A technology about as prehistoric as they come, speakers have been around for what seems like forever. As we move from one era to the next, cones and cabinets have improved, evolutions in engineering have taken place, and new mediums for playing our favorite music have arrived. Modern speakers are better than ever, and we here at Digital Trends have been privileged to vet, test, and listen to some truly exceptional models.
But with so many new and legacy speaker brands to choose from, being spoiled for choice can be an obstacle. Big considerations must be given to things like budget, what audio components you have or will be pairing with your new best friends, and what kind of space you'll be putting this high-tech hi-fi into (more on this in our FAQ section at the bottom of the post).
As dedicated audio experts, we've pit in countless hours of researching, comparing, and testing to bring you this roundup of the best speakers you can buy right now.
The best tower speakers you can get for the price
- Uni-Q tech delivers robust three-dimensional sound
- Articulate, near-distortion-free sound profile
- Astonishing price-to-performance ratio
- Sleek and stylish design
- Not ideal for smaller rooms
- High frequencies may be too bright for some
When it comes to a perfect set of speakers for the modern age of listening, KEF is a powerful name that comes up again and again. Earning laurels left and right, the idea behind a set of KEF cabinets and drivers is ultra-stylized, high-performance equipment that kicks down the doors of every music and film genre they're tasked with tackling.
This leads us to the KEF Q750: the tower speakers built for all of your listening needs. Available in black, white, and walnut finishes (with magnetized grilles sold separately), the Q750 is engineered from the ground up to dig out the details in your hi-fi system that other speakers simply can't touch.
Featuring the amazing Uni-Q driver array that seats the tweeter in the center of the midrange cone, KEF's idea for this placement choice is to unify the acoustics in a way that maximizes three-dimensional sound-staging like never before. While this bit of phrasing gets thrown around in the audio space all too often, let's just say the Q750 will truly make you feel like you're at a live concert or seated in a movie theater.
On top of an enhanced woofer design that adds additional layering to both the midrange and low-end spectrums, the KEF Q750 are built for the kind of stellar sonic experience that you'd normally be paying another $1,000 (or more) for.
While a pair is still going to run you close to $2,000, trust us — it'll be the best money you've ever spent on audio.
Bowers & Wilkins 606 S2 Anniversary Editions
Best passive bookshelf speakers
- Near unrivalled clarity and precision
- Clean, tight mids and lows
- Big bass for their size
- Expensive, but worth it
The B&W 606 S2 anniversary range of speakers represents the celebration of 25 years of the series (released in 2020), with these stand-mount bookshelf speakers topping many best-of lists for their big, punchy sound in such a modestly-sized package.
While they're not cheap, at around a thousand dollars a pair, if you want to cut to the chase and stop the guesswork with your speaker research, the B&W 606 S2s offer arguably the clearest, most defined, and most precise sound of any speaker in this class and range, full stop. Their Decoupled Double Dome tweeter is the stuff of legend, and the Continuum cone, with its distinct weave look, is the same precision driver found it B&W's flagship Diamond series speakers.
Available in black, white, and oak finishes, you simply can't go wrong with these passive bookshelf speakers. And if you like them and feel like expanding the system to accommodate your home theater, the 600 series includes towers, the more compact 607 S2 bookshelves, and the HTM6 S2 center speaker, too.
SVS Prime Tower Surround System
Best surround sound speakers
- Ruddy, authoritative bass
- Airy, natural sounding upper register
- Warm, yet luminous midrange
- Elegant, stylish design (especially with gloss finish)
- Excellent value
- Center channel not quite as balanced as we’d like
- Don’t reach some of the deeper details of dialog and instrumental attack
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 our favorites in their class (and above), the Prime series will take your home audio experience to the next level.
Anchored by a set of audiophile-grade towers — which sound fantastic 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 options, like the.
We think 5.1 systems are a perfect starting place for those looking to get into great home theater sound and a nice stepping stone to larger Dolby Atmos systems without the hassle of hanging speakers from the ceiling or investing in fancy up-firing 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.
If money is tight and you just want excellent sound, the SVS Prime Tower Surround 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 at Carnegie Hall.
