The best computer speakers are almost guaranteed to be a big step up in audio quality over the audio hardware built into your desktop or laptop. Your computer’s built-in speakers are limited by space constraints, which isn’t the case when you plug in an external pair. Computer speakers have come a long way from the days of nondescript-looking boxes that came bundled with tower PCs in the 90s.
Today, there’s an abundance of powered speakers you can plug into your computer to experience high-end sound, regardless of your budget. You’ll immediately be able to tell the difference in audio quality, and features like stereo separation (the ability to distinguish the direction from which specific sounds are coming) will be greatly improved. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a professional musician, or someone who loves listening to music in the background while they work, the best computer speakers will make your setup a lot nicer.
How We Picked the Best Computer Speakers
Our recommendations for computer speakers are based on a mix of research and hands-on testing. Below are the factors we considered most highly when deciding which computer speakers to include in this buyer’s guide.
Size: Computer speakers fall into the bookshelf-size class, which means they’re smaller than the full-sized floor-standing siblings used in an A/V setup. That said, they can still vary quite a bit in size. We haven’t limited ourselves to the smallest speakers, but we’re cognizant of the fact that our recommendations need to sit comfortably on your desk. Speaking broadly, the larger the speaker, the better the sound, so keep that in mind if your setup has the flexibility for a larger set.
Drivers: Drivers are the part of a speaker that creates sound, and getting computer speakers with more than one can make a big difference in sound. In a multi-driver speaker, sounds from certain frequencies (bass, treble, midrange) come out from different parts of the speaker. This allows you to hear every instrument in a song clearly.
Inputs: Computer speakers have a wide assortment of inputs, from USB-C to optical audio and RCA (red and white), which allow you to connect them to different sources. The more inputs a speaker has, the more ways they can be used. Many of our computer speaker recommendations can also be used with a turntable or TV if need be. If you don’t mind moving speakers around, you’ll likely be able to find uses for them when you’re not at your computer.
Wireless Connectivity: We recommend keeping your computer speakers physically plugged into your machine for the best possible experience, but some models support Bluetooth. Connecting your computer speakers to wireless speakers requires pairing and disconnecting them each time you turn on your machine, and the risk that they’ll cut out if there’s wireless interference. Look at wireless connectivity as a bonus feature that allows you to stream music to your computer speakers from a phone or tablet when you’re not working.
Surround-Sound: Most computer speakers come in a stereo pair, but you can get a surround-sound set if you have enough space. You should only consider this option if you use your computer to watch a lot of movies, whether they’re from your collection or streamed from a major service. Films and TV shows almost always have a 5.1 surround- sound mix, so your speaker system will be able to take advantage of this hardware.
Best Computer Speakers: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: Klipsch The Fives
Why They Made The Cut: Klipsch’s The Fives speakers are an impressive-looking audio powerhouse perfect for listening to music at your desk.
— Size: 18.5 inches H x 17.5 inches D x 13.5 inches W
— Wireless: Yes
— Number of Speakers: Two
— Phenomenal audio quality
— Multiple inputs
— Premium look
— Turn wheel isn’t intuitive
Klipsch’s The Fives are the best pair of computer speakers we’ve ever tested, and we can recommend them to anyone who is able to stretch their budget. We were impressed by The Fives from the moment we took them out of their box, as their striking walnut was immediately eye-catching. Aesthetics aren’t everything, but computer speakers will live on your desk for years, so it’s nice to get a set that isn’t an eyesore.
Our enthusiasm continued once we set The Fives up, a simple two-step process that only took about five minutes. There are many ways to connect a computer to The Fives, but we chose to use the right speaker’s USB port. We wish Klipsch would have built The Fives with a USB-C port, but the company opted to use a USB-B port instead, which is the connector you’ll find on printers. This is annoying if you’re using a computer that only has USB-C ports, as you’ll need to use an adapter, or buy a separate cable to connect The Fives directly.
All was forgiven when we started using The Fives to play music. Once we started listening to our favorite tunes, there was no going back. This set of speakers sounds so good that we couldn’t wait to hear more music on them. The multi-driver system Klipsch developed for The Fives was clearly top notch, as the level of detail we heard during our listening sessions was incredible. Our only complaint is that there was sometimes a little too much bass for our tastes, which is ironic considering the speakers allow you to connect a subwoofer for more low-end support.
The Fives are equipped with a ton of inputs, including a HDMI port, RCA jacks, optical audio port, USB-B port, and an Aux in jack. The speakers also have a built-in phono preamp, so you can connect them directly to your turntable. We were able to connect The Fives to a TV and record player during our tests, and can confirm that these would be excellent speakers in a home-theater or home-audio system. The Fives’ physical inputs are complemented by Bluetooth support, so you can connect devices to them wirelessly.
If you’re interested in computer speakers, The Fives are almost perfect. Unfortunately, switching between inputs is kind of a chore. Klipsch designed The Fives’ input selector as a wheel, which you turn in order to select different functions. The wheel offers no resistance, and oftentimes we were puzzled about whether we had spun it enough to go from one input to another.
