No matter how good one-box wireless speakers have become, the best possible stereo sound quality still comes from a pair of hi-fi speakers. Our round-up of the best stereo speakers you can buy will ensure your home audio system is treated to the ultimate audio performance that your budget allows.
From cheap to high-end, you can take your pick from our selection of the best hi-fi speakers, no matter what genre of music you plan to play. We have both floorstanding speakers and bookshelf speakers to recommend here, to suit your home and audio needs.
Every pair of speakers on this list has been thoroughly tested by the team of experts at What Hi-Fi? in our dedicated and bespoke listening rooms, so you can trust our buying advice.
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.
How to choose the right speakers
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 on this list are passive - they have no amplification inside, so require a separate amplifier to work. Active speakers with amplification (and sometimes DAC and streaming smarts) 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 or best desktop speakers if you're curious about this alternative.
For a more detailed explanation of everything you should consider, check out our complete guide to choosing the right speakers.
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 - and award-winning - level.
Read the full review: KEF LS50 Meta
Wharfedale's Diamond range now features a truly outstanding (and affordable) floorstander. Indeed, we're so impressed by the Wharfedale Diamond 12.3's musical performance that it's now a two-time What Hi-Fi? Award 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 Dali Spektor 2 (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
KEF's new 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 speakers, with impeccable finish and build quality. KEF's 12th-generation Uni-Q driver array has been tweaked to accommodate the puck-sized MAT contraption (which absorbs 99 per cent of unwanted back radiation from the tweeter), and the resulting sound is astonishingly clear and insightful. The KEFs have a graceful nature to them that hides just how accomplished they are. They’re 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 to them. 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 throw at them. Pair them with equally talented partnering kit, and these KEF R3 Meta speakers will soar and shine. Highly recommended.
Read the full review: KEF R3 Meta
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
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 Award-winning 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
Choosing the right pair of speakers comes with compromises: do you go for something that's highly analytical or one that puts engaging musicality as its highest priority? If you're after the latter, then the Sonus Faber Lumina V could be for you.
The Lumina V are three-way speakers with a downward firing port. Aesthetics have always been a key part of the Sonus Faber DNA, and that remains the case here. The mixture of real wood veneer (or gloss black) with the faux-leather material looks elegant and distinctive.
The Lumina V do need some care with partnering equipment (they need an amplifier with grunt, such as the Rega Aethos or Naim SuperNait 3) and with their positioning in the room to sound their best (give them space to breathe).
It's a bit of a slow burn, but the Lumina V shine with good quality sources. Their midrange is a true highlight. It is as articulate and expressive as we’ve heard at this premium price (£2499 / $2999 / AU$5295). They may not have the most expansive or spacious stereo imaging we’ve heard for the money, but large-scale dynamics are rendered with verve and composure.
There's finesse and authority when needed, but these speakers are more concerned with trying to integrate all elements of a song into a cohesive and musical whole rather than trying to dazzle us with their abilities.
They have a richer, full-bodied tone that's still packed with detail – but it's their natural sonic grace and easy-going balance that wins us over. A charming pair of speakers in every way.
Read the full Sonus Faber Lumina V 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 our Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4 review
We think these new Mission 770 are right up there with the very best at this price. Mission takes design inspiration from the original 770 speakers launched in the 1970s, but has improved and modernised every other element: from the cabinet design to the drivers and even new dedicated stands.
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.
Songs are delivered with wide-ranging dynamics, impressive authority and scale. It’s a musically cohesive presentation that’s controlled and nicely organised. If you have the budget - and space - for these speakers, they're worth an audition.
Read the full review: Mission 770
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-£1000 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
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
How we test 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, Reading 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.
You can read more about how we test and review products on What Hi-Fi? here.
Anyway PMC seem to have priced themselves out. The GB1i was released at £1500 back in 2008 and was their entry level floor stander. The equivalent now is the Twenty5 23i of e £3850. I’m sure they’re better, but as a small entry level speaker is it £2350 better? The reviews indicate not.