by Craig O'Donnell -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Author of Cool Mac Sounds, Second Edition
People complain that the low cost Sony speakers such as the SRS57 and SRS58 models "cut off" beeps because they power down when there's no audio signal. This is true (it's sort of a sleep mode to save batteries if you're using your Sony speakers on the space shuttle or at the beach). Unlike a PowerBook, sleep happens even when you're using the AC wall wart with them. But if you leave your Sound control panel set to seven - all the way up - and adjust the volume from the little Sonys you won't have this problem. I bought SRS-57s back when they were just about the only thing available under $200 and they've worked great like this for me.
Many people are wondering about the Yamaha YST-M10 speakers - they are powered and shielded and priced around $80 to $90 mail order. They are absolutely the best buy in this price class. They provide a respectable 10 watts, electronic bass enhancement that makes them sound nice and warm, and a presence control.
Ignore the idiotic review in a recent Macworld (Apr-94). The speakers are not the same quality as a $6,000 set of Meyer powered HD1s; they are most certainly not recommended as stage monitors for a band; and the controls (Presence and Volume) are small, poorly shaped knobs that win my Don Norman "Duh" Prize for the month. The knobs aren't knurled, making them hard to grasp and there is no detent or "pointer" so you can check the setting by feel. As an ex-audio engineer I know exactly how important this is.
This cavilling aside, these Yamaha's are a steal for anyone using an AV Mac or a desktop Mac with built-in CD-ROM. And remember that the Power Macs are coming - with stereo 16-bit sound input and output.
You would only choose AppleDesign speakers over these Yamaha speakers if you need two inputs on the speakers themselves for your Mac's beeps and an external CD ROM drive. The YST-M10s have only one stereo input (like most powered speakers except the Apple and Altec models).
Finally, Mark Anbinder and Martin Hying were wondering about why a CD-ROM drive in an AV Mac "skipped" when played through AppleDesign Powered Speakers. The problem is that the AppleDesign speakers have a "noise gate" inside for the 1/8-inch input only. This cuts out low level signals (hiss, for example) because the design assumption was that this would be plugged into the cheesy 8-bit output of your typical LC or Performa.
On an AV Mac, all it succeeds in doing is cutting off very low level audio, as you've discovered, on CDs like classical music with very quiet passages. To confirm this, listen to the AV output on headphones, and you won't hear any skipping. There is no noise gate on the RCA input section of the AppleDesign speakers. Try it; you'll see.