When you purchase a computer – whether a desktop or a laptop – one of the features that is sometimes overlooked is outstanding acoustics. Laptops do include a small speaker or two with some audio output, but it is not stereo sound in its entirety. These built-in speakers are not appropriate for listening to music or watching movies because they have a limited volume range and frequently lack bass.
If you want to upgrade your audio experience beyond your laptop’s speaker, you might consider investing in a tiny or portable speaker to pick up the slack. The good news is that the market is completely saturated with high-quality computer speakers. Even a low-cost computer speaker can significantly improve sound quality, to the point that you’ll be surprised by the poor quality of your laptop speaker.
There are numerous PC speakers to select from, and you can surely increase the quality by pairing your PC with a Bluetooth speaker. Having said that, this list focuses on the best powered speakers available; these speakers include their own built-in amplifiers, which means they must be plugged in.
While some of the speakers on this list include simple analog connections, the majority feature a digital connection, which means they can be plugged directly into a computer’s USB port. Others feature wireless Bluetooth connectivity, which enables easy pairing with all Bluetooth-enabled devices, including tablets and smartphones. As you might think, improved connectivity options tend to increase the price of speakers, but a few reasonably priced speakers offer good connectivity in addition to more-than-decent performance.
Not that we haven’t thoroughly studied many of these selections, but we have listened to all of them. If you’re looking for superb sound, continue reading; the perfect speaker for your computer is almost certain to be here. Additionally, we’ll update this list as new laptop and desktop computer speaker alternatives become available.
Best cheap USB-C speakers
Creative Pebble V2
Creative’s Pebble speakers have been around for a while and are now available in a V2 version with a USB-C connector (a USB-A adaptor is supplied) that charges the speaker directly, without the need for an additional power adapter. They cost $30, but the previous V1 model (with USB-A) is available for $20. Take note that the V2 model is somewhat louder and sounds better than the V1.
They don’t have a tremendous sound and lack bass, but they’re surprisingly good for the price.
Best PC speakers under $150
Edifier R1280DB Powered Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers
Edifier produces a large number of PC speakers that are generally rather decent. We like the R1280DB because it includes all of the features you’re looking for, like an optical input and Bluetooth capabilities, in a relatively tiny form that provides excellent sound at a reasonable price.
Best-sounding cheap PC speaker system
Creative Pebble Plus 2.1 (with subwoofer)
In terms of value for money, it’s difficult to top Creative’s Pebble Plus 2.1, which retails for around $50 and occasionally $40 and includes a subwoofer. The 4-inch subwoofer isn’t particularly attractive, but it’s a black box that fits neatly in a corner of your desk or beneath it.
This model is similarly powered through USB (there is no power adapter supplied), however it requires a regular 3.5mm aux-in connection to connect to your device (included). Anticipate modest volume (it is, after all, powered by USB), but it produces better sound than you may expect for the price.
Wireless Logitech for under $100
The Logitech Z407 is a small system with a small subwoofer that lacks a quality feel (it’s made entirely of plastic and the satellite speakers are rather light), but it’s pretty and includes some good functions. To begin, it is simple to set up. It can be used in wired mode via an additional 3.5mm cable or via USB connection to your computer. However, the bulk of users will pair their gadgets with it via Bluetooth.
It includes a small controller the size of a hockey puck (powered by two AAA batteries) that doubles as a Bluetooth transmitter between any Bluetooth-enabled audio device and the speaker system. You may skip forward and backward tracks by tapping on the top of the puck and turning the volume dial. Additionally, the speakers can be positioned vertically or horizontally. It’s an ingenious design.
The sound is excellent at close range, but the bass isn’t quite as tight as one might anticipate from a $80 system. This works well as an audio system in a small area, but lacks the horsepower to sound nice in a bigger room (it is advertised as having 80W of power, but power ratings are meaningless in this case).
Under $200 pick
The newest addition of the Audioengine family, the A1 speakers perform admirably given their diminutive size, particularly in terms of clarity. As with the more expensive A2 Plus (see below), they’re a little bass-deficient, but if you’re staring at a computer screen, the bass will appear plenty. You can link them to a subwoofer, but this will significantly increase the price of the bundle. They could be used as the primary speaker system in a small area, but lack the necessary power for a bigger room.
The wonderful thing about them is their appearance. Additionally, they are simple to configure and wireless, allowing you to connect your computer – or any device – via Bluetooth. To activate pairing mode, simply press the pair button on the rear. The two speakers are connected through a pair of speaker wires (the left speaker has the amplifier and all the connectivity options). Additionally, the auxiliary-in connector can be used to connect your computer using the provided cable.
Best sound for under $300
Audioengine A2 Plus
If you’re unable to purchase Audioengine’s $500 A5 Plus Wireless (see below) or dislike its rather large footprint, the A2 Plus is a viable alternative, but one that delivers less bass and isn’t quite as loud or full sounding. Nonetheless, it sounds fantastic for a tiny bookshelf speaker and features a glossy piano finish for a quality aesthetic.
