Searching for good but cheap 2.1 (or maybe 5.1?) computer speakers

Right now, I have these speakers. Yes, they're horrible. I bought them last year to supplement my laptop, this was before I got a good rig for which I would need good speakers. The sad thing right now is that I get better audio fidelity using my headset (which, admittedly, cost $40), but I want the full experience. Problem here is that I am a poor college kid ( :( ) and can only justify... maybe $50. So I have a pair of questions:

1.) Is there a relatively speaker solution that will be able to blow that set out of the water? Looking at Newegg, I can see dozens of 2.1 setups and a few 5.1 setups I MIGHT be able to BARELY afford (but are they any good?) Now, this is a dorm room, so I'm guessing a great pair of 2.1s trumps a cheap set of 5.1s, and if the 5.1 sets in my budget are trumped by cheaper 2.1 setups (that are more powerful or have better whatever quality I'm looking for in speakers), then the 2.1s are preferred. There is a single 4.1 solution, is this any good?

2.) If I DO end up getting a new 2.1 setup, is there any way I can use the speakers I already have for the rear speakers and make an ad-hoc 4.1 setup of my own? Or would it not work that way? I mean, in my Audio Manager (using on-board for now, and no, I am NOT getting a sound card as that is beyond my budget), I can set up a 'quadraphonic' setup and mark the speakers in the rear as being not-fullsize (see pic below):



Would that allow me to use my existing speakers? I'd rather not get rid of them if I can, they are cheap but they're still good... well, functioning anyway.

Help would be very much appreciated, I look forward to any advice!
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More about searching good cheap computer speakers
  1. There are no good speakers that are cheap. Use HiFi speakers, and get an amplifier to go between the computer and the speakers. That's you best shot.
  2. ROTH OLI RA2 Price: £150
  3. now, there are pc speakers you could get for $50 which are acceptable in quality. not stellar or award winning but decent for the price. i'd look at the logitech z323 if you wanted to go that route.

    yes, you would be able to do some sort of quadraphonic setup (though bass response might be odd due to having two subwoofers. i'm not sure how good quadraphonic support is in terms of downgrading 5.1 sound to quad but my guess would be that it should work (and even if it doesnt you can still just use the 2.1 set on its own).

    if you wanted a step up though in terms of quality, i'd make a mini hifi system. however on your budget you cant have a sub (you can add one later down the road). generally this http://www.cnet.com/news/build-your-own-desktop-stereo-for-under-70/ with the cheap lepai 2020 and b652's is the most suggested route though the micca mb42 and pioneer bs22 are other good options and might actually be a better choice than the daytons.

    b652's (or other entry level hifi speakers) will blow away pc speakers like the z323 in terms of quality. theres a rather large jump between pc speakers and hifi.

    edit: temporarily it would be possible to use your powered amp that came with your not-so-good pc speaker set as a subwoofer for a hifi set. the subwoofer might be rather bad and take away from the sound, but its an option. you could do this easily by using a splitter on the green front out jack, sending it to both the amp and the sub (i'd disconnect the speakers from it though so you'd only have a 2.1)
  4. 1) I had these speakers for a while and thought they were pretty decent. They're not going to blow you away, but they're probably significantly better than what you have now, and the price is pretty good. I'm a poor college student too, and they sounded pretty decent in my opinion, even in my slightly-larger-than-a-dorm apartment.

    Other people are suggesting a HiFi system, and while they're definitely right, it would sound much better, it is probably out of your price range right now. For reference, though, my current setup is a pair of Klipsch B-10 bookshelf speakers that I got on sale for $70 (discontinued now, but you can still find them around), a Cheng Sheng hs-9004 amp (I have a Lepai 2020 too, but I find this to be a little better), and a Dayton Sub-1000. As ssddx mentioned, you could start without a subwoofer, but I would say if you're going to do that the computer speaker system might actually be better. The frequency response is probably better, if not the quality, but a lot of times that will sound better overall. Furthermore, these mini amps really can't drive the power necessary for decent bass through bookshelf speakers without horribly distorting the highs.

    2) Yes, you can absolutely use your old speakers as rear surround speakers! I actually did that same thing for a while. Some people will say it will sound wonky due to having two subwoofers, and they're probably technically right, but I actually thought it sounded pretty cool. If you play games at all, then things like grenades going off behind you makes a great bass sound from behind. It is not so noticeable in movies, though. One thing to note, though, is that if your old speakers are A LOT worse than your new ones, a setup like this might sort of drag the new speakers down (this is why I stopped doing this when I got actual high-quality bookshelf speakers).
  5. agreed, generally all hifi setups are above budget ($50) however for about $70 they are certainly possible. whether that is okay depends on if you wanted to upgrade to something nicer or if budget was the most important factor.

    small amps will definitely have trouble at higher volumes (especially on bassier songs) though at lower to moderate listening levels they are fine (you cant expect perfection from a $20 amp).

    bass output from smaller bookshelf speakers is generally enough to get you by until you can add a subwoofer later (decent sub will cost you $60-80 on its own) but is not stellar. the subwoofer included on your first pc speakers could fill this gap though the difference in quality might not make this a good solution.

    ultimately its personal preference as to whether someone wants to go with a 2.0 hifi or 2.1 pc speaker set. i'd certainly suggest a little more added reading on the topic. there really is no wrong choice as long as you're happy with it.

    also, take a look on used marketplace. sometimes you can score some great deals on good equipment for next to nothing. for instance, i found some klipsch quintet iii's i could have gotten for $75 (i have the iv's which were $550 new). i see amplifiers and receivers going for $5-20 all the time. mostly auctions, flea markets, yard sales. never underestimate used.
  6. ssddx said:
    agreed, generally all hifi setups are above budget ($50) however for about $70 they are certainly possible. whether that is okay depends on if you wanted to upgrade to something nicer or if budget was the most important factor.

    small amps will definitely have trouble at higher volumes (especially on bassier songs) though at lower to moderate listening levels they are fine (you cant expect perfection from a $20 amp).

    bass output from smaller bookshelf speakers is generally enough to get you by until you can add a subwoofer later (decent sub will cost you $60-80 on its own) but is not stellar. the subwoofer included on your first pc speakers could fill this gap though the difference in quality might not make this a good solution.

    ultimately its personal preference as to whether someone wants to go with a 2.0 hifi or 2.1 pc speaker set. i'd certainly suggest a little more added reading on the topic. there really is no wrong choice as long as you're happy with it.

    also, take a look on used marketplace. sometimes you can score some great deals on good equipment for next to nothing. for instance, i found some klipsch quintet iii's i could have gotten for $75 (i have the iv's which were $550 new). i see amplifiers and receivers going for $5-20 all the time. mostly auctions, flea markets, yard sales. never underestimate used.


    Used is definitely a good place to look! For whatever reason, audio equipment seems to sell used for a small fraction of what it cost new. I guess a lot of people just don't really know the value of these things, so they let them go cheap.
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