Computer speaker set reviews: Features explained
Speakers take an electrical signal produced by an amplifier and turn it into sound waves. The part of a speaker that does this is called the driver, and in most speakers the driver uses a system of electromagnets to move a lightweight cone backwards and forwards very quickly, producing sound waves so you can hear the music.
Types of speakers
There are two main types of speaker available – stereo and surround sound. Stereo speakers will meet most people’s needs and are perfect for playing music, listening to podcasts and internet radio or watching YouTube videos.
Most of the systems we tested include two satellite speakers and a sub-woofer or ‘sub’. This is the ideal set-up for computers because the satellite speakers only have to reproduce the mid to high sounds – like voices and snare drums – and can be very small.
The sub-woofer has to be much larger to reproduce lower frequency sounds such as bass guitars, or background noises such as the explosions and rumbles inherent to many movies or video games.
Often referred to as 5.1 or Dolby Digital systems, these usually consist of six speakers: three 'satellite' speakers are positioned in front of you, two behind, and one – the larger sub-woofer – is placed out of sight as it is with 2.1 stereo speakers.
The sound effects on DVDs and many games don't just send sound to the left and right speakers in front of you, but also to a pair of speakers behind you.
Dialogue and voices in movies, meanwhile are sent to a front centre speaker, making important exchanges easier to hear.
Many computer speakers have volume controls set into them. Some also include wired or infrared remote controls.