Technology News

Best PC speakers 2020: The best computer audio for gaming and music

Whether it’s for music, gaming or movies, a good set of desktop speakers is still hard to beat

If you’re sick of the lacklustre audio generated by your laptop or monitor, there’s a simple solution: desktop speakers.

Whether you’re listening to music, watching movies or playing games, a quality pair of external speakers will enhance your audio experience while using your PC or laptop significantly. That doesn’t mean taking up half your desk with wires, cables and big amplifiers, though. Whether you’re looking for a compact, affordable way of upgrading your tinny laptop audio, or getting the finest audiophile experience that money can buy, there are plenty of great options to choose from.

Below, you’ll find our pick of the PC speakers available at a wide range of prices. Before that though, we’ve put together a comprehensive buying guide detailing all the things you should consider before parting with your hard-earned cash.

Best PC speakers: At a glance

How to choose the best PC speakers for you

How much do I need to spend?

You can buy a little set of stereo (also known as 2.0) speakers for your PC or Mac for as little as £10, and while they may be an improvement on the tinny sound that emanates from most laptops and tablets, they’re never going to let you sit back and wallow in your favourite tunes. So, even if you’re working to a tight budget, we’d generally advise that you budget to spend around £25 or so on a good, basic set of speakers that do offer a real upgrade.

It’s hard to quantify something as subjective as audio quality, but the physical build quality of a set of speakers can often be a good indication. Cheaper speakers that are housed in a lightweight plastic “cabinet” tend to vibrate as you start to pump up the volume, causing distortion that affects the sound quality. That’s not to say that plastic speakers are all automatically rubbish, but it’s not until you spend around £100 or more that you get solid rattle-free build quality that does its bit to reduce distortion and improve clarity.

As you head towards and beyond the £200 mark, you’ll also start to come across speaker cabinets made out of wood, with MDF being a popular choice for many manufacturers and audio enthusiasts. You’ll also find that speakers may boast more potent amplification (measured in watts), which may provide higher volumes and clearer sound compared to lower-end models.

Above the £300 level, you’re getting into audiophile territory so it’s worth doing a bit of research of your own before buying – and since many speakers at this level are designed for proper hi-fi or music production, you may find that local music and hi-fi shops will allow you to compare multiple models before splashing out. When you’re spending this kind of money, it’s worth checking which speakers you prefer the sound of.

What kind of connections should I look out for?

One other thing to remember is that stereo speakers, almost by definition, are not intended to be portable. They’ll spend most of their time sitting on a desk or shelf at home, so they’ll often use a 3.5mm audio cable to connect to your PC. Certain stereo speakers may offer Bluetooth as an extra feature – so that you can use them wirelessly with a smartphone or tablet – but you’ll generally get better results with a wired connection.

Speakers with Bluetooth aptX technology avoid most of the sound-quality compromises that can mar the audio quality of lesser Bluetooth speakers. However, some high-end speakers also offer Wi-Fi connectivity, which uses your Wi-Fi network to deliver improved wireless sound quality. This often goes hand-in-hand with the option of linking multiple speakers together as part of a multi-room speaker system.

Some speakers may also include a USB interface. This can be handy for smaller speakers, as it allows them to draw their power supply from the USB, with no need for any additional power cables. Speakers with a USB input option may also provide a DAC – digital to analogue converter – that’s capable of handling high-res audio files.

Do I want 2.0 or 2.1 speakers?

For most people, the decision between 2.0 (stereo) and 2.1 (stereo plus subwoofer) systems will come down to space and neatness. The extra space and cabling required for 2.1 systems – that include two smaller satellite speakers alongside a separate subwoofer – may be enough to put some people off straight away. The benefit of a 2.1 system is that the smaller speakers can handle the less-demanding upper frequencies, while the larger subwoofer deals with the rumble and thump of the bass regions.

If you’re looking for the loudest, most bombastic sound on a budget – say, for gaming – a 2.1 system is a good shout. Spend similar money on a good 2.0 system, however, and you’ll generally get a better quality of sound, with more clarity and detail, and tighter, less exaggerated bass. It’s also worth remembering that some 2.0 speakers include an output connector for a subwoofer, which will allow you to upgrade your speaker system with a standalone subwoofer in the future.

What manual controls should I look out for?

