Computer audio speakers are one of the fundamental components, because they are able to give you emotions that with a degraded sound you would never be able to have, during your gaming experience, your favorite movie or music.
Although many computer monitors are now equipped with internal speakers, which allow the user to listen to music or video content at no extra cost, this solution remains totally inadequate for those seeking discreet sound quality and volume. That’s why external speakers are among the most sought after products by many users who use their computer for a variety of activities, including gaming, watching movies and listening to their favorite playlists.
PC speakers structure
First of all, there is a very important point that is often overlooked by most users: as a rule, the playback of audio tracks is supported, along with many other functions, by the motherboard of your computer. This means that, even using the best speakers on the market, the result may not be as good as expected. So if you want to ensure really high sound quality, you should have a dedicated sound card that can handle the playback of audio files of all kinds.
It must also be considered that each system is composed of several parts, each with its own functions, which it is essential to know in order to choose the solution that best suits your needs. So let’s try to understand which are the various components of an audio system for the computer.
also called speakers or loudspeakers, they are the most generic term to indicate simple speakers (usually at least two) that reproduce the full range of possible sounds, from speech to sound effects, without any particular specialization. They are the most widespread and cheapest on the market;
often present in medium complex systems, it is a device dedicated only to the reproduction of the lowest frequencies, which in this way are particularly amplified. The addition of this component means more space, especially considering that very often the subwoofer is larger than the other parts of the audio system. In addition, some users believe that this particular bass amplification can affect the quality and clarity of the sound;
present only in the most complex systems, it indicates a component mainly dedicated to the reproduction of dialogues and, during video playback, of what happens exactly in front of the viewer;
often referred to as satellites, generally part of complex systems, and are dedicated to the reproduction of music and sound effects. Generally they are placed at the sides of the spectator, they can be distinguished according to their position (right or left) and in more advanced systems they are also able to reproduce sounds and dialogues by following a movement towards one of the two sides. This is a function particularly appreciated by cinema lovers, being especially suitable for the reproduction of films.
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What system? 2.0, 2.1 o 5.1 ?
Basically, there are three different types of PC speakers that differ essentially in the number of speakers in the kit:
The first digit indicates the number of speakers called ‘satellites’, the second (the one after the dot) indicates the presence or absence of the subwoofer.
In a 2.0 system we will therefore find a pair of stereo speakers able to offer an excellent performance on the mid and high frequencies, partially sacrificing the lower frequencies (as we will see later, however, there are 2.0 systems that, thanks to excellent bass reflex systems, can still not make you regret the absence of the sub). These systems are indicated when a high presence (and power) on the low frequencies is not required and/or when the space at our disposal is limited.
Systems 2.1 add, compared to systems of the first type, a loudspeaker (subwoofer) specifically designed to effectively reproduce only the low frequencies; these are the systems indicated for those who are looking for a more immersive experience both in gaming and to watch movies of a certain type or to reproduce musical genres in which low frequencies are dominant.
The 5.1 systems also include two additional speakers to be positioned behind the listener and a central speaker to be positioned frontally (normally centred with the monitor); the strong point of these systems (however a bit complex in terms of wiring and connection) is undoubtedly the spatiality and involvement they manage to generate. If you don’t have problems of budget and space, a 5.1 (quality) system will undoubtedly make you happy.
The size of the room, in which the speakers will be installed, is also a parameter to be taken into account; if the room is small, a 5.1 system would be wasted and could not work properly (the audio coming from the various speakers, if they are too close together, could blur and mingle). Conversely, if the room is very large and the listener’s position is far away from the source, a 2.1 system may not be enough.
As a matter of fact, if you have a limited budget, I strongly recommend, rather than investing in cheap 2.1 or 5.1 systems, to choose a simple two-speaker system but of quality; surely you won’t regret this choice.
PC gaming speakers
We believe that the crates that are sold and designed specifically for gaming are more of a marketing stunt. Of course they may differ from traditional loudspeakers for their particular design and usually more aggressive and colorful look, but the technical specifications and audio peculiarities are the same we look for in a system to listen to music or watch movies.
The only real difference in a set of gaming speakers could be the presence of a dedicated microphone input (which however is present on all PCs or consoles) to simplify audio communication with other players.
However, if you want the best in gaming, a 5.1 system could really take you to the next level… Do you want to hear stealthy steps slowly approaching behind you while you’re playing Counter Strike, Doom or games like that?
Do I need a sound card or an external amplifier?
Almost all PC systems come with an integrated power amp inside one of the speakers (for 2.0 systems) or in the subwoofer for systems that have one. These are therefore active type speakers.
All the models reviewed (with the exception of the solution proposed by Klipsch) are of this type and the quality of the integrated amplifiers is of good level and with a circuit specially designed to make the best with the type of speakers to which they are paired, considering as main source of listening a
Amplifier Personal Computer sound card.
As far as the sound card is concerned, the speech is slightly different, if inside the PC we have a sound card of poor quality, like those integrated in the motherboard, when we put stress on the system, the quality may suffer.
Bluetooth or wired speakers?
If you have no connection problems (distances, places difficult to reach, etc. …) go easy with wired speakers, you can not go wrong.
They cost less, are practically insensitive to noise, have no batteries to replace and are more reliable.
bluetooth Wireless speakers (using bluetooth or wifi technology) have conversion and re-conversion systems for the audio stream (necessary to transmit it over the air) which, although very efficient, can slightly alter the overall audio quality and listening dynamics.
