Editor’s Note: This post has been updated with new selections for 2017.
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’.
– Additional contribution by Jeremy Fischer
M-Audio Studiophile AV 40
These studio monitors include many of the same components and features as M-Audio’s professional lines, like top-notch amplifier architecture, quarter-inch TRS inputs and tweeter silk fabric. The OptImage-III technology improves the overall efficiency of the tweeters and time-aligns the drivers on the AV 40s. These speakers pack a lot of punch featuring a bass boost switch, and deliver great sound quality that’s sure to enhance any binge-watching session.
Key Features: 3/4-inch silk dome tweeters, 4-inch polypropylene-coated woofers,
Frequency Response: 85Hz – 20kHz~
System Volume: 101.5 dB max
Inputs: 1/8-inch stereo auxiliary input
Weight: 14 lbs
Harman Kardon SoundSticks III
Harman Kardon’s original SoundSticks were displayed at the MoMA for a period of time — fitting, given their beautiful futuristic design (even for 2000). The latest generation, the SoundSticks III, have the same futuristic appeal. Each satellite speaker is powerful, built with four drivers. And the bass coming out of the lustrous six-inch down-firing subwoofer is impressive. Like other popular desktop speakers, these work via Bluetooth or a standard headphone jack.
Key Features: 6-inch down-firing subwoofer
Frequency Response: 44 – 20,000 Hz
System Volume: N/A
Inputs: Bluetooth, 3.5mm
Weight: 7.9 lbs total
Edifier USA Luna Eclipse
Edifier’s speakers were originally designed to augment home theater sound. But pair these with your home computer, via Bluetooth or not, and you’ll hear the bass from three floors away. They can produce 74 watts RMS (boom) and each is 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.
Key Features: three-inch full-range bass driver, 3/4-inch silk-domed tweeter
Frequency Response: 50Hz – 20kHz
System Volume: 85dB
Inputs: Bluetooth, 3.5mm
Weight: 7.9 lbs total
KRK Rokit 5 G3
KRK’s third-generation Rokit 5 studio monitors look very similar to their second-generation G2 ($299), but the G3s improve on the formula and cost the same. They have a smoother cabinet design, plus a new knob on the back to adjust the low frequency; meanwhile, they retain the same high-frequency adjuster that the G2 had. Aside from that, KRK didn’t mess too much with what had already been considered one of the industry’s best hi-fi studio monitors for DJs and music professionals.
Key Features: bi-amped, class A/B amplifier, 1-inch soft-dome tweeter
Frequency Response: 45Hz – 35kHz
System Volume: -30dB – +6dB
Inputs: unbalanced RCA, balanced 1/4-inch TRS, balanced XLR
Weight: 14.1 lbs
Klipsch Promedia 2.1 Wireless Computer Speakers
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.
Key Features: high-frequency MicroTractrix horn, side-firing 6.5-inch subwoofer, 19mm PEI dome tweeter
Frequency Response: 35Hz – 22kHz
System Volume: max 110 dB
Inputs: 3.5mm miniplug, Bluetooth 2.0
Weight: 2.1 lbs (satellite), 11 lbs (subwoofer)
KEF X300A Wireless
With 20-watt amps closed behind Uni-Q tweeters and 50-watt amps powering 5.2-inch mid/low-frequency drivers in each unit, KEF’s 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. Plus, they’re wireless.
Key Features: Uni-Q driver, twin-class AB amplifier,
Frequency Response: 58Hz – 28kHz
System Volume: max 104 dB
Inputs: Mini-USB type B connector
Weight: 16.5 lbs
Although minimalistic in design, Logitech’s 2.1 speaker system gives you big, lucid sound. The front-facing 30W subwoofer comes with a control knob, giving you easy and tactile volume control. You can connect up to three devices simultaneously, so you could sync your tablet, laptop and smartphone without having to hop between connections for any reason.
Key Features: 30W subwoofer, two 15W satellite speakers
Frequency Response: 55 Hz – 20 kHz
System Volume: 97 dB
Inputs: 3.5mm and RCA
Weight: 7 oz (satellites), 8.82 lbs (subwoofer)
Bowers & Wilkins MM-1
When it comes to high-end audio, it doesn’t get any swankier than Bowers & Wilkins. The black cloth grilles and brushed metal accents on the MM-1 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 has no subwoofer. Low-end response is impressive no matter the volume level, and many attribute the overall sound quality to the built-in, top-notch DAC and stellar DSP circuitry. Whatever the reason, the MM-1 ensures superb sound.
Key Features: two-way active speakers, Nautilus tube tweeters, digital amplifier
Frequency Response: 38Hz – 22kHz
System Volume: N/A
Inputs: 3.5mm, Mini-USB 2.0
Weight: 1.87 lbs each
The Audioengine A5+ is a monstrous 2.1 sound system. With a 50-watt-per-channel Class AB amp and five-inch woofers at the helm, it balances deep bass with a low-frequency response to create a surreal listening experience parallel what you’d hear in a recording studio. A 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. If the A5+ is too large for your liking, Audioengine makes the smaller (and more affordable) A2+.
Key Features: five-inch Kevlar woofers, 3/4-inch silk dome tweeters
Frequency Response: 50Hz – 22kHz
System Volume: 95 dB
Inputs: 3.5 mm, RCA phono, DC power output, USB
Weight: 25 lbs total
Bose Companion 20
Bose’s conventional-looking desktop speaker system 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 ubiquitous brand, 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 reproduce 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.
Key Features: two-way speakers, TrueSpace stereo digital processing, control pod
Frequency Response: N/A
System Volume: N/A
Weight: 2.5 lbs
Adam Audio F5
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 has a Room Equalizer function for low (less than 300Hz) and high (greater than 5kHz) frequencies, along with an 80Hz high-pass filter that can be mated with another subwoofer. Adam Audio also flexes its tech ingenuity by introducing an auto-mute function that places the system in standby mode when no input audio is detected after 20 minutes.
Key Features: 5-inch mid-frequency driver, 1.5-inch full-range driver
Frequency Response: 52Hz – 50kHz
System Volume: 106 dB
Inputs: XLR, RCA, TRS
Weight: 15 lbs
Joey Roth Ceramic Speakers
Joey Roth ‘s signature design is his ceramic speakers. Apart from being a fascinating sight — 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 together, the system belts. Note: it 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.
Key Features: 4-inch paper diaphragm, neodymium magnet, die-cast basket
Frequency Response: 70Hz – 20kHz
System Volume: 89 dB
Inputs: RCA, 3.5mm, Bluetooth (with Bluetooth reciever)
Weight: 12 lbs
Grovemade Walnut Speakers & Amp
If you like the above Joey Roth speakers you’ll also like these (Roth helped design them). Grovemade, traditionally known for their wooden phone cases and desktop accessories, teamed up with Roth to create these beautiful speakers, sculpted out of maple or walnut wood. The speakers feature two 25-watt amps and two-inch full-range drivers that will appease audiophiles. The first of these speakers ship in January 2017.
Key Features: 25W amplifier at 8 Ohms, Fountek FR58EX drivers
Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20kHz
System Volume: N/A
Inputs: RCA, 3.5mm cable,
Weight: 1.75 lbs (satellites), 1.25 lbs (amp)