Multimedia Speaker System reviews
Few things in life are as important as good music. But as you've probably noticed, that music only sounds as good as the system it's playing through. Many PCs and Macs don't come with very good speakers. And that's to say nothing of the tiny built-in drivers found in most laptops. Even if you're on a tight budget, low-cost speakers can noticeably improve your listening experience. Here's our guide to finding the best speaker to go with your computer.
Stereo, 2.1, or Surround Sound: What's the Difference?
Understanding the lingo is an important place to start. Stereo speakers consist of only a left and a right speaker, "2.1" refers to a pair of speakers augmented by a subwoofer, and surround sound involves between five and seven speakers plus a subwoofer. The role of the subwoofer is to cover deep bass frequencies, generally below 100Hz. A solid sub at a reasonable volume can add rumble to film explosions and depth to kick drums, bass guitars, analog synths, orchestras, and more. Some stereo speaker pairs, however, sound great even without a subwoofer, primarily because their woofers (the drivers dedicated to low-mid and low frequencies below 1KHz) are perfectly capable of handling the bass response.
The vast majority of desktop speakers are stereo pairs. Some have accompanying subwoofers, but you won't likely see more than two or three satellites to deal with. Some serious gamers and cinephiles might want to look for a 5.1-channel (or higher) surround sound system, but the extra cost and inconvenience of placing all those extra speakers isn't worth it to most users. There are also one-piece solutions, like the Creative iRoar (which has an optional subwoofer dock and a USB connection for audio), the Razer Leviathan (which comes with a separate subwoofer), and the JBL Boost TV . The latter two are seen more as soundbars for televisions rather than computers, however.
Do Extra Features Matter?
You might not think much about extra features when it comes to PC speakers, but there are some things to consider: Do the speakers include bass and treble controls so you can tailor the sound to your tastes? How about a Mute button? Is there an aux input for plugging in an MP3 player? How about a remote control? High-quality sound and robust extra features are not necessarily mutually exclusive; it depends on the set. If your PC has a limited number of USB ports, you'll probably want to go with the more common 3.5mm audio output connector, though USB-powered speakers sometimes come with extra features, or even software that enables special functions.
Listening at Home or at the Office?
How you plan to use your speakers will also help determine your best option. You probably don't need a mammoth subwoofer if you're listening at work—small speakers with decent clarity might be the wisest choice, particularly if you're just using them to watch YouTube videos or listen to Internet radio streams. For home, maybe you want larger or more stylish speakers, and the ability to blast them without distortion (especially if your PC is your main music source).
How About Speakers for Music Recording?
Are you a musician and want to record and mix your own music at home? Look for a pair of active studio monitor speakers that represent your work as accurately as possible, and don't color the sound in a way that way hide flaws in a recording that could show up on other listeners' systems. The KEF X300A serve quite well in this role, though they're much pricier than other, non-professional-focused speaker systems.
What About Wireless?
Wireless speakers now sound quite good, and are definitely worth considering—especially if you're prone to moving your laptop around the house, and don't want to constantly disconnect and connect your speakers. Many PC speakers now feature Bluetooth, and some even support AirPlay or other Wi-Fi audio standards.