B&W MM-1 Speakers - a problem - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 47 Old 05-01-2010, 11:31 AM - Thread Starter
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Last night, I purchased the new B&W MM-1 speakers and connected them to my Mac. The sound is great -- but there is an annoying "hiss" or whitenoise sound sneaking through the quieter parts of songs. I noticed this on the first few songs I played, and thought maybe it was just the encoding of the songs, but then I did some further digging around.

Anytime the MM-1's are turned on, when nothing is playing, I can hear a clear "hiss" coming from them. In a quiet room, you can hear this hiss all the way across the room. The hiss is at a constant level of volume and doesn't increase or decrease when the volume on the MM-1 is adjusted.

The hiss is present when:

- The speakers are on
- They are connected to a powered-on USB device
- The auxiliary 1/8" input cable is connected to them (even if the cable isn't connected to anything else, and even if the USB cable is unplugged)

If the MM-1's are only connected to USB, if you unplug the USB cable, the hiss immediately goes away. If they are only connected to an aux cable, the hiss immediately goes away when you unplug the aux cable.

I've tried connected the MM-1's to a variety of devices and different power outlets, and they still exhibit this behavior.

I'm kind of bummed. At louder volumes, the music sounds great on them -- but this steady hiss anytime they're on is more than slightly annoying, and it makes it sound like a wind is blowing in the background when songs are played quietly.

If anyone else has purchased these, can you tell me whether you hear any "hiss" coming from the speakers if you put your ears up to them when they're on, but nothing is playing?

I'm trying to determine if this is just a defect with mine, and whether I should spend time replacing them or simply return them. I would expect the speakers to be completely quiet when nothing is playing. Previously, I had the USB Harmon Kardon SoundSticks (purchased many years ago), and they never hissed like this. They didn't have as rich and full sound as the MM-1's, but they were quiet when they were supposed to be.
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post #2 of 47 Old 05-01-2010, 12:26 PM
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It's 100% the speakers, I would do an exchange because your unit is defective or it's just a design flaw.
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post #3 of 47 Old 05-03-2010, 01:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scott222 View Post

Last night, I purchased the new B&W MM-1 speakers and connected them to my Mac. The sound is great -- but there is an annoying "hiss" or whitenoise sound sneaking through the quieter parts of songs. I noticed this on the first few songs I played, and thought maybe it was just the encoding of the songs, but then I did some further digging around.

Anytime the MM-1's are turned on, when nothing is playing, I can hear a clear "hiss" coming from them. In a quiet room, you can hear this hiss all the way across the room. The hiss is at a constant level of volume and doesn't increase or decrease when the volume on the MM-1 is adjusted.

The hiss is present when:

- The speakers are on
- They are connected to a powered-on USB device
- The auxiliary 1/8" input cable is connected to them (even if the cable isn't connected to anything else, and even if the USB cable is unplugged)

If the MM-1's are only connected to USB, if you unplug the USB cable, the hiss immediately goes away. If they are only connected to an aux cable, the hiss immediately goes away when you unplug the aux cable.

I've tried connected the MM-1's to a variety of devices and different power outlets, and they still exhibit this behavior.

I'm kind of bummed. At louder volumes, the music sounds great on them -- but this steady hiss anytime they're on is more than slightly annoying, and it makes it sound like a wind is blowing in the background when songs are played quietly.

If anyone else has purchased these, can you tell me whether you hear any "hiss" coming from the speakers if you put your ears up to them when they're on, but nothing is playing?

I'm trying to determine if this is just a defect with mine, and whether I should spend time replacing them or simply return them. I would expect the speakers to be completely quiet when nothing is playing. Previously, I had the USB Harmon Kardon SoundSticks (purchased many years ago), and they never hissed like this. They didn't have as rich and full sound as the MM-1's, but they were quiet when they were supposed to be.

