The 10 Best Powered Speakers of 2018

Nothing beats the convenience of a powered speaker. When it comes to plug-and-play, you don’t want to be messing with amplifiers, receivers, cables, and and and! Especially when it comes to compact bookshelf speakers. You want something that’s got everything you need, built-in and ready to go, straight out of the box. In this article, we take a look at the best powered speakers of 2018. Among our recommendations, you’ll find speakers for general listening, PC applications, and even studio monitors. While we do cover studio monitor options, these recommendations are not by any means meant just for studio professionals. These speakers can also be used for your PC or as a quality bookshelf speaker in your living room.

We’ll start by answering two of the most common questions when it comes to powered speakers before getting into the speaker choices themselves. Be sure to check out our buyer’s guide at the end of this article too!

What is a Powered Speaker?

Speakers are broken into two separate categories, active (also known as, powered) and passive. Powered speakers have a built-in amplifier, eliminating the need for an external receiver or amplifier. For bookshelf speakers, you’ll often have one speaker powered with the second speaker passive. The passive speaker connects to the active speaker via a speaker cable to receive single and power.

The Difference Between Studio Monitors and Bookshelf Speakers

Powered bookshelf speakers and proper studio monitors are very different in their design, both sonically and aesthetically. Typically, a studio monitor will have the volume control, buttons, and inputs on the rear. You usually have a desktop sound card which allows you to access the volume control so there is no need for this to be on the front. It keeps the speaker’s face looking clean and uncluttered.

A powered bookshelf speaker, on the other hand, will have the volume control and, in some circumstances, even a headphone and ⅛-inch AUX input on the front. This is because it’s designed more for the consumer rather than professional use so ease of access is important.

Audio Differences

When mixing, a studio engineer is looking for a speaker with a flat frequency response. If for example, the engineer mixes on a speaker with a bass boost, he or she will compensate for this in the mix by cutting the bass. When you go to listen to the final mix on a normal pair of speakers, the bass will be very low or non-existent due to the engineer cutting or reducing bass frequencies. For this reason, a speaker with as flat a frequency response as possible is required to get a balanced mix.

The problem with a flat studio monitor is that it’s not always an exciting listening experience. Nowadays, speaker and headphone manufacturers perform all sorts of EQ adjustments and manipulation to make their products sound more exciting to listen to. If you’re used to a nice fat bass sound, you might not get that from a studio monitor but a powered bookshelf speaker will be tuned for user experience over flat frequency response.

Which is Better?

Ultimately, sound-quality is a subjective thing. So what I might like, you might not find as exciting and vice versa. My advice is if you like to listen to a wide range of music – especially acoustic, rock, classic and these instrumental type genres, then a studio monitor might be a better choice. If you like more urban and dance genres, then a bookshelf speaker with a 5” low-frequency driver might be more of what you’re after.

What is a Near-Field Monitor?

A near-field monitor is sonically designed to be listened to at close proximity. So essentially, you need to be sitting in front of the speakers in close proximity to get the true experience of the speaker. Often sitting too far away will result in loss of frequencies, especially bass. If you’re looking for a speaker for your living area, do not choose a near-field monitor. A near-field monitor is best suited for use in the studio or at your PC where you’re sitting close to the speakers and they’re both firing at head height to get the best audio experience.

The Technical Stuff

Throughout this article, you’ll like come across some words which may be unfamiliar to you. This section briefly explains each of these technical terms.

LF Driver –
This stands for “low-frequency driver”. A low-frequency driver is essentially the speaker. Some might even call this a woofer in a speaker enclosure although they hardly ever produce sub frequencies so calling it a woofer would be incorrect.
 
HF Driver –
The HF driver is also referred to as a tweeter.
 
Crossover Point –
This is where the frequencies are split within the speaker’s crossover. Bookshelf speakers are typically 2-way speakers which means the crossover sends one frequency range to the LF driver and the other to the HF driver.
 
Power Output –
(RMS vs Peak)
Power output is measured in watts expressed as W. Without going into too much detail, RMS is the nominal output a speaker operates at whereas Peak is the maximum wattage a speaker is designed to handle.
 
Frequency Response –
A frequency response of a speaker is the frequency range a speaker is capable of producing. This can be somewhat misleading as a speaker’s frequency response is never linear. In the case of a bookshelf speaker, the bass response is far lower than the mid-range and treble response. You can only truly gauge a speaker’s frequency range by listening to it.
 

1. JBL Professional 305P MKII Powered 5″ Two-Way Studio Monitor

JBL Professional 305P MKII

Frequency Response:
49Hz – 20kHz
Dimensions:
11.75″ x 7.3″ x 9.9″
Power Output:
82W per speaker
More Specifications
  • LF Driver: 5”
  • HF Driver: 1”
  • Crossover Point: 1725Hz 4th order acoustic Linkwitz-Riley
  • Weight:10.43 lbs per speaker
  • Inputs:XLR, ¼-inch balanced TRS

The JBL 3-series has been a popular choice for audio professionals and general consumers for many years. The MKII is the latest release of the 3-series which has seen considerable changes, both technical and aesthetic. For this review, we chose the 305P MKII, the smallest of the three models in this range of powered speakers from JBL Professional.

The 305P MKII is a powered two-way studio monitor which features a 5” low-frequency driver with 1” tweeter with a 1725Hz 4th order acoustic Linkwitz-Riley crossover point.

At first glance the tweeter appears to be mounted inside a horn, however, this is not a horn but a new technology from JBL. The horn design is supposed to widen the “sweet spot” of the 305P MKII making the speaker sound good no matter where you sit within the 120° dispersion. This design also improves clarity and separation which improves the detail of what you’re listening to. For mixing in the studio, this is very important for referencing tracks. If you’re using the 305P MKII as a bookshelf speaker for music, you’ll appreciate music on another level.

One of the biggest improvements in the MKII is the addition of two switches, one for low-frequency and the other for high-frequency. The LF switch is called boundary EQ which appears to be a shelf EQ at 70Hz. The purpose of this is to attenuate the sub-frequencies to compensate for any influence the surfaces around the speaker may have on acoustics. There are three settings, 0dB, -1.5dB and -3dB.

The HF trim performs a similar function in that it can be adjusted to compensate for the acoustics of the room. You have the option of trimming up or down by 2dB or leaving the switch in a neutral position or 0dB.

Above the EQ adjustments on the rear are two inputs, XLR, and a balanced ¼-inch jack. There is also an input sensitivity switch which allows you to choose between +4dBu or -10dBu. A master volume allows you to set the volume of the 305P MKII.

The audio quality of the JBL 305P MKII is amazing. The detail and warmth which the 305P MKII produces are on another level, certainly living up to the JBL brand name. The bottom end is warm and punchy with an excellent sub-bass response even though this is only a 5” driver. The midrange and high frequencies offer such exceptional detail and clarity that you’re able to pick out the tail-end of reverb from instruments and vocals. The 305P MKII is an exciting speaker to listen to and certainly delivers studio quality audio.

What’s in the Box?

Included with the JBL Professional 305P MKII Powered 5″ Two-Way Studio Monitor:

  • JBL Professional 305P MKII
  • 1 x Power cable

JBL Professional 305P MKII Conclusion

At just $129 for a single powered speaker, the JBL Professional 305P MKII is extremely competitively priced, offering exceptional value for the consumer. The design aesthetic is minimal with a trendy gloss finish which will look good in both the studio or living room. The full sound and detail produced by the 305P MKII 5” is truly impressive and well worth the price tag.

The 305P MKII will be suited for use in the studio or as a speaker for listing to music at home. You might want to consider the larger 306P MKII or 308P MKII as better options for the studio.

2. Edifier R1280T Powered Bookshelf Speakers

Edifier R1280T Powered Bookshelf Speakers

Frequency Response:
Unspecified
Dimensions:
5.75” x 9.5” x 7”
Power Output:
42W RMS Combined
More Specifications
  • LF Driver: 4”
  • HF Driver: ½”
  • Crossover Point: Unspecified
  • Weight:10.8 lbs per speaker
  • Inputs:2 x stereo RCA

Edifier has become one of the most popular consumer audio brands in recent years. Their most popular products being their range of bookshelf speakers. The R1280T is one of Edifiers more compact, classic looking powered bookshelf speakers. The R1280T is sold as a pair at under $100 offering excellent value for your money.

The Edifier R1280T features a single 4” driver with ½” tweeter with each speaker producing 42W of power. There is also a baffle or bass port above the 4” driver for improved bass response and performance. While the Edifier R1280T isn’t the loudest powered bookshelf speaker on the market, it does deliver a significant amount of power and volume for its size.

The Edifier R1280T features one powered speaker which also includes a control panel and inputs. The second speaker is passive which links to the primary powered speaker via the supplied speaker cable.

The R1280T features two RCA inputs. This is convenient if you wish to use the speakers for your PC and perhaps an AUX item like your turntable, MP3 device or phone to play music. Edifier supplies you with an RCA – RCA and an RCA – ⅛-inch AUX cable for connecting to any device you wish.

The basic three-knob control on the R1280T allows you to adjust the treble and bass up and down as well as a master volume control. You also get 3-button remote which controls volume up/down and mute.

When it comes to audio quality, the Edifier R1280T performs better than expected for a pair of bookshelf speakers under $100. The bottom end is well defined with a nice punchy sound. Mids and highs offer good clarity with reasonably good detail. The speakers are surprisingly loud too. The pair of R1280T will comfortably fill a standard living area or office without being pushed to full volume.

