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Best Desktop Computer Speakers: 2021 Holiday Buying Guide

Working remotely? Here are some of the best desktop computer speakers that you need to consider if that has become your new reality.

Audioengine A2+ Wireless Desktop Speakers in Red

Chanukah, Christmas, Festivus, and Kwanza are around the corner and far more meaningful for people this year. The pandemic separated families and I think many of us are looking forward to a normal holiday for the first time in 2 years. My father is working from home suddenly and he wanted to know what his genius son recommended in terms of the best desktop computer speakers.

If your office job went remote and you’ve become accustomed to working from home during the pandemic, you’ve probably spent a lot of time working from your new desktop. It’s a huge change for most people and while millions of people have already begun the process of returning to the office – a lot of people have decided that they prefer the new normal. The end of the daily commute has saved people time and money; which partially explains the surge in hi-fi sales in certain categories. People are listening to a lot more music. Hybrid office work is the new normal for many of us.

 If you spend a lot of time listening to music via headphones, it would make a lot of sense to consider a portable Dongle DAC that will fit inside a jacket pocket or laptop bag, but also double as your desktop amplifier/DAC as well. There are high-end desktop headphone amplifiers/DACs like the AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt and Helm Bolt which are small enough to fit in your pocket. 

Invest in stands. Your listening height at your desk is not the same as your favorite chair in the living room. 

A desktop computer speakers system creates a near field listening situation; your listening position is much closer to the loudspeaker which will minimize the impact of the sound reflecting off surfaces like your desk, computer monitor, ceiling, and walls beside and behind you. 

Good Desktop Computer Speakers (Under $500)

Audioengine A2+ Desktop Speakers on DS1 Stands in Black
Audioengine A2+ Speakers in black (also available in red or white) on tilted DS1 Stands
  • Audioengine A2+ Loudspeakers – $269.00/pr
  • Audioengine DS1 Loudspeaker Stands – $29.00/pr
  • Helm Audio Bolt USB/DAC – $99.99
  • AudioQuest Evergreen 3.5mm to RCA Cable – $59.99

Audioengine is one of our favorite manufacturers of affordable desktop computer loudspeakers because they offer great sound quality and the right mix of connectivity options. They also have a slightly warmer tonal balance which we find preferable in an active loudspeaker used on a desktop. The A2+ sound much larger than they look; their 2.75” aramid fiber woofer and ¾” silk dome tweeter driven by an internal 60-watt amplifier (30 watts per channel) can more than keep up with the music when pushed, but don’t expect them to work miracles. 

Audioengine includes an internal 16-bit/48kHz DAC, and while that certainly suffices for MP3s and CD Red Book, the addition of an external 24-bit/96kHz or even 32-bit/384kHz and DSD DAC makes them perform even better. Better resolution, tighter bass, and improved transparency.

The Helm Audio Bolt DAC has flown beneath the radar because of more popular options from AudioQuest, but it’s the real deal and very affordable. Headphone enthusiasts have begun to figure out what we’ve known for months; the Bolt DAC is one of the best Dongle DACs on the market.

Total: $457.98

Better Desktop Computer Speakers (Under $1,200)

Q Acoustics 3020i Bookshelf Loudspeakers White
Q Acoustics 3020i in white (also available in black and walnut)
  • Q Acoustics 3020i Loudspeakers – $349.00/pair
  • NAD C 316BEE V2 Integrated Amplifier – $449.00
  • Schiit Audio Modi 3+ DAC – $99.00
  • IsoAcoustics Aperta Stands – $199.99
  • QED XT25 Speaker Cable – $99.95

Q Acoustics offers far more expensive loudspeakers in its lineup, but the 3020i bookshelf loudspeakers are one of our favorites; their biggest sin is one of omission. Bass response is punchy, but it definitely rolls off. The trade-off is exceptional clarity, an airy top end, and first-rate imaging. 

The NAD C 316BEE V2 is one of the best integrated amplifiers below $750 and is built to NAD’s usual high standards. Don’t be confused by its power rating; this amplifier can drive far more difficult loads and has excellent synergy with the 3020i and 3050i loudspeakers. The C 316BEE V2 has a midrange bump that makes the loudspeakers sound far more vibrant but without sacrificing its smooth sounding treble. 