A little light will illuminate next to the active input, but we never felt like we had a handle on exactly how much to turn the wheel to get one, two, or three inputs over. Thankfully, Klipsch bundles The Fives with a remote, so you can switch from one input to another at the push of a button. We like speakers with onboard controls, but Klipsch got a little too clever when designing The Fives. Klipsch used the same mechanism for The Fives’ volume controller, which is slightly more forgivable because you can hear your music getting louder or softer as you make adjustments.
We could nitpick, but The Fives are still hands-down the best computer speakers you can get right now. They look great, sound excellent, and can be used in many situations as your computer and home audio life change. If you spend a little extra now, you may never have to upgrade these speakers down the line.
Best Budget: Edifier R1280Ts
Why They Made The Cut: Edifier’s R1280Ts punch above their weight in the world of budget speakers, which makes them the perfect pair for your PC.
— Size: 17.17 inches H x 12.05 inches D x 7.44 inches W
— Wireless: No
— Number of Speakers: Two
— Multiple drivers
— Limited inputs
Edifier always manages to make budget-friendly audio gear without cutting very many corners, and its R1280Ts are a perfect example of that. The stereo speakers have two drivers, which you wouldn’t expect from speakers in this price range, and you can expect well-balanced stereo sound. In our experience, Edifier’s speakers do an especially good job reproducing high-frequency sounds without sounding thin or tinny. Many other speakers in this price range will make cymbal crashes and distorted guitar sound like a garbled mess.
We expect you to like the way the R1280Ts sound out of the box, but the speakers have a subwoofer output, so you can add more low frequency support to your computer speaker setup if you feel the urge. The R1280Ts allow you to adjust their bass and treble settings by twisting knobs on the side of the speaker. Having EQ (equalization) controls at the ready allows you to make quick adjustments to the way these speakers sound without reaching for an app.
The R1280Ts’ only potential downside is their lack of inputs. You can connect two components to the speakers’ RCA inputs, and that’s it. This won’t be a problem if you use them exclusively as computer speakers, but it’s worth considering if you want to potentially use the R1280Ts in different situations down the line. If the R1280Ts barebones inputs don’t bother you, they’re the ones to get.
Best Soundbar: Razer Leviathan
Why It Made The Cut: The Leviathan’s audio hardware is impressive given how little space it’ll take up on your desk.
— Size: 3.1 inches H x 19.7 inches W x 2.9 inches D
— Wireless: Yes
— Number of Speakers: Two
— Won’t take up much space
— Includes a subwoofer
— Bluetooth support
— Compromised stereo separation
Computer soundbars aren’t very popular, but Razer’s Leviathan will make you question why.
If you’re familiar with TV soundbars, the Leviathan’s look and features will be immediately recognizable. Four drivers are packed into the soundbar, which means the Leviathan’s sound should be pretty well balanced. Razer knew how hard it was to get a lot of great bass from soundbars, so the company bundled the bar with a subwoofer to ensure you’ll hear a lot of low-end.
Razer’s hardware is primarily aimed at gamers, so it makes sense that some of this soundbar’s best features are inspired by the needs of that group. This soundbar’s power button and volume controls are located on the front of the unit, so you can access them easily. Media controls, which let you pause, play, and change tracks are located just above the power button, so you can press them without looking away from your screen.
When it comes to inputs, Razer’s Leviathan is the most barebones computer speaker we’re recommending. It has an aux input, so you can connect it to your computer, and an output for the subwoofer. It does support Bluetooth, though, which is a welcome feature. We’d typically ding a set of speakers with so few inputs, but this is a soundbar that was built for a specific purpose, so it’s a little more understandable. Still, don’t get the Leviathan thinking you’ll be able to hook it up to a lot of equipment.
Similarly, Razer says this soundbar plays music back in 5.1 surround-sound, but we would stick to listening to music and watching videos in stereo. The Leviathan’s drivers aren’t spaced far enough apart to create a great sense of depth. If you’ve been looking for computer speakers, but have been unhappy with a traditional bookshelf pair, the Razer Leviathan should be your immediate pick.
Best for Small Desks: Audioengine HD3 Wireless Speaker
Why They Made The Cut: Audioengine’s HD3 speakers pack a punch comparable to speakers twice their size.
— Size: 7 inches H x 4.25 inches W x 5.5 inches D
— Wireless: Yes
— Number of Speakers: Two
— Audio quality
— Input selection
— Bluetooth antenna is distracting
If you think you’ll have to sacrifice a lot of audio quality to get a set of more desk-friendly speakers, Audioengine’s HD3s will prove you wrong. The speakers sound absolutely incredible, especially given their small size. We were able to hear a tremendous amount of depth during our tests, and never heard a single distorted note during our time with the HD3s. Everything about this set of speakers seems to have been thoughtfully considered and optimized for ease of use.
