After pondering my financial situation, priorities in life and the best stewardship of my money, I decided to sell my $2500 AU Rega Planet 2000 -> Graham Slee Solo Monitor -> AKG K-701 headphone set up and purchase a not too painful set of speakers for my laptop.
I love music, and wanted to listen to music, but could no longer justify the financial outlay in my headphone setup. I decided to move to powered speakers rather than a more 'budget' headphone setup on the grounds of versatility and practicality.
So. How does a pair of speakers for 1/10th the cost ($250 AU) sound? Is the step down too painful?
First, a little about my setup. I am using mainly 256Kbps WMA files from Windows Media Player to my Behringer UCA202 USB sound card outputting via a Toslink cable to the optical input on the MS40s. Also, the speakers must have been damaged in shipping, because on loud bass notes (sweeps especially), the left woofer rattles (the right woofer is fine at any volume level I have tried). I have spoken to the Behringer tech support people, and they said it's not a common problem, and a replacement driver will be on its way shortly.
Edit: The new woofer has arrived, I've installed it, all works perfectly, and I'm very happy!
Anyay, to cut a long story short, I'm very impressed with the sound quality. I don't meant to say that for the money it is satisfactory, but rather that it is satisfactory full stop. I really haven't heard anything sound bad on these yet. The Beatles, Chopin, Beethoven, Sons of Korah ... all sound great. Just before, I was listening to Schumann's Fantasy Pieces Opus 12, and then some Tchaikovsky on internet radio and thoroughly enjoying it.
And for the specifics?
The built in 2 x 20W RMS amplifiers give plenty of volume headroom and excellent dynamics, most of my listening is done at around 9:00. At 12:00 it's too loud for me to listen to. The dynamics are really good for the classical music I mostly listen to. I even tried a bit of metal. Was fine.
The mids and highs are nice and clear, not fatiguing at all. I think the midrange sounds very slightly recessed in comparison to my K-701 to my ears. Piano sounds very nice. My Claudio Arrau Chopin Nocturnes sound wonderful!
I'm surprised at how hard these little 4 3/4 inch drivers can hit when the music calls for deep powerful bass. It's definitely not one-note boomy bass either, very nice. There's a spot in one Sons of Korah CD where all goes quiet, then some deep, powerful drum hits come in. I really felt those! It can be a tad boomy though. Just a tad, nothing dramatic.
There's lots of soundstage too, with excellent imaging. Locating individual instruments in a classical recording is not at all difficult.
So yes, all in all, very happy, and not missing my headphone setup in the slightest! I highly recommend this combination of sound card ($59 delivered) and speakers ($225 delivered) for a computer setup. I will be enjoying these for quite some time!