Best budget computer speakers 2019: $100 or less


Your laptop’s built-in speakers aren’t doing any favors for the gigs and gigs of music and movies on your hard drive. Even the best ones can leave your audio sounding thin and lifeless. External PC speakers—along with a good set of headphones—are a must for getting the best fidelity from your media files.

A trip online or to your favorite electronics store will reveal a head-spinning variety of options in this category, with some systems costing as much or more than you paid for your laptop. You don’t need to take out a personal loan to upgrade your audio, though. Quality speakers can be found even with a budget of around $100. And while there is a certain degree of “you get what you pay for” at this price level, you’ll be rewarded with satisfying sound if you’re willing to make a few compromises.

We’ve given you a head start by testing some of the most commonly available budget models. All cost under $100, sometimes significantly less. We set up each in a typical environment—on a desk in a home office—and played a variety of audio tracks to push their sound capabilities. We also offer some buying advice below to help you choose the right model for your needs.  

Updated May 14, 2019, with reviews of two very popular models: The AmazonBasics Computer Speakers (USB-Powered) (available on Amazon) offer simple installation and good sound quality for the price. Read our full review. Another AmazonBasics set, the USB-Powered Computer Speakers with Dynamic Sound (available on Amazon), are surprisingly well designed considering their low price. Read our full review.  

Best overall budget speakers

We wouldn’t have thought a set of $25 speakers (available on Creative Labs’ website) 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. (Read the full review.)

Runner-up

We love the Edifier R19U. This 2.0 system sports rich mids, crisp highs, and deep, controlled bass. The faux-wood enclosures also give them a slightly vintage vibe that stands out from the matte-plastic pack. A great value at just $30 on Amazon. (Read our full review.)

Best budget 2.1 system

Though the Sound BlasterX Kratos S3 is marketed for gaming, we like the warm, natural sound and beefy bass it brought to of all our media. At just $80 on Amazon, it’s an inexpensive entry point into 2.1 speaker systems. (Read our full review.)

How to shop for PC speakers

2.0 speakers vs. 2.1 speakers

Sure, a 5.1 (five speakers, one subwoofer) multi-channel speaker system sounds pretty sexy. But even if you were to unearth one for $50 or $60, the quality would almost certainly be just as cheap. That 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 for—a pair of speakers to handle the higher frequencies and separate subwoofer for the bass—for not much more. These take up more space but often produce more balanced sound. More on that next.



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