The speaker’s volume knob is located on the front of the speaker, and glides smoothly when you turn it. The 3.5mm audio jack on the front makes it easy to listen to your music without interrupting the other people in your home, or quickly check how a track you’re listening to sounds on speakers and headphones. These observations may sound small, but they make the speakers so much more usable, and you’ll quickly wonder how you used another pair.
Audioengine outfitted these speakers with two pairs of RCA inputs, an aux input, and a USB-C connector. The HD3s inputs are complemented by Bluetooth support for wireless streaming.
Many of our computer speaker recommendations have a subwoofer output, but the HD3s have a switch that allows you to turn down the amount of bass you’re hearing. We prefer the EQ knobs on Edifier’s speakers to this approach because they allow you to make micro adjustments rather than flipping a switch, but this is better than nothing.
Overall, our experience with the HD3s was extremely positive, and it proved that bigger isn’t always better when it comes to audio. That’s still generally the case, but the Audioengine HD3s are a welcome exception, and give music lovers looking for computer speakers a space-friendly option.
Best Surround-Sound: Logitech Z906
Why It Made The Cut: Logitech’s Z906 system allows you to turn your computer setup into a home-theater system without a lot of big, bulky equipment.
— Size: 7 inches H x 4.25 inches W x 5.5 inches D
— Wireless: No
— Number of Speakers: Six
— True, 5.1 surround sound
— Easy to use controller
— Additional inputs
— Requires a lot of space
If you want to listen to music, watch videos, and play games in surround sound on your computer, Logitech’s Z906 system is the one we recommend.
The setup has six speakers: four equally-sized front and rear speakers, one horizontal center-channel speaker, and a subwoofer. The speakers in this system are pretty small, but finding space for all six of them may be a challenge. You’ll need to work at a desk with a table behind you, and understand that speaker cable will be running on parts of your floor. If you’re okay with those constraints, the Z906 offers features none of our other computer speaker recommendations have.
The biggest one is surround-sound, which you can get by plugging a cable from your computer into this system’s central controller. The hub is outfitted with an aux input, optical audio input, two RCA inputs, and a coaxial input. To get surround sound audio, you’ll need to plug your computer into the hub’s optical audio input. While we’re recommending this system to computer users, the Z906 can be used as a home-theater surround-sound system by hooking it up to a TV.
Once this system is set up, you’ll be able to hear audio with a level of immersion that’s impossible when listening to music in stereo. Games and movies will benefit the most from this setup, but music mixed into 5.1 surround-sound also offers a unique listening experience. The Logitech Z906 is ideal if you’re working on a desktop computer all day, and want to use your setup as a makeshift home theater when you’re not at work. If that’s the setup you’d like to create, the Z906 is clearly the best option.
Things to Consider Before Buying Computer Speakers
Your Primary PC
The computer you use should have a big impact on the speakers you decided to hook up to it. If you primarily use a laptop, and move around a lot throughout the day, it may be better to get a more budget-friendly pair of speakers because you won’t be using them constantly. If you dock your laptop to a monitor, or work at a desk all day listening to music, getting a higher-end pair of speakers makes much more sense. If your main machine is a desktop computer, any of our computer speaker recommendations will work well.
Your Other Electronics
As we mentioned earlier, computer speakers have multiple inputs, which means you can connect them to a bunch of different sources simultaneously. If your computer is in your living room, and you need a good pair of speakers for your home theater, look for models that can accommodate both needs.
All of our computer speaker recommendations are powered, which means they need to be connected to an outlet at all times. Only one speaker has to be plugged in, but you should think about whether you have any empty outlets around your computer setup.
Q: Can I connect my computer to passive speakers?
Yes. If you have an A/V receiver, you can connect your speaker to it using an audio cable, and play audio through the system’s passive speakers. Be mindful that this will require a lot more space than the computer speakers we’re recommending.
Q: Can I use a Bluetooth speaker with my computer?
Yes. You can pair any Bluetooth speaker to your computer, and use it as your PC’s audio system.
Q: Will my computer speakers work with both a Windows PC and Mac?
Yes. Computer speakers don’t require any special software to work, so they’re compatible with every desktop and laptop from any manufacturer.
Q: How long should I expect my computer speakers to last?
You should get well over a decade of use out of your computer speakers, and only replace them when you feel like upgrading.
Q: How do I responsibly dispose of my speaker?
If you’re replacing an older speaker with one of our recommendations, we recommend reading our guide on how to responsibly dispose of e-waste.
Final Thoughts on Computer Speakers
It’s easy to write computer speakers off as a frivolous luxury, as they’re not absolutely necessary for your machine to function, but having a nice pair makes a huge difference. You’ll appreciate this upgrade every time you listen to music or watch a video.
Many of us have shifted from speakers to headphones, and while the latter is great when working in a public space, there’s nothing quite like using a pair of speakers at home. Sound will fill the entire room, and you won’t have to feel pressure in or on your ears. Plus, you’ll be able to hear outside noises — like someone you’re living with asking a question — a lot more easily.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.