KEF LS50 Wireless II
For the audiophile music streamer
- Clean, bold sound
- Easy to use
- Wi-Fi, USB, and HDMI ARC inputs
- Lacks RCA input for turntables
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 since then, the company introduced an internally amplified wireless iteration in 2017 that now has a successor all its own.
KEF didn't have to go back to any drawing board because this iteration carries over the power, precision, and beauty that made the LS50 Wireless a joy to look at and listen to. At the core of the LS50 II is a technology called Metamaterial Absorption Technology (MAT), which is a clever way of saying the speakers can absorb unwanted sound in the tweeter's rear so that it doesn't affect the forward output.
Controlled by a smartphone app, they support Wi-Fi streaming from your device’s library, as well as Tidal, Spotify, Amazon Music, and Deezer. The Connect app can access Internet radio stations, and the speakers can play network audio at up to 24-bit/192kHz resolution, including built-in support for both AirPlay 2 and Chromecast. There's even Bluetooth, plus a slew of wired inputs, including HDMI, optical, coaxial, USB-A, and RCA so you could even connect a turntable.
Each speaker contains two built-in amplifiers — one for the woofer, one for the concentric tweeter — that combine for up to 280 watts per channel. That’s more than enough volume to blast music in all but the largest spaces and makes the LS50 II versatile enough to function well where some may have considered placing floor-standing 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 II, though you can easily fill a room even further through their two subwoofer outputs.
With easier use cases, new colors to choose from, and even better sound quality, the KEF LS50 Wireless II are the kind of 21st-century speakers that you’ll rave about for a long time to come.
Klipsch The Sevens
Svelte and classic-looking powered speakers
- Incredible sound
- Top-quality design/materials
- Generous inputs
- Adjustable EQ
- No Wi-Fi connection
- Can't see indicators when seated
Klipsch's excellent Heritage Wireless Room Speaker range not only sport a beautiful and classic wood finish that adds retro cool to your setup (they're also available in black, just in case), but the Sevens – the middle child in the range that includes The Fives ($970) and the big old The Nines ($1,500) — offer up a beefy 200 watts (400 peak) of volume and beautiful bass response so you don't need to add a sub. They're not overly small, and you might have a tough time setting them up on either side of your TV (should you want to use them as such), so it's a good thing they look so good.
Which brings us to their connectivity options. The beauty of many powered speakers is their versatility, and The Sevens are no different. HDMI-ARC means they'll sound great with your TV, but they also feature a phono preamp for connecting a turntable, digital optical should you want to stream hi-re lossless from a network streamer, RCA and USB inputs, and Bluetooth 5.
One of the unique features of The Sevens (and the rest of the Heritage range) is their top-mounted controls, which look sexy and include a source switch volume dial that's easily accessible — no reaching around the the back or the need to use an app, which The Sevens also have.
Our reviewer, Simon Cohen, loved the sound of The Sevens, praising the clarity of their 6.5-inch woofers and the overall clarity, precision, soundstage, and bass response, which also gets a boost from Klipsch's Dynamic Bass EQ feature. The only downside, Cohen points out, is that they don't do Dolby Atmos, something to keep in mind if you intend to use them as your daily TV driver. As primarily a music system, it's hard to beat The Sevens, but they'll also sound great in your TV room. Plus, if you want even more power, but like what Klipsch is doing here, check out The Nines.
Q Acoustics M20 HD Powered Wireless Music System
Most versatile Bluetooth speaker system
- Clear, refined sound with any music
- Wide soundstage in any room
- Versatility of placement
- Tons of connectivity options
- aptX HD Bluetooth
- A bit big for desktops
- Better with a subwoofer
The way we listen to music and other audio is changing and will continue to change, as consumers explore formats like vinyl records and lossless audio streaming servies, and even integrate their TV and movie watching experiences with their sound systems and setups.
Component audio systems are great, but they can be expensive and complicated. More desktop solutions, like the Q Acoustics M20 Bluetooth speakers, are going well beyond basic Bluetooth speakers to offer a more complete "music system," as we discovered when reviewing them. Sure, they're a great set of desktop speakers, but with a ton of connectivity options, including RCA, optical Toslink, USB, 3.5mm AUX, and aptX HD Bluetooth for high-resolution streaming at 24-bit/48kHz, and some innovative digital processing that lets you tell the speakers where they're being set up (in a corner, against a wall), the M20s are easily one of the most versatile and configurable sets of powered speakers that can serve a variety of sound functions.
