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What Computer Speakers Do You Use? 71

karnal asks: "Since we all listen to a lot of music (who doesn't), I wondered if anyone could help me on this. I've been looking to buy a new speaker system, after growing tired of my current setup. I've recently bought the Turtle Beach Santa Cruz and I'm looking for a good set of speakers. Should I go the 4.1 route? Personally, I think I'd be happy with 2.1. I'm looking for low noise, decent power, and excellent sound quality. I've looked at the VideoLogic Sirocco Crossfire, but at 449$ a set, I wouldn't want to be dissappointed. Anyone test any outstanding speakers lately?"
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What Computer Speakers Do You Use?

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  • Why? (Score:5, Informative)

    by JediTrainer ( 314273 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @05:19PM (#2375625)
    Why use 'computer speakers' at all? If you're going to spend some cash, just get a Y-cable and hook your computer up to your stereo receiver's AUX input.

    This is the best way (IMO) to get decent sound, and of course, this gives you things like radio, tape decks, equalizer and whatever else you want to add to it. Add a subwoofer to that. Heck - you can do surround sound if you want it (assuming your program supports it).

    disclaimer: this is what I have done and it's worked well for me for years. When I heard the improvement for the first time, there was no going back. Thus - I have absolutely no idea how good today's higher-end computer speakers sound
    • by jamus ( 1439 )
      One reason to use computer speakers would be to avoid a ground loop. I have my computer hooked up to my stereo, and I created a nasty ground loop. I tried putting in a radio shack ground loop isolator. While it muted the ground loop, it also killed my bass.

      So, I figure I have a few options: One, try to get everything on the same ground. This would be nearly impossible, since my computer is running through the UPS, and I don't have access to my cable company's grounding. Second, buy a more expensive ground loop isolator. Third, get a sound card with a digital out and an amp that has a digital in.

      If the original poster goes with the amp, instead of speakers, I recommend looking at amps with digital inputs. The info pages on his sound card says it has a digital output.
      • Get 4 balanced to unbalanced transformers. Then use a ground lift on the balanced cable and ground hum is gone. I'm just guessing this will work. I work in proaudio and we simply disconnect the ground to one or more of the cables or on a di to get rid of ground loops. I think this only works on balanced gear so thats why I suggest the transformers. They are also usefull if you want todo any long runs.
    • Hmmm... my computer doesn't happen to be in my living room, where my stereo is :)

      Not to mention the @ work situation, where I don't have my home stereo @ my disposal.

      Just a couple reasons why computer speakers are sometimes useful...

      And, to answer the question that was posed, I'm fairly happy with the speakers I have @ work, Altec Lansing ADA885, but I wouldn't recommend them, simply because they are too expensive for what they are... and they do funky things sometimes. But Altec lansing does make some fairly good speakers... I've had a wide variety over the years on different work machines, and they've always seemed ok.

      • I wouldn't buy speakers that are advertised as computer speakers because they usually are just cheep stereo speakers that are sheilded and slapped into an ugly box with a bigger price tag.

        Get studio montiors! Great sound and they look great.

        Take a look at the yorkville YSM-1p's.
    • This is what I have always done. I have a Kenwood receiver I bought off a friend for pretty cheap, and a set of 80W Paradigm bookshelf speakers speakers I stole from my father. This setup has always been descent, and my computer is by far the principle sound system of the house (before it was CD's, now its mostly MP3's, and I would never ever listen to radio [advertising] at home).

      As for my soundcard, I am still using the EISA SoundBlaster 16 card that came with my 486 6-7 years ago. For music listening, there is nothing wrong with it, and I'm sure they are very cheap these days. And Linux support for it is seamless.
  • $449 is a ridiculous amount of money to spend on tiny plastic speakers with 2inch woofers. IMO surround sound on a computer is kind of a waste of money - they're only good for games, and where would you mount the rear speakers? on stands? by your desk?

    These are the only computer speakers I would recommend:

    Swans M200 multimedia speakers for $300:

    These are real bookshelf speakers with 5" woofers and soft dome tweeter (easier on your ears). The frequency response is 55Hz-18kHz which means they have enough bass as to not require a bass module.

