The best computer speakers may not be as ubiquitous as they once were, thanks mainly to the charge of the best gaming headset, but there's still a place in PC gaming for them. Don't get us wrong, we love a good headset, but it can be a very different gaming experience having two tweeters blasting you with noise from all angles and a subwoofer shaking you to bits.
Being able to sit back and let the sweet sounds wash all over your body is something else. Having the bass notes of every explosion rumbling through your foundations will provide some spectacular sound for your games—and your neighbors will get to enjoy your games too.
You'll hear every toe-tapping beat in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy or stray gunshot in Hunt: Showdown, and even if you want to jam out some of your favorite game soundtrack tunes after a long, hard day, the best computer speakers will set 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 space, we found a couple of great soundbars that might be a better option. 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 acts as an audio visualizer, which flashes and brightens to the music's beat. Switching over to software control allows you to choose between fixed color, color cycle, breathing, audio visualizer, and screen sampler lighting modes.
The screen sampler, however, is where the G560 shines. 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.
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 low-end differences 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 power amount. While they won't produce the highest sound volume, 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 performed 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 we found these speakers to be the clear winner for gamers on a tight budget.
The Logitech Z407s pretty much win the award for most deceptively awesome computer speakers of 2021. This 80-watt speaker system connects via Bluetooth, 3.5mm audio jack, or micro USB so you can easily connect to them with your phone, gaming laptop, or PC. Keeping with 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 4ft cables, which limit the ways you can set them up. However, being able to lay the speakers 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.
The Razer Nommo Chroma is a huge upgrade from your old dinky desk speakers. The large cylindrical speakers look a bit like the engines of the USS Enterprise but provide excellent sound and deep bass. The RGB ring under the speakers is also a really nice touch as well.
At $130, Razer's Nommo Chroma 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 Nommo remains a smart choice for PC gamers who want a pair of great-sounding speakers without a sub-woofer assuming you have the desk space.
It's been a while since we had a soundbar make a list. Mainly because many soundbars out there are tuned and made for TVs in mind and not PC gaming. Often, the soundbar is too big for your desk or too small and the sound lacks any oomph. The Sound Blaster Katana V2 is a significant upgrade from last year's model with a sleeker look and, more importantly, better-sounding tweeters and subwoofer.
The Katana V2 has bright RGB lighting that accents the underside of the bar that gives it a little flair. The subwoofer's 5.25" drivers provide the V2 that little kick in the butt you want when your playing shooters and still have a decent enough soundscape for listening to music.
Another thing about the V2 is that it can be pretty much be plugged into anything thanks to its many connectivity options. We managed to get great sound out of a Playstation 5 by simply plugging it via USB-C audio in, which means we could still keep the PC connected as well.
The downside to the Katana V2 is the hefty $350 price tag, which makes it more expensive than most gaming soundbars you can buy right now. Another problem was setting up premium features like SXFI, and Battle mode has to be set up through a cumbersome app. Some nagging odd Bluetooth connectivity issues drove us a bit mad. Weirdly enough, the fix was cycling through different inputs every time. If you got a tiny desk or not much space to spare the near 24-inch soundbar, it might be a tight fit.
The Sound Blaster Katana V2 is a great soundbar. It's small enough to sit comfortably on your desk without taking it over but also loud enough to easily be featured as your living room sound system (thanks to its subwoofer).
At a glance, it's easy to mistake the GP9 as just a standard gaming soundbar. It's way more than that. For starters, one of its many tricks is that the GP9 can act as a wireless speaker with around 5 hours of battery life. So this means you can drag this small speaker right to the living room and give your TVs a sound boost (assuming it's Bluetooth) or connect your phone and enjoy some tunes from your phone on the go.
The tiny three-pound, 15-inch speaker, does a fantastic job of producing virtual 3D surround sound using its FPS mode setting. If it is late and you really can't blast audio, the speaker will output 7.1 virtual surround sound to any headset you plug into it with a 3.5mm cable. It plays nice with multiple devices and consoles, and an easy-to-understand smartphone app does all your customizations like RGB lighting and EQ options.
Another feature you won't find in other entries on the list is that this Bluetooth speaker has a built-in mic for voice chat. Between work calls and Discord chatting, my voice was clear and sounded good. However, I did find myself having some difficulties trying to parse between voice chat and the sounds of gunfire and zombie death gargles during more hectic sessions of Back 4 Blood. When things get wild, it's hard to hear your teammates let alone try to have a conversation with them without feeling like you need to scream to be heard despite its in-game sound-canceling working its best.
The GP9 pretty much does everything and then some, which would explain the super-high $499 price point. But if you are looking for a pretty versatile gaming speaker that sounds incredible and can do it all. The built-in microphone is nice, but I don't see it replacing a headset/microphone combo for team games that require a little more coordination.
The reason we like the MR1 isn't that they are powerful compact Bluetooth speakers, but they are maybe hands-down one of the best-looking computer speakers we've tested this year. There's something about the Walnut finish, and the gray fabric grill screams classy and is a nice change of pace from the usual gray or black speakers that you are always seeing. It's not always about looks though, the MR1s does not disappoint in the sound department and deliver mighty powerful audio and manage to hit you with some strong bass without needing a subwoofer (though you can plug one in).
While the MR1 is hands down one of the best pair of computer speakers we've gotten to mess with, they aren't gaming speakers. There are no custom EQs or preset game modes though I'd argue that these punchy speakers already do a great job and don't need to be tweaked. Out of the box, these Ruarks make listening to music an absolute joy to listen to and turn chaotic action games like Back 4 Blood into near cinematic experiences.
Though, I was bummed to see no USB as a supported connection. This only limits you to Bluetooth, Optical, and 3.5mm connections, which isn't the end of the world, but if you want to plug in a PS5, you have to do it through 3.5mm from the Dualsense controller isn't the most elegant solution.
The Ruark MR1 Bluetooth speakers' superior sound quality and design make it a fantastic choice for anyone looking to jazz up their workspace despite a lack of gaming features. But honestly, you won't care about any of that after ten minutes of listening to these speakers in action.
The best computer speakers FAQ
Do I need a 2.1, 5.1, or 7.1 setup?
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 of a subwoofer for a 2.0 setup. That's mainly 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' Sonic function. 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.
How do we test computer speakers?
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 various albums in lossless FLAC format, such as Daft Punk's Random Access Memories and Psychic from Darkside.
One of the most important features to test for was the left/right balance with gaming in mind. 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 sounds' location and test how easily we could identify their direction with the speakers.