Have you ever noticed that your personal computer’s audio lacks the bass necessary to round out the music you love? I have, and painfully so. In my quest to achieve a balanced audio spectrum from my computer, I have resorted to some affordable solutions, but the results have not always been the same. I want to help others learn about their options, so that they can upgrade their computer’s audio to get both crystal clear highs and deep booming lows. I myself have an Apple iMac computer. I have used one General Electric (GE) 5.1 system, one Klipsch THX-certified Promedia 2.1 system, and a custom 2.1 system using parts from AudioEngine and Pioneer. I will break down each system, so that you might learn what will work for you.
The GE 5.1 system was good for creating greater volume but was still all about that treble, no bass. Even though it had a subwoofer, it lacked any sort of power, and it’s undertones were really subverted. However, this system was only $50, which was perfect for a broke college student. If you are looking to simply add some volume with a little bit of bass, a system like this one might be just for you. However, if you are looking for some real power out of your subwoofer, you’ll need to get something more expensive, such as the Klipsch Promedia 2.1 system.
The Promedia 2.1 system is about $190. Like the GE system, it is an analog unit. It’s satellites deliver the crystal clear highs one would expect from a THX-certified system. It also delivers deep booming lows, after all it has 200W of power—35W to each satellite and 130W to the 6-inch subwoofer. It provides well rounded bass and treble. Personally, I found the best performance from this system when turning off my iTunes equalizer. If you want a moderately cost-effective 2.1 system that gives you great treble and decent bass, this system works well, especially for music and movies that do not include big sonic boom lows. However, for me, it was not enough, because I was used to hearing those lows from some of my favorite songs, such as, but not limited to, Hybrid Earth by ERRA (the boom occurs at 1:46), Lonely Giant by Elitist (the booms occur at 0:43 and 2:32), and A New Beginning by Threat Signal (the booms occur at 1:34; 2:44; 3:35; 3:42; 3:50; 3:58; 4:06; 4:14; and 4:18). I tried using the iTunes equalizer to no avail to compensate for the missing bass. I knew it was missing something by comparing it to the audio experience I have in my car, which has an 8-inch subwoofer. The lows are all there in these songs when in the car, so I expect it to be present when listening from my computer. So, I turned to a custom system featuring AudioEngine A2+ speakers and a Pioneer SW8 100W subwoofer.
The custom system with AudioEngine and Pioneer speakers provides crystal clear treble with deep booming bass. It came at a price, though still affordable. The AudioEngine A2+ speakers were $250 for the pair and the Pioneer SW8 was $160. Purchasing cables to connect the A2+ speakers to the subwoofer added an additional $20. In all, this setup cost $430. While the Klipsch was analog, the AudioEngine is both digital and analog. It came with the appropriate USB cable for a digital connection and a 3.5mm cable for an analog one. I am using the digital connection. The AudioEngine produces equal treble to that of the Promedia. However, where the Promedia 2.1 lacked in bass, this system more than makes up for it due to the Pioneer subwoofer. All the booms that I could not hear in my favorite songs with the GE and Klipsch speakers are now present. What is odd is that both the Promedia and the Pioneer subwoofers are both rated down to 38Hz. In theory, they both should be able to create the same deep booming lows. Yet, they do not. I believe it has to do with at least one of three factors. First, the Promedia featured a side-firing 6-inch cone while the Pioneer features a down-firing 8-inch cone. Second, the Promedia was a 6-inch cone while the Pioneer is a 8-inch cone. Either the down-firing subwoofer is superior or the 8-inch cone is superior. Finally, it could be the bigger enclosure in the Pioneer subwoofer. Maybe it is a combination of the three differences? All of these theories are merely conjectures, because I really do not know as I am not an audio engineer. However, in praxis, this system works. It costs more than twice that of the Klipsch, but the audio experience is perfect. If you are looking for a system that is affordable and hits both the highs and the lows regardless of a movie or a music file, this is the best system in my experience.
There we have it. For $50, the consumer can add more volume but not greater audio clarity, for less than $200, the consumer can get clearer treble and deeper bass, but, for less than $450, the consumer can get the full listening spectrum. My recommendation is to choose the system that best fits your price range and your listening needs. If you listen to jazz for example, you may not need the ability to hit those deep sonic booms. If all you do is watch YouTube clips on your computer, you might not even need a THX-certified system. Purchase according to your needs as well as your means, and you will be satisfied, but, if you want that boom, boom, boom, I would recommend the AudioEngine A2+ speakers along with the Pioneer SW8. It is a powerful yet still affordable combination that gives you balanced bass and treble through the full listening spectrum.