Computer Speakers


Hello Techgage!

I first came to the attention of this site when I was looking around for reviews of the Altec Lansing PT6021, and from there, I discovered that there are some knowledgeable people on the staff and on the forums. So I thought I'd come here and get some feedback :)

So my pickle is that I need a set of speakers for my computer in my bedroom. These will be plugged into a laptop, and eventually a desktop with a fairly decent sound card at some point (Asus Xonar... oh baby). I'm not looking for a 5.1/7.1 setup in order to avoid clutter, so I'm limiting my options to 2.0 or 2.1. I'm also trying to avoid spending over $250.

My primary intention is to be use these speakers to listen to music, with a secondary use of movie/TV watching, and a distant tertiary usage of playing PC games.

The music genres I listen to tend to fall into rock, a bit of hair metal, synth-pop-rock, and orchestral (not necessarily classical). A fair bit of my music collection comes from anime, and examples of bands/singers I listen to regularly include the Barenaked Ladies, Gackt, L'arc-en-Ciel, The Pillows, Bang Camaro (if this helps illustrate my usage). I think I tend to favour a slightly warmer, slightly brighter sound with tight, punchy bass. That said, something that doesn't colour the sound would be great because that leaves me the option to tweak as I like. Sound detail and a good soundstage are also important to me.

For a time I had some Klipsch Promedia 2.1 THX speakers, and I loved the way they sounded but I had two sets fail on me in the space of two months, so I gave up on Klipsch. It was a tough decision given how much I liked their sound but I didn't want to deal with the hassle of unreliable equipment.

So that brings me to my new candidates:

  • Altec Lansing PT6021 ($140) -- the reviews here and in "The Absolute Sound" speak highly of this set. They're available from TigerDirect for $140 so they're affordable right now.
  • Altec Lansing FX4021 ($100) -- this looks like a decent set with an interesting subwoofer design. The control pod also looks useful and stylish. But the satellites look like they're quite small and so I wonder if the smaller drivers can provide the kind of sound I want, and whether an extra $50 or so dollars with the PT6021s or Microworks II will offer a vast improvement.
  • Cambridge Soundworks Microworks II ($150) -- From lurking around here it seems Rory speaks highly of them, and a quick peruse of AVSForum shows that most haven't heard any ill of Cambridge Soundworks in general.
  • Cambridge Soundworks Extreme 2.1 ($250) -- This looks like an interesting system. It uses two Newton Series II MC-50 bookshelves with an 8" 150 watt subwoofer. The satellites have a 3.5" woofer and 3/4" aluminum tweeter. The amplifier in the subwoofer also supports expansion into a 5.1 system if one supplies three more speakers. The biggest thing is that are the inclusion of a couple of tweeters, a bigger subwoofer, and potential for 5.1 in the future worth an extra $100 over the Microworks II?
  • Edifier S300D - I've heard great things about the old S2.1Ds, and I'd consider these even though they're a little tougher to get since I no longer live in Canada (moved to the US). The fact that the satellites are also built out of MDF seems appealing, since it seems like MDF has superior audio properties over the ABS plastic of usual multimedia speakers.
  • Getting an old stereo amplifier (35wpc to 120wpc in terms of power) along with new bookshelf speakers. I've considered the Polk Audio R150s, Sony SS-B1000, and Sony SS-B3000. I haven't had a lot of experience with bookshelf stereo systems, so I'm worried about whether I'll really, really miss the bass if I go with a 2.0 system. I don't listen to rap or hip hop, I don't play FPS games, and I'd rather watch movies on my 47" TV than my 19" computer monitor, so in other people's experience, is the bass really missed? Also, how much bass response will I expect out of "regular sized" bookshelves like the Polk R150s vs. something bigger like the SS-B3000 that has a huge woofer, midrange driver, and tweeter?

In these discussions, the Logitech Z-2300 will probably pop up, but I find that the subwoofer is just too big for my needs; when I listened to them at a store I found that even at the minimum bass setting, the set had really strong bass -- more than I need or want for my bedroom in a shared house.

So those are the ones I've considered. Just wondering if anyone with more audio experience had any thoughts on these sets compared to each other! I've been finding it really difficult to find stores that have enough multimedia speaker sets properly setup for comparison listening locally so it's been hard for me to make a choice. I thought I'd go for some second opinions to smooth out the signal noise I have in my head with this decision :)

Disclaimer: I am not an audiophile even though I throw out some audiophile-esque terms here and there. I'm nowhere near trained enough in my listening I think to be one, and I'm much too afraid to dive into that hobby/money-pit ;)

Thanks all!
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Rory Buszka

Partition Master
Hi, FlyingWok.

To date, I've been most satisfied with my speaker system from Cambridge Soundworks. Even though I've had a chance to hear many larger and more expensive speaker systems (right now, playing with Logitech's $299 Z-Cinema for a review, the MicroWorks II still really stands out in my mind as one of the most hi-fi speaker systems in the $100-$200 price category, in that its sound is uncolored and natural. It's also got a very 'tight', un-embellished low end that, again, is more characteristic of hi-fi speakers, and plenty of power. That advanced 2.1-set would also be an awesome performer.

If you want to spend less, the AltecLansing FX4021 is great for listening at more casual volumes, with deep low-end extension, but they sort of lose steam at higher volumes, and the satellite speakers can become distorted.

As far as the PT6021, I really liked what I heard during my time with the speakers, but I passed them along to my brother in favor of the Cambridge Soundworks set that I already owned.

Like you, I haven't heard many Logitech speaker sets that I could recommend fairly highly -- I always found the subs in the Z-series to be boomy and obnoxious -- but the subwoofer in the G51 system I reviewed several months ago was tight and punchy, and I enjoyed the time I spent with that system. I'm also liking their new Z-Cinema system. Imagine the company's Z-10 speakers, paired up with a Z-series 8" subwoofer. However, the real selling point of these speakers is their superb main satellites, which are a lot better-refined than their previous attempts, and feature active crossovers and biamping. Without giving too much away, I'd heartily recommend these speakers to anyone who's considering a purchase in their price range ($299).

As for the receiver/speakers route: If you do this, be sure to budget for an additional powered subwoofer to give your system the kick you're craving. The Polk bookshelves will run circles around the Sony speakers for sound quality, however, so keep that in mind if you do go that route. Simply expect that you'll want a sub, eventually, to fill in the bass range.
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z cinema

I have been looking for a real answer when regarding the z cinemas for a while. I hope you guys can help. I like the z 2300 s from logitech but they lack highs i think. I was wondering in the z cinemas would be a good choice in all around sound with more highs but still a lot of bass. Thanks

Rory Buszka

Partition Master
I'd say that the Z Cinema, with its fabric "dome" tweeters, has a more 'extended' high end sound than a typical PC speaker using full-range cone drivers. Its treble and bass range are also adjustable, giving you some measure of control over tonal balance.