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Speakers Do Make a Difference

Posted 01-22-2008 at 07:39 PM by mowestusa

I would consider myself an audiophile. I have not spent hundreds of dollars on my sound set up at home. I don't spend hours even listening to music. Podcasts have become my audio entertainment in the car, washing dishes, and when exercising. Yet, I have learned that speakers do make a difference. For years I have used the original speakers that come with desktops or the built in speakers in laptops.

This last Christmas, I put on my list new speakers for the computer. Well, I got some. Actually, I got Brookstone "2-in-1 Photo Frame Speakers". You can find them at the Brookstone website.

When I took them out of their packaging for the first time, I wondered right away it they would work with Linux. There was a USB plug and an 1/8" connector wire to connect the left and right speakers together. Of course, there was no 1/8" connector to hook into your sound card. This is the first time I have ever used a USB audio device under Linux. Yet, I figured that since they did not need any special drivers to work with Windows XP I figured that there might be support in the 2.6 series of Linux kernels.

Well, I tried to get them working with Foresight 1.42 which is my home desktop. I ended my first attempt with the belief that Foresight 1.42 did not properly configure the speakers. I perhaps could have gotten them working if I had worked a little harder on the issue. Next I took them to work and tried them on my Fedora 7 box. After plugging them in, dmesg clearly showed that the kernel had picked them up as an USB audio device. However, everything still played through the sound card. Then I went into the individual audio programs and saw a setting for "USB Audio". After selecting that, Audacious played through the USB speakers.

I do have a few issues, but they might be related to the way Fedora 7 and most other distros handle sound. The volume control in Gnome sometimes crashes if I try to change the volume while playing audio or multimedia in certain applications. I also sometimes get crashes of the sound system if I open another app that needs to use the speakers, while another app is already using the speakers. Also if I have to speakers plugged in while the computer boots, it will pick up the speakers, and ignore the sound card in the computer, so I can't use the sound card at all if I have the USB speakers plugged in upon reboots. However, in those same situations, the sound system seems to be more stable when the computer's sound card is not picked up.

Well, what do I think of the sound? When I compare it to the $5-$10 speakers that used to be attached to this computer, the difference is clear. I actually hear the base in songs, which I don't believe I had ever heard in the cheap speakers. The sound is also rich and clear. I don't hear buzzing or metallic noise. Another interesting effect comes from the fact that the speakers don't face you, but face away from you, since you obviously want to see the pictures that are in the frames. Finally, I have to say they are attractive frames for 4x6 pictures. They don't look like speakers on your desk. Instead they look like nice frames you got for your pictures.

I would recommend them, but I don't know if the quality of the sound would be equal to other computer speakers which you might spend $50 to purchase. If you want speakers that work well, look nice, solve the need to display family pictures at your desk, and will replace cheap speakers you will be happy. I will be honest that I miss having an actual hardware volume knob, because now when I want to turn down the speakers I need to go to the Gnome volume control on the desktop or pause the multimedia program. Small inconvenience for a nice product that works with Linux.
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