PC desktop speakers usually suck. Most of the ones you see in electronics stores center around a particle board subwoofer and satellite speakers that remind me (and sometimes sound like) the cups with string tied to them that you used to play 'telephone' with when you were a kid. As gamers, we have countless headsets to pick from, but pickings are slim when it comes to quality desktop speakers.
In my own personal search for a quality set of PC desktop speakers, I made it a bit of a side quest here at CES to find the best sets on the floor. Here are the two that really stood out at CES 2014. They're both pricey, but you're getting sound that's far beyond your standard desktop speaker with each.
Polk Hampden powered loudspeakers -- MSRP ~ $399
Hot damn! The Polk Hampden sound amazing. These are two-way speakers that use a 4 1/2" polypropylene woofer and a 1" silk tweeter to put out some surprisingly rich, high-quality sound. Each woofer and tweeter gets its own amp to reduce distortion, which had all of the test music I heard sounding so nice that they were drawing attention.
They also look pretty slick with their built-in stands that have them aimed a bit upward. Their teak veneer finish is a bit retro, but the old-fashioned volume dial takes the retro theme over the top. I also love the gold-tinted driver and tweeter finish.
The Hampden is USB compatible to give a connection to its high-quality digital audio converter, letting you bypass your computer's standard gear for top quality sound (though there's also an analog input jack). That sound is huge, wide, and clean. It sparkles And it's plenty loud. It's like having full-sized bookshelf speakers on your desk, but without the amp, and in a cool, compact casing. It's built-in Bluetooth chip lets you stream from your devices wirelessly, too.
I keep thinking about these speakers.
Definitive Technology Incline -- MSRP $399
These stopped me dead in my tracks while walking the CES show floor today. They're sharp- looking black pillars that lean back a bit, fixed on an aluminum base. These would look outstanding on any desktop.
And coming from Definitive Technology, a company known for their high-end speakers, their sound matches their looks. Though the Incline are designed to work with computers, laptops, and tablets, they sound like bigger speakers. They're bipolar, giving them a wide, home theater-ish sound. The test material I heard made them sound much bigger than their size (about 12 inches tall).
The bass radiators put out a surprising amount of low end, but if you need more, the Incline support an optional subwoofer.
These are powered by the USB connection, which also serves as an audio source connection. Beyond that, optical and analog ports are also provided.
While I like them both, I feel like I'd like the Polk speakers more for music enjoyment, and the Definitive Technology set more for games and movies. But both are very impressive.