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Bringing Home The Bass: 2.1-Channel Speaker Roundup

Test Setup And Benchmarks

Most PC speaker reviews are limited to subjective opinions. While those are quite useful, this is Tom’s Hardware. We’re going to try to go a little deeper than that with some objective measurements, too.

Our measurements are taken with a calibrated Apex 220 measurement microphone that has a phantom power supplied by TubeMP preamp. The measurement software we use is TrueRTA audio-spectrum analyzer level 4, found at www.trueaudio.com. Testing is done in a 25’x15’ room with the microphone pointed upward 30” from the satellites and subwoofer.

Mini-ITX Half-Height Build
CPUAMD Phenom II X4 705e2.5 GHz, 6 MB L3 Cache, 65 W TDP
MotherboardAsus M4A88T-I Deluxe Socket AM3 Chipset: AMD 880G, BIOS 0410
NetworkingOnboard Gigabit LAN controller
MemoryMushkin PC3 10700 SO-DIMM  2 x 2048 MB, 1333 MT/s, CL 9-9-9-24-1T
GraphicsRadeon HD 5570650 MHz GPU, 512 MB DDR3 at 900 MHz
Hard DriveWestern Digital Caviar Black 750 GB 7200 RPM, 32 MB Cache, SATA 3Gb/s
PowerIn-Win IP-AD120-2 160 W (included with case)
AudioRealtek ALC889High-Definition Audio Codec
Software and Drivers
Operating SystemMicrosoft Windows 7 x64
DirectX versionDirectX 11
Graphics DriversAMD Catalyst 10.11
  • hmp_goose
    It's you: Where the hell are my 5.1 sets?
    Reply
  • Mark Heath
    Interesting.. thanks for the article. :)
    Reply
  • jazn1337
    Dang, I was hoping you guys would look at the Swan M10s.
    Reply
  • clownbaby
    Wow, those freq response graphs are pretty telling that computer speakers are basically all trash. The bass peaks and generally crappiness in the mid range seem to be a common theme. Almost no consideration seems to be given to music listening.

    2.1 is the ideal setup for a computer imo. 4.1 at most. A center channel just isn't needed for monitor sized screens.

    You can buy a cheap onkyo receiver, some low end bookshelf speakers and a small sub for a few hundred bucks and have sound that will destroy the best pc speakers.

    The fact is, pc speakers are toys. There is no high end option. What they market as high end would be laughed out the door by the regular audio comminuty.

    p.s. Plastic is not an acceptable cabinet material
    Reply
  • clownbaby
    this is what frequency response graphs of decent speakers should look like.

    http://www.speakerdesignworks.com/StatementCenterChannelResponsePlots.JPG
    Reply
  • tigerwraith
    My Logitech G51 speakers have a Headphone and mic passthrough on the remote.
    Reply
  • clownbaby
    this is a frequency response graph of the first diy speaker I built from a popular design. This is a super budget MTM speaker.

    http://www.speakerdesignworks.com/TritrixMTMfr.gif
    Reply
  • d0gr0ck
    clownbabyWow, those freq response graphs are pretty telling that computer speakers are basically all trash. The bass peaks and generally crappiness in the mid range seem to be a common theme. Almost no consideration seems to be given to music listening.2.1 is the ideal setup for a computer imo. 4.1 at most. A center channel just isn't needed for monitor sized screens.You can buy a cheap onkyo receiver, some low end bookshelf speakers and a small sub for a few hundred bucks and have sound that will destroy the best pc speakers. The fact is, pc speakers are toys. There is no high end option. What they market as high end would be laughed out the door by the regular audio comminuty.p.s. Plastic is not an acceptable cabinet material
    Pretty much this. I've been telling people for ages that their super-duper PC speakers aren't. Any brand that quotes max power over RMS values raises an instant red flag for me. Even 20yr old Radioshack shelf speakers can run circles on most modern PC speakers.

    I die a little bit every time I hear someone with a premium add-in sound card is running generic PC speakers.
    Reply
  • tigsounds
    This is all Go out and buy it junk. Build your own and end up with something that rattles the neighbors nerves if done right.
    Reply
  • Mark Heath
    For all those who trash all PC speakers, they're usually the best option on the lower end of the scale. There are people out there who have compared entry level (sub 400) active speakers to the Klipsch Promedia set (best active speakers ~150 for sound quality imo) and they say that they're not that different. If you do it right, then it's not as bad as you might think.
    Reply