Whether you count yourself as an audiophile or a casual listener, we all want our sound to be clear, full, and perhaps most importantly, true to the original source. Although the principles of stereo sound may be decades old now, audiophiles far and wide still believe that two Hi-Fi speakers really are a whole lot better than one.
So, what are the best stereo speakers, and how are you meant to identify them? To make the process easier, we've tested the best Hi-Fi speakers from the most prominent audio companies out there – from Klipsch and KEF to Q Acoustics – and have brought everything from compact bookshelf speakers to room-commanding towers and subwoofers into this one handy guide.
We'll be reviewing more units in the future and adding them to this list, so keep your eyes (and ears) peeled – and be sure to check out our latest addition, the KEF LS50 Wireless II, which we think are the perfect stereo speakers for beginners and hardcore audiophiles alike. In the meantime, though, these are the best stereo speakers available in 2021.
- Love your vinyl? These are the best turntables to pair with your speakers
- How to set up the Hi-Fi system of your dreams
Our top picks
What are the best stereo speakers?
In life, money isn’t everything. When it comes to premium sound however, it can pretty important.
Case in point: the Definitive Technology BP9080x speakers. Right off the bat we want to make it clear that this stereo pair is a luxury item that is made only for the most avid audiophile on the market.
If that’s you, then let us tell you just how amazing these speakers are.
From beginning to end of the covered frequency range, the BP9080x speakers are crystal clear, articulate, and genuinely moving. The passive design is aided by an active subwoofer, giving the user independent control of the subwoofer volume on each tower, meaning it can be adjusted to fit any room with any standing waves.
The midrange is as full and clear as any speakers we’ve ever heard, never getting overworked or muddy no matter what songs and sounds we threw at it. The pitch-perfect mid range blends perfectly into the gorgeous treble frequencies that never got harsh, even when the windows were shaking from the volume. The clarity from the top of the frequency range to the bottom can’t be overstated.
On top of it all (literally) there are two “height channel” speakers that make this a perfect centerpiece in your Dolby Atmos or DTS:X home theater.
All of this audio goodness is wrapped in a tall and slender package made from premium materials that is impossibly discreet, especially considering the amount of volume it can pump out. All we can say is that if you’re looking to spend the money (and it is a lot of money), we can’t recommend Definitive Technology’s BP9080x speakers enough.
Since 1985, the Forte floorstanding speakers from Klipsch have been the gold standard for home entertainment. Now, the Forte III speakers are on the market and hope to build on the success of their forebearers.
Of course, as you might expect, these speakers sound fantastic. Klipsch’s attention to detail on the fine tuning of the speakers is second to none, making way for a clear and intricate mid-high range. They’re also phenomenally designed and built, making a great addition to basically any living room. They are also very heavy, which can be a blessing and a curse. Once you figure out their place in the living room, these speakers aren’t going anywhere.
These speakers are built for bass, with a 12-inch subwoofer and a massive 15-inch passive radiator in the back of the speaker to help disperse the low frequencies. To get the most out of the bass speakers on these towers, you need to run two separate amps, or a single amp with multiple outs that is strong enough to get the subwoofer moving. Having separated or bi-amp control allows the user to control the power sent to the high and low channels, allowing them to get the exact balance they want.
The downside to these speakers is that they are even more expensive than the Definitive Technology BP9080x speakers and don’t have the powered subs or high-firing speakers that our number one pick has. Part of that premium is paying for the Klipsch name, but there is quality to back it up - just not enough value or pure sound power to topple the Definitive Technology BP9080x.
If you’re not in the market for full-on entertainment behemoths like the Definitive Technology towers, the Klipsch RP-150M speakers are a surprisingly affordable bookshelf speaker option with a mid-range and high frequency clarity that rivals our top pick.
These light and passive reference speakers are beautifully designed and are a continuation of what Klipsch does best: honest and clear replication without over-coloring the sound. While the 5-inch woofer doesn’t do much in the way of bass, not coming audibly close to the 48 Hz promise on the frequency response, these speakers have a surprising amount of low-mid thump.
The mid range in these Klipsch speakers is completely clear and open, allowing for subtle articulation to come through that would be lost on lesser systems. The upper range never gets shrill and has a natural air under it that seems to be a signature in Klipsch products.
Overall, if you’re looking for a solid pair of stereo speakers for casual listening, studio work, or piecing together an entertainment system, these Klipsch RP-150M speakers are just about as good as they come, especially for the price.
Available in a range of chic colors, the LS50 Wireless II build upon the success of LS50 Wireless, which impressed with their detailed sound and connectivity options, to create what could be the best stereo speakers you can buy today at this price.
With support for Hi-Res Audio, an expansive soundstage, and excellent detail and dexterity, audio quality is nothing short of fantastic. Add to this a vastly improved app, the ability to adjust the EQ settings, and blissfully easy setup, and you have yourself a pair of stereo speakers that can really do no wrong in our eyes.
Read more: KEF LS50 Wireless II review
If you’re an audiophile who’s in the market for compact bookshelf speakers but doesn’t want to sacrifice on sound quality, it’s time to look at the Q Acoustics Concept 20 speakers.
These extremely low-profile bookshelf speakers are rich in sound from the low-mids to the crispy highs. Even with the amplifier cranked (to safe power levels) the sound never broke up into distortion and remained clear, not shrill. Of course, with any speakers this size, there wasn’t much bass below the low-mid range to speak of, but what was there was full without being muddy.
What could be seen as a pro for some and a con for others, the Q Acoustics Concept 20 speakers are passive and require an external amplifier.
For audiophiles, this is a great excuse to drop even more coin on a high fidelity amplifier to get the best possible sound out these already great speakers. For casual listeners, however, it can be an inconvenience to worry about amplification with what should be small and discreet bookshelf speakers.
After testing songs of every conceivable genre, it’s clear that the Q Acoustics Concept 20 speakers are up to just about any challenge. For those looking to fill out the living room with clear, crisp, Hi-Fi sound, these bookshelf speakers from Q Acoustics are a no-brainer.
The beauty of Polk Audio is in its ability to make quality speakers that compete with the biggest name brands while keeping a lower price tag. Do these beautiful full range Polk Signature S60 towers stand up to the prowess of the Definite Technology BP9060x towers? Well, not exactly, but these are stellar speakers in their own right.
Polk’s passive signature series speakers for home entertainment are designed to provide full and immersive sound, and for the most part, they hit the mark. The mid-range, which is the easiest to muddy up, is crystal clear and articulate no matter what sound is blasting through these almost four-foot tall towers.
The high frequency range is certainly lively, occasionally to the point of shrillness when the volume is really pushed, but never gets too harsh for comfort. As for bass frequencies, the packaging advertises a unique porting system that allows more low frequencies to travel more easily. However, to hear the bass really cutting through, the volume needs to be cranked quite a bit. Still, overall the sound quality is excellent in these Polk Audio speakers, the frequencies might could just use a little tweak with an external equaliser.
If you’re looking for a more affordable alternative to the Definite Technology towers, the Polk Audio Signature S60 speakers are a solid option that will likely outshine just about any other run-of-the-mill home entertainment system you’ll encounter. While they don’t handle the highs or the lows as well as our premium pick, we have no doubts that even the most critical ears will be happy with the signal these bad boys pump out.
The Sonus Faber Lumina I bookshelf speakers ooze Italian style, with neat, compact builds and luxurious wood veneer panels.
These passive stereo speakers require an external amplifier to work, but once you get going you'll be struck by their tightly controlled bass frequencies, smooth mids, and detailed trebles.
The Lumina I aren't he most dramatic-sounding speakers on this list; everything from the design down to the way they make your music sound is understated, and well-suited for casual listening (albeit with a sense of opulence).
At $899 / £799 / AU$1595, they aren't extortionately expensive, despite their high-end looks, though cheaper bookshelf speakers are available.
