Computer speakers

I'm thinking of replacing my stereo with 5.1 speakers to connect to my pc. I'm looking for the best price/quality, not the cheapest nor the best-but-expensive.

Currently I'm looking at the Logitech Z-5400, but I've had great experience with Creative products too.

Any thoughts?

Klipsch has a fantastic set of 5.1 for the PC, but may be a bit out of your price range.

Yup, you can't go wrong with Klipsch or Logitech.

Dear God, don't buy Logitech speakers. I had a set of the Z-680s, and they are some of the worst speakers I've ever heard. I gave them to my sister, and when I visited there, I gave them another try, driving them with the analog out of the Squeezebox, and they were just completely unlistenable. They go from no bass at all to WAY TOO MUCH, and then progress rapidly to absolutely ridiculous levels. And it's not good bass, either, it's boomy and bloated. The mids are barely there at all, and the highs are sharp and nasty. They are horrible speakers, super-cheaply built. The boom is to impress people who don't know any better. And it's not like they've gotten better: the newer ones I sampled in the store (six or eight months ago) sounded very similar.

Logitech's speaker designers should be dragged in chains from their building and executed for the good of humanity.

I had a set of the Klipsch Promedia 5.1s, and used them for several years. I'd call them unexciting but competent. They're not great at anything, but they're not horrible at anything either. They're a little flat for music listening, but given the price point and the number of speakers you're buying, they're really pretty good. Excellent choice for mostly gaming, some music. I think the newer ones are probably a little better: mine were an early model. They are lightyears past the 680s.

I haven't heard Creative stuff since I started to learn what good speakers sound like, but I know their subsidiary, Cambridge Soundworks, has a good reputation in the budget multichannel sound world. They have retail stores around the country. You might see if you can find one and take a listen to what they offer.

If you have the room, for true bang per buck, I tend to think you'd be better off with an HTIB or a small receiver and standard audio speakers. The Onkyo HTIBs have an excellent reputation. Just make sure you get one with either 5.1 or 7.1 analog inputs, depending on what you want.

If you buy separate pieces, the Onkyo 504 has 7.1 inputs and is in the $250 range. The Pioneer XR-series digital amps have just 5.1 inputs, and are in the same price range, but may sound better. People rave about how good they are. Fluance speakers are in the $300 range for a set of 5 speakers (no sub): arstechnica likes that brand pretty well. Then you'd choose a sub that's well-matched to your environment... if you're in a house, you could get one that hits hard, or you could go for something wimpy if you're in an apartment. Total cost would be $800 or so (more if you bought big on the sub), and you'd have a setup that would just kick the sh*t out of any computer speakers you could buy.

In sound, quality improves VERY rapidly up to about $1k for a system, slower up to $1500, and much more slowly after that. This is expensive by computer standards, but a good audio setup will outlast everything else in your computer room. Audio gear lasts AGES.

Me, I'm currently using a 504 and a set of old Energy Take2s (demoted from the front room). The sub's weak, but I knew that going in, and the rest of the sound is just soooo much better than any computer speaker I've heard. My net cost was probably about $700, but the Take2s were bought, cripes, 10 years ago? They're still giving yeoman service. I could easily see using them another 10 years.

Very interesting Malor. A friend of mine has the Logitech I spoke of, and I'm going to listen to it tonight. I must say I haven't heard much good of Logitech either.

I like your suggestions, that is if I would have just won the lottery. I'm looking at the €150-250 price range here, maybe just maybe a bit upwards but certainly not up to 800 or more.

Thanks for the help so far, guys!

edit: I've looked at Klipsch, and the Promedia v5.1 seems perfect for me, but it's no longer available in Europe. The GMX 5.1D can't be hooked up to an Audigy Soundblaster (which I proudly own) so is out. The others are far out of my price range. No Klipsch for me.

Wow, that's really a bummer. That GMX model is stupid, it only takes coax or S/PDIF. What a brain-dead decision that was.

All I see on Amazon here is the GMX version. I think the regular Promedias must have been discontinued. EBay has many Promedia Ultras, which look like they're upgraded versions of what I was using, and they seem to have the analog inputs. It looks like they're going for $250ish. I assume shipping speakers to Europe would be hugely expensive... do you have a local eBay equivalent?

If not, Creative or Cambridge Soundworks should still be options. Altec Lansing used to do 2.1 speakers I didn't think were too awful, but that was ten years ago. And take a listen to the Logitechs. You might like them. Who knows, maybe their old designers had a stroke or something.

If you're just looking to upgrade sound quality, rather than get the 5.1 surround for gaming, a good set of headphones are one of the cheapest ways to get truly great sound. Sennheiser 580s combined with an amp and a decent DAC will give you world-class audio for about $400 US. (The headphones are about $175 on EBay, and the Headroom Total Bithead, a combo DAC/amp, is about $200 direct from their site.) This is pure sonic bliss, incredibly good sound. The headphones will give you very precise targeting, making them probably the best solution of all for FPS games, but surround sound with a sub is probably better for general gaming and movies.

