Headset & Speaker Reviews
The computing experience cannot be considered complete without the audio element taken care of, and that means picking up a set of speakers or a pair of headphones. Nowadays, for better or for worse, most speakers marketed for computer users are fairly basic, as a number of major manufacturers have exited the market. Luckily there are still a few who’ve stuck around to provide high-quality gear. Because of their versatility, headphones have become much more popular, not only because you can take them with you for use with your smartphone or other listening device, but because they often include a microphone as well, critical for Skype as well as other online chat or gaming applications.
Speakers can be broken down into three categories: stereo speakers, stereo plus subwoofer (powered or unpowered), and surround kits. Depending on the user and the listening setup, less could be more when it comes to the number of speakers. For example, we find that for a typical desk setup, a good set of 2.0 stereo speakers is often the best alternative. For gamers, music, or action movie lovers, adding in a subwoofer is pretty critical, but we strongly discourage readers from choosing a kit with an unpowered subwoofer. This will only add a thumping sound without projecting any true audio quality. And of course, for listening on the go, size matters, so trading off a little sound quality for portability is always in order.
As for headsets, the main categories are headphones, designed just for listening, and full-on headsets, with built-in microphones for chatting or gaming. Each of these varieties can be had in wired and wireless models, and some even offer surround effects, although this is typically simulated (only the most expensive headsets have multiple drivers in each earpiece). We tend to like wireless headsets for the freedom of movement they provide, but there’s no doubt that wired models provide better sound quality and more features at any given price point.