Good Vibrations

Published Date
01 - Apr - 2008
| Last Updated
01 - Apr - 2008
 
Good Vibrations



How can you dream of enjoying movies and music with the speakers you’ve been dealt? Here’s what you need for that extreme sound-a-thon!


It’s a Saturday evening, and you come home after a day’s work to sit on your couch to enjoy a nice movie. It’s not as fun as it would be in a theatre, but you’re not quite in the mood to stand in queue for a ticket in a jam-packed cinema hall. Your TV isn’t going to give you the same thrill. What do you do?

We’ve always said that it’s high time everyone started moving to LCD TVs or even large screens for their PCs. The home entertainment system’s transition to the PC has been gathering pace, and the whole high definition craze drives it even more. HD players haven’t hit the Indian market yet, so more people are buying large LCD TVs, connecting them to their PCs, and playing all their HD content on it. There are some things, however, that just cannot be experienced using headphones or typically tiny desktop speakers you’ve used all these years. It’s something to do with that chest-thumping bass and the presence of clear, pristine sound that encapsulates the entire room—like in a movie theatre, except you can experience the same right at home, on your PC.

German Physik Gaudi

The German Physik Gaudi is a $2,50,000 speaker set. This speaker set comes with a choice of either titanium or carbon drivers. The weight of the cabinet is around 720 Kg. They are 2\.1m in height and 1.3m in width. To keep the resonance at a minimum, there’s use of a material called Hawaphon which is used widely in government and military buildings. If you wish, you can have a special carbon fibre cabinet.


The biggest problem with going out to buy any speaker by just looking at its tag and PMPO power rating is that you could end up with speakers that you might think are amazing, but most likely don’t sound anywhere near right—some of them have an unnatural tone to them. The other common issue is with increases in volume, the drivers used aren’t able maintain their quality. Speaker manufacturers try all kinds of new techniques to get the best quality out of their products. While some might do very well, some fail miserably.

This month, Digit looks at the speakers available in the market and it’s time we do what we do best—tell you which one’s right for you! We’ve tested 43 speakers in two categories—2.1 and the 4.1 / 5\.1 (surround) group. The latter are better for movies, and the 2.1 range generally for music and gaming. Let’s find out then, shall we?

 How We Tested
Having received speakers from so many companies and for different setups, there were tests to gauge quality of the speakers and their performance under heavy load. The performance tests were basically a collection of tracks from different genres, as well as tracks designed to bring out fine details in speakers and highlight weaknesses.
All tests were performed using a Creative X-Fi Elite Pro sound card. Winamp was used to play the music, and Foobar for a few other tests. The bass and treble settings, wherever present, were kept at the default level.
Music is still where speakers are used the most, and that’s why a big chunk of the tests involved listening to multiple tracks of different genres of music. Everything from Pop, Rock, Metal and Bollywood to Trance were used. Classical and vocalist-dependent tracks weren’t missed out either. A Sorta Fairytale by Tory Amol and Brid Og Ni Mhaille by The Corrs were used. The Rock and Metal genre consisted of tracks from Opeth, Rush, Dream Theater, Break Benjamin, Between the Buried and Me and many more. The emphasis on these tracks was on the general sound and how each component of the track played out.
There were some quality tracks which were just ambient sounds like dogs barking and birds on the trees, water flowing down streams and so on. Each of these tracks had a list of events that was checked with every speaker—whether it could render these sounds properly. In some speakers, many of these events could not even be noticed. In the end, we ran the woofer and treble test with the volume cranked up to the maximum.
We also used Foobar to generate different frequencies, and then a frequency sweep of the whole spectrum to look for any kind of inaccuracy or inability to pump out certain frequency ranges. Many speakers show their glaring faults here.
For surround sound speakers, we used additional tests—HD video clips with high quality surround audio. These were clips from Transformers, which many consider to be one of the best CG movies ever. The fight scenes where metal-pounding action took place are where we focussed our attention. Bullets ricocheting off the robots and big bassy booms were also a good test to evaluate the 5.1 speakers. The same tests were used on the 2.1 speakers as well. Other than that, space fight scenes from Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith were used, and for ambient sounds, a few scenes from Independence Day were used. While the main dialogue between characters continues, there are background sounds of cyclists riding and people walking, sounds of dice being rolled and the sounds of the waterfront next to which they’re sitting—we wanted to see if the speakers could handle these well.
To evaluate surround sound, we use a benchmark called Rightmark 3D Sound. A looping track plays and keeps moving all around the listener—this is a great way to see how well surround sound systems perform. We looked for smooth transitions from one satellite to the next.
While all these tests were different from each other, half of the points were awarded to the general feel of sound and tone of the speaker and the other half were awarded on certain details present in each track. Tracks are played at different volumes to look for any signs of vibrations, fluttering or “tearing up”. In all, 40-50 different tracks were played on every single speaker set, trying to accommodate as many kinds of sounds and music genres as possible to get a good idea of what each of the speaker were capable of.


