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gggritso's avatar

Is it worthwhile buying a 5.1 speaker system for music listening?

Asked by gggritso (5443points) June 14th, 2010

I listen to music essentially nonstop, whether I’m at home or on the go. At home, I have a dinky set of Logitech speakers plugged into my laptop, and the sound out of them is pretty tinny.

I’m looking for some kind of new solution to enjoy my music at home. I’m wondering whether I should look for systems with surround sound, or if normal 2.1 speakers will do just fine.

In addition, I’m wondering whether I should invest in a standalone system, or if I’m fine just plugging the 3.5mm into my laptop. Is there a significant advantage to more complicated systems? What brands should I look for?

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15 Answers

dpworkin's avatar

I prefer 5.1, but you get what you pay for, so don’t go too cheap, read some reviews, and try to audition them first.

Rufus_T_Firefly's avatar

A 5.1 system is designed for playback of THX-style movie soundtracks. It will probably make your music seem richer and fuller, but if a recording isn’t recorded specifically for playback on a 5.1 system it really won’t make much difference. Fortunately, there are a lot of low-cost systems to be had.
I have a nice Onkyo 5.1 home-theater system, but I can’t say that it has noticeably improved the sound of stereo music. Still, richer and fuller sound can be it’s own reward.

Lightlyseared's avatar

No. Spend the money on a decent amp, cd player and stereo speakers.

If you want it for movies then 5.1 is out of date anyway.

Cruiser's avatar

Powered 5.1 systems IMO are the only way to go. Even under $30.00 systems will seem incredible to 2.1 running off your computer power. I agree with @dpworkin that it is worth the extra dollars to get the best sound possible. I line out my laptop or MP3 player to the home stereo system for the ultimate MP3 experience.

timtrueman's avatar

Unless your music is in 5.1 it seems like just a bunch of clutter to me. There are awesome 2.1 setups on the market. I’ve got the Klipsch 2.1 speakers and they are pretty fantastic. Good headphones are also worth an investment if you listen to music that often. I’d recommend Sennheisers (@andrew can attest to how awesome good headphones such as those can be).

ipso's avatar


However it is for viewing movies – and should only be undertaken in support of a theater setting. @Rufus_T_Firefly nailed it.

Placement of speakers in such a system is critical.

And I could not agree more with @dpworkin. Many people start cheap and then just immediately want better stuff. Thus I highly recommend Craigslist.

To my mind the most important part of any sound system is the speakers. Everything else is secondary. The money goes there first.

Depending on your application, you may want to try a set of headphones. For much cheaper you can get into an “audiophile” level of listening.

dpworkin's avatar

GA @timtrueman I love my Sennheisers for serious listening to really good music.

timtrueman's avatar

@dpworkin Yeah I know @gggritso asked about speakers but I find myself using headphones just because they are that much better when you go high-quality (versus speakers). I’d say 95% of my time is headphones over speakers. Basically the only time I use speakers is if someone else is listening.

gggritso's avatar

A few notes:

I actually just bought a ~130$ set of Sennheiser earbuds, which I’m really happy with. Right now I’m looking just for speakers. My current speakers are powered, they’re just of very low quality. I’ll look into the Klipsch ones, they seem to be what I’m looking for. I’m glad that my assumption about 5.1 speakers and music was more or less correct.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

A few artists out there, like Porcupine Tree, are releasing albums in 5.1 sound mixes, which would best be heard using a DTS-capable receiver. You don’t have to spend a ton of money on one, and you can play back the discs on a $40 DVD player.

spincity9080's avatar

when your at home why do you listen to your laptop? do you not have a regular radio? In my opinion i would invest in a home radio/ entertainment system that you can truly enjoy your music on, not some basic laptop speakers. Enjoy music the way it was meant to be heard.

gggritso's avatar

@spincity9080 Radio? Definitely not. I haven’t heard a decent radio station in years. I would much rather enjoy my own music collection. I’ve built up a decent library, and there’s no point in going elsewhere.

spincity9080's avatar

didnt mean radio per say…...but more like and all around entertainment system that you can connect an ipod/ laptop too…. most entertainment systems have a built in radio….....but to cut to the chase i would always uprgrade and get something that is designed to make it feel like you were at the recording of whatever it is you are listening too. music always makes me happy and there is no better way to listen to it on a great sound system. Also if i had to recomend anything just stay away from any proprietary products (ie sony samsung etc) because they dont leave you room to uprgrade. Such products as yamaha, denon wil leave you room to later uprgrade components as you see fit

gggritso's avatar

@spincity9080 Ok, well I totally agree with on a few parts of that, since I enjoy my music a lot as well, but is it worth it in my case? All of my music is digital, at 256Mbps. Will that kind of source quality really be able to take advantage of nice Denon speakers?

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