The best speakers for 2019

From home theater to home studio, these are the best speakers you can buy

Combined, our dedicated audio/visual team has about 50 years’ worth of experience testing and reviewing the latest equipment in the consumer and pro-audio spaces — and in all that time we’ve never come across a set of speakers quite as impressive as GoldenEar Technology’s Triton Five, which we believe are the best speakers, period. The reason is simple: They deliver the kind of dynamic and full sound that is normally associated with speakers that cost up to $10,000, yet they only cost a fraction of that price.

Despite delivering the best listening experience, there are a number of monitors that could suit your setup a little better, like the KEF LS50 Wireless for cord-cutters. For lighter pockets, Klipsch’s Reference Bookshelf can be the perfect starting point for your growing setup. That’s why we rounded up eight of the best speakers on the market, which each sit at the top of their respective categories.

The best speakers at a glance:

The best speakers: GoldenEar Technology Triton Five

best speakers Goldenear Triton 5
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Why you should buy them: Truly world-class sound at the lowest price-to-performance ratio you’ll find.

Who they’re for: The serious audio enthusiast looking for the best possible sound for their listening space.

Why we picked the GoldenEar Technology Triton Five:

In terms of getting the highest possible audio quality at non-car prices, there is perhaps no better speaker company on Earth than GoldenEar Technology. Founded by audio legend Sandy Gross, who previously led standout companies Polk and Definitive Technology to the forefront of great sound, GoldenEar is driven by the same passionate love of high-end sound that brought Gross’ previous business ventures success. Speakers like those in the company’s outstanding Triton range offer superb sound at reasonable prices and compete against staggeringly expensive options from throughout the audiophile universe at a fraction of the price.

A set of floor-standing loudspeakers with sleek black covers, the Triton Five are unassuming to look at, but more than make up for their appearance in terms of sound. Under the hood, Gross and his team of engineers have managed to manufacture probably the best-sounding loudspeakers we’ve ever heard at their price. Normally, if you’re looking to get an audiophile-grade set of speakers into your living room or listening area, you’re going to have to spend somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000, but GoldenEar’s Triton Five bring that same sound quality down to the $2,000 per-pair mark.

Two six-inch midrange drivers propel the bulk of the sound toward your eardrums, with a custom-designed ribbon tweeter providing superb definition up top. To help with punch, the Triton Five have four 8-inch passive bass radiators, helping the low-end integrate even better into the overall sound, and giving you just the right amount of oomph when listening to hip-hop, funk, and other bass-driven styles.

The speakers have a lively and energetic response overall, helping whatever you’re listening to come through with the same vibrant sound that first hit the microphone in the studio. There are very few speakers that offer this kind of fun for so little money, with the Triton Five providing the kind of constant satisfaction that more than justifies their price. And, oh yeah, they should last for decades to come.

Read our full GoldenEar Technology Triton Five review

The best speakers for home theater: SVS Prime Tower Surround

best speakers SVS Prime
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Why you should buy them: Insane performance, striking design, excellent stereo, and surround performance.

Who they’re for: Home theater enthusiasts who want gorgeous surround sound when watching their favorite flicks and audiophile-grade stereo when playing their best-loved tunes.

Why we picked the SVS Prime Tower Surround:

If you’re after the perfect blend of price, performance, and gorgeously detailed sound for your home theater space, there is no better option than the SVS Prime Tower Surround kit. A beautiful set of five speakers that easily ranks among the best we have ever tested, the Prime series will take your home audio experience to the next level.

Anchored by a set of audiophile-grade towers — which can easily pump out your favorite tunes in stereo when not serving as part of the larger system — the Prime kit offers an immersive listening experience that is second to none at this price. Sound shifts fluidly between front, side, and rear, providing the kind of detail we typically expect to see in speakers that cost much more money. It is worth noting that the standard five-speaker kit doesn’t come with a subwoofer. For the full, rumbling movie theater experience, we recommend adding one of the company’s excellent subwoofers, like the PB-1000 model.

We think 5.0 and 5.1 systems are a perfect starting place for those looking to get into great home theater sound, and a nice steppingstone to larger Dolby Atmos systems without the hassle of hanging speakers from the ceiling or investing in fancy upfiring speakers. Best of all, every speaker in the SVS Prime system can last through upgrades, rather than being the kind of thing you’ll mothball when you decide to make the leap to a bigger setup. Because SVS makes a variety of home theater speakers, finding well-matching sound signatures for eventual expansion won’t be an issue. In fact, those looking to expand to Atmos can grab a set of the company’s Prime Elevation Speakers (designed for the height element of object-based audio), and they’ll be off to the races.

If money is tight and you just want excellent sound, the SVS speakers can be had for the lowest cost in simple black ash veneer. Those who really want to impress their friends and relatives can spring for an extra $250 for the piano gloss finish, which shines like a Steinway grand piano at Carnegie Hall.

Read our full SVS Prime Tower Series review

The best speakers for music: KEF LS50 Wireless

best speakers KEF LS50
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Why you should buy them: Gorgeous looks, impressive sound, and no amplifier required.

Who they’re for: The streaming music enthusiast who wants the best possible wireless sound.

Why we picked the KEF LS50 Wireless:

Known for their gorgeous detail and flat response, the wired iteration of KEF’s LS50 bookshelf speakers have long ranked among the most beloved compact speakers in the audiophile world. But when the company introduced an internally amplified wireless iteration in 2017, we were absolutely awestruck.

Powerful, precise, and nearly as beautiful to look at as they are to listen to, the LS50 Wireless are easily the best cordless speakers we have ever had the pleasure of auditioning. Controlled by a smartphone app, they support Wi-Fi streaming from your device’s library, as well as Tidal and Spotify, and the speakers can even stream network audio at up to 24bit/192kHz resolution. In terms of wired inputs, you can use optical, USB-A, and RCA.

Each speaker contains two built-in amplifiers — one for the tweeter, one for the woofer — that combine for up to 230 watts per channel. That’s more than enough volume to blast music in all but the largest spaces, and makes the LS50 versatile enough to function well where some may have considered placing floorstanding speakers.

If you’re looking for big sound without the hassle of outboard amplifiers, preamps, and other gear, there is no better option than the KEF LS50 Wireless. With extreme ease of use, great looks, and even better sound quality, these are the kind of 21st-century speakers that you’ll rave about for a long time to come.

Read our full KEF LS50 Wireless review

The best budget speakers: Klipsch Reference Bookshelf

best speakers reference premiere piano black lifestyle 2b
Why you should buy them: Few speakers balance looks, performance, and budget as deftly as the Klipsch Reference line.

Who they’re for: Those who want a smaller factor set of speakers without compromising on sound quality or breaking the bank.

Why we picked the Klipsch Reference Bookshelf:

Klipsch has a history of delivering top-notch speakers, and its Reference line has long been seen as the company’s sweet spot: Well-engineered, beautifully designed, and very competitive on price. In 2018, Klipsch’s engineers went back to the drawing board and rebuilt the Reference line from the ground up, instead of opting for some minor tweaks to the existing design. The result is an improved sound signature across the line, including the bookshelf models. While the Reference Bookshelf speakers come in powered and non-powered flavors, we recommend the non-powered models because, for most people, they pack everything you need for great sound without adding things like amplification at extra expense.

As a compact set of full-range speakers, the Reference Bookshelf makes for the perfect upgrade path. You can start using them as the primary stereo pair for a small-to-medium size room — perhaps with a connected amp like the Sonos Amp — and then migrate them as you build out a larger home theater setup. They’re powerful enough to act as your primary front left/right speakers in a basic 5.1 or 5.1.2 home theater, but small enough that they can be assigned the role of rear satellite speakers if you decide to upgrade your front channels with full-size tower speakers.

The best speakers for music production: JBL 306P MKII

JBL 306P MkII review
Riley Young/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Why you should buy them: Flat, studio-style sound at a very reasonable price.

Who they’re for: Musicians, podcasters, videographers, and other creative hobbyists who regularly work with audio.

