Best computer speakers 2024: the finest models our experts have tested

Best computer speakers: quick menu

Not everyone has the space or the budget to assemble a dedicated hi-fi system in their home. For some of us, laptops or computers are our primary way of listening to music, either via hi-res digital file downloads, CD rips, streaming services or music videos. 

If that's the case for you, you may have considered upgrading your audio beyond the weedy little speakers that are built into your laptop. If you want your music to really set your world alight, a pair of neat desktop stereo speakers to flank your computer, or placed on a nearby shelf, could be the answer. Gamers, too, should consider a proper upgrade to get them fully immersed in the action.

The finest computer speakers will fire out your Tidal or Spotify playlists, YouTube videos or even Zoom calls with far greater skill than your laptop could on its own, and they won't take up too much room, either. These speakers all have amplification built-in (making them active or powered speakers), but you should take note of which provided connections suit your desktop system best. Bonus features include Bluetooth or full-fat hi-res streaming, while we always prioritise how good the speakers sound for their size, type and price tag.

Each pair recommended below has been reviewed by What Hi-Fi?'s team of audio experts who look at build quality, how the different inputs perform, ideal placement and more. Most importantly, every entry on this list passes our most important test of all: audio quality. You read more about our testing process here.

Kashfia Kabir
Kashfia Kabir

I'm the Hi-Fi and Audio Editor of What Hi-Fi? and have tested dozens of speakers of all types and budgets during my decade's worth of reviewing experience. The best desktop speakers should still sound great for the money, and while a given model's dimensions and input options are important, you're wasting your cash if you don't prioritise decent sound - otherwise, you may as well just stick with the speakers built into your laptop or computer. On this list, we've chosen primarily hi-fi-grade desktop/bookshelf models which, thanks to their varied connectivity options, can be hooked up to your PC or laptop with ease. That way, you're still getting compactness and convenience without sacrificing great sound.

The quick list

Best computer speakers overall

Elac Debut ConneX DCB41 speaker next to computer and TV in a living room setting

Versatile, compact, insightful and enjoyable, these talented Elac speakers make a great system. (Image credit: Elac)
What Hi-Fi? Awards winner. A talented, versatile, affordable speaker system that will work wonders with your desktop.

Specifications

Bluetooth: Yes (aptX)
Inputs: HDMI ARC, optical, USB Type B, line level/phono MM
Outputs: Subwoofer
Dimensions (hwd): 25 x 14 x 20cm
Weight: 3.4kg (Active), 2.8kg (Passive)
Finishes: 2 (black ash, walnut)

Reasons to buy

+
Balanced and insightful performance
+
Unfussy nature
+
Good range of features

Reasons to avoid

-
No volume indicator
-
Volume/input selector poorly positioned
-
Phono stage performance could be better

The Elac Debut ConneX DCB41 are compact powered speakers, taking up so little space that they can fit neatly on a desktop flanking your computer. If needs be, though, the talented pair can also work in a decently sized room next to your TV or stereo system.

Playback from multiple sources such as your computer and smartphone is possible thanks to Bluetooth aptX streaming, and USB type B input (which plays hi-res tracks up to 24-bit/96kHz). You can even use the Elacs as a decent soundbar alternative thanks to their HDMI ARC and optical inputs and there's even a moving magnet phono stage built in so you can plug in a turntable and get your records spinning.

Sonically, the Elac speakers provide a fine level of detail, and they organise that information into a cohesive and musical whole. Use the digital inputs and they're clear, balanced and insightful performers, while the understated way this system goes about its job is eminently likeable.

The overall presentation is controlled and even-handed in the manner of Elac’s Award-winning Debut 2.0 series of passive speakers. These speakers happily fade into the background, letting the music take centre stage. We're big fans of systems such as this, and the Elac's combination of size, features, performance and reasonable price (£529 / $595 / AU$900) means they get our hearty recommendation.

Read our full Elac Debut ConneX DCB41 review

Best compact computer speakers

Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2 speakers flanking a Rega turntable in a home setting

The perfect combination of size and sound, these Ruarks are the ideal desktop speakers. (Image credit: Ruark Audio)
What Hi-Fi? Awards winner. These stylish Ruarks are the best compact desktop speakers.

Specifications

Bluetooth: Yes (aptX)
Inputs: Optical, 3.5mm
Outputs: Subwoofer
Dimensions (hwd): 17 x 13 x 13.5cm
Weight: 3.6kg (pair)
Finishes: 2 (walnut, grey)

Reasons to buy

+
Stunningly musical sound
+
Subtle dynamics
+
Stylish, compact design

Reasons to avoid

-
No USB input

If you're pushed for space, you won't find a finer pair of compact, powered, computer speakers than Ruark's MR1 Mk2.

Those handcrafted wooden cabinets are beautifully made, the speakers are good to use, and they’re the perfect petite size to sit on either side of your laptop, and fit onto a small desk, bookshelf or TV stand – no wonder they're repeat What Hi-Fi? Award winners.

You can connect over Bluetooth, optical or 3.5mm – easily and quickly – and hi-res audio is supported all the way up to 24-bit/192kHz. Those stylish retro looks are a huge part of the charm too, oozing more class than most of the cast of Mad Men. 

Sound-wise, the MR1 are wonderfully musical and insightful, with subtlety and detail conveyed in a way that's both rich and rewarding. Their fluid dynamics, agile timing, punchy bass and natural way with voices all make them hugely enjoyable to listen to,  and the MR1 Mk2 sound lush and smooth while also being articulate. They convey the mood of songs faithfully, too – an impressive feat for a set of wireless speakers.

The step-up in performance from the original MR1 model is impressive, making the Mk2 even more appealing than before at a very attractive price point. Quite simply, these are superb PC speakers for any space, and absolutely ideal for anyone looking to be smart with their cash.

Read our full Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2 review

Best budget computer speakers

Q Acoustics M20 Bluetooth speaker on desk next to gaming controller with mood lighting

Q Acoustics delivers a versatile, great-sounding desktop system at an affordable price. (Image credit: Q Acoustics)
These desktop speakers are on the large side, but the features and sound on offer make them a great budget option.

Specifications

Bluetooth: Yes (aptX HD, aptX Low Latency)
Inputs: USB Type B, optical, RCA, 3.5mm
Outputs: Subwoofer
Dimensions (hwd): 27.9 x 17 x 29.6cm
Weight: 5.5kg (Active), 5.1kg (Passive)
Finishes: 3 (black, white, walnut)

Reasons to buy

+
Insightful and spacious sound
+
Unfussy on placement
+
Great connectivity

Reasons to avoid

-
You'll need a big desk space to accommodate them
-
No wireless network streaming

Versatile, simple to use, nicely put together and extremely affordable, the Q Acoustics M20 might not be the most compact pair of powered speakers on this list, but they offer such a versatile range of features that we'd certainly find a way to accommodate them on our desktop.

The modern-looking units have a lot of useful connections on the back – TVs, CD players, turntables and laptops can also be wired to the M20 through optical, RCA line-level, aux and USB Type B connections, and there's even wireless Bluetooth streaming if you aren't a fan of wires.

One speaker in the pair is the mains-powered 'master' and feeds the other through a supplied speaker cable. Crucially, they really sound the part, feeling full, loud, spacious and energetic. For affordable speakers that pack in so much, we're impressed with how refined and detailed they also manage to sound.

Q Acoustics has made an unfussy, just-add-source set of powered speakers that we find impossible to dislike. With all of the amplification squirrelled away in the master speaker and the plethora of connectivity and placement options covered, the M20 are far more likely to become your entire music system than simply your new desktop speakers – and for this money, you’ll be hard pushed to better the sound quality with hi-fi separates. Well worth considering.

Read our full Q Acoustics M20 review

Best computer speaker system

Standmount speakers: KEF LSX II LT

A terrific, feature-packed, premium system from KEF that looks and sounds fantastic. (Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)
A fantastic, multi-talented streaming system that's perfect for desktops and smaller rooms.

Specifications

Bluetooth: Yes
Inputs: HDMI ARC, USB-C, optical, Ethernet
Outputs: Subwoofer
Dimensions (hwd): 24 x 15.5 x 18cm
Weight: 6.8kg (pair)
Finishes: 3 (graphite grey, stone white, sage green)

Reasons to buy

+
Well-rounded sonic performance
+
Excellent imaging and dynamics
+
Wireless network streaming

Reasons to avoid

-
Less luxurious finish options 
-
No aux input 
-
Loss of wireless link between speakers

The standard KEF LSX II speaker system was a certified What Hi-Fi? Award winner and a key entry in this very list. Now though, there's a slimmed-down, more affordable version of the LSX II, and we think it offers even greater value - if you can live with a few small sacrifices. 

In terms of their size and shape, the new LSX II LT are practically indistinguishable from the standard LSX II, keeping the iconic tangerine waveguide and shiny Uni-Q driver array for which KEF is so well-known. The 11th-gen 11.5cm Uni-Q driver array, in which the tweeter sits in the centre of the mid/bass, is here too, with the Class D active speakers putting out a total of 200Ws - 30 of those to drive the tweeter, and 70 powering the mid/bass across each channel. 

