Monday, April 15, 2013


Hello strangers.  It's certainly been a while.

The long absence wasn't intentional.  I just got caught up with the girlfriend's transcontinental visit and haven't had a chance to upload.  Now that she's left, you once again have this lonely blogger's undivided attention.

So, I thought that I'd do something a bit different for my return.  Today I'm going to instruct you how to build a super-hot (and affordable) desktop audio setup.

I've always had a thing for audio (check out my review of the exceptional Sony MDR-V6 headphones here), whether it's in films, music, or the occasional (the girlfriend would disagree ) video game.  However, due to my persistent tight-fistedness, all of my desktop entertainment needs were, until recently, fulfilled by a Logitech X-540 system.  It provided decent-enough surround sound for its $40 fire sale price, but one of the speakers developed a rather distracting rattle outside of the warranty period.


Several years ago, finding a replacement wouldn't have been an issue.  There were a number of decent options from the likes of Cambridge Soundworks, Creative, Logitech, and Klipsch, but there's been a serious race to the bottom as far as quality is concerned.  Just as in furniture, most computer speakers are now plastic pieces of crap that fall apart at the slightest provocation.  Even the vaunted Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 has been downgraded and experienced worrying amplifier problems.  That becomes a particularly aggravating problem when manufacturers make it impossible to replace defective parts with their proprietary, integrated connections.

In light of this, I decided to take another tact and construct my own beefed-up stereo desktop set out of more powerful home theater components.   


The end result is a system that absolutely blows any higher-end desktop speaker package out of the water for an equal or lesser amount of scratch.  

Here's what you'll need:

These 2-way bookshelf speakers received rave reviews from just about every audio publication in existence.  While they aren't particularly efficient, the clean, neutral sound and great stereo imaging more than makes up for it.  I've seen them drop as low as $69 for a pair.  Run, don't walk to pick up a set before Pioneer realizes that these are, bar-none, the best deal in audio.  Period.

A huge 12" subwoofer that delivers tight, distortion-free bass with a street price as low as $100?  Need I say more?  If you need something a little less massive, consider the 8 or 12" version, but for a measly $20, why not upgrade to the 12"?

You can go two routes here.  If you have the room, I'd suggest a cheap, used stereo receiver (do your research beforehand).  If, like here, your desk space is at a premium, go with this extremely efficient T-amp from Dayton.  You'll be genuinely surprised how much clean stereo sound you can get out of a 50 watt per channel amp only slightly larger than an iPod.

Just pick up the cheapest 14 gauge (higher gauge number = thinner wire) or larger and 25+ foot spool that you can find.  Monoprice generally has decent deals, but check around.

Grab a set of 8 gold-plated banana plugs from Monoprice.  Pretty much any will do.

6' 3.5mm Male to RCA Stereo Audio Cable
When using analogue connections, cable quality actually matters.  Luckily, you can pick up this attractive, thick, and well-constructed adapter for less than the cheapo version that's sold at most big box stores.

I actually get better positioning out of this set than my old Logitechs that provided true surround sound (I've looked behind me thinking that something was there on more than one occasion), but if you ever do get the itch to upgrade to the real deal, just add a multi-channel amp, Pioneer center, pair of surrounds, and switch out the analog adapter.

That's it. Just hook up everything per the instruction manual and you are ready to go.  Easy peasey, right?  Now just sit back and prepare to immerse yourself in pure audio bliss.


  1. Maybe my ears need a tune-up but . . . sometimes it all sounds the same. JT uses some fancy speakers he got with his recorder on the computer . . . it all kind of sounds like it's coming out of a computer! Now the big old speakers on our record player I can get behind . . . Cheers - CT

    1. I've never really had the time/money to get into vinyl, but I know quite a few who enjoy it. Perhaps I'll have to pick up a turntable one day and give it a whirl. Those old speakers from the 60's and 70's can be monsters.

  2. Welcome back! Maybe, just maybe I will give this a try.

    1. If you do, let me know. I really love mine!