So you’ve got yourself a MacBook Pro and notice that the sound is pretty awesome.
And I have to admit, the sound quality is excellent, at least when I’m typing away at my latest blog posts listening to YouTube.
But what if you want to use your MacBook Pro as an entertainment system?
Well, you still can, to a point, but the moment you start to crank up the volume, you’ll notice that the sound isn’t quite as clear.
But fear not, with a little investment, you’ll have a great set of external speakers which will help turn your MacBook Pro into an awesome home entertainment rig.
One of the great things about computer speakers in general is that they tend to last, so it’s important to pick a quality set of speakers now or you’ll be stuck with something you don’t like for potentially years to come.
So, before I get into some recommendations, let’s have a look at some of the things you should at least consider before purchasing a set of speakers for your MacBook Pro.
If you’re in a hurry however, I recommend the Bose Companion 2 Series III Multimedia Speakers (link goes to Amazon) for their sound quality and their luxurious style.
As the saying goes, “you buy cheap, you buy twice” and this is certainly true of computer speakers.
Cheap speakers tend to break easily and distort when you turn them up too loud and some of them can even sound tinny.
Having said that, you don’t need to go over the top and buy a set for thousands of dollars, unless of course you’re an audiophile.
For most people, I recommend purchasing something around the $100 mark. If you end up paying much more than that, then you might as well invest in a fully-fledged home theatre system.
If you’re paying much less than that then you’re going to end up with something that sounds terrible, when what you’re really after is a speaker system that sounds better than your those on your Mac.
Speaker system type
Now when it comes to buying computer speakers, there are generally two types, either 2.0 or 2.1. 2.0 systems consist of two speakers whereas 2.1 consist of two speakers and a subwoofer (then .1 bit).
If you go for a 2.1 system, then the speakers themselves tend to be a bit smaller than a 2.0 system because most of the electronics (such as the power amplifier) is housed within the subwoofer.
The subwoofer is basically a larger speaker responsible for generating lower frequency sounds, i.e. bass.
So which speaker type should you opt for?
Well, it depends whether you like bass or not. A 2.1 system is not necessarily any better. Good systems balance the mids, highs and the lows equally.
But if you want a speaker that can produce deep bass sounds accurately, then you’ll need a subwoofer. If you’re not too bothered about bass, then a good 2.0 speaker system will do a better job of emphasizing high and midrange tones whilst generating a ‘good enough’ bass performance.
In terms of space on your desk, if you go with 2.0 speaker system, then they tend to be a bit bigger because the amplifier is contained within two speakers.
On the other hand, if you go for a 2.1 system, then the amp will be stored in the subwoofer and the two satellite speakers will be a bit smaller, making them easier to be wall mounted if you wish to do so.
If you want a set of speakers to go with your MacBook Pro, then you need to make sure that the sound quality is better than what your MacBook Pro produces, otherwise, what’s the point.
Price is not necessarily a good indicator of sound quality. Granted expensive systems will generally produce better quality sounds, but you need to look a bit deeper into the specs, to make sure you’re purchasing a decent set of speakers.
Here’s a few things to look out for:
It’s true that there are some fantastic sounding speakers out there that aren’t very big, but generally, there is a tradeoff between audio quality and portability.
The range of sound that a speaker can produce is called the ‘Frequency Response’. The wider this range, the better the quality of speaker.
Great quality speakers are able to produce a wide variety of frequencies without distortion. You’ll often see the frequency response specification written something like “100Hz – 20,000Hz”.
Multiple speaker drivers
If you intend to purchase a good set of speakers for your MacBook Pro, like the ones I recommend below, then make sure they have multiple speaker drivers.
Home theatre systems almost always have multiple drivers, but smaller, portable bluetooth speakers, sometimes don’t.
Multiple speaker drivers help to reduce sound distortion as you turn up the volume. Also, speakers that have two or three drivers are often designed to produce specific mid-and-high frequency tones, which improves the overall richness of the sound.
Speakers that balance the mids, highs and low tones create a good depth and clarity of sound.
Another speaker specification that you might wish to consider is speaker sensitivity. Sensitivity is measured in decibels (db) and is a measure of how loud a speaker will be for a given amount of power.
In other words, the higher the sensitivity of the speaker, the higher the volume will be for a certain amount of power delivered by an amplifier.
Higher sensitivity speakers tend to be more expensive (and better quality) although some speakers with high sensitivity may have had to make sacrifices in other areas that also affect the quality of sound produced such as the speaker cone.
Build quality and aesthetics
It’s not just the technical specs that matter when purchasing a set of speakers, you need to look how they’re put together and what they’re made out of because this can also affect the quality of sound produced.
For example, speaker cones can be made out of many different materials such as paper, aluminum or polypropylene and the material chosen when the speaker was designed can really make a difference to the sound.
But it’s not just the material of the cone that makes a difference, the materials used in everything from the wires to the glue in a speaker can have a big impact on the sound quality.
It’s not only the materials used that have an impact, the way those materials are put together can also make a difference.
One aspect to pay particular attention to is the speaker enclosure.
When the speaker drivers shake and vibrate, then if your enclosures are flimsy, then they will either make a lot of noise, or fall apart.
Assuming that the enclosure is made of good, solid material and all other things being equal, then larger dimension enclosures can enhance specific low frequency characteristics.
So if you decide not to go for a 2.1 system, then make sure that your speakers are a decent size to help boost the lower frequencies for bass tones.
In terms of aesthetics, it’s not mega important that your speakers look great, but you don’t want something that looks ugly either.
MacBook Pros are stylish machines, so I recommend going for a set of speakers that don’t detract from its looks and at the end of the day, you’re going to be looking at your speakers for some time.
Materials to look out for are shiny plastics, which look good at first, but they tend to show up all your fingerprints and can make your speakers look tacky over time.
Bluetooth connectivity is definitely a nice to have, but it’s always good to have an aux port just in case you can’t connect via bluetooth for whatever reason.
Now let’s get into some recommendations:
Mackie Studio Monitor, Black w/green trim, 4-inch
The clue is in the name with the Mackie Studio Monitor speakers (link goes to Amazon) as they have a studio quality design and contain professional grade components for awesome performance.
But don’t let the word ‘studio’ put you off here because they are affordable and they are compact enough to fit on a computer desk or a shelf.
In terms of aesthetics, they’re some of the best looking computer speakers I’ve seen for a while. They are black and either come with a green trim or a silver trim.
Further Details and Connectivity
If you’re the creative type, then the Mackie Studio Monitor speakers are for you as they’re perfect for multimedia creation. They’re also great for entertaining or for listening to your favorite album on Spotify.
These speakers come with some neat features like for example, you can decide which side, either left or right, you would like the ‘powered’ speaker to be on.
Generally speaking, you have one ‘powered’ speaker and one ‘passive’ speaker. The ‘powered’ speaker in this case has a volume control on the front and you can choose which side you want this speaker to be on just by moving the ‘Powered Speaker Position Select’ switch to either ‘L’ or ‘R’.
The speakers provide a total of 50 Watts of power, which doesn’t sound a lot, but it’s more than enough to fill a decent sized room.
You also get some convenient front-panel features like a dedicated headphone output with level control.
In terms of connectivity, you have quite a few options here. You can connect your MacBook Pro (or Smartphone) output/headphone jack to the aux input on the front panel of the powered speaker.
In addition, you can connect a line-level signal from a computer, mixer or another sound source to one pair of input jacks, of which you have two options.
You can either connect to the 1/4 inch line level signals driven by balanced or unbalanced sources or you connect to the RCA line-level signals from an unbalanced source.
Alternatively, you can connect these speakers to your MacBook Pro or Smartphone via Bluetooth.
In terms of dimensions, the Speakers measure 11.6 x 9.4 x 17 inches and weigh 13.18 pounds.
The Amazon link is here if you want to check out the latest reviews etc.
Logitech Z623 400 Watt Home Speaker System
Next up is the Logitech Z623 (link goes to Amazon), which is a bit of a powerhouse.
If you want enough power to fill even the biggest of rooms, then the Logitech Z623 should do the trick at 400 Watts (Peak, 200 Watts RMS).
This is a 2.1 system, so in addition to the two satellite speakers, you also get a subwoofer which will help bring your music, movies and games to life.
On speaker controls will enable you to crank up the volume or dial it down as necessary without having to use the volume controls on your Mac.
