Best Speakers Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best speakers you can buy in 2021.
The best possible stereo sound quality still comes from a pair of speakers – no matter how good one-box wireless speakers might have become. Our round-up of the best stereo speakers you can buy, will ensure you get the best possible sound from your home audio system.
Whether you're on a tight budget or ready to splash the cash, take your pick from our selection of the best stereo speakers for music. We have both floorstanding and bookshelf speakers to recommend, as well as desktop, active and wireless stereo speakers.
So whether you're looking for your first pair of speakers as you build a 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. Read on for our round-up of the best hi-fi speakers on the market right now.
How we choose the best 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 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.
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
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 Dalis (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
Although 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 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 a pair of sub-£500 floorstanders able to compete in every respect with the wealth of quality standmount speakers available at the same price, but the F302s manage to tick all the boxes and more.
Superb all-rounders, they feature a two-way, rear-ported design that houses a 25mm polyester dome tweeter and 15cm multi-fibre mid/bass driver in each cabinets. Build quality is impressive for the money, with a choice of understated wood-effect finishes – described by Fyne as 'superior vinyl'.
Overall, the company has done a sterling job of balancing sound quality with affordability. If you want a pair of floorstanders that won't break the bank, look no further.
Read the full review: Fyne Audio F302
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 Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2 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 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
We’ve long been fans of Dynaudio’s Contour 20 range and the Contour 20i speaker successfully raise the bar. On the surface, little seems to have changed, but start to look closer and the improvements emerge.
There's a revised 28mm Esotar tweeter, which aims to reduce distortion and give the tweeter a smoother, flatter frequency response, and a new suspension for the 18cm mid/bass driver. Dynaudio has also been able to deliver a simpler crossover network.
Now these speakers aren't cheap and you should only be considering them if you have a system with components of similar quality (and, as a result, similar price). But if you do have such a hi-fi set-up, then you can enjoy what the Contour 20i speakers have to offer.
Perhaps what you'll notice first, is impressively powerful bass, with a sense of weight and punch that seems out of keeping with a box of this size. Yet, despite this rich and full-bodied approach to lows, these boxes still have enough in the way of agility and tunefulness to satisfy. There's authority, scale and class-leading insight, whether dealing with subtle, delicate moments or songs requiring soaring dynamics.
It's a competitive price-point, with a number of supremely capable contenders, but when it comes to delivering music that sounds rhythmical and cohesive, these Dynaudio speakers are very hard to beat.
Read the full Dynaudio Contour 20i 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
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.
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
The Dali Menuet range of speakers has been one of our go-to options for time time when it comes to great speakers in compact form. The Menuet SE are the latest addition to the family and continue that fine tradition, delivering class-leading precision and superb detail from a small box that offers huge placement versatility. If you need something to fill a small or awkward space, in a corner or on a shelf, then these are a fine option.
On the outside, there’s a lovely Wild Walnut real wood veneer covered in an immaculately applied high gloss finish. The rest of the tiny 25cm tall cabinet remains unchanged. It’s about a big as a shoebox and feels immensely solid. Overall build is excellent. There's a 11.5cm mid/bass driver that uses the company’s favoured wood fibre cone material, and a 28mm dome tweeter. The biggest upgrade on previous generations is the upgraded crossover.
You're best pairing with a fairly powerful amp and positioning the speakers close to a wall, then you'll be treated to a fast, responsive and dynamic sound. You can't expect a cabinet of this size to deliver particularly deep bass notes but the overall tonal balance is fine, and the trade-off is focus and clarity. For a small space, you'll do hard-pressed to find anything better.
Read the full review: Dali Menuet SE
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
Having given these speakers’ smaller siblings a What Hi-Fi? Award at the end of 2019 (you'll see those at the top of the page), we were eager to hear the bigger brothers. And we weren't disappointed.
There's a larger driver here, as well as some changes to the tweeter design and port placement. Inside the cabinet has been further braced for a more rigid structure - reduced resonance and distortion is the aim. They do feel solid as a result, though the style remains simple.
While their looks are understated, and even sonically they refuse to beg for your affection, the Elac B6.2s are mature, transparent performers that confidently outline just what the rest of your system is doing. It is hi-fi mentality at a price that only just nudges into the midrange.
We’re big fans of this new Debut series. The B6.2 speakers take what we loved about their Award-winning siblings and build on it with an even fuller-bodied and more mature presentation.
Read the full review: Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2
Essentially, the Rubicon 2 Cs are an amalgamation of Dali’s five-star Rubicon 2 passive speakers (they borrow the drivers and cabinet construction) and the 2018 Callisto active speakers, from which they take the company’s capable Class D amplifier technology as well as the third box in the set-up, the Dali Sound Hub.
The Sound Hub is essentially the brains of the system – a streaming preamp that connects to the speakers wirelessly. There are two opticals and a coaxial feeding a Burr Brown PCM1796 DAC, a pair of stereo RCAs, a 3.5mm socket and aptX HD Bluetooth. It also supports the BluOS streaming platform, which supports the likes of Spotify, Tidal and Qobuz, and will connect to other BluOS wireless multi-room devices (such as Bluesound).
Sonically, the Rubicon 2 Cs’ presentation is wonderfully cohesive across the frequencies: highs, lows and mids are distinctly defined, yet never stray from their seemingly effortless coordination with one another. Such seamless integration is complemented by a pleasing tonal balance that’s solid through the midrange and bass and crisp up top. Vocal delivery is a speciality of the Dalis thanks to the sheer warmth and clarity offered.
Turning a great pair of passive speakers into a great active wireless system is no easy feat but Dali has done a fine job of it here.
Read the full review: Dali Rubicon 2 C
French audio brand Triangle has come up trumps with the Borea BR03s. These sophisticated standmounters deliver a huge sense of scale, much larger than rivals such as the formidable B&W 607s, and boast impressive separation to boot.
There’s detail and insight across the frequency range and, given their size, the quantity of bass is perfectly acceptable. Even better, where previous Triangle speakers may have sounded hard or bright, these are perfectly balanced.
The BR03s are the largest of two pairs of standmounters in the Borea range and boast a distinctive design that's finished to a decent standard. They stand 31cm tall and feature a 25mm silk dome tweeter sat above a 16cm midrange/bass paper driver. Single-wiring is the order of the day, with a neat pair of terminals for 4mm banana plugs on the rear of each cabinet
Overall, the Borea BR03 are savvy musical performers with a great sense of scale and an even greater appetite for presenting music in a transparent and mature manner. Well worthy of your consideration.
Read the full review: Triangle Borea BR03
It’s difficult to think of an amplifier/passive speakers combo that could better these Acoustic Energy active speakers for the money – 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.
Each drive unit is driven by a dedicated 50W class A/B power amplifier module, while dials at the back of each cabinet allow for treble adjustment and bass cut up or down by 2dB.
Unlike the Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2s (above), there's no built-in Bluetooth. If you want to stream music to them wirelessly, you'll need to attach a separate module – such as a pre-amp or streamer with wireless capability – post-purchase.
It’s rare to find a pair of active speakers at this price that leave us struggling to come up with alternative separates that can match their talents. You owe it to yourself to track down a pair to discover that for yourself.
Read the full review: Acoustic Energy AE1 Active
Such has been the consistency of B&W's design approach that it’s easy to dismiss recent generations of the 800 series as just more of the same. The general look has hardly changed over the last decade or so, and those curved cabinets have gone from looking futuristic to almost classical, though they still look attractive.
This B&W 805 D3, which we reviewed back in 2017, hardly goes out of its way to dispel the ‘more of the same’ notion, but start delving and you’ll find B&W’s engineers have left little unturned in their bid to improve performance.
Every aspect of the Diamond dome tweeter has been redesigned, while this was the first B&W speaker to move from Kevlar to Continuum material for the mid/bass driver. There's now a front-facing port and of course the design looks as elegant as ever.
Sonically, it’s a superbly focused image, nicely layered and stable. These B&Ws sound open and dynamic, and while best when really pushed they can do subtle and finesse, too. In fact, levels of low-level detail are class-leading. Though the price of the 805s has crept up over the years, this latest generation is without doubt the most capable we’ve heard.
Read the full B&W 805 D3 review
Entry-level is a relative term. In Wilson Benesch’s world, it refers to the new Precision range, which includes these not-remotely-cheap P1.0 speakers. Happily, there's plenty of clever engineering inside to justify the high price.
While most speakers are made from MDF, these cabinets are a hybrid construction of aluminium and birch plywood. The drive units are no less exotic. The mid/bass driver uses an Isotactic Polypropylene cone driven by a powerful, heavily optimised Neodymium motor system, while the 25mm soft dome Leonardo tweeter borrows its construction from the much pricier Geometry series, and has a 3D-printed, elaborately-shaped faceplate to reduce distortion.
The looks aren't to everyone's tastes, but there's no debate when it comes to performance. Provided you feed them a signal of appropriate quality, and partner them realistically, they won’t fail to impress. These are insightful and composed performers that work well across a wide range of musical genres.
Top it off with a balanced, integrated and dynamic sound, and you have a pair of speakers that set sky-high standards for the price.
Read the full review: Wilson Benesch Precision P1.0
Part of the company’s 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 and arguably the most complete standmounters available at this price. At the heart of the speakers sits KEF’s distinctive Uni-Q driver array. While it may look like a single drive unit, it's a two-way arrangement where the tweeter is set into the midrange driver, in an effort to improve dispersion and integration.
Aside from the terrific build quality and finish, it's the sonics that set these speakers apart. They deliver a level of detail and insight that outclasses most rivals, and have an even-handed nature that gives them exceptional balance.
The R3s 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
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
Never heard of Fyne Audio? Don’t feel bad or in any way out of the loop - this is a new company. The F501s are an extremely confident calling-card, and it's testament to their ability that they picked up a What Hi-Fi? Award back in 2018, the firm's first year of business.
At 98cm tall, the F501s are of unremarkable dimensions and offer decent build quality and finish for £1200 floorstanders. They're sturdily made, with chunky locking spikes and MDF-beneath-real-wood-veneer cabinets. There's some interesting technical details, too. The tweeter – a rigid titanium dome – sits in the throat of the mid-bass driver in an arrangement Fyne is calling IsoFlare.
All pretty impressive for a company that started from scratch, but it's the sound that really enthralled us. The F501s deliver unified tonality, plenty of dynamic prowess and exceptional timing for the money. Treble is assertive, to say the least, but never hardens. And while the 501s lay out every last scrap of detail, they remain wonderfully coherent and musical.
A 'Fyne' buy – and fantastic value for money.
Read the full review: Fyne Audio F501
There are some great high-end speakers on the market, but most of them need larger rooms to shine. So, what if you have a generous budget, but a compact listening space? We think we’ve found the answer in Audiovector’s R1 Arreté.
Not only are they great as they are but they can also be upgraded. The speakers can be returned to the factory for conversion to either the Avantgarde or the range-topping Arreté spec we have here. The changes are wholesale, involving better drive units, higher-spec crossovers and even improvements to the cabinet, depending on the level chosen.
The Arreté specification represents the pinnacle of Audiovector’s technology. It features an open-backed version of the company’s in-house AMT (Air Motion Transformer) tweeter. The 16.5cm carbon fibre cone mixes aramid fibres with artificial wood resin to create a well-damped but rigid structure. The claim is of improved resolution and dynamics over alternatives. A carefully calibrated crossover network links the two drivers.
There’s no shortage of excellent rivals at this price level. KEF’s Reference 1s sound even more authoritative and are capable of greater tonal neutrality. Equally, Bowers & Wilkins 805 D3s have a sweeter top-end coupled to an impressive degree of resolution while Dynaudio’s Contour 20s take a more muscular approach.
Yet, even against such talented (and larger) competition, we think these Audiovectors posses an utterly convincing blend of talents, particularly their musical cohesion, expressive dynamics and rhythmic nature. If you have a smaller listening room, we would argue they deserve top spot on your shortlist.
Read the full review: Audiovector R1 Arreté
It’s testament to Acoustic Energy’s AE309s that by the time we had finished running these speakers in, we’d almost forgotten that we’d swapped them for our usual ATC reference speakers. And that is some compliment.
We think they look great and they have a slim, room-friendly profile. The tweeters have been developed specially for Acoustic Energy’s 300 series, using the company’s Wide Dispersion Technology waveguides to better match dispersion to the woofers, with the aim of widening the listening sweet spot.
The result is a versatile pair of floorstanders with range and scale beyond their relatively modest dimensions. Sonically, they're musical and dynamic, with the bonus of plenty of bass weight. They're fun, too, delivering a sound that's as enjoyable as anything we’ve heard at this price.
The Fyne F501s (above) deliver a bit more space and detail, but if you're in the market for something of this size and price, the AE309s should be on your shortlist.
Read the full review: Acoustic Energy AE309
Wilson Benesch 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