Finding options to build a great desktop sound system is easy in this Internet age. Public interest in better desktop sound has been helped by better audio in video gaming and better sound cards in computers and also boosted by the Beats By Dre revolution.
And mass appeal of a thing means more competition among the factories that make the technology, driving down the price for consumers.
So a really first-rate desktop audio system can be had now for a fraction of what it used to cost. But because of the popularity, the potential for sales and manufacturing shortcuts, a poorly designed component could cost the same amount and be listed right next to a great one on Amazon.
You have to sift through the user reviews when building something popular and tech-y like a great desktop system. You just need to weed out the good reviews from the bad, which is admittedly easier than weeding out the good speakers from the bad if you don’t know much about speaker building and design.
I’ve been writing for a few weeks about the potential “holographic” sound you get when a system is set up correctly and when you play music that was recorded in a way to provide a big stereo field.
Here are a few ideas for building a desktop audio setup good enough to hear that 3-D sound the way it was intended.
You need three basic elements in any audio system. But we’ll focus on two since the source is assumed to be the computer. Along with a source, you need an amplifier and a set of speakers.
These days, many speakers have the amp built in for convenience (and a few sonic advantages), like the Audioengine line of speakers and the bigger “studio monitor” style of speakers like those from KRK, Yamaha or Focal on the high end.
For that type of integrated approach, I like what I’ve heard of the KEF Egg. Google that silly name and you’ll see a compact, all-in-one solution that, while offered in stylish colors, still looks a bit egg-y. Connectivity factor is high with these, but the reason I’m telling you about them is they sound very good.
Another approach would be separating the speakers and amp. You could grab a pair of ELAC B5s and put them on little mini stands for the desk that simply angle them toward your ears. For the amp, options like the Audioengine N22 with the add-on W3 wireless adapter or the Dayton tripath amp (DTA-100a — which I have and love) paired with a Chromcast dongle would fit the bill.
For the no-holds-barred approach, consider the Mini Maggies. I don’t have enough space here to explain the technology from the company Magnepan, but these speakers — two on the desk and one sub below — may offer the absolute best opportunity to hear that magic, 3-D sound our brains are capable of.
Sound waves go forward and backward on the Mini Maggies, so your desk won’t be ideal if it’s right against the wall. But if you can spare some space to move a few feet back, there’s likely no better speaker system to be had on a desk.