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The Modi 3+ features multiple digital inputs (USB, Coaxial, Optical) and the 24-bit/192kHz DAC will elevate the sound quality of all of your favorite streaming services like Tidal, Qobuz, or Spotify.

Total: $1,196.94

Best Desktop Computer Speakers (Under $2,000)

PSB Alpha P3 Bookshelf Speakers
PSB Alpha P3 in walnut (also available in black)
  • PSB Alpha P3 loudspeakers – $279.00/pair
  • Cambridge Audio AXA35 Integrated Amplifier – $350.00
  • REL TZero MKIII Subwoofer – $449.00
  • AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt USB DAC – $329.95
  • IsoAcoustics Aperta Loudspeaker Stands – $199.99/pair
  • AudioQuest Evergreen 3.5mm to RCA Cable – $59.99
  • QED XT25 Loudspeaker Cable – $99.95

Total: $1767.88

Paul Barton (PSB) is one of the world’s most respected high-end loudspeaker designers with a forty-year track record of success that puts him in very elite company. Barton has shifted his focus to creating really affordable high-end loudspeakers and his latest model; the $200 Alpha P3 is a work of art. Wrapped in layers of brilliant acoustic engineering. Once you get over the realization that you will not hear very much below 60 Hz, the small Alpha P3 (8.7”H x 5.1” W x 6.9” D) get very little wrong with a remarkably clean sounding midrange and extended top end that make them ideal for a desktop system. 

Finished in an American Walnut vinyl veneer, the Alpha P3’s tweeter sits below the 4” midrange-woofer which is unusual for a two-way monitor and makes a pair of desktop stands even more necessary to make sure the tweeter hits your ears and not your chest. The Iso-Acoustics loudspeaker stands are used in studios all over the world and are very easy to adjust.

The Cambridge Audio AXA35 integrated amplifier has more than enough power to drive the P3 on a desktop and the included headphone amplifier and moving magnet phono section only adds to its versatility. Where this system takes a serious step forward is when we insert the AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt USB DAC; with support for MQA and 24-bit/96kHz hi-res digital audio.

Most consumers don’t consider adding a subwoofer below their desk, but the REL TZero MKIII doesn’t play by the same rules; the midrange on the PSB opens up even more and their sense of scale expands dramatically. Adding the bottom octaves transforms this desktop system in an office space. 

Totally Insane Desktop Computer Speakers (Under $3,000)

Polk Audio Reserve Series R200 Bookshelf Loudspeakers
Polk Audio Reserve R200
  • Polk Audio Reserve R200 Loudspeakers – $749.00/pair
  • Schiit Audio Vidar Power Amplifier – $699.00
  • Schiit Audio Lyr 2 Multibit Hybrid DAC/Headphone Amplifier – $699.00
  • IsoAcoustics Aperta Loudspeaker Stands – $199.99/pair
  • AudioQuest Carbon USB Cable – $169.95

Total: $2,516.94

Schiit Audio and Polk Audio are prime examples of 21st century audio companies that get it; they understand that the expensive high-end separates market is shrinking, and that the real growth is in the portable/desktop audio categories and affordable high-end loudspeakers. 

The Vidar can output more than 100 watts into 8 ohms, but it is the degree of control and tonality that will make you love this shoebox-sized amplifier. The Vidar runs a little warm; both in actual temperature and from a tonal perspective. Keep it well ventilated and away from prying little fingers. The Reserve R200/Vidar combination will engage you for hours and works well with all genres of music. 

The heart of this system is Schiit’s hybrid modular Lyr 2 Multibit DAC/headphone amplifier; the 24-bit/192kHz DAC connects to your computer through the USB digital input, and the internal headphone amplifier has multiple gain settings for both IEMs and demanding planar magnetic headphones from Audeze, HiFiMan, Meze Audio, or Dan Clark Audio. If you prefer listening to vinyl while you work, you can order the Lyr 2 with a phono module instead of the DAC. 

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