Even if you just like listening to music while you work, computer speakers mean that you don’t have to be stuck wearing headphones all day. CNN Underscored extensively tested 10 top computer speakers over the past few months, ranking them based on factors like their design, audio quality, connectivity features and more. After spending countless hours listening to our favorite music and podcasts, here are our picks for the best computer speakers:
Best overall computer speakers: Logitech Z407 ($79.99; logitech.com)
The Logitech Z407 computer speakers leverage the company’s years of experience in building computer peripherals, delivering a versatile, high-quality pair of speakers that doesn’t break the bank.
Perhaps the best thing about these speakers is how great they sound for the price, boasting relatively crisp highs with a well-tuned mid range. As consumer-focused speakers, they don’t have the flattest frequency response, meaning they’re built to sound good rather than accurate. Because of that, audiophiles should look at the PreSonus Eris 3.5 BT. But the Z407 does offer a generally exciting sound profile that should work well in any situation.
The bass response on these speakers is pretty solid too. They come with a subwoofer, ensuring that you’ll get deep, extended bass that brings a little more oomph to your listening experience. Even songs like AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” which is light on bass, get a bit more kick than they otherwise would.
The Logitech Z407 speakers offer more than just great sound quality. They’re also well designed, and while they are entirely built from plastic, it’s a strong plastic that should be able to withstand most day-to-day use. And they come with a control puck that works wirelessly, so you can place it anywhere on your desk, and it lets you play, pause, control volume and more — which we found very handy during day-to-day use. The only thing that would make it better would be a headphone jack. The speakers were relatively easy to set up too, though it did take a few minutes to get everything plugged in properly.
The Logitech Z407 also offer Wireless Bluetooth and wired connectivity, including an aux port and a Micro USB port. It would have been nice if Logitech included a USB-C port instead.
Best budget computer speakers: Cyber Acoustics CA3090 ($28.99, originally $39.99; amazon.com)
The Cyber Acoustics CA3090 speakers won’t reach the heights of the other options on this list, but they’re certainly better than the speakers built into your laptop, and represent a great option for those who don’t want to spend more than $50.
The Cyber Acoustics CA3090 speakers may not have the most modern design, and they have limited connectivity options — the only way you can listen is through an audio cable that you’ll connect to your device, or through an aux port on the remote control. You won’t get any wireless connectivity options here, so don’t expect to be able to use Bluetooth. That said, the aux port is definitely the most important connection option, so most will be perfectly fine with that alone.
The audio quality on these speakers isn’t great, but it’s not bad for the price. The two desktop speakers are a little tinny, so there’s not a lot of depth to them, and the bass is boomy, so you’ll need to fine-tune the volume of the subwoofer with the knob on the back of it. But despite those issues, they still offer more depth than other options in this price range, and they were able to represent the entire frequency range when listening to music like Betty Who’s “I Love You Always Forever,” even if there were some weird boosts and cuts.
One of the best things about these speakers is the fact that they have a wired remote control puck that you can place on the top of your desk. Using this puck, you can change the volume and turn the speakers on and off. The puck also has a headphone jack and an aux port, which helps make the speakers much more versatile.
Best computer speakers for music: PreSonus Eris 3.5 BT ($99.95; amazon.com)
Perhaps you’re looking for a bit of a boost in audio quality, which is exactly where the PreSonus Eris 3.5 BT speakers come in. PreSonus is more of a pro and prosumer audio brand — and the company easily leverages that experience for these speakers.
On their own, the speakers offer excellent surround sound quality. You’ll get a well-tuned mid range, with good detail in the high end and solid low-end response. Generally, the speakers have a flatter frequency response, meaning that they’ll more accurately play back any audio that you listen to. On the back of the speakers, you’ll get some tuning options too, including a knob for tuning both highs and lows, depending on your environment.
The speakers offer pretty comprehensive controls and ports too. On the front of the left speaker, you’ll get an aux in port and a headphone jack, along with a volume knob. This is perfect for those who might want to access these features quickly and easily. On the back there are both quarter-inch inputs and RCA inputs, which are common connections in home studio and audiophile setups, and mean that the speakers can integrate more easily into those environments without adapters.
There’s another way to connect to the speakers, though, and it’s a way that you wouldn’t necessarily expect from speakers in this class: Bluetooth. Connecting to Bluetooth is pretty easy, thanks to the pair button on the back of the left speaker, and the connection remained strong in our testing.
The speakers look pretty nice, with a sleek black color profile. They’re definitely larger than the other options on this list, so you will need to make sure you have enough room on your desk to use these as your Mac or PC speakers, but they’re not quite as large as studio monitors can get.
There are some available add-ons that can augment the listening experience. For example, the speakers are compatible with PreSonus’ Eris Sub8 subwoofer, which delivers extended and enhanced bass response. Unfortunately, because of how the speakers are set up, if you use Wireless Bluetooth connectivity the subwoofer won’t work, but it will work in wired setups. A work-around for this is the new PreSonus MicroStation BT Bluetooth controller, but that costs extra.
Best computer speakers for gaming: Logitech Z625 ($147.99, originally $169.99; amazon.com or $169.99; logitech.com)
If you’re a gamer and want something to make your gaming experience a little more immersive, then the Logitech Z625 speakers are the way to go. These speakers are powerful, support the THX audio standard and have a design that should look right at home on a gaming battle station.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Logitech Z625 speakers is their design. They offer a relatively small build, meaning that they’ll fit on most desks, and the right speaker has a volume and bass knob that you can control individually, making for a more personalized stereo sound. On the side of the right speaker, you’ll also get a headphone jack and an aux port, for added flexibility.
