Article 19: Sound Systems

All About Audio

Alliteration aside, audio systems on your computer, your iPod, your technology are an integral piece that don’t get a lot of attention. With the sheer number of options available today, you have the power to make your computer sound just as good as it looks. Let’s take a look at some really cool and fun options in this week’s Modern Nerd.

Surround Sound … Headsets?

Gaming equipment seems to be at the forefront of consumer technology. Gamers are always willing to put up the big bucks for the tech that gives the edge, and headsets are the perfect example of this. When you need deep, rich, awesome sound and communication and can’t disturb the entire world around you, a headset is the way to go.


The latest thing in headsets is simulated surround sound. You can get 7.1 surround sound through circumaural speakers. Circumaural means that the headphones wrap around your entire ear, giving you an immersive sound experience that can’t be beat for headphones. They can get a little warm, but are super comfortable if you don’t get the cheap ones. They also have decent microphones to make sure that you come through clearly on video calls.

Headset Connectors – USB vs 3.5mm

One decision that you will have to make is how to connect a headset if you decide to go that route. Traditional 3.5 mm connectors are much more compatible with all of your devices, so if you decide to take your rig on the road with an iPod you’ll be all set. If you want a slightly higher sound quality, then the USB connection is the way to go. Drivers that are compatible with both Windows and Apple operating systems can help you fine tune your settings with equalizers and other goodies on a USB connection. Simply put, the USB is a better choice if your headset is not going to leave your computer’s side, ever.

Speakers, In and Out of the Monitor

Speakers are the more traditional way to go for home computing rigs, and can produce phenomenal sound in a tiny package. 5.1 and 7.1 systems have central hubs that can control volume, mute systems, and even allow for auxilary inputs, like your independent music player. Headphone jacks are not uncommon either, as private sound is always nice when you don’t want to disturb others.

If you want to go for something that takes up less space on your desk, consider a monitor that has built-in speakers. You will probably not get the best sound quality, but many small TV’s with HDMI inputs and monitors with builit-in speakers are getting better all the time. If you have an HDMI adapter or output in your tower, you can run the sound and the picture through one cable and reduce clutter.

You don’t even have to make a permanent decision, as operating systems have options to switch your sound out between a USB auxiliary headset, speakers connected by traditional 3.5mm cable, and or a digital HDMI connection to a TV. I personally have 4 sound systems connected to my desktop, and switch between them with great regularity to get just the right experience.

Portable and Powerful

Earbuds suck. There, I said it. Traditional earbuds are uncomfortable, and sound awful when compared to any system that has any power to it. It is not often that I will endorse something, but I do appreciate a quality product when I see it. Do you remember the commercial set that showed the iconic white cord for iPod’s earbuds? If you start to look closely, you’ll pass people on the street that have a cord with a very distinctive black and white stripe on their earbuds.

These are for Bose’s earbuds, and they have made a huge impact on the market. They have made a silicon earbud that conforms to the shape of the ear, rather than fitting into it. They have amazing sound for something so small, and are so comfortable that you could literally forget that you are wearing them. If you want something with great sound and a low profile, then check these out. Modern Nerd approved.

Don’t forget that your ears need love too. Take care of them, play your music loud, don’t hurt your ears, and get your ears good sound systems to truly enjoy it. Take care and thanks for reading.

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