A soundbar or a dedicated set of PC speakers will greatly outperform the default speaker installed on your PC or monitor and dramatically improve the sound quality for your desktop computer. If you want to improve the listening experience on your PC, there are a few things to consider before you start shopping. The first decision to make is whether to go for a set of speakers or a soundbar. Both have their pros and cons and ultimately your choice should be based on the type of audio you want to listen to, the space available, your individual preferences as well as your available budget.
Speakers are the most commonly chosen option for PC sound and typically consist of individual left and right speakers supplied as a stereo pair. More expensive models (often referred to as 2.1 speakers) also include a subwoofer to fill in the lower bass sounds. For true surround sound, you can also purchase systems which consist of 5 or more individual speakers that are typically deployed to the left, right, centre and rear sections of the room. The extra cost and hassle of finding space for these extra speakers usually deters all but serious audiophiles and gamers from investing in a true surround sound system. If you want the ultimate sound quality and experience, a high end set of speakers will usually outperform a soundbar.
Soundbars consist of multiple speakers (or channels) built into a single chassis and arranged in a row (or bar). Whilst they are generally bought by people who want to upgrade the default sound from their TV, their ease and convenience also makes them a good alternative to PC speakers. Soundbars come in three main versions; 2.0/2.1, 3.1 and surround sound based on the number of speakers they contain. There are two main advantages a soundbar offers compared to a set of speakers; design and sound quality. Soundbars have sleeker designs and are generally more space friendly. There are fewer wires to worry about and you just have to place a single chassis rather than multiple speaker units. Sound quality is often better since soundbars (particularly with 3.1 and surround models) can process low and midrange sounds such as vocals more effectively than a pair of entry level speakers.
When choosing speakers, sound quality will be top of your list of considerations. Other things to think about are connectivity, desk presence and feature set. As well as wired speakers that connect to your PC via a 3.5mm lead or USB cable, there’s a choice of Bluetooth speakers give you more setup flexibility since your speakers aren’t tethered to the PC. They also allow you to connect other devices such as phones or tablets but typically cost more than wired speakers. The physical size and appearance of the speakers will also likely be an important factor. You will want to pick speakers that physically fit in the space you have available and look good with your PC setup. As for features, if you want more than the basic volume and power controls, some speakers offer extra dials or remote controls for more advanced audio settings. USB powered speakers sometimes come with bundled software for extra functions.
If you’ve got your heart set on a soundbar, your consideration set will be similar. Start by deciding how many channels (or speakers) you want or can afford - the more the better for overall sound quality but also the bigger the soundbar will be. You’re probably going to sit your soundbar on the desk, perhaps under a monitor so check the soundbars size and dimension to ensure it’ll fit in the space you have available. Many sound bars come with Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth, so you can easily stream music from your PC or mobile devices. If you want to connect the soundbar physically, check the available connectivity options for both the soundbar and your PC; HDMI connectivity is common. Finally, soundbars are often bundled with a host of additional features such as built-in smart assistants (Alexa, Siri or Google), multi-room connectivity or dedicated apps for advanced management control.