Best British speakers Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best British speakers you can buy in 2020.
Whether you're on a tight budget or looking to drop some serious coin, you'll find that British hi-fi brands offer some of the finest speakers money can buy.
Whatever type of speaker you want, Britain's best audio brands bring considerable engineering expertise to the audio party. There are plenty of well-established British speaker brands to choose from, such as ATC, Bowers & Wilkins, KEF and PMC, plus relative newcomers such as Fyne Audio and Q Acoustics.
Now, not all British speakers are made from start to finish in the UK. But at the very least, they're designed or assembled in UK by British firms, many of which have an illustrious British heritage.
So whether you want to buy British or simply check out what Great Britain has to offer in terms of hi-fi, read on to discover our pick of the best British speakers...
These spectacular B&W stereo speakers are blessed with rich dynamics and a full sound that won't fail to impress. Capable of handling complex rhythms with ease, the nimble charmers deliver a superb level of detail that will breathe new life into well-trodden playlists. If want a pair of compact, mid-size, class-leaders that offer stunning British engineering and good value for money, you've just found them.
Read the full review: B&W 606
The Q Acoustics 3030is are the largest of the three standmounters in the 3000i range and latest to receive a glowing five-star review.
Give these boxes a few days to settle and they produce a sound that’s familiar yet surprisingly muscular compared to other Q Acoustics speakers. Like the other speakers in this 3000 range, these are impressively cohesive performers with a smooth tonal balance and easy-going nature.
There's impressive weight at the low-end, but bass remains well integrated and controlled. Dynamics are impressive and they stay composed when asked to work hard at high volume. Detailed, rhythmic and ultimately rewarding, they're a great addition to the speaker market at this price and an instant British classic.
Read the full review: Q Acoustics 3030i
Pink Floyd and Supertramp were early customers of ATC, and the Gloucestershire-based firm continues to impress with its superb, hand-built loudspeakers. The SCM19s offer spellbinding levels of detail and deliver a nuanced performance that's true to the original recording without sounding clinical. In short, these beautifully assembled, traditional-looking speakers are a terrific buy – especially if you value musicality above all else.
Read the full review: ATC SCM19
KEF has been turning out excellent loudspeakers since 1961 and these awesome all-rounders are proof that the Kent-based firm is still on the money. Insightful, musical and bassy, the R3s deliver a good chunk of the performance of the pricier KEF Reference 1 speakers, but at a fraction of the cost. Blessed with scale and authority they're expertly balanced and offer a satisfyingly-natural tone. Give them a high quality feed and the R3s will compete with most standmounters below the two grand mark. A great British buy.
Read the full review: KEF R3
Fyne Audio, based in Scotland, was founded by a ‘supergroup’ of industry veterans including a clutch of ex-Tannoy employees. It might be a relatively new company but judging by the quality of its loudspeakers, it has a bright future.
Finding a pair of floorstanders at this price that offer a level of dynamism comparable to a pair of standmounters isn't easy, but the full-bodied F302s do so effortlessly. Sound is luscious and warm with a keen sense of timing. While lesser floorstanders sometimes neglect dynamic range in favour of a big, bassy soundstage, that’s not the case here. A sterling speaker at an affordable price point.
Read the full review: Fyne Audio F302
These are the biggest and priciest offerings in the Wharfedale's Evo range and are packed full of so much technology that we had to double-check the price. The Air Motion Transformer tweeter is normally reserved for much more expensive speakers, while the dome midrange and twin Kevlar bass drivers also set these floorstanders apart from the crowd.
It won’t come as a surprise that these relatively big speakers produce a large-scale sound with plenty of authority that's capable of going nice and loud. But they also deliver transparency and subtlety, helping to ensure a natural, easy-going presentation.
There are three finish options – black, white and walnut. Build quality is good for the price, and the elegant curves of the cabinet add a touch of class. Some clever bracing and damping minimise resonance.
Rivals such as the excellent Fyne Audio F501s might sound a little more exciting, but over a longer listen the Evo 4.4’s easier-going presentation is more natural and convincing. A superb pair of premium floorstanders that get better with every listen.
Read the full review: Wharfedale Evo 4.4
Mission is now owned by China's IAG group, but top-class British audio engineering remains critical to its design and production process. The QX-2s are sensational speakers that perform brilliantly across the board and look pretty smart, too. Fun, energetic and detailed, they're some of the best budget standmounters we've seen in recent times. A fine budget buy indeed.
Read the full review: Mission QX-2
Another excellent pair of speakers from Fyne Audio. The mid-range F501 floorstanders impress with sweet timing, a well-defined sound stage and lavish levels of detail. Build quality is superb, which adds to the appeal, and cabinets come in a choice of real oak veneer or piano black gloss finishes. If you want to splash out on a pair of speakers that will bring a sense of scale and clarity to your favourite recordings, these are just the ticket.
Read the full review: Fyne Audio F501
Such has been the consistency of B&W's design approach that it’s easy to dismiss recent generations of the 800 series as just more of the same. The general look has hardly changed over the last decade or so, and those curved cabinets have gone from looking futuristic to almost classical, though they still look attractive.
This B&W 805 D3, which we reviewed back in 2017, hardly goes out of its way to dispel the ‘more of the same’ notion, but start delving and you’ll find B&W’s engineers have left little unturned in their bid to improve performance.
Every aspect of the Diamond dome tweeter has been redesigned, while this was the first B&W speaker to move from Kevlar to Continuum material for the mid/bass driver. There's now a front-facing port and of course the design looks as elegant as ever.
Sonically, it’s a superbly focused image, nicely layered and stable. These B&Ws sound open and dynamic, and while best when really pushed they can do subtle and finesse, too. In fact, levels of low-level detail are class-leading. Though the price of the 805s has crept up over the years, this latest generation is without doubt the most capable we’ve heard.
Read the full B&W 805 D3 review
Entry-level is a relative term. In Wilson Benesch’s world, it refers to the new Precision range, which includes these not-remotely-cheap P1.0 speakers. Happily, there's plenty of clever engineering inside to justify the high price.
While most speakers are made from MDF, these cabinets are a hybrid construction of aluminium and birch plywood. The drive units are no less exotic. The mid/bass driver uses an Isotactic Polypropylene cone driven by a powerful, heavily optimised Neodymium motor system, while the 25mm soft dome Leonardo tweeter borrows its construction from the much pricier Geometry series, and has a 3D-printed, elaborately-shaped faceplate to reduce distortion.
The looks aren't to everyone's tastes, but there's no debate when it comes to performance. Provided you feed them a signal of appropriate quality, and partner them realistically, they won’t fail to impress. These are insightful and composed performers that work well across a wide range of musical genres.
Top it off with a balanced, integrated and dynamic sound, and you have a pair of speakers that set sky-high standards for the price.
Read the full review: Wilson Benesch Precision P1.0
The AE1 Actives combine an amplifier with passive speakers to superb effect – and at a very reasonable price too. They're small enough that they won't dominate your living room but lively enough to add a little swagger to the mid-range. With a healthy combination of punch and drive, you'll find that these active speakers revel in complex polyphonic rhythms. Even traditionalists who prefer hi-fi separates should track down a pair and give them a chance to shine.
Read the full review: Acoustic Energy AE1 Active
Looking for a pair of wireless standmounders? The Formation Duos aren't cheap but they offer a level of detail and precision that makes you want to listen to your favourite recordings on repeat.
Aside from the power cable, the speakers are completely wireless, active (and multi-room) speakers and operate their own mesh network to ensure a rock-solid connection. We'd prefer a single app to handle all the multi-room functions, but excellent clarity and performance more than make up for that minor gripe. A stunning way to go wireless, and a fine way to explore the Formation family.
Read the full review: Bowers & Wilkins Formation Duo
KEF (originally Kent Engineering & Foundry) was founded by the late, great electrical engineer Raymond Cooke OBE. It's kept pace with the digital age and now offers some outstanding all-in-one streaming systems including the LS50 Wireless active speakers, which impress with their masterful sound quality and sleek styling.
The price tag may seem a little hefty, but remember that these speakers contain everything from a Bluetooth module and a 24-bit/192kHz DAC, to a preamp and four power amplifiers with a total output of 460W. A terrific interpretation of the 'hi-fi of the future'.
Read the full review: KEF LS50 Wireless
Q Acoustics is a relatively young British brand so it doesn't come with any misty-eyed nostalgia. Established in 2006, the firm's mission is to offer outstanding audio performance at a decent price. The affordable 3020is fulfil that brief with a warm, rich and insightful sound plus thumping bass that comes through thick and fast. One thing worth noting: the cabinets are 28cm deep so if you're planning to position the speakers on stands, be sure that the mounts aren't too shallow.
Read the full review: Q Acoustics 3020i
British hi-fi loudspeaker brand ProAc has built up a reputation that's as solid as its hand-crafted products. The DT8s are some of the best-sounding floorstanders we've heard at this price point, delivering large-scale sound with delicate dynamic swings and plenty of midrange subtlety. The prominent company logos plastered across the front of the speakers may not be to everyone's taste, but the DT8s deliver class-leading performance for the money.
Read the full review: ProAc DT8
Wharfedale is undoubtedly a classic British hi-fi brand. But while we often say that good sound doesn’t get old, it does still date. Listen to hi-fi equipment from yesteryear and you might notice a different audio presentation more suited to the music from that era.
In the case of the original Wharfedale Linton speakers, that era was between 1965 and the late 1970s – a time of big trousers, big music and big speakers. If you fancy a speaker that's built using modern methods and materials, but that takes this old-school approach to styling and sound, then you might well want the new version of the Linton.
These speakers do an impressive job of capturing something of an older, fuller, more easy and open style of hi-fi sound without forgetting to make the music exciting. That excitement may not come thundering out of its cones, but you don’t need whisky and elbow patches to enjoy it either. With effortless weight, spot-on stereo imaging and layer upon layer of marvellous detail, you could listen to these speakers for days and still not get tired.
Read the full review: Wharfedale Linton
Spendor designs, engineers and builds all its loudspeakers in the UK. These compact, premium floorstanders combine the firm's flair for craftsmanship with a fun, expressive sound that belies the rather traditional cabinetry. They remain clean, articulate and balanced even when faced with demanding rhythms – no mean feat.
While some of Spendor's smaller speakers sound a little an analytical to our ear, the A4s are a far more entertaining proposition. And at just 80cm high, they won't dominate your living space.
Read the full review: Spendor A4
If you have a smaller-sized room that begs for an intimate performance, the Quad S-1s are the perfect choice. The exquisite woodwork is matched by exquisite vocal handling, which displays remarkable clarity, insight and emotion. A clear midrange is the icing on this compact audio cake.
While it's fair to say that the S-1s don't quite have the authority to compete with larger rivals, their enchanting dynamics more than make up for the slight lack of scale. A fantastic offering from a great British firm that has been producing audio equipment since 1953.
Read the full review: Quad S-1
Since its inception in 1991, PMC has grown from humble beginnings into one of the best in the domestic and studio speaker business. For proof, look no further than these classy, slimline floorstanders. They don't look all that different from the cheaper Twenty model but offer a substantial upgrade in terms of resolution, dynamics and punch. If you have a small or medium-sized room, you'll find that the soundstage extends well beyond the speakers themselves. Is the metal detailing a little too showy? Perhaps, but these are still a great buy.
Read the full review: PMC Twenty5.23
This family-owned British brand is best known for its luxury DAB radios but also makes fantastic wireless desktop speakers. Insightful, musical and rich in dynamics, the MR1 Mk2s sound like a ‘proper’ hi-fi. In addition to Bluetooth connectivity for streaming you get an optical input capable of supporting hi-res audio up to 24-bit/192kHz, plus an optional battery pack for portability. If you’re pushed for space these desktop speakers are a perfect balance of impressive performance and dinky dimensions.
Read the full review: Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2