2.1 speaker systems are a good compromise between more elaborate surround type systems and a basic stereo pair for your PC. Consisting of left and right (the "2") and subwoofer (the ".1") speakers, the two systems we tested for this article cost less than $100 and take up a limited amount of space. That makes them suitable for most people; the exception would be those who want a more powerful, higher-performing system. The price category, small footprint, and limited power of the products we tested make them well-suited for general PC sound and casual music listening.
For this article, we've used a new method of measuring maximum output, which is more precise and realistic than the one we'd used previously. The levels we measure will correspond to what you'll actually be able to attain, for certain types of music, at least. The maximum possible output without audible distortion obviously depends on the type of music you're listening to, especially its spectral content and dynamics.
Our new method uses the same input signal as before: pink noise filtered and manipulated to resemble a musical signal. Our source is now a Creative X-Fi Elite Pro sound card, used here in "Audio Creation" mode, which lets us route the signal to all the available channels of the speaker system being tested. The sound system adjustments are all set to neutral position (or "middle" or "default," depending on the type of adjustment and the options offered).