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PC Speakers: specifications, types

Speakers

The number of individual speakers included in the package. In most cases, here, in fact, the sound format supported by the kit is indicated, and the actual number of speakers also corresponds to it. For example, the 2.0 kit includes a regular pair of stereo speakers (no subwoofer); this is most often considered quite sufficient for listening to music. 2.1 is two main speakers plus a subwoofer, 5.1 is five speakers (centre, front pair, rear pair) and a subwoofer. It is worth noting here that 5.1 is the most advanced format found in modern computer acoustics. It already allows you to achieve the effect of surround sound "from all sides" and at the same time is relatively inexpensive. More extensive sets — 7.1, etc. — should be looked for already in general-purpose acoustics.

A specific case is models in the form of a single column. Usually, they are stereo systems (2.0), made in the format of "soundbars" — two speakers (or two sets of speakers) in one common housing. In some situations, such devices are more convenient than separate speakers; on the other hand, soundbars are more bulky and do not allow you to change the relative position of the speakers, adjusting the sound. Therefore, this option is rare nowadays.

Lines

The number of individual frequency bands played by the speaker. At least one specialized speaker is allocated for each such band.

The point of using multiple frequency bands is that for different frequencies, the optimal design of the speakers will also be different (for example, it is better to make tweeters small, and woofers large). Thus, dividing the sound into bands improves the sound. In turn, the advantage of single-way speakers are compactness and lower cost.

Models for 2(LF / HF) or 3 bands(LF / MF / HF) are considered classic options for multi-band computer speakers. There are also 2.5 acoustics — it has 2 separate speakers for bass and treble plus a combined bass + midrange.

Sensitivity

Sensitivity characterizes the loudness of the speakers when a signal of a certain power is applied to them. The higher this indicator, the higher the volume will be with the same characteristics of the signal source; simply put, on the same computer and the same volume settings, more sensitive speakers will play louder.

In general, an indicator of 85 dB is considered good, 90 dB and above is excellent. On the other hand, computer speakers rarely need a very high volume — they are usually located close to the user and are designed only for him. So in general, this parameter can be ignored.

Signal-to-noise ratio

The ratio of the level of the useful signal (actually reproduced sound) to the level of extraneous noise provided by the speaker amplifier in normal mode.

Any amplifier inevitably creates its own noise; You can't get rid of them, but you can reduce their level. The higher the signal-to-noise ratio, the clearer the sound will be, the less noticeable extraneous interference will be. In modern computer speakers, this figure can vary from 52 – 55 dB (the minimum figure so that the noise does not cause much discomfort) to 90 – 95 dB (comparable to fairly advanced Hi-Fi equipment). However, note that the signal-to-noise ratio is far from the only parameter that affects the sound quality, and its high value does not guarantee a pleasant sound from the speakers.

Frequency range

The range of audio frequencies supported by acoustics. The wider this range — the fuller the reproduced sound, the lower the likelihood that some of these details at low or high frequencies will remain “behind the scenes”. At the same time, the human ear is able to hear frequencies of the order of 16 – 22,000 Hz, and with age, this range narrows even more. In modern audio equipment, especially at the top level, there may be more extensive ranges, but from a practical point of view, this does not make much sense. In addition, it is worth noting that a wide frequency range in itself does not guarantee high-quality sound — a lot also depends on the frequency response.

Impedance

The electrical resistance of the speakers to alternating current. This parameter is important primarily for normal compatibility with the amplifier: too low speaker impedance can lead to distortion, overload, and even damage to the speakers, and too high impedance can reduce the sound volume. At the same time, the vast majority of modern computer acoustics have their own amplifiers and are connected via a line input. Therefore, the impedance data is more of a reference value; in fact, this indicator may be needed only when connecting speakers to a “non-native” power amplifier, bypassing the standard one.

Speaker output

Total speaker power rating — the sum of the power ratings of all components (front, rear, centre, etc.)

Rated usually means the highest average sound power that the speakers can produce without overloading and damage. Individual peaks of sound can significantly exceed this figure, but it is the average value that is key — in particular, it is it that determines the overall loudness of the acoustics. However it should be borne in mind here that in sets with a subwoofer, the latter can account for about half of the total power of the entire system, while the actual volume is determined mainly by the main speakers. In fact, this means that with equal total power, acoustics with a subwoofer can sound noticeably quieter than a model without a subwoofer: for example, a 2.0 system at 20 W will have 10 W per main channel, while in a 2.1 model at 20 W with 10- watt subwoofer on the main speakers will have only 5 watts.

As for specific values, in the quietest modern PC speakers, the power does not exceed 10 watts. An indicator of 10 – 25 W can be called relatively modest, 25 – 50 W — average, and values of 50 – 100 W and above are found mainly in sets with subwoofers, where a significant part of the power falls on the bass speaker (although there are also ordinary stereo speakers with similar features)....

Theoretically, the power of acoustics also affects its compatibility with a specific amplifier: speakers should not be inferior to it in terms of rated power, otherwise sound distortion and even equipment damage are possible. However, computer acoustics in the vast majority of cases are used with their own amplifiers, optimally matched to the speakers installed in the speakers. So this moment becomes relevant only in some very specific cases — for example, when replacing a complete external amplifier (see below) with another one.

Front

The power rating of each individual front speaker provided in the speaker system. This parameter can be specified for a system with any number of speakers (see above) — all sound formats used in computer acoustics provide a pair of front speakers.

In the most general terms, the higher the power, the louder the speaker is capable of sounding. For more information about this parameter, see "Total power" above. Also note here that for stereo systems without a subwoofer, the power of one front channel is half of the total power; in more advanced acoustics, the power ratio between the channels may be different.

Rear

The power rating of each individual rear speaker provided in the speaker system. Usually there are two such columns.

This parameter is relevant only for multi-channel systems like 5.1 (see "Number of speakers") — in simpler acoustics, rear channels are not used. On the nominal power as a whole, see "Total power", here we note that in the case of rear channels, this indicator is of secondary importance: the power of the rear speakers is selected by the manufacturer in accordance with the power of the remaining acoustic components, so that all speakers work normally "in conjunction".

Centre

Rated power of the centre speaker provided in the speaker system. Usually there is only one such speaker, and its power corresponds to the total power for the centre channel.

In general, this parameter is relevant for systems with an extended sound format — 5.1 (see "Number of speakers") and relatively rare 3.1; conventional 2.0 stereo systems do not have a separate centre channel. On the nominal power as a whole, see "Total power", here we note that in the case of the centre channel this indicator is of secondary importance: the power of the centre speaker is selected by the manufacturer in accordance with the power of the other components of the acoustics, so that all speakers work normally "in conjunction".

Subwoofer

Rated power of the complete subwoofer of the acoustic system.

Recall that a subwoofer is a specialized speaker for low and ultra-low frequencies; such a speaker is especially useful for games and movies, it is for such content that well-defined bass is most important. Accordingly, the saturation and (to a certain extent) the overall sound quality of low frequencies depends on the power of such a speaker. "Subs" are usually matched to the power of the rest of the system components, however, sets with a similar total power of the main channels may still differ in the characteristics of the subwoofers.

It is also worth noting that the power of this component can be a very significant part of the total power of all acoustics: in some models, about half of the “total watts” (or even more) falls on the subwoofer. This should be taken into account when comparing; see "Total power" for more details.

Speaker port tube

A phase inverter is a tube of a special design that connects the inner volume of the speaker housing with the outer space. Due to the precisely selected length, such a tube improves the sound of low frequencies, making it more saturated and uniform. The main disadvantage of a phase inverter is that a hum may occur due to the movement of air in the tube; however, manufacturers design speakers in such a way as to minimize the likelihood of this phenomenon.

Note that the presence of a phase inverter is especially useful for subwoofers, but this feature can also be found in general-purpose stereo speakers — for the same reasons.

Passive emitter

The presence of a passive radiator in the design of the speakers.

