Apple Computer Speaker Reviews

Portable And Desktop Computer Speakers For Mac

Small Wireless AirPlay Speakers For iPad : iPhone : Mac

The ability to stream audio over Wi-Fi has evolved steadily since Apple first introduced the AirPort Express router and 'AirTunes' speaker playback options in iTunes. Rebranded as 'AirPlay' it now moves beyond only a Mac running iTunes to also include the AppleTV and streaming music control from an Apple iPad, iPhone or iPod touch as well. On the Windows and Android side there's a similar DLNA standard.

iHome Compact Airplay WiFi Speaker

Black - Red - Silver Color Options


Apple AirPlay compatibility is being incorporated directly into select Wi-Fi wireless speaker systems. The benefit of streaming Apple audio over 802.xx wireless is the increased bandwidth, greater coverage distance and higher fidelity available. As many Mac users have discovered, streaming stereo Bluetooth audio has a maximum coverage range of 30 feet - and in real world experience it's usually far, far less. And it should also be noted that A2DP stereo Bluetooth audio is highly compressed. As such Bluetooth offers less than true audiophile quality for discerning ears. So Apple's AirPlay more than makes up for some of Bluetooth's limitations.

JBL Sound-Fly Small WiFi Speaker

AC-Socket Around-The-House Placement


Because AirPlay is implicitly a WiFi technology - it's use is basically limited to home and office environments. Also note that 802.xx wireless is a power hog compared to Bluetooth. As such many AirPlay speakers are AC powered and rather bulky. Many have large enclosures with sizeable woofers so they're delivering true hi-fi audio with serious bass thump! That said, there are more compact and smaller portable AirPlay loudspeakers that can be taken from room to room and run on battery power. Many support both wireless AirPlay AND Bluetooth for more versatility.

Portable JLab USB Laptop Speakers Ideal For MacBooks

Shopping for a compact USB powered laptop speaker system from JLab for your Apple MacBook Air or Pro? J-Lab Audio has been around for many years and has offered several Universal Serial Bus powered computer loudspeaker systems that are small, compact and easy to take along with your MacBook.

The original 1-piece stereo JLab USB loudspeaker is still available in Black or Pearl White and features fairly large dual driver cones on a flexible gooseneck arm to let you adjust the laptop loudspeaker's angle and placement. It can be a bit top-heavy so a plastic stress relief is included to help support the one-piece speaker. It delivers crystal clear sound with dual 1-watt digital amps and 2 high-output full range micro drivers.

Digital USB Powered Speaker

Dual Speaker Drivers - Flexible Neck


Introduced several years later, an updated version of JLab's portable notebook USB speaker was released with a more stylish and simmer, tapered enclosure. This current model also features a shorter flexible gooseneck and puts less stress on your MacBook's USB port. Available in Black it compliments more recent Aluminum and Black Apple MacBooks and delivers significantly increased bass response and audio volume over any MacBook's internal micro-speaker drivers.

B-Flex X-Bass Hi-Fi Speaker

Improved Sound, Shorter Gooseneck


It's a shame these sleek, brushed aluminum USB powered JLab notebook speakers ideal for Apple MacBooks seems to have been discontinued. But you may still be able to find them, or perhaps as refurbished or used. If Amazon doesn't have them, check out 'JLab SubSpace' USB notebook speakers on eBay and you should be able to find a set.

JLab SubSpace Stereo Speakers

Dual 50mm Drivers - Brushed Aluminum Cubes


They were manufactured in both Sliver and Black brushed aluminum colors. I owned a pair and really loved JLab's styling and the enhanced and improved bass as well as the spatial stereo sound these separate 2.0 loudspeakers were able to deliver in such a compact form factor. I don't travel with my Apple laptop often so a 2-piece USB desktop speaker system was a better choice for me. Most of J-Lab Audio's speaker products are now wireless Bluetooth systems, I'll cover some of those in another blog post at www.macbook-speakers.com

Who Makes USB Computer Speakers With Decent Bass?

