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PC Speakers

Buying Guide

In the world of digital media that we have today, there's practically...
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Buying Guide

In the world of digital media that we have today, there's practically no excuse to have some sort of speakers on your computer. Be it a cheap, simple pair just for the sake of having them or an expensive 7.1 surround sound set for sound that will rival most movie theaters; your choice of speakers will entirely reflect how you consume your media.

If your someone who uses a computer just for simple tasks; web browsing, emailing, document creation, etc. then you won't necessarily require an expensive set of speakers. If your this type of person then most of the sound you hear on your computer will likely be coming from websites, be it embedded media, YouTube videos or interactive websites. Your speakers will serve as a means to further your online interaction as the presence of media-based websites increases. If you're shopping for a simple set of speakers then you probably only need to look into a stereo pair of speakers - extras like a subwoofer aren't necessarily needed in this case. Stereo speakers, as with some surround speakers, will either connect to your computer's soundcard via 1/8" audio jacks or they will have a USB sound chip embedded in them and will run entirely from a USB port. Speakers of this variety will either be passive and powered only by the computer's audio signal or they will require an AC power adapter or a USB power adapter. Most speaker sets in this price range will have only one input for the computer but if you look hard enough you can find some that will have an auxiliary input for other audio devices.

The second range of speakers are for most everyday computer users and families. Most of the time these are the people who are going to be doing more than just your basic tasks. If you're using your computer regularly then chances are good that you probably listen to music on it, watch videos and/or play PC games. You probably want to look into at least a 2.1 set of speakers because then you get a sub which will give you better and more powerful sounding low end. If you're using your computer a lot for DVDs and movies then it might be worth spending a little extra to get a surround sound set of speakers. Keep in mind that for proper surround sound speaker hook-up you will need a soundcard that supports multi-channel surround. For those without a supporting sound card, most surround sound speakers have an "enhance" or "matrix" button which will up-convert a stereo signal to use all of the speakers - although it isn't a true surround it does sound better than having unused speakers. Other features to look for with speakers in this range are auxiliary inputs, headphone jacks and sometimes even desktop control pods and/or wireless remotes.

If you're someone who does intense amounts of PC gaming and/or spends a lot of time enjoying digital media then you probably won't settle for an average pair of speakers. Good stereo and surround sound speakers can start with a three digit price tag and go up fast from there. The gains? High quality speakers do a much better job of accurately reproducing the audio you're listening to. They will likely have a large frequency range to ensure that everything from the low, rumbling bass to the crisp and sparkling highs sound nothing less than amazing. Don't doubt the fact that you will be able to hear a difference between an expensive set of speakers and a cheaper set because you will be surprised just how big the difference is. A lot of higher end speaker sets will have digital inputs to allow the use of digital hookups such as Toslink and Coaxial inputs. By using digital inputs and doing all conversion within the speaker system itself, manufacturers also have the ability to integrate Dolby Digital sound enhancement into their systems. The Logitech Z-5500, for example, is a 5.1 surround sound speaker system which features two digital inputs and Dolby Digital Pro Logic II decoding along with being THX certified for delivering high sound quality. Of course luxury features like feature-packed control pods can also be expected with more expensive speaker sets. To use the Z-5500's as an example again; they feature a large stand-up control pod with five buttons, a large volume dial and even a back-lit screen to help you navigate and adjust settings.

With most electronics retail stores offering some sort of “listening wall” for computer speaker systems, you will at least get a good chance to sample how all the different price ranges of speakers sound. If you fall into the category of someone who “just needs speakers” then you may not bother with this but if you're stuck knowing you want decent speakers but are unsure just how much or little you want to spend, then start by spending some time trying out as many sets as you can. Your ears will eventually find a few sets that stand out to you then you can go ahead and narrow things down based on the features they have and the features you need.


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