When basic computer speakers fail to give you the kind of sound you want from your computer, a set of surround sound computer speakers is the way to go. In this guide, we will go over the types of surround sound computer speakers out there and things you should be looking for in a speaker system. We'll also go over some of the top brands in the industry to help you get started.
Computer speakers in general come in four types: 2.0 channel, 2.1 channel, 5.1 channel and 7.1 channel. This guide will only go over the last two types, however, because these are the only two that provide surround sound. The 2.0 and 2.1 channel speakers are basic stereo speakers, the only difference being that 2.1 speakers feature a subwoofer for extra bass.
A set of 5.1 channel speakers is your baseline if you are looking for rich and realistic sound. They are commonly used for gaming setups and home theater systems because they feature five speakers and a subwoofer that can be positioned in various places around the room. This set makes you feel as though you are in the middle of all the action. In fact, some surround systems will make you look over your shoulder to make sure something didn't just blow up behind you!
A pricier set of 7.1 channel speakers also includes a subwoofer. Like the 5.1 channel system, the 7.1 channel system is also used for gaming and home theater systems. The additional channels give you more detailed sound than the 5.1 channel system would. The benefit of this is that you have more satellite speakers to work with and therefore more directions the sound can come from. This gives you significantly more realistic sound as a result.
Imagine the points on a compass for a moment. A surround sound system's speakers should ideally be positioned much like the points on the compass for the best effect. This is especially critical if you are purchasing a surround system for gaming purposes. When an enemy ambushes you, you need to know where the ambush is coming from. You do not have to position the speakers all around the room if it is a large space, simply the part of the room you intend to use it in.
Do remember that what makes sound stand out can be rather subjective. Whenever possible, it is best to listen to the system in person so you can judge the sound quality for yourself. If this isn't possible, research your chosen system as extensively as possible before buying. Keep an eye out for any potential hardware conflicts, known issues and the short list of other factors listed below.
This is the primary reason you buy a surround system in the first place. Trust your ears; if the speakers sound terrible to you, they will ruin the experience.
Higher wattage does not necessarily translate into better sound. Having a higher wattage system is pointless in a small apartment and vice versa.
Surround sound speaker systems can have an incredibly wide price range, starting at a few hundred dollars and up to thousands of dollars. Also beware of systems that offer deep bass at lower price ranges, as they may be disguising poor sound quality.
Wired surround systems tend to have lengthy and frail cables connecting the speakers to their central unit. If you have small children, pets or a crowded living space, you may want to consider a wireless system instead.
This is important if you decide in the future that you would rather have your speakers connected to your television. If the system features HDMI connectivity, you should be since most televisions and computers have at least one HDMI port.
The Logitech Z Series, which includes the formidable 5.1 channel Logitech Z-5500 system, feature Dolby and DTS support meaning phenomenal sound quality whether you are watching Transformers or Twilight.
The Polk RM Series is another popular 5.1 home theater system with a remarkable knack for filling large spaces effortlessly and a straightforward wiring system.
This inexpensive set is not paired with cheap sound, providing wall-mountable satellite speakers and a surprisingly strong home theater and gaming experience.
The Onkyo SKS series is an incredibly powerful 7.1 channel system on an incredible price point that are fantastic for both gaming and home theater systems alike.
Bose's Acoustimass systems may look like lightweights, but the crisp and detailed audio will soon prove otherwise, whether you are watching the latest blockbuster, listening to your favorite tunes or playing an intense round of Call of Duty.