Shopping for USB speaker system with good bass? Given the voltage limitations of a computer's USB port, finding USB powered speakers with decent bass response or high-wattage audio output can be challenging. Many USB speakers are small, compact, 1-piece and designed for easy portability for Apple MacBooks, or ChromeBooks and Windows NetBook laptops. However 2-piece USB desktop systems are far more likely to deliver better bass and stereo separation with slightly larger drivers in two separate enclosures.

2-Way USB Studio Monitors

4" Woofer & 1" DomeTweeter


Speaker Engineering

With only 5 volts and 500 milliamps of power available, the engineering that goes into the loudspeaker's design matters a lot. A flexible fabric or rubberized surround on the speaker cone can allow it to move air and lower-frequency sound waves more freely. We can thank the automotive audio industry to help inspire the market for very small woofers that deliver great bass despite their small size. And the computer industry's trend towards smaller and more mobile devices has led to some engineering feats for better-sounding micro-speakers for portable gadgets.

Edifier USB Desktop System

70mm Full Range Drivers + Tuned Port


Size Of Speaker Cone

Obviously, the size of the driver cone directly affects how much air can be displaced - and you need to move a lot of it to feel any real THUMP below 100 Hertz. Given the limitations of USB's voltage, realistically a 3 inch or 4 inch driver is all that can be expected. Size does matter. It helps noticeably, as many compact loudspeakers designed for MacBook or PC laptop portability have only one to two inch drivers.

Amazon Basics USB Speakers

Well Engineered - Balanced Sound


Amazon's own line of "Basics" computer accessories has a USB powered desktop speaker system which is getting rave reviews for it's great, balanced, full-range sound and low price.

Sonaverse USB Powered Speakers

2" Quality Drivers + Side Passive Subwoofers


Passive Bass Radiators

To enhance low-frequency response, some loudspeaker designs incorporate a Bass Radiator - a passive cone or surface that 'echos' movement of the primary low-frequency driver to pump up the bass somewhat. Above, GoGroove's Pulse USB speakers feature large passive radiators on the sides of the enclosure: The larger the better, assuming there's an equally decent woofer or full-range driver to get the air in the cabinet moving. Even some small, portable USB speakers like the Edifier Sound 2 Go shown below incorporate a small bass radiator to compliment it's 25mm array of 4 main drivers.

Sound 2 Go Portable USB Soundbar

4 HQ Micro-Speakers + Oblong Bass Radiator


Enclosure Design

Loudspeaker cabinets can be of two types - Those which are completely sealed (Acoustic Suspension) or those with an opening to 'breathe' (Tuned Port). Acoustic Suspension systems can help deliver 'tighter' bass, and are used in speakers with passive radiators. However, ported enclosures - especially in USB-powered loudspeaker systems may be preferred to add more resonance and reach of the otherwise low-wattage output.

Best MacBook Bluetooth Speaker Of The Year : Creative Roar 2

Best Bluetooth Speaker For MacBook
Shopping for the best portable MacBook speaker at a great price? This year's best wireless speaker for a MacBook Pro or Air is the 2nd generation Roar loudspeaker from Creative Labs. The revised SoundBlaster Roar 2 Speaker packs a punch with great bass response and superlative audio quality in a compact enclosure that's 20% smaller and a half a pound lighter than the award-winning original model. It's available in either a white with black accent - or black with white accent color options to suit an Apple user's taste and style.

With the same high-quality 5.1 speaker driver assembly packed into a smaller enclosure, it rivals the pricier and bulkier Bose SoundLink III portable speaker at nearly half the price - while offering far more features.

Creative Labs ROAR 2 Speaker

Fantastic Sound + Features Galore


It features a large 3 inch center woofer flanked by stereo 1.5 inch mid and high frequency drivers - with two passive low-frequency radiators on each side for incredible bass thump. A 'Roar' boost feature offers a one-touch loudness button for even more presence and Ooomph!

The Roar 2 Bluetooth speaker supports high-fidelity APTX and AAC HD audio codecs as well as NFC pairing. With a built-in microphone it can also be used for hands-free call management with an iPhone when needed and also supports voice recording. It's also a great choice for wireless or wired iPad audio playback.

