Best British speakers Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best British speakers you can buy in 2022.
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. And once you've chosen, you can test them out with our pick of the best British albums.
How to choose the right speakers
First things first, decide on a budget. Your components should be evenly matched, both tonally and in terms of price, so consider this before breaking the bank on a new pair of speakers that the rest of your kit can't do justice.
You also need to make sure your speakers fit your room. Most speakers require a degree of space to sound their best, so be sure not to buy speakers that are too big for your listening area. This is also a good time to consider whether you want bookshelf or floorstanding speakers. Bigger speakers mean higher volumes but, again, you need the space.
There's also the choice between passive and active speakers. Most speakers are passive - they have no amplification inside, so require an amplifier to work. Active speakers are increasingly popular and can connect straight to your source, no amp required, though they do require a connection to mains power. Check out our pick of the best active speakers if you're curious.
For a more detailed explanation of everything you should consider, check out our complete guide to choosing the right speakers.
Raymond Cooke founded KEF in 1961. The company’s name stands for Kent Engineering and Foundry and it has been based in Tovil, Maidstone from the very beginning. And the speaker manufacturer is arguably now in as rich a vein of form as it has ever been.
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
Founded back in 1932 by Gilbert Briggs, Wharefdale takes its name from a valley found in the upper parts of the River Wharfe in the Yorkshire Dales, where the original speakers were made. Responsible for innovations such as the two-way speaker and the ceramic driver, the Diamond range is the company's most famous speaker of recent years.
And it 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
Arguably the biggest and best-known British speaker company, Bowers & Wilkins still manufactures some of its most popular speakers at its factory in Worthing on the south coast of England.
To mark the 25-year anniversary of the B&W 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
Formed by former Tannoy employees, Fyne Audio has filled a gap when it comes to brilliant hi-fi speakers born in Scotland.
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
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
In 1985, Brian O'Rourke and his son Alan pooled their savings to rent a small workshop in Rayleigh, Essex, to develop and manufacture their first loudspeaker systems. Success followed, not least when the company spied a gap in the market for high-quality radio systems in the early 2000s. From that change of focus, ultimately came these excellent wireless desktop speakers.
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 review Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2
PMC is one of the few companies to have been awarded an Emmy, testament to how the company's studio monitors have been adopted around the professional audio world by music and movie producers alike.
Designed and built in the UK, all PMC speakers tend to major on insight and transparency. The Fact Fenestrias might just be the ultimate example. The sole concern of the range-topping (and thus very expensive) Fact Fenestrias is maximising sound quality – an opportunity to take a fresh look at every part of loudspeaker design and come up with engineering solutions that are as free from budget constraints as they can be. And it has clearly worked.
The Fenestrias deliver sound with an impartiality that’s deeply impressive, handling all genres of music with balance and precision. These are big speakers so you can expect scale, dynamism and authority to match, all delivered with an incredible sense of realism and accuracy. Want to check your window seals? Turn up the volume and you're treated to deep, powerful bass that's never strained nor loose.
Fantastically expensive and clearly demanding when it comes to space and the the rest of your system's components but there's no denying these are some of the best speakers we've ever heard.
Read the full review: PMC Fact Fenestria
The Bower & Wilkins 805 D4 are easy speakers to recommend. They’re beautifully made and packed with technology. We get the impression that the engineering team behind their design really delved into the details to eke out every ounce of performance they could.
The result is arguably the most insightful and detailed sounding pair of speakers at this level. They deliver a sound that's balanced, wide open and packed to bursting with detail. Outright clarity is class-leading and vocals sound focused and refined.
We wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t mention that there are a number of excellent alternatives – KEF Reference 1, ProAc K1, Fyne Audio F1-8 – all of which are larger and able to dig deeper with more authority, but these remain extremely accomplished speakers.
If you’re lucky enough to be buying at this level, make sure the 805 D4 are on your shortlist.
Read our Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4 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
Q Acoustics has been around for a relative blink of the eye in hi-fi terms, being formed by a collection of audio experts in 2006. It has made up for lost time with a succession of superlative speakers, not least the latest 3000 series.
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
ProAc started life as a hi-fi shop called Celef, in Borehamwood on the outskirts of North London. Celef speakers soon followed before ProAc became the moniker of choice in 1979, based on a new driver design which had originally been designed with "pro" audio in mind.
Professional Acoustics remain adept at speaker design with these Response DT8 floorstanders as fine a recent example as we've heard.
We also 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
Spendor was founded in the late 1960s by Spencer and Dorothy Hughes – the 'Spen' and 'Dor' in the name – and continues to turn out excellent stereo speakers to this day.
Take the current A-Line series and these A7 floorstanders; they 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
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, located in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, 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
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
Mission Electronics was founded in 1977 by Farad Azima, and a year later released the famous 770 loudspeaker, which featured the world’s first commercial polypropylene bass unit. 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 remain some of the best budget standmounters we've seen in recent years and still a fine budget buy.
Read the full review: Mission QX-2
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