Whether you're looking for your first pair of speakers as you build a music system, upgrading an old pair of budget speakers or splashing the cash on a premium pair, we're here to help.
One-box wireless speakers might take up less space and mean less clutter, but for the best possible audio performance there's still no substitute for a quality pair of stereo speakers.
That's why we've created this comprehensive list of the best speakers. All of these pairs will help get the best possible sound quality from your source kit.
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.
We've got all kinds of speakers in the mix: floorstanding, bookshelf, active and even desktop systems all vie for supremacy. Read on for our round-up of the best hi-fi speakers on the market right now.
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 if you're curious.
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 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 floorstanders, the talented Wharfdale 12.3 are a superb buy and sound even better than the company's renowned 12.1 standmounters.
Read our full Wharfedale Diamond 12.3 review
If it's standmounted speakers you want, Elac's affordable B5.2s perform superbly for the money. They have the dynamic expression, detail and tonal sophistication to handle anything you can throw at them. Plus they sound wicked good whether they're hooked up to a standard or high-end system.
They're not too precious when it comes to placement either. So unlike some speakers, you won't have to build your room around them.
Inside is a 5.25cm mid/bass unit which uses a new blend of aramid fibres for the cone. And it uses a different shape to improve stiffness and damping, reducing resonance. With a top-end response of 35kHz, the tweeter should do justice to those soaring highs.
In the midrange, they're a little lacking in warmth, but on the flip side, they're very well balanced and can make the best of any recording, regardless of audio quality.
Elac has been making speakers since the 1980s, with a fine heritage of products to its name. These are some of its finest, and for this money, they're nothing short of 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 606 (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
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 budget speaker 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 the Spektor 2 match your budget, these affordable standmounters deserve an audition.
Read the full review: Dali Spektor 2
The Q Acoustics M20 are a pair of powered speakers designed to work wherever you feel like putting them. They also have a lot of useful connections on the back – TVs, CD players, turntables and laptops can also be wired to the M20 through optical, RCA line-level, aux and USB Type B connections. And there's wireless Bluetooth streaming, too. One speaker in the pair is the mains-powered 'master' and feeds the other through a supplied piece of speaker cable.
Versatile, simple to use and nicely put together, crucially, they also sound the part. The M20 speakers sound full, loud, spacious and energetic. For relatively affordable speakers that pack in quite so much, we're impressed how refined and detailed they manage to sound.
Q Acoustics has released an unfussy, just-add-source set of powered speakers that we find impossible to dislike. With all of the amplification squirrelled away in the master speaker and the plethora of connectivity and placement options covered, the M20 is far more likely to become your entire music system than it is simply your new desktop speakers – and for this money, you’ll be hard pushed to better the sound quality with hi-fi separates.
Read the full Q Acoustics M20 review
These speakers' smaller siblings (B5.2, above) are a current What Hi-Fi? Award winner. As you can imagine, we were pumped to hear what their bigger brothers could do. And we're glad to say we weren't disappointed.
So what's the difference between the two models? These have a larger driver, as well as some changes to the tweeter design and port placement. The cabinet has more bracing for increased rigidity, aiming to reduce resonance, making for less distortion. While they might look similar to their smaller siblings, they do feel more solidly put together.
Sonically speaking, they're mature, transparent performers that tell you exactly what the rest of your system is doing. It's hi-fi mentality at a price that only just nudges into the midrange.
Suffice to say, 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. Elac has hit it out of the park.
Read the full review: Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2
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.
Sound is organised, cohesive and musical. They deliver a good soundstage that, for the price, is expansive and 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 standmounters find themselves besieged by talented rivals (such as brilliant Elac Debut B5.2, above). Still, impressive Diamond 12.1 deserve a place high on anyone's shortlist.
Read the full Wharfdale Diamond 12.1 review
For much of the last decade, our go-to "affordable" floorstander was a Q Acoustics model, which in the company’s current range, is the 3050i speakers. But not anymore.
Because the Dali Oberon 5 blows it out of the water. What makes these speakers all the more impressive is that they're still the better buy, despite being a little pricier and noticeably smaller.
How has Dali done it? Not with any trickery or hi-fi voodoo. It's not even come up with any notable technological breakthroughs to change the game. Instead, it's focused on what it does best: skilful engineering, with granular refinements in each new instalment over the course of many years.
The result is breathtaking. They sound a lot bigger than their 83cm height would suggest, and they showcase lots of dynamic subtlety and rhythmic precision. They're musical, fun, and small enough to fit most rooms with ease. If your space is on the larger side you might want to consider bigger speakers, but for most living areas the Dalis will do the job.
Read the full review: Dali Oberon 5
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
The biggest, most premium models in Wharfedale's Evo range are packed with a lot of tech. So much so, we did a double take on the price.
It's impressive stuff, too. The Air Motion Transformer tweeter is normally reserved for more expensive speakers, while the dome midrange and twin Kevlar bass drivers set these floorstanders apart from the crowd.
They're big, so it's hardly surprising that they produce a loud sound with plenty of authority. But they're not all about the grunt. There's also plenty of transparency and subtlety on show, aided by their natural, easy-going presentation.
Three finishes – black, white and walnut – mean they'll fit into most interiors, while their build quality impresses, especially for the price. Inside, there's no shortage of bracing and damping to minimise resonance.
Rivals like the excellent Fyne Audio F501 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
How we test speakers
Here at What Hi-Fi? we review hundreds of products every year, including plenty 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 be confident 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.
How to choose the right speakers
How to buy second-hand and vintage speakers
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.