Such a radiator is a diffuser (membrane) without a coil, installed in the column body. Outwardly, it looks like an ordinary speaker, but it does not emit sound, but only vibrates under the influence of the sound of other speakers. Due to this, the sound of low frequencies is noticeably improved; at the same time, the passive radiator is more compact than the phase inverter (see above) and is less prone to extraneous noise.

Functions

Bluetooth. A technology used to wirelessly connect various devices. Allows you to transmit an audio signal, for this purpose it is most often used in computer speakers. This feature is especially convenient when using speakers with equipment that has its own Bluetooth modules — primarily with laptops and monoblocks; it is also possible to connect to compact gadgets like a smartphone or tablet (although it is usually more convenient to use specialized self-powered speakers with such devices). And for computers that do not have Bluetooth, separately connected adapters are available. The range of such a connection is at least several metres; the convenience of the lack of extra wires is obvious. However note that a regular Bluetooth connection compresses the sound quite strongly and may degrade its quality. Therefore, if this moment is critical for you, you should choose speakers with support for one of the aptX options or with a higher Bluetooth version. Each next "generation" has additional features.

Support for aptX. A feature found in Bluetooth speakers (see above). The aptX codec is used to improve the quality of audio transmitted over such a connection; according to the creators, it allows you to achieve quality comparable to Audio CD (16-bit/44.1kHz). Thus, if a regular Bluetooth connection can significantly degrade the sound of even MP3 files with a decent bitrate (not to mention lossless...formats), then when using this codec, the sound quality is often limited not by the properties of the channel, but by the properties of the source file and the acoustics itself . Of course, for aptX to work, it must be supported not only by the speakers, but also by the signal source.

— Support for aptX HD. Support for the aptX HD codec, an updated version of the original aptX (see above). This standard achieves sound clarity comparable to Hi-Res (24-bit/48kHz) audio. On the other hand, its support is more expensive; and the differences from the original aptX only become noticeable on very high-quality audio materials, for which computer speakers are rarely used. Therefore, this function has not received much distribution.

NFC. Technically, NFC is a universal wireless technology with a range of up to 10 cm, which allows to achieve a very wide range of applications. However, in computer speakers, this technology is mainly used to speed up Bluetooth connection (see above): it is enough to bring another NFC device (for example, a smartphone) to the speaker chip — and the chips will “recognize” each other and automatically set up the connection, the user will only have to confirm his.

— USB A. USB port, which allows you to connect external peripheral devices to the speakers — primarily drives like "flash drives". Most often, such a connection is used to play music from external drives — in other words, the presence of USB A turns the speakers into a standalone music centre. Often, it is also possible to charge portable gadgets (for example, smartphones) from this port. On the other hand, note that speakers with this feature are noticeably more expensive than similar models without USB, and they may be inferior in sound quality due to the presence of additional electronics that can interfere.

Card Reader. Own device for reading memory cards, most often the SD standard. Speakers with a card reader can work like a stand-alone music centre: music from a memory card can be played even without a computer. At the same time, the card reader itself is used only by speakers; the ability to read a memory card by a computer is usually not provided in such models. It is also worth bearing in mind that the memory card slot and the electronics that “serve” it are a potential source of interference, so speakers with this function may be inferior in sound quality to counterparts without a card reader (at a higher cost).

FM receiver. The presence of a built-in FM tuner allows you to use the speaker system as a radio receiver — to receive and play FM radio broadcasts. It should be noted that for reliable reception, most likely, an external antenna will be required; a cable for connecting it is sometimes included, but the antenna itself must be purchased separately.

Treble adjustment. The ability to separately change the volume of high frequencies. In fact, it is the most simplified version of the equalizer: it allows you to adjust the overall colour of the sound by changing the HF level relative to the rest of the frequency spectrum. Most often used in combination with bass control (see below), but can also be provided as the only frequency control.

Bass adjustment. The ability to separately change the volume of high frequencies. Similar to the treble control described above, used to adjust the overall tone of the sound. At the same time, quite a few models with this function have only a LF control (without a HF control). But do not confuse this function with subwoofer level control. In this case, it is precisely the adjustment of the lower frequencies of the entire system that is implied.

