my MBP via a USB-C port.
This is certainly an overkill for video conference purposes but those studio grade speakers and mics serve a purpose for my music hobby and also give a great listening experience when streaming music. Being “stuck” at home for the past 18 months I decided to spoil myself with this set and have no regrets.

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Speaker size affects the low frequencies (bass) primarily, and those are affected by room size, ceiling (if any), resonance. So in a small room - a pair of 4-5" speakers will provide great sound including lows. Bigger rooms will require bigger speakers, or a dedicated sub-woofer that handles the lows effectively and lets the regular (and smallish) speaker handle the rest. Those sub-woofers are primarily needed in conference halls with “noise absorbing” ceilings that absorb the lows more than the highs. They are also needed in open spaces under the sky as there is no room and walls for the sound to bounce off of, and the lows dissipate at much shorter distances than the highs.
When my musical ensemble performs in a hall with those “noise absorbing” ceilings, the male voices sound faded. Those ceilings are useful when the room is full with people all talking at the same time. It’s disastrous when a choir is trying to perform, or any other acoustic ensemble for that matter.

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I agree with your recommendation in Adam’s case, but to nitpick slightly: great sound, absolutely, lows, yes, probably enough of them depending on your definition of “low.” E.g. my Genelec 8020 4"ers roll off at 62Hz. This is enough to sound low but not enough to provide any of the fundamentals we hear at a live performance, which extend down to 20Hz (or lower, if you include the frequencies we can feel). To get down there you need multiple drivers or a single driver in the 12"-15" range and it’s those frequencies, and not the higher ones, that are influenced by the dimensions and speaker position in any room, not just small ones–years ago Roy Allison designed a whole line of wide-range speakers that took advantage of this fact. Setup of a full-range system with an acoustically flat response at the listening position is quite tricky and almost impossible to accomplish “by ear” in any space and especially at a computer station, and that, if nothing else, is why you should limit yourself to smaller speakers and, probably, stay away from the ones with “subwoofers.”

And if you want really great sound, I still say, Go for a pair of Genelec 8010s, 3"/74Hz.

I recently purchased a “cheap” 5.1 Vizio sound bar from Costco for this. It’s not nearly as good as the 5.1 “gaming” speakers of years gone by, but it is HDMI, 5.1, and has a reasonable subwoofer. It still feels & sounds cheap compared to other things I’ve used. And the frequency response curve leaves quite a bit to be desired. Ok for watching tv, but not so good for mixing/master music or video editing.

I bought a set of Bose Companion 5s. They’re a $400 set but they blew my mind in the store (and that was a Bose store, and I had listened to number of other models there already) and they sound better than even my main speakers in the house.

So much so that I bought another set for use in my piano room, not connected to any computer. They’re just the output of my airplay setup I discussed in that article.

We were lucky to have a Bose outlet here for a while. So I got one pair as refurb for $200, the other later for $250.

Can’t imagine they could be improved on!

Dave, what are the frequency response specs? I can’t find them on the Bose website. Something like this would be useful.

Here’s what Genelec posts for their 8010s.

[edit] +/-3dB is considered “flat” by industry convention, probably because 3dB is the smallest amount of level change most of us can perceive as “louder” or “softer.”

Strangely, the manual doesn’t appear to have any audio specs!

:roll_eyes: As I remember they never do . . .

Wirecutter did measure a couple of their models, though not the one you have. See the link I provided earlier.

Sorry Adam I was tempted to ask how often you had to fill the boiler.

If you can’t afford the unfortunate high prices of US manufactured (or any place not China) equipment, I have and recommend Neumi BS5 speakers and the Aiyima A07 mini amp. I have my iMac’s headphone port connected to the mini-amp, so I purchased the surprisingly good jsaux usb audio adapter for my headphones. I am really happy with these purchases. I’ve bought powered (China made) computer speaker systems before that quit working after barely using them and now I think buying powered speakers is a big mistake. Isolate the part that can fail (the amp). But I don’t expect the A07 to fail. I would also suggest considering avoiding bluetooth altogether if you do not know that you need it. While bluetooth is a great technology (though inferior to wired) it can easily get in the way, big-time, when you don’t want to use it.

I also had a set of FX6021, but had passed them down to my son. He had been using them but found out recently that they no longer work, we think because of a faulty power supply to that sub.

I now use a pair of HomePods with an M1 Mac mini setup, and they’re only used for Music. Everything else just uses the tinny onboard speaker.