The more basic PC speaker systems have no controls of their own and you just have to control the outputs once you’ve connected them to your computer. However, many systems come with manual controls that let you adjust variants such as volume, bass and treble levels to fine-tune audio output to your preference. You’re always better off opting for the models that have manual controls, but this is dependent on personal preference. If the speakers you’re considering include these controls, be sure they’re easily reachable: on the left or right speaker or satellite, or on a control pod or remote control, rather than on the back of a subwoofer that’ll reside under your desk, for instance.

The best PC speakers to buy

1. Trust Avora 2.1: The best 2.1 speakers under £20

Price: £18 | Buy now from Amazon

It’s amazing what £20 can get you these days. For the measly sum of £18, the Trust Avora 2.1 offers a pair of compact satellite speakers and a subwoofer. Granted, build quality isn’t the best – all three are made from rather unsightly black plastic – but that’s to be expected at such a low price point.

The speakers are powered by your laptop or desktop via a USB-A connection and generate a peak power of 18W, which is ample in just about any circumstance. The subwoofer houses both the volume and bass controls and the audio produced is impressive. At higher volumes, trebles can be a little ear-piercing but there’s a decent balance overall and the sub delivers a pleasing thump when cranked right up.

It may not be the most aesthetically pleasing budget 2.1 speaker set on the market – that title goes to the Creative Pebble Plus below – but it’s half the price. And, given that it’ll set you back less than a round of drinks, it sounds pretty decent, too.

Key specs – Type: 2.1 stereo; Inputs: 3.5mm input cable (not removable); Outputs: None; Dimensions: 110 x 80 x 62mm (each satellite), 150 x 180 x 120mm (subwoofer)

Image of Trust 20442 Avora 2.1 PC Speakers with Subwoofer for Computer and Laptop, USB Powered, 18 W

Trust 20442 Avora 2.1 PC Speakers with Subwoofer for Computer and Laptop, USB Powered, 18 W

£17.99 Buy now

2. Creative Pebble V2: The best budget compact speakers

Price: £29 | Buy now from Amazon

This second-generation pair of satellite speakers feature the original Pebble’s distinctive design but incorporate a number of tweaks to improve both performance and the user experience.

The cable connecting the right and left speakers is 15cm longer, making it easier to position them on either side of your laptop or desktop, and the USB-A connection has been replaced by a USB-C connection. The V2 house enhanced 2in full-range drivers and are capable of producing 8W RMS total power and peak power of up to 16W, twice that of their predecessor.

The result is an ultra-compact pair of speakers that pack a punch. Vocals are impressively reproduced and there’s clarity in the mids and treble, which makes them great for watching movies on. They’re a little light in the bass department but if you’re after a more impactful low-end, Creative also produces the Pebble Plus below, which comes with a separate subwoofer.

If you’re looking for attractive, minimalist, speakers capable of delivering audio that belies their size, the Pebble V2 are the desktop speakers for you.

Key specs – Type: 2.0; Inputs: 3.5mm input cable (not removable); Outputs: None; Dimensions: 122 x 116 x 115mm (each satellite)

Image of Creative Pebble Desktop Speakers, 2.0 USB, Black

Creative Pebble Desktop Speakers, 2.0 USB, Black

£21.99 Buy now Image of Creative Pebble V2 - Minimalistic 2.0 USB-C Powered Desktop Speakers, 3.5 mm AUX-in, Up to 8W RMS Power for Computers and Laptops, Type-A Adapter Included and Extended Cable (Black)

Creative Pebble V2 – Minimalistic 2.0 USB-C Powered Desktop Speakers, 3.5 mm AUX-in, Up to 8W RMS Power for Computers and Laptops, Type-A Adapter Included and Extended Cable (Black)

$29.99 Buy now

3. Logitech Z200: The best connected cheap stereo speakers

Price: £27 | Buy now from Amazon

Logitech’s Z200 speakers are a good, affordable option if you want to upgrade the feeble speakers in your laptop or tablet. They’re small enough to sit on a desk beside your laptop or PC monitor, but large enough to produce a full, firm sound for listening to music, or a bit of a binge-watch on Netflix.

There’s no Bluetooth unless you upgrade to the more expensive Z207, but the Z200 provides a fixed audio cable for your laptop, with an additional 3.5mm socket so that you can still plug in a mobile device if you want to. There’s a headphone socket too, so you don’t have to unplug them every time you reach for a pair of headphones.

Key specs – Type: 2.0 stereo; Inputs: 3.5mm input cable (not removable), 3.5mm line-in; Outputs: 3.5mm headphone socket; Dimensions: 241 x 90 x 124mm (each satellite)

Image of Logitech Z200 PC Speakers, Stereo Sound, 10 Watts Peak Power, 2 x 3.5mm Inputs, Headphone Jack, Adjustable Bass, Volume Controls, UK Plug, PC/TV/Smartphone/Tablet - Midnight Black

Logitech Z200 PC Speakers, Stereo Sound, 10 Watts Peak Power, 2 x 3.5mm Inputs, Headphone Jack, Adjustable Bass, Volume Controls, UK Plug, PC/TV/Smartphone/Tablet – Midnight Black

£26.66 Buy now

4. Creative Pebble Plus: Best 2.1 speakers under £50

Price: £39 | Buy now from Amazon

If you’re looking for something with a little more oomph and don’t have a lot to spend, the Creative Pebble Plus is an excellent choice. Unlike the Logitech Z200 or the Creative Pebble V2 above, the Plus has a dedicated subwoofer; this betters the speakers’ frequency response, where it extends down to 50Hz as opposed to 100Hz on the 2.0 system.

The speakers don’t require any additional power, just one of your computer’s USB sockets and a 3.5mm auxiliary port. Angled at 45˚, the system reproduces a pleasant audio experience with impressive bass tones, accurate-sounding mids and a wide soundstage – it’s loud enough to fill a small-sized bedroom.

Key specs – Type: 2.1 stereo; Inputs: 3.5mm input; Outputs: None; Dimensions: 116 x 122 x 115mm (satellite)

Image of Creative Pebble Plus 2.1 USB-Powered Desktop Speakers with Down-Firing Subwoofer and Far-Field Drivers, Up to 8W RMS Total Power for PCs and Laptops (Black)

Creative Pebble Plus 2.1 USB-Powered Desktop Speakers with Down-Firing Subwoofer and Far-Field Drivers, Up to 8W RMS Total Power for PCs and Laptops (Black)

£36.41 Buy now Image of Creative Pebble Plus 2.1 USB-Powered Desktop Speakers with Powerful Down-Firing Subwoofer and Far-Field Drivers, Up to 8W RMS Total Power for Computer PCs and Laptops (Black)

Creative Pebble Plus 2.1 USB-Powered Desktop Speakers with Powerful Down-Firing Subwoofer and Far-Field Drivers, Up to 8W RMS Total Power for Computer PCs and Laptops (Black)

$39.99 Buy now

5. M-Audio AV42: The best stereo speakers under £100

Price: £96 | Buy now from Gear4music

If you’re a budding audiophile, DJ or simply want superb mid-range quality for under £100, look no further than the M-Audio AV42. These budget speakers connect to your PC through an RCA-to-3.5mm cable and are incredibly easy to set up. There’s even a blue LED at the front that indicates the ideal sitting position. Here, you’ll also find a volume knob, 3.5mm auxiliary input and output jacks.

As for sound quality, the AV42s sound incredible for sub-£100 speakers. They have forward-sounding mids, excellent high-end extension and good instrument separation. They are, however, a little light on the bass front – without a dedicated subwoofer, they won’t sound as punchy as its rivals.

Key specs – Type: 2.0 stereo; Inputs: 1/8in to 3.5mm analogue; Outputs: 3.5mm auxiliary; Dimensions: 213 x 146 x 188mm

Buy now from Gear4music

6. Creative T100: The best compact stereo speakers with Bluetooth

Price: £110 | Buy now from Amazon
Creative T100 speakers side by side

The Creative T100 doesn’t try to do anything too flashy but does the basics extremely well. The setup sounds great across whatever you’re listening to and there are a number of different ways in which you can connect to your audio output, with a 3.5mm port, optical-in, USB Type-A port plus Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity.

You’ll want to connect the speakers via the 3.5mm cable when watching video content to avoid audio lag but aside from that minor quibble, it’s hard to fault this pair of compact and smartly designed desktop speakers, which come with the added bonus of a remote control.