If the connections between one speaker and the other were complicated (or impossible), a set of Bluetooth speakers of excellent quality could solve an otherwise insurmountable installation problem, while still maintaining a more than acceptable listening quality.
The frequency response
The frequency range (which you will find indicated in the data sheets of each speaker) is the parameter that defines the frequency range within which the speakers can work.
The more this range is ‘open’ the wider the sound bouquet the speakers will be able to reproduce.
But be careful! This parameter is very indicative, of course it can be useful to have a term of comparison between one set and another, but the real parameter to consider is the frequency response, i.e. how the speaker, during playback, alters each frequency.
This parameter is basically the characteristic sound tone of each speaker, the way it ‘colours’ the sound.
The ideal speakers (those used in recording studios) are those that have a frequency response that is as ‘flat’ as possible, i.e. able not to alter the reproduced sound in any way, in order to make it perceive (to the producer) as neutral and faithful as possible to that emitted by the recorded instrument (or voice).
A loudspeaker of this type, in the gaming (and similar) sector, would be discouraged; in these sectors it is better to prefer loudspeakers that (unlike studio loudspeakers) emphasize and highlight the low and high frequencies (for example) to create greater impact and involvement for the listener.
The Bass Reflex system
To simplify, we can say that each loudspeaker, present inside each acoustic speaker, projects sound waves (perfectly identical) in two distinct directions: the front one (useful for the listener to hear the reproduction) and the rear one.
The frequencies that are diffused from the rear side can create, by reflection, rumbles or even (as far as those in counterphase) actually erase part of the frequencies correctly projected in the front.
This phenomenon of cancellation of some frequencies is much more evident on the low frequencies (from 200Hz down), so a speaker that doesn’t adopt the right technical construction on the cone itself (considerable size, rigidity, etc…) may lack ‘bass’.
bass reflex The bass reflex system has been studied to counteract this phenomenon and, thanks to a mechanical system (a particular duct called reflex tube), it is able to convey to the front of the speaker the sound component that would be projected towards the back (actually rephasing it) and add it to the ‘useful’ signal.
There is an almost infinite diatribe between those who believe that a closed cabinet (air suspension, acoustic, etc. …) is better than a bass reflex… but with these issues we are trespassing a bit ‘too much in the field of Hi-Fi and it is not my intention to bore you with these technicalities.
For PC loudspeakers, go with bass reflex without thinking about it! Modern production and engineering technologies have made great strides and these systems can now be designed and dimensioned in an extremely accurate and functional way.
Efficiency – Signal Noise Ratio (SNR)
The efficiency, a parameter that you will find later expressed in decibels (dB), represents (in simple terms) how much the audio signal is greater than unwanted noise (always present in any speaker).
The higher the efficiency value (called SNR, acronym for Signal Noise Ratio – SN in English) the more ‘clean’ the reproduction will be. Conversely, low values of this parameter will be indicative of poor quality speakers that tend to reproduce background signal in an annoyingly present way.
Systems equipped with subwoofers tend to have a lower SNR than 2.0 systems due to the construction characteristics of the woofer itself and could (if not properly designed or of low quality) generate a very annoying hum or background noise.
one of the most important values to consider, indicates the maximum power that can be absorbed by the speakers continuously over time, without undergoing any variation. It is expressed by the RMS value (or RMS Watt, or RMS Watt), which can range from a minimum of 3 W, up to over 500 W in high-end devices. Although higher power also offers a theoretically higher maximum volume, in non-professional systems the sound quality will hardly remain clear, so you need to find the best combination of power and volume, depending on the product you are using. It is also a fundamental value to consider if you want to add amplifiers to your system, which must be able to support the power of the speakers themselves;
Peak Power or PMPO (Peak Music Power Output)
indicates the maximum power that can be absorbed by the speakers in a very short time, whose effective duration is practically never present in the manufacturers’ technical data sheets. It is a figure that usually increases proportionally to the continuous power, which represents a much more significant value than the single peak in a fraction of the time (which, moreover, is not regulated, and is therefore at the manufacturer’s discretion). For the most part, it can be considered a marketing tool and not an actual quality index;
Impedance: this value indicates the resistance that the speaker opposes to the current, which will then be absorbed by the speakers. The lower the impedance, the higher the current received by the speaker. This is very important to consider, as it can significantly affect the volume and sharpness of the sound. It is also a fundamental value for the coupling of any amplifiers, as too much power could cause damage to some components of the system. Commercially available loudspeakers can have an impedance of 2, 4, 8 or 16 Ohm, offering choices to suit all needs.
Obviously there are different types of connectors for audio devices that can be associated with your computer, each with particular advantages and disadvantages. Before proceeding with any purchase, we recommend that you carefully check if your PC has all the necessary ports to correctly associate different types of speakers. Let’s see what are the most common audio connection methods currently available.
AUX: this is a 3.5 mm jack cable socket (the same one used for headphones), it is the most common output and the easiest to associate to any computer. For more complex systems, however, at least three AUX ports are often required, which may require the separate purchase of a splitter;
PC speakers AUX output
RCA: This is an analog cable, which is used mainly in audio systems not specifically designed for computers. Usually you have to use a combination of cables to connect them to your PC, which requires more space and extra expense, but you can enjoy much higher audio quality;
Wireless: Mostly uses Bluetooth technology, and while it avoids the clutter of several wires, it may present compatibility problems or limited connection stability.
USB: this standard is very common among the cheapest speakers, but usually serves only as a power supply for the speakers (thus replacing the classic power socket). It helps to greatly reduce the footprint and to use the speakers also in mobility, representing a good option for those who have a laptop and are often on the road.