Since we started testing in 2017, we've seen and tested several new speaker systems. Some are marketed towards gamers with features like RGB lighting, while some stick to a more traditional minimalism. Now into early 2018, our recommendations still stand strong.
If you're serious about sound, the Klipsch R-15PM powered monitors are still the highest quality sounding speakers in its class. Yes, the pair lacks a subwoofer, which you can buy separately, but the quality is second to none. Many years ago Klipsch set the bar for speakers for your PC with the ProMedias (the latest of which are still a favorite of ours). Now, that legendary sound is even better with the R-15PMs.
While most users tend to prefer a reliable headset for PC gaming (see our best gaming headsets here), nothing beats a trusty set of speakers when you’re in the mood for room filling sound and ground shaking bass. Not to mention even the best headsets can become uncomfortable over extended gaming sessions.
Since our guide is called the best speakers for PC gaming, we kept the testing process simple and focused on gaming. We tested each set of speakers in-game for several hours through a wide range of games with rich soundtracks and sounds including Skyrim, Dark Souls 3, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch and Furi. Afterwards, 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 left/right balance. To test 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.
We put a number of speakers through their paces over the course of our testing. Here's the competitors who showed promise but weren't quite as good as our favorites.
Creative Inspire T12
If you’re looking for an affordable compact set of speakers, the Inspire T12 from Creative are a 2.0 set of speakers that pack a serious punch. Although the speakers include Creative’s “BassFlex” technology for improved bass response, we much preferred the A250 set with its dedicated subwoofer for PC gaming.
Easily one of the most popular 2.1 speaker systems available, the Logitech Z313 is a solid choice for PC gaming. The included control pod makes it easy to make volume adjustments and the speakers produce balanced sound. But we found more muffled low ends in the Z313 than we did with Creative’s A250.
Cyber Acoustics CA-3602
The CA-3602 is definitely one of the loudest low end speakers we tested. It’s able to fill a relatively large room with balanced sound but falls short in clarity at higher volume levels. Although it had the largest subwoofer in the budget bunch, the CA-3602 struggled the most with clear bass.
Creative T30 / T50 Wireless
Priced at $129.99 and $199.99, the Creative T30 and T50 Wireless 2.0 speakers are priced higher than several 2.1 sets in the mid-range but a top-located bass port offers surprisingly competitive lows. The main difference between the two is an additional driver on the T50. Both come equipped with Bluetooth and NFC capability making them great options for the house, but the lack of a subwoofer has them fall short for gaming.
Priced similarly to the Harman Kardon SoundSticks Wireless, the Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 Wireless are also an excellent choice for mid-range speakers. Equipped with a built-in amplifier, the speakers offer room-filling sound with a commanding low end presence. Unfortunately, the wireless USB dongle would not stay connected during our testing so we had to go with the wired AUX input.
Overall, the Promedia 2.1 speakers performed exceptionally well but slight distortion and minor low end rumbles when listening to music left us preferring the SoundSticks. Klipsch has updated the Promedia 2.1 Wireless to include built-in Bluetooth support. The speakers no longer require a USB dongle and are now called the Klipsch Promedia 2.1 BT.
Creative Sound BlasterX Kratos S5
Creative was the first company to bring addressable RGB lighting to speakers with the Sound BlasterX Kratos S5. While we weren’t blown away by the sound, we found the included BlasterX software to be very impressive. If you’re a fan of 7.1 virtual surround sound, the BlasterX software does it well with a versatile equalizer that allows you to make plenty of fine tuning adjustments. The RGB lighting configuration doesn’t match the depth of Razer’s Synapse and Chroma Studio, but some users will find it sufficient with its six presets and easy customization.
Unlike most of the products we test here, there aren’t a whole lot of developments happening each year when it comes to speakers. That being said, we still have a long way to go before we test out all of the competitive speakers out there for PC gaming.
As usual, we’ll continue to update this story with new developments as we continue testing. Your feedback and suggestions are always welcomed. Some of the speakers we’re hoping to test next include options from M-Audio, Audioengine and Altec Lansing.
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