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Monitors vs. traditional 3.5mm computer speakers?

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Vishera

Member
Joined
Jul 7, 2013
So my computer speakers recently junked out on me and I'm looking to replace them. But some of my friends have told me that buying "monitors" that use speaker wire and running them through an amp as opposed to getting another pair of 3.5mm computer speakers are far better, and wouldn't you know it, I have an old stereo whose speakers would apparently fit perfect into an amp. So what are the real world advantages to using speakers that run through an amp instead of ones that plug into a 3.5mm jack? Would I, an average user, notice any difference? I tend to listen to a lot of music if that makes any difference. Just wondering if it's worth it to grab an amp or, if those speakers from my stereo don't work, some new speakers as well.
 

Alaric

New Member
Joined
Dec 4, 2011
Location
Satan's Colon, US
It depends on the the amp and speakers, but generally you will get noticeably better sound from a separate amp and speakers over the standard computer speaker set up. Sound quality for music is why my rig uses my home stereo for audio.
 
OP
Vishera

Vishera

Member
Joined
Jul 7, 2013
It depends on the the amp and speakers, but generally you will get noticeably better sound from a separate amp and speakers over the standard computer speaker set up. Sound quality for music is why my rig uses my home stereo for audio.

If I wanted to do surround sound, what am I looking at for an amp that supports the proper amount of speakers?
 

Alaric

New Member
Joined
Dec 4, 2011
Location
Satan's Colon, US
Easiest solution would be a home theater receiver with an HDMI input. Onkyo, Pioneer, Yamaha etc., all have decently priced receivers. Good speakers are a little tougher, but they're out there.
 

Pinky

Member
Joined
Apr 21, 2001
Location
Las Vegas, NV
If I wanted to do surround sound, what am I looking at for an amp that supports the proper amount of speakers?

Well, yes. If it can't send a distinct signal to all the speakers it can't produce the surround effect. A surround receiver has channels for front (Left and Right), rear (left and right), center, and a sub woofer. As Alaric alluded to, you will also need to make sure whatever is sending sound OUT from the computer can send a surround signal. HDMI output is a good bet, but I don't know that all games (for example) will send the surround signal through HDMI. Sometimes you need a sound card that has analog outputs (the "older" technology), and then your surround receiver would need to have corresponding analog inputs.

You might want to google "5.1 surround" so you have an idea of what you're looking at achieving, so you have a better idea what you actually need to buy.

Best Buy sells packaged 5.1 surround systems for relatively cheap (the ".1" is the subwoofer), and they might be fine for your needs. Alternatively, Klipsch Promedia are great 2.1 (left + right + sub) computer speakers and don't cost that much, maybe $150-ish. I wouldn't hesitate to buy them if I needed speakers.
 
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NiHaoMike

dBa Member
Joined
Mar 1, 2013
HDMI surround supports individual channels and is no different from analog surround output as far as software is concerned. That's unlike S/PDIF which only supports surround with a compressed bitstream. It's also very difficult to find an analog surround amplifier nowadays, although an easy solution is to use a few cheap stereo amplifiers.

Put most of your speaker budget for the front speakers since that is the most important.
 

Pinky

Member
Joined
Apr 21, 2001
Location
Las Vegas, NV
HDMI surround supports individual channels and is no different from analog surround output as far as software is concerned. That's unlike S/PDIF which only supports surround with a compressed bitstream. It's also very difficult to find an analog surround amplifier nowadays, although an easy solution is to use a few cheap stereo amplifiers.

Thanks for clarifying Mike, I likely recall the spdif output days before HDMI took over as the defacto/standard. It's good to hear games and other surround utilizing software have embraced HDMI.

[I haven't gamed in nearly a decade]
 

Theocnoob

Member
Joined
Dec 1, 2007
Location
Near Toronto Canada
HDMI surround supports individual channels and is no different from analog surround output as far as software is concerned. That's unlike S/PDIF which only supports surround with a compressed bitstream. It's also very difficult to find an analog surround amplifier nowadays, although an easy solution is to use a few cheap stereo amplifiers.