Why we picked the JBL 306P MkII:

If you’re a content creator who works with audio, be it editing a podcast, recording demos in your bedroom, or producing YouTube videos, you need a revealing set of speakers with very flat frequency response to make sure your sound will translate well anywhere your listeners will hear it. While we’d have previously said JBL’s LSR305s were the ticket, we’ll be darned if the company didn’t come out with something even better to get your studio gears churning.

Like their predecessor, the JBL 306P MkII offer the kind of sound signature you’d expect in a professional studio, but at a shockingly affordable price, and provide you with an extremely useful tool with which to create. In fact, we like the 306P even better thanks to a fuller 6-inch woofer, which offers a bigger bass response for even more accurate mixing than the previous 5-inch woofer.

That new 6-inch woofer (the middle size in the new line) combines with a 1-inch silk dome tweeter to provide a remarkable full-spectrum response on each side, and with improved waveguide technology, you’ll get an even wider stereo image that allows you to pan your mixes with impressive detail. Volume isn’t a problem either, with plenty of amplification on board providing enough power to fill the vast majority of spaces, and certainly enough for near-field listening — which is what these speakers were designed for.

It’s worth noting that, like the LSR305, the 306P MkII only have balanced XLR and TRS inputs, meaning you’ll probably want an audio interface — an outboard component that typically has these outputs, as well as microphone inputs — to get your sound to them. Those interested in using the powered JBLs outside of home studios can do so with some RCA adapters, but an interface is still the best route.

If you’re a creative type who wants to get the most out of your projects, JBL’s 306P MkII speakers are tough to beat, ranking among the best value propositions in speaker land.

Read our full JBL 306P MkII review

The best Wi-Fi speaker: Riva Concert

Riva Concert Review
Riley Young/Digital Trends

Why you should buy it: The Riva Concert packs a massive array of features and top-notch sound quality into a small and affordable package.

Who it’s for: Those who don’t want to sacrifice great sound for the convenience of a wireless speaker.

Why we picked the Riva Concert:

For ages, Sonos has topped our list for wireless home speakers, thanks to the company’s killer combination of sound quality and ease of use. Since we got our hands on the Riva Concert, we’ve revised our rankings: The Concert edges out the Sonos One by improving on almost every single criteria. Where the Sonos One can only connect via Wi-Fi, the Riva Concert can handle Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, analog auxiliary-in, and USB. Where the Sonos One requires a second Sonos One to deliver true stereo sound, the Concert can do it through a single speaker. The Sonos One may be compact, but it can’t operate without a wall outlet for power and a Wi-Fi network. The Concert has an optional battery for life on the go, and its Bluetooth connection means it can wirelessly connect to virtually any source device.

However, it’s the Riva Concert’s sound quality that ultimately sets it apart in this category. For its size and price, it has no equal right now, and can deliver a surprisingly rich and dynamic response that we think will impress everyone who listens to it. Our only gripe is that the Concert is an Alexa-only smart speaker for now, which means that if you’re already committed to Google’s smart home ecosystem, it’s not as attractive a choice. This is where the Sonos One remains superior: It lets you pick between Alexa and Google Assistant for your smart speaker features.

Read our full Riva Concert review

The best speakers for gaming: Logitech G560

best speakers logitech g560

Why you should buy them: Impressively loud, these speakers also rock a highly customizable lighting system that will add to the mood of any gaming session.

Who they’re for: Gamers who want a desktop sound system that lets them feel every gunshot and explosion.

Why we picked the Logitech G560:

Headphones will always be a popular choice for gamers, thanks to the built-in mics that let you talk to your teammates in online multiplayer titles. But there are times when you want to put down the headset and let the sound surround you and fill your room. At times like this, few desktop speaker systems can compete with the Logitech G560. As a 2.1 speaker setup with a potent subwoofer, most gamers will be taken by how a truly powerful bass response can alter the gaming experience. It may be a cliché, but games become far more cinematic when you can feel the on-screen action as well as hearing it. And with the G560’s amazing loudness, you really will feel every bump, boom, and blast.

But we can’t talk about the Logitech G560 without mentioning its unique built-in LED lighting. A fusion of old-school disco and leading-edge screen bias lighting, you can make the G560 set your room aglow with preset single colors and variable patterns, or even synchronize the lights to what’s happening on screen for a gaming experience that, depending on your tastes, can go from sublime to retina-searing overkill.