Hey, so I noticed this as well. According to B&W's email support, their engineers say that the noise is normal. It is kind of getting tiring to hear as well on quieter songs. I did not expect such a noticeable background noise, but it might just be a design flaw. I'm hoping a firmware update can lower it.
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post #4 of 47 Old 05-03-2010, 03:00 PM
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I know very little about audio, but from what I know about working with computers is that that hiss is due to a poor-quality sound signal (the fault of the sound card). Have you tried the speakers on anyone else's computer with a high-end sound card (HT Omega, Auzentech, ASUS, Creative)?
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post #5 of 47 Old 05-03-2010, 03:19 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NateGr8 View Post

I know very little about audio, but from what I know about working with computers is that that hiss is due to a poor-quality sound signal (the fault of the sound card). Have you tried the speakers on anyone else's computer with a high-end sound card (HT Omega, Auzentech, ASUS, Creative)?

Yes. The speakers will hiss on their own when they're on and not connected to anything -- the MM-1s came with a standard 1/8" aux cable and a USB cable. If you plug the aux cable into the speakers (and nothing else), the hiss immediately starts, even if the other end of the aux cable isn't connected to anything. The fault is definitely within the speakers themselves, unfortunately.
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post #6 of 47 Old 05-03-2010, 03:25 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by rajav View Post

Hey, so I noticed this as well. According to B&W's email support, their engineers say that the noise is normal. It is kind of getting tiring to hear as well on quieter songs. I did not expect such a noticeable background noise, but it might just be a design flaw. I'm hoping a firmware update can lower it.

Thanks for checking and for passing on the info from B&W. This is pretty discouraging; I really wanted to like these. It would be one thing if the speakers were dozens of feet away, but since they're about 2-3 feet away from my head when connected to the computer, the hiss is simply unacceptable. I can't understand how they're getting good reviews with this behavior. I also noticed the right speaker gets too hot to touch on the top when it's been on for awhile, which is disconcerting. And I guess they don't power off and on automatically? I'm thinking this should have spent more time in the lab baking before they released it...
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post #7 of 47 Old 05-03-2010, 04:19 PM
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sounds like a design flaw. I also guess you have good hearing and can hear high frequencies well? My friend complained that his tv buzzed but I couldn't hear it at all.

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post #8 of 47 Old 05-04-2010, 10:27 AM
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It is entirely possibly that we can hear high frequencies better than most people; however, I have asked a friend of mine who is an audiophile, and he claims that all speakers exhibit some level of noise either due to a noisy DAC or amplifier (but he could actually notice the noise coming from the MM-1 too).

I am still talking to B&W to see whether replacing them would actually fix the issue or end up costing more money (shipping) for no real solution. The 10% restocking fee at the Apple Store made me hesitant about returning them if I was just being a perfectionist, but seeing more people (look at the most recent review on the US Apple Store's page for it) notice this issue makes me wonder if I was being picky or if people are starting to notice it as well, and it is a design flaw.
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post #9 of 47 Old 05-04-2010, 11:43 AM
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A thought: You have 2 volume controls. One through the computer's internal audio card, and the 2nd through the MM-1 speakers. If either one of the volume controls is turned all the way up, you may exhibit this noise.
,
May I suggest the following: turn the volume controls for both the computer and for the MM-1 speakers to 50% and try playing the audio. While playing any audio source, hit pause and see if you still hear the hiss.

~ john
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post #10 of 47 Old 05-04-2010, 01:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by igivesounadvice1 View Post

A thought: You have 2 volume controls. One through the computer's internal audio card, and the 2nd through the MM-1 speakers. If either one of the volume controls is turned all the way up, you may exhibit this noise.
,
May I suggest the following: turn the volume controls for both the computer and for the MM-1 speakers to 50% and try playing the audio. While playing any audio source, hit pause and see if you still hear the hiss.

~ john
Sound Components

A clarification on the MM-1's USB interface: When it is connected through USB, the MM-1's internal sound card takes over, and the volume controls for the MM-1 control the computer's internal volume and vice versa (this is on Mac OS X and I would assume Windows works the same way). The hiss occurs both on USB and auxiliary input.

