PC speakers review

We tested 16 speaker systems to see which gives the best boom for your buck.
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Test results for 16 PC speaker systems, priced from $85 to $300

The PC speaker market is 'booming' if you’ll pardon the pun, driven by the growth in high quality multimedia — from music and DVD movies to games and even websites.

While stereo sound is standard on even the cheapest laptop, size restrictions mean it usually sounds pretty 'tinny', and many desktop systems don’t come with any speakers at all. For anyone wanting good quality sound, buying a set of external speakers is a no-brainer.

But which type should you buy? Will a set of stereo speakers — a 2.0 system — do the job well enough? What about adding a subwoofer to boost the bass, making it a 2.1 system? And what about adding even more speakers to give you home theatre-style 5.1 channel surround sound?

For our test, we chose a selection of popular speakers which can be used with both PC and Mac, including four 2.0 channel systems, seven 2.1 channel systems and five 5.1 (surround sound) systems. Of these, three systems were compact (portable) speakers: the JBL On Tour XT, the Yamaha NX-A01 and the Sony Travel Speakers.

The most interesting thing our test showed is that quality sound does not depend on bigger speakers or more of them — some smaller speakers were among the top performers.

Please note: this information was current as of May 2008 but is still a useful guide to today's market.

In brief

  • You don’t have to pay top dollar to get good sound quality.
  • Bigger is not necessarily better.
  • 2.1 channel can sound better than 5.1. 3

Brands tested

  • Harman Kardon Soundsticks II
  • Edifier Multimedia Speaker S2.1M (S330)
  • Altec Lansing FX4021
  • Logitech Z-2300
  • Edifier M2600 Multimedia Speaker
  • Cyber Acoustics 5.1 Amplified Speaker System CA-5001
  • JBL On Tour XT portable
  • Logitech X-530
  • Altec Lansing VS4121
  • Cyber Acoustics Amplified Speaker System CA-3892
  • Creative Inspire T6100
  • Creative GigaWorks T40
  • Bose Companion 2 Series II
  • Edifier M1550 Multimedia Speaker
  • Yamaha NX-A01
  • Sony Travel Speakers for Walkman/PC SRS-T57


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