Connected to a TV, computer, turntable, DVD player, you name it, the M20s sound big, clear, and dynamic, no matter what you play through them. The only area we found could use a little help was the low end, which could easily be remedied by adding a subwoofer (there's a sub-out port, too). Well worth the $600 price tag.
Best Bluetooth speaker
- Big soundstage for a small package
- Bold bass, clear highs
- IP67 waterproof and dustproof
- AUX input
- Picks up dust and fingerprints easily
- A bit expensive
It might be $300, but the Marshall Middleton is one of the best-sounding Bluetooth speakers we've ever heard.
At 4.29 inches by 9.06 inches by 3.74 inches, and with the ruggedness of the the gigging rock-and-roll amplifiers it's based on, the Marshall Middleton is way louder and smooth-sounding than it looks while being compact enough to put in a backpack or beach bag (thanks to its IP67 water and dust proof rating).
With two 3-inch side-firing woofers and two sets of 0.6-inch tweeters and a passive radiator firing sound out of the front and back, Marshall's "True Stereophonic" sound is just that: stereo, which is not always easy to come by with Bluetooth speakers. It sounds great and powerful with its two 20-watt amplifiers, and you can also link it up with other Marshall speakers for an even bigger sound.
While the Middleton only does SBC Bluetooth, it still sounds great with any streaming service, and you can also use its AUX-in port to connect an external sound source, with the help of the well-designed Marshall app.
On the top of the Middleton you'll find some welcome physical controls, including a big gold button for power, track skip/back, and volume controls, as well as treble and bass, a Bluetooth pairing button, and a battery indicator button that lights up an LED battery level display. Oh, you can also use the Middleton to charge your devices, too.
The Middleton features an ample 20-hour battery, which bests many of its competitors such as the Sonos Move.and even the
Sonos Era 100
The best wi-fi speakers you can buy
- Big, expansive sound
- Bluetooth now built-in
- Optional analog line-in
- Super-easy room tuning
- No Google Assistant option
Sonos has been around for a minute, and when it comes to Wi-Fi-powered listening, it's one of the best brands around, bar none. For years, the Sonos One speakers were a Digital Trends favorite, and the only reason the previous generation is being nixed from this roundup is because Sonos has an all-new lineup of Wi-Fi speakers. And for our money, the Sonos Era 100 is the best networkable speaker for most folks.
It all starts with the engineering and precision that has been such a staple of Sonos speakers for generations. Regardless of its small cylindrical shape, the Era 100 pushes out an impressively large amount of sound, and that's before we get into features like Automatic TruePlay (for iOS only), a returning calibration tool that fine-tunes the Era's projection based on your listening environment.
One of the best additions to Sonos' latest and greatest Wi-Fi speakers is the inclusion of Bluetooth as an alternative means of portable listening. Unlike the Sonos Move or Roam though, you'll need to have the Era 100 connected to a power source at all times. We're also excited to see the return of Alexa-powered voice controls and Sonos' own Voice Controller tool, but the lack of Google Assistant makes us a little sad.
Now for the final slice of bread on the compliment sandwich: The incredible Sonos S2 app is still one of the best companion apps for controlling all your Sonos equipment, as well as streaming music to all your networked speakers. Sonos really didn't have much to fix from one generation of hardware to the next, which makes all the Era's improvements and new features extra cool.
Go-to surround sound for gamers
- Powerful, loud sound
- Sturdy, quality design and build
- Great for movies, too
- Lacks HDMI support
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. Enter the Logitech Z906, a 5.1 speaker system that is all business when it comes to delivering an invigorating surround sound experience.
Have a ton of components? Not to fear. The Z906's media module allows you to line up to six of your favorite devices, ensuring you'll get blistering audio for every gaming system you own — 1,000 total watts of audio, that is. Best of all, this is no regular theater-in-a-box, as the Z906 can also tackle Dolby and DTS decoding for all of your go-to movies, TV shows, and whatever games support the two formats.
While perhaps a bit too bass-heavy for some, the Logitech Z906 system is the ultimate solution for any gamer looking to ditch the headphones in favor of speaker-driven firefights.
