Monoprice DT-3BT review: Budget speakers that deserve a spot on your desk
“The Monoprice DT-3BT speakers are a better-than-expected set of Bluetooth desktop speakers that sound great for the price.”
- Great value for the money
- Compact, clean design
- Connects to a variety of sources
- Bluetooth 5 connectivity
- Boomy bass
- Sound needs some EQing
- Not very loud
Having a decent set of desktop speakers is essential to bringing sound to your home office, whether you’re listening to Spotify while you work or slacking off with a few episodes of Andor between spreadsheets. And while flashy specs and big numbers (and prices) are the stuff of dreams when speaker shopping, sometimes basic, budget, and better-than-expected is all you need. For your consideration, then, I give you the $100 Monoprice DT-3BT Multimedia Desktop Powered Speakers with Bluetooth, a compact, well-built, and decent-sounding pair of desktop speakers that will barely make a dent in your wallet.
These diminutive 50-watt speakers fit nicely on the corners of a work desk or tucked in behind a gaming monitor, and can be easily connected to all kinds of devices with various analog inputs and wirelessly through Bluetooth. Are they amazing? No. But they sound pretty damn good for a hundred bucks, and with a little tweaking, the Monoprice DT-3BT speakers surprised me.
What’s in the box?
Table of Contents
With basic in mind, everything needed to get the Monoprice DT-3BT up and running is in the box, including the two speakers, an RCA-to-3.5mm cable, a 3.5mm-to-3.5mm cable, a speaker wire for linking the left and right speakers together, and the power cable. There’s also a little sheet of foam sticky pads to put on the speaker bottoms for grip. The only thing not included is a cable for connecting to the 1/4-inch balanced left and right inputs for sources such as a mixing board — home studio folks will have to supply those themselves.
Design and features
Size and drivers
While the Monoprice DT-3BT speakers aren’t as tiny as those baseball-sized satellite computer speakers that many of us have had, the extra size makes up for it with much better sound, with 50 watts (combined) of power delivered by a more-than-adequate-for-the-job Class AB amplifier. At 5.5-inches wide x 8.0-inches tall x 5.9-inches deep, the DT-3BTs will easily fit on a desk or mounted on a shelf, perfect for their ideal near-field listening distance of roughly three to five feet away.
The 3.5-pound construction feels solid, like the speakers could withstand a tumble from the edge of my desk.
The MDF cabinets each house a 3-inch polypropylene woofer that sits underneath a 3/4-inch silk dome tweeter on the front. The speakers are also ported on the back — this means there’s a hole to help equalize the pressure from the woofer, which can provide better bass sound (more on this below). The 3.5-pound (each) construction feels solid, like the speakers could withstand a tumble from the edge of my desk or media console (I didn’t test that, don’t worry). The black matte finish is basic, but as they say, black goes with everything and the speakers don’t distract the eye from whatever Twitter rant or Zoom call you’re focused on. A white or wood finish option would be nice, though.
Like most desktop speakers of this ilk, all of the connections are on one main “primary speaker” — in this case, it’s the left. On the back, the layout of the inputs is pretty straightforward and allows for hooking the DT-BT3s up to a wide range of peripherals:
The trusty RCA input is good for everything from older, traditional electronics like DVD and CD players, turntables (with a phono preamp), and more, and can also be used with the RCA-to-3.5mm cable to expand that range. If you were on a budget, these speakers might be decent for a dorm-room TV setup. But I digress. A balanced 1/4-inch input won’t mean much to most people, but for budding home studio engineers, this means these speakers can be connected to a mixing console with balanced left and right outputs. Also on the back of the primary speaker is the black and red spring-clamp speaker wire output for connecting to the right speaker, the power cable connection, and a rocker power switch, which is nicely positioned at the bottom for easy-reach accessibility when powering on and off (there’s no fumbling around the back to find it).
If you were on a tight budget, these speakers might be decent for a dorm-room TV setup.
But wait, there’s more! On the front of the left speaker, there’s also a 3.5mm AUX input for easily connecting a phone or other sound source, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a nice-sized volume dial which I just discovered also doubles as a power switch when turned all the way counterclockwise (it’s the little things, innit?). A couple of LEDs let you know when the speakers are powered on (a glowy white) and what the Bluetooth connection status is (a glowy blue). The only thing missing from the overall design is a set of speaker covers, which would add a little class to the proceedings, but I like the exposed cone look, too.
The Monoprice DT-3BT speakers I tested are of the Bluetooth 5 variety (there’s a non-Bluetooth version for $15 less) and have a range of up to 32 feet (10 meters), perfect for when you head to the kitchen for a coffee or a snack with your phone in your pocket. You can pretty much connect any Bluetooth-enabled source to the DT-3BTs, including phones, tablets, computers, turntables, mp3 players, and more.
I don’t know what kind of knickknacks, paraphernalia, or gear you have cluttering up your desk, shelves, and counters, but if you’re going to fit a set of speakers among them, space is at a premium. With that in mind, it was easy to find real estate for the small DT-3BT in several setup scenarios: on my work desk, nestled behind my 34-inch curved monitor connected to my computer; on a media console connected to my turntable; and even spaced out in my dining room connected to nothing but Bluetooth.
In every scenario, setup couldn’t be easier. With the included cables, you can physically connect pretty much anything mentioned above and get instant sound out of the speakers. I connected my MacBook’s headphone using the 3.5mm-to-RCA cable provided, for example. I could also have used the 3.5mm-t0-3.5mm headphone cable to do this, connecting it to the front AUX port — I like options. It was just as easy to connect my turntable to the RCA input, but for that, I needed my own RCA cable.
Bluetooth setup is pretty standard and just as easy: press the Bluetooth pairing button on the back and watch for the blue light on the front to flash, find the DT-3BTs on your device, and pair. I tested this with my MacBook and an iPhone. Also, whether you’re connected by wire or Bluetooth, you get volume control from both the source device and the speakers themselves. Again, options.
Sound quality and performance
Full disclosure: I’m not someone who is used to having a pair of speakers on my desk facing me at just two-and-a-half feet from my face. If you’ve read any of my turntable reviews, I tend to covet my vintage receiver and speaker setup, through which I listen to records during my work day. That said, for the past couple of weeks I’ve eschewed the sweet sound of vinyl for the digital sources coming at me through the Monoprice DT-3BT, and I have to say that for a pair of $100 desktop speakers, I have been surprised by what I’ve heard (I can hear our Simon Cohen rejoicing).
As Monoprice states, the DT-3BTs are designed for near-field listening, and while sitting at my desk with the speakers slightly below head level, they deliver a shockingly good soundstage. I fired up a Flaming Lips playlist on Apple Music, and marveled as Wayne Coyne’s Do You Realize vocals floated up and around what sounded like a huge room, just as the recording intended. The acoustic guitar strumming was on point in the left speaker with the drums hanging out in the back and the tubular chimes dinging just right, too.
The DT-3BTs delivered a broad soundstage with tight, smooth bass and mids that only got messy when at higher volumes.
Taking advantage of the digital-music feast that my vinyl collection lacks, I ripped through several tracks on The Weeknd’s Dawn FM, and again the DT-3BTs delivered a broad soundstage with tight, smooth bass and mids that only got messy when driving the speakers to higher volumes (which to be fair, is too loud for being that close), and crisp highs on “s” consonant sounds and cymbals and hi-hats. To be clear, these are not loud, pumping speakers, nor are they meant to be.
Now, here’s the caveat: I was only able to achieve this vibrant and well-rounded sound with some EQing. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, as everyone should tweak their sound to their liking, but it took some coaxing. When starting my test, I used Apple Music and Spotify’s equalization features set to the “Flat” preset to determine a baseline and, as you can imagine, it was, well, really flat. While you can easily improve things with presets like “Rock” or “Increase Bass” or even “Electronic,” I found the low-end boomy on these. With these being ported speakers, you can position them closer or farther from the wall to adjust the low end, but with limited space on my desk this didn’t help much either. My best option was to create an EQ preset of my own that scaled back on the 125hz low/mid-frequency and that seemed to do the trick.
However, this didn’t apply to any sound from my computer, like that coming from Netflix movies or YouTube videos I watched. With no native EQing on the MacBook, it was back to that flat, thinner native sound of the DT-3BTs (boo). There was hope, though. After installing a little free app called eqMac, I was able to adjust basic bass, mid, and treble tones and improve things significantly. The shows and YouTube vids I watched all sounded pretty good, the dialogue was easy to understand, and the sound effects were OK, too. I had to remember to turn the eqMac app off when listening to streaming music, though.
Being the vinyl guy that I am, I had to connect the DT-3BTs to my turntable. And while I had the same issue with not being able to adjust EQ, again, for a $100 set of powered desktop speakers, the sound was better than expected. That said, these speakers are not intended for this, and I would find a better speaker solution for your vinyl.
I’m not really a gamer, so the one thing I didn’t do was test the DT-3BTs through a game console. Sorry.
Lastly, I think it’s important to mention Bluetooth, which is what you’re paying the extra $15 for. During my review, I switched back and forth between wired connections and Bluetooth to compare and contrast. And while I noticed a slight dip in brilliance and clarity when in Bluetooth — compared to streaming Apple Lossless files from my computer or iPhone connected directly to the speakers’ RCA input — the difference was barely noticeable. Having the convenience of Bluetooth connectivity to the DT-3BTs was great.
The bottom line
At $100 (Amazon has them at $125, for some reason), it’s hard to go wrong with the Monoprice DT-3BT-powered desktop Bluetooth speakers. They’re no-nonsense, easy to set up and connect a variety of sources to — wired and Bluetooth — and for most people, the sound they produce out of the box isn’t bad for listening to music or watching streaming content on your computer. And if you’re willing to spend a little time and effort tweaking the EQ settings, then the DT-3BTs should do you right for many years.
There are several alternatives to the Monoprice DT-3BTs that would perform similarly well and are priced in the same ballpark, including the reputable PreSonus Eris E3.5, and the Edifier R980T powered bookshelf speakers, but in this range, you’re likely to get the same performance from any of them.