Amazon Basics Computer Speakers (USB-powered) review: This cheap set fits the budget stereotype

Passable isn’t good enough, what with similar-priced rivals that outperform this set.

Credit: Amazon

Amazon Basics Computer Speakers are indeed basic. That hasn’t changed from when we initially reviewed them two years ago. From the packaging to the design, this USB-powered budget set has a spartan vibe. You won’t find glossy paper finishes or a thick manual full of details here. Instead, a plain brown box will land on your doorstep, with two plain, compact black speakers and a very thin user guide tucked inside. That’s it.

What has changed is the price. Back in 2019, these budget speakers could be found for as little as $10 for the set. These days they hover at $18, which starts to butt up against the cost of the superior Amazon Basics with Dyanmic Sound speakers—thus making them ripe for reevaluation.

Note: This review is part of our roundup of budget computer speakers. Go there for details on competing products and our buying advice.

If you’re looking for an upgrade from laptop speakers—or simply need output for a desktop PC—this particular Amazon Basics set provides clear stereo sound, with distinct right and left channels. Voices in podcasts and in video calls come through crisply and are easy to understand. But despite being relatively well-balanced, the audio is largely flat, and when you pump music through these speakers, a persistent harsh edge becomes obvious. It can cause different elements in songs to bleed together, squelching the joy in listening.

The experience sours further if you push the volume too high. On our test system (a desktop PC), cranking the dial past about the two-thirds mark caused notable distortion, putting a cap on how loud you can go. That said, these speakers can reach earsplitting levels. As long as you’re not trying to hear audio from a far distance, losing part of the volume to distortion isn’t as restrictive as it may initially seem.

Given that other products in Amazon’s Basics line can be good, these issues are a little disappointing. Good stereo speakers under $30 are generally rare, especially those that are USB-powered, but you can find them. Case in point is our reigning top pick for budget computer speakers, the $25 Creative Pebble, which offers rich, satisfying audio and usually has a street price of $20—or just $2 more than these Amazon Basic Computer Speakers.

amazon basics computer speakers usb version back view Amazon

No matter how hard we looked, we couldn’t find R or L markings on either speaker.

The problems with Amazon’s budget speakers lie partially in their low power—the combined output is just 2.2 watts total. (In contrast, the Creative Pebble has an RMS of 4.4 watts.) The company may have been a little too mindful of keeping costs low.

Or perhaps Amazon wanted to keep to a minimal footprint: This USB version measure about 5.3 x 2.76 x 3.55 inches (HWD), and though they’re wired, have just two cables to manage. One cable hardwires the two speakers to one another, while the other connects to a PC via USB-A for power and 3.5mm plugs for audio.

Pity that the speakers don’t quite stay in place, though, despite not taking up much of it. The feet on the bottom are more like felt than rubber, and so these can slide when you use the volume dial or connect wired headphones for more private listening. Not that you’ll want to do much of the latter. You can hear an audible background hiss at lower and medium volumes that can still bleed through at higher volumes, depending on what you’re listening to.

A couple of final complaints about this budget set are the searingly bright blue LED on the power indicator, and the lack of markings indicating the right and left speaker. On the latter point, the right and left speaker position for our review unit also had to be reversed from what was shown in the user guide to get proper output. It was an issue easily fixed by listening to a track with shifting directional audio, but mildly irritating.

Bottom line

Budget speakers can’t perform miracles, but Amazon’s take on an inexpensive USB set is average at best. If all you need is to hear audio clearly enough, these will fulfill that mission—but you can do much better by spending just a few bucks more on rival options.

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Alaina Yee

PC World (US online)
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