The audio component of the PC multimedia revolution has for many years been sorely neglected, with many new computers supplied with speakers that are quite simply terrible. Little plastic speakers can
The audio component of the PC multimedia revolution has for many years been sorely neglected, with many new computers supplied with speakers that are quite simply terrible. Little plastic speakers cannot deliver solid bass. Nor can they deliver crisp, clear treble, high volumes, low distortion levels or accurate sound. Even the better multimedia PCs can deliver a vastly improved audio experience by adding a new set of powered speakers.
In this months Labs we look at eight such systems. All of them use satellite speakers to provide the mid-range and high frequencies, and compact subwoofers to deliver the bass. And all of them are surround systems, which means they have at least four satellites in addition to the subwoofer.
These days, real multimedia no longer means just playing an audio CD in the PCs CD-ROM drive. It means taking advantage of the full, immersive multichannel surround sound on the newest games or extracting those 5.1 channels of Dolby Digital from a DVD.
But even with good components and careful design, PC speakers have to operate in an environment that does not lend itself to optimum performance. Ideally, speakers should have plenty of air around them to reduce the short-path reflections that can affect performance. But this cant be achieved with PC speakers due to the obstruction caused by the monitor and the desktop upon which they rest.
Home theatre subwoofers work best in a corner, but that solution wont work for many computer installations either. With the relatively high crossover frequency of these systems, the subwoofer has to be situated under the desk or the bass wont merge seamlessly with the satellite speakers sound production. Most hi-fi speaker systems are also calibrated to be set up several metres from the listener, while computer speakers need to reach optimum levels while placed less than one metre from the user.
Computer speakers have a hard role to fill. Are any of these eight surround speaker systems up to the challenge?
Editor: Tim Dean
Labs Manager: Ashok Zaman
Writer: Stephen Dawson
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This Group Test appeared in the December, 2001 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine