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Surround-Sound Systems

If your computer doubles as the center of a home theater setup—or if you want to play games that offer full surround-sound effects—you may want to consider a multichannel system. These systems use five satellite speakers (for front, center, and rear audio) along with a subwoofer. The result is a blissful envelope of directional audio.

To use these systems, you need a Mac that provides multichannel audio output—via an optical- or coaxial-digital jack. All G5s offer optical-digital output. You can add multichannel output to a Power Mac G4 by installing a third-party PCI sound card, such as the $100 M-Audio Revolution 5.1 (   ; The Game Room, January 2005 ). Here are a couple of our favorites.

Budget Buy: ProMedia GMX D-5.1

Price: $150
Contact: Klipsch Audio Technologies

Why We Like It: The GMX D-5.1 offers the same futuristic satellites and great bass as the GMX A-2.1, but adds a 100-watt amplifier, center- and rear-channel speakers, and support for Dolby Digital and Dolby Pro Logic II. It produces five-channel stereo via coaxial- and optical-digital inputs.

Home-Theater Replacement: Z-5500 Digital

Price: $400
Contact: Logitech

Why We Like It: The Z-5500 Digital is a monster system, with 500 watts of THX-certified power and a room-shaking subwoofer. Its support for DTS, Dolby Digital, and Dolby Pro Logic makes it perfect for home-theater use. And its multiple digital and analog inputs, wireless remote, and impressive sound quality make it a legitimate choice for a main stereo system.

[ Senior Writer Dan Frakes is the reviews editor at and the author of Mac OS X Power Tools , second edition (Sybex, 2004). ]

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