Oh, hey: do you have pawn shops in Europe? You can often get really good audio stuff here in this country if you hunt through pawn shops. Audio equipment doesn't degrade much with time, but people usually aren't willing to pay much for old stuff. You can get amazing quality gear for very little money. It can take a significant time and knowledge investment (you may have to do a lot of shopping, and you'll have to learn what old brands to look for), but the hunt can be fun in and of itself.

That's definitely the way to get great sound as cheaply as possible.

I have a set of the Logitech X-230's and I love them. Sounds much better when watching movies on my pc, much more so than on the tv, though tv speakers by and large suck ass.


I listened to the Logitech speakers, and I didn't really like them. A bit squeaky. I loved the controls however, and its slick design. I'm not sure I'm supposed to expect more quality for that price, either.

Right now, I'm looking at the Logitech set, the Hercules XPS 5.101 (€120, good reviews and cheap) and the Altec FX5051 (€250, good reviews too). Creative doesn't seem to have a 5.1 speakerset in the mid range between €150 and €300. Or they're cheap and mediocre, or sweet and mighty expensive.

Damn, I'm getting confused here. Problem is it's damn near impossible to actually listen to the sets before buying them.

I've decided on the Altec FX5051 for €247 (including shipment).

Thanks for your help everyone!

It IS hard to shop for computer speakers. One big problem is that the reviewers are very frequently total sound n00bs, and they say 'it sounds great!', when it doesn't. I bought the z680s after reading a RAVE review of them... and they turned out to be complete crap in a box. Finding someone who has both the time to review computer speakers and some experience with higher-end audio products (and, thus, what things SHOULD sound like) isn't easy.

It's frustrating that the Promedias aren't made anymore... they were a known decent solution, which is a bit unusual in this field. As I said, they aren't exciting or anything, but they're solid and competent, a rarity.

Hopefully you will like the Altecs. Let us know what you think!

Edit: fixed a repeated phrase. Doh.

I have a 10 year-old set of Boston Acoustics Media Theater speakers, and I can definitely say it sounds better than 90% of the newer stuff out there. My $50 Altec Lansings I got before the BAs also sound phenomenal. I listened to the newer $50 Altec Lansing speakers in a store and they are absolute garbage... The sound is so tinny and the bass is so weak. Klipsch is good.. I like their higher end HT stuff, but I haven't listened to much of their PC speakers. Logitechs tend to get love it or hate it reviews, and I didn't think they sounded too bad, so YMMV.

I just use a cheap ass 5.1 set not designed for computers. It works, and does work ok, only bummer is that the center and subwoofer are not set up right. But for real gaming I just put on my 5.1 headset, which also sounds better than my 5.1 set and is way more precise in sound.

I still have a broken set of 2.1 Boston Acoustics speakers that I just can't throw away... I absolutely LOVED them. I keep telling myself I'm going to get them fixed, but I haven't done it. They've been sitting quietly in a box for like eight years. *sigh*

When they were new, I actually brought them into work to show people. Playing Monkey Island 3, with that kickass reggae-ish soundtrack, made them practically dance off the desk. That particular song was perfectly matched to those particular speakers. The result had so much sheer presence, and was so bouncy and happy, that you just couldn't help but get a silly grin. The entire office came to see what sounded so incredibly cool. (this was a software developer, we were pretty lax about stuff like this ).

Boston replaced that early model with a different kind that were still good, but much poorer than the first ones. A few years ago, my mother bought a 5.1 set of BAs that were pretty expensive... $500ish. She's still using them as her main sound system for her television. They sound good, but still don't touch those original 2.1s. And I don't think they make that model anymore, either.

It's tough to find reasonable quality speakers that are aimed at computers. I'm still really bummed that the Promedias are gone. I knew those were a safe recommendation.

cartoonin99 wrote:

I have a set of the Logitech X-230's and I love them. Sounds much better when watching movies on my pc, much more so than on the tv, though tv speakers by and large suck ass.


I had some of those. Noticed a very - very - slight crackle when in The Barrens on WoW. Almost inaudible to the human ear, but my bat/elf/mole like hearing picked it up. Took them back to the shop.

I love my new Altecs. The fear I had for the unknown melted away with every beat these babies produce. I mean, they're not the Walhalla of speakers, I've certainly heard better. But for €240, they're all you need for gaming, music and movies. In that order. Games are absolutely SU-PERB with the Altecs. Music sounds great, but as I expected the middle range wasn't perfect though much better than the Logitech ones I heard at my friend's place. The bass is not overwhelming, but precise and in balance with the rest of the music. This was a major quiff I had with the Logitechs: VERY strong bass, but not in balance with the rest of the spectre and more of a zoom than really precise. Good to show of to friends, for like five minutes. Justin Timberlake - My Love sounded superb, probably because of the omnipresence of the low and high range. Real thumpers (like Vitalic) fell a bit short with the bass, no real complaints on other songs except for the mid range sometimes.

I'm still fiddling with the movie sound. I watched Sin City last night, and the centre speaker was sometimes a bit too prominent. May be because of the setting (center speaker sits a bit closer), or that particular (dialogue-heavy) movie, I don't know.