What’s in the Box?

Included with the Edifier R1280T Powered Bookshelf Speakers:

  • 2 x Edifier R1280T (one active, one passive)
  • Power cable
  • Speaker cable
  • Remote control
  • RCA – RCA cable
  • RCA – ⅛-inch AUX cable

Edifier R1280T Powered Bookshelf Speakers Conclusion

If you’re looking for a pair of powered speakers for both PC and music playback, then the Edifier R1280T is a great choice. These powered speakers will work particularly well in a home office. With their warm, full sound, the R1280T will be great for playing vinyl records too. At under $100 for a pair of powered speakers, the Edifier R1280T offer excellent quality at an affordable price.

3. Yamaha HS5 Powered Studio Monitor

Yamaha HS5 Powered Studio Monitor

Frequency Response:
54Hz-30kHz
Dimensions:
6.7″ x 11.2″ x 8.7″
Power Output:
70W per speaker
More Specifications
  • LF Driver: 5”
  • HF Driver: 1”
  • Crossover Point:2kHz
  • Weight:11.7 lbs per speaker
  • Inputs:XLR, ¼-inch balanced TRS

The HS series from Yamaha features three different speaker options and a subwoofer. For this review, we looked at the Yamaha HS5 which is a 5” powered studio monitor and the smallest of the three speaker options in the HS Series. The HS Series looks strikingly similar to the NS10 with their while low-frequency driver and black enclosure. The Yamaha NS10 is a passive speaker which is widely considered the industry standard when it comes to studio monitors. While the HS Series looks similar to the NS10, they sound very different.

The HS5 features a 5” driver with a 1” tweeter capable of producing an impressive 70W of power. This means a pair of HS5 speakers would produce 140W of sound, more than enough for a studio and certainly powerful enough as home speakers. On the rear of the HS5 is a bass port for improved bass handling.

The resulting sound is a relatively flat sounding speaker with a slight bump in the upper midrange. The bottom end is tight and punchy with the bass port working well to deliver a nice rich bass sound. The mids are clear however there is a slight boost at 1kHz which makes vocals and instruments upfront and present. If you just intend using the HS5 for music playback, then this won’t be an issue. If you intend using the HS5 for studio use, you might find this will affect your final mix. The highs are bright and present without ever sounding harsh. For general playback, the HS5 is a warm sounding powered speaker and a pleasure to listen to.

The HS5 features two inputs on the rear, XLR, and balanced ¼-inch jack with a single master volume control. Also on the rear are two EQ control switches, one for low end and the other a high-frequency trim.

The low end or room control allows you to attenuate through what appears to be a high-pass filter roll off at 500Hz. There are three options available, 0dB, -2dB or -4dB. The room control allows you to compensate for any surfaces around the speaker position which may affect the low-end acoustics.

The high trim is a shelf EQ from 2kHz which you can either boost or cut by 2dB. This HF trim is also to adjust your HS5 depending on the acoustics of the room.

What’s in the Box?

Included with the Yamaha HS5 Powered Studio Monitor:

  • Yamaha HS5
  • Power cable

The Yamaha HS5 is also available in all white.

Yamaha HS5 Powered Studio Monitor Conclusion

The Yamaha HS5 is an exceptional powered speaker with stylish design features. This classic looking speaker will look amazing in any room but more importantly, sound amazing in any room. The HS5 is seriously loud and punchy, so if you are looking for something to play music in your office or living space, you will love the audio quality and sound this powered speaker produces. The HS5 is also a good reference speaker for putting together audio for YouTube videos or amateur movies.

For professional studio use, you might want to consider the Yamaha HS7 or HS8 which deliver a bigger sound with improved clarity and performance. Also available is the Yamaha HS8 Studio Subwoofer which sounds excellent when paired with the any of the HS Series speakers, especially the HS5 which has the smallest sub-bass response.

4. BEHRINGER MS40 24-Bit/192 kHz Digital 40-Watt Stereo Near Field Monitors

BEHRINGER MS40

Frequency Response:
50Hz-25kHz
Dimensions:
Unspecified
Power Output:
40W combined
More Specifications
  • LF Driver:4¾”
  • HF Driver:2½”
  • Crossover Point:Unspecified
  • Weight:Unspecified
  • Inputs:Optical, ⅛-inch AUX, stereo RCA, coaxial

BEHRINGER is well known for their quality professional audio equipment which is designed and manufactured to cater towards the budget end of the market. The BEHRINGER MS40 is a pair of digital powered speakers designed specifically for multimedia reference. So referencing audio for YouTube videos or other amateur movies, recording voiceovers, and general playback.

The MS40 features a 4¾” low-frequency driver with a 2½” tweeter producing 20W per speaker. While the MS40 might not be as powerful as many bookshelf powered speakers of a similar size, these speakers do get surprisingly loud.

Both MS40 speakers are powered linked by a single RCA type audio connector with an output from the primary speaker to the secondary MS40.

The MS40 deliver a surprising amount of low end, however, this isn’t as punchy and exciting as the Yamaha, JBL or even Edifier models featured in this article. The bass response is present but not without a solid definition. The mids and highs offer great clarity with the 2½” tweeter delivering excellent intelligibility, especially for vocals.

When it comes to inputs on the BEHRINGER MS40, you’re spoiled for choice. There are two input channels, the first for ⅛-inch AUX and the second for stereo RCA. Each channel has a separate volume control on the front of the primary MS40. You also have the option of two digital inputs for optical or coaxial. The digital inputs are great for use with TVs or PC soundcards.

On the front, beside the two volume controls for the two channels are tone controls for bass and treble. If you prefer to use headphones, there is a ⅛-inch headphone out on the front panel. When plugging in your headphones, the speakers auto-mute so you only have audio going through the cans. The volume and tone control still work as normal with the headphones plugged in.

What’s in the Box?

Included with the BEHRINGER MS40 Near Field Monitors:

  • 2 x BEHRINGER MS40
  • 2 x power cables

BEHRINGER MS40 Near Field Monitors Conclusion

The BEHRINGER MS40 is designed specifically for multimedia applications. So playback of audio from your YouTube videos, recording voice-overs, sampling audio, etc. The speakers would also make excellent PC speakers for your office.

While the MS40 produce good sound quality, it’s not what I would consider studio quality audio. For a professional studio, the MS40 just doesn’t achieve the level of audio quality you want from a pair of powered studio monitors. For beginners, amateur studio enthusiasts and multimedia professionals, the MS40 is an excellent choice. The speakers are certainly good enough for these applications and, most importantly, the BEHRINGER MS40 is affordable.

5. Audioengine A5+ Powered Speakers

Audioengine A5+ Powered Speakers

Frequency Response:
50Hz-22kHz
Dimensions:
10.75” x 7″ x 9″
Power Output:
50W RMS per speaker
More Specifications
  • LF Driver: 5”
  • HF Driver: ¾”
  • Crossover Point:Unspecified
  • Weight:Left Speaker – 15.4 lbs) | Right Speaker – 9.6 lbs
  • Inputs:⅛-inch, RCA

Audioengine is best known for their range of stylish, contemporary looking speakers. The Audioengine A5+ powered speakers are no different in this regard. The Kevlar speaker driver and minimal features give the Audioengine A5+ a trendy aesthetic, designed to look good with just about any decor. The A5+ comes in black, white and bamboo so I’m sure you’ll find a pair to match your room.

The A5+ feature a 5” low-frequency driver with ¾” tweeter delivering 50W RMS and 75W Peak per speaker. The primary speaker is active which powers the second passive speaker via the supplied speaker cable.

The Audioengine A5+ have some serious headroom. These are not the type of speakers you want to use as PC monitors unless you can mount them a few feet away, as they are just too powerful.

The sound the Audioengine A5+ deliver is perfect for listening to music. The low-end is rich and punchy while the detail in the mids and highs is exceptional. Even at high volumes, the A5+ sound incredible and really only come alive at around 40-50% volume.

This is why they don’t make the best PC speakers, at lower volumes you just don’t get the same intelligibility and detail as you do at 50%+ volume. At 40-50% volume, you can’t sit directly in front of the A5+ too long as the sound will become fatiguing. Having said that, there are many people using the A5+ for PC monitors and love them. I have noticed though that they tend to spread the speakers as wide as possible or mount them on the wall beside their PC monitor.
For an open living area, or if you are listening 2-3ft or more away, the Audioengine A5+ is perfect and can easily fill a medium to large living space at 50-60% volume.

The A5+ allows for ⅛-inch and stereo RCA inputs. There is also a stereo RCA output which could be used as a pre-out to connect a subwoofer or another set of speakers. Audioengine has the S8 powered subwoofer which pairs nicely with the A5+.

Next to the audio inputs is a USB port. This is not an input or output but simply a USB charging port for your mobile devices. My first thought was, why would I need this if I already have socket power? If you use the A5+ at your desk, the USB charging port on the rear eliminates the need for your charging cable to connect to the power source below the desk keeping your workspace cleaner and less cluttered. A small but welcomed convenience.

On the front of the A5+ is a digital volume control which does not have a volume indicator. There is an LED which flashes when you adjust the volume up and down and then stays solid when you are fully up or fully down. There is no indication of what percentage you’re at up or down. While this isn’t a big issue, it can be confusing for those who are used to a volume indicator.

The supplied remote allows you to adjust volume, mute and put the speakers into sleep mode.

What’s in the Box?

