The majority of us have become extremely comfortable with the mediocre phonics that ooze through the speakers of our laptops and PCs (or headphones). This is sad. Seeing how we view our machines as all-in-one systems, it’s only right to spoil them as such, and providing a significant audio boost can transform your desk into a full-fledged entertainment console.
For those seeking a more potent and louder alternative to their built-in receivers or noise-canceling cans, we assembled this collection of stereo monitors sure to have your ears ringing. From portable blasters to studio amplifiers, each is bona fide audio hardware powerful enough to enliven any Netflix, Spotify, or Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 sessions at your desk. Now get jammin’.
KRK Rokit 5 G3
Best Speakers to Throw a House Party: KRK’s third-generation Rokit 5 studio monitors look very similar to their second generation, but the G3s improve on the formula (and land on the same price). Along with having a more smooth cabinet design, KRK also added a knob (located on the back) to adjust the low frequency, to go with the high frequency adjuster the G2 already had. Aside from that, KRK didn’t mess with the speakers too much — they didn’t need to. The G2s were already considered one of the industry’s best hi-fi studio monitors for DJs and music professionals; the G3s simply improve on that framework a touch more.
Klipsch Promedia 2.1 Wireless Computer Speakers
Best Compact Three-Piece System: The Promedia 2.1 line of speakers is Klipsch’s bread-and-better. First launched in 2004, they’re one of the brand’s best-selling products and the latest Promedia 2.1 features two speakers and a 200-watt subwoofer along with the MicroTractrix Horns that Klipsch is renowned for. You can wirelessly connect through a USB wireless transmitter, allowing you the freedom to move around (approximately 30 feet away) without disconnecting. And no, they won’t interfere with other devices connected wirelessly to your desktop.
KEF X300A Wireless
Best Audiophile Speakers: KEF has forged a legacy as one of the top speaker constructors in the biz, and its latest creation carries on the company’s time-honored heritage. With 20-watt amps closed behind Uni-Q tweeters and 50-watt amps powering 5.2-inch mid/low-frequency drivers in each unit, the X300A practically doubles as a hi-fi and stereo home theater speaker. The high-powered output alone will have your desk rumbling like a Harley, and many experts suggest placing it on the floor or a stand to take in the system’s empowering bass potency. High-performance toroidal transformers also come integrated in the package to minimize “hum and electromagnetic interference,” tuning music playback to perfection. That’s 50 years of groundbreaking audio engineering for you; plus, they’re now wireless.
Best Travel-Friendly Desktop Speakers: Despite their petite (yet extremely packable) bodies, the Z600s pack a punch. Each speaker has three drivers, enabling it to deliver great audio with both middle and high levels of bass. The speakers are minimalistic in function; with the touch of one button you can pair with a Bluetooth-enabled device. They’re the perfect partner for any iMac, MacBook Pro or MacBook Air. And if you’re a gamer and don’t want to drop the kind of coin a soundbar costs, consider linking your Xbox One to this.
Bowers & Wilkins MM-1
Best High-End Speakers: When it comes to high-end audio, it doesn’t get any swankier than Bowers & Wilkins. The black cloth grilles and brushed metal accents scream lavish luxury, whereas the stark design makes it a perfect companion for your MacBook Pro. This well-rounded soundstage is capable of producing stellar clarity and impactful bass, and the aftereffect is still bewildering, especially considering the MM-1 is subwoofer-less. Low-end response is just as impressive no matter the volume level. Many attribute the overall effect to the built-in, top-notch DAC (digital-to-analog converter) and stellar DSP (digital signal processing) circuitry. Whatever the reason, the MM-1 ensures superb sound quality.
Harman Kardon Nova
Best Cord-Cutter Speakers: These orbital Nova speakers by Harman Kardon deliver 40 watts of rich bass. They can also be further augmented by an optional bass-boost button. With 2.5-inch drivers and 1.25-inch tweeters, each Nova speaker handles high and low treble and bass comfortably. Although acoustically clear and powerful, the speakers will automatically turn off after 20 minutes of disuse, which is great to save energy. (Though there should be no reason why the Nova isn’t blasting noise at all times.)
