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PC Speakers

Buying Guide

Computers have come quite a long way, it wa...
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Buying Guide


Computers have come quite a long way, it was once they were considered primarily a business tool, but now they've become a very big part of our lives. They're more than just for business now, they've become our multi-media entertainment centers, our gaming systems, and for some, a means of keeping in touch with people and sharing our lives with others.

In the world of today, most everyone has a computer, it has become so pervasive that for some, gone is the 9 to 5 daily grind of going off to a job, some of use stay home and do our work comfortably in our own surroundings.

I'm one of those people, I work from home for the most part on my computer, while I'm working though I like to listen to music, and I consider myself sort of an audiophile, or at least I was when I had the extra money to spend on such things, with children you have less disposable income of course. That doesn't mean though I have to sacrifice my listening enjoyment really, I like my music to sound good, and that's only possible through a decent set of speakers.

PC Speakers today come in all shapes and sizes and price ranges, it's now possible to get very good sound from a relatively inexpensive set of speakers, and some even offer surround sound for those that wish a more realistic sound or theater experience.

Types of Speakers:

There are several types or styles of PC Speakers available on the market today, but they can be categorized into two main types: Stereo and Surround.

Stereo or 2.0 Speakers are your basic two speaker setup that is commonly seen packed with computers that are bought from most any company. These speakers offer stereo sound, but can be made to simulate a surround sound experience through the use of drivers and software. Stereo speakers are the most basic type, next to mono-speakers but we won't go into that, these speakers can range from very inexpensive to very costly depending on the brand or types that you buy.

-Stereo Speakers can be purchased in many different styles, by this I mean the types and quantities of speakers that are housed within them. There are two very common styles, both come with two speakers in them but sometimes the speakers can be varied, some come with a woofer and a tweeter, while others will come with a woofer and a mid-range. Of course you can find speakers that also have all three style of speakers in them, these are the most desirable as they reproduce the sound much better, you'll get the full range of audio with all three types of speakers included. There are exceptions to this of course, and these exceptions usually add to the overall cost the product, you can get speaker with multiples of these speaker combinations, generally though it's usually more than one woofer that is included. You can usually find the information about the types of speakers used in the documentation of the product or often times listed right on the product packaging.

-Stereo Speakers can also be sub-categorized as well by names, you can find them called 2-way, 3-way or even 4-way speakers. The number though, just indicates the actual number of speakers inside the enclosure, and usually the more speakers the higher the price of the product itself, but more speakers do usually offer a much better quality sound experience.

Surround Sound Speakers have become very common with the increased popularity of home theaters and home theater PCs, these types of speakers can get confusing at times, there are quite a few choices that are offered. Surround sound formats goe by several names like: DTS, Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic, Dolby Pro Logic II, DTS Neo:6, Dolby Pro Logic Iix, Dolby Digital Ex, THX Surround, DTS-EX, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD,DTS-HD Master. I'm not going to go into the specifics of each one of these formats, there are several places online where you can find this information.

Surround sound can be broken down into a few main categories:

-2.1 Surround Speakers are normally comprised of two smaller speakers and a separate sub-woofer, the two smaller speakers are referred to as satellites and can have a mid-range or tweeter in them or one of both. These are essentially the same as stereo speakers with the exception or missing the sub-woofers from the speakers and the addition of a much larger sub-woofer on the side to emphasize the bass frequencies in multi-media such as movies, music and games.

-4.1 Surround Speakers consist of five speakers, it's an upgrade to the 2.1 setup with the addition of two more satellite speakers that are placed to the left and right of the user.

-5.1 Surround Speakers normally consist of six separate speakers: one sub-woofer, two front (right/left) speakers, two more (right/left) speakers that are often referred to as surround speakers, and a center speaker. The surround speakers are normally placed to the right of left of the viewing position of the audience. The center speaker is usually placed directly under or on top of the TV or monitor and is used for voices normally so the voices sound as though they are coming directly from the monitor.

-6.1 Surround Speakers consist of seven speakers total, the addition of one more speaker that site directly behind the audience or person viewing or listening to the audio. Some 6.1 systems can have eight speakers where there would be two that sit directly behind the audience.

-7.1 Surround Speakers generally consist of eight speakers total, it's basically an upgrade from the 6.1 setup where there are one additional surround or satellite speaker is added that are placed behind the viewing area or audience. The 7.1 setup gives the best overall surround sound experience as can be expected with the sound coming from all around the viewer.

Of course as more speakers get added to these systems the prices do go up a bit, but not much really for what you are getting from the overall audio experience.

One thing to note about all of these surround sound systems is that you must make sure your computer system is capable of producing surround sound and has the appropriate audio jacks included.

Many motherboards today come with 5.1 surround and higher, but you can also get an add-in card that will enable this feature for you. Most times the add-in cards product much better sound as they have a dedicated sound processor built right on them.

Purchasing Speakers:

The old adage 'you get what you pay for' rings very true with speakers, you cannot purchase a cheap set or speakers and expect good sound quality from them. (Of course there are exceptions to this rule where often times you can get quality speakers on sale or even on clearance from many places, especially those that handle overstocks or older products that have stopped production.)

When finally deciding to upgrade or purchase speakers new you'll want to first decide what you're using them for. Are they for your home PC that sits on your desk? Or for your gaming rig where you want to feel the thunder of the explosions and be immersed in your gaming? Or are they possibly for that new HTPC that you just setup for you own little home theater experience?

Another deciding factor is space limitations, how much room do you have to set aside for speakers? Some speaker setups can be large and take up a lot of real estate in your room or on your desktop.

Another factor in choosing speakers that is often missed is the type of music you listen to. Do you like bass-thumping, room shaking music? Or do you prefer subtle bass in your music that doesn't drown out the highs, lows and vocals? There are many sizes of speakers out there, generally the satellites are about the same size but sub-woofers vary greatly, and the bigger the woofer the bigger the thump.

Of course the ultimate decision is how much do you want to spend or how much can you spend on speakers? You can get lower prices speakers that have a decent sound quality, but if you enjoy good sounding audio then it's well worth it to invest in high quality speakers.

I like my music, and I like to hear every part of it, all aspects, notes, crisp highs and low lows that are involved. There are some people out there who cannot tell the difference between a good quality set of speakers and one that is made by some no name company somewhere, I honestly feel bad for these people they just don't know what they are missing in the audio enjoyment of their lives.

Author: Kristofer Brozio
Site: DragonSteelMods


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