Best hi-fi speakers 2018: standmount, floorstander, desktop, active

It doesn't matter if your budget's modest (we start at well under £200) or heady (which in this case means £5K or so). We've a wide selection of both floorstanding and standmounting designs to recommend, and we've even selected a few active options too.

The world's not short of fine loudspeakers, but here we've separated the truly outstanding from the merely great. So whether you're looking to upgrade a pair of older budget standmounters or going for broke with the biggest speakers your system can accommodate, we're here to help. 

There's never been such a fantastic choice, and with Black Friday deals around the corner, it could be a good time to buy...

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Standmount under £200

Best standmount hi-fi speaker under £200

Dali Spektor 2

An excellent pair of entry-level speakers.

SPECIFICATIONS

Impedance: 6ohms | Sensitivity: 85dB/w/m | Speaker terminals: Single wire | Dimensions: 29 x 17 x 24cm (HxWcD) | Tweeter: 25mm soft dome | Woofer: 13cm wood fibre

Reasons to Buy
Agile, articulate and expressive sound
Good detail resolution
Unfussy nature
Reasons to Avoid
Nothing of note

Today's best Dali Spektor 2 deals

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On paper, there’s little to differentiate Dali’s new Spektor 2s from any of their main rivals. These speakers stick to the classic budget standmounter formula like Superglue sticks to fingers.

There’s everything we would expect from a typical £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 more than the sum of their parts: they offer a degree of entertainment even their most talented rivals struggle to match. That's why they get a well deserved Best Buy.

Standmount under £300

Best standmount hi-fi speaker under £300

Monitor Audio Bronze 2

Stunning standmounters for the money.

SPECIFICATIONS

Speaker terminals: Single | Mid/bass driver: C-CAM 16.5cm | Tweeter: C-CAM 25mm | Sensitivity: 90dB/W/m | Dimensions: 35 x 18.5 x 25.5cm (HxWxD) | Sensitivity: 90 dB/w/m

Reasons to Buy
Impressive insight and well-developed dynamics
Pleasing bass weight and scale
Class-leading build and finish
Reasons to Avoid
Need a little space to breathe

Today's best Q Acoustics 3020i deals

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£249
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Introduced back in 2000, the original Bronze series was the entry point into Monitor Audio’s range. Five generations on, it remains at the core of the company’s product output, with the ‘2’ standmounter in particular a cornerstone of the brand.

For their size, these speakers dig deep in the bass; they’re tonally balanced and impressively detailed too. Add fine build and Monitor Audio’s usual high standard of finish and there’s much to applaud here.

Previous generations of Bronze 2s were class leaders. As it turns out, this one is too.

Standmount under £500

Best standmount hi-fi speaker under £500

Mission QX-2

Hugely enjoyable speakers that stand out among the competition.

SPECIFICATIONS

Sensitivity: 88 dB/w/m | Impedance: 8ohms | Max power handling: 120W | Speaker terminals: single wire | Dimensions;: 32 x 22 x 31cm (HXWxD)

Reasons to Buy
Energetic and insightful sound
Good rhythmic drive
Fine build and finish
Reasons to Avoid
Tough competition

Today's best Fyne Audio F302 deals

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£399
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The affordable speaker market is a tough place to compete.

With its £400 price tag, the Mission QX-2s fall somewhere between hugely capable budget performers, such as the Monitor Audio Bronze 2s (£280), and class leading mid-market opposition from KEF’s brilliant Q350s (£500).

That’s Award-winning competition that the new Missions have to respect, but not fear. 

Overall, the QX-2s are terrific speakers. They sound at home across a wide range of music and have an infectiously energetic character that makes them a pleasure to listen to. If you’re in the market for standmounters at this level you simply have to consider these.

Standmount under £750

Best standmount hi-fi speaker under £750

KEF Q350

Sophisticated, insightful speakers that belie their affordable price.

SPECIFICATIONS

Speaker terminals: Single wired | Driver: UniQ 16.5mm aluminium mid/bass with integrated 25mm aluminium dome tweeter | Sensitivity: 87dB/w/m | Impedance: 8ohms | Dimensions: 35.8 x 21 x 30cm

Reasons to Buy
Stunning levels of clarity and detail
Huge scale of sound
Good timing
Reasons to Avoid
Lack some punch and drive
Not best at low volumes

Today's best KEF Q350 deals

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£499
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£499
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£530
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If there’s one overriding theme across the new KEF Q350s, it’s refinement.

Nearly every aspect of the speakers has been redesigned to achieve a cleaner, more sophisticated presentation - both sonic and physical.

These £530 standmounters offer stunning sound and elegant looks, at a competitive price that see them taking the trophy at the top of their class.

