Want some sound advice? Invest in some serious speakers. Better yet, get some boom boxes so beefy that they’d be banned in the EU.
Why? Because when professional speakers are hooked up to your Mac, they do two things: they liberate the otherwise tinny beeps and blurps of games, and they make your nose bleed.
The USB-based Yamaha YST-MS55D speakers tune into this category to such
an extent they should come with a health warning and a packet of Kleenex. Dubbed "multimedia-powered speakers", the set-up includes a breeze-block-sized subwoofer and two satellite speakers, building a wall of sound that will make your hair stand on end.
The audio quality is astounding. I tested this with both audio CDs and a platoon
of shoot-‘em-ups, and both resulted in my deaf neighbour banging on the wall. The speakers deploy Yamaha’s Active Servo Technology – market-speak for their ability to deliver rich, deep base that you can actually feel beating a tune in your stomach. And, when you slip the subwoofer off its leash, the bass really adds a fantastic dimension to games and audio tracks.
In fact, the entire dynamic range is impressive – there’s little distortion at full volume, which is very loud, and a there’s crisp audio range on display. In use, you could feel every thud as bullets slammed into your space marine in games like Quake, while post-frag audio CDs sounded like they were belting out of a proper home-entertainment system.
I mentioned USB-speakers earlier; USB promises to deliver clearer sound, with less noise and distortion. Only it doesn’t – not on a Mac, because the Mac OS doesn’t support audio over USB. And it gets worse. Yamaha has included only the USB cable in the box, omitting the expensive 3.5mm stereo jack – about ten pence, last time I looked – so you can’t use them without a second trip to your local music Mecca.
There’s more to dislike; the entire instruction booklet is geared to Windows – the Mac doesn’t even get a swansong – and, the CD is loaded with Windows software. In fact, I even disliked the satellite speaker volume knob – it was way too tiny for accurate turns, and lacked grip features, meaning sweaty fingers tended to slip when adjusting the volume.
The speakers start on a bum note when you open the box – lousy manual, zero software and no cable. Get past that though, and the real reason you got them in the first place – terrific sound – will quickly make you forgive. Just don’t be fooled by the USB overture.