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Good speakers for desktop in the $150-$250 range?

ECMalcolm
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As the title suggests, I'm interested in getting speakers for my home office that I'll be using primarily for gaming and video watching, and less commonly for music. I have little knowledge when it comes to audio (and especially speakers) so I'm not looking for anything crazy, preferably a simple two speaker setup but I'm open to suggestions.

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Standard bookshelf-type speakers? Do you need everything in one (active speakers) or passive speakers and an external amp? For active speakers, the Edifier R1700BT are a very solid choice. If you want to get seperate components (because you like upgrading parts individually in the future) you could go with something like an Aiyima A07 amp and Sony SSCS5 passive speakers.

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Edifier R1280. #1 at Amazon

 

I have a pair, they are relatively inexpensive, sound nice to my tin ear, are wood not plastic.

 

Not overly loud but loud enough.

 

Massive upgrade over the $20 beige plastic 2.0 computer speakers they replaced.

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I'm surprised to see people making under-budget recommendactions, given how much we have to work with here. In the $150-$250 range, we should forget Edifier even exists. I can agree with one of the above replies regarding the Sony CS5's, but those still leave $100 of headroom in the budget.

 

The Emotiva B1+ is $250 a pair, and the Mackie MR524's I personally use also cost about the same.

[Main Desktop]

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 5600X  GPU: EVGA RTX 3070 Ti (FTW3 Ultra)  MOBO: MSI Gaming Pro Carbon (X470)  RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws V DDR4-3600 CL16 (2x8GB)

COOLER: Arctic LiquidFreezer II 280 STORAGE: G.SKILL Phoenix FTL 240GB SSD, Crucial MX500 1TB SSD, Toshiba 2TB HDD, Seagate 4TB HDD

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MOUSE: Logitech G502 HERO (wired)  KEYBOARD: Rosewill K81 RGB (Kailh Brown)  HEADPHONES: HiFiMan Ananda, Drop x Sennheiser HD6XX

IEMS: 7Hz Timeless, Tin Audio T2, Blon BL-03, Samsung/AKG Galaxy Buds Pro  STUDIO MONITORS: Mackie MR524, Mackie MRS10  MIC: NEAT Worker Bee  

INTERFACE: Focusrite Scarlett Solo  AMPLIFIER: SMSL SP200 THX AAA-888, XDUOO XD-05 Basic  DAC: SMSL Sanskrit 10th MKII (upgraded AK4493 Version)

WHEEL: Logitech G29 + Logitech G Shifter

 

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COOLER: EVGA CLC 280 PSU: MSI A750GF 80+ Gold CASE: Phanteks P400A Digital

 

[Garage]

CAR: 2003 Honda Civic Coupe LX (EM2)  ENGINE: D17A1, planned K20A2 swap  INTAKE: DIY Solutions Short RAM  HEADERS: Motor1 4-2-1 with Cat-Delete

EXHAUST: Yonaka 2.5" Cat-Back with 3.5" tip (YMCB-CIV0105)  COILOVERS: MaXpeedingrods adjustable  RIMS: Core Racing Concept Seven Alloys (15x6.5)

RECEIVER: Kenwood DPX304MBT  SOUND DEADENING: Damplifier Pro Deadening Mats  SOUND DAMPENING: Custom solution, layers of thick insulation

DOOR SPEAKERS: Kenwood KFC-P710PS 6.5" Components  WINDOW LEDGE SPEAKERS: Kenwood KFC-6996PS 6x9" 5-Ways

 

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5 minutes ago, OfficialTechSpace said:

I'm surprised to see people making under-budget recommendactions, given how much we have to work with here. In the $150-$250 range, we should forget Edifier even exists. I can agree with one of the above replies regarding the Sony CS5's, but those still leave $100 of headroom in the budget.

 

The Emotiva B1+ is $250 a pair, and the Mackie MR524's I personally use also cost about the same.

The $100 of headroom in the budget is for the amp, that's kinda required with passive speakers, and OP didn't state they already have an amp.