Put most of your speaker budget for the front speakers since that is the most important.

No? There are several 5.1/7.1/atmos surround amps (AVR audio video receiver) almost all of which have a built in DAC. HDMI from your GPU to the AVR, HDMI out to display from AVR. Or if you're using DP out, use that directly. Done deal. Some AVR's support USB in. That's even better.

Denon makes some good cheap AVR's. If you want affordable but QUALITY stuff that really sounds good look at Yamaha. This is not a cheap proposition though.

Surround is a tricky beast. How good it will sound depends almost entirely on the layout of your room, and putting quality speakers on a desk craps out the sound quality. They need to be on stands.

Why don't you just save yourself a few thousand dollars and buy a pair of computer speakers? If you want to go with something great, get powered monitors. All you need is a pair of JBL LSR 305's and a 3.5mm TRS to dual mono 6.3mm TS cable to hook everything up to your computer. Done deal. Want to blow another $150? Get an audioquest dragonfly DAC.

Or for even less money, get a Klipsch Promedia 2.1 set. They sound great to most people. Corsair SP2500 is also an option.
 

palumbo

New Member
Joined
Dec 29, 2016
- - - Updated - - -

So my computer speakers recently junked out on me and I'm looking to replace them. But some of my friends have told me that buying "monitors" that use speaker wire and running them through an amp as opposed to getting another pair of 3.5mm computer speakers are far better, and wouldn't you know it, I have an old stereo whose speakers would apparently fit perfect into an amp. So what are the real world advantages to using speakers that run through an amp instead of ones that plug into a 3.5mm jack? Would I, an average user, notice any difference? I tend to listen to a lot of music if that makes any difference. Just wondering if it's worth it to grab an amp or, if those speakers from my stereo don't work, some new speakers as well.

Monitors refers to pro audio studio reference speakers. They are generally designed to be full range and not 'colour' the sound too strikingly, though each company and model will have differing equalization curves, and the room affects this as well.

They are also "near field" which means that, unlike PA or home stereo speakers, for monitors the listener's sweet spot is within a few feet in front and down a centre line between the two, forming a triangle (look up 'studio monitor angle and sweet spot setup') are not designed to project into a room the way say a stereo system would, though I have used them at dinners and parties and they're fine. (Sweet spots are different and yet very achievable for multichannel setups like 4, 5.1, 9.2, etc) In the case of sitting in front of a computer at a desk, a gamer would be in the same configuration as a studio producer/engineer/composer/ etc. I am a composer and programmer, and I do also use my reference monitors for listening to Spotify and playing games and watching movies at my desk.

Now, many monitors are powered, which means that they have amps built in, so you can't plug speaker wire into them from an external amp (I prefer powered monitors).
For entry level, The KRK rokit 5 monitors are the most popular (I have a pair of these. And you can usually find a cheap used pair for sale on reverb.com) Mid-range you could try Focal alpha 50 or 65s, or some Tannoys. If you are interested in higher end, Focal's Be range are my favourites (in a dream).

If you do go this route you should consider looking into getting an audio interface, which connects to your computer via usb/firewire /thunderbolt and performs very accurate and high quality analog-digital/digital-analog conversion. You'd want one with at least 1 Mic input and at least 2 outputs (ideally at least 6 TRS outputs for in case you wanted to do 5.1, etc) I recommend focusrite (like the 2i2, or 18i20) for entry level, motu (like the traveller) for medium range, and RME (baby face, or the ucx. I'm personally after the ufx+) for high end.

Another potential benefit with an audio interface of interest to this forum is that many of the drivers for these devices include software-based flexible routers and mixers for the audio, which means you can tune your system to the acoustics of your room, or perhaps specific to a given ggame or situation.
 
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