How to get the best sound from your computer
monthWe all spend a disproportionate amount of time in front of a computer. There’s 9 to 5, online searching, reading, shopping and binge-watching, but one thing many music lovers forget is the fact that your laptop has the power to be a music system of high quality.
Yes, your computer may have woeful built-in speakers, but with a few simple upgrades, you can enjoy audiophile-quality, high-resolution recordings. If you don’t have to worry about disturbing your colleagues, a pair of desktop speakers will let your computer sing.. Ruark’s superb MR1 Mk2 (£349) connects via your computer’s Bluetooth, optical or 3.5mm inputs. Alternatively, KEF’s all-in-one LSX (£999) offers high resolution wireless streaming support and sensational performance.
Unlike many smartphones, most computers and laptops still have a 3.5mm jack, giving you the option to plug in and enjoy a really good pair of wired over-ear headphones. Your computer’s built-in DAC (analog-to-digital converter) might not be brilliant – more on that below – but quality headphones from brands such as Audeze, Audio Technica and Grado will extract as much detail as possible from everything you listen to.
Wireless headphones can also sound great, especially if you’re in a noisy office, and they have active noise cancellation, although the audio quality is never quite as good as the Bluetooth connection. Combining a great pair of wired on-ear headphones with an external DAC or headphone amp is the easiest way to enjoy good quality sound without investing in a high-end stereo. There’s something for every budget, from the iFi Zen DAC V2 (£140) to the Audiolab M-DAC+ desktop (£700) and the class-apart collection of OK including the £500 Mojo and £1200 Qutest.
The quality of the recordings you play will also impact the final sound you hear, with compressed MP3 songs streamed over the internet sounding positively dirty – if you listen with good headphones and a DAC – compared to CD-recording. higher quality or high resolution like FLAC, AAC or MQA. Tidal, Deezer, Qobuz, Amazon and Apple all now offer lossless recordings – with Spotify Hi-Fi also coming – but if you had the foresight to burn all your CDs or download hi-res digital copies to a hard drive, you have superb quality recordings ready to go. play, without the pressure of needing a strong internet connection.
What we recommend to improve the sound quality of your PC and laptop
A2+ audio engine
Impressive in their compactness, elegance and functionality, these 60 W desktop speakers incorporate a quality DAC and can be connected via 3.5 mm, USB, RCA socket or Bluetooth.
Grado SR325x £330
Being open, these wired headphones let sound through – not ideal for a shared office – but in your workspace at home, they deliver remarkably detailed, articulate and happily entertaining listening.
Get ready for a huge audio upgrade with this ESS Saber desktop DAC. It can play digital audio files up to 32-bit/768kHz and connect to most audio sources, including Bluetooth, while sounding phenomenal.
Buy at cambridgeaudio.com