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.
The quick list
Best speakers overall
With innovative tech, exceptional performance, and unbeatable build quality, we'd recommend these to anybody.
Best budget bookshelf
Best budget bookshelf speakers
These unfussy speakers face stiff competition, but they're still the undisputed kings if you're on a tight budget.
Best budget floorstander
Best budget floorstander
It’s tough to make a truly talented and affordable floorstander, but Wharfedale has cracked it. Ignore these terrific towers at your peril.
Best mid-price standmount
Best mid-price standmount speakers
Open, refined, dynamically expressive and heaps of fun, new B&W's 607 S3 are the standmounters to beat at this price.
Best mid-price floorstander
Best mid-price floorstander
Superb performers that are capable of thrilling results, give them plenty of space and these solid floorstanders really shine.
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Best speakers overall
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
Best budget bookshelf speakers
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 Dali Spektor 2, which should be considered alternative options alongside the Wharfedale Diamond 12.1, 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 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 budget floorstanding speakers
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 hi-fi speakers, the talented Wharfdale 12.3 are a superb buy.
Read our full Wharfedale Diamond 12.3 review
Best mid-price standmount speakers
Now in its eighth generation and going 20+ years strong, Bowers & Wilkins' 600 series of speakers has more often than not provided some superb speakers.
And that story continues with its latest entry-level 607 S3 speakers. The smallest and most affordable stereo speaker that B&W makes (even if that 'budget' price has increased in the last couple of years), the new 607 S3 replaces the previous Award-winning 607 S2 Anniversary Edition speakers and delivers a significantly improved performance.
The 607 S3 has been updated throughout, with a brand new 25mm titanium decoupled double dome tweeter, a new elongated tube loading system, a revised motor assembly for the 13cm Continuum mid/bass driver, higher-quality components used in the crossover, and sturdier cabinet bracing. The two drivers overlap to improve integration, while B&W claims the use of titanium should result in more refined and detailed high frequencies.
The footprint remains the same and they're ideal for smaller spaces. Partner them carefully to balance out a somewhat forward, excitable treble performance, and you'll be rewarded with a terrifically detailed, rhythmically cohesive, agile, and energetic sound. The overall presentation is more open-sounding than before, while the treble performance is so much sweeter and more refined. For their size and price level, each note lands with precision and they even hold dynamic interest at low volume. Basslines are pulled taut and while they don’t go as bone-shatteringly deep as bigger speakers (or as big as the bigger 606 S3, below), they do land with impact.
Overall, they're just incredibly fun to listen to. There’s clarity and refinement in the mix here – to a really admirable level – but we’re struck by just how entertaining, zippy and musical this new pair sounds right from the start. We’re glad that, alongside a newfound level of clean detail, openness and precise sound, the new 607 S3 speakers have remembered to add in big doses of energy and dynamic prowess.
Read the full Bowers & Wilkins 607 S3 review
Best mid-price floorstanding speakers
There’s no shortage of talented rivals at this size and price, such as Dali's Oberon 5, yet having spent 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 perform best given plenty of space. 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 Award-winning 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
Best premium standmount speakers
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
Best premium floorstanding speakers
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
How to choose the best speakers for you
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.
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.