Sadly, the built-in speakers lining your laptop or desktop are rarely worthy of high praise. A quality speaker system is essential when it comes to music and movies, though, allowing you to experience more than what’s typically afforded from the chintzy speakers that come stock with your machine. These days, the realm of desktop speakers is more robust than ever before, quickly deviating from the boxy designs of their age-old counterparts with every new iteration, while offering wireless functionality and producing unprecedented sound in an affordable package. As such, we compiled our favorite desktop speakers for upgrading your sound quality. We can’t guarantee they’ll make listening to the new Miley Cyrus album any more enjoyable. But at least it will sound better.
Aperion Allaire ($400)
The Allaire offer the most complete combination of high-end sound quality, versatility, and connectivity in the genre. With Bluetooth, a digital optical input, an analog input, a subwoofer output, and a USB port for charging devices, the Allaire are suitable for almost any installation. But what really sells us on the Allaire is their outstanding sound quality, with rich bass response, pure midrange and detailed, pristine treble. For a desktop that often doubles as an entertainment center, there is no better choice at this price.
Available at: Aperion Audio
Polk Hampden ($400)
The Polk Hampden hit the sweet spot, reveling in a handsome vintage design that produces a sprawling, accurate soundstage and robust volume. The old-school interface on the front showcases the volume like an analog flip clock, adding to the aesthetic, while a simple button housed on the side allows you to change the source between digital USB, analog 3.5mm, and Bluetooth.
Edifier e25 Luna Eclipse ($200)
The ultra-modern e25 Luna Eclipse are as outstanding in terms of build quality as they are in sound. The slick moon-shaped speakers produce a clear, open midrange and a surprising amount of bass via the integrated 3.5-inch drivers, and dual passive radiators. They offer phenomenal sound for the price, with a bevy of flashy features to boot.
Harman Kardon Nova 2.0 ($300)
The Nova 2.0 issue more bass and a thicker midrange sound than you’d expect from 2-pound globes, yet they do so with flying colors. The treble isn’t the most precise in the space, whether you opt for the bundled 3.5mm cable or the device’s Bluetooth functionality, but the modern pair’s powerful output and radical vortex design make them a worthy choice.
JBL Pebbles ($60)
At a mere $60, the JBL Pebbles are the most affordable on our list. Nonetheless, these USB-powered speakers revel in clever cable management, a unique compact design, and a well-rounded sound signature that’s both punchy and tuneful for their diminutive size. We wish they came bundled with a USB adapter, but the plug-and-play dynamics are hard to pass up.
Grace Digital GDI-BTSP201 ($250)
Grace Digital’s GDI-BTSP201 prove true stereo separation doesn’t need to be pricey or bulky. The vinyl-covered speakers — available in black, white, and red — create distortionless clarity even at high volumes, highlighted by a gleaming upper register and enough bass to elicit a knock from the neighbors. The reliable wireless performance is an added plus, and the price can’t be beat.
Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 ($140)
Klipsch’s THX-certified 2.1 system doesn’t offer frills, but it does offer a proper, 130-watt subwoofer to go along with dual 35-watt satellite speakers, providing clear, full sound that’s suited for both music and gaming. Moreover, the system’s digital hybrid amp features a headphone jack and dual stereo analog inputs, so you can connect two sources at once.
Audioengine A2+ ($250)
Audioengine’s A2+ are popular for a reason. The dynamic bookshelf speakers bask in clear accuracy and nuanced undertones that span the frequency range, while offering an integrated digital-to-analog converter that lets you forego your computer’s analog output in favor of a purer signal. These speakers may lack a bit in the low-end, but they shine with versatility.
KEF X300A ($800)
The audiophile-centric KEF X300A are unparalleled in nearly every facet (including price). What you get for your money, though, is class-leading balance and brilliant detail that sounds phenomenal in a variety of locations. Their modern, gun-metal design and hefty build also compliment the tech they house, including a premium digital-to-analog converter, and wide dispersion capabilities.
Paradigm Millenia CT ($700)
You can’t knock the kingly price of the Paradigm Millennia CT until you hear them. The premium 2.1 system can fill a medium-sized room with dynamic, cinema-quality sound for movies, along with music playback fit for any audiophile, owing to their impeccably neutral tonal balance, suburb separation, and refined nature. The limited connection options, limited to a 3.5mm analog input and a toslink digital input, is really our only quibble.
Definitive Tech Incline ($250)
Adorned with a wide stereo image and a welcome slew of input options, fans of Definitive Technology will have a hard time resisting the Incline. The compact towers’ rich and powerful soundscape offers a smooth midrange, polished instrumental timbres, and nuanced vocals. The rear firing drivers don’t hurt either, creating a more immersive experience than your average desktop pair.