Insignia NS-PCS41 Powered 2.1 Speaker Package - Better than expected
Apr 4, 2011 (Updated Apr 9, 2011)
Review by Howard Creech
Rated a Very Helpful Review
I spend a lot of time on my computer and I like to listen to music when I’m writing reviews, answering e-mail, surfing the web, etc. I recently noticed that the left speaker of my Bose “Media Mates” powered Stereo speaker system sounded fuzzy - so I punched up the volume and immediately heard that horrible blown speaker sound. I bought the Bose “Media Mates” powered Stereo speaker system as an accessory for my very first computer - a U.S. Navy surplus Zenith 486 with a 750MB (that’s right MB) hard drive. I’ve used them with every computer I’ve owned since that crappy Zenith. I bought them in 1996 and the going price then was $250.00, but I got mine for $55.00. They’ve been heavily used (on an almost daily basis) for 15 years and have survived three household moves - so much for Bose’s famous cheap paper speaker cones.
Recommend this product?
I’ve reviewed several Insignia products over the past three or four years and I’ve been consistently impressed with the Best Buy house brand’s bang for the buck – so off I went to the nearest Best Buy. I looked over all the small speaker sets on display including a very tempting little Bose 2.1 system. I found myself in a dangerous situation – I should have asked a friend to come along because friends don’t let friends buy Bose, however I quickly came to my senses – the Bose system was just too expensive.
I decided that I wanted a speaker system with a subwoofer since my Bose speakers had always sounded pretty flat bass-wise, when compared to my JBL 4312B’s. You know what they say, “no highs, no lows – must be Bose”. I also decided that my upper price limit was one hundred dollars. With my selection criteria established I took another stroll down the small-speakers aisle and quickly zoomed in on the Insignia NS-PCS41 Powered 2.1 Speaker Package. Two Stereo speakers and a subwoofer – check. Less than one hundred dollars – check. After asking the Best Buy guy if I could return them if I didn’t like them and getting an affirmative reply (two weeks – full refund) I bought the Insignia NS-PCS41 Powered 2.1 Speaker Package and took it home.
Many purchasers will use this small multi-media 2.1 speaker system for punching up the sound from their Ipod/mp3 player while they’re home or in the office. I bought the Insignia NS-PCS41 Powered 2.1 Speaker Package to use with my computer. The two small satellite speakers look like exactly what they are – mp3 player/computer speakers. The satellite speaker enclosures are constructed of cheap shiny black plastic, but the subwoofer appears to be constructed from a sturdier looking composite or resin-based material. The speaker grills of the satellite speakers are flimsy diaphanous cloth that doesn’t look at all durable. These speakers are much lighter in weight than my old Bose speakers and they certainly don’t look like they are going to last fifteen years, but the included cables are heavier and better quality than I expected them to be – so that probably helps a bit on the audio quality front. The satellite speakers are magnetically shielded to allow for interference free placement near your monitor. The right satellite speaker has three buttons (power, volume, treble), one 1/8” headphone output, one 1/8” input (for hooking up an mp3 player via the included cradle), and a much too bright blue power “on” light. The subwoofer has a single (bass volume) control.
Set-up was an absolute no-brainer – open the box, remove the contents, isolate the user’s manual and then follow the comprehensive step by step instructions. Once everything is hooked up properly select several favorite CDs and insert one of them in the DVD/CD player on your computer – or set up your mp3 player using the included cradle and connection cable. Listen to the first song and adjust speaker positioning for best Stereo separation on your sound stage. My sound stage is my home office so my speakers are only about four feet apart. Next, adjust subwoofer volume and then adjust treble. Finally, we're ready to listen critically.
Auditioning the Insignia NS-PCS41 Powered 2.1 Speaker Package
The Insignia NS-PCS41 Powered 2.1 Speaker Package doesn’t sound nearly as good as my JBL 4312B’s, but they do sound better than the $250.00 Bose “Media Mates” they are replacing. I listened to Robbie Robertson’s Storyville and Forever Blue from Chris Isaak – two absolutely perfect albums and both long time favorites. I was really comfortable with those old speakers, but some of the lead guitar work on Isaak’s very best album was noticeably crisper than I remember it being with those familiar Bose speakers. I also listened to Van Morrison’s Still on Top and somehow Van the Man’s soulful gospel/blues vocal on “Crazy Love” seemed even sweeter than I remembered it being with my old Bose speakers. The rootsy syncopated base/drums rythm line on Taj Mahal’s “Take a Giant Step” hit me right in the chest, I you could actually feel it - sitting in front of my computer. I truly loved the Insignia NS-PCS41 Powered 2.1 Speaker Package’s subwoofer from that moment on. The Insignia NS-PCS41 Powered 2.1 Speaker Package's tactile presentation of the lower frequencies didn't detract at all from my appreciation of the sonic interplay between Taj's "Country" banjo lead from the left speaker and Jesse ED Davis' "bluesy" electric guitar licks from the right.
For my final test – to assess the Insignia NS-PCS41 Powered 2.1 Speaker Package for musicality and presence – I selected Ry Cooder’s amazing instrumental “I think it’s going to work out fine” from Bop til you Drop. The Insignia NS-PCS41 Powered 2.1 Speaker Package presented Ry’s multi-tracked extended guitar solo seamlessly. That pair of dueling slide guitars and that equally wicked acoustic guitar riffing the tune along - were all played by the amazing Mr. Cooder. If you like guitar driven songs, this is the tune to audition your new speakers with.
It’s all about audio quality when reviewing speakers. Compared to my old Bose speakers the Insignia NS-PCS412.1 Powered Speaker Package has lots more bass – obviously that can be attributed directly to dropping a subwoofer into the equation. This little speaker system also provides more prominent trebles - cymbals were cleaner and sharper than they were with my old Bose speakers. Solo instruments seem as if they were pushed right to the front on my small soundstage – which is neat since I really like it when a favorite artist makes their sax wail or their guitar gently weep and it feels like I’m right up there - on stage with them.
I generally try to have realistic expectations when I buy or test a new electronics product and it’s rare when a new product exceeds my expectations, but that was the case with my new Insignia NS-PCS41 Powered 2.1 Speaker Package. This little trio of speakers can’t compete with a component audio system, but they are competitive with most other small 2.1 speaker sets. I doubt they’ll last as long as my old Bose Media Mates, but they sound better and for seventy bucks that’s good enough for me.
I owned a pair of Bose speakers for 15 years and I’ve mentioned every Bose speaker quality cliché that I’m familiar with, but if you know of one that I didn’t use - please leave a comment and (if I like your new Bose cliché) I’ll edit it into the review.
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Amount Paid (US$): 70.00
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