Let’s face it: The audio capability of your PC, laptop, tablet, or smartphone probably isn’t anywhere near powerful enough to get the party started. Sure, many computers deliver sound that might be passable if you’re watching a tutorial, catching the latest viral video, or participating in a Zoom happy hour, but we’ve all had the experience of turning up the volume to the highest level, pressing an ear right up against our computer, and still straining to hear. Audiophiles who thrive on clear, crisp, and, most importantly, loud sound require audio that’s a lot more sophisticated than what the sound cards of most PCs can deliver on their own.
We’re not knocking all built-in speakers; some computer brands deliver adequate, if not high, fidelity. Even the most expensive PC could use a strong audio boost, though. External speakers that connect to your devices either through input and output jacks, a USB port, or Bluetooth pairing will give you the rich surround sound we once demanded from our home stereo systems back in the days of CDs and mixtapes. There are a lot of options to go through, but the effort to find the best computer speakers will be worth it when you’re upgrading from sound that’s transistor-radio quality to audio that can fill your entire home.
How to find the best computer speakers
You may have to sample quite a few brands before you settle on just one, but before you dive in, here are a few buying points that you’ll want to keep in mind when buying these computer accessories. First, consider the sound. No matter how many impressive features speakers have, if the sound is even remotely tinny, you can do better. Next, think about how they connect to your devices. Wired might be dependable, but it’s not always as convenient as wireless. Then there’s the question of how portable you want the speakers to be, their pairing capabilities, and whether you want a smart speaker. Luckily, we’ve got answers!
How do the speakers sound?
When searching for the best computer speakers and home entertainment, sound should be your highest priority—and it helps if you’re familiar with some of the basic terminology. Simple portable speakers have built-in drivers that produce a combination of treble (tweeter), middle (midrange), and bass (woofer) ranges. In more complex multi-speaker set-ups, subwoofers play the sounds at the lowest end of the audio spectrum. In other words, they’re all about the bass. This might not be especially important if you’re watching a romantic comedy, but if you’re listening to music or gaming, it’s pretty essential. Satellite speakers produce the entire range of audio, minus the bass.
Subwoofers and satellites work in tandem in many speaker systems, though in 2.0 configurations, two satellites work with no subwoofers. With 2.1, two satellites work with one subwoofer, while 5.1—five satellites and one subwoofer—gives you the optimal 3D surround sound you’ve probably heard so much about. This is like the holy grail of audio because it lets you feel like you’re truly a part of the audio experience rather than on the outside listening in.
Best computer speakers with surround sound: Razer Leviathan PC Gaming and Music Sound Bar
Here’s a four-driver soundbar/subwoofer combo that envelops you in audio while being easily transportable from room to room. Measuring in at only 1.6 feet, it can easily be stored underneath a computer monitor, and its wireless connection has a range of up to 30 feet.
Do you prefer wired or Bluetooth computer speakers?
Whether you should go wired or wireless will depend on several factors. The great thing about wired is that making a connection is as easy as hooking it up to your computer via input and output jacks or a USB port. You don’t have to worry about pairing and wonky Bluetooth connections. If you plan on using the computer speakers in just one room and don’t need to connect it to more than one device, wired should work just fine. Tip: A 3.5mm jack connection is susceptible to feedback, so if your computer’s USB slots aren’t all already in use, this form of connection yields the most consistent results.
Wireless, on the other hand, opens the best computer speakers to myriad possibilities. Bluetooth allows you to simultaneously connect speakers to your computer, your laptop, your tablet, and your phone. If you’re entertaining a friend with excellent taste in music, they’ll be able to queue up one of their playlists by linking their phone to your speakers. You can also use a Bluetooth connection to pair speakers together for enhanced sound, and it allows you to link a speaker to your PC and take it into another room without bringing the computer along.
One final Bluetooth bonus worth mentioning has nothing to do with audio. It helps cut down on wire clutter, so it definitely offers a neater listening experience.
Best Bluetooth computer speakers: JBL Charge 4 Portable Bluetooth Speaker
These bluetooth computer speakers were made to rock the party. You can pair it with more than 100 JBL Connect Plus enabled speakers to exponentially amplify the sound coming from your computer. If just the one will do, you can get 20 hours of playtime from its 7500mAh rechargeable lithium-ion battery.
Does it travel easily?
If you intend to leave your speakers in one place—say, the living room or bedroom—then you can go all out. The multiple speakers traditionally required to achieve 5.1 surround sound won’t be a problem since there’ll be no need to carry them from room to room.
But what if you want to listen to something that’s playing on your computer while you’re in the shower and would rather not bring your PC into the bathroom with you? And if your speaker set up is in the living room, what happens if you want hifi audio quality while you’re in bed? That’s where a good portable speaker comes in.
In addition to choosing a model that’s small enough to carry around with you, you’ll also want to take advantage of the mobile benefits of Bluetooth. Waterproof is another important portability feature, especially if you’ll be regularly bringing your music into the bathroom or out to the pool. Some speakers can even be fully submerged in water without missing a single beat. While we can’t think of a reason why anyone would want to bring a speaker underwater on purpose, accidents do happen, so if you have a portable computer speaker that’s always on the move, it’s good to be prepared.