2.1 SPEAKER SYSTEMS

Multiple speakers don’t result in louder and clearer sound. They especially don’t make a lot of sense when you’re going to spend your time listening to music more than anything else. 2.1 speakers have a few advantages of their own—for one, there’s no trouble of setting up and arranging two or three additional speakers around you. Most surround speakers don’t come with stands, so you need to make your own or hang them on a wall, which won’t be at the right distance—so you end up with a completely ruined surround sound experience anyway. There are also cables to hide to make sure you don’t have people tripping all over the place breaking their bones. However, if you want to use your system primarily for the home theatre movie experience, you’ll need to spend on a 5.1 setup.

First Glimpse—Build Quality And Design
The focus on design and styling has become a big component of speakers, and all the speaker manufacturers are paying attention to it.

The Creative T3030 was an elegant-looking set with clear glossy plastic stands, which look very much like the other Inspire speaker sets. These comparatively flat and tall satellites are light, and the driver, a little high up, has enough weight to topple them over very easily. Another set of Creative speakers was on the other end of the spectrum—the M2600 satellites had a rather cheap plastic feel. They are meant to be thin and sleek too, but they have some provision made for the driver on the back.

TECH-COM in general looked to create very unique designs throughout the range of speakers they sent us. Although they had decent designs, the TECH-COM SSD-803 was an ugly set, with spikes on four corners. It looks all right, but the front panels used on both the satellites and woofer look odd, are made of plastic, and aren’t firmly attached. It was also kind of funny to see the exact same design used for the Intex IT-2050W and TECH-COM SSD-2000.

The Artis S111R and the S111 / FM were two models that look and sound quite the same, except that the latter has an FM radio and the other has a remote control. These, too, have decent build quality—the knobs had the right amount of resistance and sturdiness to them. The only issue was the pegs at the woofer, which make the woofer slide around a bit at higher volumes. The Zebronic ZEB-4000W’s woofer was another sturdily-built set that looked simple yet attractive. The other Zebronics model—the ZEB-SW8000—has a very unattractive design, and there were dials on the front of the woofer with no indication of purpose.

One of the issues we looked at was the quality of cables provided by some of the speaker manufacturers. The Supercomp SES 2077, for example, comes with extremely thin cables which won’t stand even a moderate tug. There were other problems, too: some of the TECH-COMs came with really short cables—so short with the SSD-815, that we were forced to keep the woofer on the table itself! Quite a few of the TECH-COM and Intex speakers used RCA connectors; we don’t use sound cards, so we were forced to buy 3.5 mm-to-RCA converter cables. Some of the other TECH-COMs did come with the converter cables though.

Adam Professional Audio OSS

Adam’s Professional Audio OSS has a total power output that adds up to around 3000W! It towers a mighty two metres in height and weighs well over 160 Kg. There are 60 drivers in this complete speaker set which are powered by the 12 amplifiers. The frequency range may be 18 Hz but it goes all the way up to 50 KHz—that’s far beyond what humans can hear. That kind of performance should make animals on the other side of the globe go nuts. To keep it precise, there’s a processor that makes changes to the delay to compensate for the location of the different drivers.