The two satellites each pump out 35 Watts whilst the subwoofer delivers 130 Watts RMS. This gives a total peak power of 400 Watts with a frequency response of 35 Hz – 20 kHz, which will ensure high quality highs, lows and mids.
Further Details and Connectivity
Speakers connect through the usual 3.5 mm aux input or RCA cables enabling you to easily plugin up to 3 audio devices such as your Macbook, iPod, games console or DVD at the same time without any problems.
In terms of dimensions, the subwoofer measures 11.2 x 12.0 x 10.5 inches (H x W x D) and the left and right satellites measure 7.7 x 4.6 x 5.0 inches. The total weight is just over 18 pounds.
So these speakers are the ideal size to sit on any desk.
They aren’t the best looking speakers in the world in my opinion but they’re not hideously ugly either. But if its good quality (and loud) sound you’re after, then the Logitech Z623 will deliver on point.
Bose Companion 2 Series III Speakers
With a name like Bose, which has an excellent reputation within the audio industry, you know you’re paying for quality. However, this often comes at a price, with most Bose systems costing hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
However, the Bose Companion 2 Series III Speakers (link to Amazon) are definitely at the more affordable end of this range.
The Bose Companion is a 2.0 system, meaning you don’t get a subwoofer, but not everyone wants booming bass that makes your house shake.
However, what this system does give you is crystal clear, high quality audio using unique digital signal processing, giving you a great balance of mids, highs and lows without the bass being too overpowering.
As soon as you plugin these speakers, you’ll know what I mean by crystal clear audio, even when you turn up the volume. The engineering that goes into Bose systems is incredible.
They have an excellent reputation for producing high end audio equipment and this a reputation that they have to maintain by ensuring engineering excellence across their entire range of products.
Further Details and Connectivity
In terms of features, there’s a volume control and headphone jack on the right speaker and you can connect almost any audio source whether that be your MacBook Pro or your iPad using either of the two auxiliary inputs.
You won’t find any RCA inputs on these speakers, but they’re not strictly necessary unless of course you’re an audio enthusiast.
The dimensions of these speakers are 7.5 x 3.1 x 5.9 inches with the right hand speaker weighing a little more than the left at 2.3 lb vs 1.8 lb (for the left).
You’ll notice that these speakers are a little taller than speakers that come with a subwoofer and this ensures that you still get a decent amount of bass but without a subwoofer which can sometimes be overpowering and take up extra space.
The thing that strikes me about these speakers is the way they look, they actually look classy and luxurious, so they won’t look out of place on your desk, next to your shiny MacBook Pro.
One thing to note is that you’ll need to connect the speakers together with a speaker cable (included) which is approximately six feet in length but it does give you some extra flexibility.
How to choose between them
So how do you choose which speakers to go with? Well, first of all, it really does come down to whether you want a 2.1 system or not. Not everybody wants booming bass, but some do.
If you’re after a little bit of luxury, you appreciate great sound quality and looking for something that looks good to compliment your MacBook Pro, then look no further than the Bose Series III Speakers. They won’t provide booming bass, but they will provide a clarity of sound you won’t find in many other products and Bose is a name you can trust.
If you are looking for that extra bass and looking to fill a very large room for when your friends come round for a party, then you may want to consider the Logitech Z623 system, which produces 200 Watts RMS, is significant to say the least.
With this system, you get an excellent frequency response which ensures that you hear a wide range of sounds, but you’ll also get that extra oomph that only a subwoofer can produce.
This will ensure that your MacBook Pro will instantly turn into a fully fledged entertainment system.
Last but certainly not least, is the Mackie Studio Monitor (Amazon link). Again, these are a 2.0 system like the Bose speakers but they are a little larger and have a sporty look to them.
They aren’t as elegant looking as the Bose speakers, but these are nonetheless, a premium set of speakers and produce excellent quality sound that can compete with either the Bose or the Logitech speakers.
If you’re looking for multiple ways to connect to your speakers then the Mackie Studio Monitors provide as many options as you can reasonably need.
You have multiple wired options here and you can also connect via Bluetooth to your MacBook Pro or even your smartphone which will reduce the amount of cabling you need too.
If you still can’t decide, then I would go for the Bose Companion 2 speakers as I think they’re the classier speakers out of the three I’ve reviewed. Bose is an excellent brand and you’ll be in for a treat when you plug them in.