Of course, more important than design is the audio quality, and the speakers sound great too. They offer decent detail in the high end, along with plenty of deep bass, thanks to the included subwoofer. And, as mentioned, they support the THX audio standard, which can be helpful in making compatible games more immersive, and for occasional use in a home theater setup. The speakers are a little mid-heavy in frequency response, which means that things like guitars and vocals are a bit more boosted in the mix. That, however, can actually be helpful during gaming, as it helps your teammates’ voices cut through the rest of the sound coming from your PC speakers.
There are plenty of ways to connect to these speakers; however, you can’t connect to them wirelessly. Wired options include aux ports on both the subwoofer and right speaker, along with RCA and optical inputs on the subwoofer. That optical input also helps in gaming situations, as it means they’re easier to use in a console setup.
How we tested
The testing process for these computer speakers was rigorous, and sometimes painful, depending on how well the speakers performed. We focused on a range of different criteria, including design, sound quality and how easy it is to connect to the speakers. Read on for the categories and their breakdowns.
- Overall quality: We judged how well the speakers handle different frequencies, from the lowest of bass to the highest of highs. We listened to a four-song playlist of songs for testing these speakers, which consisted of “I Love You Always Forever” by Betty Who, Joshua Bell’s rendition of Bach’s “Violin Concerto No. 1 in A Minor,” “Forgot About Dre” by Dr. Dre and “Back in Black” by AC/DC. We also used the speakers to listen to podcasts, play video games and watch movies.
- Bass quality: Bass quality can vary widely in smaller speakers, and is an important aspect of making for an immersive listening experience. Speakers with subwoofers tend to score better here.
- Size: Not everyone has a lot of space to spare on their desk, and speakers that have a smaller footprint are easier to set up on a smaller desk.
- Controls: Most speakers have a way to quickly and easily change the volume, but some also have controls for bass response, playing and pausing audio, and more. The more controls the better.
- Aesthetics: You’re more likely to want a pair of speakers on your desk if they look nice. That’s not to mention build quality, which is even more important than looks, especially if you plan on moving the speakers every now and then.
Features and software
- Connectivity: Versatile speakers allow you to connect in multiple ways. Most speakers should offer an aux port for quick and easy connections, but some also connect through USB, and others also have Bluetooth. Higher-end speakers usually have options for TRS and RCA inputs too.
- Extra features: Sometimes you just want a little extra from your speakers. Some might want RGB lighting, while others could use some software integration. These kinds of features were rare in the speakers that we tested.
- Warranty: What happens if you break your speakers — or worse, they come broken out of the box? All of the options we tested had at least a one-year limited warranty, which only covers manufacturer defects, but some went an extra step.
Other computer speakers we tested
Creative Pebble V3 ($39.99; amazon.com)The Creative Pebble V3 are another great budget option, and came close to beating out the Cyber Acoustics CA3090. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the same bass response on offer, nor the handy remote control. They still have a solid design, and while they are a bit tinny and don’t have much depth, they sound pretty good for the price. They also offer a range of connectivity options, including Bluetooth, USB-C and an aux port.
Creative Pebble 2.0 ($22.99, originally $24.99; amazon.com)
The Creative Pebble 2.0 speakers have the same overall design as the Pebble V3 speakers, but like the V3s, they’re a bit tinny and don’t have a whole lot of depth. Unlike the V3s, however, the Pebble 2.0 speakers can only connect through an audio cable, not through any wireless connection or an aux port.
Creative Pebble Plus ($49.99; amazon.com)
The Creative Pebble Plus speakers offer a similar experience to the Pebble V3 speakers, but they also come with a subwoofer, so you’ll get much deeper bass and better sound overall. Unfortunately, like the Pebble 2.0 speakers, you can only listen to audio through the included audio jack, and there’s no Bluetooth connectivity or other wired options.
Harman/Kardon Soundsticks 4 ($299.95; amazon.com)
If you’re looking for a pair of unique-looking computer speakers, the Harman/Kardon Soundsticks 4 speakers may be the way to go. These speakers are built from a clear plastic and come with a main hub, which doubles as a subwoofer, that’s built from the same material. It won’t work on every desk, but it will definitely work on some. The speakers also sound great, plus they offer a range of connectivity options, including Bluetooth and an aux port.
Mackie CRX-4 ($119.99, originally $149.99; amazon.com)
The Mackie CRX-4 speakers are another great option for audiophiles who want a relatively flat frequency response that delivers equal lows, mids and highs for a balanced music listening experience. These speakers are pretty large, so you’ll need to make sure you have space on your desk, but they offer a few different connectivity options, and they have a switch built into them to change which speaker is left and which is right. The base model does not have Bluetooth, but you can spend extra for a Bluetooth-compatible pair.
Audioengine A1 ($199; amazon.com)
The Audioengine A1 speakers were an excellent contender, and were only beat out by some of the audiophile-focused pairs on this list. The speakers offer excellent audio quality, with a good amount of detail and solid bass — plus, they’re a little smaller than some of the options on this list, and they offer both wired and wireless connectivity options. These are also some of the only speakers that have a better warranty than most of our testing pool — you’ll get a three-year limited warranty instead of a one-year one.
Read more from CNN Underscored’s hands-on testing: