Computers and sound go hand in hand. If you use your laptop to listen to music, play immersive games, record music or a number of other things then you care a lot about the quality of your laptop’s sound.
I’ve broken down six laptops in different price ranges that all have excellent speakers. I’ll tell you exactly what it is that separates them from from the average laptop audio setup, and I’ll show you what to look for when comparing laptops for quality sound.
Disclaimer: In this article I recommend products for you to purchase. I have done thorough research and I believe that every laptop on my recommendation list has high quality speakers. However, be informed that if you click to view more information about a laptop I have recommend and you choose to buy, I will earn a commission on that purchase.
Characteristics of a Great Laptop Speaker
In order to determine which laptops have the best speakers, it’s important to first conclude what a great laptop speaker looks like. What separates the bad from the average, the average from the good and the good from the great?
I think it pretty much goes without saying that you need to be able to hear the sound for it to be considered high quality. Most laptops these days will have speakers that have good volume, so this won’t be a big focus of the article.
Although, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, if the computer’s speakers are badly placed (like underneath the keyboard) then the volume will also take a hit.
Low Sound Distortion (Doesn’t Clip Sound)
Here is where we can start distinguishing the bad from the good. A really common problem with laptop speakers is the sound will get distorted as you reach higher volumes.
As you start cranking up the music it slowly begins to sound less like music, and more like noise. Why does this happen?
There are many causes of sound distortion, and it can take many shapes. One common problem in laptop speakers is clipping.
Clipping is what happens when your speakers can’t output the sound at the volume that your computer is requesting. Here’s a quick example of what clipping sounds like:
You might recognize that type of distorted sound from speakers that you’ve turned all the way up. We don’t want a laptop that will clip sound, even when you put the volume all the way up.
Balance of all Frequencies
If you can find a laptop with well placed speakers that has good volume with no sound distortion, then you’re already looking at speakers that outperform most of what’s out there today. Hitting those three items is what I would call a “good” laptop speaker.
But in order earn the label “great” or “best”, you also need laptop speakers that has good balance.
What I mean by this is that your bass sounds, mid sounds and treble sounds are all present in the speakers and that none of them overpowers the other.
Typically with laptops your “highs,” or higher pitched frequencies (things like high female vocals, cymbals, snare drums, lead guitar) are much louder than your “lows”, or lower pitched frequencies (things like bass drum and bass guitar).
If we can find a laptop with well placed speakers that have good volume, with a well balanced sound that doesn’t distort then we’ve hit the jackpot.
Uncovered Speakers (Good Speaker Location)
If your laptop has speakers underneath the keyboard they can get muffled depending on what surface your laptop is resting on. For example if it’s sitting on your bed or couch, something with a lot of cushion, then the sound can definitely get muffled. My work laptop has this problem and it sometimes drives me nuts.
However, if you work on a hard surface, like a desk, then the sound quality is affected very little.
If I’m laying in bed, I have to flip the laptop over to actually get a decent sound from the speakers. Like this.
The ideal location for laptop speakers is on top with the keyboard, but you can also see speakers in a few other places. I’ll mention speaker location for all my recommendations so you can make an informed decision.
I wanted to mention one more (minor) feature that can be relevant to sound quality. If the computer itself is loud, then it can affect the sound quality you experience from the speakers. You could have high quality speakers, but if the computer is creating a lot of additional sound, then it can make for a bad listening experience.
Most computers today are reasonably quiet, and much of that is thanks to the new SSD hard drive technology. But be comforted that I have made certain that none of these computers have noise problems.
Other Sound Related Features to Consider
While the quality of the speakers is probably your most important criteria for choosing your laptop, there are other features you should be keeping in mind.
If you keep music on your computer then you’ll want to pay attention to storage space. 1GB of storage space can hold approximately 200 songs. So if for example you need to store 10,000 songs, then you’ll need to plan on using around 50 GB of storage space on your music.
Lots of computers today come with SSD (solid state disk) storage, which makes your computer much faster, but it is also more expensive.
I see a lot of budget computers with 128GB SSD storage drives. If you have 50GB worth of music to store on your computer, then 128GB is probably not enough storage.
This isn’t necessarily music related, but if you use your laptop on the go a lot, remember to pay attention to battery life. I’ll make sure to highlight this for all my recommendations.
RAM (if you Record Music)
I do a fair amount of recording and currently I use an older release of Cubase to record, edit, mix and master my tracks. I have also used a very bare bones version of Pro Tools in the past for recording purposes.
All the recording software I’ve ever used requires a large amount of RAM to function well. Usually 8GB of RAM is a minimum for any recording software. I think 16GB of RAM is a noticeable improvement, but 8GB should work for most people.
If you don’t record and use recording software, then you shouldn’t need to pay attention to how much RAM a laptop has, unless you plan on using other software that requires it (like games or video editing software).
Laptop with Best Speakers (at any price)
If you’re on a budget, you can continue beyond this section, but these laptops have the best sound quality regardless of price. Both of these two computers have superb sound quality and they also have benefits far beyond that.
HP Envy X360 with Bang & Olufsen Speakers
- Top of the line Bang & Olufsen speakers
- Speakers located on top of computer behind keyboard
- 512GB of SSD storage, 32GB of RAM
- 10 hour battery life
- Suitable for recording/mixing, gaming and media storage
This HP Envy has all the characteristics of a laptop with the best speakers. The Bang & Olufsen audio setup offers great volume, balance and eliminates the distortion you’ll find with most laptops. The speakers are located on top with the keyboard, and the quality of the technical specifications will guarantee that the laptop will remain quiet for all but the most demanding tasks.
Bang & Olufsen is an industry leader in high quality audio equipment, and they are responsible for some of the best speaker setups in home audio. Laptops with Bang & Olufsen tech always have great sound quality. I’ll be recommending two other laptops with B&O audio.
Yes, this device offers the best sound quality money can buy in a laptop, but it also has many other positives.
The 512GB of SSD storage means that your laptop will run faster, and it also means there’s plenty of space to store your songs, photos and videos. The 32GB of RAM is almost unheard of among laptops. This amount of RAM allows you to many programs simultaneously with no slowing down. It also means you can play games and run intensive programs like music recording software.
It’s also worth mentioning this laptop has three USB ports, an HDMI port and a standard SD card reader. It has a touch screen and fingerprint reader for unlocking as well.
In my opinion, the only negatives of this product are the price and the battery life. The 10 hour battery life is above average, but not as high as other laptops on the market, such as the MacBooks.
This laptop does it all and has the best laptop speakers money can buy. If this computer fits in your budget, then I think it’s well worth the money.
2020 Apple MacBook Pro
- Apple speakers
- Speakers located on top of computer to the side of the keyboard
- 512GB of SSD storage, 8GB of RAM
- 20 hour battery life
- Suitable for recording/mixing, gaming and media storage
The Apple MacBook Pro has become synonymous with quality, so it’s no surprise that it also comes with an exquisite sound setup. While Apple doesn’t have quite the audio reputation that Bang & Olufsen has, the feedback of those who bought the MacBook Pro is quite convincing. The sound quality is universally praised.
The speakers are on top with the keyboard and one speaker is located on either side of the keyboard. Also, this laptop doesn’t even have a fan in it, so there is almost no noise produced by it.
As for the other features, the MacBook Pro has everything you have come to expect from Apple products. This means it is fast with a simple UI, and basically everything is of high quality. But it also means that you can’t upgrade the computer and you have to take it to a licensed Apple repair shop if anything goes wrong. And it just generally works much better with other Apple products.
This computer comes with two USB 4/Thunderbolt ports, which are a different shape from your traditional USB ports. It also comes with the fingerprint reader for unlocking.
Overall, the Macbook Pro has some of the best laptop speakers on the market today, and you know you’ll be getting a quality product when you buy a Mac.
Laptop with Best Speakers under $1,000
If $1,000 still sounds quite pricey to you, then you can read past this section. However, these two laptops have incredible sound quality, and they should all serve as capable laptops for the average user. Those that have high demands for their laptops (gamers, software developers, etc.) may find these missing the mark in certain areas, but most will find them more than adequate across the board.
HP Pavilion Gaming Laptop 15-dk0042nr
- Bang & Olufsen speakers
- Speakers on top of computer located behind the keyboard
- 512GB of SSD storage, 12GB RAM
- 8 hour battery life
- Suitable for recording software, gaming and media storage
This HP Pavilion laptop is a medium budget laptop made for gaming, and it comes with one of the best audio setups in its price range. It’s our second recommended laptop that comes with an audio setup provided by Bang & Olufsen, which is basically a guarantee of high quality sound.
Like the HP Envy this HP Pavilion has the speakers located on top with the keyboard and located behind the keyboard. HP invested into keeping this laptop quiet in order to enhance the gaming experience, so casual music listeners will benefit from this as well.
The 512GB of SSD storage is on par with more expensive laptops and makes for a faster computer while leaving plenty of space to store your media. The 12GB of RAM is better than the usual 8GB you would get in this price range. while this is meant to improve the gaming capabilities of the machine, all users will benefit from being able to multitask better, and of course run some recording software if you’re anything like me.
This is a very well rounded laptop and the primary complaint is the battery life. While it is rated at 8 hours, users have indicated that with demanding tasks (like gaming) the battery life is more like 3-6 hours.
The conclusion is that this HP Pavilion is a well rounded, high quality laptop with excellent speakers and sound quality. If you can live with a mediocre battery life, then this computer will not disappoint.
2020 Apple MacBook Air
- Apple speakers
- Speakers located on top of computer located to the side of the keyboard
- 256GB of SSD storage, 8GB RAM
- 18 hour battery life
- Suitable for recording software, gaming and media storage
The Apple MacBook Air does 90% of what the MacBook Pro does, it’s just a bit more affordable. The main differences between the Pro and Air are the storage space and the screen quality. While the Pro has 512GB of storage, the Air has half that at 256GB. Also, the Pro has the brilliant retina display screen which makes for a higher quality picture.
In terms of sound quality the MacBook Air is on par with the Pro.
It has the Apple speakers located on top of the laptop and one speaker is located on either side of the keyboard. Again, the noise is kept to a minimum since these MacBooks don’t have a fan inside. Consumers praise sound quality equally for this model.
This laptop also has the two USB 4/Thunderbolt ports and has all the same pros and cons of owning an Apple computer. The high quality is there, but the lack of compatibility with non-Apple products and non-Apple repair shops is also there.
It is often said that the Apple MacBook Air is the best value MacOS laptop on the market today. I think the same can be said regarding the speakers. The MacBook Air is the best value in terms of sound quality among MacOS laptops today.
Laptop with Best Speakers under $500
These two laptops have high quality speakers and cost under $500. As you might expect, the lower price tag means you’ll be making sacrifices in other areas.
Dell Inspiron I3567 with Stereo Speakers
- Comes with Stereo Speakers and MaxxAudio software to improve sound performance
- Speakers on bottom of laptop
- 128GB SSD storage and 8GB RAM
- 4 hour battery life
- Suitable for recording software
So let’s talk about all of the Dell Inspiron I3567’s good things first. Well, it’s under $500, so that’s a very good thing. It also has quality built in speakers as well as the MaxxAudio software. It’s a software that helps balance the frequencies in your music and prevent audio distortion. All this results in speakers that put out a very high sound quality.
In addition to great speakers, this laptop also has adequate specs in other areas. The 8GB of RAM will be more than sufficient for most users as well as the 128GB of storage space. But remember 128GB probably won’t be enough if you plan to store large amounts of music, photos or videos on the computer. Also, The laptop will last at least 3-4 hours on the battery with a full workload.
There are 3 USB ports, a headphone jack and HDMI port. This laptop also has a touch screen, which I’ve personally found to be incredibly handy when signing documents electronically.
Now, let’s talk about the things that aren’t so good. The speakers are located underneath the laptop, so if your laptop spends a lot of time on the bed or another cushy surface, the sound quality will likely be compromised.
Also, as mentioned before the 128GB of storage is not a lot if you plan to save a lot of media on the device. The last thing that I don’t love about this laptop is that there’s no SD port. You can’t plug an SD card directly into the laptop. That won’t matter for everyone, but transferring photos/videos onto the laptop gets harder without an SD port.
The reviews on this product indicate that the sound quality is excellent, the computer itself is quiet, and basically just that it’s a good budget computer. Overall, this laptop has probably the best speakers for under $500 and it has very few shortcomings.
HP Chromebook 14 with Dual Speakers and Audio by Bang & Olufsen
- Comes with Dual Speakers and Bang & Olufsen audio for better sound performance
- Speakers on top of laptop
- 32GB removable storage and 4GB RAM
- Up to 11 hours of battery life
- Not suitable for recording software
The HP Chromebook has a very unique setup among laptops, but we’ll get to that in a minute. The speaker setup is on par with that of the Dell Inspiron I3567 we just looked at. And remember, Bang & Olufsen is an industry leader in high quality audio equipment, and they are responsible for some of the best speaker setups in home audio.
Pair that with speakers that are on top of the computer with the keyboard and you’ve got a recipe for high quality audio.
There are a few other places where the Chromebook excels. One is battery life, you could reasonably expect to work a full day on this device. The other is price. This is about as affordable as laptops get without going into the used/preowned market.
Now with a price point as attractive as this, you’d expect there to be some things missing. And there certainly are. In fact, if you’re considering purchasing this laptop, I suggest you take a look at this list of pros and cons of buying a Chromebook.
First, and most importantly, this computer does not come with any built in storage. It comes with 32GB of flash drive storage, which is very little. Your computer uses storage to save programs like Spotify and iTunes, so you don’t actually get to use that full 32GB. You should not expect to be able to store many songs on this computer.
I’d prefer not to bore anyone with the specifications, so I’ll just say that you should expect to use this computer primarily to browse the internet. You could listen to music via Spotify’s web interface, or you could plug in a USB flash drive or a micro SD (ports for plugging in both are included on this laptop).
If you need more out of your laptop, then you’d be better served with one of the others on my recommendation list.
How to Improve Sound Quality on a Laptop with Bad Speakers
As a recording artist that has been editing and mixing my own tracks since college (when I had no money), I’ve had to make do with some pretty shoddy sound setups. I’ve learned a few tricks along the way to improve sound quality without shelling out for the best gear.
Laptop stand for speakers under the laptop
First of all, a lot of laptops come with their speakers on the underside of the computer. Obviously this isn’t the ideal place for good sound quality. One cheap way to get an instant boost is to prop your computer up on something that allows the speakers to be exposed to open air.
Let me show you what I mean:
I got this laptop stand for my work computer and it has two benefits. The first is that it brings the screen up higher to be even with my head (so I don’t have to bend my neck to look at the screen). The second is that is gives the speakers, which are underneath the computer, the space to perform at their best.
You can give an old laptop a decent sound boost for under $30 with a stand. You can even just prop it up on a cardboard box or something as long as the speakers are left uncovered.
Or you can buy a stand like the one I have.
Plug in a speaker
Obviously the best way to improve sound on a laptop with bad acoustics is to just buy a decent quality speaker to hook up. I realize this often isn’t possibly or practical. We buy laptops so we can take them with us anywhere. You probably don’t want to tote a speaker along with you everywhere as well.
However, you can put a speaker in your primary work environment. If you have a home office like me, then it might make sense to put a speaker there.
Even cheap speakers will have significantly better sound quality than a bad laptop speaker. You can get a decent speaker for $20-30 and notice a huge improvement.
Another cheap way to get reasonably good sound quality is to buy a pair of headphones. I’m not talking about those $100+ noise cancelling headphones that look like Princess Leia’s hair:
No, you can make a huge upgrade for less than $20. I’m partial to the earbuds with the rubber squishy things on them, but you may prefer another design. It’s amazing how much better the music sounds with a cheap set of earbuds compared with crappy laptop speakers.
Keep the volume lower
And if you can afford to, you’ll usually get a better, more balanced sound if you just keep the volume lower. Like I mentioned previously, a lot of poor quality laptop speakers start to clip the sound waves when you turn the volume up too high.
So turn the volume down to get the sound quality up.
Wrapping it Up
We’ve been through my picks for the laptops with the best speakers at any price, the best for under $1,000 and the best for under $500. Sound quality is one of the laptop features that often gets neglected, but the computers on my list don’t skimp on the audio.
Now you know what to look for when shopping for a laptop with top tier sound: volume, no distortion at high volume, balance of all frequencies, speaker placement and a quiet computer.
And if you can’t afford one of these, you can always improve the sound quality on your current computer with a laptop stand, a plug in speaker or headphones.