Learning Resources

Computer speakers

Computer speakers, or multimedia speakers, are speakers external to a computer, that disable the lower fidelity built-in speaker. They often have a low-power internal amplifier. The standard audio connection is a 3.5 mm (approximately 1/8 inch) stereo jack plug often color-coded lime green (following the PC 99 standard) for computer sound cards. A plug and socket for a two-wire (signal and ground) coaxial cable is widely used to connect analog audio and video components. Rows of RCA sockets are found on the backs of stereo amplifier and numerous A/V products. The prong is 1/8" thick by 5/16" long. A few use an RCA connector for input. There are also USB speakers which are powered from the 5 volts at 500 milliamps provided by the USB port, allowing about 2.5 watts of output power.

Computer speakers range widely in quality and in price. The computer speakers typically packaged with computer systems are small, plastic, and have mediocre sound quality. Some computer speakers have equalization features such as bass and treble controls.

The internal amplifiers require an external power source, usually an AC adapter. More sophisticated computer speakers can have a subwoofer unit, to enhance bass output, and these units usually include the power amplifiers both for the bass speaker, and the small satellite speakers.

Some computer displays have rather basic speakers built-in. Laptops come with integrated speakers. Restricted space available in laptops means these speakers usually produce low-quality sound.

For some users, a lead connecting computer sound output to an existing stereo system is practical. This normally yields much better results than small low-cost computer speakers. Computer speakers can also serve as an economy amplifier for MP3 player use for those who wish to not use headphones, although some models of computer speakers have headphone jacks of their own.

An image of speaker