Lesson 3- Speaker component – how do computer speakers work


In lesson 3 we’ll cover both stereo and surround sound speaker sets, what features and specs to look for when shopping, how do computer speakers work and how much you can expect to pay.

When choosing a speaker set for your computer you should consider the sound quality and the number of speakers.

When searching for a speaker set you should take into account power, dynamic range and frequency response.


Power (Watts)

The power of a speaker set is measured in Watts per speaker. For good sound quality, 20 watts per speaker is a good minimum. The best speaker sets have 50 watts per speaker.

Dynamic Range
Dynamic range is the ability of a speaker set to go from a whisper, to an extremely loud sound. This is important for creating life like sound. There is no measurement for dynamic range, so it is determined by the amount of system power and quality of that power. The more you spend, the wider the dynamic range.

Frequency Response
Frequency response is the range from low to high sounds a speaker system can reproduce. Look for a system that can reproduce at least 50Hz to 20,000 Hz. The accuracy of reproduction is important. Listen for even levels. Some speakers will be too heavy in the mid range sounds where most instruments and vocals are heard and very light in the low and high frequencies. Find a speaker set that sounds even over all ranges.

Number of Speakers
The number of speakers is something to take into consideration. Basic computer speakers, called 2.0, will have 2 speakers for left and right stereo. 2.1 speaker sets add a subwoofer for reproducing low bass sounds.
A speaker set with 5 speakers and a subwoofer, called a 5.1 speaker set, will give you surround sound, which is good for games and movies, but you need to decide if you have space for more speakers.
A center channel speaker will sit in front, just below, or on top of the computer monitor. The rear speakers need a place behind you and the subwoofer needs a spot on the floor. If you have the extra space, multi speaker sets are a good investment. Be sure the sound card you buy for your system, or the sound built into the motherboard, supports the type of multi speaker set you choose.

As with all things, you get what you pay for.

  • 2.0 speaker sets run between $10 and $130. For good sound we recommend spending at least $40.
  • 2.1 speaker sets run between 20 and 250 dollars. For good sound we recommend spending at least 60 dollars.
  • 5.1 speaker sets run between 70 and 400 dollars. We recommend spending at least 130 dollars
Sound Quality
Sound quality is very subjective. A set of speakers that sound excellent to one person might sound bad to another. If you’re buying a speaker set online, look for reviews and read through several to get a broad opinion base. Whenever possible, go to a local store to hear the speakers yourself. In the end, you should trust your own ears.

Speaker Warranties

Computer speakers are generally very reliable and will last for many years. A typical manufacturer warranty is 1 year, though you can find longer and shorter periods.

Speaker Reviews

To find more reviews do a search in your favorite search engine (Google, Yahoo) for the model number of the speaker set you’re interested in.

Buying a Speaker Set
Whether you buy a 2.1 or surround sound speaker set there is no shortage of choices. Below are several sites that will help you find the lowest price from a reputable merchant.