It's 8hr LiOn battery is rechargeable via AC adaptor or the mini USB port in a pinch. But beyond that, it also includes a standard USB Type-A port on the rear for recharging your iPod, iPhone or iPad anywhere if needed via your Lightning or 30-pin Dock cable.

3 Connectivity Options: Although primarily a wireless Bluetooth solution - it also can be used as a direct connect USB speaker with your MacBook Pro or Air laptop if desired. Additionally, an Analog 1/8" stereo input jack can be used with any external audio source as well. And finally, it includes a micro-SD card slot for direct playback of MP3 files for a portable, standalone jukebox.

Priced around $160 it's our pick as the best all-around MacBook speaker of the year is the Roar 2. Does more, costs less, and sounds just as good or better than most of it's rivals.

How To Optimize iTunes Equalizer To Your Mac Computer Speakers

Any given set of speakers - whether they're large or small, cheap or audiophile quality - Each have their own unique characteristics and frequency response curve. The iTunes built-in equalizer gives you an opportunity to 'shape' your sound output to best match the response curve of your particular speaker's capabilities - and can be customized to your preferred listening tastes. Here's a few tips for setting the speaker equalizer optimally:

Setting Frequency Response Curves For Small Speakers

Using, say, a small USB travel speaker as an example; start by dragging ALL your sliders down to the bottom. Fire up a fairly hard rocking or whomping dance tune to have a good steady bass rythmn and set the volume 3/4ths of the way up - in both iTunes AND your System Volume. We're driving the speakers LOUD but not maxed out.

Work from the low 32Hz frequency up. In the case of the MacBooks internal speakers, or the Mac mini internal speaker -- they CAN'T reproduce the lowest bass frequencies, SO DON'T TRY! It'll give you cleaner sound by not sending these electrical signals to the tiny speaker's voice coil.

Move up to 64Hz, then 125Hz bands. Slowly slide each upwards, listening close for when buzz and distortion starts to occur. Back off slightly till it sounds 'clean', then move up to the next. Getting these 3 sliders right on the low-frequency end are the most critical with smaller portable laptop speakers. Optimizing but not over-driving them is key to full-sound without distortion.

In the 250-4K mid-range we have most vocals and instruments. The sound of distortion here has more a 'hollow', overdriven character. Optimal settings will vary greatly between different speaker systems - and on personal taste.

Lastly, the 8k and particularly 16K frequency range will depend a lot on both taste - and the condition of your hearing. Aging ears often become less sensitive to the highest frequencies and you may need to compensate upward here especially to bring out cymbals and percussion.

The 'Preamp' slider is best left alone. Most will find cranking it up anywhere more than even a notch above center will simply result in distortion. It may make the sound louder - but NOT cleaner. Use only if desperate in a very noisy environment.

Finally, Pull down on the Presets Menu and ADD A PRESET to save your custom equalizer setting with a good name that means something to you. You may find many of iTune's included presets don't sound good AT ALL, some horrible in fact - so create your own using this bottom-up technique tailored to your particular computer speaker's abilities.

Test Your Apple Computer Speaker Frequency Response : Audio Test

Test the frequency response of your Mac speaker system

Audio Test for Mac OSX is a great little utility for evaluating the frequency response of your Mac's internal or external speaker system. By setting the frequency range from 20Hz to 20,000Hz you can run a slow 30-60 second sweep and ascertain the point where your low bass frequencies start to be audible -- on up to where the high frequencies fade out.

On a Classic White MacBook or Aluminum unibody Mac laptop - you'll find you can't hear any 'bass' until you're around 150Hz whereas on a Tritton SoundBite USB speaker low-frequencies can be heard around 90Hz, and with a Logitech Audio Hub, the woofer is perceptible around 40Hz. A nifty way to find out what your particular speaker system is capable of.

Harmon-Kardon Speaker 'STICKS' It To Competitors

Harmon speakers for Apple computers
In a world of endless and relentless technology change - it seems few products stand the test of time. So too with speakers for your Mac or PC, with new iterations and meaningless model numbers every 6 months, like clockwork. Suprisingly, MacWorld.com recently (re)did a review of a 2.1 speaker system Mac users have loved for nearly 5 years: The Harman-Kardon Sound Sticks.



