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Desktop PCs don’t come with speakers, and the ones included in laptops leave a lot to be desired. If you want some decent sound, you’ll need to add your own. Here are your best options.
For most desktop users we recommend a standard 2.1 speaker setup, with stereo satellites and a subwoofer. It offers plenty of sound without overpowering a small workspace. Audiophiles will want to upgrade to a “bookshelf” arrangement with a pair of larger speakers for more power and range, while gamers will want a 5.1 arrangement for great surround sound separation. We’ve also included picks for solid speakers that fit into a more stylish desktop, and a frugal 2.1 pick for those who want to upgrade their sound on the cheap.
This speakers-and-subwoofer set doesn’t look like much—the company has been selling this ProMedia model with no real changes for over a decade. Not that it needs any. This set packs a whopping 200 watts of power between its three components, and connects to a PC (or almost anything else) with a standard headphone jack. The set is THX-certified for sound quality, and comes with 9.5-foot-long speaker cables for easy cable management on your “battlestation.” The satellite speakers come with manual controls for volume and subwoofer plus a headphone jack, though there’s no dedicated controller. These speakers are more expensive than a typical 2.1 arrangement—check out the Logitech set below if you’re on a budget—but they’re well worth the investment.
This versatile model from Edifier is a much-loved pick among audiophiles, and it makes a great set of speakers for a medium-to-large desk. The wood finish of the R1280T gives the speakers an old-school chic appeal, but there’s plenty of new tech inside including dual RCA inputs, manual bass and treble controls, and a wireless remote. Beefy 4-inch bass drivers and 13mm tweeters create room-filling sound, and the included cables can connect directly to a PC with no adapters. If you’d like a little more versatility there’s a Bluetooth-packing model with optical inputs for just $30 more.
5.1-speaker setups used to be all the rage among PC gamers, but most have transitioned to headsets these days. For those who prefer true directional sound with no headgear, we recommend the Logitech Z906 over cheaper sets from Creative and Logitech itself. If you’re going to through the hassle of wrangling six different THX-certified speakers, you might as well go big. This set delivers a massive 500 watts of combined power (1000 at peak) with five wall-mountable satellite speakers, a subwoofer, and a dedicated wired control unit (with a wireless remote to boot!). No fewer than six different inputs are possible across digital, optical, and coaxial connections, with individual controls of all speakers and sound profiles. Even if your source audio isn’t encoded for surround, the sound profiles in the set can simulate it. If you want to go all-out with game or theater audio for your setup, this is the package to get.
If your home or office requires something a little more refined than a black box blasting your tunes, check out the Exclaim speakers from Edifier. The set uses a combined 36 watts between tweeters and woofers, making for solid sound even from the unconventional ball-and-bar shape. Physical controls are on the left speaker, integrated into the slick design, and the combination of stacked drivers and the bottom woofer/radiator means this set will fit in smaller spaces than a conventional bookshelf arrangement. They don’t have the range and power of a more audiophile-focused set, but for standard web videos and music, they’ll do fine while looking great. An upgraded model offers Bluetooth if you need it.
For those who simply want a good sound upgrade to the cheap speakers that came with their desktop, Logitech’s Z313 fits the bill. This is about as inexpensive as you can get for a package that includes a full subwoofer, and it also has a dedicated wired controller for volume and headphone connections. 25 total watts won’t rattle the roof, but it should be enough to fill your workspace with decent sound and pleasurably enhance music, movies, and some light gaming. Similarly-priced options from competing vendors omit the subwoofer and controller and aren’t so well-reviewed by professionals and users alike. A single headphone cable connection means it’s compatible with pretty much anything, but be aware that the set lacks auxiliary inputs.
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