If you, like so many of us, spend most of your waking hours at your desk, then you deserve to own some of the best computer speakers your budget will allow. These portable audio receivers combat the tinny sound often found in some of the best laptops, combining full, balanced sonics with handy features like Bluetooth and headphone outputs. The right one for you will depend on your budget, design taste, and, ideally, how much space you have on your desk.
The market plays host to numerous models of different styles, which work great for any setup or computing device (e.g. desktop, laptop, smartphone) you have in mind. Key players worth mentioning that have cemented their legacy as top computer speaker manufacturers include Edifier, Creative, and Audioengine just to name a few. You’ll even find gems here from consumer electronics staples like Bose, Harman Kardon, and gaming accessory giant, Razer.
Check out our top picks for the best computer speakers, based on hours of testing and research. Need something for private listening? Then make sure to also look at our roundup of the best noise-cancelling headphones, which includes everything from over-ear luxury cans to truly wireless buds.
What are the best computer speakers?
The Q Acoustics 3020i currently sits at No. 1 on our best computer speakers list. Improvements in design and audio quality (e.g. extended bass response) showcase the overall detailing and effort that was put into these speakers. They’ are tiny but powerful stand-mounted monitors made to satisfy audiophiles who want strong sound in a refined package.
Our runner-up is the Audioengine HD3, Bluetooth bookshelf speakers that match the precise sound found on most wired computer speakers. Bass is tight and the midrange is emphasized for vocals to shine. Connectivity is spot-on too, so you won’t ever have to worry about dropout when streaming music. It’s also one of the better-looking models out there with a retro-inspired design that’s donned in a wooden veneer and mesh magnetic grille.
For bargain hunters, there’s the Creative GigaWorks T20 Series II, which is an older model that lacks the high-end functionality of modern computer speakers, but still gets the job done for cheap. Bass and treble are nicely balanced and can be easily adjusted. PC gamers looking to spend little for big sound may want to put the Razer Nommo on their radar, as the dual-speaker system produces clear stereo imaging that enhances the gaming experience.
The best computer speakers you can buy today
Our top pick for the best computer speakers is the Q Acoustics 3020i for its impeccable sound reproduction and gorgeous design. The frequency spectrum is well represented, with bass leading the sonic brigade; kick snares and drums sound thunderous. You’ll enjoy amazing separation as well, pinpointing instruments, while also picking up on the subtle nuances in orchestral recordings. Build quality is another hallmark of the 3020i, from the curved unibody frame to the multiple sexy finishes (Graphite Grey, English Walnut, Carbon Black or Arctic White) the speakers come in.
These aren’t speakers you’ll want to keep tucked in deep cabinets, as they look more exquisite sitting next to an Apple Mac Pro or Microsoft Surface Studio. You can even place them on stands, should you want to get more creative with speaker placement and enjoy stereo sound at ear level.
Audioengine’s reputation for building premium speakers with accurate sound is flawless. The HD3 is proof of this, producing stellar audio that makes music and movies sound pristine. Wired speakers are known for offering the better audio experience, but these Bluetooth-only speakers exceed expectations. Mids are articulate and highs are compelling, giving vocals plenty of clarity and detail. Wireless range is stable as well with little to no dropout occurring. What’s more surprising is how well sound carries over to the headphone jack, as listening with over-ear cans maintains the HD3’s rich performance. Having a built-in DAC and amp also increases the HD3’s value.
Our only complaint is that Audioengine took it easy on the low end. You’ll still get to some nice oomph out of the drivers when listening to bass-dominating tracks, but don’t expect to blow a hole through your college dorm roof.
You don’t have to spend a ton to get good sound. The Creative GigaWorks T20 Series II are built much better than most computer speakers under $100, and the 9 x 5.6 x 3.5-inch satellites deliver balanced treble and bass. You can adjust the bass and treble levels on the right satellite, and it also features a headphone out and 3.5 mm input on the front of the right speaker. The system doesn’t produce the best vocals, however, and it lacks Bluetooth — if those things matter, you’ll want to spend more.
