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Things to Consider when Buying Computer Speakers

Updated on March 29, 2013

If you listen to music, watch movies or play games, you need decent speakers for your computer. Let's face it, the in-built speakers aren't going to keep you satisfied if you've got pumping basslines, explosions or game sound effects coming at you.

Thinking about buying some speakers, but feel overwhelmed by the choice? Let's run through a few of the things you need to consider before parting with your cash.

What Kind of Speaker System Do You Need?

There are two main types of speakers, stereo and surround sound. Stereo speakers have a left speaker and a right speaker. This is perfectly fine for most people. It enhances the experience of listening to music or watching videos.

You can usually tell what kind of speaker system you are getting from the number it has been given. A 2.0 system is a standard stereo with no subwoofer. A 2.1 system is a pair of speakers augmented by a subwoofer. The subwoofer covers deep bass frequencies, usually below 100Hz. A good subwoofer is good for film explosions, depth to kick drums, bass guitars.

Some stereo speaker pairs sound good without a subwoofer because their woofers (the drivers for low-mid and low frequencies) can handle the bass response. Stereo pairs with only one driver usually offer less bass response. [Drivers are the cones inside speakers which produce sound by vibrating, or 'driving' the air around them.]

If you want more than a stereo system, go for surround sound. Surround sound has a stereo pair, a subwoofer, a centre 'channel' and two or more rear satellite speakers. A 5.1 system is a five speaker surround system with one subwoofer.

With a surround sound system, the dialogue in movies is sent to the centre channel, while sound effects can be heard from the left, right or rear speakers. Surround sound is great for movie fans. You can hear explosions or other sound effects coming from all around you.

What you go for depends on your needs. You probably don't need huge subwoofers for work, but if gaming or watching movies are your thing a decent surround sound system is probably worth considering.

How Much Can You Spend?

Obviously, you get what you pay for. The more you spend, the better the drivers. If your budget is limited you can still pick up some speakers though. The Harman Kardon SoundSticks III has great audio performance at less than $200.

What Do They Look Like?

Appearance is something many people don't often think about, but looks do matter. Think about where the speakers are going to be and what space they are going to take up. The size and the style of the speakers is something to consider.

While we're on the topic of positioning, there's another thing you should remember. Where you put your speakers doesn't just make a difference to the look of your room. The position of your speakers can also make a difference to the sound. For optimal sound, you should position the speakers so that the sound waves meet your ears without interfering with one another.

What Extra Features Does the System Have?

Additional features are always important to think about.

  • Do the speakers include bass and treble so you can adjust the sound so it is perfect for your ear?
  • Is there a mute button?
  • Is there an Aux for plugging in an MP3 player?
  • Is there a remote control?

For multiple inputs, Bluetooth streaming and various other useful features, Creative's ZiiSound T6 is a good choice.

Do you Need Wireless?

If you move your laptop around the house, you might want to consider wireless speakers. The Bose SoundLink Wireless Mobile Speaker offers a pretty good sound over a stereo Bluetooth connection.

Try Before You Buy

Above all it's the sound quality that matters. Go to a shop and listen to some different speaker systems. Everyone has their own audio preferences, so take along your favourite CD to listen to and check out the sounds of different systems. Make sure the music has a range of sounds, from bass to treble.

Don't be afraid to take your time checking out what's available. You need to make sure that you spend your money wisely. Listen to a range of speaker systems to hear the sounds they produce. If at the end of it all you decide that all those booming explosions are just going to annoy the neighbours, well... you could always get some headphones!!!


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