Tech

Best budget computer speakers 2024: $100 or less

mult speaker hubImage: Rob Schultz/IDG

Don’t let your favorite music and movies go to waste as you play them through your laptop’s built-in sound system. Your audio can come out sounding weak and lifeless with even the best laptop speakers. External PC speakers—along with a good set of headphones—are essential for getting the best fidelity from your media files.

Luckily, you don’t need to buy a complete 7.1 surround sound system to make up for it. For less than $100, you can find some affordable speakers that provide quality audio. It’s true that at this price point you will need to make a few compromises, but the best budget computer speakers can still offer a satisfying listening experience while saving you money, and that’s what we call a win-win.

To help you find the best speakers for your needs, we’ve reviewed many of the most commonly available budget models on the market. To test each speaker, we set it up in a typical environment—on a desk in a home office—and play a variety of audio tracks while pushing their sound capabilities to the limit. Check out our best picks below.

We also offer advice on buying speakers after our recommendations to help you make a more informed purchasing decision.

Updated 03/15/24: To include the Creative Pebble X Plus. With Bluetooth, USB, and auxiliary input, this RGB speaker is ideal for a bedroom, dorm room, or home office where it can comfortably fill the room with clear, detailed audio. Yes, it’s more than $100, but if you have a little extra to spend, it’s an exceptional value at a still-reasonable price.

Creative Pebble – Best overall budget speakers

Pros

Extremely affordable Excellent audio quality Space-saving design

Cons

No Bluetooth connectivity for mobile devices Price When Reviewed:$24.99Best Prices Today:$17.79 at Amazon$18.99 at B&H$18.99 at Lenovo USA

We wouldn’t have thought a set of $20 speakers would impress us much, let alone turn out to be our favorites. But Creative Pebble’s simple USB-powered 2.0 system defies all odds, producing richer, more immersive audio than you commonly find in speakers at twice the price—and twice the size. Though we wish these offered Bluetooth connectivity for mobile devices, the Pebble is still a top-notch choice.

Read our full Creative Pebble review

Sound BlasterX Kratos S3 – Best budget 2.1 system

Pros

Wooden construction enables natural, warm sound Small footprint Deep, rich bass

Cons

No extra audio inputs for mobile devices Price When Reviewed:$79.99Best Prices Today:$59.99 at Amazon

Though the Sound BlasterX Kratos S3 is marketed for gaming, we like how its wooden construction enables warm, natural sound and beefy bass for all of our media. At just $80 it’s an inexpensive entry point into 2.1 speaker systems, without taking much space at all.

Read our full Sound BlasterX Kratos S3 review

Creative Pebble Pro – Best speakers for multiple devices

Pros

Clear, detailed audio Can get very loud No distortion at high volume Noise cancellation through Creative’s software

Cons

Volume adjustments are more minimal at higher volumes Price When Reviewed:$59.99Best Prices Today:$44.99 at Lenovo$44.99 at Lenovo USA$49.99 at Amazon

Imagine our top overall pick, and then soup it up with more features—namely, much more connectivity and sweet RGB lighting. If you have multiple devices (plus a headset and microphone), these speakers let you centralize everything. You can connect devices via USB, a 3.5mm aux cable, and Bluetooth, and there are jacks for a 3.5mm headset and a dedicated 3.5mm microphone, too. It’s a great upgrade option if you want the Pebble’s great sound but want just one set of speakers for your gear.

Read our full Creative Pebble Pro review

Monoprice DT-3BT – Best premium Bluetooth option

Pros

Clean audio TRS, RCA, and Bluetooth connectivity Capable of very loud volume Easy access to aux input and headset output jacks

Cons

Audio will sound a little hollow to some ears Audio distortion at higher volumes Price When Reviewed:99.99Best Prices Today:$89.98 at Monoprice$89.99 at Walmart$99.07 at Amazon

For years, Monoprice has sold affordable, quality tech gear without fanfare or frills. It continues this tradition with its 50-watt DT-3BT desktop speakers, which sport clear audio and support the most common kinds of connections. There’s of course Bluetooth 5.0 for clean, wire-free setups, but TRS and RCA jacks are available, too. Combined with the understated appearance and tidy $100 price tag, they’re an excellent option for speakers with good sound and simple setup straight out of the box.