Harman Kardon's SoundSticks



Sometimes tech companies GET IT RIGHT the first time around. Like H-K did with the SoundSticks. Its well balanced speaker response comes from 2 satellites with 4 Odessy drivers each for midrange and highs - to the instantly recognizable acrylic subwoofer illuminated by a blue LED. It's quirky styling that has pleased a tens of thousands of ears - and delighted the eyes. And it still does to this day: A well-balanced speaker system that delivers the same great sound and style it did the day it was introduced. Tech, Done Right, in the first place.

Great Sounding Clip On Speaker For MacBook Pro

There's a fair number of one-piece clip-on USB powered speakers to dramatically improve the sound quality and frequency response of Windows and MacBook laptops. But some are better, and designed more intelligently than others.

Good Sounding USB Speaker

Single-Cable Digital Stereo


Kinivo makes a USB soundbar style speaker that features reasonably large stereo speaker drivers and a clip on design that DOESN'T block your Windows laptop or MacBook iSight webcam like far too many do! So you can still do your video chat and enjoy great sounding audio for your music, television and movie watching enjoyment. While this speaker may be a little too top-heavy for a MacBook Air, 13 and 15 inch MacBook Pro users should have no problem mounted atop the LCD display. The clip also acts as a built-in stand, so you can use it just sitting on your desktop if you prefer.

Getting all it's power and delivering pure digital stereo audio over a single cable, the Kinivo speaker doesn't use a separate 1/8" analog cable for the audio signal - something that far too many portable USB powered soundbar speakers require.

USB Sound Bar Speaker For MacBook

Portable USB Laptop Speaker for MacBooks
Looking for decidedly better music and audio quality for your Apple MacBook Pro or Air that's highly portable? Check out Edifier's design on a 1-piece USB powered laptop speaker system that's engineered better than most. This portable MacBook computer speaker features dual 1.25" Tweeters and Midrange drivers on each side as well as a center 3" x 1.25" oblong low-frequency radiator. It's light years ahead of the tiny micro-speakers built into MacBooks that Apple deems good enough for your Mac laptop audio experience.

Edifier USB Soundbar Speaker

Multi Driver Travel Speaker


The Edifier Sound To Go + is approximately 10"x1.5" right-sized for even the smallest MacBook Air on up - in a slim design that's easy to carry in your Mac laptop bag. This is the 2nd generation of Sound-To-Go model. In the PLUS version of this USB powered speaker, the revision now includes an internal lithium ion battery for separate, standalone use as an analog speaker for your Apple iPad, iPhone or iPod via the 3.5 mm audio input jack.

Of course it also provides digital stereo USB audio from your MacBook Air or Pro laptop as it recharges. There's an on-board volume control button - that when connected via USB will also trigger the on-screen speaker volume / mute icon in OSX.

High Quality USB Speakers For MacBook - JBL Pebbles

JB Lansing Speaker Systems
JBL recently introduced a new line of very stylish computer speakers that any MacBook owner would love. Of note: It's new JBL Pebbles desktop USB speakers which raises the bar for both great looking Apple accessories - and one of the best sounding all-digital USB computer speaker systems ever that gets all it's power from a single USB computer port.

The new Pebbles 2.0 USB speaker system from JBL is arguably one of the best sounding USB powered desktop computer speakers ever released. With sensitive and very high-quality Harman engineered speaker drivers, they deliver smooth full-frequency response across the audio spectrum, something that's challenging to do with the limited 5 volts of power a Mac desktop or MacBook's USB port provides.

JBL USB Desktop Computer Speakers

1-Finger Touch Volume Control


There's several color choices available in either Orange, Black or White with accents for a great aesthetic. More thoughtful technical features from JBL include a spinning fingertip volume control on the brushed metal dial, a 1/8th inch / 3.5mm analog input jack for other audio devices, and neat wrap-around and tuck away cable design built into the base. Currently retailing for around $50 USD, they're one of the nicest-sounding and most stylish USB speakers ever released.