Connections

mini-Jack (3.5 mm). The 3.5 mm jack is used as a standard analogue audio output in almost all modern PCs and laptops; in addition, it is installed in most smartphones, tablets and pocket players, and in many other types of technology is very common. Thus, most modern computer speakers are equipped with a mini-jack plug (with the exception of Bluetooth models). This can be a plug on a non-detachable or detachable cable, or an adapter from another connector — for example, “2 RCA — mini-jack”.

— RCA. RCA connector, also colloquially known as a "tulip", in this case is used as a line input, for receiving an analogue audio signal — similar to the same 3.5 mm mini-jack. The differences lie in several important points. First, RCA works on the principle of "one connector per channel", and the number of such connectors will depend on the audio format. For example, stereo acoustics will need a set of two such connectors, a 5.1 system will need six, etc. Secondly, RCA is quite popular in traditional audio equipment, but it is rather uncommon among computers. Therefore, this input is relatively rare in computer acoustics — mainly in fairly advanced models (including solutions with an external amplifier). In addition, we note that in sets with a subwoofer for connecting a “sub” in the main satellite, an RCA connector can also be provided, which in this case plays the role of an output.

Subwoofer output. The presence of a connector for connecting a subwoofer allows you to further saturate the sound of the system with low frequencies. Naturally, a subwoofer is purchased separately. And the output itself serves as an option and allows you to expand the acoustics as needed.

Headphone output. Headphone output located directly on the body of one of the speakers. Such a connector can be especially convenient when using headphones with a traditional desktop PC: connecting the “ears” to the speaker housing on the table can be much more convenient than pulling the wire to the system unit. Usually, the role of this output is played by a standard mini-Jack 3.5 mm jack — it is under it that most modern "ears" (both computer and general-purpose) are made.

Microphone input. An input for connecting an external microphone, located directly on the speaker cabinet. The meaning of this function is the same as that of the headphone output described above: it is often more convenient to connect a microphone to a speaker standing on a table than directly to the system unit. The speakers themselves with this feature, usually, have an additional plug connected to the microphone input of the sound card.

USB B. An interface that allows you to connect speakers to the USB port of a computer, laptop, etc. as an external peripheral. Such a connection can be useful, for example, in cases where the standard audio output is busy or located in a hard-to-reach place; in addition, it allows the speakers to work even if there is no sound card in the system (although this is very rare today). At the same time, speakers can also be powered via USB, which, with low power, makes it possible to do without a separate power source (for more details, see "Power from the USB port"). In addition, this connector may be responsible for additional functions — for example, controlling speaker functions from a PC through special software.

Optical input. Digital input for high quality sound transmission, including multichannel. Such a connection is remarkable for its complete insensitivity to electrical interference, however, the fibre optic cable does not tolerate bending and strong pressure.

Coaxial input. Digital audio input. Provides the possibility of transmitting multi-channel audio. Uses an RCA connector (colloquially referred to as a "tulip"), but is not compatible with the RCA interface described above. A coaxial connection, unlike an optical one, is subject to electromagnetic interference, but it does not require special delicacy in handling the cable.

External amplifier

A design in which the power amplifier is made separately from the speakers themselves. Recall that all computer speakers are active, that is, they have their own power amplifiers. Most often, such amplifiers are built-in, but there are exceptions — mainly among high-end acoustics; about them and will be discussed.

The meaning of an external amplifier lies in several points at once. Firstly, many electronic circuits, which are a potential source of interference, are placed outside the speaker cabinet, which means that the probability of interference from these circuits is reduced to almost zero. Secondly, a separate amplifier does not have such strict size restrictions as the built-in one — which means that it can be made quite large, powerful and advanced. Thirdly, plug-in connections are usually used to connect the components of such a system — which means that, if desired, the speakers can also be connected to a “non-native” amplifier (for example, if the bundled one does not have the necessary inputs for a certain signal source). On the other hand, such acoustics turn out to be more bulky and expensive than traditional solutions with a built-in amplifier.

