Best Speakers Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?’s round-up of the best speakers you can buy in 2019.
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. And with Black Friday around the corner, it’s a good time to be keeping an eye out for bargains.
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.
The Elac Debut B5.2s are brilliant performers for the money. The speakers feel solid, they’re unfussy about placement, and they take any music you throw at them in their stride. They have the dynamic expression, detail resolution and tonal sophistication to handle it all, and enough stretch in their abilities to get even better with a system above their natural price range. 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 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 S2 speakers, the 606s could be an even bigger success. A great size and price for anyone with more than a passing interest in music, the 606s will breathe new life into your favourite tracks. They’re upbeat and energetic, deliver punchy, solid bass and offer class-leading levels of detail and dynamics.
Read the full review: B&W 606
Though 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 actually 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 floorstanding all-rounders at less than £500 able to compete in every respect with the wealth of quality standmount speakers available at the same price.
Which only serves to demonstrate just what a sterling job Fyne has done with the F302s.
Read the full review: Fyne Audio F302
We loved the first Ruark Audio MR1 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.
But for a while the MR1s were toppled from their perch by the lovely 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.
The step up in performance in impressive, and the Ruark MR1 Mk2s manage to be even more appealing than before.
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. These speakers stick to the classic budget standmounter formula like Superglue sticks to fingers.
There’s everything we would expect from a typical £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 more than the sum of their parts: they offer a degree of entertainment even their most talented rivals struggle to match. That’s why they definitely deserve an audition if you’re on the hunt for an affordable pair of standmounters.
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. Entertaining and detailed, the Evo 4.4. speakers simply 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.
Overall, these speakers manage to sound notably larger than they are and the Dalis’ great 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 brand even has the might of parent company Harman behind it to provide extra reassurance.
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. We think that’s worth £950 of anyone’s money.
Read the full review: Revel Concerta2 MI6
It’s difficult to think of an amplifier/passive speakers combo that could better these Acoustic Energy active speakers at the price. 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.
You owe it to yourself to track down a pair to discover that for yourself.
Read the full review: Acoustic Energy AE1 Active
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.
The cabinet is a hybrid construction of aluminium and birch plywood, the mid/bass driver uses an Isotactic Polypropylene cone built into a high-pressure die-cast chassis and driven by a powerful, heavily optimised Neodymium motor system. 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.
Sonically, 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, delivering a balanced, integrated and dynamic sound.
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. They’re expertly sonically balanced and 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.
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
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. We’re far too busy having fun. We love the sound of these speakers, and you will too.
Read the full review: Dynaudio Special Forty
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.
Refined yet entertaining, the top-of-the-line A7s continue Spendor’s knack for combining stunning precision, clarity and subtlety with hugely enjoyable dynamics and rhythm.
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, snappy timing is combined with plenty of punch, detail and deep bass, for an impressively complete package.
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.
Fyne Audio arrived fully formed, with two complete series of speakers (the F300 entry-level range mentioned earlier and the F500 range from which these F501s are taken) plus a ‘statement’ (for which read ‘expensive’ ) speaker, the F1-10.
It’s obviously a bold move to launch a loudspeaker into the sort of competition the F501s are going to face – but then it’s equal obvious Fyne Audio has no problem with acting boldly. 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.
Read the full review: Fyne Audio F501
B&W’s 600 Series already has two entries in this list, so the 603 floorstanders make it a hat-trick. They pack in a lot of B&W engineering, including the company’s silver Continuum cone material and a hightech FST driver, both of which are used for the midrange unit. Build quality is a touch disappointing for the money, but the B&Ws make up for it with a breathtakingly expansive and expressive sound. There aren’t many speakers at this pricepoint that handle vocals so superbly and extract as much detail. They’re not the most relaxing listen and do require an amp with plenty of poke, but partner them correctly and you’ll be richly rewarded.
Read the full review: B&W 603
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. Sonically, they’re musical and dynamic, with the bonus of plenty of bass weight. These are a fun pair of floorstanders that deliver a sound that’s as enjoyable as anything we’ve heard at this price. The Fyne F501s deliver a bit more space and detail but if you’re in the market for something of this size and price, these should be on your shortlist.
Read the full review: Acoustic Energy AE309