Best Speakers Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best speakers you can buy in 2020.
If you want great sound, you need great speakers. No matter how good wireless speakers have become, the best possible stereo sound still comes courtesy of a pair of good old stereo speakers.
Whether you're on a tight budget or ready to spend some serious money, there are a pair of stereo speakers for you. We have both floorstanding and bookshelf speakers to recommend, as well as desktop and active speakers, too.
So whether you're looking for your first pair of speakers as you build a hi-fi system, upgrading from some old budget speakers or going for broke with the best speakers your system can accommodate, we're here to help, with our round-up of the best speakers on the market right now.
How we choose our 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 other Best Buy page, you can rest assured you're getting a What Hi-Fi?-approved product.
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 B&W 606 bookshelf 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 S2s, the five-star 606s are set to be an even bigger hit. Like other speakers in the esteemed company's 600 range, these use B&W’s Continuum cone technology, as seen on the company’s more expensive models. Since this is the cheapest range on which the material appears, the 606s are something of a bargain.
Around the back of the speaker, you’ll see B&W’s Flowport vent and a pair of twin banana plugs for bi-wiring. We found build quality to be excellent throughout, as reflected in the premium price.
A great size and price for anyone with more than a passing interest in music, the 606s will breathe new life into cherished recordings. Their faultless timing, excellent insight and stirring dynamics deliver an upbeat, energetic punchy and punchy performance.
If your budget allows it, the 606s will reward with class-leading levels of detail.
Read the full review: B&W 606
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 review: Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2
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 review: Dali Spektor 2
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
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 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.
Spec is standard fare for the price, with a 25mm dome tweeter and a ported 16cm mid/bass drive in each box. The speakers are single-wired, but the upside is you can concentrate on a single pair of good quality speaker cables rather than splitting your money between two cheaper alternatives.
Fire them up and it's clear that Revel's engineers have worked hard to optimise those fairly unremarkable ingredients. Sound is expansive and enthusiastic, refusing to doesn't harden at high volumes. There's no lack of authority and presentation, either.
They may not be the most refined speakers, but if you want large-scale dynamics, you came to the right place. In that sense, these speakers can stand toe-to-toe with the best sub-thousand pound standmounters.
Read the full review: Revel Concerta2 MI6
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
We reviewed the original ProAc Response D2s back in 2008. Still in production, they’re unassuming, mid-sized standmounters that, despite their advanced years, remain competitive with the class leaders. The new Response D2Rs aren’t actually a replacement, they’re intended to complement the original design, which are around 20% cheaper than this model.
On paper, the big news is the inclusion of a ribbon tweeter - a first for ProAc standmount speakers. In our experience, the ribbon option gives a clearly more transparent and detailed sound, one that’s well worth the price premium. You need to give these speakers longer than average to run-in and reach peak performance, and they also demand proper stands, but once that's all done, you're in for a treat.
The Response D2Rs are wonderfully expressive speakers, delivering an agile, entertaining listen, where detail, texture and warmth in the midrange is a real highlight. They have plenty of attack at the frequency extremes but still enough in the way of subtlety to avoid sounding overly aggressive. Transparent without sounding overly analytical, these speakers are hard to beat at this price.
Read the full review: ProAc Response D2R
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
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 them. These B&W speakers are energetic, insightful and riotously entertaining.
To those familiar with B&W’s previous 600 Series speakers, the most obvious difference is the lack of iconic yellow drivers. B&W's instantly-recognisable Kevlar cones have been replaced by silver Continuum units first seen in the high-end 800 Series.
And judging by the performance, it's worked a treat. Snappy timing is combined with plenty of punch, detail and textural insight. What's more, these standmounters are capable of deeper and more authoritative bass response than their diminutive form would suggest.
The larger 606s (above) sound predictably bolder and richer, but for those on a tighter budget, the 607s offer many of same (instantly likeable) talents at more accessible price.
Read the full review: B&W 607
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 an Award 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
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.
The drivers are actually based on the drivers used in company’s high-end Confidence C1 model, which retails for ten times this price, so the Fortys sound confident, muscular and subtle. They also sound far bigger and more authoritative than a speaker that stands 36cm high has any right to, with plenty of dynamic reach and weighty bass.
Their rather bland appearance makes them easy to overlook, and won't excite some buyers, but if you're seeking sonic ability, the Fortys won't disappoint.
Read the full review: Dynaudio Special Forty
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