Dell's latest PC speakers offer big sound at bottom dollar (hands-on)

Big sound and solid bass all for a low price.

Nic Healey Senior Editor / Australia
Nic Healey is a Senior Editor with CNET, based in the Australia office. His passions include bourbon, video games and boring strangers with photos of his cat.
Nic Healey
2 min read
Dave Cheng/CNET

I confess that I'd almost forgotten that desktop speakers existed. The majority of my PC audio needs are gaming related, so I've become used to wearing a headset. But Dell's newest 2.1 desktop speaker set, the AE415, offers a compelling case for why headphones aren't the only answer.

Mostly spherical in design, the two speakers and the subwoofer look far more stylish and robust than the price tag would suggest. At $69 (converting roughly to £55 and AU$100), the AE415 isn't breaking the bank.

Before unpacking the 2.1 system, I'd expected it to use USB connectivity, but the system works through a standard 3.5mm jack. The audio quality is absolutely fine -- it just seems oddly archaic.

The AE415's design is fairly standard: Left and right satellite speakers, a decent size subwoofer and a bunch of cables. Setup takes all of around two minutes, as Dell have made it impossible to get the cables wrong.

Controls sit on the left speaker. There's volume and power, along with additional jacks to plug in a phone or tablet and even to pop in a set of headphones and get that bass sound in your cans. It's an impressive offering from a budget speaker. The sub itself has a dial letting you pick your preferred level of "unf-unf", which I initially thought was the volume knob, leading to just a few minutes of confusion.

Dave Cheng/CNET

The sound is bright and clear and the speakers can really pump out some big decibels. I tried the AE415 on the Razer Blade Stealth across a few different games, some music and a few videos. Clarity was excellent across the board. For some games I needed to change the angle of the speakers a little, but honestly that's more to do with my headphone-based expectations of gaming audio than any issue with the speakers.

If I had any initial complaints, it's the sheer amount of cabling you end up with. The sub ends up with four different cables out the back, making for a bit of a spaghetti bowl. But there's plenty to like here -- big sound for a low price, a solidly stylish look and a set up so simple the quick start guide is nothing but pictures.