Using the best computer speakers can free you from the constraints of always having a gaming headset strapped to your head like some kind of sulky cyborg with sore ears. Don't get us wrong, we love a good headset, but it can be a very different gaming experience having game audio surrounding you.
Having the bass notes of every explosion rumbling through your foundations will provide some spectacular sound for your games—and who cares if the neighbours complain.
Okay, you don't have to piss people off, but play it loud and play it proud, that's what we say. Hear every toe-tapping beat in Persona 4, or stray gunshot in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War at full blast. Even if you just wanna bang out some your favourite game soundtrack tunes after a long, hard day, the best computer speakers will see you right.
One of the main factors in deciding the best computer speakers for your desk is how much space you have to spare. If you've got the real estate, you should go for the typical 2.1, left/right speaker setup, complete with a sub-woofer. This will give you an excellent depth of sound, and positional audio. The only downside is that this option is usually more expensive, and not so space-efficient. If you don't have the space and are tight on money, sound bars are great as well. Some even come with a sub-woofer you can tuck under your desk, for some rump-shaking sound.
Best computer speakers
When it comes to RGB lighting, chances are you either hate it or love it. The PC Gamer office may be divided on this topic, but there's one thing we can agree on: Logitech's G560 Lightsync feature is anything but gimmicky. If there's one RGB product we'd recommend, that might impact your PC gaming experience, it's this one.
Logitech's software allows you to choose between two control modes for the speakers. Hardware control ditches the software and uses Bluetooth or AUX input for lighting. You get a gentle rainbow color cycle that also acts as an audio visualizer, which flashes and brightens to the beat of the music. Switching over to software control allows you to choose between fixed color, color cycle, breathing, audio visualizer, and screen sampler lighting modes.
Screen sampler, however, is where the G560 shines. Much like ambient TV backlighting products, the software takes user-defined areas of the screen and extends the colors outwards to create a very immersive lighting experience. Since a good portion of this effect relies on the rear-facing LEDs, the speakers need to be positioned right beside your display with their back against a wall to get the best result.
But all that's besides the point, since these speakers also offer some fantastic audio courtesy of twin tweeters and a powerful subwoofer. For a spell, there, the G560 was prone to explosive audio even when cranked down to a low volume. Logitech eventually patched that nuisance out, which has us once again loving this kit for PC gaming.
Read the full Logitech G560 Lightsync review.
When you're out shopping for cheap PC speakers below $50, it's easy to be overwhelmed by choice. It doesn't help that reliable brands have multiple options in the same price range. The differences at the low-end can be minimal, but the Creative Pebble Plus speakers stand apart from the competition with their big sound despite the compact size.
With a total power output of 8 watts, these speakers pump out crisper audio than some of their competitors using two to three times the amount of power. While they won't produce the highest volume of sound, we found little distortion even with the volume maxed out. The only complaint here is a lack of bass control to complement the convenient volume knob located on the right speaker.
The Pebble Plus speakers may lack some raw oomph, but they make up for it in clarity. This is why we highly recommend these speakers for students and those who move around a lot, as the speakers are small enough to fit on any cramped desk surface. They're easily the most portable system we tried and perform best in a smaller bedroom or dorm.
Like any other pair of speakers below $50, the Creative Pebble Plus speakers are easily shamed by a mid-range set, but for gamers on a tight budget, we found these speakers to be the clear winner.
The Logitech Z407s pretty much win the award for most deceptively awesome computer speakers of 2021. This 80-watt speaker system connects via Bluetooth, 3.5 mm, or micro USB that easily connects to your phone, gaming laptop, and PC. You never actually have to turn these speakers on, which is neat, though if they are connected via Bluetooth, I must warn you; the sound the speakers make whenever you turn on your PC is one of the most annoying startup bloops I've heard. Keeping in the wireless theme, I absolutely fell in love with the wireless control knob, which let me control my media with satisfying spins.
What was not satisfying is the unusually short 4 foot cables, which limited the ways I could set up my speaker/sub-woofer layout. However, being able to lay the speakers themselves vertically or horizontally is a nice touch. Despite that, the sound achieved surprisingly balanced audio for a speaker set for only $80. A strong yes for anyone looking to upgrade their current dinky desktop speakers.