There’s something about large subwoofers that intimidates you, and the Altec Lansing MX5021 subwoofer clearly does that very well. It’s huge, and easily the largest of all the 2.1 speakers. The other Altec Lansing woofers weren’t all that great at times—especially the FX4021—with the down-firing setup. The panel on top of the woofer was really weak and is supported by just a metal mesh. The satellites are well designed and fairly sturdy. The Altec Lansing VS2421 has a very attractive remote with a nice red ring highlighting it. It matched a similar design on the woofer and the satellites. Simple, good styling.

Quality Tests

The quality tests aren’t just music tracks, but also recordings of all kinds of ambient background noises. Some of these were records with crackers exploding far in the distance and some right next to the recorder.

The Altec Lansing MX5021 came out far ahead of all the speakers in the 2.1 range. The ability to deliver clear sound at all volumes with very minor distortion at extreme volumes amazed us, and grabbed the attention of many passers-by. In one of the many tests, there was one where multiple bells were struck one after the other and it was amazing to hear the continuous hum from the different bells while new bells were added. Although the MX5021 isn’t the warmest of speakers, the treble is still kept under check and doesn’t go overboard.

The set leading the Logitech pack was the Z-2300. It was almost as powerful as the MX5021 but it lacked the prominent tight bass characteristic of the MX5021. If price is to be considered, it is more than a third costlier than the MX5021.

The Altec Lansing VS2421 was another set that wasn’t as powerful as the MX5021, but clearly excelled in quality tests. The Zebronics ZEB-4000W was also very close to it.

The ZEB-4000W, due to its lack of high-frequency range performance, didn’t do too well in the bells test, and all the rings sounded rather flat—finer harmonics couldn’t be distinguished.

How Do You Set Up A Surround Sound System?
It’s one thing to set up a 5.1 speaker system, and it’s a completely different thing to set it up right. It’s understood that most people don’t have the right furniture or the stands required to position their rear speakers suitably—so what do you do? Place them somewhere in the rear as long as they point to you. It’s absolutely important that for a good surround sound experience, the distance, the direction and height of your satellites are just right. Compared to buying the speakers themselves, getting stands for the speakers is a minor cost, so it’s well worth the money you spend for them.
The centre channel speaker should preferably be absolutely head-on to the people watching the movie. It should be placed at the centre of the screen, and in front of it. The front left and right satellites shouldn’t be too close to the centre—if they are, you won’t be able to make proper channel separation.

The same thing should be taken care of while setting up the rear speakers. The rear speakers are where all the ambient sounds are projected from, so they will be pretty low in volume most of the time. The rear speakers can be much closer to viewers than the front channels.
The subwoofer—which generates the low frequency range in the sound and gives you the ground-shaking vibration—can be placed anywhere in the room, but for the right amount of volume of bass, you can choose to keep it a little closer to you. Using the woofer next to the centre channel or next to the TV is also popular.
In the end, it all comes down to you. Play a few quiet movie scenes and some action packed ones. Depending on the positioning of the speakers and the dimensions of the room, you’ll need to adjust the volume for the rear speakers and also the distance.
All the satellite speakers should be placed on stands such that they are at the ear level of the audience—who could be on a sofa, for example. Also make sure you have all the speakers a foot or two away from the walls.


Foobar Frequency Test

Foobar’s ability to generate steady frequencies or even frequency sweeps is very useful in finding out how well speakers can handle different frequencies. It’s a good test to find small weaknesses in the best of speakers. There were quite a few surprising outcomes.

Although the Altec Lansing MX5021 ploughed through all the frequencies effortlessly, there were some sounds around the 50 Hz frequency range that created some vibrations in the woofer.

Altec Lansing MX5021

A big noticeable problem with many speakers is the how sharp the tone would become when the volume level was pushed beyond the 50-60 per cent mark. This is mostly because of the satellites trying to play the frequencies meant for the woofer, or the other way around. The Zebronics ZEB-SW8000 had an odd problem where the woofer would give very little output, and an occasional kicking sound at higher volumes on extremely low frequencies.

Stand Back MP3, Enter Vinyls?
MP3s have come to be known as the best audio quality to most of the people using them—a wrong notion. Audio CDs easily surpass MP3s at the best possible bitrate and quality, but true audiophiles don’t quite agree even there. There are many who would say that vinyls hold the crown for quality. Vinyls—for those who aren’t aware—are better known as gramophone records. Unlike CDs, data on vinyls was stored as analogue. There is a groove that runs from the outside to the inside of the vinyl disc, and this groove contains the information which is read by a delicate nib—like on an ink pen. Data stored on either side of the groove is used to play stereo sound. This is far different from how CDs or DVDs are read.

Vinyls are said to be able to store a larger frequency range than CDs. There’s also a unique tone to the music which many consider comes from the inaccuracies of a relatively crude technology. It sounds very natural and very warm, unlike digital formats which have a very precise razor-like crispness to them.
Before you start unpacking your parents’ old record player, we should just remind you that there was a reason why vinyls got out of the market in the first place—they’re bulky, and very delicate. The surface is susceptible to scratches, and any kind of damage would completely ruin it. Now with CDs and the protective layer, there are no such worries. They were also very huge and therefore not portable—imagine going to work today in a train with a bunch of
12-inch records in your hand and even bulkier record player!


Music Test

The strongest point of 2.1 speakers is music, and the real fun part of the test was listening to our favourite tracks at mind-blowing volume levels.

The top place again went to the MX5021. The woofer performed exceptionally, with tight, hard bass and booming sound where expected. The woofer on the Logitech Z-2300 also had a respectable amount of bass. The bass on the Z-2300 was not as hard as the MX5021 at all.

The Zebronics ZEB-4000W had a very nice bass too. The high frequencies weren’t exaggerated, but the higher mids were a little too pronounced. The comparatively less treble meant a slight lack of sparkling or crispness in the sound.

Both the Artis S111-FM and S111-R are exactly the same in terms of quality. The woofer, although light, is pretty powerful and displaces a lot of air—we could feel it more than a foot away. Unfortunately, it lacks a deep bass because of its lightweight woofer design, which didn’t make listening to music a great experience—especially in the bass-heavy genres like rock and metal.

The Altec Lansing BXR1121 is pretty good at music. It went through all the tests with some more than decent results for its clean, natural tone. The only drawback is that these are fairly low-powered speakers, so the woofer doesn’t pump out the bass you’d like. Still, for a small room, these will do well. A low-powered speaker set has its own advantages—you can push the speaker to its limits and your sound still won’t distort.

Having heard some really great quality from some of the other 2.1 speakers of Altec Lansing, the FX4021 is a disappointment. The woofer is decent, but the satellites are pretty appalling, with major distortion even at mid-level volumes. The Altec Lansing VS2421 had a very warm sound signature which makes it ideal for jazz music.

TECH-COM has generally suffered from really coloured sound—the speakers are mostly high on treble, which makes the sound very unnatural. A lot of equaliser tweaks are required to cut down on the lower-highs before you can get the right tone out of these speakers.

Movie playback is also very good with the 2.1 speakers, even if you do miss out on the surround sound experience. The MX5021’s solid bass works wonders. Following it were the closely performing Logitech Z-2300, Altec Lansing BXR1121, Zebronics ZEB-SW8000, and Logitech X-240. These are speakers with not-so-hard bass.

And The Winner Is…!

The best speaker for music from all the tests that we ran is the Altec Lansing MX5021—its sheer power and undistorted sound, natural tone, with the right amount of crispness makes it an excellent performer. It’s not very costly either, at an MRP of Rs 7,500. In some markets, it’s available for around Rs 6,500, which makes it a steal.

A little far behind is the Logitech Z-2300. The woofer isn’t as tight as the MX5021, or as powerful, but it stands its ground when you demand power of it. It does well for music, and the slightly boomy woofer does its part for movies too.

