Computer Speakers Overview

Feb 28, 2012 No Comments by

You can often tell how seriously the industry takes a particular product by virtue of the brand names involved. For example, iPod speaker docks used to be cheap and cheerful, mirroring the utility and ubiquity of iPods and then iPhones. Part of the reason for this was the licensing deals companies had to strike with Apple to use the ‘made for iPod/iPhone’ logo. Because the licensee paid a percentage (10, apparently) of the wholesale value of the item to Apple, selling a high-end, high-value product meant giving more money to Apple. Another factor is that Apple has a nasty habit of changing the configuration of the connector pins, leaving anyone whose dedicated products used the former configuration with a warehouse full of suddenly redundant product. So whereas there’s big money to be made from selling Apple-licensed accessories, Apple’s tendency to only announce hardware changes close to product launch can leave such manufacturers seriously out of pocket. But when the likes of Arcam, B&W and Meridian joined Bose in the dock-fray, you could be reasonably certain that quality was on the up. The iPod was no longer just a handy way to store and listen to thousands of tunes but also a potential hi-fi component.

LaCie Sound speakers

The same trend is developing with computer speakers. Until decent sound cards arrived in PCs and Macs, there was no point having quality speakers because they’d only amplify the awfulness. Blame/thank iTunes and the explosion in gaming. Suddenly there was a reason to fit PCs with a high-end sound card and equally to have speakers that could make that card sing. Unlike laptops, desktop PCs didn’t have built-in speakers, so you had to buy them as add-on accessories. Initially they were tinny little boxes geared towards simple functionality rather than high fidelity but eventually designers began to play with speaker form, both in terms of shape and size, until we ended up with speakers such as the Harman/Kardon Soundsticks or JBL’s Creature range.

Today there is even more reason to invest in high-performance PC speakers: Internet-based catch-up TV services such as BBC’s iPlayer, online music streaming from Spotify, the gradual enhancement of audio-visual quality on YouTube, video-on-demand (VoD) channels and the continued proliferation of ever-more-sophisticated video games. As much as it’s now common for TVs to be hooked up to a 5.1 surround sound system, the same is often true for PCs.

Klipsch GMX 5.1 surround speakers


We’re supposing that not too many Fogies are fervent video-gamers and those that are will likely already have a dedicated multi-channel surround-sound set up to accompany their travails in World of Warcraft and Call of Duty. Likewise if you enjoy your music and listen while noodling away on a PC, you’ll probably already have at least a pair of dedicated stereo speakers and maybe a sub-woofer on the floor to accentuate the bass notes.

For more information see the Buying Guide.