Best Computer Speakers
In our opinion, the Bose Companion 2 Series III Multimedia strikes a near perfect balance of the things many people are looking for in a pair of computer speakers. First off, they sound fantastic, pumping out Bose's signature warm and rotund bass while remaining controlled and well-defined, and providing impressive clarity and separation through all the sound registers. They are also decently compact. Standing at 7.5 inches tall and 3 inches wide they fit below most elevated monitors on a desktop and don't look ungainly when placed on either side of a laptop. Finally, while not cheap, they are not overly expensive either, representing a fairly innocuous price range for those seeking premium sound quality.
One minor downside of the Bose Companion 2 Series III Multimedia is that an AC power source is required. While not a dealbreaker, adding another plug to often crowded desk powerstrips can sometimes be a bummer — a USB option would have been nice. Additionally, the speakers are certainly not low-budget. However, as long as you have a spare outlet and are willing to make a bit of an investment into making your computer sound incredible, the Bose Companion 2 Series III Multimedia is almost sure to please.
You don't have to spend much to improve the sound coming out of your computer, a point exemplified by the Creative Pebble 2.0. This pair of speakers provides a significant step up in both bass power and clarity when compared to the vast majority of built-in computer speakers. The convenient USB power source allows you to plug the speakers into a spare port on your computer or monitor instead of using a wall plug or taking up another port on your power strip. Finally, the design projects sound up at a 45˚ angle. As long as you place the speakers closer to you, this generally puts the ideal listening position right at ear level for most desk orientations.
While the Creative Pebble 2.0 sounds quite good, it does not provide the premium listening experience some may be seeking. For example, while the bass is much more powerful than what emanates from most computers, it still lacks a bit of punch when compared to many higher-priced speakers. Additionally, some clarity and separation can be lost in complex melodies played at higher registers, a problem not present in many more capable models. While the 45˚ is great for most situations, if you want to place the speakers next to a monitor towards the back of your desk or on an elevated platform, the sound may be aimed over your head. However, if you're just looking for an upgrade in your computer's sound rather than top-tier quality, the Creative Pebble 2.0 provides all you need in a convenient and budget-friendly package.
Many computers, particularly laptops, have speakers that sound so thin and hollow that even a minor upgrade can make a world of difference. This is where the Cyber Acoustics CA-2014 comes in. Admittedly, these speakers aren't going to impress any audiophiles. However, they do offer noticeably more body and clarity than you can get from most laptops and many desktop computers, often upgrading the listening experience from shrill and annoying to perfectly satisfactory, and maybe even enjoyable. These small speakers also easily fit into almost any desk setup and can be powered from any USB port.
While these speakers are often a noticeable improvement when compared to what comes built-in to your computer, they still lack a good amount of depth in the bass registers and can sound a bit echoey overall. However, if you don't want to spend much on speakers and just need to make your computer sound a bit less tinny, the Cyber Acoustics CA-2014 can get you all you need at an enticingly low price.
If you're one that can't get work done without a thumping bass soundtrack, or are looking for a more intense audio experience for your online gaming, the Cyber Acoustics CA-3602 2.1 Sound System is an excellent choice. Its large subwoofer provides far more rumble than the vast majority of models out there while still keeping those bass tones sounding distinct and controlled. The two satellite speakers round things out with fairly crisp mid and treble notes. A separate control module allows you to have easy access to volume and bass controls, as well as headphone and auxiliary input ports.
The biggest issue with the Cyber Acoustics CA-3602 2.1 Sound System is finding a place to put the subwoofer. Standing 10 inches tall and sporting an 8 inch square base, It takes up much more desk space than most speakers. Also, with three speakers and a separate control module, this system creates a larger mess of wires on your desk than most other models. Finally, the bass-heavy sound profile doesn't always work well. For example, acoustic ballads either sound overly bassey or very thin if you turn the subwoofer off. Overall, if powerful bass is what you seek, it's hard to find a better deal than the Cyber Acoustics CA-3602 2.1 Sound System.
If you're particular about sound quality it may be best to pair a set of bookshelf style speakers with your computer. We think the Mackie Studio Monitor CR4BT is the perfect bookshelf/computer crossover. First off, these speakers sound fantastic. The bass is powerful yet controlled and constrained and the mid and treble ranges are crystal clear and enjoy great separation, allowing you to appreciate every bit of even the most complex melodies. Secondly, the design of these speakers lends them well to desktop arrangements. The ability to change which speaker is the left and right allows for correct orientation regardless of where your outlet happens to be. Multiple included accessories allow you to connect via your computer's headphone jack, through an RCA output, or via Bluetooth.
The obvious disadvantages of the Mackie Studio Monitor CR4BT are the cost and the size. The premium sound quality does come at a relatively premium price. Each speaker stands nearly 9 inches tall, 6 inches wide, and just over 8 inches deep. That takes up quite a bit of desk space. But if you have the room and want top-tier sound, we highly recommend the Mackie Studio Monitor CR4BT .
If you use a desktop computer or a docked laptop and external monitor/keyboard, a single speaker that sits right below your display can be both more convenient and a better use of limited desk space than the more common 2-speaker systems. In that case, we recommend the TaoTronics Wired Sound Bar. This 16-inch long mini soundbar is the perfect size to place below the average desktop monitor. Despite the relatively small stature it managed to produce quite powerful bass in our testing, resulting in a full and engrossing sound. Mid and treble ranges received similar levels of expression, making for a balanced listening experience.