The Zebronics ZEB-4000W grabs a surprising third place. Although a little off in tone, the sound still had vibrance and clarity, which makes it a very good speaker set. A bit of tweaking with your media player’s equaliser, and you can get decent music from this speaker set for sure. It’s got good, heavy bass, but it needs you to turn up the bass a fair bit before you get the setting just right.
The Altec Lansing BXR1121 makes a for very good value-for-money product at just Rs 1,250. Although it lacks power, this is actually an excellent buy for people who want a fairly mid-powered sound system for their PC.

The Artis S111R is yet another product that makes a lot of sense for the budget-minded. Although a little costlier than the BXR1121 at Rs 1,500, it isn’t a lot more expensive either, and has a slightly better subwoofer.

Altec Lansing BXR1121

The Logitech speakers are really good, too but their biggest fault is the pricing. The Z-2300, for example, is fairly good—not better than the Altec Lansing MX5021—but it still priced at Rs 3,000 more! If you’re looking for the ultimate 2.1 speakers, then blindly opt for the Altec Lansing MX5021. It is a very good bargain.

SURROUND SOUND SPEAKERS

Surround sound speakers are meant to serve a completely different purpose—watching movies with, well, surround sound. The sensation of being in the middle of the action is something that you can experience in a good movie theatre. The speakers we’ve tested should be able to give more or less the same experience, but in the comfort of your sofa with your family and friends. The freedom to pause the movie and grab your unlimited supply of popcorn and your cola whenever you want is just one of the perks of having your own little home theatre system. Although the emphasis would have to be on the surround movie tests, we still must focus on the best audio quality overall. After all, you won’t just be using your system for movies. While we received mostly 5.1 speakers, there were also a couple of 4.1 speakers—Creative Inspire M4500, TECH-COM SSD-2800 and the TECH-COM SSD-3400.

Perfect8—The Force
Each of these transparent monster’s stands weighs around 200 Kg. The frequency range extends all the way from 8 Hz to 50 KHz. All the drivers are housed in a glass casing.

The high frequency range is not driven by some tweeter but through a 1.6 m long ribbon using a neodymium magnet system. The price for The Force with 2 towers and 4 outbound woofers is said to be around $295,000.


Kharma Grand Exquisite
The Kharma Grand Exquisite is a $2,20,000 speaker which like its price uses exotic components too. Diamond tweeters are used for the high frequencies and Kevlar for the bass.

Wiring is done using pure gold and silver. Each speaker weights 440 Kg and they have an explosive power of 500W. If that doesn’t impress you, then the majestic looks surely will.


First Glimpse—Build Quality, Design... And Some Issues

The Logitech Z-5500 is the scariest of all the speakers that we received—the woofer is massive! The satellites were of 61 W RMS each. Most complete speaker sets—including the woofer and satellites—weren’t made this powerful. There were sufficiently long cables provided with the speakers, although prospective buyers should think of ways to tuck the cables away—they can get your room a little messy.

The Altec Lansing VS3251 is a cute little 5.1 setup. Although not as monstrous as the other speakers we saw, it is built rather well, is compact and comes with a chunky remote with very good buttons. The Philips MMS460 has a very light woofer and we had our doubts about its performance in the bass tests. The satellites were really built well and heavy. This is one of the most stylish speaker sets we received, but there was some minor shielding issue with it.

TECH-COM’s SSD-2800 is a pseudo-4.1 set—which means the rear speakers are practically just playing the same stuff as the fronts. To make matters worse, the cables are extremely short, so you can only place them right next to the front speakers. The SSD-3400 from TECH-COM was another such speaker. While these may have four satellite speakers, they’re still good for stereo.

Logitech Z-5500

The Logitech G51 comes with thick cables, colour-coded to make it extremely easy to set up. Even the Altec Lansing FX5051 was considerably easy to set up for the same reason. These are examples of attention to detail, along with detailed troubleshooting information that make up a good set of speakers.

Some of the TECH-COM and Intex speakers, like those in the 2.1 category, had some very attractive designs.

There were some problems we faced while trying to get proper surround sound from some speakers, though. On some of the TECH-COMs, we had to plug in the front channel tracks into the auxiliary port to get 2.1 sound. Another general issue with most TECH-COM speakers is the lack of 3.5mm-RCA converters. There were also very severe shielding issues seen in the TECH-COM SSD-5001R and the Intex IT-4800. Placing the centre speaker over a CRT monitor—or anywhere near it—is out of the question.