Best computer speakers for on-the-go: Bose SoundLink Revolve+ Bluetooth 360 Speaker – Triple Black
The aluminum casing is water-resistant and durable, and the handle allows easy portability. Its voice prompt lets you take phone calls or communicate with your phone’s virtual assistant (Siri or Google Assistant)—no hands needed. For stereo sound, you can pair it with another Bose SoundLink speaker.
Does it play well with other speakers?
If the best computer speaker isn’t quite loud enough, some models can be paired with other speakers for enhanced sound using Bluetooth. This feature comes in handy if you don’t have space for a stationary multi-speaker system, but would still like to achieve excellent stereo sound using a combination of portable and not-so-portable speakers. Why should one speaker have all the fun?
UE, JBL, and Harman Kardon all produce battery-powered portable speakers that can be paired together via Bluetooth, while Sony allows you to connect up to 10 speakers. With JBL and Sony’s SRS-SB wireless Bluetooth speakers, you can turn a pair into a stereo set, splitting them into left and right channels, or you can stick to a layered effect by letting them both play the same thing. Some brands don’t permit permanent pairing, so you might have to make the connection every time you use them together.
Two Bose speakers can connect using the Bose Connect app and sound off in party mode (in unison) or stereo mode (left and right speaker separate). Sonos offers similar app pairing, but its older-generation models are powered by an AC adapter and won’t function without an Internet connection.
Best pairable computer speakers: SONY SRS-Xb32 Extra Bass Portable Bluetooth Speaker
Don’t be misled by the vibrant design, which, by the way, is waterproof, dustproof, and shockproof. Weighing in at a petite two pounds, this portable bluetooth speaker comes with extra-bass and live-sound modes, which you can tap it to emulate different sounds, like a snare or a kick drum. It also comes with a built-in mic so you can use it for phone conversations and multi-colored flashing lights to set the party mood. The battery keeps going for 24 hours, so you won’t have to worry about recharging until this time tomorrow. Oh, and did we mention it can sync with up to 100 other speakers at once? Now that’s a party.
Do you want to go smart?
Smart speakers really live up to their name. You can use them to communicate with one of the three AI assistants, and Alexa, Siri, and Google Voice can accomplish a series of tasks, including streaming music and podcasts, looking up trivia, controlling wireless-enabled lights, placing online orders, getting weather forecasts and travel directions, and setting alarms.
Some can eliminate the need for an expensive home security system because you’re able to set them to warn you of home intruders, smoke alarms and other sounds when you’re out and about. Audio quality might not be the number-one consideration if you’re using your computer speakers to complete AI assistant commands, but if sound matters too, the larger the speakers, the better the audio. The number of drivers it uses is also important. Three-way designs with tweeters for treble, woofers for bass, and midrange for everything in between are ideal.
To avoid an eavesdropping smart speaker, look for an off-switch for the mic or one that’s mic-free but can connect to a voice-controlled device as needed. If, on the other hand, you want your AI assistant to be an excellent listener when you’re playing loud music, get one with multiple microphones to pick up the sound of your voice over booming tunes.
Best smart computer speakers: Sonos One (Gen 2) Smart Speaker With Amazon Alexa
If only one speaker doesn’t produce a big enough sound, you can pair it with another Sonos One in the same room for enhanced stereo sound. You can also link it up to Sonos speakers in multiple rooms to let the music play everywhere in your home.
The best computer speaker brands to know
Audio evaluation isn’t a precise science. When it comes to sound, there’s not really a quantifiable best or worst: We like what we like. Yet with so many different brands angling to deliver what the masses consider to be the best computer speakers, a few of them stand out.
We love the unique design of Bose’s lantern-based portable speakers, and although we’re not as crazy about the price tags on some of their models, this is one of the first brands people mention when they talk about audio. The Massachusetts-based company has been making speakers since 1968, so it’s had plenty of time to perfect the practice.
One of the monsters of sound, JBL may not necessarily produce the best audio in the field, but there’s no denying the intensity of its bass and how loud it can go, even from far distances. On a visual note, the cylindrical design is iconic, and for those craving a break from basic black, these speakers come in an assortment of vibrant colors.
As premium audio players go, the name may not be as trendy as Bose and Beats, but Logitech is well represented in most lists of the best computer speakers. The design of its models can be a bit old-school ordinary, but what they lack in visual oomph, they more than makeup for in sound and savings.
Best budget computer speakers: What You Get for Under $50
When you splurge on Bose and Beats, you really are paying for brand name as much as brand function. The best computer speakers aren’t necessarily the most expensive ones. There are plenty of solid options available for under $100, and you can go as low as under $50 and still get high-quality audio. Logitech is a big name that frequently pops up in round-ups of good, inexpensive speakers, and the Sanyun SW102 offers deep bass in a miniature body for just $29.99.
A final word on the best computer speakers
Although excellent audio is a must to rank among the best computer speakers, a number of other factors will come into play when evaluating a selection of them. If you want the freedom to carry them room to room or out of the house, you should look for a portable brand that can connect to your computer wirelessly via Bluetooth. Waterproof is a plus and so is the ability to pair speakers together. And though most of us love shiny, fashionable things, resist the urge to pay for brand name only. A number of reputable speaker makers offer high-quality items at low prices.