Included with the Audioengine A5+ Powered Speakers:

  • 2 x Audioengine A5+
  • 2 x Cloth speaker bag
  • Remote control
  • Speaker wire (16AWG), 3.75 meters (~12.3ft)
  •  Detachable power cord
  • ⅛-inch AUX audio cable, 2 meters (~6.5ft)
  •  RCA to RCA audio cable, 2 meters (~6.5ft)
  • Cloth cable storage bag

The Audioengine A5+ is available in black, white and bamboo.

Audioengine A5+ Powered Speakers Conclusion

If you want a pair of powered speakers with some serious power, then the Audioengine A5+ is an excellent choice. The audio quality is incredible with a generous amount of bass and good clarity across the frequency spectrum. The listening experience can be best described as “fun”. The Audioengine A5+ does have some EQ and processing to make them sound the way they do and therefore are not suitable for studio use. In my opinion, the Audioengine A5+ is best for music applications or even as your TV speakers for movies and gaming. If you do plan to use the A5+ in your office for your PC, make sure you have enough space to get a good spread or you’re able to mount the speakers away from your ears.

6. Mackie CR3 Studio Monitor

Mackie CR3 Studio Monitor

Frequency Response:
80Hz-20kHz
Dimensions:
8.2” x 5.5″ x 6.2″
Power Output:
50W Peak per speaker
More Specifications
  • LF Driver: 3”
  • HF Driver: ¾”
  • Crossover Point:3kHz
  • Weight:9.4 lbs per speaker
  • Inputs:Stereo ¼-inch, stereo RCA

The Mackie CR Series is one of the most popular powered speakers on the market. Primarily used as a pair of PC speakers or for referencing by multimedia professionals. The CR3 is the smallest in the CR Series and the perfect size for a desktop powered speaker.

The CR3 features a 3” driver with ¾-inch tweeter delivering 28W RMS and 50W Peak per speaker. The primary speaker is active powering itself as well as the second passive speaker. Although small, the CR3 can get loud enough to fill a home office or small room with ease.

While not as bass heavy as the 5” speakers we reviewed for this article, the CR3 is still capable of producing a good bass sound with just a 3” driver. The low-end has a nice punch which is perfect for PC use. The midrange and highs offer a good amount of clarity at both low and high volumes. Overall the CR3 has a pleasant sounding powered speaker, perfectly balanced for desktop use.

Mackie even supplies you with two acoustic isolation pads. The acoustic pads are designed for your speakers to sit on to prevent any acoustic interference from the desk or surface below. This also prevents against the speakers vibrating on your desk. The pads are designed for the CR3 to sit flat or you can angle the speaker up or down to direct sound towards your listening position.

On the rear, you have two input options, stereo RCA or stereo ¼-inch jack. There is a single on/off volume control on the front of the primary CR3. A great feature from Mackie is the ability to switch which side you want your primary speaker on. You can do this by simply switching between left and right on the rear of the speaker. This allows you to have the volume control on either the left or right, depending on how you prefer to operate your speakers. For example, a right-handed person might prefer to have the volume control on the right as it’s more intuitive to reach up and adjust the volume with your right hand.
Also on the front of the front of the CR3 is a ⅛-inch headphone output.

What’s in the Box?

Included with the Mackie CR3 Studio Monitor:

  • 2 x Mackie CR3 (one active with power cable, one passive)
  • 2 x Acoustic pads
  • RCA – ⅛-inch AUX cable
  • ⅛-inch AUX cable
  • Speaker cable

Mackie CR3 Studio Monitor Conclusion

If you’re looking for a pair of quality PC speakers, then the Mackie CR3 is perfectly designed for this application. The speakers are ultra compact and easy to listen to, even when sitting within close proximity. If you prefer a little more power, the Mackie CR4 features a 4” driver offering a better bass response and slightly more power.

The only downside to the Mackie CR Series is the luminescent green trim. This aesthetic may be favored by some, but won’t appeal to those with more classic tastes or decor. Having said that, at under $100, the Mackie CR3 offers excellent sound quality at an affordable price.

7. Micca PB42X Powered Bookshelf Speakers

Micca PB42X Powered Bookshelf Speakers

Frequency Response:
60Hz-20kHz
Dimensions:
9.5” x 5.8″ x 6.5″
Power Output:
15W RMS per speaker
More Specifications
  • LF Driver: 4”
  • HF Driver: ¾”
  • Crossover Point:Unspecified
  • Weight:4 lbs per speaker
  • Inputs:⅛-inch, stereo RCA

The Micca PB42X is the powered version of the award-winning and hugely popular passive MB42X. The MB42X was designed to be a versatile compact speaker for multimedia and music applications. With the overwhelming popularity came the demand for a powered version of the MB42X. The Micca PB42X was the answer and is better suited as a multimedia or PC speaker rather than a bookshelf speaker for the living room.