    Another option that you should consider is getting a small stereo - non amplified speakers, and a small integrated amplifier or stereo reciever. This opens up a lot more possibilities.
  • I just retired a set of $20 computer speakers (i.e. the movers killed them) so I'm thinking of applying my own advice and getting some good new speakers for my computer.

    My personal advice goes along these lines:

    First, 4.1 speakers are only good for games and merely OK for DVDs. Eventually, DVD-Audio/SACD/something else will make 5.1 sound for the masses possible. Right now, unless you are going to be doing gaming, just get a 2.1 setup. 4.1 doesn't have the center channel required for a proper DVD movie experience.

    Second, there are advantages to properly constructed computer speakers. Generally computer speakers won't mess with your monitor if they are placed right up against it. They also tend to be nice and compact.

    Third, there are great price and performance advantages to using non-computer speakers. A good audio setup will be weighted with a flatter, more realistic frequency response and work especially well with music. And they are generally more boom-for-the-buck then the high-end computer speakers. You often-times get 5.1 out of them, instead of 4.1. This can be a good thing, especially if you can get everything to work together, because you can get the center channel along with the 4 corner speakers. You need at least three speakers in front of you, preferebly five, to be able to accurately position sounds.

    Fourth, both cheap stereo equipment and most computer speakers are heavily tuned for specific sounds. They give you thudding bass sounds so that you feel like you are getting your money's worth, but, once you get past that, have a really crappy sound. And they'll say they have a 15Hz-30KHz or better frequency range, with 200 Watts of power, when you really are getting about 20-30 watts of power, with great response and clarity in the 15Hz-1KHz range, and muddy the rest of the way.

    If you are really wanting to blow some money, go to a musical instrument store and pick up a set of studio monitors. You will pay $500-1500, or maybe even more, but they will have a crystal-clear, completely flat, frequency response across the entire audible range. In today's computer-centric studios, they even make shielded monitors that won't mess up your monitors.

    Best bet, get a good quality walkman and a CD with some music you like. Then run it through the various speaker systems in the store. Your ears will tell you what you should purchase. If you can't tell the difference between an $80 set and a $120 set, get the $80 set. It's probably the only way to do things.
    • Wow...I have to comment on this one. The author seems to be on track. But there are some serious misunderstandings here.

      "You need at least three speakers in front of you, preferably five, to be able to accurately position sounds." Hmm... I don't think so. Go listen to some Maggies [magnepan.com] at your local high-end hi-fi store. Two speakers will image far better than any 5.1 speaker setup costing anywhere near their price. They're beautiful. Imaging has a *lot* to do with phase, and most speakers put a filter smack dab in the middle of our most sensitive hearing range (we are most sensitive to 1kHz-3kHz, and most speakers put a filter at ~2kHz). With the exception of first order filters (which have tons of problems in their own right, and are rarely used), filters screw up phase horribly.

      "...they'll say they have 15Hz-30kHz or better frequency range". I assume you mean amplifiers will be rated this way. Speakers will never be rated this good. Not even $70,000 speakers. Yes, computer speakers will exagerate claims. But not this great. Most computer speakers have a -3dB (half perceived volume) point of around 80Hz. A decent $1000+ pair of speakers will have a -3dB point of around 50Hz. Both will usually quote the -60dB point, which is around 60Hz and 35Hz accordingly. Most subwoofers will hit their -60dB point around 25-30Hz. Some extraordinary woofers will push that down below 20Hz. But that's very rare. However, most computer speakers will focus on the 100Hz-2kHz region. Most people perceive mid bass (around 100Hz) as deep bass, so this fools a lot of people.

      "...but they will have a crystal-clear, completely flat, frequency response across the entire audible range". No. They won't. No speaker has anything close to a flat frequency response. Go do some waterfall plots of any speaker, regardless of price, and you'll see what I mean. Dips and peaks of 5dB or more are common, even on the most expensive of speakers. And once you go off-center on the speakers, the response gets even worse. To find a speaker that covers the entire audible range, you'll also be looking at a speaker system costing thousands of dollars. I'd look towards Hsu Research [hsuresearch.com] for budget subwoofers that can cover the lower end of the audible spectrum. High frequencies aren't as hard to produce. But, in any event, you won't find any speaker that approaches a linear response.

