They may seem slightly anachronistic, but the best computer speakers allow you to hear every toe-tapping beat in Persona 4 or every footstep in Call of Duty Warzone. And, after a long hard day, maybe you need to blast out some Lupe Fiasco. While we will always sing the praises of exactly why you need a good gaming headset, there's still something to be said about just sitting back and filling the room with the sounds of alien death rays, explosions, and zombie moans from the best PC speakers.
Space is a significant factor in deciding the best computer speakers for your desk. If you've got the room, go for the typical 2.1, left/right speaker setup with a subwoofer. These will give you an excellent depth of sound and positional audio. The only downside is that this option is usually more expensive. If you don't have the room or the money, soundbars are great options as well. Those too can come with a subwoofer you can tuck under your desk for some rump-shaking sound.
We've got choices for everyone from the budget-conscience to the sound snobs; the best computer speakers have the quality, balance, and bass you need to make all the noise you want.
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.
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 stood apart from the competition with their big sound despite the compact size.
With a total power output of 8 watts, we were amazed to see the speakers pumping 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 volume up. The only complaint here is a lack of bass control to complement the convenient volume knob located on the right speaker.
Wherever the Pebble Plus speakers lacked in oomph, they made up for in clarity. This is why we highly recommend these speakers for students on the go, 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 speaker is easily beat when compared to a mid-range set. But for gamers on a tight budget, we found these speakers to be the clear winner.
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 estates around your gaming PC. Luckily, Razer has a solution for the modern PC gaming minimalist: the Leviathan soundbar.
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 $200, Razer's soundbar 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.
Creative's latest subwoofer and soundbar combo is a competent mid-range sound system, with a pleasing number of connections. There's a 3.5mm, Bluetooth 2.1, Optical, and USB option, so it not only fits with most PC builds and laptops but can be handy for other devices around the home. In terms of bass, it rumbles away nicely, and if you're looking to crank out games at a decent volume, this speaker system performs well via its dual 20W speakers in the soundbar and a 40W subwoofer.
The problem is that the speakers don't perform so well with quieter sounds, and the frequency response is uninspiring at 55Hz-20,000Hz. That means you do lose a bit of subtlety in incidental game noises, which are the bread and butter of decent gaming headsets. There are a couple of other tiny issues, like a short power cable and a slightly flimsy remote, but overall the lower price makes up for this speaker set's shortcomings. At less than $100, it's well worth a look.
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 for you to find the right one 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 when necessary 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.
How 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 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.