KEF has taken a winning formula and streamlined it beautifully. The key connectivity options - an HDMI ARC port for your TV, optical input, subwoofer output -  are all here, but unlike the standard LSX II, the LT only require a single mains lead plugged into the primary unit while the spare speaker takes power via a USB-C interspeaker cable. There's no aux input or the chance to have a wireless connection between the speakers, though, so if you really need those facilities, we'd recommend considering the full-fat KEF LSX II. 

Sonically, though, the LT version doesn't miss a beat, so much so that it's almost impossible to tell the difference between the standard version and this "lite" iteration. The LT deliver punch, focus and a sharp sense of rhythmic propulsion without ever feeling strained or unbalanced. The speakers' profile is very marginally on the lean side, but never to the point at which you'd think they were thin, weedy or lacking in lower-end muscle. 

Sonically superb and slimmed down without becoming overly compromised, the KEF LSX II LT feels like a really, really smart investment.

Read our full KEF LSX II LT review

Top Tip
Becky Roberts
Top Tip
Becky Roberts

If you want a versatile speaker system that you can pop onto your desktop to boost your laptop as well as use for a variety of other functions and use cases, we'd happily direct you over to the KEF LSX II LT. The great thing about the LSX II  is that, like the Elacs above, there's an HDMI ARC connection, so you could theoretically plug the speakers into your TV and get cinematic sound without the need for a soundbar. Plus, if you can live without that aux input (RIP!), it arguably represents far better value for money than the standard LSX II system.

Best computer speakers for audiophiles

Acoustic Energy AE1 Active speaker on stand in a dark, moody interior

One of the best desktop speakers for pure performance. (Image credit: Acoustic Energy)
High-end performance without the need for a stack of high-end electronics, this is a flexible and fuss-free pair of speakers.

Specifications

Bluetooth: No
Inputs: RCA, balanced XLR
Outputs: None
Dimensions (hwd): 30 x 18.5 x 25cm
Weight: 18kg (pair)
Finishes: 3 (black, white, walnut)

Reasons to buy

+
Clear, balanced and detailed
+
Rhythmically exciting 
+
Flexible with placement

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited features (no USB or Bluetooth) compared to alternatives on this list
-
A pricey option

It’s difficult to think of an amplifier and passive speakers separates combo that could better these Acoustic Energy active speakers for the same money.

These former What Hi-Fi? Award winners do everything with a flourish. They're pretty basic regarding set-up and function – just hook them up to your source via their balanced XLR or RCA inputs and you’re away. 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 more expensive speakers and amplifiers to offer a marked improvement on these Acoustic Energy active speakers. Timing is spot on, the punch and drive apparent through all musical genres is thrilling, and the dynamic range is subtle and extensive enough to spotlight differing intensities of beats that can, texturally, be cluttered in other systems. There's fine integration and tonal balance too, with a maturity that's truly impressive.

These speakers have been around for a long while (we reviewed them back in 2018), yet their continued availability is a testament to their class. With that said, you owe it to yourself to track down a pair and discover the AE1's talents for yourself.

Read our full Acoustic Energy AE1 Active review

How to choose the best computer speakers for you

When purchasing a pair of PC speakers for your laptop/computer desktop system, size will assuredly be a factor in your decision. All of the pairs of computer speakers that we've tested are inherently from the more compact end of the speaker market and better suited to being perched on a desk than the majority of stereo speakers.

But it isn't just size that matters; one of the beauties of having speakers within your workspace is that they can connect easily to your phone or laptop. Some computer speakers can connect via Bluetooth so you needn't worry about cables trailing all over the place, while others need connecting over, say, USB via a cable (which also offers stable and higher-quality playback). Some support wi-fi and have network streaming smarts integrated, while others can connect to your TV and/or turntable to make a compact little home system.

What all of the products above have in common is that they deliver good all-round performance, making them easy to recommend as computer speakers worth buying.

Only have room for a one-box unit? Check out our best Bluetooth speakers guide.

How to set up computer speakers

Thankfully, computer speakers or PC speakers are by nature pretty simple to set up. They are compact systems that generally comprise two boxes, or maybe three if they include a subwoofer. You'll want your right and left speakers to flank your computer, laptop or monitor – either at, or just above, head height if practical, and preferably slightly angled inwards towards your seated position. There's no harm in experimenting, of course.

You'll want them sat on a sturdy desktop surface, though more substantial computer speakers like the KEF LSX II LT will invariably sound optimal on dedicated stands.

If your computer speakers come with a small subwoofer, you should keep them as close to your speakers and seat as possible – but on the floor. After all, you don't want their low-end output causing the table you (or the speakers) are working on to vibrate.

