If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, Indiewire may receive an affiliate commission.
When it comes to audio quality, many of us are living in ignorant bliss. We get so used to listening to music on our laptops or watching movies with our TV’s built-in speakers that we forget how good audio can sound. While a cheap speaker can still blast your favorite song, you’re missing out on a richer listening experience, and maybe even doing a disservice to your favorite artist. Once you listen to something on truly high quality speakers that were properly installed, it’s very hard to go back. You begin to hear instruments that you never noticed before, even in songs you have heard thousands of times. Without the audio mix being muddied by cheap speakers, listening to your favorite music on premium speakers feels similar to hearing it for the first time. If you’re looking to upgrade your home sound system, the clear choice is high fidelity. (For the record, that’s also the answer to, “What is the best John Cusack movie?”)
Hi-fi speakers are mechanically superior to lower level speakers in just about every way. The technology is highly customizable, with each user building their own setup to meet their own needs. In addition to speakers, items like amplifiers and subwoofers can give you the exact sound that you want. Once you get a taste of truly elite audio, it’s hard to go back. Don’t say we didn’t warn you! But the first step to getting that taste is buying some speakers, so we’ve collected some of the best options for beginners.
The options we selected primarily fall into the category of bookshelf speakers – meaning they’re small enough to fit on your shelf. But despite the size of these gadgets, their sound is anything but small. The best bookshelf speakers can easily fill a room with sound. Some of them can literally be placed on your bookshelf or record cabinet, but others should be mounted on stands.
Whether you are improving your turntable setup to listen to your favorite film scores on vinyl or seeking better sound for your work-from-home background music, high-fidelity stereo speakers are a great purchase. Below, find our favorite stereo speakers. For a wider variety of options, see our lists of portable boombox speakers, and Bluetooth speakers of different shapes and sizes. Happy listening!
Elac Debut B5.2 Bookshelf Speakers
The Elac Debut B5.2 is one of the best budget high-fidelity speaker setups on the market. The black bookshelf speakers, which look great in any room, pack more power than their sub-$300 price tag would suggest. They also sound great regardless of where they are positioned, so there’s no need to fret about re-configuring your interior design for sound quality! Whether you are dipping a toe into premium audio or are a seasoned hi-fi listener, you can’t go wrong with these speakers.
Whaferdale Diamond 12.2 Bookshelf Speakers
An iconic series of speakers from Whaferdale that have been delighting audiophiles for decades. The 12.2 represents a revamp in the technology, and these speakers do not disappoint. The sound quality is excellent, even at very low frequencies, and the sleek finish makes them one of the most visually appealing options on this list.
Sony SSCS5 3-Way 3-Driver Bookshelf Speakers
For every high-priced item, there’s a cheaper alternative. Sony’s SSCS5 3-Way 3-Driver Bookshelf speakers deliver rich acoustics for a great price. These triple-driver bookshelf speakers include a rigid 5.12” MRC woofer for dynamic bass, a 0.98” tweeter, and 0.75” super-tweeter. From a design perspective, the speakers feature slightly tapered faceplate edges, while edge diffraction is suppressed for a clear and natural soundstage.
Triangle Borea BR03 Bookshelf Speakers
These gorgeous bookshelf speakers can fit into the smallest rooms and offices, but don’t be fooled by the size. They offer a bold sound that puts many bigger speakers to shame. And their precise separation means you’ll still be able to pick out every instrument in your favorite songs. These speakers are available in several colors including light oak (pictured), black, white, and walnut.
Dali Spektor 2 Bookshelf Speakers
The Dali Spektor is one of the best values on the stand-mounted speaker market. While they are not particularly specialized, and people with a need for bass might want to look elsewhere, these speakers are extremely versatile. Any music or movie will sound great on these, making them a big step up from your TV or computer.
Klipsch Reference R-51M Powered Bluetooth Speaker
In the world of high-fidelity audio, Klipsch is well-known for pushing the boundaries of sound with their technology-focused approach. While many of their premium options will require you to take out a second mortgage, these bookshelf speakers offer audiophiles a chance to experience Klipsch’s world-class sound without a major financial commitment. You will likely need to pair them with a good amplifier to really get their full potential, but the results are definitely worth it. And even that will hurt your wallet less than it normally would, since these speakers are currently on sale for over $200 off.
Q Acoustics Concept 20 Compact Bookshelf Speaker
Available in white and black, these high-quality bookshelf speakers manage to rock an affordable price because of Q Acoustics’ signature Gelcore technology. By filling the speakers with a gel that never settles, they are able to lower the resonance and produce an incredibly clean sound that will appeal to even the most discerning of audiophiles.
KEF Q350 Bookshelf Speakers
Another selection from KEF, the Q350 offers incredible clarity for less than half the price of the LS50 Meta mentioned below. Simply put, they offer a truly elite audio experience at a price that sits near the bottom of the spectrum. If you love music but don’t consider yourself an audiophile, and you want a versatile set of speakers that you won’t have to think too hard about, definitely consider the KEF Q350. Some reviewers have mentioned that these speakers are much better at high volumes, which makes them great for parties. That said, lovers of particularly delicate music might want to look into some other options.
KEF LS50 Meta Speakers
The KEF LS50 is a slightly more premium option (though its price tag is a long way from the highest end speakers). Sporting a curved front edge that will seamlessly blend into any room, these precise speakers elevate the listening experience of just about any music. If you’re looking for a perfect middle ground between budget and premium options, these speakers are a good solution.
Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.