Read our full Monoprice DT-3BT review

Logitech Z207 2.0 Stereo Computer Speakers – Best multi-source option

Pros

Impressive audio quality Allows you to switch between three connected devices Easy setup and operation

Cons

Larger than many other desktop speakers No audio controls other than volume Best Prices Today:$59.39 at B&H$59.99 at Best Buy$59.99 at Lenovo

A great option if you want to be able to switch among different sources. These speakers support easy switching among three simultaneous connections. At 9.5 x 3.5 x 4.9 inches (HWD), they’re on the larger size, and thus aren’t the most discreet speakers, but they deliver good performance.

Read our full Logitech Z207 2.0 Stereo Computer Speakers review

Cyber Acoustics CA-2890 Speaker Bar – Best space-saving option

Pros

Clip mount keeps it off your desk Clear, distortion-free audio Can get very loud

Cons

No bass Weak stereo audio Price When Reviewed:$24.99Best Prices Today:$24.99 at Amazon$24.99 at Walmart

This basic speaker bar may be outclassed by other extremely affordable rivals in some ways, but it has feature that keeps it in the running—you can clip it to a monitor. That gets this speaker off your desk, a plus for anyone with limited real estate or a love for minimalism. Add in clear audio reproduction, and lack of distortion at high volume, and those seeking a good compact option can forgive it for its lack of bass and proper stereo output.

Read our full Cyber Acoustics CA-2890 Speaker Bar review

AmazonBasics USB-Powered Computer Speakers with Dynamic Sound – Best dirt-cheap option

Pros

Well-rounded sound Plug-and-play setup Low price

Cons

Can’t turn off accent lighting Price When Reviewed:$15.99Best Prices Today:$16.18 at Amazon

These AmazonBasics USB-powered computer speakers get you well-rounded audio for a rock-bottom price. If your budget is tight, you can’t go wrong with this option.

Read our full USB-Powered Computer Speakers with Dynamic Sound review

Creative Pebble X Plus – Best for less than $150

Pros

Compact design Good sound quality for the money RGB effects, if interested Support for many audio sources

Cons

Fixed, short cables Limited control from mobile No software for Mac Price When Reviewed:$129.99Best Prices Today:$129.99 at Creative

With USB, Bluetooth, and 3.5mm auxiliary input, the Creative Pebble X Plus offers more than just plug-and-play speaker functionality. Indeed, you can connect it up wirelessly to your phone or wire it up to create a complete audio solution for your bedroom, dorm room, or home office. Two speakers and a woofer draw a peak 60 watts of power to comfortably fill a room with sound. They produce a clear soundstage with good level of detail in the mids and treble range. A plastic film under the woofer was a small quirk that softened the bass in our playtesting, but removing it fixed that issue.

The device makes a stylish presence on a desktop or near a PC. The two speakers, which are shaped like spheres measure a compact 5.48 inches, while the cube-shaped woofer is only slightly larger at 6.24 inches. The speakers also sport RGB lighting, which you can personalize in Creative’s companion app.

Read our full Creative Pebble X Plus review

FAQ


1.

What type of speaker should I get? Ex: Should I am for a 5.1 setup? And are 2.1 speakers better than 2.0 speakers?

In this price range, a 5.1 multi-channel speaker setup (five speakers, one subwoofer) won’t sound as good as better models. The same amount of money can buy a much better quality two-speaker system. These basic 2.0 stereo setups, which are comprised of just a left and right speaker with a single driver (the actual loudspeaker) in each, abound in this price range. Occasionally you can also find a decent 2.1 system—a pair of speakers to handle the higher frequencies and separate subwoofer for the bass—for not much more. These take up extra space but often produce more balanced sound.

2.

How do I pick a speaker that sounds good?

Don’t lean too heavily on manufacturers’ specs when making a decision. Even if you can parse frequency response numbers, they are often exaggerated. Let your ears be your guide instead. Listen for a good balance between the high (treble), mid, and low (bass) frequencies. Often, speakers will exaggerate one—usually the treble or the bass—at the expense of the others. Good speakers will produce full, detailed audio that sounds as the creator intended it.

Be aware, though, that finding strong bass response in this price range can be challenging. Without a subwoofer, 2.0 systems have trouble reproducing low frequencies. The manufacturers often use technological tweaks to amplify the bass notes, but these can sound boomy, and distort the overall mix. If a deep, controlled bottom end is a priority, a 2.1 system might be a better investment.

3.

Should I get speakers that use AC power? Or is a set that uses USB power OK?

Both these options are prevalent in the sub-$100 price range. USB-powered speakers reduce cord clutter, as they don’t need a separate power cable. However, they can’t supply as much juice as the AC variety, so they tend to produce lower volume and less bass.

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