Choose computer speakers that fit your needs
To find the right computer speakers, experts say you need to consider your
listening environment, your listening preferences and your budget. Here's
what else experts say to consider before buying:
- Generally, music lovers will do well
with a 2.0- or 2.1-channel speaker system and gamers and movie buffs
will appreciate a 5.1-channel setup. Music is nearly always recorded in
stereo, which needs only two speakers for the best sound. A 5.1-channel
speaker system can up-mix stereo sound to three additional speakers, but
no sonic qualities are gained. Movies and games, on the other hand, usually
support five-channel surround sound. Not all sound cards can support more
than two speakers; check your hardware specifications before buying a surround-sound
sure you have room for the subwoofer. Much larger than the satellite
speakers, the subwoofer boosts the quality of lower-frequency (bass) sounds.
A subwoofer is nondirectional, and while placement can affect sound quality,
it's also not super critical. PC speaker subwoofers are typically small
enough to go in an unobtrusive place, such as under your desk.
- Don't get more wattage
than you need. This is the sum total of the wattage of each of the system's
satellite speakers and subwoofers. Small spaces will do fine with lower-power
systems, such as the 2.0-channel Bowers & Wilkins MM-1 (72 watts)
or 2.1-channel Harman Kardon SoundSticks III (65 watts).
- If you want to use your
computer speakers with a home theater setup, a game console or
an iPod (or other MP3 player), check the specs. Not all PC speakers support that
kind of gear. With a digital audio output, you can hook up the speakers
directly to a game console or a DVD player. Otherwise, you'll have to route
the speakers through a receiver. Some models come with an adapter for game
consoles. Look for a line-in port if you want to plug in a music player.
- Frequency response
reflects on sound quality. This measures how accurately the speakers
reproduce low- and high-frequency sounds. The human ear can pick up sounds
from about 20 Hz on the low end to about 20 kHz on the high end. Most speakers
can hit 20 kHz easily, but they vary more on the low end.