The Best Speaker & Headset Buyer’s Guide – Summer 2021
If you’re looking for “sound” advice on sound, you’ve come to the right place! This guide features a dozen of our favorite models at every price point and meeting every need, from home office, to on-the-go listening, to gaming. Whether you want to listen out loud with a big set of speakers or just want to throw on a set of cans and lose yourself in the music, we’ve got what you’re looking for.
For Summer 2021, our Speaker and Headset Buyer’s Guide lists out picks for the top 10 audio products on the market, each representing a different market niche. Among these are “truly wireless” earbuds for working out or commuting, fantastic gaming headsets at every pricepoint, and the best noise-canceling headset. We also list the USB studio microphone we personally use for all our YouTube videos and video conferencing, as well as a wide range of speakers for every user. Seriously, we cover the whole market in just 10 products, and every single one is well under $200, because if you buy for performance rather than prestige, you can actually get a tremendous value!
By the way, we need to make something clear: in general, while a wired audio device will be superior to a wireless one at the same price, the comfort and convenience of wireless tech makes it a feature worth paying good money for, and with the massive improvements in wireless audio fidelity we’ve witnessed over the past few years, we have no hesitation recommending wireless gear to everyone!
In the end, no matter how you want to listen to your music, games, and videos, we’re going to help you find the right setup for your needs! And remember, you can support continued development of this guide by using the links to the products we recommend!
The Basic PC Speakers –
Creative Pebble 2.0$20Because desktop PCs, unlike laptops, don’t have internal speakers, we recommend you pick up Creative’s Pebble kit. Whether it’s music, You Tube videos, TV, or movies, Pebble will sound great.
Note that some folks are a bit confused by the USB aspect of these speakers, thinking that they offer a single connection for power and audio. That's not quite right - the USB is exclusively for power, while a 3.5mm audio cable is still used for audio. We think that's just fine - what it eliminates is the bulky power adapter and the need for a free outlet.
Mini Bluetooth Speaker –
Tribit XSound Go Portable Bluetooth Speaker$33If you’d like to take a dance party everywhere you go, a battery-powered Bluetooth speaker is the answer! Yes, there are a lot of overpriced big-name speakers out there, but in our experience, they just aren’t worth the price. This bargain-priced model from Tribit is an excellent choice, as we found in our full review!
You can easily use these in wired mode with your PC with a simple 3.5mm analog connection.
The Deluxe PC Speakers –
Logitech Z207 Multi Device Speakers$43Just 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 Logitech does with its stylish and cost-effective Z207 kit.
The Z207 has a special trick up its sleeve - it has built-in Bluetooth so you can also stream music to it wirelessly, and it will even auto-switch sources when you stop the music on one source and start it on another!
Bluetooth Sports Headphones –
Soundcore by Anker Life A1 True Wireless Earbuds$50
Anker has been making Bluetooth accessories for a long time, and its Life A1 true wireless earbuds are a great example of why it dominates the market. They offer 9 hours of playtime, 8mm driver for great sound, and a secure fit thanks to the “AirWings” inserts, which hold the earbuds in your ears. Plus they have an IPX7 rating, making them sweat and rainproof!The Guru’s Tip
The charging case included with these earbuds an extra 1.5 hours of playback in just 10 minutes and a total of 35 hours of additional playback. Plus it can charge in two ways: via USB Type-C or via a wireless Qi charging pad.
Noise-Cancelling Headphones –
There are a lot of headphones out there marketed as noise cancelling, but most just aren’t very good. Sony’s WH-1000XM4, on the other hand, is very, very good. The best in fact! That’s because not only do they have excellent noise cancellation, they also sound awesome. Isn’t that the main reason people use headphones in the first place?!? Other great features include 30 hours of playback on a charge, a quick-charge mode (add 5 hours in 10 minutes), touch controls, a foldable design, wearing detection that shuts off sound when you put the headphones down, and a built-in mic for phone calls.The Guru’s Tip
These headphones are available in 3 classy colors: black, blue, and silver.
USB Microphone –
Elgato Wave:3 USB Condenser Microphone$155For seriously-professional audio quality, i.e. what you want if you’re recording content or conducting video calls for a living, you need more than a headset microphone or a mic built into a webcam. That’s where a powered USB microphone comes into play, and the best pick is Elgato’s Wave:3. It offers a sophisticated built-in pop filter and “clipguard” to avoid the various audio problems so many other mics suffer from. It’s also sleek and compact, unlike competitors that try to impress with the space they take up on your desk!
This is the mic we use for all our YouTube videos, and it has never let us down!
The Bargain Gaming Headset –
HyperX Cloud Stinger$50 The Guru’s Tip
These connect using a 3.5mm analog jack, meaning they are fully-compatible with any device that supports this standard, including many smartphones and gaming consoles.
The Budget Wireless PC Headset –
SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless$100 The Guru’s Tip
You can also use this headset in wired mode via an included USB Type-C dongle for Nintendo Switch and Android smartphones.
The Deluxe PC Headset –
Corsair Virtuoso Wireless Headset$180 The Guru’s Tip
We've been using our Virtuoso headset daily since it was released, and we wouldn't trade it for anything!
The High-End 2.1 Speaker Set –
Logitech Z625 THX 2.1 Speaker System$150 The Guru’s Tip
Need wireless connectivity? Then go for the Z625/Bluetooth adapter bundle on the same product page!
- The Basic PC Speakers – Creative Pebble 2.0 ($20)
- Mini Bluetooth Speaker – Tribit XSound Go Portable Bluetooth Speaker ($33)
- The Deluxe PC Speakers – Logitech Z207 Multi Device Speakers ($43)
- Bluetooth Sports Headphones – Soundcore by Anker Life A1 True Wireless Earbuds ($50)
- Noise-Cancelling Headphones – Sony WH-1000XM4 ($350)
- USB Microphone – Elgato Wave:3 USB Condenser Microphone ($155)