Buying guide: PC speakers
PC speakers are probably the last thing that we focus on when it comes to setting up a computer system. While it is understood that motherboard, processor, RAM, hard drive, and graphics card are very important, surely the importance of the PC speakers cannot be overlooked given that gaming and watching movies would be a rather a lacklustre affair in the absence of a good computer speaker system. Read on as we guide you through all that is important to know about PC speakers so as to enable you to buy Pc speakers that you will be satisfied with.
If you are looking for simple sound output from your PC, the onboard sound card and entry-level speakers manage to do the job, however, it is preferable to go for a dedicated sound card along with good quality PC speakers if an astounding aural experience is what you are looking for. Setting up a good PC speaker system with an efficient sound card is definitely not very expensive. Logitech computer speakers and Altec Lansing computer speakers are some PC speakers available in inexpensive models. For gamers, a good quality PC speaker system not only enhances the overall listening experience but also creates the right ambience and effects that are so much a part of the newer PC games. Similarly, if watching movies is your thing, then a quality speaker system will add to the overall experience as it can simulate movie theatre experience. And obviously, there is nothing like listening to music on true surround sound.
Selecting a proper PC speaker system is slightly different from selecting a normal speaker system and requires a little bit of more attention on our part; the reason being ensuring sound card compatibility. A sound card is primarily a computing device that reproduces sound signals that are then sent to the speakers. These days, almost all motherboards come with 5.1-channel sound cards built-in. The quality of these built-in sound cards, however, leaves much to be desired when compared to the dedicated sound cards that one has to buy separately. Some of the latest motherboards also feature 7.1-channel surround sound cards, though such motherboards are relatively expensive. It is preferable to go for the dedicated sound cards that you can buy separately. These come in all price ranges: from the basic low-end models to the professional high-end ones. The thing with sound cards though is that while you can use a 2.1-channel speaker system with a 5.1-channel built-in/dedicated sound card, you cannot use a 7.1-channel system on a 5.1-channel card without switching off two speakers. Hence, it is important that you check the motherboard of your computer, and in case you need a higher-end speaker system, get a compatible dedicated sound card. To get the best out of your system, the sound card’s output configuration should match that of the speaker system, which means that a 5.1- channel sound card will work best with a 5.1 channel speaker system, and so on.
In addition, you can get more out of your system in terms of sound quality by properly positioning your speakers, especially if you have a surround sound 5.1-channel or 7.1-channel setup. Bose speakers, although expensive, are renowned for their exceptionally clear sound output and make an ideal choice for setting up high-end speaker systems.
Criteria for buying PC speakers
Buying PC speakers that comes good on your aural demands will require some research on your part. It is vital that you make certain that the speaker system you intend to buy is compatible with the PC’s sound card. Also, these days, you can find PC speakers in varying shapes and sizes (including laptop speakers), which allows you lots of freedom in selecting the right kind of speakers in exactly the size that you want. Having said the above, following listed are some key factors to keep in mind when purchasing PC speakers or speaker systems:
1. Multi-channel output: Based upon the purpose for which you are buying a computer speaker system, it is imperative that you choose the right configuration. For example, if you are looking merely for a simple speaker set, you can go in for a 2.0-channel speaker system. If your budget for PC speakers is limited, but still you would like to own a decent set of speakers, a 2.1-channel speaker system would do you just fine. If gaming in surround sound environment is your thing, then go in for a 5.1-channel set-up (that has computer speakers subwoofer) with a medium-end dedicated sound card. And, if you plan to turn your PC into a home theatre then get a 7.1-channel speaker system and a compatible high-end sound card. Needless to say, the more the number of components, the higher will be the cost. This logic mostly holds true for most speaker manufacturers, although pricing for speaker systems within the same category can be different for different brands. 2. Dolby Digital output: Dolby Digital is the marketing name for several of the advanced sound reproduction technologies that the famous Dolby Labs has come up with. Before making a purchase, it is essential that you check whether the speaker provides Dolby Digital output. Note that this, however, does not mean that speakers that do not provide Dolby Digital output are bad or lack performance; it is just that a speaker with Dolby Digital output is slightly more reliable. 3. Power: Power output is an important consideration when buying PC speakers. For a 2.0-speaker configuration, total continuous power (that is, RMS output and not PMPO output) should be in the range of 20 watts. This figure will increase with the quality of the speaker and the number of components in your setup. Note that unlike in a home music system, for most parts, you will be very near to the speakers (baring, of course, the surround sound setups), and as such, sound clarity and accurate reproduction are more important than power output. Just as a data point, a 5.1-channel speaker system would require around 50 watts per satellite channel.
4. Headphone Jack: Contrary to obvious logic, there are many manufacturers who sell speaker sets sans this very essential feature. A headphone jack allows you to enjoy the audio without disturbing others in the room, by merely plugging the headphones onto the speakers; this spares you the trouble of having to switch off your speakers. In the absence of a headphone jacks, you either will have to go ahead without any audio or will have to plug your headphone to the PC after detaching the speakers.
5. Controls: The controls for the speaker are generally situated on one of the front-channel satellite speakers. This makes it easy for anyone to adjust the controls. Speaker systems should at least have volume and bass controls. Other useful controls include the centre-channel volume level (for a 5.1 systems), a surround-channel volume control, left/right balance, and a mute button for occasions when you need to interrupt your listening session. A remote control, though not essential, is a nice to have feature which allows you to control your speaker system from anywhere in the room.
6. Hash: The undesirable hissing sounds that speakers emit when sitting idle is called hash or, alternatively, hiss. The hiss may be due to the speaker set's power amplifier, the sound card output, or due to both. Always check for hash when the speaker is idle. The hash should ideally be audible only when the volume is set at a loud level, while the speaker is idle. You should avoid speaker sets that have an audible hash at moderate or low volumes because most of the listening happens at these levels, and a hissing sound at these levels would be most irritating.
7. THX Certification: THX Ltd., one of the leading developers of quality assurance programs, services, and products for consumer electronics, has created some performance standards for PC speakers. PC speakers that meet these standards are usually known to be high quality speakers that can provide reliable performance. As with Dolby Digital output, speakers that are not THX certified are not bad per say.
Summing it up:
- Setting up a good PC speaker system with an efficient sound card is definitely not very expensive.
- Good quality PC speakers can not only enhance your listening experience but also create the right ambience and effects while you are playing your favourite game or while you are watching a movie.
- A sound card is primarily a computing device that reproduces sound signals that are then sent to the speakers. These days, almost all motherboards come with 5.1-channel sound cards built-in. The quality of these built-in sound cards, however, leaves much to be desired when compared to the dedicated sound cards that one has to buy separately.
- To get the best out of your system, the sound card’s output configuration should match that of the speaker system: that is, a 5.1- channel sound card works best with a 5.1 channel speaker system.
- You can get more out of your system in terms of sound quality by properly positioning your speakers, especially if you have a surround sound 5.1-channel or 7.1-channel setup.
- The prominent options for PC speakers include Dell computer speakers, Logitech speakers, and Bose computer speakers.
The PC speakers or PC speaker system that you will eventually buy will largely depend on the quality of sound output you desire and the price you are willing to pay for it. Also, most of the speaker manufacturers offer warranty on their products, but do remember to look for the provided warranty on speaker systems while you are hunting for one.
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