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Harmon Kardon SoundSticks (version 1) better than X-Fi

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May 27, 2006 1:25:07 PM

Can I get some objective advice on the Harmon Kardon SoundSticks from anyone that's compared them to other non-USB 2.1 sets. I have a set, from back when I had a Mac. While they don't sound bad, they don't utilize my X-Fi and I don't get to enjoy its quality through them. I'm wondering if anyone can speak as to whether it's really time to upgrade. ...of course I know that loudspeakers remain a highly subjective relm but I'd still appreciate the advice as the SoundSticks were not an inexpensive purchase. The SoundSticks, are of course digital, with their own DACs.

...that was wordy. I guess what I really want to know is if you think I'd get really better sound with mating another set of 2.1 speakers to the SB X-Fi Platinum. Is any noticable quality really lost with using an analog 1/8th inch minijack? FYI. I tend to be partial to the sound of Infinity loudspeakers. ...preferring crisp clean clear highs and descent mid-range to the distorted boomy base I've heard on some Logitech 5.1s. ...and I'd prefer not to have to equalize the sound to obtain this "cleanliness".

Finally, I read that many favor the Klipsch Pro Media 2.1 and the Klipsch iFi. How would these compare, in your opinion, to the SoundStick 1's that I currently have?
May 28, 2006 8:35:54 AM

You think that was wordy? I'll one up you :lol: 

I've never heard the soundsticks, but since you are asking for objective advice, then lets go with pure physics.

There usually is a little more line out noise using the X-Fi's DACs compared to a signal that remains digital until reaching amplification. This is not objective information, but just personal experience with PCI soundcards. Your mileage may vary. However, the noise difference isn't obvious, and requires a lot of experimentation. For all practical useage, I would say you won't notice it.

I've never heard any Infinity loudspeakers, although I've heard good things about their Primus line. They are a retail brand though, so they will have trouble competiting with Internet Direct brands at any price point--all retail brands of course, share this problem, among other things, like design-induced coloration, brand-flavor, things that generally remove the loudspeaker from waveform accuracy, etc.

The Promedia 2.1 is a pretty old pair of speakers, and although I've heard them, it was never a direct comparison with other speakers, and my memory leaves me as to how it sounded, as I heard it a long time ago--before my roommate got robbed. However, 3-inch midranges have about 220% more surface radiating area than a quadruplet of 1-inch tweeters. Under the same conditions, playing the same material, the Promedia's should exhibit significantly less distortion, have less power compression, and consequently, be able to play louder and cleaner.

The iFis are, to my understanding, and as Klipsch has previously priced the RSX-3 satellites, quite a class above the 2.1 Promedias. They have about 40% more surface radiating area and a larger 8" subwoofer thats driven with a cerametallic cone (similar to aluminum) instead of paper cones. Harder materials warp less, maintain their surface geometry at higher power levels, and tend to have lower distortion in similar conditions. I hear the iFi subwoofer is a refined version of the Promedia 5.1 subwoofer in design (not to mention revamped materials), so that cant' be a bad thing. Klipsch sells the iFi refurbed for $200, or about $50 retail higher than the soundsticks.

I can't measure value for you. Some way say the iFi sounds a lot better. Some will say the Soundsticks look a lot better. Hell, we all know the entire PC sound industry exists for cosmetic reasons, not performance or cost-effectiveness. But if you are hoping for more performance, given the low cost differential and the large amount of physics theory leaning against the Soundsticks, I think you would probably feel really happy about the iFi. If not, don't shy away from the return policy, though a lot of younger PC enthusiasts may not have the transportation to consistently audition and buy what they really want, so they end up stuck with things to don't really want, but try to convince themselves that it's not the case.
May 28, 2006 3:04:57 PM

Thanks for your excellent advice. I may audition the iFi speakers @ some point. The SoundSticks never did sound as good as they looked. Again, I really do appreciate your time.
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May 29, 2006 4:04:27 PM

I dont know your set up etc, but get 5.1. If you play games espectialy. but the x fi up mixes music and stuff to be 5.1, if you tell it to. It makes me want to pee my pants its so sweet. I use ltb 5.1 ac97 headphones I like alot, they have good sound but may lack a little umph. but I either use that or my home theater system. I just want to brag a little. It sounds so damn good on my system, I like to just lay in the middle of my floor listening to it. but get 5.1. it is in like all games now, all dvds. and the x fi upmix sounds so sweet. by the way, however more full and powerful and cool my system is I paid like 2000 for it and 90 for my headphones. but both were werth every penny. the headphones dont realy fall to far behind in sound, but it is a different feeling, and you cant shake the house with them. so there you have it. I recommend the headphones. over a 2.1 system especialy but also over a low cost 5.1. and you dont have to worry about keeping the noise down.
May 29, 2006 9:41:43 PM

Yeah, when you're happy with your sound its like a fine wine, eh? I have a 5.1 home theater system. I have to research whether or not the X-Fi's digital output will output in 5.1. I recall reading that it WOULD NOT...that it only outputs stereo. Perhaps @ some put I'll invest in a good set of 5.1 PC loudspeakers...after I've done some research to see what I can afford @ my price point. I'm planning to dedicate an entire room to music listening so a surround setup that could upmix 2-channel stereo to 5.1 surround seems like a very interesting proposition.
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