When connected to auxiliary input, the dual volume controls are active. The hiss is emitted solely when only an auxiliary wire is inserted (and nothing connected to the other end of the wire); so, that eliminates the computer or an external device providing the interference. I have tried lowering the volume of the MM-1 while connected to auxiliary, and it does nothing to reduce the hissing. I believe the noise/hiss is sourced from the speakers themselves. Whether it is the DAC, amplifier, or some other component, I am not sure. I am still talking to B&W to see what my options are and whether this is fixable. In my experience though, I've never had speakers emit such noticeable high frequency background noise; however, I have not owned many high end speakers.
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post #11 of 47 Old 05-04-2010, 02:00 PM
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Rajav, sorry to hear that you're having this issue. I've sent your post over to my B&W rep to see what I can find out on my end. I'll post what I can find out, and I'm sure that you will too.
Let's hope this issue gets resolved!
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post #12 of 47 Old 05-04-2010, 02:10 PM
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Thanks! I am still talking to B&W over email as well. Hopefully, this is something that can be resolved.
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post #13 of 47 Old 05-04-2010, 06:38 PM - Thread Starter
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Rajav, that's exactly what I'm experiencing with mine, and in the same circumstances.

I've never experienced this type of noise on expensive *or* cheap speakers before. I'm not an audiophile, but the MM-1s are making me cringe every time I turn them on. It sounds like there's rain falling in the background of every song. Even system sounds, like the sound OS X makes when you increase or decrease volume, or check e-mail, sound terrible through the MM-1s -- muddy, hissy, and staticky.

My previous speakers were Harman Kardon SoundSticks -- purchased way back when the first iMac came out. Those are USB speakers too. The sound isn't as full as the MM-1s, but there's no hiss at all; it's perfectly clear. When there isn't sound playing, they're completely quiet -- unlike the loud hiss coming out of the MM-1s.

If anyone hears anything from B&W, please do post. I purchased these at an Apple Store last Friday and I plan on returning them in the next couple days. I certainly hope Apple doesn't try charging a 10% restocking fee -- there is no way to consider these speakers anything other than defective. But unless and until B&W fixes the problem, I don't want a replacement. I bought these speakers based on B&W's name alone; it never occurred to me they would have such a profound problem. A tiny, tiny bit of hiss might be OK, but I shouldn't be able to hear it across the room and in every song.
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post #14 of 47 Old 05-11-2010, 07:19 PM - Thread Starter
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I returned my MM-1's to Apple, and they didn't give me any trouble returning them. I decided against swapping them out for a different pair, because I didn't want the hassle if the new pair had the same problems.

I can't tell for sure whether the problems were limited to the pair I bought (based on the above, it sounds like I'm not the only one who experienced the problems), but these were the negatives:

- With a constant loud hiss, the sound quality was simply unacceptable. I cringed anytime the speakers made noise. I tried to convince myself it wasn't too bad, but finally admitted that they sound awful.

- The "volume down" button on the right speaker didn't physically "click" like the volume up button. (It registered the click, but for how long? Something clearly wasn't lining up, and it left the factory that way; pretty bad quality control for a product at this price range.)

- The right speaker became too hot to touch on the top anytime the speakers were left on more than several hours. With so much heat being generated in a small space, that didn't bode well for longevity.

- The speakers don't go to sleep on their own (or power up automatically when they detected sound). For speakers meant to connect to a computer, it's sort of amazing they didn't include that functionality -- especially with how much the right speaker heats up when left on. I don't want to have to turn on the speakers every time I sit down at my computer.

The pros:

- If I tried to ignore the loud hiss, I could sense that the speakers were capable of putting out rich, full sound.

- They looked nice.

- The USB/Mac integration was nice.

I have a full set of B&W speakers connected to my home theater. I've been very happy with them, except the ASW-1 subwoofer, which died and had to be repaired. At this point I'm thinking that B&W makes fine speakers, but isn't so great with electronics and amps.