Edifier USA Luna Eclipse
Best Home-Theater-Compatible Speakers: Edifier first launched their Luna series of speakers in 2015. They’re not your run-of-the-mill desktop speakers because their roots aren’t in the desktop world; they were originally designed to augment home theater sound. But pair these with your home computer, via Bluetooth or not, and you’ll hear these speakers’ bass from three floors away. They can produce 74 watts RMS (boom) and they’re decked out with a 3/4-inch silk-domed tweeter and a three-inch full-range bass driver. On top of that, the Eclipse comes in black, white or red, meaning it will blend in with your study’s contemporary motif.
Best Studio Speakers: Aspiring DJs and producers looking to transform their workstation into a music studio should tune their eardrums to this monstrous 2.1 sound system. With a 50-watts-per-channel Class AB amp and five-inch woofers at the helm, the Audioengine 5+ balances deep bass with a low-frequency response to create a surreal listening experience parallel to what you’d hear in a recording studio. A new thermal management system has been added to keep the amplifier cool, meaning you can keep Jay Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail on heavy rotation without any overheating issues. Also, the 5+ features USB and dual-audio inputs for smartphones, tablets, music players, computers and other compatible devices. Audioengine is so confident in its product that the company offers a 30-day trial period with full refund. That’s music to our ears. Also, if the A5+ is too large for your liking, Audioengine makes the smaller (and more affordable) A2+.
Polk Audio Hampden
Best Home Office System: This is the 2.0 system your home office has been waiting for. The speakers are beautiful, with a teak veneer to blend in with your bookshelf, and they’re designed to be angled upward, enabling them to deliver optimal audio while you’re seated at a desk. The speaker system utilizes two 4.5-inch woofers and two one-inch tweeters, and a four-channel amplifier. And it connects to devices via Bluetooth with apt-X technology (the wireless range is 40 feet) for better sound than traditional Bluetooth.
Bose Companion 20
Best Traditional Speakers: Some people are scared of new technology, so they settle for what’s made them comfortable since the ’90s. Bose’s conventional-looking desktop speaker is perfect for the technophobe set. Backed by the Boston-based manufacturer’s groundbreaking audio technology, the Companion 20 delivers the exceptional sound quality expected of the audio staple, enclosing it all in a classic design suited for old-school computer geeks. The absence of modern features like wireless connectivity and a bass module doesn’t take away from the system’s complete value, as the C20 still manages to push vigorous range and reproduces wide sound to enliven all multimedia platforms. It even comes bundled with one of the coolest add-ons on this list: a unique and stylish control pod that connects to headphones and controls playback.
Adam Audio F5
Best Multi-Purpose Speakers: Big on size, sound and selection, the F5 pulls off a feat most studio monitors can’t: balancing incredible sound quality across multiple media platforms. From music files to YouTube clips, listeners will feel immersed in the full bass levels and insane treble response emitted from the bi-amplified speakers, which house a 35-watt amp on the woofer and a 25-watt amp on the tweeter. The speaker also has a Room Equalizer function for low (less than 300 Hz) and high (greater than 5kHz) frequencies, along with an 80Hz high-pass filter that can be mated with another subwoofer. Adam Audio flexes its tech ingenuity by introducing an auto-mute function that automatically places the system in standby mode when no input audio is detected past 20 minutes. Note that if the price scares you, Bose’s new Companion 2 series III ($99) are a good sub-$100 alternative.
Joey Roth Ceramic Speakers
Best Design-Focused Speakers: Joey Roth, a Portland-based industrial designer, has created a number of beautiful home items, from minimalist teapots to steel speakers, engraved wooden blocks and self-watering planters. His signature design, however, is his ceramic speakers. Apart from being fascinating to look at — each is a striking blend of ceramic, wood and cork — the speaker system packs a punch. It’s comprised of two speakers and a subwoofer: the subwoofer has a 50-watt Class D amplifier and both speakers contain a four-inch driver. When paired to together, the system belts. Roth says the speakers have a minimalistic design, yet they also “quietly but confidently make themselves known.” The system is fairly big (the amplifier alone weighs 14 pounds), but it can be placed adjacent your desk since the system connects via cord or Bluetooth.
Additional Contribution by Tucker Bowe.