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7 minutes ago, Alvin853 said:

The $100 of headroom in the budget is for the amp, that's kinda required with passive speakers, and OP didn't state they already have an amp.

Meh. I don't think I'd recommend spending $250 on Sony CS5's and an amp, unless the GR Research upgrade kit is part of the OP's future plans. It requires a little DIY knowledge. Otherwise, a better out-of-box solution can be had for that price and without need for an amp.

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INTERFACE: Focusrite Scarlett Solo  AMPLIFIER: SMSL SP200 THX AAA-888, XDUOO XD-05 Basic  DAC: SMSL Sanskrit 10th MKII (upgraded AK4493 Version)

WHEEL: Logitech G29 + Logitech G Shifter

 

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COOLER: EVGA CLC 280 PSU: MSI A750GF 80+ Gold CASE: Phanteks P400A Digital

 

[Garage]

CAR: 2003 Honda Civic Coupe LX (EM2)  ENGINE: D17A1, planned K20A2 swap  INTAKE: DIY Solutions Short RAM  HEADERS: Motor1 4-2-1 with Cat-Delete

EXHAUST: Yonaka 2.5" Cat-Back with 3.5" tip (YMCB-CIV0105)  COILOVERS: MaXpeedingrods adjustable  RIMS: Core Racing Concept Seven Alloys (15x6.5)

RECEIVER: Kenwood DPX304MBT  SOUND DEADENING: Damplifier Pro Deadening Mats  SOUND DAMPENING: Custom solution, layers of thick insulation

DOOR SPEAKERS: Kenwood KFC-P710PS 6.5" Components  WINDOW LEDGE SPEAKERS: Kenwood KFC-6996PS 6x9" 5-Ways

 

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Presonus Eris 4.5 - very decent set of powered speakers.

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1 hour ago, Blue4130 said:

Presonus Eris 4.5 - very decent set of powered speakers.

Emphasis on decent, it'a a 4-inch woofer and 1-inch softdome at a $250 median price.

[Main Desktop]

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 5600X  GPU: EVGA RTX 3070 Ti (FTW3 Ultra)  MOBO: MSI Gaming Pro Carbon (X470)  RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws V DDR4-3600 CL16 (2x8GB)

COOLER: Arctic LiquidFreezer II 280 STORAGE: G.SKILL Phoenix FTL 240GB SSD, Crucial MX500 1TB SSD, Toshiba 2TB HDD, Seagate 4TB HDD

PSU: EVGA GQ-1000W 80+ Gold  CASE: The MESHMOD v1.0 (Custom Deepcool Matrexx 70 chassis)  MONITOR: AOC 24G2 144Hz (IPS) 

MOUSE: Logitech G502 HERO (wired)  KEYBOARD: Rosewill K81 RGB (Kailh Brown)  HEADPHONES: HiFiMan Ananda, Drop x Sennheiser HD6XX

IEMS: 7Hz Timeless, Tin Audio T2, Blon BL-03, Samsung/AKG Galaxy Buds Pro  STUDIO MONITORS: Mackie MR524, Mackie MRS10  MIC: NEAT Worker Bee  

INTERFACE: Focusrite Scarlett Solo  AMPLIFIER: SMSL SP200 THX AAA-888, XDUOO XD-05 Basic  DAC: SMSL Sanskrit 10th MKII (upgraded AK4493 Version)

WHEEL: Logitech G29 + Logitech G Shifter

 

[Stream Encoder]

CPU: AMD FX-9590  GPU: Sapphire R9 390X (Tri-X OC)  MOBO: ASUS Sabertooth R2.0 (AM3+)  RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws X DDR3-1866 (2x8GB)

COOLER: EVGA CLC 280 PSU: MSI A750GF 80+ Gold CASE: Phanteks P400A Digital

 

[Garage]

CAR: 2003 Honda Civic Coupe LX (EM2)  ENGINE: D17A1, planned K20A2 swap  INTAKE: DIY Solutions Short RAM  HEADERS: Motor1 4-2-1 with Cat-Delete