I had a Bang & Olufsen BeoLab3 die several times, too, so maybe high-end powered speakers just aren't as reliable as lower-cost, mass-market devices?
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post #15 of 47 Old 05-13-2010, 08:57 AM
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Hey scott,

Sorry to hear you had those problems. I am in the middle of a RMA process with B&W because I was outside of my 14 day Apple return window. It sucked because the UPS store was right next to the Apple store, and I had to pay for the packaging to send it back. Regardless, if the replacement speakers don't work properly, I am going to be offered a refund. I'll let you know if the replacement speakers turn out bad too. Good luck finding a pair of high end speakers that work well.
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post #16 of 47 Old 05-13-2010, 02:13 PM
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thanks for posting your experiences. I guess I'll stick with my Audioengines for now

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post #17 of 47 Old 05-13-2010, 09:48 PM
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Wow, I was looking to buy the MM-1 next month once my local dealer gets them in, but I'm not liking this "white noise" problem. Once he get's them in, I'll check to see if he's going to have a pair set-up on display to try out, that way I can try and test them first. But if I were to buy a pair and they have a noticeable white noise, then I'd probably return them as well, as I'm on my PC for hours each day and have pretty sensitive hearing. My current JBL Media 3 speakers that are about 12 years old need replaced, but I've never had any noticeable white noise when them, unless the PC volume and Speaker volume were both turned up to max, which I'd never do.
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post #18 of 47 Old 06-02-2010, 07:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rajav View Post

Hey scott,

Sorry to hear you had those problems. I am in the middle of a RMA process with B&W because I was outside of my 14 day Apple return window. It sucked because the UPS store was right next to the Apple store, and I had to pay for the packaging to send it back. Regardless, if the replacement speakers don't work properly, I am going to be offered a refund. I'll let you know if the replacement speakers turn out bad too. Good luck finding a pair of high end speakers that work well.

what's the verdict?
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post #19 of 47 Old 06-02-2010, 10:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hatbrox View Post

what's the verdict?

Yeah, I'm wondering that too.
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post #20 of 47 Old 06-13-2010, 09:49 PM
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Sorry guys. It took a while, but as I expected, my replacement pair had the same issue. I am being offered a refund; however, B&W's engineers could not seem to replicate the issue when they tested my first pair of speakers. It is possible that Scott and I have super special hearing. Other than that, I am lost as to why they can't seem to hear it. Anyways, good luck to you all, and thanks for following the situation.
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post #21 of 47 Old 07-05-2010, 03:04 PM
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Not sure if this will help anyone, but I recently purchased some Soundsticks II and found when connecting to the PC I purchased them for it sounded strange... Turns out I had to update the audio driver to an HD compliant one. As soon as I did this they sound great... It could be a similar issue with Macs.
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post #22 of 47 Old 11-16-2010, 02:30 PM
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Seems to be design flaw to me.

I can hear the white noise from my MM-1s from at least 5 feet away (when music's not playing). Even with a refrigerator running in the same room. Checked out a second pair, which exhibited the same noise. I don't consider myself an audiophile but I have never heard this degree of noise even from cheaper sets (Soundsticks , Bose, Audioengine...)

Otherwise their sound (near-field) is awesome.
Personally, I'm not unhappy with the MM-1 but I cannot understand the rave reviews that they got. Espsecially considering the price...
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post #23 of 47 Old 01-14-2011, 01:01 PM
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I have had my MM-1's since at least April 2010 (from the Apple online store) and I have never had a hissing issue. Last week they just stopped working but after reseating the USB cable on the speaker they have been fine. I think the cable may have loosened a bit when I was cleaning my desk.

In order to hear any white noise, I literally need to put my ear closer than 1/2 inch to the speaker. I think they sound clear and even (highs versus lows) at almost all levels. Cranking the volume all the way on my Mac Mini (I just tested) produced some distortion in the low end. BTW, I feel they sound better with my Mac Mini than my Win7 laptop. They sounded a bit muffled when connected to my Win7 laptop. Granted, this was only noticed AFTER using them with my Mac Mini. They still sounded great.

I'm sorry to hear your experiences with these wonderful speakers.
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post #24 of 47 Old 05-17-2011, 08:18 PM
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I can hear the hiss from about 3 feet away, it's pretty audible. It's the same kind of hiss you get from typical computer speakers. Desktop products don't have the quality of components that you find in the home theater receivers.

It's basically a pair of $100 PC speakers like the Logitech Z-10 with a lifestyle product markup (bringing it up to $500). This appears to be a Bose competitor.

