Speakers

I admit I have (and have had) too many pairs of speakers.

Microlab.

It all started with a pair of Microlab speakers I bought from the electronics market in Tongzhou, which I passed on to the Music teacher who had nothing suitable in the music room when he got here. There had been problems with the socket in the back, but that was probably from the weight of the cables pulling down on the splitter. Thirteen or fourteen years later, the speakers are still in service.

Edifier R10.

I also bought a pair of Edifier R10s for the laptop, which eventually started failing for some reason, although not as a consequence of heavy handling on my part. I bought a second pair, but eventually took both pairs to school where the cables to which the satellite speakers were attached eventually broke from fatigue. But both still get used in spite of their grubby, battered appearance.

A small amp and some RCA cables, and the surviving satellite speakers would still be usable. True, but the results aren’t worth the effort.

Edifier R308s.

Wanting some bigger speakers for the study, I went and bought a pair of Edifier R308s, which like my original Microlab speakers, a 2.1 setup. The satellites could be hooked to the wall if there was a way of doing so, and even if the sound palls in comparison with other speakers I now own, the sound quality is decent enough even if they only cost me ¥380.

They’re now in the bedroom, but I tend to listen to music on my headphones in winter at least because I’ll have the heater on an night and won’t be able to hear the music from the speakers clearly.

These days, they’re secondary speakers attached to the DVD player, although I admit I don’t use them much because it takes some fiddling to get the volume just right.

Edifier Auroras.

I also bought two pairs of Edifier Aurora speakers for my laptops, which are also a 2.1 setup with golf-ball style satellites and a tube-shaped sub-woofer. Part my reason for buying them was the lack of decent space on my desk. If I’d had a much bigger desk, I would probably have used the R308s instead.

For small speakers, they produce decent, albeit small-speaker sound. In comparison, the R308s, which cost half as much as these, have the fuller sound that comes from their size rather than their quality.

The real issue with the Auroras was the sub-woofer, which isn’t huge, but which on my rather small desk took up valuable space in front of the monitor (although I could probably have tucked it behind the monitor instead. The other problem with these was the satellite speakers, which are joined together through their cables, which made them prone to banging together when I picked them up by the cord. The result is that the mesh on two of them has got slightly dented.

I originally had these speakers attached to the top of my old monitor with some Blu-Tack so that they would be at ear height, which helps audibility.

Logitech Z200s.

I wanted something bigger with bigger sound than the Auroras, though, which is why I bought a pair of Logitech Z200s. These are more like the Edifier R10s, but taller. They have sockets for third-party DAPs, and for headphones. They are, I confess, underused, but probably a decent enough pair of comparatively inexpensive speakers. Their main shortcoming is that they are a little bass-heavy. I now have them attached to the 5755.

Swan (HiVi) H5s.

For  my 50th birthday I indulged myself with a pair of Swan (HiVi) H5s, which cost ¥2,500, but which, I was informed, were rather good quality for the price. In other words, the equivalent foreign manufacturer would’ve been charging a good deal more for the same specs.

They come as a pair of independent speakers with independent power supplies and RCA connections (i.e., 2.0 setup). The cables are heavy, which is an issue, but the sound is very nice even if the room isn’t really large enough, nor the separation between them quite what it might optimally be.

There are various switches on the backs of the speakers to adjust the sound levels, although I confess that I don’t understand their exact purpose beyond tweaking the volume. At best, they can be described as gain switches.

Rather annoyingly, nearly two years after I bought these, the price has dropped by about ¥1,000.

RAR P3s.

The driving factor behind these speakers was the death of my Swan D1010-IVs, which started sounding unbalanced because the sub-woofer of one of them stopped working for no explicable reason. The P3s like a small version of the H5s (and, in fact, I would’ve bought a pair of H2s if, it appears, they hadn’t been discontinued).

RAR (Reference Acoustic Research; 基准声学 [jizhun shengxue] in Chinese) is Shenzhen-based company, founded in 2014.

The P3s are DSP (Digital Signal Processing) speakers, although they have to be connected through the type-B USB port for that to function. My laptop doesn’t recognise the connection, and possibly it requires the right hardware or software of which I have neither. They’re smallish (156x106x139mm) desktop speakers, but the quality of the sound out of them is superb and comparable with the H5s.

They also include Bluetooth 4.0, which I wasn’t expecting or looking for, which sometimes DAPs with pick up and I’ll end up playing something through them unintentionally.

There are a couple of issues, though. One is that the front of the speakers is exposed, which worries me because I fear that sooner or later I’ll inadvertently hole one of them. Another issue is that the cable connecting them to some audio source is very short. Without the DACs, the cable would never reach the laptop. I’d need an extension cable if I had no other way of spanning the gap. The third issue is the lack of a dot or other indicator on the volume control knob showing how far I’ve turned it so that I have some idea of whether the volume is at the right level.

There are two RCA output ports which, it seems, will only transmit a signal to another pair of DSP speakers. I’ve tried connecting them to the H5s and to the satellite speakers from the defunct R10s, but get no signal from them. I did buy two pairs of banana plugs to connect the speakers together, which may have had a positive effect on the sound. Previously, I’d been screwing the wires into the posts at the back of the speakers, which meant that moving them was awkward.

I’ve also been on the company’s WeChat feed, which hasn’t been updated since May 2016. I don’t know whether they were a short-lived venture or whether they’re very niche. They’re not on JingDong, but the website is still up, albeit sporting a limited range of products.

Logitech X300s.

I forget when I bought my Logitech X300s, but I wanted a Bluetooth speaker for when I was, say, doing the washing, but didn’t want to have the bother of headphones and headphone cables annoying me. As it turns out, these are quite good Bluietooth speakers, but they’re underused since I’ve been using headphones instead.

They have a socket for a 3.5mm jack, but the last time I tried them, the result was less than successful.

Sony X11s.

I bought a Sony X11 for travelling so that I’m not tied to the laptop by a pair of headphones when I’m on holiday. It’s another small speaker which produces actually quite decent sound which, I’d say, is on a par with the Auroras. It’s possible to pair X11s together for a stereo effect.

Edifier R12Us.

I bought the Edifier R12Us to replace a pair of very cheap golf ball speakers I was using at school. Even there I’d like to have a decent pair of speakers. They were only ¥99, but they’re compact, and the sound isn’t too shabby for classroom use.

Swan (HiVi) D1010-IVs.

I shouldn’t forget the D1010s, which were my first pair of Swan speakers. Sad to say, the larger cone speaker of one of the units stopped working, rendering them more or less useless unless you wanted to enjoy inferior stereo sound. I don’t know why they failed, but it wasn’t due to any mistreatment on my part. However, that was also when I started wondering about a decent pair of desktop speakers, and the absence of the Swan H2s (still on the website, but apparently no longer in production or [perhaps], no longer available in the Chinese market) sent me to the RAR P3s.

These were also good speakers even though I think I paid about a quarter of the price for them that I paid for the H5s. It was a pity they didn’t last longer, but they were also too big to be usable as laptop speakers in the study.

I’ve now replaced these with a new pair, but with Bluetooth. I had been looking at a more expensive pair of Swan speakers, but they had too big a footprint and they looked ugly with their sloping fronts. They’re attached to the DVD player in the bedroom.

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Life and whatever in the imperium sericum.

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