3. Computer Speakers
What sets computer speakers apart from run-of-the-mill stereo system speakers? They need built-in amplification — since they're not connected to an AV receiver — and shielding to protect your computer gear from the speaker magnets. You can find a decent pair of speakers from Altec-Lansing, Creative Labs or Logitech for under $50. If you're going to spend serious time enjoying music and potentially movie soundtracks on your computer, though, we advise spending a bit more.
M-Audio makes wonderful tabletop computer speakers, with excellent clarity and enough punch to feel substantial. The AV 40s are a bit pricey at $229.99, but the expense is justified by the room-filling, distortion-free sound they produce. The slightly smaller AV 30s sound nearly as good, with a bit less oomph, at $149.99.
Creative Labs offers an interesting wireless solution with the Inspire S2 Wireless speakers ($129.99). This system includes both compact stereo speakers and a subwoofer for powerful bass output. It connects to your laptop wirelessly via Bluetooth (either built into your computer or added with an included USB dongle). That way, whenever your laptop is within range, sound is automatically pumped through the speaker system, without having to plug in an audio cable. And, as a bonus, you can play music from your Bluetooth-equipped phone through the same speakers.