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.
We celebrated British Hi-Fi Week by rounding up our favourite speakers from British manufacturers, but there's no reason why we shouldn't be celebrating our national audio heritage all year round. There are plenty of well-established British speaker brands to choose from, such as ATC, Bowers & Wilkins, KEF and PMC, plus relative newcomers like Fyne Audio and Q Acoustics.
Ok, we'll admit that not all British speakers are made from start to finish in the UK, but at the very least, they're designed or assembled in the UK by British firms. 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 the best British speakers we've tested in our bespoke listening rooms. And once you've chosen, you can test them out with our pick of the best British albums, too.
How to choose the right speakers for you
Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.
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 with 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.
Founded by Raymond Cooke in 1961, the company’s name actually stands for Kent Engineering and Foundry after the fact that KEF has been based in Tovil, Maidstone since its inception.
Right now, one of the most innovative speaker manufacturers in the world is in a sparkling vein of form, and while the original LS50 speakers had little wrong with them, KEF figured they deserved a fresh look and an upgrade after eight years. Introducing then, the LS50 Meta.
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 loved the originals, but the LS50 Meta take the performance to a notably higher level.
Read the full KEF LS50 Meta review
Founded back in 1932 by Gilbert Briggs, Wharfedale 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 of recent years.
Capping off said range is a truly outstanding (and affordable) floorstander in the shape of the Wharfeale Diamond 12.3. a wonderfully refined speaker and a worthy What Hi-Fi? Awards winner in 2021.
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 Wharfedale Diamond 12.3 review
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) in what proved to be an inspired move for the company.
Cosmetically, there's not much new here besides an inscription on the tweeter surround and a new oak finish option. On the inside, though, 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, with the new version offering so much more precision and control. 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 B&W 606 S2 Anniversary Edition review
KEF's MAT (Meta Material Absorption Technology) innovation has been elevating the performance of its most recent speakers (the Award-winning LS50 Meta above is a prime example), so it was only a matter of time before the tech was integrated into its 2023 R Series of speakers. Sure enough, the new R3 Meta standmounter features both MAT and KEF's Uni-Q driver array to great success.
These are gorgeous-looking units, with impeccable finish and build quality. KEF's 12th-generation Uni-Q driver array has been tweaked to accommodate the puck-sized MAT contraption, and the resulting sound is astonishingly clear and insightful. They’re also wonderfully transparent, at ease with any genre thrown at them: heavy metal, ’90s pop and classical works are all played over the testing period and the KEFs take it all in stride, simply relaying the music as faithfully as possible.
It's a huge step up from the MAT-less R3 (a previous five-star model) in terms of refinement, crystal-clear vocals and dynamism. These R3 Metas are spacious, dig deep, perform admirably both at loud and low volumes (a rare talent), and are delivered with a precision and accuracy that seems to come oh-so-easily.
Best of all, they're also hugely fun to listen to. You'll be drawn into emotive vocals, punchy bass and tactile guitar plucks and everything in between with whatever song you choose. Pair them with equally talented partnering kit and these KEF R3 Meta speakers will soar and shine.
Read the full KEF R3 Meta review
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 Fyne Audio F302i review
Wharfedale started with a clean slate with the Diamond 12.1, and it really shows. Pretty much everything is new compared with their predecessors, 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, with the 12.1 delivering 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 with such a modest size and price.
This is a tough area of the market, and Wharfedale's superb speakers aren't short of talented rivals (such as the brilliant Elac Debut B5.2). That doesn't stop us from granting them the full five-stars courtesy of their own irrepressible qualities.
Read the full Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 review
We love classic old hi-fi. Give us a chance to hear an original pair of Quad ESL-57 electrostatic speakers, Krell’s first power amplifier or an early Linn LP12 and we simply wouldn’t be able to resist. A huge part of the appeal of these products is all about nostalgia, of course. Compared to the very best we can make today, each of this legendary trio would struggle, though it’s important to note that they would still charm due to their innate specialness.
We think these new Mission 770 are right up there with the very best at this price. While the retro link will be the main attraction for some, for us that’s put in the shade by the speakers' excellent all-round performance. The 770 have a range of sonic talents that sets them apart from most rivals and earns them a warm recommendation.
They have so much finesse when it comes to delivering extended bass. They sound taut and agile, but also delicate in the way they paint bass textures and resolve low-level information. There's plenty of punch and power, too. The speakers have a slightly forward balance, especially with the clear and expressive midrange, that sounds lively and engaging – but thankfully never too aggressive.
Read the full Mission 770 review
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, and the Fact Fenestrias might just be the ultimate example. The sole concern of the range-topping (and thus very expensive) 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's 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 or loose.
Fantastically expensive and clearly demanding when it comes to space and 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 PMC Fact Fenestria review
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 the full 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 Wharfedale Evo 4.4 review
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 ProAc Response DT8 review
Spendor was founded in the late 1960s by Spencer and Dorothy Hughes – hence 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 Spendor A7 review
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