      But, yes, I agree that you should use your own ears to test audio systems. If possible, test them in your own home, as the room in which they are placed makes a significant difference to the sound.

      • Ah... a pair of Vandersteens would work as well, for those who would like a nice set of dynamics (at a pretty resonable price, I might add). And actually, if you look at the 1C, it does use a first order filter (at 2.8kHz), and the imaging is wonderful. Vandersteen does a great job with their filters and the narrow baffle around the tweeter removes the reflection for the imaging. I must admit that I'd love a pair of Maggies or maybe an SL3, though :)
  • I have the creative soundworks 5.1 speakers with the dolby digital input, and they work amazingly well. Great for movies, games and music. In fact, I've got them plugged into my DVD player in the living room right now (until I fork over the cash for a stereo).

  • by Anonymous Coward
    There's simply no excuse to use speakers that are just too small and constructed without sound quality in mind. Once you hook up your pc to a decent stereo set with good speakers you'll never want those so called multimedia speakers back.
    (I myself use a 2x110W Sony amp with B&W DM601 speakers, really beats the crap out of a 'normal' setup!)

  • I love the Boston Acoustics BA-635 [pcnewscenter.com] speakers - it's a 2.1, but it's a good one, and if you want surround, two sets of these are a better investment than most 5 speaker systems. I got a set of these with a Gateway machine, and it was the only worthwhile bit from that setup.

    The price is almost too good to be true: you can find these for about $45 at PriceWatch [pricewatch.com] and Shop.Yahoo [yahoo.com] by searching on "BA635". But these sure as hell don't sound like $45 speakers.

  • If you want to stand out, along with having great sound, flatpanels are the way to go.

    http://www.monsoonpower.com/ [monsoonpower.com]

    Related note: these are also the speakers you'll find in Humvees.

    • I agree these are nice speakers - I have a Monsoon MM-700 system on my desk.

      However these are not "the speakers you'll find in Humvees". They're sold under the same Monsoon brand, but the flat-panel computer speakers are designed and manufactured by a company called Sonigistix [sonigistix.com] in Richmond, BC, Canada. Last I checked, none of the Sonigistix flat-panel technology had yet made it into an automotive application.

      The Monsoon speakers are based on planar-magnetic technology, partially licensed from a company called Eminent Technology [eminent-tech.com]. Sonigistix took the basic design, and adapted it so that the speakers could be mass-produced and sold at a lower price point. Note that there are several other flat-panel computer speakers on the market that do not use planar-magnetic technology, but instead use a "distributed-mode" technology developed by a company called "NXT". In my (biased, as a former Sonigistix employee) opinion, the planar-magnetic ones sound a lot better.
  • cheap speakers (Score:2, Insightful)

    by toast0 ( 63707 )
    I personally have no ear for quality of speakers...

    I can tell if they sound really crappy, but paying more than $10 filters out most of the really crappy speakers.

    What I look for is everything is individually connected and disconnectable. Ideally speaker to speaker wires are disconnectable on both ends, at the least it should be disconnectable on both ends.

    If I wanted good sound, I'd use digital out to a real speaker system, but i don't care :)

  • you need to have a sound card with digital out
    why ?

    because of all the noise (electrickery noise) that your computer + monitor keyboard ........

    then get yourself a decent amp with 5.1 out
    why ?

    a decent pre/power amp alows much more to be hooked up
    I have a seperate DVD player and TV and I like digital radio and analoge tapes

    so this way my needs all come out of the same high quality speakers (which tend to be quite cheap £ wise)

    get yourself a good amp is my advice

    they dont cost that much if you dont go for a sony (-;

    look around their are bargins to be had
    (the cost of valves is low so why not make your own ;-)


    john jones
  • Headphones (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dohnut ( 189348 )

    I quit using speakers long ago. I still have them, but 99% of the time I wear high-quality, comfortable headphones. Why? I live in an apartment, so I can't run speakers loud enough to satisfy me without pissing off the neighbors. But neighbors aside, I might wear them anyway while playing 3D games. You can hear little things so much better, and it's easier for me to tell the direction of a sound. YMMV.

