Stereo speakers are the heart and soul of a hi-fi system, and we've sifted through 16 years' worth of Awards issues to pick the top pairs since the turn of the century...

Since the What Hi-Fi? Awards started back in December 1983, we've seen some fine examples of speaker craftsmanship. Each year we've selected our favourite pairs of stereo speakers across a wide spectrum of prices, and each year one outstanding pair was given the Product of the Year badge - the best of the best.

The winners we've selected here aren't just the best-value speakers in their respective price category, but they also exemplify our performance-per-pound ethos.

Either way, it's a look back down memory lane at some of the best speakers we've heard this century - and it's a fairly formidable shopping list should you be in the market for a second-hand pair of speakers.

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2000, 2001

Mission 780 Tested at £300

The first stereo speaker Product of the Year of the new millennium was the Mission 780, the smallest of the 78 series. Not only were the 780s a stellar example of craftsmanship, we were also impressed by how big these Mission speakers sounded.

Equally as capable with rock tracks as with more subtle songs, they got the 21st century off to a fine start, winning two years in a row.

See all our Mission reviews

2002, 2003

Quad 11L Tested at £379

The Mission 780s were unable to make it a 21st century hat-trick after being displaced in 2002 by the 11Ls, which saw an audio manufacturer with a fine high-end pedigree go after the mainstream market.

The results were quite stunning, with features that would ordinarily belong at the premium end of the spectrum being brought fully into reach for those on a more modest budget.

"Luscious looks combined with brilliant sonic performance mean the awesome-value Quad 11Ls hang on to the top Award" - with that verdict, you can understand why these speakers won again in 2003.

See all our Quad reviews

2004

Wharfedale Diamond 9.1 Tested at £180

No doubt a familiar name to many an audio connoisseur, Wharfedale's Diamond range of budget speakers has played a formidable part in the history of our Awards.

Ever since the series first made its debut back in 1983 (like our Awards), we've been rather taken with them. The 9.1s took the performance of sub-£200 speakers to a whole new level.

See all our Wharfedale reviews

2005, 2006

KEF iQ5 Tested at £400

Unlike many of their contemporaries, the sub-£500 iQ5 floorstanders retained that element of bass control and mid-range realism that could often be sacrificed in favour of deeper bass reach and greater scale.

With a big, confident and poised sound that belied their modest dimensions, the iQ5s proved themselves to be peerless when it came to picking the best stereo speakers in 2005 and 2006.

See all our KEF reviews

More after the break

2007, 2008

B&W 685 Tested at £380

While it wasn't quite in the speaker wilderness, a good few years had passed without B&W having a strong contender at this price. Then in 2007, the 685s came along.

It was quite some return, as these standmounters put in a performance more than capable of worrying all but the very best below £1000.

We probably listened to the 685s more than any other product in 2008, aside from our reference systems.

With brilliant composure among the many positives, they were fantastic value for money and deservedly retained their Award in 2008.

See all our B&W reviews

2009

Wharfedale Diamond 10.1 Tested at £200

"A stunning achievement for the cash". The 10th-generation of Wharfedale's Diamond range picked up where its predecessor (the 9.1) left off in 2004.

Not only could these standmounters outperform just about any price-comparable speaker, but plenty from the price-class above, too.

2010

Monitor Audio Bronze BX2 Tested at £250

The 2010 Product of the Year deservedly went to Monitor Audio's Bronze BX2s.

Incredible value for money and with so much going for them in terms of performance, they were still winning Best Buy Awards two years later at their price point.

See all our Monitor Audio reviews

2011

KEF Q300 Tested at £450

Throughout 2011, these KEF standmounters sat at the top of the pile, seeing off challenges from many worthy competitors.

In the end, the Q300s were crowned Product of the Year for their all-round prowess.

2012

KEF LS50 Tested at £800

Looking back since the turn of the millennium, KEF has shown some serious aptitude in the stereo speaker stakes. After the iQ5s and the Q300s came the more upmarket and impressive LS50s, which duly won the Product of the Year in 2012.

And judging by their Readers' Award successes in 2013 and 2014, you were every bit as taken with them as we were.

 

2013

Q Acoustics Concept 20 Tested at £350

It has been a remarkable journey for Q Acoustics. The company was only founded in 2006, yet its stereo speakers have bagged at least one Best Buys Award in each subsequent year.

The Concept 20s are arguably the company's crowning glory: named our Product of the Year 2013, it was one of the simplest decisions we've had to make in this category.

See all our Q Acoustics reviews

2014, 2015

B&W 685 S2 Tested at £500

B&W made a major comeback with the redesigned 685 S2, nabbing two successive Product of the Year Awards for their mid-priced marvel.

They're superb speakers, with their huge sense of scale and excellent dynamics setting them apart from the competition.

2016

Dynaudio Emit M20 Tested at £600

Dynaudio took to the 2016 podium in the most dramatic way by winning two Awards for the £500 M10s and £600 M20s. The latter even knocked the formidable B&W 685 S2s down to four stars.

And it was the Emit M20s that took the Product of the Year title, thanks to their big, exciting sound, and excellent dynamics.

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