USB port powered

The ability to power the speakers from the USB port of a computer or other device. In some models, the main connection is made through the same port, but more often the speakers receive a signal via the classic mini-Jack (see "Connections"). Anyway, the advantage of this power supply over mains power is that the speakers do not depend on the outlet; this facilitates their use with laptops and other portable equipment. If there is no free connector on the computer, you can use a USB adapter for an outlet, car cigarette lighter, etc. At the same time, the power supply via USB is initially very low, so this option is typical mainly for small and relatively “quiet” speakers. For the same reason, some models with this feature may require connection to a special type of connector — ports that support USB Power Delivery. This technology allows you to increase the power supply up to 100 W, but even in modern computer technology it is not so common.

Detachable cable

The presence of detachable cables will save you from possible damage to the device associated with bending the wires. If such an incident occurs, an easy replacement of the wire with a new one allows you to continue using the speakers, and not carry them to a service centre. However, this solution is mainly used in higher-level models, which affects the cost. At the same time, not only audio cables can be removable, for which connectors are provided (according to the classics, this is RCA), but also the power cable.

LCD screen

The presence of its own display in the design of acoustics. Such a display is usually located on the front panel of one of the speakers, subwoofer (if any) or amplifier (if it is made separately). Usually, it is a simple black-and-white screen with segment indicators, however, even such equipment allows you to display a very diverse information and greatly simplifies the work with speakers. Note that the display is most often a sign of a model with extensive additional functionality — usually, it does not make sense to install the screen in speakers with basic capabilities.

Lighting effects

The presence of lighting effects in the design of the columns. Usually, this is a backlight that can work as colour music — that is, blink and change colour to the beat of the music being played. The main and in fact the only purpose of lighting effects is decorative: colour music gives the speakers a bright and attractive appearance. On the other hand, it does not improve the sound, but it affects the cost.

Remote control

The type of remote control that the speakers are equipped with — of course, if such a remote control is provided at all.

Wired. The remote control is a separate device connected to the control component of the system (“main” speaker, subwoofer, external amplifier) using a separate wire. Such a remote control is not as mobile as a wireless one, and the wire itself can create some inconvenience. On the other hand, these shortcomings are not always really noticeable: computer speakers are most often located in close proximity to the listener, and he does not have a need for "long-range" control. At the same time, wired remotes are reliable, inexpensive, do not require batteries and work even without being in direct line of sight of the speakers (unlike wireless ones, which often use IR control). However note that only the most basic functions are usually carried out on such a remote control — such as adjusting the volume and tone.

— Wireless. Wireless remotes most often operate via an infrared channel — similar to remotes for TVs, air conditioners, etc. The main advantages of such control are freedom of movement within at least a few metres from the acoustics. In addition, wireless remotes are often given control over advanced settings. At the same time, there should be no obstacles between the remote control and the receiver (one of the speakers, subwoofer, etc.); and such accessories...cost much more than wired remotes.

— Wired and wireless. Acoustic kits equipped with two remote controls at once — wired and wireless. The features of both options are described in detail above, and their combination allows you to choose the remote control depending on what is required at the moment — to have control at hand while sitting at the computer, or to adjust the sound from a distance of several metres, moving around the room. In addition, wired and wireless remotes may differ in terms of functionality. However, it is worth considering that such equipment significantly affects the cost.

Volume control

The location of the own volume control provided in the speakers. In modern computer speakers, there are regulators installed in the front, back, side, top, on the signal cable, on the amplifier and on the remote control (the latter can be either the only regulator or in addition to the regulator with a different location; see below for details). Here are the features of each option:

— Front. The most popular arrangement nowadays: the front panel of the speaker is the easiest to reach, the regulator can be twisted at any time without any problems, and even if the speakers are tightly surrounded by foreign objects from the back and sides, the front panel usually remains free. Of the shortcomings, one can only note the moment that not everyone likes the extra handles on the front panel of the speaker — however, this is a purely aesthetic nuance that does not affect convenience.

