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Aural Showdown - 2.1 Multimedia Speakers Shootout

By Kenny Yeo - 14 Mar 2009


And the Winner is...

This is the most comprehensive shootout we've ever done for PC peripherals. Not only that, this is also one of the toughest, as all the candidates represent the best each manufacturer has to offer. As such, it was difficult to come to a decision. This is further exacerbated by the fact that when it comes to sound, one man's meat can be another man's poison. And everyone has difficult opinion on what makes an enjoyable auditory experience. To this end, we tried being as neutral as we could, but there are certain signatures that we do prefer more so over others, and that is inevitable.

Summary of Performance
Speaker Model / Test Type Altec Lansing MX 5021 Creative Gigaworks T3 Bose Companion 5 Edifier S730 Klipsch ProMedia GMX A-2.1 Logitech Z-Cinema Razer Mako
CD 3.5 4.5 4.5 3.5 5 4.5 5
MP3 3 4 5 3.5 4.5 4.5 4.5
Movies (DVD) 4 4.5 5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5
Games 3 5 4.5 4 5 5 5
Overall 3 4 5 3.5 5 4.5 5

If we were to rank the speakers based on raw performance, we can say that there are a few tiers. The Bose, Klipsch and Razer systems are right at the top, thanks to their all-round capabilities and refinement. Of the three, the Bose Companion 5 was the most controlled and refined, the audiophile's choice and thus we've awarded it our Editor's Choice award. The Klipsch was strong and competent throughout, never weak in any area; and the Razer was the most fun sounding, thanks to its thumping bass. So each speaker set has its own niche that it excels in.

A tier below would be the duo of Creative Gigaworks T3 and Logitech Z-Cinema. The Gigaworks T3 would have fared much better if they could bring its bass under control. At default, it was really overwhelming in most cases. The Z-Cinema from Logitech, on the other hand, was fine all around, but lacked sophistication and felt aggressive and in-your-face. It's great for action movies, dance tracks and rock, but felt overpowering when it came to more delicate material like instrumental music and movies heavy with dialogue.

The Edifier S730 occupies a tier lower all on its own as it was a rather average sounding system. Unlike the Gigaworks T3 and Z-Cinema, which had their moments of brilliance, the S730 was mostly mediocre throughout. It sounds decent, but against opponents like these, merely decent isn't going to suffice.

And rounding the pack is the Altec Lansing MX5021. We cannot stress enough, but we were perplexed as to how a system, armed with a sizeable subwoofer, could sound so lightweight with poor bass. As much we've been despising its bass output, it's still better than speakers you would find half its price but as this shootout compares the best of the best in the 2.1 speakers segment, it wasn't able to compete convincingly despite its THX certification (which no doubt makes the speakers even more expensive).

However, if we were to pick an overall winner, it would have to be the Klipsch ProMedia GMX A-2.1. For S$749 and S$629, you would expect the Bose Companion 5 and Razer Mako to sound out of this world, but at just S$279, the Klipsch costs only a fraction of the other two systems and is actually equally good. It may not be as refined as the Bose, nor as stunning to look as the Razer, but it does what it does extremely well and for a relatively reasonable price. Of course, that is not to say that the Bose and Razer are inferior. They have their strong points too; the Bose is musically astute whereas the Razer sounds best playing dance tracks and games, but at that price point, it is our opinion that the Klipsch ProMedia GMX A-2.1 represents the best value for money and the best overall 2.1 multimedia speaker system in this shootout.

Overall Final Standings
Attributes / Speakers Performance Physique Value Price
Altec Lansing MX5021 3 3 3.5 S$220
Bose Companion 5 5 4 4 S$750
Creative Gigaworks T3 4 4.5 4.5 S$299
Edifier S730 3.5 4 3 S$450
Klipsch ProMedia GMX A-2.1 5 4 5 S$279
Logitech Z-Cinema 4.5 3.5 4 S$500
Razer Mako 5 4.5 4 S$629


Final Speaker Ratings
The Klipsch ProMedia GMX A-2.1

The Bose Companion 5

The Creative Gigaworks T3
The Razer Mako
The Logitech Z-Cinema
The Altec Lansing MX5021
The Edifier S730

However, as all audiophiles would know, don't take our word for it. The best way to decide which system is right for you, is to take a listen to them for yourselves. But, you'll be doing yourself a great disfavor should you choose to ignore the Klipsch just because it's an old speaker model.

Another highlight we would like to mention here is that the speaker systems from Bose, Logitech and Razer in this shootout are all equipped with pseudo surround sound capabilities, either via special digital circuitry processing or from the inherent speaker design and these naturally cost more than the rest. However, if you choose to have such a feature, then your choice is narrowed down to one of these three depending on your preferences. Happy shopping on your next 2.1 multimedia speaker system!