Computer Speakers - The Best High End Speaker Set Up for Mac and PC Computers
If You want the Best Computer Speakers Under $300
UPDATE: 2014 - More than 52,000 people have read this article so far so I thought I'd update it a bit. I still love my KRK Speakers... but there is another brand/model that you may want to consider (Especially if you have an iPad, iPod, or Mac because they come in Black and White versions - see the bottom of this page for more info).
The information contained on this page about Computer Speakers is based on my own experience researching affordable "Audiophile" quality speakers for my own computer. After evaluating models from the Computer Manufacturers like Logitech, Creative Labs, Klipsch, etc. I was left very disappointed in the sound quality of the main brands of computer speakers.
So I investigated "Studio Monitors" which are speakers Professional Recording Engineers use to mix and create the music you by on CD's and hear on the Radio.
I now own a nice pair of KRK Rokit 5's and have been very happy with their performance. You can read the rest of my research below.
KRK Rokit 5 Makes a Perfect Computer Speaker
Looking for the Best Under $200 Computer Speaker with True Audio Quality Sound and Built in USB... just plug right into your Computer!
Rokit 5's Demo From Youtube
KRK Rokit G2 Series of Studio Monitor Speakers
Best Prices on KRK Rokit Speakers
Digital Analog Converter for PC/MAC to Studio Monitors
You'll Need This to Connect Your Rokit's to your Computer USB Port
M-Audio Fast Track is Another Way to Connect to USB but costs more... they make great Speakers too!
Incredible Souding Computer Speakers for Your Home Office
Have you tired of the tinny scratchy cheap sound of most computer speakers? Have you noticed the hiss your computer speakers make when there is nothing playing? I have yet to come across any computer speaker that didn’t have very poor sound quality. Most computer speakers are manufactured with low end components and cheap connectors. If you are tired of crappy sound then what you are about to read is for you!
I’m going to show you everything you need to hook up an awesome pair of Studio Monitor Speakers to your computer.
- Speakers - Bi Amplified Studio Monitors from KRK or other High End Manufacturer
- DAC – The connector box between the Speakers and your Computer (Makes speakers work on any Computer with a USB 2 Port – Mac or PC). You can also record your own music with DAC’s on this page, make CD’s from you old Tapes, etc.
- RCA Cables – from the connector box to the speakers.
- Your own Mac or PC with USB 2.0 - Your On Board Sound Card does not Matter as the DAC does the duties of the Sound Card and is much cleaner. And YES you need this in order to assure proper connections to the Studio Monitor Speakers and to minimize the distortion some cheap sound cards output.
This is not a cheap set up but if you do it right you can do it all for about $350-$400. Do you love to listen to music while your work at your computer or perhaps even watch movies? Then this is the set up for you. Crisp, clear sound makes a huge difference in your listening enjoyment. So if you are a person who really appreciates audio then its time to chuck your existing set up and upgrade to Studio Monitors.
What You’ll Need to Upgrade to the Best Sounding Computer Speakers
In the world of professional recording studios and broadcasting engineers there is something called a “Studio Monitor”. A Studio Monitor Speaker is used to “mix” the sound used to create professional CD’s. Studio Monitors are called “Near-field” speakers. What this means is the speakers are designed to be placed in a “triangle” arrangement so the sound strikes your ears evenly. So you’ll want you speakers placed in front of you, away from the wall, and pointing at an angle towards you. You’ll also want them near ear level. The reason for this arrangement is so you get the best quality stereo imaging.
Near-field monitors are designed to output a near perfect flat response. This means the sound is not colored in anyway but is pure and natural. This is important in the recording industry so the finished product will sound the same no matter what kind of speakers they are played on. Think of it like this… in the world of computer graphics professionals use screen calibrators so that RED, GREEN, and BLUE images really are red, green, and blue. You know how sometimes on cheap Televisions Red’s kind of look Orange, or can look washed out? Professionals calibrate so the screen image is the EXACT color they want. This is the same principal with Studio Monitor Speakers. You want the sound pure, clean, and balanced.
Typical Computer Speakers and Home Stereo Speakers are designed to push the sound out in all directions, bounce off walls, and fill a room with sound. In the process rooms become saturated with sound waves that are unnatural and not balanced. These sound waves can really muddy up or distort the sound from the studio example. If you have heard low end stereo speakers with the BASS artificially pushed you’ll know what I mean. In any case the sound is not pure.
