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The task of selecting the best Hi-Fi speaker can be difficult. High-fidelity speakers, as one of the first categories of consumer sound devices, aim to provide one thing above all else: incredible sound. However, not all speakers are created equal.
First and foremost, are you looking for speakers to go with a surround sound system or a television set-up? Do you want your record or lossless music collection to get a full, rich response? Or are you a studio producer looking for well-balanced, high-quality monitors? All of these considerations are critical when selecting your speakers.
This article covers a wide range of options, from the budget-friendly ELAC B6.2s to the impressively feature-rich Sonos Playbar. However, because there are so many options, pay close attention to the features—powered or unpowered, stereo or not, including a subwoofer, and so on. Here are a few of our favorites in a variety of price ranges.
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Best Overall: ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2 Speakers
The Elac Debut 2.0 line () of consumer-oriented speakers offers some of the most true-to-life, natural sound stages at its price point. And the price tag—around $260 for a pair of 6.5-inch speakers at the time of writing—is truly remarkable given the amount of research and development that went into them. The tightly woven woofer and the newly developed 1-inch soft dome tweeter provide a really nice spread. And covering 44Hz to 35kHz is more than enough for most needs, though you’ll probably need a subwoofer to round out the low end.
With a nominal impedance of 6 ohms, you’ll get about 120W of RMS output when paired with the right amp. Even the cabinets, which have been internally braced to reduce unwanted resonance, provide a solid foundation. All of this adds up to a consistent sonic response that will work well in a traditional stereo setup or next to your television. In short, you won’t get a lot of nuance, and the speakers are a little underwhelming, but everything else is fantastic.
Wattage: 120 | Driver Size: 6.5-inch woofers, 1-inch tweeters | Frequency Response: 44Hz–35kHz | Powered: No | Wireless Connectivity: No
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Best Design: Q Acoustics 3030i Bookshelf Speaker Pair
Q Acoustics () is a forward-thinking brand that offers a lot of incredible power in a small package. The 3000 series has won numerous Hi-Fi audio awards, prompting Q Acoustics to claim that it “delivers the biggest, most commanding sound ever achieved by a speaker.” Regardless of marketing heft, the 3030i pair of speakers is a solid set of speakers if you can afford them.
Rather than ignoring the cabinets in favor of the drivers, Q Acoustics embraces them with a 7.9 x 12.8 x 13-inch enclosure with rigid point-to-point bracing that emphasizes the low end of the frequency range while clarifying the stereo image. On paper, the frequency range is only about 46Hz to 30kHz, but the effect is a very full, powerful bass response.
The curved edges and single-piece aesthetic of the cabinet, as well as the white outlines on the exposed drivers, give it a professional studio monitor feel rather than a bookshelf speaker. And, while $400 isn’t exactly the most affordable price, it’s not a bad deal when you consider the sound quality.
Wattage: 50 to 145 | Driver Size: 6.5-inch woofers, 0.9-inch tweeters | Frequency Response: 46Hz–30kHz | Powered: No | Wireless Connectivity: No
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Best Studio Monitors: Yamaha HS8 Studio Monitor
The Yamaha HS8 () is one of the most popular and well-respected professional studio reference monitors on the market. But, before you go out and buy a pair of speakers like this, consider whether you really need a studio monitor. A studio monitor, unlike consumer-grade or audiophile-focused products, will have a “flat response.” This means that the speaker does nothing to shape the sound—no bass boost, no on-board signal processing, and so on. The HS8 performs admirably in these areas.
These speakers have an 8-inch cone (important for powerful bass response) and a 1-inch dome tweeter (tuned nicely to control the higher end) in terms of construction. These speakers are also powered, so you won’t need a separate amplifier. They have a total power output of about 120W and a frequency response of 38Hz to 30kHz. The cabinet is made of a rigid, frequency-rejecting MDF, resulting in a focused, tuned sound.
On the back of the speaker are controls for room focusing and high frequency softening, so you can fine-tune it for your environment. They’re a bit pricey at around $350 per speaker ($700 for the pair), but you can’t go wrong with the HS8’s tried-and-true history and impressive performance.
Wattage: 120 | Driver Size: 8-inch woofers, 1-inch tweeters | Frequency Response: 38Hz–30kHz | Powered: Yes | Wireless Connectivity: No
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Best Affordable Bookshelf Speakers: Edifier R1280T Powered Bookshelf Speakers
You don’t have to give up quality just because you’re buying cheap speakers. Check out the Edifier R1280T Powered Bookshelf Speakers () if you’re looking for high-quality sound at a low price. They produce a clear and balanced sound that will be ideal for your home, and they even come with built-in amplifiers, saving you money on additional equipment and allowing for a quick set-up. The R1280T bookshelf speakers are also stylish, with a walnut and matte black design.
A 13-millimeter silk dome tweeter, a 4-inch full-range bass driver, a 21W total power output, and a frequency response range of 75Hz to 18kHz are all included in each speaker. There are two aux inputs as well, making it simple to connect two devices at once, such as headphones. There is also a remote control included.
While you shouldn’t expect the same sound quality as a higher-end speaker, particularly in terms of bass, the R1280T still performs admirably. They may give the impression that you paid more for your speakers than you did.
Wattage: 21W per channel | Driver Size: 4-inch woofers, 0.5-inch tweeters | Frequency Response: 75Hz–18kHz | Powered: Yes | Wireless Connectivity: No
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Best Affordable Tower Speaker: Polk Audio T50
There are a few key features of Polk’s T series speakers () that stand out. First, there’s Polk’s classic “Dynamic Response,” which the company has spent years perfecting in its pro sound line. Then there’s the rigid, frequency-stifling MDF used to construct the enclosures, which provides a solid foundation while directing all sound to the drivers (no weird resonance here).
If you have the space, the T50 tower speaker is a great choice because it has three 6.5-inch woofers: one for the main part of the spectrum and two for the bass end. There’s also a 1-inch tweeter for some extra bling. These tower speakers are ideal for watching TV and movies, especially when used in a stereo pair.
Coverage ranges from 38Hz to 24kHz, with plenty of room on both ends for rumbling lows and crisp highs. While each speaker’s handling is set to around 100W total, pushing it that hard may result in some roughness around the edges. However, for under $150, this is a great way to get started with a home theater system.
Wattage: 100 | Driver Size: Three 6.5-inch woofers, 1-inch tweeters | Frequency Response: 38Hz–24kHz | Powered: No | Wireless Connectivity: No
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Best In-Wall Speaker: Polk Audio RC85i 2-Way Premium In-Wall 8″ Speakers
In-wall speakers can be a great fixture when space is limited and you have the ability to install something more permanent. The Polk RC85i speakers () are a good middle-of-the-road option, whether you want them in your living room or on your porch (they’re humidity-resistant).
Because in-wall speakers aren’t usually paired with dedicated subwoofers, the 8-inch drivers provide a lot of power across the dynamic spectrum. A nice rubber seal surrounds the grill covering, providing two benefits: decent sound response that doesn’t transfer to the solid wall, and decent moisture protection. These aluminum grills can even be painted to match your specific color scheme.
The speakers are designed to match any other Polk speakers in your system because they use Polk’s tried-and-true audio processing. As a result, they’re a good fit for surround sound systems or a whole-house audio system.
Wattage: 100 | Driver Size: 8-inch woofers, 1-inch tweeters | Frequency Response: 50Hz–20kHz | Powered: No | Wireless Connectivity: No
Best Wireless System: KEF LSX Wireless Music System
While Sonos and Bose have established themselves in the consumer-friendly wireless market, KEF is a lesser-known brand. This is partly due to their exclusive focus on the audiophile market. The LSX system () here is quite expensive ($1,250 at the time of writing), so if you’re thinking about buying it, make sure it’s worth it.
Options are the name of the game with this system. For a stable connection and seamless integration with your in-home sound system, connect the speaker via Wi-Fi or ethernet. You can also use Bluetooth connectivity to listen to music in a more direct, point-to-point manner. Wi-Fi connectivity allows you to send lossless audio files, which is far superior to the compression-based artifacts that Bluetooth compression introduces.
Even though the speakers are only 4 inches in diameter, the sound quality is excellent. These speaker cones are referred to as “Unit-Q” drivers by KEF, and they offer 160 degrees of sound coverage, according to the company. With the heat sink on the enclosures, you can really push these speakers and get some good volume and fullness in your room. The style is also forward-thinking and distinctive, with three color options.
Wattage: 70 | Driver Size: 4.5-inch woofers, 0.75-inch tweeter | Frequency Response: 49Hz–47kHz | Powered: Yes | Wireless Connectivity: Yes
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Best Budget Wireless System: Edifier R1700BT Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers
If you’re looking for a wireless speaker pair but don’t want to spend as much as Sonos or KEF, Edifier’s R1700BT speakers () are for you. These speakers, which are similar to the 1280s but don’t have wireless connectivity, add Bluetooth to a small, solid set of bookshelf speakers.
The speakers’ tilt-back design and solid enclosures provide a decent amount of fullness, even if the frequency responses of 60Hz to 20kHz aren’t the best around. This is particularly impressive given that the main speaker cones are only 4 inches in diameter, a size that typically results in a thinner, less powerful sound.
There are a few connectivity options available, including a 3.5mm aux input and the previously mentioned Bluetooth connectivity. These powered speakers are ideal for plugging directly into your computer in the office or for quickly connecting wirelessly and playing music at a party. What’s the best part? For those who aren’t as picky, the price point of under $200 is ideal.
Wattage: 15W per channel | Driver Size: 4-inch woofers, 0.75-inch tweeter | Frequency Response: 69Hz–20kHz | Powered: Yes | Wireless Connectivity: Yes
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Best Sonos: Sonos Playbar
If you’re reading an article like this, you’ve probably heard of Sonos. The Sonos Playbar () is the original flagship for soundbars, despite the fact that the company is best known for Wi-Fi-based speakers with smaller footprints. A soundbar is essential for those who require home audio because it functions well in both an entertainment and purely audio context. The Playbar has virtually everything you’d want in a Sonos speaker, as well as everything you’d want in a soundbar.
Inside the large enclosure, there are nine independently driven speaker cones that provide a lot of coverage both physically and in terms of frequency response. This adds a nice sound layer that will work well in a home movie setup.
There’s also plenty of digital signal processing onboard, as well as a room-tuning feature via the Sonos app. Wireless connectivity is, of course, another important consideration. The Playbar connects to your Wi-Fi network to communicate with your devices and other Sonos speakers. To control everything, you can use Apple AirPlay or voice commands through the Sonos app. It has some flaws, including a high price and a massively bulky size, but in terms of soundbars, you can’t get much better than this in a dedicated unit.
Wattage: Not specified | Driver Size: 9 drivers | Frequency Response: Not specified | Powered: Yes | Wireless Connectivity: Yes
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The Final Word
At the end of the day, there are numerous factors to consider when selecting your speaker system. The Elac Debut 2.0, our top overall pick, is ideal for those who already own an amplifier and want great bookshelf or surround speakers at a reasonable price.
The Q Acoustics 3030i provides next-level sound, an incredible design, and a nice build quality if you’re willing to spend a little more money. The list also includes soundbars and powered speakers, each of which has its own value. The Sonos Playbar, for example, has the most wireless capabilities.
Finally, your results will vary depending on your system, but almost any speaker on this list will suffice in the right situation.