Curse of the 2 Watt PC Speakers

Part 1 of 2

Recently, I was tasked with finding a pair of Computer Speakers for a friend. My search resulted in frustration. The main reason for my annoyance is why, after all these years, are so many PC speakers still only 2 Watts per channel. I mean, that’s merely double the watts of your tiny built in laptop speakers. I want, in the words of Jeremy Clarkson “More POWER!”

Perhaps my need for power, stems from being a teenager in the 1980′s, when bigger really meant better. Home hi-fi systems came in separate components, that you stacked in large cabinets with glass doors and the speakers towered on either side. It wasn’t just a stereo, it was furniture.

If we look at the evolution of technology over the past 20-30 years, many things have changed in size. Sony Walkman’s were about as compact as a pocket edition of War and Peace, now there’s the iPod shuffle that’s smaller than a box of matches. TV’s changed from being the size of a washing machine, to just a couple of inches thick; but the screens are bigger than ever. Mobile Phones started out, not being able to fit in a brief case, it was the briefcase. Then they shrunk to something smaller than the palm of your hand. However, our phones are starting to stack on the beef again, as each new generation adds inches to the display.

creative T40 pc speakers

Creative GigaWorks T40 – approx $130. Look cool, but only 16watts per channel.

Looking back at PC speakers…they’ve remained pretty much the same; apart from those that come with a subwoofer, to compensate for a complete lack of bass in the little 3 inch satellite speakers that sit on your desk. I’m not a big fan of subwoofers, except for the ground thumpers they have at rock concerts. Many of them are tricky to control in the music mix; either being too dominating, or just muddying the overall sound.

I accept that a lot of people don’t want big speakers taking up too much desk real estate. There’s still got to be some room left for your coffee cup, pen holder and stapler. However, with today’s technology, couldn’t they cram some decent power and audio dynamics into small packages?

swan m200 monitor speakers

Swan M200 MKIII Powered Monitors – approx $600. 60 watts per channel.

In car stereo world, they can make speakers that fit in a tiny space behind your dashboard, yet they’re not 2 watts, they’re 200 watts!

I managed to find an average pair of PC speakers for my friend, but then I got carried away and continued the search for myself. Now I wanted some better speakers. Going further and further up in price brackets, I discovered that the next level is powered studio monitors. But by that point, I was hitting the area of $300 plus.

Focal Diablo Utopia bookshelf speakers

Focal Diablo Utopia bookshelf speakers…sexy…but also approx $11,000

PC speakers need to have their own power source, because you can’t just plug regular speakers into a computer, unless you have an amplifier.

That gave me an idea, why not get a nice pair of bookshelf speakers and a little amp. Again, I discovered that anything decent is in the $300 plus range. I even found a pair for $25,000! Who spends the cost of a new medium sized car on speakers?

So, bored with searching, I’ve decided to go the DIY route. I’ll tell you more about it in Part 2 of this tale (coming soon…)


Read Part 2: Curse of the 2 watt PC Speakers continued…

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