I bought the Bowers & Wilkens MM-1s to see how they were and honestly they aren't much better, if any, than the other 2.0s I've heard like the AL MX5020s, Promedia Ultra 2.0s, or Cambridge T-series, which are all $350-400 cheaper.
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post #25 of 47 Old 05-18-2011, 08:27 AM
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I was curious about these B&W MM-1 as well as I have only heard them briefly in a very busy Apple store where it was very hard to judge. Has anyone heard these also heard Audioengine 2's(or 5's) and the various Swan choices I also see frequently recommended and if so how would you compare them.

Another more expensive computer set I am also curious about is the Focal XS but have not heard them. Has anyone heard them and how would they compare to those above?

Thanks.

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post #26 of 47 Old 05-21-2011, 04:23 PM
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Just wanted to make my first post on here and say that I recently purchased the MM-1 speakers and experienced the same hissing issue.

It simply wasn't acceptable for a set of $500 computer speakers, so I returned them the next day. Very disappointed.

I'm absolutely amazed how this issue was not brought up by any of the "professional" reviews that I've read on the MM-1. Unbelievable.
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post #27 of 47 Old 06-10-2011, 10:20 PM
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Have you tried it with an iPod or your home stereo as a source? Computers can be problematic with all the EM and power supplies going on . Monitors can cause noise as well. I used to be able to hear a hiss when my graphics card fan kicked in. Updated drivers, and a good cable should solve that though as well as careful placement.

To blame a noticeable level of noise as a design flaw or "normal" is simply unacceptable for a pair of even $100 speaker not to mentions $500 ones. I am surprised that BW suggests this from an "audiophile" product. The engineers testing the problem would not have relied on their ears btw, but on spectrum analyzers and mics that will pic up far more than the most golden pair of ears.

Personally, I passed up on the MM1s because they felt cheap for a $500 product and they ran really hot. Went with the Focal paired with Creative Xfi HD. It is damn impressive when sitting at the comp I must say.
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post #28 of 47 Old 07-14-2011, 05:37 PM
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I'm glad I found this thread. I just bought the Bowers and Wilkins MM-1 speakers for my MacBook Pro and Windows PC desktop, and I'm hearing the same hissing sound.

When I turn off any music or other audio on the computer, I hear white noise coming from the speakers when I plug them in via USB or RCA into either the MacBook Pro or my Windows PC.

The static is audible when I place my ear up to the speakers. At night when there is no ambient noise, the static can be heard from where I sit about three feet away.

Given that the speakers are $500, I am pretty upset. I have only been using headphones for the last several years, I do not know if this static is typical. Shouldn't the speakers be dead silent when no audio signal is coming from the computer?
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post #29 of 47 Old 07-14-2011, 06:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by avsforumuser09 View Post

Given that the speakers are $500, I am pretty upset. I have only been using headphones for the last several years, I do not know if this static is typical. Shouldn't the speakers be dead silent when no audio signal is coming from the computer?

every amplifier has some kind of noise floor, there will always been some residual noise. My previous $100 computer speakers had a very noticeable hissing noise too.

But if you can hear it three feet away, I wouldn't think that was acceptable either for a $500 speaker that is designed to be heard at close range.

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post #30 of 47 Old 07-14-2011, 08:32 PM
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I think this is just a typical symptom of powered monitors. People complain about hiss on Genelecs, Focals, $2000 monitors all the time. It could be the gain structure; powered monitors are integrated units and don't have a whole lot of shelf space for a massive amp.

But the MM-1s are pretty damn loud.

Quote:
Originally Posted by avsforumuser09 View Post

Given that the speakers are $500, I am pretty upset. I have only been using headphones for the last several years, I do not know if this static is typical. Shouldn't the speakers be dead silent when no audio signal is coming from the computer?

Not dead silent (nothing is) but typically running passive speakers through a receiver will give you less hiss than a powered monitor.

I also found out one advantage to having lower sensitivity speakers (mine are about 85db): less hiss!

You can, however, hit the mute button and it puts the MM-1s into standby.
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