Companies like Mackie, Tannoy, Yamaha, JBL, Alesis, Dynaudio AudioAcoustics, Genelec, and KRK are well known high end brands. What is suitable for the recording studio is ideally suitable for a personal computer system. With your typical computer set up you have a person seated at a desk and speakers on each side so room acoustics are less important because you create an ideal situation where the sound is focused in a perfect stereo triangle.
I’ve included pictures of everything you need to set up your own AWESOME personal computer audio environment. I’ve included a typical set up with the Speakers I bought and recommend KRK Rokit 5’s. Rokit 5’s are shielded so they do not produce interference with computer equipment. Not all Studio Monitors are shielded.
Brief Summary of Connections... You only need to use RCA for Computer Hook Ups
Studio Monitors use TRS (Tip, Ring, Sleeve), XLR 3 Pin, or RCA connectors. All Studio Monitors do not have RCA but most do; including the KRK Rokit series. The advantage of a TRS or XLR is the 3rd pin allows for a balanced signal to be passed from device to device eliminating the possibility for interference. For computer audio playback this is typically not an issue as long as you purchase a quality shielded RCA Cable. You want to run as short a cable as possible.
Keep in mind Studio Monitors come in “Active” (Self Amplified) or “Passive” models. The better ones like the KRK are bi-amplified... this just means each speaker has it's own amplifier thus 2 power cords. You do not want to buy the passive model which is cheaper because it does not contain an amplifier. You need to amplify the signal of passive monitors and that means a stereo amplifier which takes up room and ads to the cost.
Active/Amplified Studio Monitors do not use Speaker Wire because the amplifiers are built in and this is a great benefit. Because the amplifier is ideally matched to the Tweeters and Woofers you don’t have to worry about under powering or over powering the speakers. In addition because you eliminate Speaker Cables (Which are different from RCA, TRS, or XLR Cables), you introduce less noise to the audio signal resulting in a much cleaner sounding signal.
You do NOT want to use your sound cards headphone jack or speaker jack. You want to purchase a DAC (Digital to Analog) converter. I’ve shown examples of perfectly suitable low cost DAC’s on this page – The Behringer UCA202 and the M-Audio Fast Track. The reason you need these devices is they become the “Sound Card” for your speakers. You get a line level input and not an amplified input like you would from a headphone jack. And while soundcards do have line level jacks, the quality of sound you’ll get from these USB devices is much cleaner.
One final note: As mentioned above gecause each speaker has it’s own amplifier each will also have it’s own power cord. I would suggest you purchase a high quality surge protector strip to plug in your speakers on top of your desk. On a side note the KRK’s make awesome satellite surround speakers if you set them up with a home theater system. But for computer use you do not need a surround sound system. These speakers will sound so much better than any 5.1 off the shelf computer speakers you buy at the local electronic retailer.
You’ll find all this equipment at your local Music Store or online at Amazon.com. Expect to pay $299 for the KRK Rokit Speaker Pair, $20 for good RCA Cables, and $30-$150 for the DAC.
Youtube Video of KRK Rokit 5 G2 (G2 Means “Generation 2” which is the most current model that has been shipping for about a year now. This is what you want.
M-Audio DAC with More Features than UCA202 = Buy this if you want to Record and Mix Music not Just Listen to it.
Rokit 5's Typical Computer Speakers Set Up
How to Properly Place Studio Monitors for Computer Speaker Use
RCA Connector and Cables
Have You Got Questions?
If you have questions about how to hook up your Studio Monitor Speakers to your Computer leave me a comment below. I'll do my best to get back to you with an answer within a couple of days.
My 2nd Choice for Hi-Fi for Computer Use
Before choosing the KRK Rokit's I almost purchased the Alesis M Series. Alesis makes a nice speaker and if you are just looking for Great Sounding Computer Speakers (A big step up from the Junky Logitech, Sound Blaster, or whatever computer junk) you should take a good look at the Alesis speakers as well.
One really nice feature of the Alesis is the USB interface is built in, so there is no confusion about what cables or what kind of break out box is needed.
You just plug these into your computer's USB port and start enjoying the high end sound.
Another Awesome Computer Speaker Option
I've been reading lots of reviews of a new option you might want to consider (Was not available at the time I wrote this Original Article... which has been read by 1,000's of people and generates a ton of questions still (Mostly about how to hook them up). And the KRK's do rock, and hard... but the AudioEngine A2+'s are also really awesome! Best Buy has them in some markets, but Amazon has them all the time and is the best place to read other peoples reviews. These Speakers are Available in a BLACK or WHITE Finish (Perfect for matching Apple Products).