How we test computer speakers

We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London and Reading, where our team of experienced, in-house reviewers test the majority of hi-fi and AV kit that passes through our door – including computer speakers that will fit and work on a desktop.

What Hi-Fi? is all about comparative testing, so we listen to every pair of computer speakers we review against the current leader in its field to gauge how it compares to the best-in-class competition. We keep What Hi-Fi? Award winners, such as the Ruark MR1 Mk2 in this category, in our stockrooms so we can always put new products against ones we know and love.

We are always impartial in our testing and ensure we hear every pair of computer speakers at their optimum in the scenarios they are intended for. We'll use them with different partnering source kit (phones and computers, for example) as well as play different types of music through them. Naturally, we give them plenty of listening time (and time to run in).

Really, testing computer speakers is pretty similar to testing 'standard' speakers and soundbars, in that we are testing their tonality, left/right balance, vocal clarity and overall musicality (by which we mean their rhythmic, organisation and timing abilities).

From all of our reviews, we choose the top computer speakers to feature in this Best Buy. That's why if you take the plunge and buy one of the products recommended here, or on any other Best Buy page, you can rest assured you're getting a What Hi-Fi?-approved product.

You can read more about how we test and review products on What Hi-Fi? here.

FAQ

How much should I spend on a pair of computer speakers?

This is your classic "how long is a piece of string" question, but the good news is this: you don't have to spend a fortune for vastly improved sound. 

Any of the models on the list above will give you vastly superior audio to that which you'll receive when simply playing through your laptop's speakers, say. Plus, it's a sound that will go much louder than your laptop or PC can manage, with far more depth, breadth and detail to boot. Bear in mind also that, because we've picked hi-fi level units, you'll be able to use any of the above candidates outside of a computer-based use case. 

The best thing you can do, once you've decided on a budget (or even to help you decide on one in the first place) is to head to a proper dealership and listen to some speakers, starting at the lower end (see the Q Acoustics M20) and working your way up. If all you need is more punch, power and volume, the M20 will do a stellar job of providing everything that you need to suit your needs. 

There's no limit to how much you can spend, but just bear in mind what you'll be using your speakers for. Paying thousands for a pair that will be playing from a crummy audio source (YouTube, for instance) is pointless, but if you're planning on using them a lot and for various tasks and duties, it can definitely be worth splashing a little more cash.

Which are better - standmount speakers or computer speakers?

For the purposes of this list, they're the same. That isn't true in the real world, of course, and you'll find many models out there that bill themselves much more as "computer speakers" than hi-fi-oriented bookshelf/standmount models, but we've chosen the latter for this list for several reasons. 

Firstly, and most importantly, hi-fi speakers sound the best. Dedicated computer speakers are often designed for gaming or to be used for a single use case, whereas proper hi-fi models usually offer greater sonic fidelity and insight thanks to their hi-fi heritage. That's not always the case, but it's true for the units listed above.

Second, decent hi-fi speakers should be versatile enough to hook up to your PC or laptop anyway. Most of the models above have USB and aux connectivity, not to mention a wider host of options such as HDMI, optical, RCA and XLR. That makes them flexible enough to serve as your laptop speakers or the centrepiece of a dedicated hi-fi setup.

Third - and this might be personal preference - but we find many of the speakers on this list just look and feel a lot classier than many standard computer speakers. The KEF LSX II LT, for instance, is a wonderfully made system, with two deeply handsome units that will enhance your home before you've even switched them on.

Recent updates

  • February 2024: Switched out the KEF LSX II speaker system for the KEF LSX II LT.
  • February 2024: Added FAQ section to help with buying decisions and frequently asked questions.
  • November 2023What Hi-Fi? Award winners labelled after the 2023 Awards Best Buys and Product of the Year announcements.

MORE:

Best speakers: standmount, floorstander, desktop, active

Looking for something more traditional? Here are our best budget hi-fi speakers

Here are all our best speaker deals

Kashfia Kabir
Hi-Fi and Audio Editor

Kashfia is the Hi-Fi and Audio Editor of What Hi-Fi? and first joined the brand over 10 years ago. During her time in the consumer tech industry, she has reviewed hundreds of products (including speakers, amplifiers and headphones), been to countless trade shows across the world and fallen in love with hi-fi kit much bigger than her. In her spare time, Kash can be found tending to an ever-growing houseplant collection and hanging out with her cat Jolene.

With contributions from
  • 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
  • Finnman
    How do the Ruark compare with the Kanto YU2 and YU4?
    Reply
  • 12th Monkey
    Given how old this thread is, I'd suggest starting a thread elsewhere if you want an answer. What might have been 'best' two years ago probably isn't any more.
    Reply