    • Yep thats what I'm going to do and for pretty much the same reasons. Playing Urban Terror [urbanterror.net] last night I realised how at a loss I was by not being able to pin point sounds. Not only that but I imagine I'll piss the wife off a lot less.

      Does anyone have any recommendations for a pair that will keep the sounds in, but won't totally dissociate myself from my surrondings? The lighter the better, too.
  • I'm personally quite fond of the Klipsch ProMedia speakers. They have 2.1, 4.1 and 5.1 sets. Plus the speakers and amplifier are THX-certified. Which, in most peoples' opinions, is complete overkill for PC audio, but who says overkill is a bad thing? :)
    http://www.klipsch.com/products/promedia/ [klipsch.com] for the ProMedia product line.
    • I second the Klipsch ProMedias. For computer speakers, they sound awesome. Do they sound as nice as good 5.1 surround sound satellites in a home theater setup ? No, but I don't even think the small satellites Klipsch sells for that purpose are as good as others (I've got Mirage speakers on my home stereo, much nicer midrange than the Klipsch). The Klipsch 2.1 setup for your PC is a bit pricey, but worth it. Spend anything more and, IMHO, you're in the realm of less & less bang for your buck. Great for gaming and more than good enough for music (if you're a serious music fan, you don't need to be listening to music on a PC anyway ;)
  • On my computer, for both listening to music and other such things I used to have a set of relitvly cheap speakers.. to be honest they sucked.

    So, I went out and bought myself a pair of sennheiser [sennheiser.com] headphones.

    Let me assure you, these things rock. If you get a descent model (i've got the HD200) the sound is awsome, and you dont disturb anyone else around you.
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @08:17PM (#2376373) Homepage
    I have 4 Studio monitors on stands behind my desk driven by a pair of crown studio amps which is connected to my mackie mixer and then the PC. I set the speakers on dynamat and I have 4 sonex panels on the walls to remove reflexions.

    That is what I consider a bare minimum for acceptable audio, but It'll cost you $3200.00.

    Do this if you are mixing music and/or doing non-linear video editing and audio work. Buying that so you can play Quake III or listen to limp Bizzzkit is completely insane. If you want decent quality buy a small amp and some decent speakers. Bose 301's or 201's sound very nice. and you can get a small 50 watt crown amp for around $450.00 including a pair of 201's this would be acceptable audio for home use but still way too much overkill for usual computer use.

    As for a subwoofer, a decent speaker system has no need for a subwoofer and they are only used for special effects or to make up for a crappy stereo system.
    • Nah, don't go for bose, look elsewhere, they are overpriced and underperforming (you might as well get a multimedia speaker setup than bose).
      • I have set of 301's that blow away everything I have even lookedat in the same price range. My bass is deeper (without a Sub) my highs are crisp and the direct reflection technology gives a stereo seperation that is unbelieveable. Most people fail miserably with bose because they don't read the manual and install the speakers in-correctly. Actually most people dont install speakers correctly and don't get to enjoy the full capabilities of whatever speakers they own. Also, there is no audio store on the planet that can correctly demonstrate bose speaker designs. they dont have salespeople with the knowlege to set them up correctly.
        • So, like he said, unless you're willing to screw away hours of your time just to find out that your listening room is not "bose compliant", don't get Bose speakers. Bose stuff can sound good, but the hassle isn't worth it for the majority of the sounds coming out of most anyone's computer. :)
  • Personally I have a...
    Audiophile 24/96 sound card -> ART DI/O digital analog convertor -> NAD C340 integrated amplifier -> Axiom Millenia M3Ti...
    Cost you over $1000 though but will whomp ANY multimedia speaker in existence.

    Also try the Acoustic Energy Aegios 1 (sp?), they are by far the BEST multimedia speakers available.

  • I've heard great things about the Klipsch Promedia 2.1's.

    I'm just trying to get them to Toronto, Canada. It seems klipsch.com only ships to the states, and all the regular sites (e.g. outpost.com) say "not for export". Also, I can't find a local dealer here. Anybody have any leads on these things in Toronto?
  • Pick up the friday/saturday/sunday newspaper and find a local flea market or yard sale. Find the heaviest receiver you can find (big transformer and big capacitors = good low end). Anything made in the past 25 years will do fine - don't hesitate to buy something from 1979. You'll pay $20 or less for it, and if it's bulky enough, it's likely to be able to drive that set of speakers sitting next to it (another $20) a lot cleaner than that 1-chip, plasticized, made-in-china speaker set that shipped with your machine. Just make sure the speakers aren't blown and the amp is working... ask to plug it in. If you want some better speakers, Yamaha makes a respectable set for under $99.

    I'm using a 1975 Harmon-Kardon receiver which was once sitting outside on someone's porch. It's not the loudest thing ever, but it makes my Boston Acoustics bookshelf speakers (made well before they got into the "computer speaker" business) sound sweet.

  • i used to use a 2.1 altec lansing set, which were very good. then i bought a Zen Triode amp (http://www.decware.com/zpage1.htm [decware.com]) and a pair of Celestion bookshelf speakers - my god. better surround sound out of 2 speakers and a sub (home-built, 10") than with any 4.1 pc speakers i've ever heard. costs a bit more (cause it's a damn good amp), but as long as you've got a pair of good speakers (like 92db sensitivity at least), you'll be laughing :)
  • I too have the Turtle Beach Santa Cruz sound card. Right now, i have on front and back Cambridge Soundworks FPS1800. They are actually quite nice. Hooked up to the versajack, I have an amp running two 8"s in a box and for sub, two 12"s in a bandpass filter box. Yes, the center and sub are made for cars stereo systems, but I pimp out my computer, not my car.

    The FPS1800 gives good sound all around. My 12's give a nice bass thump, and the 8's make for a good center (although I had to put them behind me.....) Oh well, you can only do so much in a dorm room.
  • Just bought a set of those today. Not earth-shattering, a simple subwoofer and 4 satellites, analog input only, but sound quality is excellent.

    Unless you are a real audiophile, this might just be a set worth looking into. It cost me only HFL 399,- (somewhere between $175,- and $200,-), and it is definitely worth it. Here is the link in case you're curious: A.3500 Speaker Set [philips.com]. They also have more upmarket stuff using the same technology.

    Hope this helps,

  • www.crutchfield.com has a decent quality rep for this kind of thing.
  • First of all good call on the Santa Cruz, it's a really decent part; It costs much, sounds fantastic and it takes up far less resources on Windows boxes (lay off you bastards, I like ALL the games).

    I just built another game box using the SC and pulled myCambridge Soundworks DTT3500 [creative.com]s (5.1 digital) off the other box that was using the SoundBlaster Live! Platinum. Even without the optical out the versa jack/din digital worked great and really sounds magnificent. I would hazard to say that the DTT3500s sound better for music and games on the Turtle beach part then did on Creative Labs part.

    Now the other part of the story... so since Klipsch is releasing 500watt ProMedia 5.1s, the 400 watt 4.1 version is much cheaper, so I lit out to BestBuy (of all freaking places) and picked up a set. The Klipsch ProMedia 4.1s are the best speakers I have ever heard for the money. Yeah, you can get some Polk Audios or B&Ws or whatever and spend $600 per speaker and have sound engineers come over and dance a little audio geek dance or whatever...

    But I am telling you this; find a store that has a good return policy on Klipsch ProMedia 4.1 [klipsch.com], after listening to them you will not be taking them back. Or you could wait and check into the ProMedia 5.1s that, from what I understand, take the product to an entirely higher stratum.

  • I have a sb16 (I know, I know) attached to a ancient Zenith AMp. The Amp is attached to 6 sets of speakers. Front, back, and two channels above me. The amp is so powerful, half volume shakes the house.
  • I have my aiwa mini system connected to my computer...It's one of those combo cd cassette radio tuner with 2 speakers...the old ones..from about 94 when mini systems didn't suck like all the shiny light show crap going on....

    also in my plans is to hook up a crossover and a pair of 12 inch subs to my system so i can make DVD watching much more fun :)

    if your just needing some decent speakers...i recommend the Harmon/Kardon's that come with dells...they sound good for their small size...
  • ...you're going to hook these up to your computer and play .mp3 or .ogg on them, right?

    If so, WHY BOTHER with getting $500 worth of speakers? You're sacrificing sound quality right there with the media you have chosen, so why get some outrageously expensive computer speakers or even worse, a dedicated amp/component stereo system?

    Just head down to your local computer store, try out a few 'good' speaker systems, and buy what you can afford. My Altec-Lansing ACS54's have worked fine for me.
  • I've been using my home stereo amp for my computer for years. I tried some of the speakers that have come with computers I've bought, and they've all sucked. Period. I don't care how expensive they've been (I've tried some 'good' ones), or whether or not they have an amplified subwoofer, they have all sucked. I honestly don't know why people use these things. I haven't come across a single set that sounded anythign remotely like my home stereo, or even a cheap set of headphones.
  • quality of the signal driving them.

    Try iZotope, a WinAmp plug in. It will take your speakers to places your sound card is not allowed to go.
    • http://www.winamp.com/plugins/browse.jhtml?categ or yName=DSP%2FEffect
  • After reading the responses, I went back and read again the question. Your focus is music and it seems that you're wanting to generate a near-field sound. If you have uncompromising space constraints, top quality headphones will be the way to go. There are two basic types, open (where the earpiece is set in an open foam and lets in room sounds as well... but your hand must not get too heavy on the throttles!), or closed (where the earpiece is a padded affair which seals completely around the ear). Any top brand that sounds good to you will do. I'd buy it new.

    If you insist on top notch sound but don't want headphones, then you'll need to get a quality external amplifier and monitor speakers. Previous writers have mentioned NAD and Crown amps. I've used these brands and there are others which are good too. From the price range you mention, I don't think there's any danger of you falling into the clutches of the tube-snobs. Any good quality solid state amp of adequate power will do. Speaking of power, inefficient personal equipment rated at 500 watts is silly puffery. Up close and personal, one (1) watt of radiated power is LOUD. My first career was in music and early on I formed a preference for the efficiency and response of JBL speakers. Used (not abused) equipment will be fine here, and save you a bundle.
  • I recently got a set of Harmon-kardon speakers and was wondering if maybe someone could tell me HOW to set them up instead of what to buy? Like ... speaker placement, subwoofer placement for the best sound in my carpeted, wood-paneled room?

    Any thoughts?
    • the 2 speakers and your head should form an equilateral triangle (all 3 distances the same) and have the speakers at ear level...that's about all you can do without changing your room's dimensions
  • I've used the Cambridge SoundWorks "PCWorks" amplified system on my computer for a few years. I've also given them to friends and relatives (who thought they needed a new sound card, but were pleasantly surprised with the new speakers) as gifts. They are a definite step up from the usual "give away" speakers that come with a computer system, and they're not expensive. I've even seen the system for $40 - 50 (US) in stores like Staples, MicroCenter, and others. You can also get them from www.hifi.com (1-800-for-hifi). Cambridge SoundWorks makes several 3- (and even) 5-piece systems for computers, so there's a good selection depending on your needs and budget.

    I don't work for any of those outfits, but thanks to a Scottish heritage, I do enjoy a good buy.

    Good luck on your shopping and let us know what you finally get.

  • $300 a pair, quite excellent nearfield monitors... I'm so happy with them that I'm considering buying 4 more for my living room.

  • Got two 6" Bose and two Yamaha studio monitors. A friend gave me a no name subwoofer. It makes the hair on my legs tingle. This is run through my wife's stage amp and mixer. UUURRRGGGHHH

    My friend has the Harmon Kardon sound sticks and subwoofer for his iMac. The sound very good. But my set up will kill small animals at 50 yards.

"If you lived today as if it were your last, you'd buy up a box of rockets and fire them all off, wouldn't you?" -- Garrison Keillor