I previously evaluated an earlier version of the A2 Plus in 2013. It now features Bluetooth connectivity with AptX streaming compatibility (for AptX-compatible devices), but it still connects through a conventional 3.5mm-to-3.5mm audio cable to the headphone socket or auxiliary output on your smartphone.
At $269, it delivers superb sound in a compact, aesthetically simplistic appearance, which may explain why it is currently so popular. Certain websites have it on backorder or are out of stock in specific color selections (I personally like the white).
Best gamer-friendly PC speaker
Razer Nommo Chroma
Razer markets its Nommo Chroma speakers as “gaming” speakers, which makes sense given the company’s reputation for gaming-related peripherals. What I appreciate about these speakers is that they provide adequate bass without the need for a separate subwoofer, and the bass can be adjusted via a knob on the left speaker. That capacity to produce bass with a kick should appeal to gamers who enjoy the tactile effect of in-game explosions as a way to enhance the immersiveness of a game. Additionally, they’re quite adequate for movie viewing and sound great with music.
The extra gaming element is that the bottoms of the bases light up using Razer’s Chroma lighting technology. To create an ambient effect, you can set the colors or sync the lighting to your gameplay.
Concerning communication, there is a USB-A cable that transmits digital audio from your PC or Mac to the speakers. You may also use the analog auxiliary connector on the rear of the left speaker (which also includes a headphone jack), but the digital connection sounds substantially better.
Harman Kardon SoundSticks 4
Harman Kardon’s SoundSticks have been around for two decades and have long been a favorite of Mac users, owing to the fact that them — and their transparent aesthetics — were sold exclusively to early iMac customers.
The SoundSticks 4 design updates previous incarnations, most notably the subwoofer, which now features a cleaner, sleeker appearance without the plastic funnel inside. The SoundSticks 4 are rated at 140 watts of power, up from 40 watts on the SoundSticks 3. Additionally, Bluetooth connectivity is now included as standard (with the SoundSticks 3, there was a step-up model you had to buy to get Bluetooth). The speaker is available in two colors: white trim or black trim.
The system is more compact than some of the images suggest, and it does offer a powerful sound with bass that will rattle a table at higher volumes if you leave the sub on your desk (the sub is actually slightly smaller at 5.25 inches compared to 6 inches for the SoundSticks 3). According to what I recall about the SoundSticks 3, this new model does sound more full.
The only flaw I discovered was the absence of a wired digital connection. As with the previous version, an analog cable is included for connecting to the headphone jack or auxiliary output on your computer or other device. As a result, I frequently relied on Bluetooth, which allows for greater freedom in terms of sub placement (the power cord is a little short). Having said that, you must connect the exquisite micro tower satellite speakers to the sub using color-coded cables for easy connection, which means the sub must remain quite close to the satellites.
Additionally, you do not have to be a Mac user to purchase these speakers. They work with any audio device equipped with Bluetooth or a 3.5mm audio out connection.
Value powered bookshelf speakers
Fluance, a Canadian speaker business, is known for providing excellent value for money, and its elegantly built Ai41 powered bookshelf speakers delivers exactly that at $250. While they may not weigh as much as Audioengine speakers or have the same build quality, they do offer strong sound and a variety of connectivity choices, including an optical digital input and Bluetooth. Although I tested the white and bamboo variant, the speakers are also available in black.
They’re around the same size as Audioengine’s A5 Plus speakers (see below), but come in at a fraction of the price. They don’t sound nearly as fantastic as the A5 Plus speakers, but they are clear and well-balanced, with just enough bass to convince you they aren’t bass-phobic (there is a subwoofer connection if you want to add a sub). By positioning them against a wall, you can provide a little extra bass.
A remote control is included for not just volume adjustment but also for fine-tuning the treble and bass settings. These will amplify the sound in a small environment. Not that you’ll need an RCA to 3.5mm cable (less than $10 on Amazon) if you want a wired connection to your computer via the headphone socket; it’s not included.
The Ai41 is equipped with 5-inch drivers, while the Ai61 is equipped with 6.5-inch drivers. For an additional $50, the Ai61 does provide more little bass and power. The Ai41, on the other hand, is already quite enormous for a pair of computer speakers. Additionally, they might be connected to your television via the optical connection.
Best PC speakers under $500
Audioengine A5 Plus Wireless
Audioengine’s powered A5 speakers have been available for several years and have been upgraded with new technologies. The wired-only version is $400, but adding Bluetooth increases the price to $499. You can connect the speakers to your PC through cable or Bluetooth, however Bluetooth is preferable if you want to use them as regular bookshelf speakers.
As expected, they feature substantially more bass than Audioengine’s smaller A2 Plus and are designed to look like typical monitor speakers. They offer a clear, dramatic sound with plenty of volume, and will easily rock a medium-sized room.