KEF can hold its head up high: the Q350s are a cut above the rest. This level of clarity and refined detail isn’t something we usually hear at this mid-range price – we’re hugely impressed.

Standmount under £1000

Best standmount hi-fi speaker under £1000

Revel Concerta2 MI6

The best speakers we’ve heard for under a grand.

SPECIFICATIONS

Tweeter: 25mm | Mid/bass driver: 16.5cm | Impedance: 6ohms | Sensitivity: 86dB/w/m | Dimensions: 37 x 22 x 27cm (HXWXD)

Reasons to Buy
Strong dynamics, authoritative bass
Excellent integration 
Rhythmic and punchy
Reasons to Avoid
Need care in partnering

Today's best Revel Concerta2 M16 deals

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£999
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We’re surprised that a brand like Revel hasn’t made a bigger impact on the UK speaker market. All the ingredients for success seem to be in place; the products are well made, solidly engineered and, in our experience, tend to sound good.

The brand even has the might of parent company Harman behind it to provide extra reassurance.

The results speak for themselves: the M16s are a bundle of fun. Sure, they may not be the most refined choice around, but they entertain in a way few price rivals can match. We think that’s worth £950 of anyone’s money.

Best standmount under £2000

Best standmount hi-fi speaker under £2000

KEF R3

These superb standmounters set the standard at this price.

SPECIFICATIONS

Sensitivity: 87 dB/w/m | Impedance: 8ohms | Max power handling: 180W | Biwire: Yes | Dimensions: 42 x 20 x 34cm (HXWXD)

Reasons to Buy
Exceptional insight and resolution
Balanced and entertaining sound
Excellent build and finish
Reasons to Avoid
Nothing at this price

Today's best Monitor Audio Silver 200 deals

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£999
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Part of the company’s recently introduced premium R series, the R3s offer a large chunk of the pricier Reference 1’s engineering content and sonic performance at a fraction of the cost.

And that's a winning combination. The R3s are brilliant all-rounders. They’re expertly sonically balanced and work well across a wide range of systems, but give them a top class feed and they will deliver a sound good enough to worry most standmounters below the two grand mark. This is one to buy with confidence.

Standmount over £2000

Best standmount hi-fi speaker over £2000

Dynaudio Special Forty

Classic in looks but cutting edge in ability.

SPECIFICATIONS

Sensitivity: 86 dB/w/m | Impedance: 6ohms | Speaker terminals: Biwired | Woofer: 17cm MSP cone | Tweeter: 28mm | Dimensions: 36 x 19.8 x 30cm (HXWXD)

Reasons to Buy
Bold, dynamic and detailed sound
Pleasing bass weight and agility
Excellent build and finish
Reasons to Avoid
Appearance makes them easy to overlook

Today's best ATC SCM11 (2013) deals

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Put aside the gorgeous finishes – the options are Birch in either grey or red gloss – and there seems little to differentiate the Fortys from a stack of products the company has made in the past. Except pretty much all of them were way cheaper.

But don't be fooled. The Special Fortys are easy speakers to underestimate. They’re not an overtly cutting-edge design using the latest in high-tech materials, nor are they styled to stand out in a crowd.

But once we start listening none of that matters. We’re far too busy having fun. We love the sound of these speakers, and you will too.

Floorstander under £500

Best floorstander under £500

Fyne Audio F302

Fyne Audio has done a sterling job with these mouth-watering floorstanders.

SPECIFICATIONS

Sensitivity: 90dB/w/m | Impedance: 8ohms | Type: Two-way, rear ported | Max power handling: 120W | Mid/bass driver: 15cm | Tweeter: 25mm | Dimensions: 93 x 19 x 27cm (HXWXD)

Reasons to Buy
Full-bodied, entertaining sound
Fantastic timing and dynamic range
Plenty of low-end presence
Reasons to Avoid
Need some care in system-matching

Today's best Spendor A4 deals

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Though in its infancy as a brand, Fyne’s seven-strong management team represents a kind of supergroup of industry minds. It has more than 200 years of experience - and delivers results that actually total the sum of its parts, if the first of its loudspeakers to arrive in our test rooms are anything to go by.

It’s rare to find floorstanding all-rounders at less than £500 able to compete in every respect with the wealth of quality standmount speakers available at the same price.

Which only serves to demonstrate just what a sterling job Fyne has done with the F302s.

Floorstander under £1000

Best floorstander under £1000

Dali Oberon 5

Superb Award-winning floorstanders, right up there with the best.