If you’re looking for alternatives to the 6021 I did go with a Scandyna set (Podspeakers) that sound really good, but my current desktop is too small. Though they do have smaller sized speakers that you can pair with the sub. Not sure what your budget is, and how important aesthetics are. But they’re well made and sound great.

Good luck on your quest.

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Adam, I just got curious about the FX621s you may be replacing. I see their advertised frequency response was 31-18,000Hz, which is pretty impressive at the low end (and at a certain age we don’t hear much above 18,000Hz anyway). The manual, however, adds “(-10dB).” Yikes. That is not impressive, and makes me wonder what’s going on in between.

As you do your research, look for a specification of the speakers’ flat frequency response: the range of frequencies that vary only +/-3dB from zero. Some companies, like Genelec (see my post above), publish them; some, like Bose (ditto), don’t want you to know. You want to know.

Wow. A lot to digest here. I have an HK Onyx Studio 4, which worked brilliantly with my old iMac, my iPhone and iPad. Now that I have the new iMac, it won’t connect to the speaker. Worse, in trying to get it to work, I’ve knocked out the connections to my iPhone and iPad, and have to start all over. Right now I’m not real happy because I miss my music.

I’ve a set of 2.1 (two speakers + sub) that I’ve had forever. Someone told me I have “the unicorn” of computer speakers. Its a Monsoon MH500 with planar flat panel speakers and powered sub. And its been working well since I got the set in the year 2000! I paid $60 for the set, and now, find the only issue is the remote-corded volume is oxidizing inside and creates static as you raise/lower the volume (worn potentiometer I would guess).
I think if I had to replace this when the external power brick fails (common death of this wonderful sounding setup), I might look for another power supply, since crossovers don’t fail, nor speakers unless over driven. The controller in yours likely has some component failing and as you, not an EE to open up and start running 'scope on components without schematic or previous repair expertise with the Altec.

That said, Klipsch has a 2.1 THX setup, as well as Logitech has some inexpensive but nice sounding products Z533 and Z333.

Now, this is just a fantasy suggestion, but there are some folks with healthy ears, great musical taste and “price is no option” wallets that Cambridge Audio has some speakers, a subwoofer, and separate amplifier w/DAC that would still be less than a fully loaded new iMac yet sound amazing!

See if you can fix this with contact cleaner.

Unplug the device, spray some cleaner in the potentiometer (hopefully you won’t have to disassemble much to get access to a place where you can spray it inside), then rotate the knob a bit to work the cleaner in. Then let it sit a bit for any remaining cleaner to evaporate.

Great options! I wish I could find an affordable battery 5.1 system with BT.


Thanks. I forgot I had can of DeOxit. But sadly, on opening up the Volume/Mute wire control, the plastic inside for the Mute button, fell apart from fatigue/age. The good news is, I sprayed DeOxit on the pot, worked the volume back and forth, managed to get it re-assembled sans some plastic bits (If I had time and a 3D printer, could make replacement) and no more static on the Volume. :grinning: :+1:

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I like Audio Engine and Vanatoo speakers a lot for desk listening situations…… But I don’t think they’re offerings are ideal for your situation. And the cost is up there.

So…. I’ve been really impressed by the Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 THX speakers that couple times I’ve heard them. And they are a tremendous value. Their sound leans towards a brighter character, but consider that you have the speakers aimed away from you and reflecting off the walls they woud probably be ideal.

You’ve probably already made a purchase, but if you have not (or for anyone else who might be searching for great computer speakers), I highly recommend the Creative Gigaworks T40 Series II.

They are just a 2.0 set, but unless you really want to have a thumping bass, they will elevate just about any style of music. They are not small speakers (though smaller than my bookshelf set) they are wider and deeper than your Altecs, but a bit shorter. They have two audio inputs, and the controls are conveniently on the right speaker (power/volume, bass and treble). Creative used nice, high quality knobs - there’s no static and the sound doesn’t cut out (at least at any level I’ve tried - and they can get plenty loud!) which is something I really appreciate after owning a pair of the Klipsch ProMedia 2.0 speakers - which had amazing sound quality, but awful shoddy components - I suffered through years of wonky volume adjustment with static galore and the left speaker cutting out unless the volume was adjusted just so… when they worked they were amazing, but after 12 years I decided it was time
for an upgrade.

The T40 has been a great replacement - and they usually are in the $99-109 range, so I think they make an amazing value for the sound they produce. I’ve heard that some people prefer the slightly smaller T20, which lacks one of the midrange drivers that the T40 has. I would imagine either set would make for great workstation listening.

Creative Gigaworks T40 Series II

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