In this edition, Asher brings you an exhaustive guide to pimping out your Hall room… acoustically.
Written by: Asher Jon Tan
Edited by: Jason Yan
Let’s try to summarize what you’ve done so far. You got your transponder from the front office, trudged up and down endless stairs and have finally found your room. You spent five excruciating minutes in the corridor having awkward chitchat with your new neighbour (or more likely were saluted by a lifeless corridor), and you thought to yourself: oh my god is this how the next twelve months is going to be? You opened your door and a not-quite-musty stillness greeted you. You’ve whipped out your cleaning agents and gave your room the only massive spring-cleaning it will ever receive from you, delicately arranged your closet, taken a picture of it because this is the only time it’ll ever be this neat, ripped the canvas off your mattress and set up your laptop. You’ve just made your pilgrimage down to the Nanyang Supermarket to get a lan cable for the Internet, posted a status about your successful immigration, and started up iTunes to give your room some tuneful life. And then it hits you, these puny laptop speakers can’t possibly justify the vast music collection that has taken you years to hoard. As the first of many impulsive decisions you will make in hall, you decide to get yourself some new sound equipment. You see if you can find any advice from your KE seniors, and here you are right now reading this.
This is not an article filled with technical spiel, although it could become one if I just copied and pasted everything I found.
So you’ve got quite a few choices, depending on whether you’re an audiophile who believes in aural mysticism and dabbles in the acoustic occult, or whether you just want a huge subwoofer. Combinations are endless and eventually you could conceivably find the perfect set that fits you like a glove.
Let’s start from the bottom up.
Laptop speakers – free. Well, they come with your laptop. Being one speaker right in front of your speakers, it essentially gives you a centre speaker effect, completely lacking in bass response in most cases and sputtering along for the rest, it’s your basic speaker and therefore only beats your handphone speaker.
Now for any speaker set you’ll need the speakers and the amplifier. For computer speakers they come in bundled together. Such set-ups could include 2.0, 2.1, 5.1, etc.
- The 2.0 Set-up
Lacking a subwoofer, there will normally be a missing bass response in these set-ups, they tend to be cheaper and readily available all over the place. With 2 speakers, you’ll get some dynamic placement of sound with a significantly wider soundstage, definitely not the surround experience though. Do note that the smaller they are, the more compressed everything is and the less likely you’d be able to achieve quality sound with them. They are, however the cheaper option, easily costing less than 50 dollars a pop.
2. The 2.1 Set-up
This is the standard for most computer speakers. The subwoofer covers the mid-lows, the satellites take care of the mid- highs and provide the primary source of sound. More or less identical to the 2.0 set-up apart from the additional subwoofer, the essential quality is markedly increased though, companies seem to pay more attention to detail with these kind of computer speaker systems. These cost anything between slightly less than a hundred for the really poor ones to upwards of six hundred dollars for the Bose Companion 5 Series, which is most likely the best simple set-up you could get for your computer.
3. The 5.1 Set-up
This realm is more for home theatre junkies. The upgrade from the 2.1 is the surround sound experience, which some people crave for games and/or movies. The previous set-ups and more than sufficient for simply enjoying music. The quality 5.1 set-ups also tend to be much more pricey, cheap ones do exist but at this level you do get what you pay for. Furthermore, in a setting such as hall it would be difficult to position your speakers in a way that would give you maximal enjoyment of a 5.1 system, more often than not one would end up placing all five speakers in front, rendering the multi- faceted system redundant.
All of the above systems can be found at places such as Sim Lim Square, Challenger, and similar stores.
For the audiophiles, you’d be looking for towers, bookshelf speakers, a decent DAC and an amplifier to boot, all in all such quality set-ups would cost you upwards of over one and half thousand dollars, quite a substantial investment for great sound and most likely out of reach for us poor university students (rendered even poorer by hall). For those who do have an interest though, Adelphi opposite Funan is a great place to start. But beware, many con-men and dabblers in pseudo-science CAN and WILL try to sell you a product which already substandard to begin with. Behind its upmarket facade, you’d have to differentiate between those who care about sound and those who just care about your money. Believe me when I say some of these men have spent years of their lives honing their abilities at duping the common man with parting with our hard-earned and long-saved money. Substantial research and testing must be done on this field to ensure you don’t regret a purchase as well.
So let’s say you did buy all this nice gear. You’re carrying your brand-new speakers you just blew several hundred bucks on and you’re happily prancing back into your room. Then you notice it. That big evil sign: “No noise after 11pm”. [Expletive.] How could you have [expletive] missed it? Seriously!? Who stops making noise after [expletive] 11 that’sabsolutelyinsanethatslikewhenIwakeup. You throw a hissy fit and smash your speakers. But you’re still not satisfied – you want good sound. Well the final option is always earphones or headphones. Earphones are smaller, hence they might not give you the breadth of sound that you’d want, but they’re mobile and great for if you have an iPod as well. However, if you do plan to get something dedicated for the comfort of your room, headphones are a great option. They sound fantastic, and they aren’t too pricey either, though the best way to squeeze great sound out of them would be to pair them up with a simply amplifier. The road of Earphones/Headphones can offer you much better sound than what cheap speakers would give you, at the price of having something shoved in your ears or clapped around your head, which can be quite fatiguing, and also rendering you unable to have a house party, unless it involves everybody crowding around the computer taking turns to have a listen.
So there you have it, the choices are varied, each has its pros and cons. The world of audiophilia is confusing, draining and depressing, but no matter what you get, it’s definitely going to be an improvement over simple computer speakers. If you’re looking for a block to take refuge from all the complaints, GH is a great place of forgiving sound sleepers.