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. I have all my digital files on a separate hard drive. Would my laptop and the hard drive be a good way to take my music with me? And can you recommend a set of powered speakers? They would go on either side of the television (there is also no TV sound system) on a stand. Bluetooth might work, also. I would like to spend $300 or less, and everything would have to be taken or shipped to Mexico.
A: Your laptop linked to the external drive is a perfect way to bring your music with you. Given that 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 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 Wi-Fi 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.
As for getting it to Mexico, wrap the subwoofer in bubble wrap and put it in a checked suitcase (it is made of plastic, so it is not heavy). Put the soundbar in your carry-on luggage, along with the instructions so the TSA knows what it is if they open and inspect your suitcase. (polkaudio.com)
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 (edifier.com). But keep in mind that they are much bigger than the MagniFI Mini, which makes them more difficult to transport.
Q: Five years ago, you advised readers not waste money on expensive audio and video cables. With the advances in video and audio since then, do you still feel the same way?
A: Yes, my opinion still is the same. While there have been advances in audio and video technology, the physics of the way electrical signals travel over wire has not changed. 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 usually can get this for under $15 per connection, sometimes far less. That said, it is all a hobby, and if you like the look or feel of pricier cables, go for it.
Send questions to Don Lindich at email@example.com. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.