The manuals and documents really stink. ALmost no info out of the box, I even had to re-connect the in-wires into the subwoofer because it was too unclear where each had to go. The hectagonal design is great for small rooms, as it positions the speakers right at you. The remotes (one wired, one wireless) are very slick and user-friendly.

Here's one releaved customer

That's great, dejanzie It's hard to do big bass in that price range. Logitechs don't go all that deep either, but they try to mask it with boom and slop. As you noticed, it sounds horrible after five minutes. The Z680s were atrocious.

It sounds like Altec made a good price/performance/depth tradeoff there. I'm glad they sound competent... I'll add that model to my potential recommendation list.

oh, for getting the dialog right.... try running the THX Optimizer, it's a freebie that's on many disks, a short calibration sequence that'll let you set the various levels correctly. You may need to adjust individual speaker playback volumes in your DVD playback software, if it offers that feature. If not, the system control panel should work okay.

oh, for getting the dialog right.... try running the THX Optimizer, it's a freebie that's on many disks, a short calibration sequence that'll let you set the various levels correctly. You may need to adjust individual speaker playback volumes in your DVD playback software, if it offers that feature. If not, the system control panel should work okay.

Thanks, I'll be sure to try that!

I got a set of these for Christmas.

I really like them.

Lester_King wrote:

I got a set of these for Christmas.

I really like them.


Sorry, it's just a reaction I have to anything with Bose printed on it.

You like them though, and that's all that matters!

That was my first thought, too, Thin_J, but the usual schtick with Bose is 'super cheap materials, sounds okay, super-premium price'. They're not really gonna be able to play that game for $99. Those may be perfectly reasonable speakers for the price. All $99 speakers are made like crap.

After doing some searching, I found that Boston Acoustics is still making computer speakers. For $99 the BA4800 is a must buy.

That's great Malor. Thanks a lot. I've had a set of z680s that I'd been pretty happy with for quite a while now. Then I read through this and started to consider that prior to my Logitechs I'd had some old crappy 2.1 Labtec or something speakers, and prior to that nothing with a sub at all. Granted all I use them for is gaming and occasionally music while I'm working on my PC, but I never really considered the need to upgrade them. My blissful ignorance was going to save me $250 until you came along.

dejanzie: How do you like the console on your Altecs? How long were the speaker wires that came with the set? What kind of inputs does it have?

LOL, Bru. Sorry about that. Do you have any friends with good headphones? If you can spend some time educating your ears as to what music should sound like, you'll have a better idea what to look for in speakers.

Keep in mind, too, that everyone learns to hear a little differently. Speakers are hard to measure objectively. Past a certain level of competence (which the 680s don't even vaguely approach ) it becomes a matter of finding speakers that make tradeoffs that suit your ears well. Sadly, the only way to do that is by actually listening to them.

I tend to think that you're better off buying 'real' speakers than 'computer' speakers. If you go to a real stereo store, you can often find fairly reasonably-priced stuff that still sounds good. On the computer, I'm using a set of Energy Take2s that I believe cost 4 or 5 hundred bucks, driven by a $225 receiver, and they sound awesome.... sooo much better than the Promedias they replaced. (which aren't bad, but this is much, much better.)

Another option would be the Onkyo home-theater-in-a-box (HTIB) products, which have a solid reputation. If you can get one that has 5.1 or 7.1 analog inputs, you can hook up a standard computer soundcard, and you'd likely have better sound than any set of computer speakers you could buy. And speakers last ages, too; you'll be able to keep them a long time. However, you need room for a receiver and speakers on or around your computer desk.

If you need to stay in the smaller form factors or price ranges of the computer speakers.... as I told dejanzie earlier, the Klipsch Promedias are competent. They won't knock your socks off, but they won't mangle your music, either. Coming from the Logitechs, they'll probably seem a little boring at first, but if you stay with them a few days and then listen to the Logitechs, you'll understand what I was complaining about.

They had quite a number of the Promedias on eBay in the $250 range when I last looked. Make sure you get the ones with the analog inputs. There's another line that only has coax/optical in.

dejanzie's Altecs may also be a good option.... I liked their 2.1 setups quite well at one time.

dejanzie: How do you like the console on your Altecs? How long were the speaker wires that came with the set? What kind of inputs does it have?

The subwoofer has 3.5mm jack inputs from sound card and kinch from speakers. This makes the wires easy to extend, though they already are 5m long. I think.

The console is a wired controller with a turning knob and circled around that knob are buttons for choosing wether to change treble, bass, centre/rear speaker balance and of course volume. I prefer the slick remote. Only prob I had with the console was that the button for changing between stereo upgrading to semi-dolby (for my Dreamcast for instance), or true dolby output (for my Audigy) is on the woofer. This should have been automatic, or on the console.

Another small quiff with the speakers is the high static noise when nothing is playing. But beyond that I'm absolutely in love with my Altecs: rich sound, balanced bass. Recommended!

Malor wrote:

That was my first thought, too, Thin_J, but the usual schtick with Bose is 'super cheap materials, sounds okay, super-premium price'.

I once knew a sound tech whose mantra was: "No highs? No lows? Must be Bose!"