The PB42X features a 4” driver with ¾” tweeter producing just 15W RMS per speaker. This lack of power is why these compact speakers are best used for near-field, desktop applications like PC speakers. Even at 15W RMS, the PB42X delivers a serious punch and you’re sure to get enough volume as a desktop speaker.

For their size and power output, the PB42X sound really good. Not the best bass response, but enough bottom-end for use at the PC for sure. The mid-range offers a decent amount of clarity while the highs add a nice brilliance to the PB42X sound. Definitely not audiophile quality by any means but a pleasant sound nonetheless. If you are after more bass, Micca has the MS10 or MS12 powered subwoofers to pair with the PB42X. My advice would be to go with the MS10 if you want to add a subwoofer to the PB42X.

The PB42X has two input options, ⅛-inch AUX, and stereo RCA. Something which is particularly annoying is you can’t have both these cables plugged in at the same time and switch between the two as you choose. Plugging in the ⅛-inch AUX mutes the RCA input so even if you aren’t playing anything or, don’t even have a device plugged in the other end of the AUX cable, the RCA input is muted. Only when you remove the ⅛-inch cable from the back of the speaker are you able to play audio from the stereo RCA.

Another annoying feature is the volume control is located on the rear of the primary PB42X speaker. This means you have to reach around or pick the speaker up to reach the volume control. You could always set your volume on the PB42X and then adjust using your input device, so not annoying enough that it should influence your purchase in any way.

What’s in the Box?

Included with the Micca PB42X Powered Bookshelf Speakers:

  • 2 x Micca PB42X
  • Power cable
  • Speaker cable
  • ⅛-inch AUX cable

Micca PB42X Powered Bookshelf Speakers Conclusion

If you’re looking for a pair of quality sounding PC speakers, especially for a small room or workspace, then the Micca PB42X will be more than suitable for this application. Even though they are small, they pack enough of a punch for playing games or watching movies on your PC.

There is a reason why the Micca PB42X are so popular. They sound good, they’re ultra-compact and most importantly, at just under $110, they’re affordable.

8. PreSonus Eris E4.5 2-Way Powered Studio Monitors

PreSonus Eris E4.5 2-Way Powered Studio Monitors

Frequency Response:
70Hz-20kHz
Dimensions:
6.42” x 7.09″ x 9.45″
Power Output:
25W per speaker
More Specifications
  • LF Driver: 4½”
  • HF Driver: 1”
  • Crossover Point:2.8kHz
  • Weight:13 lbs per speaker
  • Inputs:⅛-inch, stereo ¼-inch, stereo RCA

PreSonus is a popular brand for a wide range of studio and live audio equipment. Their Eris or E Series is an affordable range of powered studio monitors which has grown to be extremely popular over time. The PreSonus E4.5 is the second of four upright monitors in the Eris range.

The Eris E4.5 features a 4½” low-frequency driver with 1” tweeter producing 25W per speaker. The low-frequency driver is a woven Kevlar adding strength and a trendy aesthetic to the E4.5. The primary speaker is active while the second E4.5 is a passive speaker connecting to the primary via the supplied speaker cable.

When it comes to quality, the Eris E4.5 sound exceptional. This is a professional studio monitor so the sound is somewhat flat when compared to the Audioengine 5+ or Micca PB42X which are tuned for pleasurable listening. If you’re purchasing the Eris E4.5 as a powered monitor for your PC, you’ll find the bass response will be truer sounding rather than accentuated and exciting. The mids and highs are exceptionally clear with excellent detail. The sound the Eris E4.5 produce is most definitely studio quality.

The Eris E4.5 allows for stereo RCA and stereo ¼-inch inputs on the rear with a ⅛-inch AUX input on the front. Having the ⅛-inch on the front is really convenient to easily access and plug in your mobile devices. It is important to note, if you choose to use the stereo RCA input, in some instances users have complained about getting a low-frequency hum. It’s not very loud but has been something many users have noted through reviews and forums online. If you do experience this issue yourself there is a ¼-inch and ⅛-inch input, you can always use these instead. So by no means a game changer in terms of deciding whether to buy the E4.5 or not.

On the rear of the primary Eris E4.5, is an acoustic tuning control section. There is a separate tone control for both bass and treble as well as two acoustic switches. The first is a high-pass filter which allows you to pass at 80Hz or 100Hz. This is useful if you’re experiencing issues with these frequencies or if you choose to use a subwoofer with the Eris E4.5. The second switch is for acoustic adjustment based on speaker placement. This can be set to 0dB, -2dB or -4dB. PreSonus does provide you with instructions on the back of the speaker explaining exactly how to set this up based on your speaker placement.

Lastly, on the front of the speaker, next to the ⅛-inch AUX input is a ⅛-inch headphone output. There is also an on/off switch and volume control on the front for easy access.

What’s in the Box?

Included with the PreSonus Eris E4.5 2-Way Powered Studio Monitors:

  • 2 x PreSonus Eris E4.5
  • Power cable
  • Speaker cable

PreSonus Eris E4.5 2-Way Powered Studio Monitors Conclusion

The PreSonus Eris E4.5 is an excellent sounding affordable studio monitor. The E4.5 could also be used as a PC speaker, however, you have to keep in mind that this is a studio speaker first so the audio is not as exciting as a speaker specifically tuned for music and games. The E4.5 is very flat and true. Having said that, by placing the volume, power, ⅛-inch AUX and headphone out on the front PreSonus has made the E4.5 a very versatile speaker setup for use in the studio, as a PC speaker, or living room speaker. If like a true sounding speaker, listening to music the way it was recorded, then the PreSonus Eris E4.5 is an excellent choice.

If you’re after a little more power then have a look at the E5 which is a 5¼” speaker or E8 which is an 8” powered speaker and the largest in the Eris range.

9. Klipsch R-15PM Powered Monitors

Klipsch R-15PM Powered Monitors

Frequency Response:
62Hz-24kHz
Dimensions:
12.5” x 7″ x 8.11″
Power Output:
50W per speaker
More Specifications
  • LF Driver: 5¼”
  • HF Driver: 1”
  • Crossover Point:1.8kHz
  • Weight:10.3 lbs per speaker
  • Inputs:⅛-inch, stereo RCA (switchable line/phono), optical, USB, Bluetooth

Usually, when a speaker has so many input options I get suspicious. It’s usually a cheap, no-name brand speaker trying to compensate with an overload of inputs to make up for poor sound. Klipsch is certainly not a no-name brand and the R-15PM isn’t compensating for anything. The speaker is one of the best sounding powered bookshelf speakers on the market.

The Klipsch R-15PM features a 5¼” low-frequency driver with 1” tweeter with each speaker producing 50W of power. Although they are rated at 50W, the R-15PM kick really hard and can easily fill a medium to large sized room with some headroom to spare.

The R-15PM is more than just a bookshelf speaker, it’s essentially a HiFi without an external amplifier or receiver. The primary speaker allows for several inputs including ⅛-inch, stereo RCA, optical, USB and even Bluetooth. The switchable RCA allows you to switch between a standard line input or phono input for turntables. No need for an external phono preamp, the R-15PM features a built-in high-quality Klipsch phono preamp. If you’re looking to save space and get rid of the receiver or amplifier, but still enjoy audiophile quality audio, then the R-15PM is the speaker you’re looking for.

The R-15PM has the signature Klipsch sound which is nothing short of exceptional. The bass is rich with a nice punch and good definition. The mid-range is clear with excellent detail and the highs have the familiar Klipsch sparkle which brings any audio to life. The sound is exciting while still remaining somewhat flat. Something Klipsch seems to get right in every speaker they release. If you want some more sub-bass, consider adding the Klipsch Reference R-10SW 10″ 300w Powered Subwoofer. There is an RCA sub out on the R-15PM making it easy to plug-and-play. The R-10SW is an absolute beast of a subwoofer which will allow you to enjoy a full-range audio experience.

There is a single volume control on the rear as well as a remote which gives you significant control over the R-15PM. With the remote, you can switch between all the inputs, adjust the volume and even play/pause and skip tracks on a paired Bluetooth device. If you have one of the Klipsch powered subwoofers, you can adjust the volume or reset the subwoofer from the remote giving you absolute control over the system.

What’s in the Box?

Included with the Klipsch R-15PM Powered Monitors:

  • 2 x Klipsch R-15PM (one active, one passive)
  • 8 x Rubber feet
  • Power cable
  • Remote
  • Speaker cable
  • RCA – RCA cable
  • USB A-B cable

Klipsch R-15PM Powered Monitors Conclusion

If you’re after the ultimate powered speaker with all the bells and whistles, then the Klipsch R-15PM is exactly what you’re looking for. This versatile speaker can be used in combination with your TV, PC, turntable, CD player, MP3 player and Bluetooth device all connect at the same time with the ability to switch between each one at the touch of a button. The R-15PM really is a replacement HiFi. The sound quality is exceptional, exactly what you want from a powered bookshelf speaker. At around $270, you get a pair of powered speakers that deliver exceptional sound and value. You will not be sorry for investing in a pair of R-15PM powered speakers.

10. Cerwin-Vega XD3 Powered Desktop Speakers

Cerwin Vega XD3 Powered Desktop Speakers

Frequency Response:
88Hz-21kHz
Dimensions:
8″ x 5.5″ x 6.5″
Power Output:
15W per speaker
More Specifications
  • LF Driver: 3”
  • HF Driver: ¾”
  • Crossover Point:Unspecified
  • Weight:6.5 lbs per speaker
  • Inputs:⅛-inch, stereo RCA

Cerwin Vega is well known for their wide range of home audio equipment, more notably their range of active and passive speakers. The Cerwin Vega XD3 is part of the XD range primarily for use as desktop PC speakers.

The box-shaped design of the XD3 offers a classic bookshelf speaker aesthetic rather than the regular tall PC speaker. The XD3 features a 3” low-frequency driver with ¾” tweeter producing 15W of power per speaker.

The sound quality is above average when it comes to bookshelf speakers and certainly far better and more detailed than your average PC speaker. Even with it’s 3” low-frequency driver, the XD3 offers a nice punchy low-end. It’s not a big bass sound, but present enough for music and general PC use. The mid-range and highs are clear but don’t offer as much detail as the other powered speakers we reviewed in this article. One thing I can say is the XD3 is surprisingly loud for its size so you won’t have any issues there.

The XD3 allows for a stereo RCA input on the rear with a ⅛-inch AUX input on the front of the speaker. There is also a ⅛” headphone output next to the AUX input on the front. On the rear is the VEGA-BASS switch which when engaged delivers a bass boost to the speakers. The bass boost doesn’t appear to make too much of an impact with only a slight boost noticeable. But then these are 3” low-frequency drivers so you can’t expect sub-bass response.

What’s in the Box?

Included with the Cerwin Vega XD3 Powered Desktop Speakers:

  • 2 x XD3 Powered Desktop Speakers
  •  ⅛” AUX to RCA cable
  • ⅛” AUX cable
  • AC power cable
  • Speaker cable

Cerwin Vega XD3 Powered Desktop Speakers Conclusion

If you’re looking for an affordable PC speaker, then the Cerwin Vega XD3 is going to be the cheapest I would recommend. The XD3 will be great for general PC use, YouTubers looking to edit their videos, movies, and gaming at your PC. These speakers are meant for desktop use and won’t be suitable in a living area or open room environments. The XD3 comes in at a little under $80 and at this price point, you won’t find a better powered PC speaker.

Buyer’s Guide for The 10 Best Powered Speakers of 2018

If you’re still not sure which powered speaker is right for you, then take a look at our buyer’s guide below.

Cheapest Powered Speaker

If you’re looking for the cheapest powered speaker, then the Cerwin Vega XD3 is going to be the best option we reviewed at just under $80. As this is primarily a near-field, PC speaker, the cheapest powered bookshelf speaker we’d recommend is the Micca PB42X. The PB42X will also make an excellent PC speaker so it’s a pretty versatile affordable option.

Here are all the powered speakers in order of price from cheapest to most expensive:

Under $80Cerwin Vega XD3
Micca PB42X
Under $100Edifier R1280T
Mackie CR3
Under $150JBL Professional 305P MKII (For a single speaker, two speakers would be in the same price bracket as the Klipsch R-15PM)
Under $200

BEHRINGER MS40
PreSonus Eris E4.5
Yamaha HS5
Under $300
Klipsch R-15PM
Under $400
Audioengine A5+

Loudest Powered Speaker

If power is what you’re after, then the Audioengine A5+ will blow you away. Not only is the Audioengine A5+ loud but it sounds good too. The A5+ features an active speaker which produces 50W RMS and 75W Peak per channel to deliver an impressive 150W Peak overall. These speakers are really powerful and even at 60% volume will easily fill a medium to large living area.

Best Sounding Powered Speaker

When it comes to audio quality, nothing beats the Klipsch R-15PM. The speaker is so well balanced and detailed it’s just a pleasure to listen to. The bass is rich and warm with exceptional clarity in the mids and highs.

While the R-15PM is great for most applications, it wouldn’t be my first choice for the studio. If you’re looking for an excellent powered speaker with studio quality sound, then it’s between the JBL Professional 305P MKII or PreSonus Eris E4.5. Just to add some confusion, the Yamaha HS5 is also an exceptionally good sounding studio speaker. If I had to choose just one of these it would probably be the JBL Professional 305P MKII. But it’s a close choice.

Best Powered Speaker for PC

If you’re looking for a powered speaker solely for PC use, then the Edifier R1280T would be my first choice from this list. At under $100 the Edifier R1280T is affordable while still delivering excellent sound quality.

Best All-Round Powered Speaker

If you need a good all-rounder, then the Klipsch R-15PM is going to be the best choice. This incredibly versatile speaker allows a connection for just about every audio device in your house including Bluetooth, digital, analog and even phono inputs. The best thing about the R-15PM is you can have all your devices plugged in at once and simply select the input you want at the touch of a single button on the remote control.

Matt Hallowes

Matt Hallowes

Matt has worked as a sound engineer and tour manager since 2003. His work as a sound engineer includes both live production and venue installations. With a passion for the industry, Matt shares his knowledge and expertise with us.

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