Cloud

If you're looking for "sound" advice on sound, you've come to the right place! Our Speaker and Headset Buyer's Guide has been updated for Fall 2017 with our top 10 favorite models at every price point, divided into four categories: home office, on-the-go, gaming, and home theater. Of course, some users may end up wanting devices from several of these categories. For those with spare desk space wanting the best overall listening experience, we'd suggest a nice set of speakers. But if you also want to work and play without disturbing or being disturbed by others, then you'll want to go with headphones. Note that all of the gaming headsets we list include a built-in microphone, which gives them the benefit of being useful for chat and video conferencing too!

By the way, we need to make something very clear: in general, a wired audio device will be superior to a wireless one, all else being equal. For example, our top choice for PC and console gamers is the brand-new $100 HyperX Cloud Alpha, shown here, which will sound far better than a wireless kit at its pricepoint. That being said, wireless headphones are far more convenient than wired models (no headphones flying off your head when you stand up!). So we list a couple of great high-end wireless headphones in this guide, specifically a gaming headset from Logitech and a noise-cancelling headset from Bose. 

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

Speakers/Headsets - Fall 2017

Home/Small Office

    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. And with bass being handled by the main speakers, you don't have to struggle to find space for a bit subwoofer box under your desk.

    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.

On-the-Go

    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 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.

    Noise-Cancelling Headphones:

    Bose QuietComfort 35 Wireless

    For the longest time, to get a true pair of noise-cancelling headphones, you had to go with a wired model. We could never get onboard with this tradeoff, because when we're on a train or a plane, or even sitting on the couch at home, we just don't like getting tangled up in cords. So when Bose came out with its QuietComfort 35 Bluetooth headphones, we sat up and took notice. We've tested this kit, and while we haven't yet published a full review, we can say that they connect effortlessly, block noise as well as ever, and are ultra-comfortable.

    The Guru's Tip:

    The one thing that Bose QuietComfort headphones have never done better than its competitors is reproduce actual sound. You don't buy these because you want the best audio quality for the money. You buy them for their noise cancelling properties, and in the case of the model 35, their wireless connectivity.

Gaming

    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, along with high-end sound, the Stinger gets the job done in spectacular fashion without making things complicated!

    The Guru's Tip:

    To learn 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:

    HyperX Cloud Alpha Pro

    Want the best wired gaming headset on the market? Then go for the new Cloud Alpha Pro from HyperX, shipping Sept. 25th. Building on the tremendous success of its predecessors the Cloud and Cloud II, the Cloud Alpha raises the bar without raising the price. Sticking to the aesthetic design that's become a staple of eSports events worldwide, the latest Cloud changes just about everything else. On the audio end, it features dual-chamber drivers to separate bass from the mid-range and highs, producing clearer, more accurate sound, along with a new in-line remote. On the comfort end, it boasts a slick new expanding headband that can fit just about anyone, with far greater range than the previous Cloud models, along with softer, more comfortable earcups. And thanks to its standard 3.5mm connector, it will work with just about any device, be it PC, console, or phone.

    The Guru's Tip:

    You can learn more about the cutting-edge Cloud Alpha in our YouTube interview with HyperX's senior technology manager!

    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!). And it also offers DTS 7.1 surround sound (which we've found works amazingly-well in games encoded with a true surround soundtrack), while providing the convenience of on-ear volume and mute controls. And 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!). Want to learn more? See our full review!

    The Guru's Tip:

    G933

    If you'd like cross-platform compatibility (think game consoles and phones), go for the Logitech G933 Artemis Spectrum. It offers the same audio quality as the G533, but includes a wired audio converter, whereas the G533 will only work via a USB adapter plugged into a PC. The one tradeoff: it only runs about 8 hours do to its gamer-friendly LED lighting. Need more info? See our full review!

    The High-End 2.1 Speaker Set:

    Logitech Z623

    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! 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.

    The Guru's Tip:

    The newer Z625 model, released in August 2016, builds upon the success of the Logitech Z623 kit by adding an optical audio port for higher-quality sound than standard 3.5mm analog cables can provide. If your motherboard has optical digital out, this is a great feature to have. Not only will it sound a bit better, but it's also much easier to connect as it requires just one cable instead of three. Note that the release of the Z625 actually drove the price of the older Z623 kit way, way down, making the latter the better overall value.

Home Theater

    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!