9 easy ways to improve your laptop's sound

Just say no to lousy laptop audio. With a few inexpensive upgrades, your notebook can sound like a million bucks.

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Logitech AudioHub speaker system Samson StudioDock 3i speakers Audio Unlimited wireless speakers Parrot Party Bluetooth speaker system M-Audio Transit USB sound card SoundBlaster X-Fi Notebook sound card Panasonic RP-HC101 noise-canceling headphones Logitech FreePulse Bluetooth headphones Plantronics Pulsar 590A Bluetooth headset June 5, 2009 (Computerworld) Whether your laptop is a state-of-the-art screamer that cost you thousands of dollars or a budget model that cost just a few hundred, chances are its speakers make it sound about as good as an AM radio in the shower.

Notebooks have always come up short on sound because space and power limitations have meant everything is downsized, from audio chips and analog-to-digital converters to amplifiers and speakers. The result is tinny and distorted sound that never gets loud enough.

There is a better way. Just about every part of the laptop audio ecosystem can be improved. I've found nine audio enhancers that are easy to install and cost less than $130 each. You probably won't want to buy all 10 products, but you can mix and match to best meet your needs.

I tested them all on a Fujitsu LifeBook A6220 with Windows Vista and a Think Pad R52 with Windows XP; the hardest to install took all of 15 minutes.

The difference can be like night and day, with richer, clearer and more vibrant sound. Regardless of whether your listening tastes tend toward the BBC's Internet radio channel, videoconference chats or downloaded alt-rock, it's time to sound off for better notebook audio.

Click on the thumbnails to the right to see the devices you're interested in, or just go to the first product >>.

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