Most laptops, and some desktops, ship with internal speakers. These are often adequate, but only just, and they’re certainly not a good choice for anyone who wants to enjoy media or music. Most computers still need a pair of external speakers to sound their best.
Fortunately, speaker prices have dropped like a rock over the last decade. Just $100 will buy you a sound-system easily capable of handling a living room or home office. Here are five great picks among affordable speakers.
Creative GigaWorks T20 Series II
Creative’s GigaWorks line is designed to package good sound quality into an attractive design at an afford price. And it works. Compared to most inexpensive systems, the GigaWorks speakers look worth their weight in gold. They feature attractive drivers, which can be covered or exposed, and one speaker is adorned with several adjustment knobs that look and feel solid for a system priced under $100.
Sound quality is excellent, as well. Both professional reviews and customers have raved about the GigaWorks T20; as a result, it’s one of the top 20 best-rated PC sound systems on Amazon. The only downfall is an absent subwoofer, and the system isn’t wired to have one added later. That means buyers who want deep, thumping bass should look elsewhere.
Cyber Acoustics Subwoofer Satellite System CA-3602A
Oh, did someone say deep, thumping bass? Well, here you go – the Cyber Acoustics CA-3602A. Currently an Amazon.com PC speaker best-seller and top-rated product, this budget system seems to strike a perfect balance between quality and price. It offers two speakers and a 5-inch subwoofer for less than $40.
That’s a deal that can’t be beat so, if you want bass on the cheap, you might as well stop reading and buy the CA-3602A. There are, however, a few problems. The look off the system isn’t remarkable, mid-range sound reproduction is muddled at times, and build quality what you’d expect from a $40 system.
Negatives aside, this is the obvious pick for those who want volume on a budget.
Edifer USA e10 Exclaim 2.0 Speaker System
Edifer’s thin and affordable e10 Exclaim provides an alternative to thin-speaker systems from brands like Bose and Harmon Kardon. Both professional and customer reviews seem to agree that, despite the e10’s thin profile, sound quality is incredibly robust. Even bass is present thanks to the 3-inch woofers cleverly hidden in the bottom of each speaker.
Though capable of excellent sound quality, users who want volume may be unhappy with what these speakers offer. They are also, like most thin speakers, very directional – which means volume and clarity drops substantially as the listener moves away from center.
You’ll have to spend most of your budget to grab the Edifer e10s, which retail for $99 and rarely go on sale. They’re a bargain compared to similar competitors, many of which are priced at $150 and above – but larger systems offer a dedicated subwoofer for less.
Genius SW-G2.1 Speaker System
The Genius SW-G2 is an attempt to bring gaming speakers to the budget market. Gaming speakers are known for their ability to deliver a lot of volume and bass, and the SW-G2 continues that trend. The speakers ship with a 5-inch subwoofer and dedicated control box with bass adjustment. The sub’s rated power output of 38 watts blows away even the Cyber Acoustics CA-3602, though these specifications should be taken with a grain of salt.
These speakers look as loud as they sound, however. The drivers are painted red and the speakers have strange hour-glass shape that likely won’t match anything on your desktop. And though they’re priced at $60 (twenty more than the CA-3602) the Genius speakers aren’t built better. You’re paying for volume, not quality.
Logitech Z523 Speaker System with Subwoofer
Logitech is the king of low-end speakers in sales if not in quality. They offer numerous products below $100, but I decided to pick just one; the excellent Z523.
This sound system has everything you’ll need in PC sound system Logitech has paired two attractive glossy-black speakers with a 6.5-inch subwoofer capable of delivering up to 40 watts of power – more than even the Genius SW-G2.1. Yet the Logitech is undeniably built to a higher standard of quality and provides built-in adjustment knobs rather than a seperate control unit.
Logitech’s reputation and quality will cost you. Though no expense, the $75 MSRP is nearly twice that of the Cyber Acoustics CA-3602A. And don’t think that you’ll receive superior sound because you paid more; customer reviews of the Z523 are positive but mixed, with a vocal minority saying the system is less pleasant than the price suggests.
All of these systems are a good choice. The Genius and Cyber Acoustics fit the role of big, cheap and loud while the Creative and Edifer sets take a more subtle approach. The Logitech? It fits somewhere in the middle.
I usethat I like but is no longer produced. If I had to choose a replacement I’d probably go for the Logitech Z523, as I’ve had good luck with their speakers in the past.
What would you choose? Let us know in the comments!