The Fives speaker system looks like something you would find in your great-grandfather’s study, but the only thing retro about these speakers is the design. Despite no subwoofer, these monitors blast powerful, balanced sound to create an immersive listening experience when enjoying music, movies, sports, and video games. The details in craftsmanship are remarkable as exhibited by the aluminum dials sitting atop the right channel to allow for seamless switching between the numerous connections. There is even an output to connect to turntables; we recommend checking out our best USB turntables roundup to find some worthy pairings.
All that firepower does come at the cost of size. As you can see by the dimensions, The Fives isn’t exactly a pair of computer speakers that rest steadily on any tiny desk, so you’ll definitely want to clear out some space before these arrive on your doorstep.
Razer’s gaming speakers come in different versions, though we’re most fond of the entry-level Nommo based on its overall performance and price. The design is sleek as hell, falling somewhere between a Dyson hairdryer and an ultramodern podium microphone. However, the beauty is in the details, and we tip our hat to Razer for its minimalistic approach; the black and gunmetal grey colorway with subtle branding allows the speakers to blend into any stationary desktop or office setup. The cylindrical shape also factors into the sound quality, allowing air into the bass ports for a more pronounced presence, and reducing distortion. Audio is faithful to gameplay and makes sonic details more immersive, from dialogue to explosions to footsteps.
The sad part is Razer reserved some of its more upscale features for the pricier models in the series. This includes the LED indicators, USB connection, and Chroma software compatibility.
If you’re looking for traditional bookshelf speakers with modern bells and whistles, the Ai60 has lots of functionality underneath its chic and durable chassis. Fluance presents several options for connectivity, from micro USB to a subwoofer output, along with steady Bluetooth performance. Auto-pairing technology will instantly pair the speakers to any compatible device in range. Overall sound is accurate and lively as well. If you’re feeling lazy and want to scream voice commands to initiate certain smart home tasks, the Ai60 allows for it by pairing with any Alexa-compatible device or Google home device through Google Chromecast Audio (if you can find one).
Like the Klipsch Fives speakers, you’ll need to make some room for these big boys, as the design is a bit larger than we would like. In addition, the lack of a companion app, while forgivable, does seem like a missed opportunity for wireless speakers that launched just a year ago.
Edifier knows all about making great-looking and sounding speakers, and the R1280DB is a fine addition to the brand’s long line of heritage receivers. Their penchant for build quality is certainly on display, with the speakers featuring a wood grain finish, vinyl wrap, and magnetic shields for protection from surrounding items. They’ll feel right at home on any bookshelf, while also blending nicely on any entertainment center. More enticing than the design is the sound quality, which is ideal for multiple media formats (e.g. music, movies, and games), thanks to its superb mids and highs. Bluetooth connection is another bonus, letting you pair the speakers with multiple computing devices.
You’ll just want to be mindful of listening at high volumes since that can create distortion. The low end won’t blow you away either, so bass lovers looking to shake their game room with explosions may want to look at other models on this list.
Forget the sleek aesthetics and size for one second. The real marvels are how Bluesound managed to integrate such a powerful soundstage and several features into such a compact design. This is a bass-forward speaker that doesn’t skimp on the low end, but also delivers accurate and spacious sound for full-bodied presentation. Its feature set is even more impressive, consisting of Airplay 2 compatibility, Alexa voice command, dual-band Wi-Fi, and a companion app that lets you program the five presets on the control panel to easily access music services, inputs or radio stations. There’s a handful of others to look into as well.
This type of performance would normally justify a $350 price tag, but it’s not an amount that many are willing to pay on small computer speakers. Not to mention you have to spend $100 extra on the battery pack to make the speaker “portable.”
Bose isn’t known for value, at least not in the PC market, but these compact desktop speakers are a bargain when you look at cost versus performance. With big bass and full vocals, the Companion 2 Series III sounds great and is worth the premium over the plethora of slightly less expensive models that you’ll find. They are also extremely simple to use, with a single volume knob and just one 3.5 mm input. The headphone jack on the front makes it easy to switch to private listening and pair perfectly with any of the brand’s noise-cancelling headphones; we recommend plugging in the Bose 700 for an immersive, distraction-free listening session.
They don’t have a flashy look, which could be a positive or a negative depending on your tastes. Unfortunately, with a low price comes compromises, and in the case of the Companion 2 Series III, it a lack of extra inputs and wireless connectivity.
The Creative T100 is a small and serviceable pair of computer speakers that gets the job done for cheap. One of the newer models to hit the market, it produces quality audio, rewarding listeners with rich mids and clear highs. Bass may not be the T100’s strongest trait, but it’s reasonably good compared to most other budget models and doesn’t distort sound when blasted at high volumes. Creative even programmed four EQ settings – Music, Concert, Gaming, and Movies – to accommodate your media format preference. It’s also cool that you get a variety of connections, including Bluetooth 5.0 to easily pair with other mobile devices or any laptop/desktop.
It is disappointing to see that Creative still uses infrared remote controllers for its speakers, especially since the technology is outdated and requires pointing the remote directly at the unit in order for commands to register. The lack of newer codecs seems like another missed opportunity for the brand as well.
How to choose the best computer speakers for you
You’ll want to prioritize audio performance, connection type, extra features, and pricing when seeking out the best computer speakers.
Ask yourself what suits your setup best: wired or wireless. The former is known for guaranteeing better sound, yet requires dealing with more cables and ports, which can be overbearing for small setups. If you’re not looking to be tethered to your machine, then know that there are plenty of wireless models available that come with stereo or surround sound technology. Speaking of sound, also look for computer speakers that deliver clean vocals, deep bass, and rich treble, and with volume levels that aren’t too loud or distort sound.
Something else to keep in mind is codecs. SBC (Sub Band Codec) is the most common and is a great option for streaming music on popular services like Spotify. You can look into newer and more advanced codecs like AAC (Advanced Audio Coding), Qualcomm aptX, and Sony LDAC as well; each one processes information quickly and delivers superior audio output.
In terms of features, the most common tend to be bass and treble controls, allowing you to personalize sound to your liking. Multiple inputs are important too, especially if you’re looking to connect the speakers to other devices like smartphones or tablets. Make sure the speakers have an auxiliary input jack, USB slots, and extra ports for more versatility.
Top-tier performance usually comes at a premium, but not all of the best computer speakers carry a steep MSRP. Yes, the more expensive models will likely have more powerful sound and components underneath the hood, along with a more upscale appearance. That’s not to say you won’t get some great performance out of a less expensive pair. Look at reviews – both expert and consumer – then figure out what models offer everything you want for the most reasonable price.
How we test the best computer speakers
Similar to how we test all audio products, our reviewers evaluate several factors, including audio, battery life, design, and value. We also compare each model to similar ones in terms of features, pricing, and setup.
Computer speakers are tested over the course of a week for 2 hours at a time. During this process, we analyze Bluetooth performance, ease of use, and, most importantly, sound quality. Reviewers listen to numerous predetermined tracks across a variety of music genres: classical, EDM, hip-hop, jazz, rock, and R&B. Movies, podcasts, and video games are taken into serious consideration too. Overall, we evaluate clarity, fullness, and volume.
With more streaming services offering high-resolution audio, we advise reading this audio codec FAQ to learn more about FLAC files, MP3s and, everything in between. The streaming service you choose could enhance sound quality.
After testing is completed, we rate each model based on our five-point system (1 = worst, 5 = best). Any product that is exemplary is awarded a Laptop Magazine Editor’s Choice badge.