Recommendations for computer speakers

I’m curious what people recommend for computer speakers these days.

For the last 15-20 years, I’ve been listening to music from my Mac via a pair of Altec Lansing speakers that sit behind my monitors. There’s no room on the desk to get them in front of the monitors, so I point away from me to bounce sound off the wall behind them. There’s also a subwoofer on the ground, and a wired controller that makes it easy for me to adjust volume with a knob (I far prefer knobs over any other type of control for volume) and turn the speakers on and off with the press of a button, which makes it easy to silence everything for a conversation or phone call without fiddling with Music or Control Center or SoundSource.

In the interests of radical transparency, here’s what my setup looks like, without any effort to clean up. :slight_smile: (The top picture shows my main 2020 iMac and Thunderbolt Display; the second picture shows a 2014 iMac that I can theoretically use sitting down, but I very seldom do.)

The Altec Lansing speakers, or at least their controller, seems to have given up the ghost. It cuts in and out, the power button works unreliably, and the volume knob often does nothing at all. It just happened suddenly, with no changes I can think of. I may try to open it up and see if there’s an obvious loose connection or something, but I’m fairly weak on actual electronics repair (as opposed to simple parts replacement).

It turns out that I dislike listening to music through the speakers of either the iMac or the Thunderbolt Display. They’re just not centered properly so the music is always coming from off to a side. I’ve actually solved that now using a Multi-Output Device with both sets of speakers created in Audio MIDI Setup, but the jury remains out on whether or not that will be acceptable as a long-term solution. I’ll definitely be writing an article about this—it’s an interesting capability that I had never before explored with some unexpected issues and fixes.

One obvious solution is a HomePod or HomePod mini. I brought one of ours into my office the other day and put it behind my standing workspace (in front of the old 2014 iMac on the backside of the desk) and it worked well enough. I liked being able to control it via Siri, and I liked having the music not quite so close me, but I didn’t like not being able to mute it with a tap (since I couldn’t reach it easily enough). If it were closer, that would work, but it would then likely be too close again.

So I’d like to know what external speakers you use for listening to music on your Mac, how you like it, and if you would recommend it. I primarily listen to classic and alternative rock, and I don’t have great ears, so it doesn’t need to be the absolute best quality. I do think I’d like to recreate my two-speaker plus subwoofer setup, since I’m already missing the extra bass from the subwoofer. And I very much want a separate controller so I don’t have to find a key on my keyboard (yeah, I know I can improve this with Keyboard Maestro, and I might still) or click a tiny control onscreen to mute.

I have two powered Genelec audio monitors which I’ve migrated to my television room as generally I am quite happy with the internal speakers of my 2019 iMac.

I have an Audioquest Dragonfly DAC on the iMac which now has my Sony studio headphones attached.

I use Rogue Ameoba’s SoundSource to move between them and my AirPod Pros.

I know I’ve mentioned this here before…I worked for decades in ad sales with the consumer electronics industry. Something I was told by quite a few people on the audio side, including people who worked for companies that primarily made humongous speakers, is that size doesn’t really matter, unless you are in a theater sized room. Companies make humongous speakers because people were willing to shell out bigger bucks for them.

We’ve had Bose speakers for ages, and they make computer speakers. We’re apartment dwellers, so it’s not like we need sound that will carry through multiple rooms.

You don’t specify your price range, which will factor in your choices.

Back in 2004 (?!!), I bought a Logitech® Z-5500 system, which has 5 fairly small speakers and a subwoofer, connects to my Mac(s) via optical digital, and importantly for me, has a physical knob that sits on my desk to control sound and settings (it also has a remote, fwiw). I paid a couple hundred dollars, money well spent. It looks like there is a newer version of this setup, per Amazon, " Logitech Z906 5.1 Surround Sound Speaker System - THX, Dolby Digital and DTS Digital Certified” for $300. This could be overkill for you though. The system is almost overkill for me, I rarely turn the volume up lest my neighbors complain, but the sound is great.

Since my ears are not “concert quality”, I simply have a speaker on either side of my desk, two more on the top shelf of my desk, and one sitting over by my office couch, plus the subwoofer next to my MacPro…

So many places where size doesn’t matter. :slight_smile:

I hadn’t gotten that far, since I haven’t the foggiest idea how much we spent for these Altec Lansing speakers (I think Tonya got them for me as a gift). I’d probably go up to the $300 range if necessary, since that’s roughly HomePod territory, and I listen to music on my Mac as much or more than on the HomePods we have (simply because I’m in front of my Mac so much of the day).

Thanks for the recommendation, though! I don’t think I could do a 5-speaker surround sound system because there’s no good way to get wires behind me.

Turns out, I don’t take advantage of the surround sound in that way, all the speakers are pointed at my face (not behind my head) for this same reason, I didn’t want to bother with wires behind me.

Although they require batteries, which can be a PITA, there are lots of wireless speaker options.

And whatever you decide on, you don’t really need the TK421 option. Warning: Some Xrated, very bad language and very objectionable content:

Yeah, for me, wireless just isn’t worth the pain of dealing with charging for something that’s going to sit in the same place for years.

Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 THX are around $80 at Costco at present. Old school but sound good to my aging ears.

1 Like

Klipsch ProMedia speakers are great. I’ve been using one of their 2.1 systems for almost 20 years and they still sound great.

The controls are attached to one of the speakers, which can be inconvenient if they are not positioned in easy reach. On the other hand, I rarely, if ever, adjust those controls. I leave them at one setting and then use my Mac’s volume control (adjusting the volume to the line-out jack) for my day-to-day- adjustment.

Adam, Here’s my setup.
Harmon Kardon SoundSticks III 2.1 now $199.00 Amazon; mine is the original version and they’ve been awesome. Note they are at ear level on either side of the monitor and the base is under the desk.

Boom 3D by Global Delight is a must-have sound app. It integrates with Sys Prefs Sound. I use the headset port for connection. I can’t say enuf about this app. Test sound from MBP, then with Boom. and then 3D Boom. Total rich sound. Boom will also analyze your room for the best sound.

My desk has IKEA cabinets and I replaced the original 5’ top with a Home Depot 24"x80" hollow core white primed slab door. I wanted more desktop space to work with. I say this as an out-of-the-box solution where you replace or cover the top shelf with a bigger perhaps deeper shelf. You’d have to cut a hole to side over the rack frame of cut a notch to slide around the base of the upper monitor. A simple weekend job.
HTH Mike

1 Like

I can’t find this among the listed features, Michael, can you elucidate, e.g. does it use a calibrated mic?

I’ve had a set of 1st gen Bose Companion 2 speakers on my desk for more than 15 years.

I love them!

They aren’t very big, but they are capable of very big sound. The revision I have has double inputs so I can also connect them to another audio source.

I do occasional narration and Voiceover work, so right now they’re connected to a Focusrite Scarlett Solo USB audio interface as studio monitors.

I cannot recommend them highly enough.

Those Gennies must’ve made perfect computer speakers–near field is what they’re designed for. I run a pair of 8020s with a Hsu sub as my (lately much downsized) main system. But they’re pro gear and $700US a pair for even the smaller 8010s is pretty steep.

Yes, we used a pair of 8020s for editing our feature film. Perfect for the task.

I am a big fan of Audio Engine speakers. I have three pairs around the house: computer, kitchen, and basement workshop. Very nice, balanced sound.

The A1 is least expensive, but the volume knob is on the back. I use a Focusrite Scarlett Solo with the A1’s on my iMac, which I think you would like because the volume knob has a nice feel to it.

1 Like

A while ago I figured that if I was going to be listening to music I might as well do it properly. The reciever in the living room keeps getting updated everytime the hdmi spec changes radically so every 5 years or so there’s an old amplifier without a purpose. I use a pair of KEF Q150s which laying on their side sit underneath my pair of monitors and might just about be in your budget. Plus side (like the HomePod) is that I can carry on listening to music during system installs and reboots.

Good question. Although I have the Boom 3D version I haven’t messed with it. My original version had a different feature which now escapes me.
[ came back back to write this]
Ok, I’ve been futzing with settings for 30 minutes and this is what I found:

  • click Apple Menu icon to select Open Boom

  • Toggle the O/P icon to select the speaker output.

  • Click Equalizer icon and click Change Presets, select from list “MacBook Pro (in my case”). Msg shows “This equalizer preset has been calibrated for perfect sound”.
    I assume settings from Sys/Prefs/Sound selected to determine devices, or select your type of music - Pop, Classical, etc.

  • Click Ambience through Pitch to get a sense of diff equalizer settings.

  • Then click the 3D Surround icon and notice the Boost of this previous setting. Big difference.

  • Clicking the 3D Surround icon and then the bar below it with the arrow reveals a chair surrounded by 7 speakers.
    You can toggle each speaker output on/off. Not sure what to do with this since I have have a 2.1 setup.
    However, clicking the Back Surround speakers off/on does alter the overall fullness as though I have a 4.1 setup.

  • At this point, browser search for Boom 3D Help for how to use this page. There is no Help setting in the Boom pages.


search “global delight boom”

Search "is boom 3d worth it” equals tons of positive reviews, e.g. LifeHacker.


Amen to that! I’ve got a pair of the original Soundsticks. Forever. My bass speaker is on the floor and the tweet towers on the ends of my desk. I don’t like to move them because it takes me 15 minutes to figure out how to reconnect them.

I stuck my computer speakers to the underside of my table using double-sided tape. Avoids dust collection. There’s a subwoofer on the floor. Altec Lansing 621, which are ancient. Guessing 15–20YO.

They have a on/off switch and volume control that sits on the desk, which is good. My wish would have been that there also was a headphone jack on the desk so that I could attach headphones without detaching the speaker jack.

For background music listening, I prefer a separate device. It was a radio. Or for now, it is a HomePod.

Edit: I just tried Boom 3D. It’s part of Setapp. It installs and extension, and requires a computer reboot during install. Results are quite impressive on the Altec Lansing speakers.