EXHAUST: Yonaka 2.5" Cat-Back with 3.5" tip (YMCB-CIV0105)  COILOVERS: MaXpeedingrods adjustable  RIMS: Core Racing Concept Seven Alloys (15x6.5)

RECEIVER: Kenwood DPX304MBT  SOUND DEADENING: Damplifier Pro Deadening Mats  SOUND DAMPENING: Custom solution, layers of thick insulation

DOOR SPEAKERS: Kenwood KFC-P710PS 6.5" Components  WINDOW LEDGE SPEAKERS: Kenwood KFC-6996PS 6x9" 5-Ways

 

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3 hours ago, OfficialTechSpace said:

Emphasis on decent, it'a a 4-inch woofer and 1-inch softdome at a $250 median price.

Huh, guess I got lucky. I only paid $150

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If no amplifier is required (as in one is already owned) then take your pick of:
Emotiva B1+, JBL Studio 530, ELAC Debut 2.0 B5.2 or Polk ES15.

https://www.erinsaudiocorner.com/loudspeakers/emotiva_airmotiv_b1plus/
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/jbl-studio-530-speaker-review.12298/
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/elac-debut-2-0-b6-2-speaker-review.14272/ <- similar to the 5.25" version

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/polk-signature-elite-es20-review-bookshelf-speaker.33834/ <- similar to the ES15


These are ALL pretty darn solid and cost around $250 at either their usual price or on sale. The B1+ is physically the smallest but doesn't go super deep on bass. The JBL 530 (VERY often on sale for $240) and ES15 (not quite as deep) go lowest on bass.

 

I do NOT suggest the SS-CS5 unless you can get them for their on sale price of UNDER $90 (as low as $73). I also do NOT suggest spending $300 on an upgrade kit for this $80 speaker (just get something that's good out of the box). Half of the upgrade kit costs go to things that don't make a measurable difference (swapping out the binding posts for a gimmicky tube connector that's WORSE than the built in one if you use bare wire and take a wrench to the post hard - which is half-pointless anyway since you can get a "good enough" connection going finger tight or using banana plugs) on sound quality and you end up with an overengineered $80 speaker.

 

 

 


If you're trying to hit $180ish ($70 for an amp like an Aiyima A07) then maybe something like Polk Monitor XT15 (see if you can get a deal).

Also don't be afraid of seeing if you can find any of these used. Speakers will likely last 10-50 years and their prices often drop by half or more when bought used.

 

Also be aware that I'm assuming you have speaker wire (usually cheap, think $0.50 per foot) and RCA cables (also a few dollars) to connect the things (speaker wire from Amp to speakers, RCA from computer to amp).

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8 hours ago, OfficialTechSpace said:

Meh. I don't think I'd recommend spending $250 on Sony CS5's and an amp, unless the GR Research upgrade kit is part of the OP's future plans. It requires a little DIY knowledge. Otherwise, a better out-of-box solution can be had for that price and without need for an amp.

Are you really suggesting someone spend money on boutique film caps for a sub-$1k speaker? Really? 

 

Even in a $10,000 speaker build, I would call those caps a complete waste of money. At this price? You're spending more on capacitors than on the speakers themselves, when those caps make zero improvement over a generic polypropylene of the same value in this application.

 

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8 hours ago, H713 said:

Are you really suggesting someone spend money on boutique film caps for a sub-$1k speaker? Really? 

 

Even in a $10,000 speaker build, I would call those caps a complete waste of money. At this price? You're spending more on capacitors than on the speakers themselves, when those caps make zero improvement over a generic polypropylene of the same value in this application.

That's an utterly poor reading of my reply, I think I was very clearly taking opposition to the recommendation. Stating "if ___" to the point of spending an obscene amount of money on the CS5's. Actually stating that even $250 on the CS5's and an amp was "meh". 

