The Best Speaker & Headset Buyer’s Guide – Fall 2023

By Ari Altman | Published September 24, 2023 | Updated September 24, 2023

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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.

Our Latest Picks

For Fall 2023, our Speaker and Headset Buyer’s Guide lists 10 of the best audio products on the market, each representing a different market niche. In the speaker category, we have great options that will work for home office or gaming, plus a pro-grade microphone to use in recording, streaming, or video conferencing.

On the headphone side, we have fantastic models starting below $50, spanning both gaming models targeting PC users and Bluetooth models for on-the-go use. We cover the whole personal audio and gaming market in just 10 products, and half of our picks are $100 or less, proving that if you buy for performance rather than prestige, you can actually get a tremendous value!

Parting Thoughts

In the end, no matter how you want to interface with your music, games, streaming 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!

Speakers/Mics

  • The Basic PC Speakers

    Creative Pebble 2.0

    $18
    Because 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.

    The Guru’s Tip

    The USB cable on these speakers is exclusively for power, while a 3.5mm audio cable is still used for audio. That eliminates the bulky power adapter and the need for a free outlet. With that said, there is a newer USB-C version on the same product page at about twice the cost that eliminates the audio cable for an even more streamlined setup, if you have Type-C on your PC!

  • The Deluxe PC Speakers

    Logitech Z207 Multi Device Speakers

    $60
    Logitech’s Z207 speakers sound and look great without taking up much space. They’ll also work with any Bluetooth audio device, so you can switch over to phone or tablet audio with the push of a button. Logitech has packed a ton of value into this slimline speaker kit!

    The Guru’s Tip

    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!

  • The High-End 2.1 Speaker Set

    Logitech Z623 THX 2.1 Speaker System

    $170
    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. If you have the space for the big subwoofer, we’d highly recommend this over a standard stereo speaker set, especially for gaming and movies. And take note: while a lot of speaker sets have subwoofers, a big box does nothing if you don’t have the watts to back it up!

    The Guru’s Tip

    This is the kit you want if you want to game out loud!

  • USB Microphone

    Elgato Wave:3 USB Condenser Microphone

    $150
    For 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!

    The Guru’s Tip

    While much slimmer and lighter than its main competitor the Blue Yeti, this microphone simply sounds better. That means you save space on your desk and get improved performance!

Headphones

  • The Bargain Gaming Headset

    HyperX Cloud Stinger 2

    $40
    HyperX absolutely revolutionized the budget gaming headset market with the original Cloud Stinger, and has taken it up a notch with the Stinger 2. It retains the original’s big 50mm drivers, but has an updated rotating cup design and swing-down mic for better comfort and control. It also adds DTS Headphone:X for virtual 7.1  surround sound, making it is an unbeatable value.

    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

    $74
    SteelSeries has made a name for itself in the gaming headset world with its no-nonsense focus on performance. The Arctis 1 follows in this tradition with high-end drivers, lossless 2.4 GHz wireless for ultra-low latency wireless connectivity on both PC and PS4/PS5, a detachable bidirectional microphone, and 20 hours of battery life.

    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.

  • Bluetooth Sports Headphones

    Soundcore by Anker Liberty 4 NC

    $100
    Anker has been making Bluetooth accessories for a long time, and its Liberty 4 NC wireless earbuds are a great example of why it dominates the market. They offer 10 hours of playtime (50 hours with charging case), an ultra-rapid charge of 4 hours in 10 minutes, 11mm drivers for great sound, and active noise cancelling that can eliminate up to 98.5% of ambient noise. For calls, it leverages six microphones to provide the clearest reproduction of your voice.

    The Guru’s Tip

    These also offer IPX4 water resistance.

  • The Deluxe PC Headset

    SteelSeries Arctis Nova 7 Wireless

    $132
    From humble beginnings as a mousemat manufacturer, SteelSeries has come to absolutely dominate the gaming headset industry. And that’s because it’s not rocket science, it’s audio science! SteelSeries took a careful look at what gamers needed and and then applied all the proven techniques to get them everything they wanted. That includes ultra-high-fidelity audio, 360-degree surround sound for immersive gaming, dual audio streams for simultaneous connection to a PC and a smartphone, multi-platform support, and amazing 38-hour battery life plus quick-charge over USB-C, providing a 6 hour boost in 15 minutes! It also has among the best microphones in business, providing clear audio for everyone you’re talking to!

    The Guru’s Tip

    There are many pretenders to the throne at this pricepoint, but SteelSeries is simply better.

  • The Ultimate Gaming Headset

    SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless

    $284
    SteelSeries has humble roots, starting as a mousemat manufacturer in the early 2000s. But as with its glass surface mousemat that revolutionized the gaming industry, it always goes big in every market it enters. Such is the case with headsets, where it quickly became a design leader. That effort has culminated in the Nova Pro, which is quite simply the best gaming headset ever released. It offers pro-grade Parametric EQ for unequaled immersion, ambient noise cancellation, a hot-swappable battery for uninterrupted play, and an innovative multi-connect system. And of course, it packs in audiophile-level drivers for powerful sound reproduction!

    The Guru’s Tip

    The key to this headset's power is the base station, which even has a built-in LCD display!

  • Noise-Cancelling Headphones

    Sony WH-1000XM5

    $398
    There are a lot of headphones out there marketed as noise cancelling, but most just aren’t very good. Sony’s WH-1000XM5, on the other hand, is very, very good. In fact it’s the best! That’s because not only does it have excellent noise cancellation, it also sounds awesome, which is something the other big contenders miss. 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 3 hours in 3 minutes), touch controls, a slim, folding design with collapsible case, and a crystal-clear mic for making calls.

    The Guru’s Tip

    These headphones are available in a classy white color scheme, which Sony refers to as silver on the product page.

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