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As a musician and a regular traveler between North America (110V for power outlets) and England (230-240V), my aunt needs an excellent speaker to listen to her classical music and opera on her laptop, because the laptop's built-in speakers have too poor sound quality.

What solutions can help my aunt? She has tried:

  1. taking her speakers (that she uses now and purchased in the US) and a Voltage Transformer but this is too inconvenient and bulky.

  2. purchasing USB speakers, but they suffer from too poor sound quality.

  3. User 'cfinley' edited this question earlier, and suggested: a speaker system that she can take with her that works in both the USA and England without any Voltage Transformers and has good sound quality. What products would you recommend for her?

  • why not headphones? a good pair of headphones with an appropriate source feels like the right solution to the problem to me. In addition, since bulk is an issue, what's the right size? – Journeyman Geek Sep 17 '16 at 3:10
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I suggest looking at ratings for some of the better bluetooth portable speakers that are available for people these days. One that particularly stood out to me was the Marshall Kilburn, which attracts me for its bass/treble knobs, (apparently) excellent sound quality (I'm by no means an audiophile and I haven't heard this one in person, but if I had $250 to blow on a soundsystem I'd feel pretty good about this one given its brand and reviews), and the carrying strap.

Two caveats: first, your aunt's laptop helps determine sound quality - it has to have a sound card in it that is worthy of the speakers they connect to. I would test this by connecting the laptop to a large, known-good home sound system and pumping your music through that - if it still sounds good then you don't need to worry about the sound card in the laptop. If not, then perhaps you will need to consider upgrading the laptop or getting an external USB soundcard, which starts to become rather clunky if you're on the move.

The second caveat is that your aunt's laptop will need bluetooth to use this speaker. If you don't have one, you can add bluetooth via USB dongles that run only a few bucks.

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  • Thanks. But does the charging inconvenience not apply to this portable speaker? – Accounting Sep 19 '16 at 15:34
  • @Timere right, it won't apply if you charge the speaker from the laptop (or any other) USB port. – Adam Wykes Sep 19 '16 at 15:41
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While the solution I would go with would be headphones, and a good dac, there's actually better speakers that do USB and other options.

Looking at reviews (the wirecutter does excellent ones with a panel of experts, the audio engine A2+ sounds like a good option to consider, no pun intended.

Its tiny but comes with a good range of inputs (including a built in DAC so you can bypass the inputs on the laptop). Its powered by a switching power supply so you can use it anywhere. Wirecutter feels its quiet, and not that bassy but this is a tradeoff for sound. If you must, consider pairing this up with a good small DAC - say a ODAC2 or a schitt modi, and its probably as good as you get with speakers and a setup that would fit in something like a laptop bag

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