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Sonic frontiers: Who needs great-sounding desktop speakers?

The Audiophiliac surveys the field of better desktop, aka 'nearfield' speakers, and likes what he hears.

The KEF LS50s, shown in white; they're also available in black KEF

If you're like me and spend a lot of time hunkered down in front of a computer, and you love music, investing in a good set of monitor speakers makes a lot of sense.

Some of the larger monitors in the following survey can also be used as hi-fi stereo speakers, but for the most part I'm judging these speakers as desktop, aka "computer" speakers, where I'm sitting in the nearfield, and listening from two to six feet away from the speakers. Nearfield listening yields some clear advantages over regular hi-fi speakers' sound, because when you're close you hear a much higher percentage of direct sound than you will with speakers that are further away, and with which a lot more sound will be reflected off the floor, walls, and ceiling. The reflections muddle the sound.

Almost all of the speakers covered in this survey are "self-powered," meaning they have built in power amplifiers, so you can directly hook up the speakers to your computer's headphone jack or analog line output. The Audioengine A2+ and Equator Audio D5 speakers also have USB digital inputs. The KEF LS50 and Magnepan Mini-Maggie speakers aren't self-powered, however; they need to be used with a stereo power amp.

Here are my top picks for best desktop/computer speakers.

Click on any image to start the slideshow.