Arctis

If you're looking for "sound" advice on sound, you've come to the right place! Our Speaker and Headser Buyer's Guide has been updated for Winter 2017 with our top 10 favorite models at every price point. We include 5 speaker kits and 5 headsets, starting from basic and going all the way to ultra-premium. Whether you decide on speakers or headphones (or both!) really depends on your particular setup. Do you want the best overall listening experience and have some spare desk space? We'd suggest a nice set of speakers. But if you want a simpler setup, or work and play in a shared space or on-the-go, then you'll want to go with headphones. And of course, most of the headphones we list are actually full-on headsets and thus include a built-in microphone, which gives them an edge as an all-in-one device versus speakers, allowing you answer calls mid-song!

By the way, we need to make something very clear: in general, a wired audio device will be superior to a wireless one. That being said, wireless headphones are far more convenient than wired models (no headphones flying off your head when you stand up!), and wireless speakers let you take your music places you couldn't otherwise. So we have one pick in each category. Just note that while there are some very expensive products sold today using Bluetooth wireless technology, we'd only recommend it on lower-cost devices. $160 Apple AirPods or $300 Bluetooth "audiophile headphones"? No thanks! Bluetooth is a great option for convenience, but it does not translate to quality sound. 

No matter what your needs are, we're going to help you find the right setup for your PC listening needs!

Speakers/Headsets - Winter 2017

    Portable Bluetooth Speaker:

    iClever BoostSound BTS-04

    If you need a high-quality wireless stereo speaker for use with your connected devices, such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones, look no further than the BTS-04 from the creative minds at iClever. Featuring dual 5W speakers, a classy aluminum chassis, and up to 10 hours of playback on a charge, this is the Bluetooth speaker to beat. You can even take calls through the BTS-04, allowing you to leave your phone in your pocket or bag when you start up a conversation! Want to learn more? See our full review!

    The Guru's Tip:

    The BTS-04 can also be used in corded mode with a desktop PC - simply plug in the included 3.5mm analog audio cable and the USB cable power, and you're all set!

    Mid-Range PC Speakers:

    Creative Inspire T10

    Just about everyone listens to something on their PCs, whether it's music, You Tube videos, TV, or movies. Because desktop PCs, unlike laptops, rarely have internal speakers, your best bet is to buy a great set of speakers that will sound and look great without taking up much space. The goal is to keep it basic and inexpensive here, and that's what Creative does with its venerable T10 speaker set. 

    The Guru's Tip:

    We strongly discourage you from buying speakers with subwoofers in this price range, as they'll simply be thumpy boxes with no musicality.

    The Deluxe PC Speakers:

    Creative Gigaworks T20

    This stylish, mid-priced speaker set from Creative will do justice to high-fidelity music recording, movies, or games. With 28 watts of total power, a broad frequency range, and front-mounted controls, the T20 duo can belt out the sound while taking up very little space at your desk. Don't be tempted by cheap speaker kits with included subwoofers. In this price range, focus on quality stereo sound. Lower-end 2.1 kits typically use unpowered subwoofers, which won't sound much different than a cardboard box being thumped.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Creative BT

    Creative also markets the Gigaworks T30 Bluetooth and NFC-enabled Speakers, shown here, which are perfect if you'd also like to conveniently pair them with your smartphone or tablet. Just note that for PC use, you'll definitely want to stick with a hard-wired connection. As we noted in the introduction to this guide, Bluetooth just can't match a wired connection in terms of fidelity, but this hybrid set allows you to easily keep your PC wired up while connecting your wireless device via Bluetooth.

    The High-End 2.1 Kit:

    Logitech Z625 THX 2.1 Speaker System

    If you're interested in unadulterated stereo sound with a huge helping of bass, then you want a high-quality 2.1 speaker set. There used to be a whole array of models to choose from, and one of the last holdouts happens to be one of the very best, from the PC enthusiasts at Logitech. This awesome 200-watt THX-certified set will really pump out some great audio. It even features a mini-plug jack to connect mobile devices!

    The Guru's Tip:

    The Z625, released in August 2016, builds upon the success of the Logitech Z623 kit released in 2010, but adds an optical audio port for higher-quality sound than any 3.5mm analog cable could ever provide. Given that just about every high-end motherboard sold in the past 5 years has optical digital out, it was about time Logitech offered this great feature!

