Buyers guide to computer speakers and docking stations
The audio quality of digital music and television is improving all the time and many us now rely on downloads and streaming for much of our viewing and listening. This has in turn led to huge growth in the quality of speakers for both computers and smartphones/MP3 players.
As well as quality, there is now a huge range of products to choose from. Basic PC speakers start from as little as £5, while a good PC surround sound system can set you back £500. So which option to choose? Crowdstorm is here to help you make that decision.
Buying PC speakers
Of course the more you spend the higher quality your new PC speakers should be. However there are two other factors that can weigh heavily on your choice: style and surround sound.
Style and quality have no correlation; we've seen some sweet looking speakers as cheap as £10. But then if you're just using your computer for a bit of casual YouTube watching or listening to the radio while you work, you don't need the best. Go with the style!
But if you use your machine as your main music player or multimedia device, it can really be worth spending that little bit extra when you compare deals.
- Music: Those little speakers you often see connected to a PC simply aren't going to cut it for music lovers. But if you search '2.0' speakers here you'll find slim pickings in the stereo department; these PC speakers are very much considered small desktop mounted devices, so if you want a bit of bass you'll have to either connect your PC to an amp and 'proper' speakers - or get hooked up to a movie rig with surround sound, below.
- Movies: If you're looking for a strong multimedia set of PC speakers, you're going to be looking for surround sound. To limit your search, set the speaker type to '5.1' - which is five small speakers you'll place around the room, plus one central base unit. Prices range from around £40 to closer to £500.
Comparing MP3 docking stations
With an increasing number of people wanting to use their MP3 players as traditional stereo systems, the demand for larger connectable speakers has increased.
You can pick up a cheap docking station for as little as £20 if you simply want to add a bit of volume, while the more audibly savvy can spend hundreds. There's loads of choice out there, and plenty to compare at Crowdstorm.
First and foremost, be sure the device you choose can be connected to the device you own. For example, Apple's 'i' devices have had a change of connector in recent years, so be sure your particular iPod or iPhone is compatible with the docking station. Apple's converters are always expensive, so you could pay more for a bit of wire than you did for your dock!
There's a clear distinction between single-speaker travel models and multi-speaker set-ups that are designed to power a room on a permanent basis. You'll need to decide if you want the flexibility of the former or the volume and sound depth of the latter.
In terms of quality, remember the speakers are only going to be as good as the device - and the MP3s - that they're connected up to. The best stereo systems perfectly produce the sound sent to them; so if this is awful, don't blame the speakers.
The meat of the decision - and of the price - will often come down to the bells and whistles. There are a lot of options out there, from docking stations that work via Wi-Fi to those with built in digital radios to those which allow extra connections to other devices. The more research you do, the clearer your choice - and your tunes - will be.