Thursday, 6 June 2013

Shiny isn't always best

The soundbar looking just right under an iMac
 I like to think I'm very rational when it comes to choosing my IT equipment. Those of you who aren't Mac users may be sniggering and rolling around on the ground at this point because you know perfectly well that us Mac users pay far over the odds for what is basically just a prettier PC. Well, you are wrong. I am now into my second year on a Mac and it's still the case that every day I use it I get far more enjoyment out of interacting with it than I did with my old PC. If you are on the computer most of the day like me, that is well worth paying a bit extra for. And that's without all the added slickness in interworking with my iPad and iPhone. However...

... I must admit that there is a mindset that goes with being an Apple lover that says 'if it looks sexy and shiny it's worth paying extra for.' And I have just had a classic example of why this isn't always true.

Although the iMac's screen is superb, its sound through the built-in speakers is so-so at best. It's not bad on the high registers but it has very little bass. I don't have music on while I'm writing, but during the rest of my activities I quite like to delve into my reasonably chunky iTunes portfolio - and to be honest the iMac's sound just isn't good enough. So I invested in something called an XtremeMac Tango soundbar. Let's see what it had going for it:

  • It has the word 'Mac' in the name
  • It looks sleek and Apple-like in its design
  • It fits beautifully under the iMac screen
  • It has good reviews on Amazon
Old speaker hiding coyly behind iMac and sounding great
(the subwoofer is on the floor)
Now, I think my soundbar was faulty. There certainly was more bass than with the built-in speakers,  but the higher frequencies were very fuzzy, like listening to an AM radio. And it soon developed an irritating interference buzz. So I sent it back. But here's the thing.

Once I'd got the improve-the-sound bug, I thought 'let's see what things sound like with my old system.' Because I had a circa 15-year-old Altec Lansing 2 speaker+subwoofer rig sitting on my desk, still attached to my old PC which I keep around in case there's some ancient email I need to access. I plugged it into the iMac... and wow! Not only does it blow the soundbar out of the water, it is much better than it ever was on my PC. Even the little alert pings and whizzes the computer makes sound exquisite.

So there's my lesson. Rather than shelling out £70 on a soundbar I should have checked out the old tried and tested first. Ok, it's ancient. It looks rubbish (though it's out of sight, so that doesn't matter). It's dirty and has seen better days. But boy does it make my iMac sound better. 

Repeat after me three times: Just because something is shiny doesn't mean it's better (at least, if you don't have to look at it to use it).

1 comment:

  1. "Just because something is shiny doesn't mean it's better" - this, people should learn from this.