Thankfully, all of this can be tuned in the speakers’ software settings. The one thing you can’t fully alter is the presence of the subwoofer. Because the audio signal is piped through the sub, it’s always engaged, even when you drop the bass settings to zero. If you need the ability to run your games at very low volume and bass levels, the G560 may have you reaching once again for your headphones.

Read our full Logitech G560 review

The best computer speakers: Aperion Allaire

best speakers Aperion Allaire
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Why you should buy them: Outstanding sound quality, great looks, and easy connectivity.

Who they’re for: Headphone-weary computer listeners, jackless phone owners.

Why we picked the Aperion Allaire:

If you’re tired of putting on headphones to jam out to your favorite tunes at your desk, the Aperion Allaire are the perfect companion. A set of beautiful and compact speakers that sound as good as they look, the Allaire will take your at-work listening experience to the next level.

The Allaire offer the best combination of high-end sound quality, versatility, and connectivity in their genre. With Bluetooth 4.0 (supplemented with aptX for even higher-quality audio streaming), a digital optical input, an analog input, a subwoofer output, and a USB port for charging devices, the speakers aren’t just suitable for computer desks — they are also great in bookshelves and bedrooms. With a 1-inch dome tweeter and a 4-inch woven fiberglass woofer powered by two 50-watt built-in amplifiers per speaker, they pack plenty of punch for any small to medium-size room.

The Allaire do have excellent connectivity — and even an included remote to help to play and pause when away from your desk — but what really sells us on the speakers is their outstanding sound quality. Available in piano black, and white, they offer a rich bass response, pure midrange details, and pristine treble, taking your favorite songs above and beyond almost anything you’ll find at their price. For a desktop that doubles as an entertainment center, there is no better choice.

Read our full Aperion Allaire review

Research and buying tips

Do speakers support Wi-Fi? Bluetooth?

Yes, many powered speakers support Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Just make sure that you check the specs before you purchase.

Can I buy good speakers with Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri support?

Yes, absolutely. Google Assistant and Alexa are supported by a growing collection of powered speakers, portable speakers, soundbars, and receivers. The only speaker that supports Siri that we know of is the Apple HomePod.

Do I need a subwoofer with my speaker setup? Will it come with one?

That depends. If you are in a small space, we don’t recommend it, but if you’re looking to make a small pair of speakers perform better with hip-hop, dance music, or for more cinematic sound, we recommend considering a good subwoofer to reach the lowest end of the frequency spectrum. Most pairs of speakers do not come with a subwoofer unless indicated, but most soundbars do.

Do I need an amp with my speakers?

Unless your speakers are powered, you will need some form of amplifier to power them.

Will speakers accept USB input?

Some powered speakers do have USB inputs — just make sure to check the spec list if this is desired.

Will speakers accept a 3.5mm input?

Most powered speakers do offer a 3.5mm input. Most amplifiers and receivers offer an RCA input, but you can use an adapter to easily connect a 3.5mm source.

Will speakers work with any receiver?

Technically yes, but you’ll want to make sure that the impedance matches, and you might want to consider a larger, more powerful amplifier for larger speakers. As a general rule, it is usually better to have too much power than not enough (although you’ll want to be careful to make sure you don’t damage your speakers).

How we test

We test speakers the way normal people live.

We run every speaker through a rigorous process over the course of several days or weeks. That includes playing them in all sorts of scenarios, be it in the listening room, computer room, or at the office, and playing back from our device library, CDs, vinyl, and streaming services like Spotify.

For wireless speakers, we also test range, connection stability, and interference in areas with a lot of radio frequency interference (i.e. the Digital Trends offices). For non-powered speaker models, we listen via a variety of amplifiers, ensuring we have a good idea of what each model is doing given different power and sources.

Finally, we compare each speaker to some of our go-to models, both in their class and price point, as well as a level or two above to find out if they can punch above their weight. This ensures that we are putting them in perspective with the larger industry, and also cements the way that we think about the price-to-performance ratio of each speaker we test.

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