Laptops’ blend of portability, versatility and performance makes them valuable tools for work and play – but if there’s one area where almost all of them are lacking, it’s audio quality.
Advantages of laptop speakers
Because laptop speakers are so small, they almost always struggle to create the dynamic, full and detailed sound that accompanies so much of the digital media we consume. One solution is to plug in some headphones, but what if you want to fill an entire room with sound? In that case, you need some dedicated desktop speakers.
Connecting your laptop to speakers
There are a few different ways speakers can hook up to a laptop.
If the speakers and laptop are both equipped with Bluetooth, you can connect them wirelessly to a distance of around 10 metres. It’s easy to connect, but doesn’t give the highest quality connection.
Another method is to use a standard stereo audio cable to connect your laptop’s 3.5mm headphone jack to the speakers. This might be somewhat old-fashioned, but it is reliable.
Finally, some speakers will connect directly to your laptop’s USB port. This is the best option if audio quality is your main concern.
Laptop and PC speakers: Features to consider
Before buying, the most important thing to consider is whether you want the digital-to-analogue conversion to be done by your laptop, or externally by the speakers themselves: some of the pricier models (like the B&W MM-1 and Eclipse TD-M1 below) feature their own built-in digital-to-analogue converter (DAC), which draws raw digital audio information from your computer via USB and converts it to an analogue signal. Unless your PC has a high-end pro-quality sound card, it’s highly likely that the speaker’s own DAC will outperform it.
The other factor is size and portability. Most of our speaker recommendations below are designed to be kept permanently on your desk, but if you need a mobile solution there are battery-powered Bluetooth speakers like the Creative Roar 2 that’ll happily travel wherever you do.
The best budget laptop speakers £20 to £100
If you’re looking for a cheap and cheerful solution that’ll boost your laptop’s sonic skills without breaking the bank, this compact pair fits the bill nicely.
Edifier Exclaim E10BT
With an eye-catching design and strong all-round performance, these are just about the best speakers you can buy at this price. A nice balance of power and cost.
Creative Sound Blaster Roar 2
Battery-powered and lightweight, this Bluetooth-equipped portable speaker is aimed at road warriors looking for an on-the-go audio boost. It’ll also work with your smartphone and tablet, of course.
The best mid/high-end laptop speakers
Bose Companion 20
A simple, elegant desktop pair that connects via 3.5mm stereo cable, the Companion 20 exhibits great power and resonance for its diminutive size.
£399, John Lewis (only available in stores)
Thanks to a top-notch built-in DAC, the British-designed MM-1 delivers engaging full-range sound that’ll blow most similarly-sized desktop speakers out of the water: expect deep bass, tight treble and sweet mids.
With a host of connection options (including USB and Apple Airplay via wi-fi), excellent full-range performance and a breathtaking design, Eclipse’s premium speakers are a fine “money no object” choice.
All prices are correct at time of writing, but may go up or down.