The best computer speakers
- Clear, accurate sound
- Low end packs a surprising punch
- Beautiful, bold design
- Multi-connection Bluetooth
- Can be directionally sensitive
- You'll have to keep an eye on battery life
You may not always want to put on a pair of headphones to jam out to your favorite tunes at your desk, and that's where the Audioengine A2+ come in. These are pretty dynamic speakers tucked into attractive enclosures, including a feature set that makes them a solid package for computer listeners.
For desktop speakers, Audioengine covers some key bases. With their 2.75-inch aramid fiber woofers, 3/4-inch silk-dome tweeters, and dual-class AB amplifier pushing 30 watts to each speaker, the A2+ speakers may come off a little modest, but they are more than capable of producing booming sound. You also have the option to plug in an external subwoofer if you feel the need to give the low-end a boost.
There is room for flexibility otherwise, too. Beyond the subwoofer output, you get analog and USB inputs, along with Bluetooth capability, the latter of which offers great codec support. With support for aptX and aptX Low Latency, you can stream music and games wirelessly with less lag. That makes theprepared for virtually anything you throw at them. They’re available in satin black, gloss red, or gloss white cabinets. For those seeking a little more size and power for their computer setups, the Audioengine A5+ should effectively scratch that itch.
That's hard to say, as sound can be highly subjective. That being said, brands like Bose, Klipsch, JBL, Bowers and Wilkins, and KEF tend to be recognized as some of the best speaker names in audio. It also depends on what you'll be using your speakers for. The best home theater speakers may not show off a fine collection of jazz vinyl. On the other side of the token, you wouldn't blast superhero films through a record connoisseur's bookshelf set. For a more thorough look, check out our roundup of the best speaker brands of 2022.
It depends on what you're looking for in a speaker. Let's say you're after a great-sounding portable speaker. You'll want to look for a product that can handle the elements, and provide multiple forms of connection (auxiliary, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, etc.), along with plenty of battery life for the times when you don't have ready access to a charging station. If you're looking for a dedicated set of home theater speakers, you'll want to focus on features like wattage, resistance, driver and cabinet materials, as well as aesthetic craftsmanship. After all, no one wants to own a premium set of hi-fi speakers that have no chance of blending in with home decor.
Wattage doesn't necessarily translate to "quality." Wattage is merely a measure of how much power a speaker is capable of outputting. While a 1,000-watt speaker may be louder than a 100-watt speaker, what tends to matter most is the engineering that goes into the speaker as a whole, accounting for everything from cabinet to drivers, woofers, and tweeter(s).
Not necessarily. Yes, there are high-wattage speakers that pack quite a punch in terms of volume and sound incredible, but most folks will be more than happy with a 50-watt set of high-quality bookshelf speakers that focus more on design and engineering rather than pure power.
There are a number of things you can do to bolster the sound quality of your speakers. For starters, take a look at your listening space. Would moving a couch or chair benefit your experience? What about the speakers themselves? Typically, you'll want to try and triangulate your seating to place you in the center of the listening space, with your speaker drivers aimed towards you. Subwoofers are a whole different story.
If your speakers are placed on the floor, try and place them on shelves or speaker stands. Bookshelf speakers will often sound better when matched to your ear height when seated.
There are also a number of EQ options you can probably play with on your A/V receiver or stereo amplifier. Open these menus up and tweak things like speaker size, decibel output, and sound formats to see if it makes a difference in the final sound.
Everything from size, cabinet/driver design, power handling, and frequency response goes into what makes a top-tier speaker a top-tier. Typically, offerings from dedicated audio companies will be the better choices, but there's a host of incredible speakers produced by TV companies and other electronics umbrellas. Ultimately, the final word comes down to what you think. Wire up, sit back, and soak in the sound.
Yes, many powered speakers support Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Just make sure that you check the specs and consider device compatibility before you purchase.
Yes, absolutely. Google Assistant and Alexa are supported by a growing collection of smart speakers, portable speakers, soundbars, and receivers.
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.
Unless your speakers are powered, you will need some form of amplifier or AV receiver to power them.
Some powered speakers do have USB inputs to support digital music — just make sure to check the spec list if this is desired.
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.
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).
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. 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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