    The Ultimate PC Speaker Set:

    Logitech Z906 5.1 Surround Speaker Speaker System

    We take a flying leap into the deep end of PC audio and land right on the Z906 surround sound system. But don't worry - there's no thud here, just rich, vibrant THX-certified sound coming from five satellite speakers and a big 165-watt subwoofer. And with its included control box, the Z906 kit allows you to port sound from up to six devices, using PC surround line-in, stereo RCA jacks, dual digital optical in, and digital coax. That means these aren't just PC speakers - they'll also do double/triple-duty on game consoles and your TV! No stereo receiver required!

    The Guru's Tip:

    A wireless remote is even included in the box!

    The Best Budget Headphones:

    Symphonized NRG Wood Headphones

    Featuring bass levels we didn't think possible from an earbud headphone, these real wood models are an absolute bargain at their asking price. A few years ago, "premium" earbud headphones would often go for $80 and up. Luckily, competition and reality has caught up the market, and you can get a truly premium earbud headphone kit for next to nothing! These headphones double as a phone headset, allowing you to answer calls while on the go without pulling out your phone.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Want a set of Bluetooth headphones that can go toe-to-toe with the Symphonized? Check out iClever's Bluetooth Sports Headphones! We've compared them back-to-back with the Symphonized set, and while they can't produce nearly as much bass, their overall sound quality is just as good, and of course, you can listen and talk without wires!

    The Bargain Gaming Headset:

    HyperX Cloud Stinger

    Looking for a moderately-priced headset to use for gaming or online chat? Then check out the brand-new Stinger from HyperX. Simply put, you cannot get a better headset for under $50, period! No, it doesn't have flashing lights, and no, it doesn't come with a fancy USB converter or control box, but with its simple analog headphone and mic jacks and high-quality sound, the Stinger gets the job done in spectacular fashion without making things complicated!

    The Guru's Tip:

    To see why we feel so strongly that the Cloud Stinger is the only headset to consider under $50, see our full review!

    The Premium Gaming Headset:

    SteelSeries Arctis 5

    Want the best wired gaming headset on the market? Then go for the new SteelSeries Arctic 5. SteelSeries has been a long-time favorite among gamers thanks to its venerable Siberia line, but it wasn't willing to leave well enough alone. The new Arctis line is redesigned from the ground up, and offers cutting-edge style, comfort, sound reproduction quality, and microphone quality. And while you get all of this with the base level Arctic 3, the Arctic 5 model adds DTS 7.1 Surround along with full RGB lighting, which we think definitely justifies the small price premium.

    The Guru's Tip:

    The Arctis can even be used with practically every platform out there, including Android, PS4, and XBox One, thanks to its 3.5mm stereo analog plug. iPhone 7 users, however, better be packing an adapter!

    The Wireless PC Headset:

    Logitech G533 Wireless Gaming Headset

    If being wired to your PC just isn't your thing, then step up to this awesome wireless headset. The G533 cuts the cord with its 45-foot wireless range (we've literally been able to use these across the house and on a different floor from our test PC!), offers amazing DTS 7.1 surround sound (which we've found works amazingly-well in games encoded with a true surround soundtrack), and provides the convenience of on-ear volume and mute controls. And don't worry - the G533's 15-hour battery life will keep you in the game all day long (we've found it can actually hit 16 hours, actually!). Want to learn more? See our full review!

    The Guru's Tip:

    G933

    If you'd like a bit more style to go with your sound, then check out the Logitech G933 Artemis Spectrum. It offers the same audio quality as the G533, but lots of LED lights! It even adds cross-platform compatibility (e.g., for consoles and phones) thanks to its wired audio converter. The one tradeoff: it only runs about 8 hours with the LEDs running. Need more info? See our full review!

    The Audiophile's Headphones:

    Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

    Want only the very best fidelity for your high-quality audio tracks? Then look no further than the M50x from Audio-Technica. It's an absolute bargain in its price range, because Audio-Technica throws all its engineering weight into the sound. No noise cancelling technology, fancy colors, or high-gloss marketing to drive up the price. Just smart, elegant design, and awesome sound. And a new low price - these started at $170!

    The Guru's Tip:

    The M50x comes with three detachable cables for use with all your devices! Just note these are headphones, not a headset, so the M50x has no microphone.