Best Speakers Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best speakers you can buy in 2021.
The best possible stereo sound quality still comes from a pair of hi-fi speakers – no matter how good one-box wireless speakers might have become. Our round-up of the best stereo speakers you can buy below will ensure your home audio system is treated to the best possible audio performance for your budget.
Whether you're on a tight budget or ready to splash the cash, take your pick from our selection of the best stereo speakers, no matter what genre of music you plan to play. We have both floorstanding speakers and bookshelf speakers to recommend, as well as desktop, active, and a number of all-in-one wireless stereo speakers, as also featured in our best systems guide.
So whether you're looking for your first pair of speakers as you build a home music system, upgrading an old pair of budget speakers or going for broke with the best speakers your system, room and finances can accommodate, we're here to help. Read on for our round-up of the best hi-fi speakers on the market right now.
How we choose the best speakers
Here at What Hi-Fi? we review hundreds of products every year, including no small amount of speakers of all shapes, sizes and types. So how do we come to our review verdicts? And why can you trust them?
The What Hi-Fi? team has more than 100 years experience of reviewing, testing and writing about consumer electronics. We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London and Bath, where our team of expert reviewers do all our in-house testing. This gives us complete control over the testing process, ensuring consistency. We always ensure we spend plenty of time with the speakers, trying them with different electronics, in different positions and with different music.
All products are tested in comparison with rival products in the same category, and all review verdicts are agreed upon by the team as a whole rather than a single reviewer, helping to ensure consistency and avoid individual subjectivity.
From all of our reviews, we choose the top products to feature in our Best Buys, such as this one. That's why if you take the plunge and buy one of the products recommended below, or on any of our other Best Buy pages, you can rest assured you're getting a What Hi-Fi?-approved product.
The original LS50 speakers had little wrong with them but after eight years, KEF figured they deserved a fresh look. And with the LS50 Meta they have delivered a worthy upgrade.
The LS50’s Uni-Q driver array, where the tweeter sits in the throat of the mid/bass unit, has been thoroughly reworked, taking in all the refinements that KEF has developed over the past eight years and adding something new in the form of Metamaterial Absorption Technology (MAT). MAT is KEF’s way of coping with the sound that comes off the back of the tweeter dome; a plastic circular maze of tubes on the back promising greater absorption for cleaner, less distorted highs.
While the basic sonic character is instantly familiar, the Meta speakers have gained a level of clarity and finesse the originals only hinted at, sounding clean while still offering muscle and dynamics.
We’ve loved the originals and the LS50 Meta takes the performance to a notably higher level.
Read the full review: KEF LS50 Meta
Wharfedale's Diamond range now features a truly outstanding (and affordable) floorstander. Indeed, we were so impressed by the Wharfedale Diamond 12.3's musical performance we deemed it a What Hi-Fi Awards 2021 winner.
At 98cm tall, the Diamond 12.3 aren't a particularly imposing pair of floorstanders, so they'll fit into most spaces. Sonically, they're smooth, even-handed and wonderfully refined for the money. Feed them a poor signal and they’ll round off rough edges and downplay unwanted aggression without sounding like they’re smothering the life out of the music.
As for build quality, the cabinets are carefully crafted with a traditional straight-edge design and a tidy feet arrangement. The 12.3 are available in four finishes – black, walnut, white and a classy light oak – all of which belie their relatively modest price tag.
If you're looking for reasonably-priced hi-fi speakers, the talented Wharfdale 12.3 are a superb buy.
Read the full review: Wharfedale Diamond 12.3
Elac's affordable standmounters are brilliant performers for the money. Solid and unfussy about placement, the Debut B5.2s have the dynamic expression, detail and tonal sophistication to handle anything you throw at them – not to mention enough stretch in their abilities to improve even further when hooked up to a high-end system.
The revised 5.25cm mid/bass unit uses a new blend of aramid fibres for the cone, combined with a different shape to improve stiffness and damping, while the tweeter claims a top-end response of 35kHz, adding plenty of sparkle to proceedings.
Tonally, they don’t have the luscious midrange warmth of the comparable Dalis (below), but they’re admirably balanced and capable of making the best of any recording – even those of poor quality.
Elac has been in the speaker business since the 1980s and has made many fine products in that time. It’s fair to say that these new Debut B5.2 speakers should be considered one of the company’s finest efforts. For this sort of money, they're exceptional.
Read the full review: Elac Debut B5.2
The original Bowers & Wilkins 606 speakers walked off with What Hi-Fi?’s top speaker award in 2019 but it seems there's always room for improvement. To mark the 25-year anniversary of the 600 range (in 2020), B&W decided to upgrade the 606s (and the rest of the range) - and it proved to be a wise move.
Cosmetically, there's not much new, but for an inscription on the tweeter surround and a new oak finish option. On the inside, there's an upgraded crossover that now features better-quality capacitors.
While retaining a broadly similar sonic character, the 606 S2 Anniversary Editions prove significantly more capable than their predecessors. The biggest differences are heard in the bass. The new version is so much more precise and controlled. There are improvements in clarity too, with voices offering extra subtlety, while the overall presentation is more natural and transparent.
Don't be fooled by the apparent minor upgrades, the B&W 606 S2 Anniversary Edition speakers deliver an impressive step up in performance.
Read the full review: B&W 606 S2 Anniversary Edition
The Fyne Audio F302 floorstanders debuted in 2018, swiftly becoming a firm favourite here at What Hi-Fi?. Now, Fyne’s engineers have taken the F302 and improved upon them.
The resulting F302i boast a number of neat upgrades. The 25mm polyester dome tweeter, for example, has been replaced by a titanium design derived from the company’s more premium F500 series, while the tweeter housing and crossover have been rejigged to maximise performance.
The sound of the F302i is smoother and more refined than their predecessors, with detail and tonal balance notably improved. Although, just like the original F302, these aren't the sweetest-sounding speakers at this level.
Build quality is nice for the price. Fyne has even mounted magnets on the back of the cabinet to provide a place for the grilles to be stored when not in use. And at 93cm high, these hi-fi speakers won't dominate smaller rooms.
Overall, Fyne Audio has done a great job with the F302i, zeroing in on the weak spots whilst keeping everything we like about the Award-winning originals.
Read the full review: Fyne Audio F302i
The Dali Oberon 1 C speakers are an impressively flexible proposition. Don't worry, that doesn't mean they're not well put together, it means you can have them pretty much any which way you like (in terms of stereo speakers, at least).
The Oberon C active speakers ship with Dali's Sound Hub Compact which gives you access to aptX HD Bluetooth for wireless streaming, an HDMI ARC socket for connecting to your TV/AV system, plus RCA and subwoofer connections. If you want multi-room, courtesy of BluOS and DLNA playback, you'll need to pay a small premium for the original, and larger, Sound Hub.
The speakers are largely unchanged from the passive Oberon 1, which are small and nicely made, with a mahogany coloured 13cm wood fibre mid/bass cone that's used in conjunction with Dali’s Soft Magnet Compound (SMC) technology and sits below the 29mm soft dome tweeter in the familiar Dali arrangement. These are active speakers, though, so each unit here is fed by a dedicated 50W Class D amplifier.
Sonically, as we've come to expect from Dali, we're treated to a clean, precise and detailed sound. Instruments are rendered faithfully, there's a good sense of scale and dynamics are impressive. Their size means you can only expect so much power and drive but for small speakers, and in small to medium-sized rooms, they're more than capable.
Active streaming systems are becoming increasingly common in this convenience-craving world, and the Dali Oberon 1 C are among the best examples we’ve seen at this level.
Read the full Dali Oberon 1 C review
Wharfedale started with a clean sheet here, and it shows. Pretty much everything is new, from the drive units to the cabinet construction. The result is a pair of compact, 31cm-tall boxes that have the ability to make the most of price-compatible hi-fi components.
Their sound is organised, cohesive and musical. They deliver an impressively expansive soundstage for the money that stays stable even when recordings become layered and demanding. We like the reassuring way the Diamonds handle larger-scale dynamics too, delivering more authority and scale than one might expect for speakers of a modest size and price.
This is a tough area of the market, however, and Wharfedale's superb speakers aren't short of talented rivals (such as the brilliant Elac Debut B5.2). Still, the impressive Diamond 12.1 deserve a place on anyone's shortlist.
Read the full Wharfdale Diamond 12.1 review
We loved the first Ruark Audio MR1 wireless desktop speakers when they emerged in 2013. The retro looks, the intuitive design, the superb Bluetooth sound – it was a winning combination that earned two successive What Hi-Fi? Awards.
For a while the MR1s were toppled from their perch by the gorgeous KEF Eggs. But it was only a matter of time before Ruark Audio unveiled the MR1 Mk2. And sure enough, Ruark Audio is back with a vengeance, having regained its crown for the last couple of years.
These compact bookshelf speakers are packed with features and hugely versatile. Bluetooth apt-X active allows you to stream music to the speakers in CD-like sound quality, an optical inpt means they're easily connected to a TV. Prefer analogue? You can always use the AUX input to partner them with a turntable or plug in some headphones.
The step up in performance in impressive, and the Ruark MR1 Mk2s manage to be even more appealing than their predecessors. Quite simply, these are superb speakers if you're short of space.
Read the full Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2 review
On paper, there’s little to differentiate Dali’s new Spektor 2s from any of their main rivals: the speakers stick to the classic budget standmounter formula like Superglue sticks to fingers. They offer everything we would expect from a typical £200/$200 box here, from two-way driver configuration and ported bass tuning right the way through to the 25mm dome tweeter and 13cm mid/bass driver.
But these Dalis are much more than simply the sum of their parts: they ooze sophistication and offer a degree of entertainment that even their most talented rivals struggle to match. Powerful vocals are delivered with nuance and passion, grabbing the listener's attention, and dynamics are handled with subtlety and class. They're particularly composed at high volume, too, which is always an encouraging sign.
Mission and Q Acoustics offer similarly-good options, and both have their relative strengths and flaws. But if Spektor 2s match your budget, these affordable standmounters deserve an audition.
Read the full Dali Spektor 2 review
There’s no shortage of talented rivals at this size and price, yet having spent some time in the company of the Triangle BR08 speakers, we feel they offer something special.
They may look fairly simple but they're also neatly finished, well made and available in a choice of four finishes. Inside is on the predictable side, too, with classic speaker design but for some high-density EVA foam behind the driver for extra stability. However, a three-way design with a front-firing reflex port indicates there's been no scrimping when it comes to the all-important aspects of the speaker.
A relatively high sensitivity means some care is needed when choosing your amplifier, while they also work best given plenty of room. Triangle suggests they work best in rooms between 20-40m squared in size, and the manual recommends placing them at least 40cm from a rear wall.
Sonically, they punch hard, deliver detail aplenty, and produce a musical and cohesive sound. Bass is deep but agile, helping deliver impressive scale and powerful dynamics. These are exciting speakers, which really come alive when turned up loud.
These Triangle speakers challenge the very best at this price – we advise listening to them before buying any other floorstanders.
Read the full Triangle Borea BR08 review
We’ve long been fans of Dynaudio’s Contour 20 range and the Contour 20i speaker successfully raise the bar. On the surface, little seems to have changed, but start to look closer and the improvements emerge.
There's a revised 28mm Esotar tweeter, which aims to reduce distortion and give the tweeter a smoother, flatter frequency response, and a new suspension for the 18cm mid/bass driver. Dynaudio has also been able to deliver a simpler crossover network.
Now these speakers aren't cheap and you should only be considering them if you have a system with components of similar quality (and, as a result, similar price). But if you do have such a hi-fi set-up, then you can enjoy what the Contour 20i speakers have to offer.
Perhaps what you'll notice first, is impressively powerful bass, with a sense of weight and punch that seems out of keeping with a box of this size. Yet, despite this rich and full-bodied approach to lows, these boxes still have enough in the way of agility and tunefulness to satisfy. There's authority, scale and class-leading insight, whether dealing with subtle, delicate moments or songs requiring soaring dynamics.
It's a competitive price-point, with a number of supremely capable contenders, but when it comes to delivering music that sounds rhythmical and cohesive, these Dynaudio speakers are very hard to beat.
Read the full Dynaudio Contour 20i review
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
For much of the last decade our default choice for the best sub-thousand pound floorstander was a Q Acoustics model, which in the company’s current range, is the 3050i speakers. But no more.
In the Oberon 5, Dali has delivered a brilliant alternative, one that is an even better buy – despite a £50 price premium and substantial size deficit.
There are no magic ingredients here, no bleeding-edge technology to explain the Oberon 5s’ talented performance – just skilful engineering and steady refinements over the course of many years. Standing a mere 83cm high, they manage to sound notably larger than they are, offering a great sense of fun, dynamic subtlety and rhythmic precision.
These well-constructed speakers are brilliantly musical and will fit into most rooms with ease.If you have a large room, the Q Acoustics 3050is would be worth auditioning, but in most other circumstances the Dalis’ greater sense of fun gets our vote. You won't be disappointed.
Read the full review: Dali Oberon 5
The Dali Menuet range of speakers has been one of our go-to options for time time when it comes to great speakers in compact form. The Menuet SE are the latest addition to the family and continue that fine tradition, delivering class-leading precision and superb detail from a small box that offers huge placement versatility. If you need something to fill a small or awkward space, in a corner or on a shelf, then these are a fine option.
On the outside, there’s a lovely Wild Walnut real wood veneer covered in an immaculately applied high gloss finish. The rest of the tiny 25cm tall cabinet remains unchanged. It’s about a big as a shoebox and feels immensely solid. Overall build is excellent. There's a 11.5cm mid/bass driver that uses the company’s favoured wood fibre cone material, and a 28mm dome tweeter. The biggest upgrade on previous generations is the upgraded crossover.
You're best pairing with a fairly powerful amp and positioning the speakers close to a wall, then you'll be treated to a fast, responsive and dynamic sound. You can't expect a cabinet of this size to deliver particularly deep bass notes but the overall tonal balance is fine, and the trade-off is focus and clarity. For a small space, you'll do hard-pressed to find anything better.
Read the full review: Dali Menuet SE
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.
Read the full review: Q Acoustics 3030i
French audio brand Triangle has come up trumps with the Borea BR03s. These sophisticated standmounters deliver a huge sense of scale, much larger than rivals such as the formidable B&W 607s, and boast impressive separation to boot.
There’s detail and insight across the frequency range and, given their size, the quantity of bass is perfectly acceptable. Even better, where previous Triangle speakers may have sounded hard or bright, these are perfectly balanced.
The BR03s are the largest of two pairs of standmounters in the Borea range and boast a distinctive design that's finished to a decent standard. They stand 31cm tall and feature a 25mm silk dome tweeter sat above a 16cm midrange/bass paper driver. Single-wiring is the order of the day, with a neat pair of terminals for 4mm banana plugs on the rear of each cabinet
Overall, the Borea BR03 are savvy musical performers with a great sense of scale and an even greater appetite for presenting music in a transparent and mature manner. Well worthy of your consideration.
Read the full review: Triangle Borea BR03
Wharfedale may have won plaudits for its Diamond range of speakers, but it has plenty to offer at the higher-end, too. Like the Elysian 4.
These speakers are big, and unusually broad by current standards. But they're beautiful to behold, with a wonderfully deep and luxurious gloss that's unmatched at this price. The enclosure sits on widely spaced floor spikes, giving the Elysian 4 a solid and stable stance on a level surface, though oddly they can’t be adjusted and locked into position – something to note if you have uneven hard floors.
These floorstanders deliver a combination of scale, authority and dynamic punch that most (invariably smaller) price rivals can’t match. Large-scale crescendos are dispatched with confidence, the Elysians punching out sound with real venom. They can play at high volume levels without stress too, but also have the less common attribute of still sounding interesting at whisper levels. This is something to take note of if you listen late at night and don’t want to disturb the neighbours.
So if you're starting a party, or just want to enjoy your vinyl on the quiet, the Elysian 4 are a great option for those with slightly deeper pockets.
Read the full Wharfedale Elysian 4 review
It’s been a few years since we last reviewed a ProAc speaker. Having spent some time with the new Response DT8 floorstanders, we wish it hadn't been so long.
We have no complaints when it comes to build, which is as good as we’ve come to expect from ProAc. The 98cm tall cabinet feels immensely solid, and is blessed with crisp edges and neatly applied wood veneer.
You'll notice that the DT8s use two different types of 16.5cm mid/bass driver working in tandem. The idea is to get the best of all worlds - a polypropylene cone in the top unit shoots for natural mids, while a stiff poly mica diaphragm in the lower to deliver powerful-but-articulate bass. The trick is to get the two working seamlessly, which isn’t easy.
While not perfect, these towers turn in as musically cohesive a performance as we’ve heard around this price. Slightly odd appearance aside, we really like these speakers. They deliver such an entertaining sound we can’t help but recommend them. Take a bit of care with system-matching and they will impress.
Read the full review: ProAc Response DT8
The big brothers of the A-Line series, these A7s are superb floorstanders that sound great, look great and are compact enough to fit into most homes.
Build quality is of a high standard, with crisp edges and impeccably smart wood veneer finishes in a choice of black ash, dark walnut or natural oak – there’s also a satin white option (for an additional fee).
Each speaker has an 18cm mid/bass driver and a 22mm tweeter with a wide surround to disperse the sound even further. Performance is refined yet entertaining, combining stunning precision, clarity and subtlety with hugely enjoyable dynamics and rhythm. They time with pinpoint accuracy and are immensely transparent – without straying into 'clinical-sounding' territory.
It’s worth taking care when partnering them, though. The A7s will work happily with most capable amplifiers, but something like the powerful-yet-poised Roksan Blak amplifier (£2800) will add a touch more warmth to the overall sound.
If you’re in the market for a new pair of top-notch floorstanding speakers, these elegant Spendor A7s should make their way to the top of your list.
Read the full review: Spendor A7
Never heard of Fyne Audio? Don’t feel bad or in any way out of the loop - this is a new company. The F501s are an extremely confident calling-card, and it's testament to their ability that they picked up a What Hi-Fi? Award back in 2018, the firm's first year of business.
At 98cm tall, the F501s are of unremarkable dimensions and offer decent build quality and finish for £1200 floorstanders. They're sturdily made, with chunky locking spikes and MDF-beneath-real-wood-veneer cabinets. There's some interesting technical details, too. The tweeter – a rigid titanium dome – sits in the throat of the mid-bass driver in an arrangement Fyne is calling IsoFlare.
All pretty impressive for a company that started from scratch, but it's the sound that really enthralled us. The F501s deliver unified tonality, plenty of dynamic prowess and exceptional timing for the money. Treble is assertive, to say the least, but never hardens. And while the 501s lay out every last scrap of detail, they remain wonderfully coherent and musical.
A 'Fyne' buy – and fantastic value for money.
Read the full review: Fyne Audio F501
This is a tough part of the market to crack, with exceptional performers available from almost every major speaker manufacturer – many of which are on this page. Yet, the ProAc K1 still manage to stand out among such talent. These aren’t necessarily the very best in one specific area – though we do love their wonderful midrange – but they still deliver a balance of sound that is utterly spellbinding in the right system.
Ask us to describe the K1’s sound in one word, and we’d pick ‘musical’. With a bit more leeway on the word count, we might add ‘expressive’, ‘cohesive’ and ‘comfortable’. The latter isn’t a term we use often when describing the sound of a product, but it fits these standmounters perfectly. These are the kind of speakers that you can listen to for hours on end without feeling fatigued, although don’t mistake calmness for boring – that simply isn’t the case here.
ProAc may have waited 12 years to release a K series standmounter to go alongside its veteran K series floorstander model, but that wait was well worth it.
Read the full ProAc K1 review
Wilson Benesch has never followed the herd. Its first products – a turntable and tonearm – were made using carbon fibre, something considered exceptionally high-tech back then in 1989.
The Wilson Benesch Precision P2.0 can trace their lineage right back to the company's first speakers, the A.C.T. One, using the same hybrid construction principles but instead of carbon it's aluminium and wood. Drive units are designed in-house and feature elaborate faceplates cleverly-shaped to reduce distortion.
Of course, these are very expensive speakers (£9495, $14,000, AU$18,990), so you need serious amplification to even contemplate them, but if your system allows for them, they really are top of their class. In terms of clarity and transparency, they're unrivalled, while there's also a level of authority and dynamic punch that smaller speakers just can't match.
Read the full review: Wilson Benesch Precision P2.0