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The Best Speaker & Headset Buyer’s Guide – Summer 2021

By Ari Altman | Published June 22, 2021 | Updated June 22, 2021

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 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.

For Summer 2021, our Speaker and Headset Buyer’s Guide lists out picks for the top 10 audio products on the market, each representing a different market niche. Among these are “truly wireless” earbuds for working out or commuting, fantastic gaming headsets at every pricepoint, and the best noise-canceling headset. We also list the USB studio microphone we personally use for all our YouTube videos and video conferencing, as well as a wide range of speakers for every user. Seriously, we cover the whole market in just 10 products, and every single one is well under $200, because if you buy for performance rather than prestige, you can actually get a tremendous value!

By the way, we need to make something clear: in general, while a wired audio device will be superior to a wireless one at the same price, the comfort and convenience of wireless tech makes it a feature worth paying good money for, and with the massive improvements in wireless audio fidelity we’ve witnessed over the past few years, we have no hesitation recommending wireless gear to everyone!

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! And remember, you can support continued development of this guide by using the links to the products we recommend!

Home/Small Office

  • 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

    Note that some folks are a bit confused by the USB aspect of these speakers, thinking that they offer a single connection for power and audio. That's not quite right - the USB is exclusively for power, while a 3.5mm audio cable is still used for audio. We think that's just fine - what it eliminates is the bulky power adapter and the need for a free outlet.

  • 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, as we found in our full review!
    The Guru’s Tip

    You can easily use these in wired mode with your PC with a simple 3.5mm analog connection.

  • 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 Logitech does with its stylish and cost-effective Z207 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!

  • Anker has been making Bluetooth accessories for a long time, and its Life A1 true wireless earbuds are a great example of why it dominates the market. They offer 9 hours of playtime, 8mm driver for great sound, and a secure fit thanks to the “AirWings” inserts, which hold the earbuds in your ears. Plus they have an IPX7 rating, making them sweat and rainproof!

    The Guru’s Tip

    The charging case included with these earbuds an extra 1.5 hours of playback in just 10 minutes and a total of 35 hours of additional playback. Plus it can charge in two ways: via USB Type-C or via a wireless Qi charging pad.

  • There are a lot of headphones out there marketed as noise cancelling, but most just aren’t very good. Sony’s WH-1000XM4, on the other hand, is very, very good. The best in fact! That’s because not only do they have excellent noise cancellation, they also sound awesome. 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 5 hours in 10 minutes), touch controls, a foldable design, wearing detection that shuts off sound when you put the headphones down, and a built-in mic for phone calls.

    The Guru’s Tip

    These headphones are available in 3 classy colors: black, blue, and silver.

  • 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

    This is the mic we use for all our YouTube videos, and it has never let us down!

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Gaming

  • HyperX absolutely nailed the design of the HyperX Cloud Stinger, which is why it has remained one of the best-selling gaming headsets on the market since its release. Offering an ultralight, ultra-comfortable design, big 50mm drivers, a flip-to-mute mic, and a sleek design, they simply can’t be beat. Learn more in our full review!

    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.

  • 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.

  • Combining ultra-high-end performance with incredible comfort, this wireless headset from Corsair is the ideal all-day companion for listening to the latest market news. This headset also has an audiophile-grade microphone, perfect for teleconferencing.
    The Guru’s Tip

    We've been using our Virtuoso headset daily since it was released, and we wouldn't trade it for anything!

  • 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

    Need wireless connectivity? Then go for the Z625/Bluetooth adapter bundle on the same product page!

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