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Foxy sox. Stuffed.

Writer: Srajan Ebaen
Source: Windows laptop
USB bridge: smsl SD-9
Active speakers: Fram Audio Midi 150

To raise the soundstage above the laptop screen would merely require tilting the speakers back farther. As is, the subjective sound source is coincident with the screen.

Boiler room raid. Ivette was in her upstairs paint studio. She played an episode of The Repair Shop on an old Windows laptop rediscovered in a closet. The picture was fine, the sound horrible. Mind, that was my high-brow assessment. She was perfectly content. Even if just in the mirror, as a lanyard-carrying 'phile I had a rep to uphold. So my mind did an instant sweep of our dig's hifi inventory. What unused kit might improve her laptop sound without taking up undue real estate? Set up in a tight corner, minimal intrusiveness was key. In her own rooms, Ivette is allergic to HulkyFi.

My mental scan recalled a spare Fram active monitor pair. That could squat on the floor. But hadn't its stock 24V/5A power brick burnt out? It had indeed. The downstairs bathroom converted into my tool shed and sundry hifi/box storage then netted an ancient Gateway laptop brick of the correct voltage. A quick check showed the master speaker to power up fine. It simply lacks a USB input. I still needed a USB bridge to create coaxial S/PDIF.

Whatever did that gig better be petite or my wife would balk. Teensy-weensy polka-dot bikini of smsl SD-9 to the rescue. Just then it sat benched on a shelf in the boiler room. Now it'd sit beneath a small chest of drawers. Neat. A well-practiced reach into a cable grab bin netted two generic AC cords, a USB cable, a short coax and single RCA interconnect to connect left slave to right master speaker. Doing the usual hifi worshipping—kneeling on the floor wiring up crammed hardware—five minutes later we had the H bomb: Halleluja.

Granted, tight speaker placement casts little by way of an expansive stage. Yet then neither had the laptop's upfiring tinfoil jobs. But – tonality, body, presence, bandwidth and fullness now are shockingly superior; and even as unapologetic lowriders these bubbas stage tall enough to overlay the screen. With self image restored and my tolerant wife pretending at being happier, that's it for today's micro episode. I penned it thinking how such real-world mini rigs remain perfect not just for teenagers who use a laptop for everything from schoolwork to surfing explicit materials to hacking websites. Others too can convert a lowly laptop into a small television with proper sound; or spin some old-timey CD. And for that you need no Internet access at all. It even works in a wood cabin as long as you have AC.

There. I just had my five minutes of Repair Shop fame without possessing any real repair skills. Ivette's sound now was better than new. Repaired. The takeaway? For little dosh, Amazon sells a plethora of 'computer speakers'. Get a pair with USB to eliminate my extra box. Upgrading from what's in a laptop to a proper pair of free-standing small boxes is a quantum leap. Nothing else gets even close. What you get by way of brand and model matters far less than making the leap. Don't think. Jump. You'll thank me later. Then don't be surprised that with your sound sorted, living with a small picture is far less cumbersome than you might have imagined; if you even need any picture at all. So…

…if you're still shopping for stocking stuffers, don't rule out computer speakers. They really could change someone's sonic life. Foxy sox. Stuffed to the gills. Happy holidaze!