Best desktop speakers for audiophiles on a budget

Here are two of the best active desktop stereo speakers you can buy locally.

We are all lazy to varying extents. It's this inherent laziness that prevents us from putting a genuine effort towards thorough research—something that should be an ideal precursor to any product purchase. This lack of product awareness and general apathy towards purchase decisions is the primary reason why the market is flooded with flagrantly bad, poorly designed, and ridiculously exorbitant gadgets. This trend is even worse in terms of audio equipment, where conventional logic doesn't really seem to work. That's because it tells us that having a greater number of speakers or speakers with larger numbers of drivers should automatically provide improved audio fidelity.

However, acoustics is a black science that isn't amenable to conventional wisdom. So if you're the kind who believes that more is better, you should refer to my article explaining why cheap 5.1 systems suck and why it makes sense to spend your budget on a good stereo setup. Unfortunately, the very idea of good budget stereo speakers happens to be a cruel oxymoron of sorts. All the desktop stereo speaker alternatives available for a price of a couple of thousand rupees come in various shades of horrible. Unless you want your auditory system violated with a substandard sound with no regard to clarity or timbre and tonal accuracy, you must dig deeper in your pockets and cough out at least Rs 10,000 for a pair of decent stereo desktop speakers.

This is the right starting point for stereophiles, since it gives one access to a new breed of speakers known as active near-field monitors. These types of speakers were traditionally meant for audio engineers working from a small studio, where the working conditions are similar to the modern computer desktop. In essence, these are audiophile-grade equivalents of your traditional desktop speakers that are targeted at serious users who seek accurate sound reproduction. Without going into confounding technical details, all you need to know is that the active part in these speakers means that they pack in a clean amplification of their own, while combining that with high-quality drivers and excellent cabinet construction.

This segment gives discerning audiophiles on a budget access to two of the best desktop monitor solutions in the market—the Audioengine and M-Audio Studiophile. Here are two of the best active desktop stereo speakers you can buy locally.


 Best desktop speakers for audiophiles on a budget

The AV40 feature large drivers and 40 watts of power for a modest price


M-Audio Studiophile AV40
Price: Rs 10,500 (Pro Audio Home)

M-Audio is a brand that targets everyone from audiophiles on a budget to budding sound engineers who need neutral monitors without breaking the bank. At any rate, the products offered by this manufacturer are leagues ahead of the run-of-the-mill desktop speakers, all thanks to good quality components and a pedigree that's focused towards musicians and sound engineers. This active monitor maker's offerings range from rather expensive studio-quality monitors to affordable entry-level desktop speakers that offer great fidelity for the price. The Studiophile AV40 is packed to the gills with quality drivers and excellent construction that makes it well worth its $230 asking price.

The speaker reproduces smooth highs with its ferrofluid-cooled silk dome tweeters, whereas it's 4" polypropolene-coated woofers are tight and fast to provide a very focused low end. With a 20 watt RMS per channel amplification available inside the enclosure, these puppies provide a total of 40 watts output. That's good enough for a small room, let alone a standard desktop setup. Those looking for an analytical pair of speakers should pick up the M-Audio Studiophile AV40 for their rather linear frequency response and a timbre and tonal accuracy that's pretty good for the price.


The A2 are surprisingly loud for their size


Audioengine A2
Price: Rs 12,900 (Pro Audio Home)

These speakers are easily the best active desktop monitors money can buy for the price range. They are so good, in fact, that I made it a point to purchase a pair for myself. Their unmistakable pedigree is reflected through a fastidious manufacturing approach that seems like Audioengine fashion the A2 out of hand-built cabinets. The speaker drivers too are manufactured in-house for better cohesion and quality. The industry standard for smooth highs—ferrofluid-cooled silk dome tweeters incorporating high-efficiency neodymium magnets have been incorporated. Unlike the polypropolene driver on the M-Audio AV40, the A2 employs a pair of 2.75" woofers fashioned out of woven Kevlar. The material provides an amazing strength-to-weight ratio since its extremely strong and resistant to deformation, while being lighter than paper. This allows the A2 to deliver mids and lows with surprising speed and control.

They may not be as powerful as the AV40 with a power rating of 15 watt RMS per channel (30 watt RMS total), but they are more than enough for standard desktop applications. Don't go by their diminutive size, because these speakers sound much larger than they look. Although they can't go lower than 60Hz to produce the deep rumbling notes, the bass is still plentiful and bears an impressive speed as well as accuracy. Having used them for several months now myself, they provide excellent performance in music as well as gaming.

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