By Don Lindich
Week 4, 2021
Q. We are purchasing a condo in Mexico as a second home. We are buying it furnished but it does not have a sound system. I would like to take my digital music library with me and have all my digital files on a separate hard drive, through iTunes. Would my laptop and the hard drive be a good way to take it with me, and can you recommend a good set of powered speakers? They would go on either side of the television (there is also no TV sound system) on a stand. Bluetooth may work also. I would like it spend $300 or less and it would have to be taken or shipped to Mexico.
-J.H., Minnetonka, MN
A. Your laptop linked to the external drive is a perfect way to bring your music with you. Given the system will be next to a TV it would be a shame to not use it to improve your viewing experience. I have what I believe to be a perfect solution for you.
The Polk Audio MagniFi Mini is a very small soundbar with a wireless subwoofer. The soundbar is not much bigger than a portable Bluetooth speaker, but it has a big, big sound. The subwoofer fills in the bass convincingly to create seamless, full-range sound of very high quality. What makes it ideal for your situation is it has an optical input for your TV and Google Cast and WiFi for your computer connection, allowing you to play your music with better quality than Bluetooth, though it has that too. When I reviewed it a few years ago I found the music reproduction to be especially impressive, especially when using Google Cast. It is normally $299 but is currently on sale for $249. Wrap the subwoofer in bubble wrap and put it in a checked suitcase (it will fit and it is made of plastic, so it is not heavy) and put the soundbar in your carry-on or personal item, along with the instructions so the TSA knows what it is if they open and inspect your suitcase.
If you want to go the more conventional route, the $249 Edifier R2000B powered bookshelf speakers have an optical input for your TV and Bluetooth for your computer.
That said, but I do very strongly recommend the MagniFi not only for the sound and features, but because I think it will be easiest to transport as well.
Q. In a column from 2015 your advice was to not waste money on expensive audio and video cables. With the advances in video and audio today, do you still feel the same way? I have been buying a few heavily discounted cables from a high-end brand, dated 2019 on the box, and have been very satisfied with them.
-J.G., East Hampstead, NH
A. I still feel the same way about expensive audio and video cables, and unless their is a change in the fundamental workings of the universe my thoughts on the subject will not be changing, either. While there have been advances in audio and video technology, physics does not change and the way electrical signals travel over wire is well known. When purchasing cables or wires all you need is good shielding, strong, reliable connections on each end and enough wire gauge to carry the signal. You can usually get this for under $15 per connection, sometimes far less. That said, it is all a hobby and if you like your cables and the perceived value you are getting, go for it!