 

Also, completely reworking the crossover for a three-way bookshelf speaker using high-quality components, and retreating the entire cabinet with NO REZ definitely has a massive impact on sound. It also changes the CS5's from a woofer>tweeter>supertweeter system, to a woofer>midrange>tweeter system. Anyone who says otherwise or suggests that it wouldn't even be worth it on super-expensive variants should give up audio as a hobby. Everyone's entitled to their own opinion, although when it's wrong there should be an ability to flag it as inaccurate. Much like Trump had on his tweets before he was banned.

[Main Desktop]

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 5600X  GPU: EVGA RTX 3070 Ti (FTW3 Ultra)  MOBO: MSI Gaming Pro Carbon (X470)  RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws V DDR4-3600 CL16 (2x8GB)

COOLER: Arctic LiquidFreezer II 280 STORAGE: G.SKILL Phoenix FTL 240GB SSD, Crucial MX500 1TB SSD, Toshiba 2TB HDD, Seagate 4TB HDD

PSU: EVGA GQ-1000W 80+ Gold  CASE: The MESHMOD v1.0 (Custom Deepcool Matrexx 70 chassis)  MONITOR: AOC 24G2 144Hz (IPS) 

MOUSE: Logitech G502 HERO (wired)  KEYBOARD: Rosewill K81 RGB (Kailh Brown)  HEADPHONES: HiFiMan Ananda, Drop x Sennheiser HD6XX

IEMS: 7Hz Timeless, Tin Audio T2, Blon BL-03, Samsung/AKG Galaxy Buds Pro  STUDIO MONITORS: Mackie MR524, Mackie MRS10  MIC: NEAT Worker Bee  

INTERFACE: Focusrite Scarlett Solo  AMPLIFIER: SMSL SP200 THX AAA-888, XDUOO XD-05 Basic  DAC: SMSL Sanskrit 10th MKII (upgraded AK4493 Version)

WHEEL: Logitech G29 + Logitech G Shifter

 

[Stream Encoder]

CPU: AMD FX-9590  GPU: Sapphire R9 390X (Tri-X OC)  MOBO: ASUS Sabertooth R2.0 (AM3+)  RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws X DDR3-1866 (2x8GB)

COOLER: EVGA CLC 280 PSU: MSI A750GF 80+ Gold CASE: Phanteks P400A Digital

 

[Garage]

CAR: 2003 Honda Civic Coupe LX (EM2)  ENGINE: D17A1, planned K20A2 swap  INTAKE: DIY Solutions Short RAM  HEADERS: Motor1 4-2-1 with Cat-Delete

EXHAUST: Yonaka 2.5" Cat-Back with 3.5" tip (YMCB-CIV0105)  COILOVERS: MaXpeedingrods adjustable  RIMS: Core Racing Concept Seven Alloys (15x6.5)

RECEIVER: Kenwood DPX304MBT  SOUND DEADENING: Damplifier Pro Deadening Mats  SOUND DAMPENING: Custom solution, layers of thick insulation

DOOR SPEAKERS: Kenwood KFC-P710PS 6.5" Components  WINDOW LEDGE SPEAKERS: Kenwood KFC-6996PS 6x9" 5-Ways

 

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No one is saying that spending $300 (currently $345) on an $80 speaker (as low as $72 on sale but currently $178) doesn't make it better. The original crossover design has a lot of corners cut and there are very real improvements to be made.

It's just that it's like spending $300,000 to spice up a $8000 honda civic. It just doesn't make any sense at all, it's a lot of extra work, and you can get better sounding speakers for less than the cost without any of the extra work, hassle or risk. A better crossover isn't going to fix the fact that the woofer is cheap and has a resonance problem AND gets distorted when played at somewhat high volumes, which is utterly unacceptable in something that in total costs $400+ ($523 at current prices) and a bunch of time and energy. If you want a better crossover you could also get 95+% of the benefit for 1/7th the cost (though you'd need to put in some design work and this is easy to mess up). Similar story with the no-rez stuffing. It's nice but it's better to start with a cabinet that's better braced.

I recommend the CS5 when it's on sale. It's not on sale right now and not even worth mentioning until it's around $100 cheaper than it presently is.

