I admit I have (and have had) too many pairs of speakers.
I think it’s worth mentioning just before the main feature begins that stands are helpful. In my case, this is to get the speakers up to about ear height because I’ve never had issues with isolation. There appear to be quite a few DIY options for these out there on line (e.g. things cobble together from IKE) as well as the wallet-gougingly expensive gear you can buy. My current setup is a tower of DVD boxed sets.
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. These speakers are, to the best of my knowledge, still in service over a decade later.
I also bought a pair of Edifier R10s as satellite speakers 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. One currently still survives, but the other finally gave up the ghost.
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.
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.
I had them attached to the DVD player in the bedroom as secondary speakers for a while, but have now put them back in their box. Well, that was then, but I decided to take them to school instead where they’re in English 1, where they’ll remain.
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, the Auroras produce decent sound without sounding tinny. If anything, they’re like a pair of headphones, and are about the same size.
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.
Another problem is the 5-pin plug that connects the satellite speakers to the sub-woofer, which doesn’t always sit at quite the right angle in the socket so that it can require a certain amount of tweaking to get the sound to do what it ought to be doing.
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.
They sound a bit better with the Dragonfly Red and higher quality DACs than they do with the FiiO K1, which tends to make the sound from the Auroras sound a little muddy (as the parlance goes among the pundits).
I bought these because I felt the sound of the Auroras was too small, but subsequently came to feel that these were best for thumpy, bassy music, or games with boomy sounds that needed that extra depth. In truth, these speakers were underused, having been attached to the 5755 at home for quite some time before they were put back in their box.
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 (although I can’t say what that is exactly).
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. Volume control is a finicky thing. The knob needs to be somewhere slightly beyond 9 o’clock, but there’s not much between too quiet and too loud, and they probably need an amp which will alter the volume rather than a device with a line-out port that disables the volume from the source device.
Rather annoyingly, nearly two years after I bought these, the price has dropped by about ¥1,000.
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).
The company, which was founded in 2014, now seems to have vanished. It almost makes these things collector’s items because I don’t think you can probably buy a pair any longer.
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.
Like the H5s, getting the volume right is a touchy business. There is a sliver of arc between them being too quiet and too loud. They’re very much like the mixer tap for the shower in my bathroom – no matter how subtly I try to adjust them, I get things right about one time in ten and can never replicate the feat.
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.
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.
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. They worked for a time and then when one of the woofers failed, I disposed of them, eventually buying a new pair, the upgraded model with Bluetooth.
In spite of their price, the D1010s are a decent enough pair of speakers, although I think if I could go back in time, I’d tell myself to buy a second pair of P3s or a pair of Audioengine A2+ speakers.
The main downside of these speakers is the audible hiss that comes from them. The H5s are the same.