First post, by radiounix
No, I'm serious. The PC speaker is inherently a limited, primitive means of reproducing audio. But much of the pain of PC speaker sound comes from the physical drivers used to reproduce the sound. In most laptops and in many newer desktops, the PC speaker is a literal piezo buzzer better suited to an alarm clock or smoke detector. They have a harsh, ear-piercing tone and very poor fidelity. Speech and other digital audio is barely intelligible when played through them. If you're lucky, and have an older desktop, it's still just a 2" paper cone speaker -- the cheap kind like used in old AM pocket transistor radios. These start rolling off around 500hz and often have a lot of distortion, resulting in a thin and harsh sound.
A modern laptop speaker is likely to fit in place of the piezo in even a cramped laptop. They make some really small ones, though the smallest will probably sound thin. For a desktop, options abound -- you could make the PC speaker quieter by choosing an inefficient speaker with a rubber surround -- which will also give you a deeper sound. If you play PC booters or CGA titles with no sound option, wire in a switch so you can mute the speaker at will.
This isn't just splitting hairs. I put a surplus laptop speaker in my 486 notebook and it's now able to play WAV files in Windows with fidelity approaching that of a basic Covox clone. Ditto for mod trackers with PC speaker output. Trash PC speaker sound still sounds primitive, but games like Jazz Jackrabbit actually sound okay with the effects on. Not like a Soundblaster, but good enough to leave on. And early CGA titles still sound obnoxious, but they're no longer like nails on a chalkboard harsh.