Best Computer Speakers

Roll up, Roll up! Hear all about it! Here’s our range of the Best Computer Speakers around.

Every time you buy a new computer, all of the components are vastly improved over those you’re used to. Faster processor, more RAM, bigger hard drive, better video and sound cards, upgraded interfaces.

Then why do the speakers still sound like they were built in the mid-90s just to announce “You’ve Got Mail!” when logging onto AOL?

Let’s face it. The computer speakers that are included with desktops, or built into Macs, sound terrible. That may have been fine once upon a time, but today most of us depend on our machines (at least some of the time) for gaming, music or watching high-quality video. There’s no excuse for crappy sound. Thankfully, the best computer speakers on the market can easily take care of that problem, and you don’t have to spend a fortune for them (although you certainly can).

The majority of computer speaker setups will be either 2.0 or 2.1 systems; the “2” refers to the two primary speakers (left and right), while the “.1” refers to a subwoofer which adds bass and fullness to the sound. A 2.1 speaker system will ordinarily sound better than an equivalent 2.0 system, but it’s not required to get a terrific audio experience. If you’ll be using your computer as a primary entertainment center, of course, you can go all the way for 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound. And if you’re an audiophile, you may want high-end studio monitors to attach to your machine. Most people opt for simpler setups, though, so we’ll focus on those in our rankings of the best computer speakers.

The most important question when evaluating speakers is obvious: how good do they sound? There are many factors that go into the audio quality of a computer speaker system, however. Sound coming from larger wood cabinets, for example, will resonate better than audio from small plastic ones, the more speaker cones (woofer, tweeter, midrange) there are the more faithful the sound reproduction will be, and naturally the quality of the speakers’ components and manufacture will play an enormous role.

The best speakers for your computer should also be able to handle enough power to deliver sufficient volume for the room they’ll be in. There are mathematical formulas you can use to figure that out, but the numbers are often misleading; some high-quality speakers can blast you away with only five-to-ten watts per channel, and powered speakers (which house one or more amplifiers inside) can take low-level signals and perform magic. We’ll only be reviewing computer speakers which will perform well in any normal room.

We’ll get into all of that and more, as we dig into our rankings of the best computer speakers currently available.

1. Audioengine A2+ 2-way Powered Speaker System

These versatile desktop speakers were designed with computers in mind, so it’s not surprising that they deliver outstanding performance when hooked up to your machine. The Audioengine A2+ is a 2.0 powered system that produces the type of quality audio, even without a subwoofer, that you might expect from speakers costing twice the price. (You’ll pay between $200 and $300 for the A2+, which is definitely a bargain for top-end speakers).

First things first: the audio. These Audioengines feature a Kevlar woofer and silk dome tweeter to focus on the highs and mids, with no digital processing, and the result is simply terrific. There’s nearly flawless flat response on any genre of music. Bass will be faithfully reproduced as well, but you’re not going to get earthquake-level sub-bass; if that’s your goal you can pay an extra $150 for the optional W3 wireless USB adapter, which lets you add a subwoofer and also allows you to stream audio (this is a proprietary system; AirPlay and Bluetooth are not supported).

High-performance amps and wood (actually MDF) cabinets contribute greatly to the audio quality. But another big reason for the superior performance of these computer speakers is their high-quality internal digital-to-analog converters. Instead of feeding audio from your computer to the speakers via the normal 3.5mm output jack, you can connect via USB and bypass the cheap DAC in your computer. Doing that allows music to sound gorgeous on these speakers, and for gaming and movie soundtracks you can’t find much better.

The A2+ system is surprisingly small, with each speaker approximately 6 x 5 x 4 inches. But don’t let their size fool you; they’re absolutely terrific. (If you want studio monitor quality, and have a lot more space and an extra $150, the Audioengine A5+ speakers are even more impressive.)

Facts and figures on the Audioengine A2+ 2-way Powered Speaker System:

  • Type: 2.0 powered, active
  • Power output: 60W peak total
  • Woofer: 2.75 inch Kevlar
  • Tweeter: 0.75 inch silk dome
  • Frequency response: 65 Hz to 22 kHz +/- 2dB
  • Connectors: USB, stereo RCA, stereo mini-jack
  • Dimensions (each speaker): 6 x 5.2 x 4 inches
  • Weight (total): 6.8 pounds
  • Warranty: 3 years, limited

Check Audioengine A2+ 2-wau Powered Speakers Price on Amazon

2. KEF X300A Digital Hi-Fi Speaker System

In all honesty, the sound produced by these 2.0 KEFs is better than the A2+ speakers. They’re also well over twice the price and almost twice the size of the A2s – and we’re not sure the cost (or the space they’d take up) is worth it for computer speakers. If you feel differently, though, these are absolute gems.

The two-way bass reflex X300As are designed with the same Uni-Q array as the company’s high-end systems that cost tens of thousands of dollars, with a vented aluminum dome tweeter located in the middle of the magnesium/aluminum alloy woofer, and the driver array fully visible with no grilles to hide the design. There are two class AB amps (the A2s only have one) and two DACs (with a USB port to accept audio directly from the computer). What you end up with is rich, smooth sound that leans more to the highs and mids but doesn’t short-change the bass. The one real drawback we found is that these computer speakers don’t support a separate subwoofer.

Two other things to consider (you might or might not consider them drawbacks) are that each speaker has to be plugged in individually, and there’s no Bluetooth or AirPlay support unless you buy an AirPort Express separately. Those are small matters, though; the speakers are gorgeous with their black and grey modern design – and their sound is fantastic. Just be ready to pay a premium. (If you’re in the market for wireless computer speakers, there’s a great wireless version of the X300As available for around the same price.)

