Many of us spend tons of hours each week in front of our computer screens, often with music playing from our hard drives. In fact, a fair number of Playback readers do most of their music listening (and in some cases, movie watching) at their PCs. Given these realities, wouldn’t it make sense to get a high-quality desktop sound system that can help you make the most of your computer-based listening experiences? We certainly think so.
WHAT WE’RE UP TO
Because there are a staggering number of desktop sound systems on the market (some much better than others), Playback has spent the better part of the past year searching out some of the best options currently available. This roundup summarizes everything we’ve learned about great desktop systems thus far.
WELCOME TO THE GOOD STUFF
Believe it or not, today’s best desktop sound systems are simply light years better than the cheap’n’cheezy speaker systems most computer manufacturers supply (no offense, but PCs makers know a lot more about computers than they do about sound systems). The better desktop systems perform well enough that they can in many respect be compared to good quality standalone stereo systems, which is impressive. Some even sound a lot like the high-performance “near field” monitoring speakers found in most recording studios. Pretty cool, no?
ABOUT OUR ROUNDUP
Below, we’ll give a briefing on each desktop system we’ve reviewed to date, highlighting design features and performance/ functional pros and cons. Each briefing will be live-linked back to its associated fulllength review, so if you want to learn more about a particular system, just click and enjoy. Finally, at the end of the roundup, we provide suggestions for which system(s) to use in various real-world applications.
AND ONE MORE THING
If you dig the idea of killer a desktop sound system (and who wouldn’t), you might also want to check out this month’s “Pixels” section, which focuses on choosing high-performance computer monitors for work and play.
• A two-way, bi-amplified (tweeters and woofers each have their own separate amps), small monitor-type speaker. Each speaker is separately powered.
• Extensive EQ controls let you tailor the sound for your tastes, office acoustics
• Comes with solid metal tip-back stands to angle the speaker toward your ears.
• Optional matching Dynaudio Sub 250MC subwoofer available.
• Pedigree: Leverages Dynaudio’s expertise as a respected manufacturer of high-end, high-performance speaker driver units (tweeters, midrange drivers, woofers, etc.).
• A two-way, bi-amplified (tweeters and woofers have their own separate amps), small monitor-type speaker. Each speaker is separately powered.
• Leverages the basic design of Quad’s critically acclaimed, passive 11L monitor.
• Pedigree: The same people who brought us the world-famous Quad electrostatic speakers also created the 11L Active (and these guys know great sound).
• A two-way, self-powered, ultra-compact mini-monitor-type speaker.
• One speaker is passive, while the other is active, housing a stereo amp that powers both.
• Optional Audioengine AW1 premium wireless audio adapter available.
• Optional Audioengine S8 subwoofer available.
• An omnidirectional (radiates sound evenly in all directions), self-powered, 2.1-channel system (two satellite speakers plus a subwoofer).
• The system provides a total of five amplifiers (two each for the satellite tweeters and mid-bass drivers, and one for the sub), all housed in the subwoofer enclosure; CAT5-like cables handle connections between the sub and the satellites.
• DSP-driven (digital signal processing) EQ system ensures smooth frequency response in spites of reflections from desktop surfaces.
• Pedigree: Uses technologies developed by THX Chief Scientist Laurie Fincham (formerly head of engineering for KEF loudspeakers