— Behind. The knob mounted on the rear panel of the speaker is not very convenient for frequent volume changes — you usually have to find it by touch, and some free space around the speaker is required to access it. So on such speakers it is most convenient to initially select a certain optimal sound level, and then, if necessary, adjust the volume through the computer's software settings and not reach out to the regul...ator once again. Therefore, this option is quite rare. On the other hand, such invisibility has its advantages: acoustics acquires the most accurate appearance, without unnecessary small elements on the outside.

— Sideways. A kind of compromise between the two options described above: the regulator is not as noticeable as the front one, and at the same time it is easier to get to it than the rear one. However there should be enough free space on the corresponding side of the column for this, but this drawback is not particularly critical. So the lateral arrangement is found, although less often than the anterior one, but noticeably more often than the posterior one.

— Above. Pretty specific option. In terms of general specifics, it is similar to the side arrangement described above, however, for a number of reasons it is extremely rare — in speakers of non-standard design, as well as in some sets in which the system control is located on the subwoofer (this component is often installed on the floor, and the top position of the regulator is the most convenient).

— On the signal cable. A regulator placed directly on the wire carrying the audio signal. It is used mainly in inexpensive compact speakers: it is easier and cheaper to install a regulator in this way than to build it into a case, and the dimensions of the case itself can be reduced due to the absence of “extra” parts inside.

— On the amplifier. Option for models with external amplifier (see above). It is the parameters of the amplifier that determine the volume of the sound, so it is more logical to place the volume control on it, and not on one of the speakers. Theoretically, the specific location of the regulator can be different; in fact, this knob (like other controls) is usually mounted on the front panel. Note that such equipment is often supplemented by a regulator on the remote control (see below) — the amplifier is not always conveniently located, for frequent adjustments it is more convenient to use the remote control.

— On the remote control. The controller mounted on the remote control — this can be either a wired or wireless accessory (see "Remote control"). Actually, the presence of a remote control is almost guaranteed to mean the presence of a volume control in it, exceptions are extremely rare; and if there are two such consoles (wired and wireless), then the regulators are often installed in both. Also note that volume control from the remote control can be supplemented by a knob located in any of the places described above (except for the signal cable).

Inclined design

The sloping design of the front face of the speaker allows you to place the speakers in the case at an angle. Thus, the sound from them does not spread horizontally, but slightly upwards. This favorably affects the use of speakers near the monitor, when the distance from the listener to the audio system is insignificant. We can say that the inclined design allows you to direct the signal directly into the human ear. However, in fact it is more of an aesthetic nature. Therefore, computer speakers of a high price segment, and, accordingly, quality are rarely made inclined and more often have a straight body.

Wall mount

Possibility to mount the speakers on the wall. This feature can be very useful if there is no free space on the table or this space needs to be left unoccupied. On the other hand, hanging usually requires drilling walls and installing studs or other fasteners.

Note that with certain tricks, almost any speaker can be hung on the wall — however, it is not a fact that such acoustics will sound normal. Therefore, for wall mounting, it is worth choosing models for which this possibility is directly stated.

Speaker material

A material used to finish speaker cabinets. It is believed that this parameter can significantly affect the characteristics of the sound; however, in fact, the sound quality is determined by so many other factors that against their background this influence is practically not noticeable. In addition, the shortcomings of various materials are easily compensated for by certain technical tricks. Thanks to this, for example, plastic, which was originally considered a low-cost material, is quite successfully used in premium acoustics. And the main advantage of wood ( MDF) is not so much practical properties as a characteristic appearance. Therefore, the main selection criterion for the material is how much you like the design of the columns.

Subwoofer material

The material used for the woofer enclosure — subwoofer (of course, if there is one in the kit).

The most popular material options for such finishes today are plastic and MDF(medium density fibreboard). Plastic is often considered a more budgetary material, MDF is more advanced and acoustically of high quality. However, in fact, this difference is not critical, and the sound quality is more related to the price category of the acoustic set than to the material of the subwoofer. But what the finishing material affects unambiguously is the appearance.
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