Today I finally settled on speakers for my laptop. I had wanted a set of USB speakers that I could use both to listen to ordinary YouTube music or CD’s, and also something that would be both loud enough and lightweight enough to bring to the classroom to play music for my ESL students.
First I decided on the Insignia 2.0 Portable USB Speaker System (2-piece). It was in the $50 range at Bestbuy, had a case for carrying, and was lightweight enough to pack easily in a bag that fills up with heavy books and papers pretty quickly. But when I got it home and plugged into the USB port (and it played in Vista immediately without installing any software), the sound just wasn’t right. Maybe it would have been all right for voice, but after listening to some music on YouTube and one of the CD’s I use for the students, I found I just wasn’t enjoying the sound of the music. It wasn’t just the lack of good bass, the music just didn’t have any depth of tone. Some reviewers who bought this speaker were satisfied with the sound, but I wasn’t. If you don’t enjoy it, why listen?
Fortunately Bestbuy has a good customer service, and I was able to return it for the Logitech Z-5, a 2-speaker set. They had just set one up in the store and I was able to listen to it before buying, although it was plugged into the headphone output and not the USB port. This speaker was a bit larger and heavier, but was on sale for eighty-something dollars. Unwrapping the speakers at home, I plugged them into the USB port and installed the software from the CD that comes with it. Ah, much better.
As you can see, everything runs from one USB port without any external power source. The cord between the two speakers is about 45 inches, the cord to the USB port about 75 inches. Long enough to put on a shelf above the desk, but not across the room. The accoutrements that come with it are a mystery cord, presumably to plug into a speaker output (one of the speakers has an external jack for “iPod or external music player”), a software CD, and a terminally cute remote control (smaller than a deck of cards) so you can change the volume and stop and start the player from across the room. I’m so in love with this little remote; I know it will fit in my sport jacket pocket without a bulge. I have yet to test the speakers in the classroom, but at home they are loud enough to hear in the next room.
As I write this, I am listening to some folk music from Sur Sudha I bought in Nepal that I haven’t heard for years because it was skipping on the CD player. I can hear every sitar string twang and the bongos actually sound like drums. The flute is so clear you can tell it’s not a western metal flute. It doesn’t get any better than this. I am definitely NOT going to miss the extra money I spent on these speakers.