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Best computer speakers 2021: upgrade your desktop audio

Best computer speakers Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best computer speakers you can buy in 2021.

If you want music to sound good in your home office or a spare room, a pair of neat desktop stereo speakers to flank your computer or sit on your shelf could well be the answer. 

The best computer speakers will blast out your Spotify playlists, YouTube videos and Zoom calls much more capably than your laptop's built-in speakers – and they won't take up too much room in the process.

Some of these computer speakers can connect over Bluetooth so you needn't worry about unsightly cables trailing all over your desk space; others you'll need to connect to a source via more traditional (i.e wired) means. 

But all of the products below deliver good enough all-round performance for a place on our list of the best computer speakers on the market.

Ruark Audio Best desktop computer speakers 2021

1. Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2

The Mk2s are great desktop computer speakers for the money.

SPECIFICATIONS

Streaming: Bluetooth aptX | Digital input: Optical | Analogue input: 3.5mm | USB input: No

Reasons to Buy

Stunningly musical sound
Subtle dynamics
Stylish, compact design

Reasons to Avoid

No USB input

Gorgeous looks, streamlined design and features, sound quality that’s been improved in every way – the Ruark MR1 Mk2s are multi-What Hi-Fi?-Award winners and deservedly top this list.

You can connect over Bluetooth, optical or 3.5mm - easily and qucikly - and hi-res audio is supported all the way up to 24-bit/192kHz. The step up in performance from the original MR1 model is impressive, making the Mk2s even more appealing than before. 

Quite simply, these are superb speakers of their type.

Read the full review: Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2

KEF LSX Best desktop computer speakers 2021

(Image credit: KEF)

2. KEF LSX

A splendid, rhythmic all-in-one desktop hi-fi system.

SPECIFICATIONS

Driver: 11.5cm Uni-Q mid/bass with integrated 19mm aluminium dome tweeter | Features: Bluetooth 4.2 with aptX codec, Hi-res audio support | Dimensions: 24 x 15.5 x 18 cm (H x W x D)

Reasons to Buy

Class-leading insight
Extensive connectivity
Neat, colourful design

Reasons to Avoid

Some app snags

Despite their dinky proportions, these active bookshelf speakers wowed us with their accomplished, expressive and full-bodied sound. There’s much more to them than just sonic supremacy, though, as they double as a wireless all-in-one system capable of handling hi-res files up to 24-bit/192KHz. 

They might look like they've been zapped with a shrink ray when compared to the LS50 Wireless speakers, their older sibling, but they're no less impressive and ideal for a desktop or computer-based system. Blessed with Uni-Q drivers, 200W Class-D amplification and a choice of stylish colours that would put Farrow & Ball to shame, these come top of KEF's class.

Read the full review: KEF LSX

Klipsch The Fives - best computer speakers

(Image credit: Klipsch)

3. Klipsch The Fives

A one-stop shop for home audio

SPECIFICATIONS

Drivers: 25mm tweeter; 11.5cm mid/bass | Reflex port: Rear-firing | Cabinet: MDF with wood veneer | Features: Bluetooth, HDMI, Phono stage | Dimensions: 30.5 x 16.5 x 23.5cm

Reasons to Buy

Punchy presentation
Good features set
Versatile nature

Reasons to Avoid

Uneven tonality
Not the most organised presentation

Klipsch describes The Fives as a ‘powered speaker system’. They can be used as a hi-fi system – either standalone or with a source plugged in – as desktop speakers, or indeed as a true stereo alternative to a soundbar thanks to the inclusion of an HDMI ARC connection. Thanks to RCA, 3.5mm aux, digital optical and USB inputs, plus wireless Bluetooth 5.0, they will connect to pretty much anything.

Yes, they're relatively expensive but sonically they offer good detail, plenty of punch and decent stereo imaging. A step up on a computer, soundbar of wireless speaker for sure. And much more convenient than a complete separates system.

Read the full review: Klipsch The Fives

Steljes Audio Best desktop computer speakers 2021

4. Steljes Audio NS3

Versatile, affordable and an affable listen, these are solid desktop computer speakers.

SPECIFICATIONS

Power: 45W x 2 | Streaming: Bluetooth | USB charging: Yes | Colours: 7

Reasons to Buy

Sleek design
Good connectivity
Powerful bass

Reasons to Avoid

Could be more cohesive
Need a bit more detail

For a desktop solution, the NS3 speakers certainly play their part well. They’re capable enough to work as your everyday speakers, and will look suitably stylish while doing it. 

You can use the NS3’s optical input to connect a television or plug your analogue music sources into the 3.5mm socket - there’s even a stereo RCA connection for other hi-fi kit. There’s also a USB input for charging. For wireless connectivity, there's Bluetooth.

They may not be the most transparent offerings out there, but they're neat and well-appointed wireless speakers with solid bass. If you’re looking for an entry-level way to get your workplace audio sounding better, these speakers are worth considering.

Read the full review: Steljes Audio NS3

Best desktop computer speakers 2021

5. Acoustic Energy AE1 Active

High-end performance without the need for a stack of high-end electronics.

