Best speakers 2019: standmount, floorstander, desktop, active

Best Speakers Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best speakers you can buy in 2019.

It doesn't matter if your speaker budget's modest or heady, our buying guide services a range of budgets. We've a wide selection of both floorstanding and bookshelf speakers to recommend, and we've even selected desktop and 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 speakers or going for broke with the biggest speakers your system can accommodate, we're here to help.

Best speakers 2019: standmount, floorstander, desktop, active

1. Elac Debut B5.2

Arguably the most capable budget standmounters we’ve heard.

SPECIFICATIONS

Speaker terminals: Single | Mid/bass driver: 5.25cm | Tweeter: 25mm | Sensitivity: 86dB/W/m | Dimensions: 34 x 18 x 23cm (HxWxD) | Sensitivity: 86 dB/w/m

Reasons to Buy
Detailed and organised sound
Solid build
Unfussy nature
Reasons to Avoid
Tough competition

The Elac Debut B5.2s are brilliant performers for the money. The speakers feel solid, they're unfussy about placement, and they take any music you throw at them in their stride. They have the dynamic expression, detail resolution and tonal sophistication to handle it all, and enough stretch in their abilities to get even better with a system above their natural price range. 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

Best speakers 2019: standmount, floorstander, desktop, active

2. B&W 607

A stunning pair of stereo speakers.

SPECIFICATIONS

Speaker terminals: Bi-wire | Driver: Continuum 13cm mid/bass, 25mm tweeter | Sensitivity: 84dB/w/m | Impedance: 8ohms | Dimensions: 30 x 16.5 x 23cm

Reasons to Buy
Dynamic and punchy
Well detailed, with fine balance
Versatile with positioning
Reasons to Avoid
Nothing at this price

The 600 Series is the most affordable range in B&W’s catalogue of stereo speakers and, standing just 30cm tall, the 607s are the smallest and most affordable stereo pair in the line-up. And for a pair of standmount speakers costing less than £400, you’d do well to beat the B&W 607s. Energetic, insightful and riotously entertaining, snappy timing is combined with plenty of punch, detail and deep bass, for a complete package that will be hard to beat.

Read the full review: B&W 607

Best speakers 2019: standmount, floorstander, desktop, active

3. 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

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.

Read the full review: Fyne Audio F302

Best speakers 2019: standmount, floorstander, desktop, active

4. 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 Bluetooth 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 if you're short of space.

Read the full review: Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2

Best speakers 2019: standmount, floorstander, desktop, active

5. 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

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 definitely deserve an audition if you're on the hunt for an affordable pair of standmounters.

Read the full review: Dali Spektor 2

Best speakers 2019: standmount, floorstander, desktop, active

6. B&W 606

The famous B&W 600 Series is back with a bang.

SPECIFICATIONS

Sensitivity: 88 dB/w/m | Driver: Continuum 16.5cm mid/bass, 25mm tweeter | Impedance: 8ohms | Max power handling: 120W | Speaker terminals: bi-wire | Dimensions: 34.5 x 19 x 34cm (HXWxD)

Reasons to Buy
Smart, stylish design
Brilliantly balanced sound
Dynamic and detailed
Reasons to Avoid
Nothing of note

Want to upgrade on the speakers above? These larger speakers deliver a predictably bolder, fuller presentation, but also an upgrade in terms of dynamics, which aids the organisation of trickier, more complex rhythmic patterns. The B&W 606 speakers feature a typically smart design, come in the perfect medium-sized speaker form, and ultimately deliver an exciting, engaging and perfectly-poised sound. Building on the all-conquering B&W 685 S2 speakers, the 606s could be an even bigger success. A great size and price for anyone with more than a passing interest in music, the 606s will breathe new life into your favourite tracks. They’re upbeat and energetic, deliver punchy, solid bass and offer class-leading levels of detail and dynamics.

Read the full review: B&W 606

Best speakers 2019: standmount, floorstander, desktop, active

7. 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

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.

Read the full review: Dali Oberon 5

Best speakers 2019: standmount, floorstander, desktop, active

8. 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

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.

Read the full review: Revel Concerta2 MI6

Best speakers 2019: standmount, floorstander, desktop, active

9. 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

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.

Read the full review: Fyne Audio F501

Best speakers 2019: standmount, floorstander, desktop, active

10. 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

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.

Read the full review: Acoustic Energy AE1 Active

Best speakers 2019: standmount, floorstander, desktop, active

11. B&W 603

A fantastic pair of floorstanders with an outstanding midrange.

SPECIFICATIONS

Sensitivity: 88.5 dB/w/m | Impedance: 8ohms | Max power handling: 200W | Biwire: Yes | Dimensions: 98.5 x 19 x 34 (HXWXD)

Reasons to Buy
Brilliant with vocals
Stunningly spacious soundstage
Impressive levels of detail
Reasons to Avoid
Not the most relaxing sound
Build quality could be better

B&W's 600 Series already has two entries in this list, so the 603 floorstanders make it a hat-trick. They pack in a lot of B&W engineering, including the company's silver Continuum cone material and a hightech FST driver, both of which are used for the midrange unit. Build quality is a touch disappointing for the money, but the B&Ws make up for it with a breathtakingly expansive and expressive sound. There aren't many speakers at this pricepoint that handle vocals so superbly and extract as much detail. They're not the most relaxing listen and do require an amp with plenty of poke, but partner them correctly and you'll be richly rewarded.

Read the full review: B&W 603

Best speakers 2019: standmount, floorstander, desktop, active

12. 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

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.

Read the full review: KEF R3

Best speakers 2019: standmount, floorstander, desktop, active

13. 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.

Read the full review: ProAc Response DT8

Best speakers 2019: standmount, floorstander, desktop, active

14. 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

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.

Read the full review: Dynaudio Special Forty

Best speakers 2019: standmount, floorstander, desktop, active

15. 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.

Read the full review: Spendor A7