Read our full Creative T100 review

Key specs – Type: 2.0 stereo; Inputs: 3.5mm line-in, Optical-in, Bluetooth 5.0, USB (FAT32, 32GB maximum); Outputs: N/A; Dimensions: 220 x 90 x 120mm

Image of Creative T100 2.0 Compact Hi-Fi Desktop Speakers, up to 80W Peak Power with Bluetooth 5.0, Optical-in, AUX-in, Wide Soundstage and Audio Clarity with Bass Control for Computers and Laptops (Black)

Creative T100 2.0 Compact Hi-Fi Desktop Speakers, up to 80W Peak Power with Bluetooth 5.0, Optical-in, AUX-in, Wide Soundstage and Audio Clarity with Bass Control for Computers and Laptops (Black)

£99.99 Buy now

7. JBL Quantum Duo: Superb satellites for gaming

Price: £150 | Buy now from JBL

This pair of 2.0 stereo satellite speakers deliver great gaming audio coupled with customisable lighting at a reasonable price. JBL’s QuantumSOUND signature was specifically created for gaming and it shows, with weighty bass reproduction lending impact to firefights in first-person shooters and accurate sound positioning allowing you to pinpoint enemies and teammates.

When it comes to lighting, there are six individual colours to choose from plus the obligatory rainbow profile and three different effects: solid, which sees the lights remain static, wave and flow. Wave pulsates along to your audio with what JBL describes as a “breathing effect” while flow moves in and out to your music. Effects can be easily switched between using a button housed on top of the right speaker, and there are three brightness levels in addition to the option to turn the lighting off altogether.

Surround sound mode boosts in-game immersion significantly, while Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity enables you to use the Quantum Duo to play audio from your phone. There’s also a 3.5mm headphone socket for those wanting to connect a pair of headphones or gaming headset.

Key specs – Type: 2.0 stereo; Inputs: 3.5mm, USB-A, Bluetooth; Outputs: 3.5mm headphone socket; Dimensions: 210 x 89 x 176mm (each satellite)

Image of JBL Quantum Duo Gaming Speakers, USB Powered, Pc Speakers, Powerful JBL Sound with LED Colour Lights, in Black

JBL Quantum Duo Gaming Speakers, USB Powered, Pc Speakers, Powerful JBL Sound with LED Colour Lights, in Black

£149.99 Buy now

8. Razer Leviathan: The best 2.1 speakers under £200

Price: £175 | Buy now from Razer
Razer Leviathan sound bar

The Leviathan is a small soundbar (50cm in length) and is designed to sit comfortably under most desktop monitors. It’s meant to be an alternative to desktop stereo speakers. A wired subwoofer connects to the soundbar to give more bass presence and helpfully it doesn’t need a separate power source.

There’s a 3.5mm auxiliary and optical connection on the soundbar for connecting your PC, but there’s also Bluetooth for connecting a wireless device. Handy NFC quick pairing is included, too. The Leviathan delivers impressive clarity for the money and is particularly great for playing games.

Read our full Razer Leviathan review for details

Key specs – Type: 2.1 stereo; Inputs: 3.5mm analogue, optical, Bluetooth 4.0 aptX; Outputs: Subwoofer output; Dimensions: 72 x 500 x 77mm

Image of Razer Leviathan: Dolby 5.1 Suround Sound - Bluetooth Aptx Technology - Dedicated Powerful Subwoofer For Deep Immersive Bass - PC Gaming And Music Sound Bar

Razer Leviathan: Dolby 5.1 Suround Sound – Bluetooth Aptx Technology – Dedicated Powerful Subwoofer For Deep Immersive Bass – PC Gaming And Music Sound Bar

£174.99 Buy now

9. Logitech G560: Bombastic 2.1 sound with an RGB kick

Price: £210 | Buy now from Amazon

If you’re looking for a set of RGB PC speakers, the Logitech G560 are the best in the business. Thanks to Logitech’s software integration, the Logitech Gaming Software (LGS), works by detecting what music you’re listening to and what game you’re looking at. Thanks to four independent lighting sections, the G560 is able to visualise what’s being displayed on your monitor.

Connectivity options are also fantastic, with Bluetooth, USB and a 3.5mm jack, you’re spoilt for choice. As for its sound quality, the G560 is a bassy affair. It features a powerful subwoofer that’ll rattle your desk and an insanely loud output that’ll fill your entire house with deafening music. It’s definitely not one for the faint-hearted. It might not sound as refined as the AudioEngine A2+, but if you’re looking for a colourful set of PC speakers, the G560 is certainly the best out there.

