Battling iPhone's GSM Buzz 4: Solved!

I hope you readers aren’t as tired of this topic as Mrs. Grant is. A word to the wise—make sure you are in good stead with your bedfellows before auditioning audio equipment obsessively for a month. Oh, and try not to write on a blog on Valentine’s day unless your partner is really cool about it.

For a refresher course, here are the Battling iPhone’s GSM Buzz articles in order:

But there is such exciting news! I received my Sonic Impact 5065 Gen 2 T-Amp with Power Supply today! In this, all the credit goes to "Actual Audio Engineer," whose comments proved to be not only snarkily entertaining reading, but actually useful and informative to boot.

But let’s back up a bit, shall we? About a week ago, my Sonic Impact T-Amp already ordered, who else but our very own Cleve Nettles, sends me an IM with this link:

Of course, after all this effort, I had to buy them. These, truly, are the holy grail of portable iPhone speakers. At $50, the sound is about what you’d expect, with speaker cones about 2" in diameter. But that is a fine baseline for any Mac user who either (a) doesn’t have the built-in iMac speakers, or (b) likes to play her iPhone out loud on the go (I know you can technically play the iPhone without headphones, but not for any kind of musical enjoyment).

My few beefs were that the audio cord is not very long, and barely reached my G5’s audio port from the top of the desk. Secondly, the sticky rubber casing of the amp tends to pick up dust, so don’t expect the kind of aesthetics you see in the pics. Thirdly, if you want to plug the thing into anything other than an iPhone, you need to use the included adaptor, or it will hum like crazy—that’s more of a warning than a beef, for those of you that don’t happen to notice the rather small adaptor while unpacking.

But (and this is a gigantic BUT) the most precious thing about these DLO speakers is that there is NO TRACE of the dreaded GSM buzz. This is also personally elating for me to report, because they weigh in at HALF the budget I’d originally alotted myself to solve this problem, which they capably do. For 90% of you readers, these will suffice if you are looking for desktop/portable speakers to play nice with iPhone.

And then there’s the other 10%. The insufferably uncompromising audiophiles and those who are too obsessive-compulsive not to listen to them. Oh, yes, I was in deep. Actual Audio Engineer recommended purchasing Paradigm Atom Bookshelf Monitor Speakers on eBay for anything under $200. But lo, I discovered that there was a Paradigm dealer not one block from my workplace, and paid them several visits last week to hear the Atoms. Sure, they’re great. For $270 plus tax, they’d better be. But I was not prepared to shell out that kind of dough without knowing for sure that they would work with the Sonic Impact T-Amp. And by work, I mean produce great sound without getting the migraine-inducing bup-bup-ba-dup-bup-ba-dup-dup interference courtesy of my iPhone connecting with the local cell tower.

Now let’s get this straight. There are probably dozens of choices in the 4/8 ohm bookshelf speaker category that have sufficient sensitivity (around 90dB) to be powered by the Sonic Impact T-Amp. But Actual Audio Engineer’s comment that these and the NHT Super Ones were the best-ever somehow stuck in my craw. So, when the Sonic Impact T-Amp arrived at my desk, I took my lunch break at Sound City. They were good enough to set up my amp with a single Paradigm v5 speaker to test against GSM buzz and give me a little clue as to the sound quality I could expect.

The one speaker had incredible volume and richness connected to the Sonic Impact T-Amp. All from a mere 10 watts at 8 ohms (it’s rated at 15 watts/channel at 4 ohms). I dialed my home number on the iphone and placed it directly in front of both the speaker and on top of the amp. Zero GSM buzz. I know Actual Audio Engineer advocated purchasing these on eBay, but the eBay stuff I found was v3 and v4—the updated v5s were sitting right in front of me and I knew I would simply keep obsessing until I owned them, so why not get it over with?

There are many reviews at Amazon of the Sonic Impact T-Amp and you can find much more capable reviews of the Paradigm Atom V.5 Bookshelf Monitors online than what I can render here. For the purposes of this piece, the point is that if you are desperate to get rid of GSM buzz from your iPhone, it’s all about a properly-shielded amplifier. My Paradigm Atoms are connected to my amp with regular 16-gague speaker wire, so I can attest that there’s no need to spend a bunch of cash on Monster Cables. I also want to point out that I purchased the non-shielded versions of the Paradigm Atoms (magnetic shielding is a $20 upgrade). I learned at Sound City that the shielding in speakers is only to curb interference with glass-tube televisions. Since my display is an LCD, there is no need to magnetically shield the speakers, and there are no repurcussions on the GSM buzz front. I’m sure there are other amps that are properly-shielded, and there will probably be a slew of comments about people’s favorite speakers. That’s fine. I just
know that this particular combo works for me. Your mileage may vary.

Seriously, though, if all you need is a better set of 2.0 speakers than your Mac tower can provide, go with the DLOs for $50. I think I’ll keep mine in the basement for when I’m lifting weights or doing laundry. I just sort of made this issue my personal mission (much to my wife’s chagrin) and I needed to go all the way. If you are afflicted with the same kind of personality, I hope this series of articles has saved you some time.

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