The Edifier R1280T speakers are a popular choice on Amazon, and for good reason. These compact desk/bookshelf style speakers back an impressive sonic punch and look good doing it, all while keeping the price tag under $100 for the pair. Ok, it’s $99.99, but that penny really does count!
The standout features here include its active design, rich mid-range response, and surprisingly competent bass. Because of the small woofer size, these guys obviously don’t push much low-end, and because of the tweeter design, the highs aren’t as clear as the competition we tested. But other than that, the frequency response and clarity holds its own pretty well.
While they don’t compare to the encompassing power of the Definitive Technology BP9080x or even the clarity of the Klipsch RT-150Ms, these compact speakers certainly serve a purpose. If you’re looking for an affordable set of computer speakers, or better yet a warm stereo set up for your turntable, the Edifier R1280T speakers are a fantastic option for the money.
KEF has long been a major driver in the world of audio innovation since launching in 1961, and with the LSX wireless stereo speaker system, the company has set out to prove that you can achieve audio perfection with even the most compact speaker.
Separation among the different frequencies is brilliant, and the overall sound is extremely well balanced, with no one frequency overtly dominating the others.
For their size, the speakers perform very well when it comes to sub-bass, although you can connect them to an external subwoofer if you find they don’t quite hit the spot.
Where these speakers shine is in analogue sound; vocals, pianos, and acoustic guitar are given a timbral warmth without taking away any of the clarity provided by the brilliant phase correction and distortion reduction.
Read more: KEF LSX review
The Roku TV Wireless Speakers may be some of the best speakers to use in a bedroom because of the voice clarity and sound leveling features which will enable you to listen with full sound without annoying the neighbors or waking the children ... that is, as long as your bedroom television runs Roku TV.
As great as these speakers are, they only only work with Roku TVs from TCL, Insignia, Hisense, Sharp and others. They won't work with Roku streaming devices like the Roku Ultra, which is why these speakers are sold exclusively at Roku.com so that Roku can make sure that you're setup for success.
Beyond its limited availability, the Wireless Speaker's only fault is its anemic bass, due in no small part to the lack of a subwoofer. If you're after cinema-quality sound you'd be better off with a soundbar/subwoofer combo - like the ridiculously low-cost Vizio SB3621 - but, if you're looking for a late-night listening solution for your bedroom Roku TV, the Wireless Speakers are the way to go.
Read our full review: Roku TV wireless speakers
Best stereo speakers, at a glance
- Definitive Technology BP9080x
- Klipsch Forte III
- Klipsch RP-150M
- KEF LS50 Wireless II
- Q Acoustics Concept 20
- Polk Signature S60
- Sonus Faber Lumina I
- Edifier R1280T
- KEF LSX Wireless System
- Roku TV wireless speakers
The testing process
The testing process
There are lots of speaker styles to choose from – that's why we've put together lots of guides on the best speakers you can buy in 2021.
If you need a speaker you can take everywhere, make sure you look at the best waterproof speakers and best Bluetooth speakers. Or, if you want to fill your entire home with sound, check out the best wireless speakers.
In testing these Hi-Fi speakers, we compared each stereo set at a comparable power level and tested the same tunes, plucked a variety of music genres.
Our test songs spanned the dynamic range of music and artists, from John Mayer to Tom Petty, and from U.K. prog-metal band TesseracT to the likes of John Williams and Hans Zimmer. Each song was chosen to test the dynamics offered by each set of speakers with some speakers reacting better to certain genre’s than others, depending on their design.
Of course, not all speakers are created equal in function. The Definitive Technology BP9080x towers, for example, are obviously made to cover a more broad frequency range than say the Edifier bookshelf speakers with a 4-inch woofer. We used to our best judgement in testing these speakers according to their individual purpose and affordability, and graded them with that in mind.
Since comparing bookshelf speakers to high performance towers is an obvious case of apples and oranges, we always at least try to make it clear which speaker is an apple and which is an orange. Sound good? Good.
- Looking for more? Check out the best Dolby Atmos speakers