When an upgrade kit costs more than speakers that don't have as many fundamental issues to begin with (e.g. no need for a complex crossover, better woofers, better tweeters, better cabinets, etc.) you have to raise an eyebrow. Especially when the majority of discussions are the guy selling the kits are screaming "snake oil salesman". The DIY speakers offered (without overpriced caps or tube connectors) aren't terrible though. The upgrade kits... the common denominator between all of them is that the parts in them just so happen to be the most profitable stuff. I wouldn't be surprised if the DIY speaker design/sale aspect of the business doesn't really make money and the speaker upgrade kits "pay the bills."

 

 

 

------

 

Some bits and pieces

binding posts vs nail vs no binding post vs super cheap clip

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/different-binding-posts-is-it-audible.16052/
"The effect of the different BP on the frequency response is negligible." "no differences on frequency response or temporal level are detectable"

cheap caps vs expensive caps
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/capacitor-upgrade-in-crossover-is-it-audible.12287/

"That's just the same measurement with three different colors displayed - isn't it?" " There are minimal deviations between the curves, but with a maximum of 0.03dB these are so small that it is hardly worth mentioning." "no difference at all can be detected."

replacing resistors
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/replace-resistor-by-low-inductance-resistor-is-it-audible.12162/

"The effects of replacing a sand-cast resistor with a low-inductance resistor are practically zero."

 

 

 

So yeah... "upgrade kits" don't do much (namely the overpriced, high margin components in them - there are SOME benefits to shifting crossover design but this can be done FAR more cheaply). Measurable (barely and not necessarily better), but much less of an impact vs moving your head 1/10th of an inch or rotating a speaker by a few degrees.

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11 hours ago, OfficialTechSpace said:

That's an utterly poor reading of my reply, I think I was very clearly taking opposition to the recommendation. Stating "if ___" to the point of spending an obscene amount of money on the CS5's. Actually stating that even $250 on the CS5's and an amp was "meh". 

 

Also, completely reworking the crossover for a three-way bookshelf speaker using high-quality components, and retreating the entire cabinet with NO REZ definitely has a massive impact on sound. It also changes the CS5's from a woofer>tweeter>supertweeter system, to a woofer>midrange>tweeter system. Anyone who says otherwise or suggests that it wouldn't even be worth it on super-expensive variants should give up audio as a hobby. Everyone's entitled to their own opinion, although when it's wrong there should be an ability to flag it as inaccurate. Much like Trump had on his tweets before he was banned.

Reworking the crossover and damping the cabinet does affect sound, but that can be done without spending $300 on caps. Given the price of this thing, I'd probably be using electrolytics, maybe cheap poly films if the values are small.

 

GR Research has an obsession with premium caps, premium connectors and premium cables. Each of those Sonicaps is more expensive than the drivers in this speaker, and they deliver nothing that an ordinary polypropylene cap wouldn't. Given the distortion from the drivers, $2 polyester film caps or even BP electrolytics would be just fine. 

 

Polishing a turd is fine, but polishing a turd using $300 worth of  Teflon polish is stupid. 

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18 hours ago, Blue4130 said:

Presonus Eris 4.5 - very decent set of powered speakers.

Was just about to recommend these or the 3.5s. Personally I have the 3.5s because I'm a little space constrained. That being said I think I got the pair for ~$100 CAD, and they're loud enough for me and sound pretty decent. The Presonus' also match my setup a little better aesthetically incase that matters lol

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I currently use a pair of Klipsch r-14pm as my daily drivers for my main PC!

 

Good sound for what they are and beat out any of the economy speakers so may people get when they get a pc. Paid $250 at bestbuy several years ago and don't know what they go for now as far as I know they are discontinued in favor of the r-41pm or the r-51pm models.

 

https://www.klipsch.com/products/r-14pm-powered-monitors

 

My $0.02 for what it's worth!

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Just get the Emotiva's, they look great for what they're worth.

Alternatively, if you're pretty lucky, you might find some ESI Unik's around 300, which are amazing speakers on their own. Would get even better with an interface...

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