Read our full Logitech G560 review for details

Key specs – Type: 2.1 stereo; Inputs: 3.5mm analogue, Bluetooth, USB inputs; Outputs: Subwoofer output; Dimensions: 166 x 118 x 166mm (satellites)

Image of Logitech G560 PC Gaming Ultra Surround Sound Speakers with Game Driven RGB Lighting, UK Plug

Logitech G560 PC Gaming Ultra Surround Sound Speakers with Game Driven RGB Lighting, UK Plug

£171.96 Buy now Image of Logitech G560 LIGHTSYNC PC Gaming Speakers with Game Driven RGB Lighting

Logitech G560 LIGHTSYNC PC Gaming Speakers with Game Driven RGB Lighting

$199.99 Buy now

10. Creative Sound BlasterX Katana: An excellent PC-TV soundbar

Price: £234 | Buy now from Amazon

The Creative Katana is a small, low-profile soundbar that sits under your desktop monitor. Through its various inputs – which include a 3.5mm line and mic inputs, an optical, a USB (via flash drive), a PC port (via micro-USB) and the ability to be paired with a Bluetooth device – the soundbar isn’t short of connectivity options. This means you can use it with your PC, smartphone and TV. It should also be noted that you can directly plug in your headphones into the soundbar.

Its sound quality is also impressive; its soundstage is expansive, has a good extension in both the lows and highs and it’s loud enough to fill a large living room through its 75W peak power output. To add the icing on the cake, it has customisable RGB lighting that adds colour to your desk.

Key specs – Type: Soundbar; Inputs: 3.5mm analogue, 3.5mm microphone in, optical digital, USB, PC (micro-USB), Bluetooth v4.2 (SBC and AAC); Outputs: Subwoofer, 3.5mm headphone output; Dimensions: 79 x 600 x 60mm

Image of Creative Sound BlasterX Katana Multi-Channel Gaming Soundbar - Bluetooth, AUX-in, USB FlashDrive, Headset-out, Mic-in, Optical-in, USB for PC, PS4, PS4 Pro and PS4 Slim - Black

Creative Sound BlasterX Katana Multi-Channel Gaming Soundbar – Bluetooth, AUX-in, USB FlashDrive, Headset-out, Mic-in, Optical-in, USB for PC, PS4, PS4 Pro and PS4 Slim – Black

£233.99 Buy now Image of Sound BlasterX Katana Multi-Channel Surround Gaming and Entertainment Soundbar - Hardware Processing, Supports Dolby Digital 5.1 Decoding, Bluetooth-Enabled, for PC, Mac, PS4, and Other Consoles

Sound BlasterX Katana Multi-Channel Surround Gaming and Entertainment Soundbar – Hardware Processing, Supports Dolby Digital 5.1 Decoding, Bluetooth-Enabled, for PC, Mac, PS4, and Other Consoles

$249.99 Buy now

11. Edifier S3000 Pro: Incredible stereo sound – but very expensive

Price: £589 | Buy now from Amazon

The S3000 Pro active speakers are exceptional. Housed inside a beautiful wooden enclosure, the pair of 6.5in aluminium mid-to-low-end drivers and 107mm planar tweeters deliver an outstanding 256W of RMS power. These can get incredibly loud and yet it’s not the sheer volume of this system that’ll blow you away – it’s the quality. The pair delivers an incredible soundstage, an exquisite bassline that extends down to 38Hz and highs that sparkle at the top end. It’s freakishly good sound quality.

For connectivity, you’ve got a selection of wired connections and Bluetooth. The latter supports the higher-quality aptxHD codec. The right and left speaker units are also wirelessly connected. There’s no wire in-between them, though, you’ll need two power sockets (one for each speaker). At the back of the right speaker, there’s a volume, bass and treble knob, meaning you can tailor the sound to your liking. A stylish IR remote is also included, with it providing handy media controls and four pre-set EQ profiles.

If you like the look of the S3000 Pro but want a more compact and affordable option, Edifier’s S2000 MKIII retail for £430 and are well worth checking out.

Key specs – Type: 2.0 stereo; Inputs: USB, RCA, Balanced XLR (3-pin), coaxial, optical, Bluetooth; Outputs: N/A; Dimensions: 356 x 232 x 268mm

Image of Edifier S3000PRO Hi Res Audio Active 2.0 Wireless Monitor Speakers with Bluetooth

Edifier S3000PRO Hi Res Audio Active 2.0 Wireless Monitor Speakers with Bluetooth

£589.00 Buy now

Original Article

Spread the love

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment