Jbl Compact Speaker 2.0-Channel Home Theater Speaker System Review Best Computer Speakers – An In-Depth Buying Guide

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Best Computer Speakers – An In-Depth Buying Guide

Computer speakers get far less attention than their more expensive counterparts – home theater speakers. While the latter is much fussed over, adequately researched, tried and tested before buying, most consumers just pick up whatever they can get their hands on (and afford) at the local electronics store when it comes to computer speakers. The truth is that most of us spend far more time in front of a laptop or desktop than watching movies on TV; doesn’t it make more sense to invest more time and money in buying the best computer speakers you can afford?

A decade or so back, when multimedia computers were still an anomaly and things like ‘Dolby Digital Surround Sound’ were just technical gibberish, computer speakers used to be puny little devices capable of only the poorest sound quality. Of course, things have changed dramatically since then. Today, you can buy the best computer speakers that will reproduce lifelike sound at an affordable price.

There are some big brand names that always come to mind when talking about the best computer speakers. Creative, Logitech, Altec Lansing, JBL are some of them. These companies have a long history of excellence. Some, such as Logitech and Creative, are often much more visible in the computer speaker market than in the home entertainment system segment. Thus, the quality of their products for laptops and desktops is typically of a higher quality than competitors at similar prices.

Sound short

However, there is a caveat. Before you set your eyes on buying the best computer speakers you can afford, understand that a lot also depends on your laptop or desktop sound card. The purpose of this card is to reproduce and process audio information. Almost all computers have a built-in sound card that is typically capable of doing an adequate job of sound reproduction for everyday use. Each sound card comes with its own software, which in most cases is bundled with the motherboard’s drivers.

But to get the most out of your sound experience, you should consider installing an additional sound card. This additional card fits into your motherboard’s PCI or PCI Express slot. The sound quality offered by this card would be much better than the standard card built into most motherboards. This card is capable of high-quality multi-channel audio reproduction (Dolby Digital Surround Sound, etc.). It may also have multiple ports for recording audio. If you are an audiophile or enjoy recording music on your computer, then you should definitely consider getting an additional sound card for your system.

Nowadays you can also buy an external sound card that fits in the USB port. This type of card is more intended for audio professionals who need to carry their equipment around and is not recommended for home users.

Guide to buying computer speakers

Once you have a quality sound card – whether it’s built-in or bought extra – you can start shopping for the best computer speakers for your needs. For this, you must first understand your requirements and budget. A set of high quality speakers can set you back over $200, while you can get an “adequate” functional speaker system for less than $50.

For audiophiles, nothing less than a 5.1 speaker system would do, although a set of quality 2.1 computer speakers would also be quite adequate. Hardcore gamers would do well to invest in a surround sound system as it would provide the highest level of immersion in the gaming experience. Musicians and hobbyists should invest in a set of studio monitors. These are typically a set of 2.0 speakers with strong bass output. They have no built-in equalizer, so you get the most faithful reproduction of your reproductions and can adjust the mix levels accordingly.

For regular users, a simple 2.0 speaker setup or a mid-range 2.1 system would be more than sufficient. Your choice will of course be influenced by your budget. A surround sound system would be decidedly more expensive than a 2.0 set-up.

As for technical specifications, there are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Frequency range

The human ear can hear sounds up to 20,000 Hz. The greater the frequency range of the computer speakers, the better the sound reproduction. Typically, a good system will have ratings from 10 Hz to 20,000 Hz, ensuring you get the best reproduction of low (bass) as well as high frequencies.

2. Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR)

Signal to noise ratio or SNR is a measure of how much a signal has been corrupted by noise. To understand it in layman’s terms, think of it as the ratio of the amount of useful information (signal) passing through compared to the useless bits (noise). The larger this ratio, the smaller the signal corruption.

All you need to understand is that higher SNR numbers translate to better sound reproduction. SNR is measured in decibels (dB). Speakers are typically rated at 65 dB, 75 dB, 90 dB, etc. You should try to get a speaker system with as high an SNR figure as possible.

3. Audio input

The best computer speakers should have a single pin audio input. They must be compatible with your laptop, iPod, desktop, etc.

4. Output control

The best computer speakers would have buttons, dials, etc. to control the sound built right into the speakers themselves. These can range from buttons to control bass, volume, treble etc along with power buttons etc.

5. Building material

Even if your computer speakers aren’t expected to take too much damage, you should still invest in something that will last you a few years. Higher quality speakers have woofers made of denser materials such as fiberglass, Kevlar, etc. This provides a deeper, richer sound reproduction.

If your system has a woofer, it should ideally be placed in dense, thick wood for optimal performance.

6. Appearance

Appearance is something that varies from individual to individual. Remember that you will spend a lot of time in front of your computer and staring at the speakers. Getting something that is visually appealing should be a consideration, albeit not an overly important one.

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