More detail on the KEF X300A Digital Hi-Fi Speaker System:

  • Type: 2.0 powered, active
  • Power output: 70W peak total
  • Woofer: 5.25 inch magnesium/aluminum alloy
  • Tweeter: 1 inch vented aluminum dome
  • Frequency response: 58 Hz to 28 kHz +/- 3dB
  • Connectors: USB, stereo mini-jack
  • Dimensions (each speaker): 11 x 8.5 x 7 inches
  • Weight (total): 33 pounds
  • Warranty: 3 years, limited

Check KEF X300A Digital Hi-Fi Speaker System Price on Amazon

3. Harmon Kardon SoundSticks III 2.1 Channel Speaker System

These iconic speakers have been around for years, but they sound as good as ever and their mid-$100 price level makes them worth a long look. How can we describe desktop speakers as iconic? Don’t take our word for it; the previous version, the SoundSticks II, is in the New York Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection because of its “industrial” design.

There are four mid-range drivers in each slim transparent speaker; the speakers are backlit with white LEDs and mounted on round, black bases so they can be set to different angles. The round and compact down-firing subwoofer has a similar design and is equally attractive.

There’s more to the SoundSticks III than good looks. The audio is crisp and clear without noticeable distortion, and the bass is solid unless you crank it up to 11 (and unfortunately you have to bend over to do that, since the controls are all on the subwoofer). For most users who don’t need to feel the room throb, though, the listening experience is quite satisfying even when watching a movie with an intricate and powerful soundtrack.

You’re not going to get the performance of the top two systems on our list of the best computer speakers, particularly since you have to feed the SoundSticks a standard output from your machine via minijack. But we still love them for their audio response, their small size and their great looks.

Looking deeper at the Harmon Kardon SoundSticks III 2.1 Channel Speaker System:

  • Type: 2.1, active powered subwoofer, passive satellites
  • Power output: 20W peak total for satellites, 20W subwoofer
  • Drivers: 4 full range on each satellite, 1 on subwoofer
  • Frequency response: 44 Hz to 20 kHz
  • Connectors: stereo mini-jack
  • Dimensions (each speaker): 10 x 1 x 2 inches; (round subwoofer) 10 x 9 inches
  • Weight (total): 7.9 pounds
  • Warranty: 1 year electronics, 5 years speakers
  • USB Output: Yes
  • Dustcover: Yes
  • Dimensions: 17.75 x 6 x 14 inches
  • Weight: 23.5 pounds
  • Warranty: 1 year, limited

Check Harmon Kardon SoundSticks III 2.1 Channel Speaker System Price on Amazon

4. Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 THX Certified Computer Speaker System

No, bassheads, we haven’t forgotten about you. Here’s your system, complete with a 130-watt subwoofer that can blast you right to nirvana (even if you’re not listening to Nirvana).

This is another 2.1 system that’s been around for quite some time, but no one’s been able to duplicate this type of full-bodied sound that’s heavy on the bass, in a package that sells for around the same price as the SoundSticks. While no one knows exactly what specs are required for THX certification, it does guarantee low distortion levels and signal-to-noise ratios, and that’s evident in the way the ProMedia speakers sound. One big reason why are the woofers and tweeters (plus high-frequency horns) in each satellite, unusual at this price level. The highs aren’t the best you’ll find in a desktop speaker system, but they’re more than adequate – and the bass from the side-firing subwoofer really kicks, without losing definition as long as you match its level to the rest of the audio.

These Klipsch speakers aren’t beautiful; the satellites look like ordinary computer speakers and the subwoofer is a two-toned grey box. But the sound is excellent for a system that takes a standard minijack audio feed, and the lows are simply amazing.

More info on the Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 THX Certified Computer Speaker System:

  • Type: 2.1, active powered subwoofer, passive satellites
  • Power output: 70W peak total for satellites, 130W subwoofer
  • Woofer: 3 inch fiber composite cone
  • Tweeter: 0.75 inch poly-compression driver
  • Frequency response: 31 Hz to 20 kHz
  • Connectors: stereo mini-jack
  • Dimensions (each speaker): 8.5 x 4 x 5.5 inches; (subwoofer) 10 x 9.5 x 10 inches
  • Weight (total): 15.2 pounds
  • Warranty: 1 year

Check Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 THX Certified Speaker System Price on Amazon

5. Edifier Exclaim e10 Bi-Amped 2.0 Speaker System

We’ll close with the best computer speakers for those on a budget. These Edifier speakers come in under $100, but still deliver crisp and satisfying audio for those more concerned with highs and mids rather than crunching lows.

Those with dirty minds might wonder a bit about the design of the two speakers in this 2.0 system; they’re tall, thin metallic sticks mounted on round black balls. They’re bi-amped with each speaker housing high- and mid-range drivers and passive radiators, however, so they’re definitely well-designed; the digital signal processing does a good job as well. One other plus: the drivers are optimally placed to send the audio right toward ear level when situated on a desk. You might hear a little distortion if you turn them up too much, but for less than $100 they’re definitely a deal.

Specifications for the Edifier Exclaim e10 Bi-Amped 2.0 Speaker System:

  • Type: 2.0 powered, active
  • Power output: 20W peak total
  • Woofer: 3 inches
  • Tweeter: 1.5 inches
  • Frequency response: 48 Hz to 20 kHz
  • Connectors: stereo mini-jack
  • Dimensions (each speaker): 12 x 4 x 7 inches
  • Weight (total): 5.3 pounds
  • Warranty: 1 year, limited

Check Edifier Exclaim e10 Bi-Amped 2.0 Speaker System Price on Amazon

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