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Video: Upgrading Computer Sound

Tara W. has worked for Crutchfield since 2004. She writes about whole-house music and video gear, and works on Crutchfield's video team.

More from Tara W.

Many of us have music on our computers. In this video, we'll go through the steps you need to take to create a desktop audio system with computer speakers and a digital-to-analog converter.

Video Transcript

Tara These days a lot of people, including me, keep all of our music on our computers so that we can play them through our iPhone or iPod, even our iPad. But if you're listening to your music from the speakers that came in the box with your computer, or even the speakers that are built into a laptop, then you're missing out on a lot of the detail in the music. So in this video, we're gonna cover three ways to upgrade the sound from your computer.

Computer speakers are super simple to set up. You'll likely connect one speaker to another with speaker cable, and then one of the speakers will connect to your computer with a cable like this. They'll also connect to the wall for power. A second option is to use computer speakers like these that have a built in digital-to-analog converter, or DAC. With these you'll connect your computer using a USB cable so you'll send a pure digital signal out to your speakers. This lets the speakers higher quality processors take care of the sound and it's gonna give you higher quality, clearer, more detailed sound than you'd get if you were using the processing that's built into your computer. These speakers are as easy to set up as other computer speakers. You'll run one cable, USB, out to the speakers, one cable to connect the two speakers, and then a cable to the wall for power.

A third and even better option for getting better sound from your computer is to use an outboard digital-to-analog converter, or DAC, like this one here. This is going to take that pure digital signal from your computer so it's going to bypass the sound card and all the processing that goes on in your computer. It'll process the sound with its dedicated digital-to-analog converter and so it's gonna give you a really high quality sound that it'll pump out to your speakers so you'll get again better clarity, more detail. It's really gonna open up your music and your games. Something great about these DACs is that they're really quite small so they're not gonna take up a lot of room on your desktop. So it's great way to improve the sound, whether you're in the market for new speakers or just trying to upgrade the sound with the speakers you currently have. And they'll work with headphones, too. So you'll get better sound whether you're listening through headphones or speakers.

If you have any questions, or you want help picking out a desktop system, just give us a call. We'd be happy to help.

  • gary h. from phila.

    Posted on 10/27/2016

    hi tara, just want to thank you for your easy and well written article (transcript) upgrading computer and headphone sound via a DAC. i had no idea there was a solution so simple. thanks again! gary

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