While we like the sound quality provided by the TaoTronics Wired Sound Bar overall, it does lack some of the clarity of the top-tier speakers. Additionally, the design doesn't work well with laptops, and the blue power light around the volume knob cannot be turned off. This latter point can become annoying if your desk is at all reflective. Still, the TaoTronics Wired Sound Bar offers relatively good sound in a simple and compact package.
If all you need is something that sounds a bit better than the tiny speakers that are built-in to your laptop, the Sanyun SW102 may work well. While these speakers won't blow anyone away, the well constrained and fairly tight sound is a noticeable upgrade from most laptop speakers. The simple and relatively small USB-powered design also makes them easy to incorporate into pretty much any desk setup, no matter how crowded.
While these speakers sound better than what most laptops can produce on their own, don't expect particularly powerful bass nor particularly impressive clarity. Additionally, each speaker has a bright blue light at the base that remains lit whenever the speakers are plugged in. Sometimes these lights felt innocuous, other times they felt like an unwanted addition to a day spent staring at a glowing screen. Either way, we wish they could be turned off. Finally, the volume control is embedded in the speaker cable, limiting the options you have when hiding those cables away. If you can get past these annoyances, however, the Sanyun SW102 can offer reasonable sound at a very low price.
The Logitech Multimedia Z200 is an inexpensive pair of computer speakers that offer a good amount of bass power and decent clarity through the mid and treble ranges. This sound profile works well for almost any genre of music or video conferencing.
Like any budget speakers the Logitech Multimedia Z200 do have some weak points audio wise. Namely, though the bass is quite powerful, it can often sound muddled and a bit echoey. These speakers are also relatively tall, standing at 9.5 inches. This means on crowded desks they can obscure the bottom of some monitors. Still, we think these speakers are a decent choice for budget shoppers.
Why You Should Trust Us
Senior Editor Max Mutter has been testing and reviewing consumer audio products for five years, having used more than 200 such products in that time span. In doing so he's developed a keen ear that can quickly identify a speaker's audio attributes.
To find the best computer speakers we researched more than 50 models, then bought the 8 most promising on the market. We then spent weeks using them on our own desks, setting each up in a variety of configurations. We also spent hours listening to each model one right after the other, using various genres of music to compare the bass, mid, and treble quality of each, as well as overall clarity and fullness.
Analysis and Test Results
Our testing of computer speakers was split into two main categories: sound quality and ease of use. Within each of these categories we conducted multiple tests to rank the performance of each product. You can read more about those tests and the standout performers below.
Sound quality is likely the most important thing to consider when selecting a pair of computer speakers. We tested sound quality by using a wide variety of music genres as well as podcasts to assess each model's performance for both music listening and video conferencing. We did all of this testing in a side-by-side manner, quickly switching back and forth between models to make direct comparisons of their bass, mid, and treble quality, as well as overall clarity.
If you're looking for the best possible sound from your computer we think the Mackie Studio Monitor CR4BT is a great choice. We found these speakers to be impressively capable throughout all registers, able to get deep and warm or brash and bright as the situation dictates, while remaining incredibly clear no matter what. However, the extra size and price of these speakers may dissuade some.
For most people seeking great sound we would suggest the Bose Companion 2 Series III Multimedia. These speakers provide bass rumble and clarity that are almost as good as those of the Mackie Studio Monitor CR4BT, but in a smaller and slightly less expensive package.
For those seeking bass power on the cheap, we think the Cyber Acoustics CA-3602 2.1 Sound System offers a good value. Employing a large subwoofer to produce a deep rumble, this system is great for those that are all about that bass.
In order to be useful, all that computer speakers need to do is sound better than the tiny speakers that are built-in to most laptops. All the rest of the models we tested can do this, though with slightly less aplomb than the standouts we've listed above. Of these our favorite would be the Creative Pebble 2.0, which managed to maintain a relatively well-balanced and well-rounded sound in our testing.
Ease of Use
Most computer speakers have very simple interfaces and are designed to be plugged into the headphone jack of your computer. Beyond these basics, computer speakers can offer better user experiences by more easily fitting into the average desktop setup. This can be impacted by the size of/orientation required by the speakers, whether they can be powered via a simple USB port or need their own AC outlet, and how many wires are required to zig zag over the desk. Small touches like a headphone jack pass-through port are nice as well, but we didn't find them to be hugely impactful in day to day use.
Of all the models we tested, the Creative Pebble 2.0 probably offers the most seamless user experience. These speakers can be powered via any USB outlet, and the speakers are relatively small and don't take up much desktop real estate. The Cyber Acoustics CA-2014 offers a similarly simple design. The Logitech Multimedia Z200 follows this simple design trend, but the speakers themselves are significantly larger.
The Bose Companion 2 Series III Multimedia speakers sit one step down from the simplest models. The speakers are just slightly larger than average, and require an AC port for power. However, the huge step up in sound quality will likely be well worth the modicum of added logistics for many people.
Even simple and inexpensive computer speakers can significantly upgrade the audio offered up by your computer. We hope our detailed testing results have helped you whittle down exactly what you want out of a pair of speakers, and which model will best satisfy those needs.
— Max Mutter