SPECIFICATIONS

Power: 50W x 2 | Inputs: RCA, balanced XLR | Finishes: 3

Reasons to Buy

Clear, balanced and detailed
Rhythmically exciting 
Flexible with placement

Reasons to Avoid

Nothing of note

While the more insightful KEF LSX would be our first choice at this price, it’s still difficult to think of an amplifier/passive speakers combo that could better these Acoustic Energy active speakers for the same money.

These 2018 What Hi-Fi? Award winners do everything with a flourish. They're relatively basic in terms of set-up and function – connect them to your source via either their RCA or balanced XLR inputs and you’re ready to go. There’s no Bluetooth, but you can always affordably attach a separate module (such as the iFi Zen Blue) post-purchase.

You'd need to invest in a more expensive pair of components to offer a marked improvement on these Acoustic Energy active speakers – and you owe it to yourself to track down a pair to discover that for yourself.

Read the full review: Acoustic Energy AE1 Active

Best desktop computer speakers 2021

6. Dynaudio Xeo 10

Pricey desktop computer speakers, but well worth the money.

SPECIFICATIONS

Power: 130W | Inputs: RCA, 3.5mm, optical digital | Bluetooth: Yes | Finishes: 2

Reasons to Buy

Clear, detailed and agile sound
Large-scaled and spacious delivery
Versatility, excellent features

Reasons to Avoid

Don’t physically feel like premium speakers

When you bear in mind the Xeo 10s are successors to the 2017 Award-winning Xeo 2, their success is hardly surprising. They may be expensive – perhaps even pricier than your computer – but those who're serious about sound quality won't be disappointed. 

They're hugely entertaining and insightful, and for small speakers (each about the size of a thick hardback book) they sure belt out a large and spacious soundstage.

Their both wireless (Bluetooth) and wired (line-level, optical and 3.5mm) connectivity options seal their five-star fate, too.

Read the full review: Dynaudio Xeo 10

Best desktop computer speakers 2021

7. Dynaudio Excite X14a

Clear, precise and exciting active speakers that can really sing.

SPECIFICATIONS

Power: 50W x2 | Inputs: RCA, balanced XLR | Finishes: 3

Reasons to Buy

Tight, agile bass
Insightful vocals
Compact and neatly finished

Reasons to Avoid

Need more attack

Want a high-end pair of serious speakers fit for any desktop? These expensive Dynaudio speakers could be just the ticket.

The Excite family wear rosewood and walnut veneers or satin white or satin black finishes, and the X14a speakers look the business.

Two 50-watt amplifiers have been crammed into each compact box, one driving the soft dome tweeter and the other the company’s favoured magnesium silicate polymer mid/bass driver. 

As active speakers take care of the amplification stage, they only need pairing with a source with a volume control – an integrated CD player, an Apple iPod, a TV – or a pre-amp/DAC connected to a source. Either one will simply plug into the speakers’ RCA and XLR inputs, so there’s no need for speaker cables either. Both boxes need plugging into the wall so remember to consider the location of power sockets in your home.

Sonically the Dynaudio X14a active speakers could do with more outright attack and energy, but there’s no doubting they do a lot of things very well. If you’re looking for clean, precise and transparent active speakers, give these a whirl.

Read the full review: Dynaudio Excite X14a

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  • Sander
    Hi Thanks for the article.
    I was wondering why the abscence of usb input is not mentioned for the KEF LSX but "no usb input" is mentioned for the Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2 as a reason to aviod? Why the difference?

    CHeers
    Sander
    Reply
  • mikebabcock
    You should really add Edifier's line of powered bookshelf speakers to this list. I have two sets of their speakers, one for my kitchen and another on my computer desk, and while a little bigger than traditional 'computer' speakers, they provide much better power and range with a convenient remote as well.
    cf. https://www.edifier.com/ca/en/speakers/studio-1280t-2.0-powered-bookshelf
    Reply
  • northlondon
    mikebabcock said:
    You should really add Edifier's line of powered bookshelf speakers to this list. I have two sets of their speakers, one for my kitchen and another on my computer desk, and while a little bigger than traditional 'computer' speakers, they provide much better power and range with a convenient remote as well.
    cf. https://www.edifier.com/ca/en/speakers/studio-1280t-2.0-powered-bookshelf

    Agreed. They are also happier at moderate volumes than the premium units I auditioned (not so well at high though) which suits me fine for desktop speakers. Mine are now paired with a Zen Blue DAC and they sound well beyond the (literal) sum of their parts, to my ear.
    Reply
  • mikebabcock
    northlondon said:
    Agreed. are also happier at moderate volumes than the premium units I auditioned (not so well at high though) which suits me fine for desktop speakers. Mine are now paired with a Zen Blue DAC and they sound well beyond the (literal) sum of their parts, to my ear.
    I simply plugged mine into the TOSLink connector on my PC although I was tempted to get the m-Audio USB unit instead. No analog noise here.
    Reply
  • Dave M
    mikebabcock said:
    You should really add Edifier's line of powered bookshelf speakers to this list. I have two sets of their speakers, one for my kitchen and another on my computer desk, and while a little bigger than traditional 'computer' speakers, they provide much better power and range with a convenient remote as well.
    cf. https://www.edifier.com/ca/en/speakers/studio-1280t-2.0-powered-bookshelf
    Yes, also because Edifier is easily purchased in the US. Many of the speakers listed here are not
    Reply