Room acoustics—why bother?
In the audiophile’s bible, anything that reflects sound is evil. Well, most of the time, at least. Sound bounces off flat and hard surfaces and all you get from that is loads of stray echoes all over the place and some sounds end up overpowering others.
There are a few things you can do to improve the acoustics of your room. Firstly, you’ll need to use some sound-absorbing material on your walls and floors, and if possible, even your ceiling. Curtains, wooden shelves and stacked books also work as great absorbing materials. This way, sounds get absorbed rather than getting reflected. Moving the seating arrangement and positioning can also help you find a sweet spot where echoes are minimal. A very small room also has lots of resonance, and is a bad idea to set up a home theatre in such a place.

Some of the largest and most advanced anechoic chambers are used for the development and testing of aircraft and other vehicles for the armed forces. To give you an idea of the size, the largest anechoic (without echoes) chamber is the Benefield Anechoic Facility at the Edwards Air Force base in the US. The dimensions of the room are some 250 x 264 x 70ft, and fits 816,000 cones to snuff out reflected sound.


Foobar Frequency Test

Very low deep bass along with power is necessary for a satisfying movie experience—for bomb blasts and crazy dogfights, among other things. The Z-5500’s level of bass at 20 Hz is pretty low as compared to the other speakers—it’s the sheer size of the driver that could be to blame here.

We also saw very erratic performance from all the other speakers. The Altec Lansing FX5051, for example, is extremely loud on higher frequencies, and not so much on the mids and lower range.

The sole Supercomp in the surround speaker category—the SES 5177—performed abysmally. The woofer was all over the place in the low frequency test. There was no clear steady tone but randomly switching tone. The Creative Inspire M5300 also lacked presence of bass between the 20-50 Hz frequency ranges but it was still a fair bit better than the M4500.

Music Test

Logitech’s Z-5500 seemed to be doing really well in most of the tests, and we assumed it would do equally well at music with its fairly neutral tone. It performs quite respectably,  but bass isn’t as tight as the Altec Lansing MX5021 from the 2.1 speaker category. The double bass drumming in the Metal tracks didn’t sound as pronounced as we’d like. For Bollywood pop music, the punchy bass did well. The Z-5500s are also very loud, so you can actually have your friends over for your very own party in an average-sized room.

The Logitech G51 has a heavy but underpowered woofer. It gives you good soft bass in tracks like With or without you by U2. The satellites are pretty decent, and the sound is rather warm and neutral without any shrill treble. The remote has a “matrix mode” for gaming and music, and fares horribly. The bass completely disappeared, so it’s wise to keep the effects off at all times.

The Altec Lansing VS3251 isn’t powerful, but the quality and detailed reproduction of sound was pretty impressive regardless. The TECH-COM SSD-4301R was surprisingly decent—better than most of the other TECH-COMs. It wasn’t as crystal clear or crisp as the Altec Lansings, but the woofer pumped out well-balanced bass and it was pretty powerful as well. Another TECH-COM that did well was the SSD-5101R. The bass was very good for drum solos—both in the quality tests and in the drum solo by Mike Portnoy in the live version of Dream Theatre’s Beyond this life.

The Philips MMS460 surprised us quite a bit—it has a very light woofer, but it gives some really impressive bass that does justice to bass guitars. It lacks the punchy hard bass for the drums, though, and the satellites exaggerate the higher frequencies. Bollywood and pop music was given an extra sparkle on top range frequencies, which made for a unique sound. The Philips MMS460 sound pretty nice in the piano tracks with every single note pumping that essential little bit of bass. Similar sound characteristics could be heard in the pure vocal (a capella) tracks with finger snapping.

Movies

The Logitech Z-5500 does a fair job at movies. The ample power makes the action-packed Star Wars and Transformers clips a joy to go through. The Z-5500s are rated at 500 W RMS, but it really doesn’t sound that much louder than the Logitech MX5021—which is around 90 W RMS.

We’re pretty impressed by the Logitech M-50 in the music tests, even though they are low-power speakers. Movies sound all right, but for quiet movie scenes, the bass wouldn’t play its part at all. Although not very loud, the detail was still very respectable. They are rated at 26 W RMS, but sound pretty powerful.

Altec Lansing V53251

The Altec Lansing FX5051 gives extremely good detail in the Star Wars scene—the quality of the crunch of a ship smashing into another was pretty amazing. The lack of punch in the woofer and the distortion at higher volumes was a complete turn-off. The woofer had to be turned up to over 80 per cent to get some bass into the sound.

Extras

The Logitech Z-5500 comes with a remote control with a display on it. Along with the remote is an inbuilt decoder. All the features and processing make the remote panel a little hot after some use. The remote itself is feature-packed with different audio modes for listening to music and movies, or using all speakers for music.

Dumped Your PlayStation, Did You?
If you did, it could have been a big mistake. The buzz among audiophiles these days is that the original PlayStation (Model SCPH-1001) could possibly be one of the best CD players ever made! It’s said that if you were to purchase a player that could match that quality, you’d be spending in excess of $6000 (Rs 2,40,000) for it.

Audio geeks who’ve spent that kind of money on their current high-end amps must surely feel like complete asses, having wasted all that dough, when the answer was right in front of them all along!


The FX5051 can also be driven through a USB interface if you don’t have sound card. There were no problems faced with detection, or anything to do with drivers. The quality is nothing special either, and these days pretty much every single motherboard comes with integrated sound so it doesn’t do a lot.

Yg Acoustics Voyager
The Yg Acoustic Voyager’s distinctive design looks like something out of a sci-fi movie.

Unlike all the other mammoths of its class, the weight of the Voyager is just around 91 Kg thanks to use of cast aluminium. The price for the Voyager is a comparatively low $1,00,000. The Voyager is so exotic that it is only sold to the well known in the music and film industry. No, you can’t walk in for a demonstration—you are to be invited by them.


The Best!

We recommend the Z-5500 for its good quality, and more importantly, its colossal power. The biggest problem with the Z-5500 is the price—Rs 27,995! For that price, you don’t really get that many more times the power or quality that you would get from a very good 2.1 like the Altec Lansing MX5021.

2.1Speakers                     Surround Sound Speakers
         

If power isn’t what you’re looking for, then the Altec Lansing VS3251 is a good set which is very affordable and is sufficient for an audience of two or three people in front of your PC. If you’re willing to ignore the slightly high treble sound, then the Philips MMS460 is also a very impressive set of speakers to consider. The VS3251 and the MMS460 are priced at Rs 4,200 and Rs 4,999 respectively.

The Logitech G51 also makes a decent buy, but like the Z-5500, is overpriced.

Contact Sheet                                                            Speakers

BrandCompanyPhone NoEmailWebsite
Altec LansingRashi Peripherals Pvt.Ltd022-67090909altec@rptechindia.comwww.alteclansing.com
ArtisKunhar Peripherals Pvt. Ltd022-66345758Sales1@kunhar.comwww.artis.co.in
CreativeCompuage Infocom Ltd022-23842200vaishali.shinde@compuageindia.comwww.creative.com
LogitechLogitech022-26571160kavita_nath@logitech.comwww.logitech.com
PhilipsPhilips Electronics India Ltd022-66912000sacchit.naik@philips.comwww.philips.com
ZebronicsTopnotch Infotronix (I)Pvt Ltd044-26616201enquiry@zebronics.infowww.zebronics.net


TECH-COM too had a few decent sounding woofers with hard tight bass, too. Unfortunately, their inability to play well at loud volumes or poor detail and bad colouring on the higher end of the spectrum is the reason they don’t figure in the top rankings. However, for the low price you pay, you get some really unique and fancy looking stuff.  Creative’s speakers were once considered great sets—they are costlier than the rest, but they always had the quality. Today, the speakers from Creative don’t seem to be targeted at enthusiasts anymore—they’re just for people who want a basic surround sound setup.

Rossi FernandesRossi Fernandes