HS70

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, divided into three categories: on-the-go, home office, and gaming. For those with some spare desk space wanting the best overall listening experience, we'd suggest a nice set of speakers. For those who want to work and play without disturbing or being disturbed by others, headphones make the most sense. And of course, with music available from so many devices today, a set of wireless speakers or headphones is a necessity!

For Summer 2018, our Speaker and Headset Buyer's Guide has a number of new additions, including the awesome Corsair HS70 Wireless Headset pictured above, which we recently reviewed. We've also added a low-cost Bluetooth headset for enjoying music on-the-go, as well as some great Bluetooth speakers for use with everything from desktop PCs to laptops to the Amazon Echo Dot! With the number of devices that now support Bluetooth, Bluetooth speakers are starting to make a lot of sense.

By the way, we need to make something clear: in general, a wired audio device will be superior to a wireless one, all else being equal. That being said, there's no denying that there are far more uses for wireless audio today than there were just a few years ago, so at this point, just about anyone can enjoy a wireless audio device. We particularly like wireless headphones, as they don't fly off our head when we stand up!

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!

Speakers/Headsets - Summer 2018

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 for use in the gym? Check out the TriBit Xsport Fly!

    The Battery-Powered Bluetooth Speaker:

    Tribit XSound Go Portable Bluetooth Speaker

    If 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!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Thanks to its use of the Bluetooth 4.2 standard, the XSound can deliver a range of up to 66 feet!

    Bargain Bluetooth Headset:

    Tribit XFree Tune

    We've had a lot of requests to recommend a low-cost Bluetooth wireless headset, and honestly, it took us a while to find one we really liked. Sure, there are plenty of expensive Bluetooth headsets out there, but most of them are sold at huge margins and really don't have the sound quality to back up their high prices. That's what makes Tribit's XFree Tune headset so disruptive to the market: Tribit is selling it at a great price! The Xfree Tune offers good audio quality, a solid Bluetooth connection, and excellent battery life (around 18 hours on a charge). Plus it's comfortable and folds up for portability. Simply put, you won't find a better headset anywhere near this price!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This is in fact a proper headset, in that it has a hidden built-in microphone, which we tested to confirm that it's there! Get all the details on this great headset in our hands-on 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.

    Noise-Cancelling Headphones:

    Sony WH1000XM2

    For the longest time, to get a true pair of noise-cancelling headphones, you had to go with a wired model. Now you have several options and the very best comes from a very big name: Sony. Yes, Bose's QuietComfort 35 is the biggest player in the market, but that doesn't mean it's the best. Sony has the technical chops to beat Bose at its own game, and serves up more features and better battery life for the same price, plus equal noise cancelling ability.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Sony hasn't given these headphones a particularly catchy model name, but if you want to spice it up a bit, you can refer to them by their codename: 1000X Mark 2. Easier to say than WH1000XM2!

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.

    Mid-Range PC Speakers w/ Bluetooth:

    Creative T30 Wireless

    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 T30 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 given their built-in Bluetooth and NFC functionality, they're perfect for listening to music via your laptop, phone, tablet, or Amazon Echo Dot!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that for desktop PC use, you'll want to stick with a hard-wired connection, even if your PC has Bluetooth, as the audio quality will be superior.

Gaming

    The Bargain Gaming Headset:

    HyperX Cloud Core

    Looking for a moderately-priced headset to use for gaming, your smartphone, or chat? Then check out the brand-new Cloud Core from HyperX. Simply put, you cannot get a better headset at this price, 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 that comes courtesy of huge 53mm drivers, the Core gets the job done in spectacular fashion without making things complicated!

    The Guru's Tip:

    The main way HyperX has kept the price on this headset low is not by sacrificing audio or build quality, but by removing the onboard volume control. That's fine by us!

    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. 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 Budget Wireless PC Headset:

    Corsair HS70 Wireless

    If being wired to your PC just isn't your thing, then step up to this awesome new wireless headset. The HS70 cuts the cord with its 40-foot wireless range (we've literally been able to use these across the house from our test PC!). And it brings the bass (and everything else!) thanks to the big 50mm drivers, which are unheard of in wireless headsets under $100. It also provides the convenience of on-ear volume and mute controls. And the HS70's 16-hour battery life will keep you in the game all day long.

    The Guru's Tip:

    There's simply no other wireless headset to consider at this pricepoint. Find out why in our full review!

    The Premium Wireless PC Headset:

    HyperX Cloud Flight

    HyperX is no stranger to the gaming audio market, but it wasn't going to take any chances when it came time to add a wireless headset to its vaunted Cloud lineup. The Cloud Flight beats out all of its competitors with full-on 50mm drivers, just like the wired kits, that classic HyperX fit, and mind-blowing battery life of 30 hours with the red LEDs off (or ~15 hours with them on). This is in fact the model we've chosen to use as our everyday PC headset.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Want to learn more? 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 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. If you plan on using analog cables, however, the Z623 is a better value.

  1. The Best Budget Headphones Symphonized NRG Wood Headphones ($22.00)
  2. The Battery-Powered Bluetooth Speaker Tribit XSound Go Portable Bluetooth Speaker ($36.00)
  3. Bargain Bluetooth Headset Tribit XFree Tune ($43.00)
  4. The Audiophile's Headphones Audio-Technica ATH-M50x ($129.00)
  5. Noise-Cancelling Headphones Sony WH1000XM2 ($298.00)
  6. Mid-Range PC Speakers Creative Inspire T10 ($45.00)
  7. Mid-Range PC Speakers w/ Bluetooth Creative T30 Wireless ($95.00)
  8. The Bargain Gaming Headset HyperX Cloud Core ($60.00)
  9. The Premium Gaming Headset HyperX Cloud Alpha Pro ($100.00)
  10. The Budget Wireless PC Headset Corsair HS70 Wireless ($100.00)
  11. The Premium Wireless PC Headset HyperX Cloud Flight ($160.00)
  12. The High-End 2.1 Speaker Set Logitech Z623 ($120.00)