When building a gaming PC or upgrading a battle station, speakers typically aren't very high on the priority list. But jumping from the integrated set of speakers on your monitor to a $200 pair of external speakers can give you a sound quality boost similar to the performance increase you'd see when switching from integrated to discrete graphics. When moving from testing our low-spec budget speakers to the Harman Kardon SoundSticks, the difference was night and day.
Unlike most Bluetooth speakers, the SoundSticks enter and stay in pairing mode as soon as they're turned on. This made it easy for us to switch between audio sources at any time without having to touch the speakers. We also noticed little loss in sound quality up to the 30ft recommended range. Unfortunately, for those that are using the speakers in an apartment complex or dorm, that does mean nearby strangers can connect to them at any time.
With their beautiful looks and satisfying sound, the SoundSticks were an easy favorite for PC gaming. But for big-budget audio purists looking for the best of the best, the performance and expandability of powered bookshelf speakers or studio monitors remain tough to beat.
One of the great things about gaming headsets is that they take up very little space. Unfortunately, if you're looking for a great set of speakers, chances are you'll have to sacrifice some of the real estate around your gaming PC. Luckily, Razer has a solution for the modern PC gaming minimalist: the Leviathan sound bar.
The Razer Leviathan is designed to be placed directly underneath your monitor and features both wired and wireless input options to help reduce clutter. We especially appreciated the notch in the middle, which allows you to run your keyboard and mouse cord underneath cleanly.
At $230, Razer's sound bar directly competes with several other options on this list. It may not match the sound quality and feature set of the Logitech G560, but the Leviathan remains a smart choice for PC gamers who want a simple single speaker setup.
Another release from Creative, the T100s are exceptionally workman-like, competent desk speakers. For around the $100 mark, you could do a lot worse, but that makes them sound much more plain than they are. They have a relatively restrained and straightforward design and limit their physical presence and footprint to that of two small-ish speakers that are deceptively good.
The two speakers have simple but effective on-board controls, and the handy remote comes with enough presets and options to find the right sound for you. The Creative T100 will connect via Bluetooth, optical cable, and regular audio jack, so while they'll demand a bit of extra desk space, the wireless option is a good bonus.
The sound that the speakers produce is deceptively good. The 2.75-inch/70mm full-range drivers in each unit have a good range for such small speakers and even offered a realistic surround effect too. While they can't compete with a separate woofer and the bass systems, with the range that such setups bring, the T100s do a great job of handling everything you throw at them.
The T100s are reliable, competent, and do a spectacular job, making them pleasing all-rounders. They couldn't entirely blow my socks off with the likes of Call of Duty: Warzone, for example, but they are as good any desk-bound set of speakers that we've tested.
The best computer speakers FAQ
Q: Do I need a 2.1, 5.1 or 7.1 setup?
A: You'll mostly find 2.1 setups for the PC market covering just left/right channels and a subwoofer—perhaps more often than that even devoid a subwoofer for a 2.0 setup. That's mostly because that fits the bill for a desktop and monitor, with the speakers in front of the user for decent stereo sound.
Living room speaker setups and home cinema systems will take that a little further, often offering at least five surrounding speakers in most cases. You could hook such a system up to your PC too, and find decent support for such a configuration, but we're hesitant to recommend such a setup due to the sheer number of wires involved around a single desk. It doesn't bear thinking about.
Some companies will tout virtual 5.1 to make up for the lack of physical speakers, often at the expense of sound quality, including Windows' own Sonic function, but don't forget many games use clever 3D audio techniques to generate positional game audio with great accuracy, so you may find you don't need much of a helping hand.
Q: How do we test computer speakers?
A: We tested each set of speakers in-game for several hours through a wide range of games with rich soundtracks and sounds, including Doom Eternal, Call of Duty: Warzone, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, and Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice. Afterward, we ran listening tests, which included snippets from the film Jurassic World and a variety of albums in lossless FLAC format such as Daft Punk's Random Access Memories and Psychic from Darkside.
With gaming in mind, one of the most important features to test for was the left/right balance. To check this in-game, we used the CS: GO Audio Test Chamber workshop project by geri43. It's a simple map that allows you to reproduce all sorts of in-game sounds, including ladder movements, sniper scopes, gunfire, footsteps, and more. Moving around the map or behind a wall allowed us to manipulate the location of the sounds and test how easily we could identify their direction with the speakers.