SPECIFICATIONS

Sensitivity: 88 dB/w/wm | Impedance: 6ohms | Biwire: No | Max power handling: 150W | Dimensions: 83 x 16 x 28cm (HxWxD)

Reasons to Buy
Entertaining and informative
Expressive dynamics
Unfussy nature
Reasons to Avoid
Tough competition

Today's best Q Acoustics Concept 500 deals

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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.

Overall, these speakers manage to sound notably larger than they are and the Dalis’ great sense of fun gets our vote. You won't be disappointed.

Best floorstander under £1500

Best floorstander under £1500

Fyne Audio F501

A thrillingly accomplished pair of floorstanders.

SPECIFICATIONS

Type: Three-way design | Sensitivity: 90 dB/w/m | Impedance: 8ohms | Mid/bass driver: 15cm IsoFlare | Tweeter: 25mm Titanium dome | Max power handling: 75W | Dimensions: 98 x 20 x 32cm

Reasons to Buy
Well made and finished
Some interesting technical aspects
Revealing and engaging sound
Reasons to Avoid
Require judicious system-matching
Sound best at reasonable volume

Today's best KEF Reference 1 deals

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Never heard of Fyne Audio? Don’t feel bad or in any way out of the loop - this is a very new company.

Fyne Audio has arrived fully formed, with two complete series of speakers (the F300 entry-level range mentioned earlier and the F500 range from which these F501s are taken) plus a ‘statement’ (for which read ‘expensive’ ) speaker, the F1-10.

It’s obviously a bold move to launch a loudspeaker into the sort of competition the F501s are going to face - but then it’s equal obvious Fyne Audio has no problem with acting boldly. The F501s are an extremely confident calling-card and it's testament to their ability that they've picked up a Best Buy in the firm's first year.

Best floorstander under £2000

Best floorstander under £2000

ProAc Response DT8

These towers deliver a sparkling performance.

SPECIFICATIONS

Sensitivity: 90 dB/w/m | Impedance: 8ohms | Max power handling: 180W | Mid/bass driver: 16.5cm | Tweeter: 25mm | Dimensions: 97.8 x 19.3 x 23cm (HxWxD)

Reasons to Buy
Agile, articulate sound
Expressive dynamics
Insightful midrange
Reasons to Avoid
Slightly over-badged

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. 

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.

Best floorstander over £2000

Best floorstander over £2000

Spendor A7

Elegant floorstanders with a dynamic sound.

SPECIFICATIONS

Sensitivity: 88 dB/w/m | Impedance: 8ohms | Max power handling: 200W | Mid/bass driver: 18cm | Tweeter: 22mm | Dimensions: 93.4 x 18 x 30cm (HxWxD)

Reasons to Buy
Stunning insight and precision
Expressive sound
Compact size and unfussy nature
Reasons to Avoid
Nothing of note

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.

Refined yet entertaining, the top-of-the-line A7s continue Spendor’s knack for combining stunning precision, clarity and subtlety with hugely enjoyable dynamics and rhythm.

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.

Best desktop speaker

Best desktop speakers

Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2

Fantastic desktop speakers blessed with a gorgeous design and superb audio.

SPECIFICATIONS

aptX Bluetooth: Yes | Inputs: Optical, line in | Output: Subwoofer | Dimensions: 17 × 13 × 13.5cm (HxWxD)

Reasons to Buy
Stunningly musical sound
Subtle dynamics
Stylish, compact design
Reasons to Avoid
No USB input

We loved the first Ruark Audio MR1 desktop speakers when they emerged in 2013. The retro looks, the intuitive design, the superb wireless sound – it was a winning combination that earned two successive What Hi-Fi? Awards.

But for a while the MR1s were toppled from their perch by the lovely 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.

The step up in performance in impressive, and the Ruark MR1 Mk2s manage to be even more appealing than before.

Quite simply, these are superb speakers of their type.

Best active speaker

Best active speakers

Acoustic Energy AE1 Active

Able to outperform any number of systems comprising separates at similar money.

SPECIFICATIONS

Power: 2 x 50W | Dimensions: 30 x 18.5 x 25cm (HxWxD) | Inputs: RCA & balanced XLR

Reasons to Buy
Clear, balanced and detailed
Rhythmically exciting
Impressive dynamic range
Reasons to Avoid
Nothing of note

Today's best Acoustic Energy AE1 Active deals

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£1000
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It’s difficult to think of an amplifier/passive speakers combo that could better these Acoustic Energy active speakers at the price. They do everything with a flourish.

And that's not only by the standards of directly competing active speaker alternatives, but also by what we've been able to achieve in any price-comparable amp/speakers combination.

You owe it to yourself to track down a pair to discover that for yourself.

MORE: 6 of the best hi-fi systems 2018