The 10 Best Hi-Fi Speakers of 2021

High quality sound for high quality entertainment

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The Rundown
The price point—about $260 for a pair of 6.5-inch speakers—is a truly impressive feat for the amount of research and construction.
The curved edges and single-piece aesthetic of the cabinet and white outlines on the exposed drivers feel a lot more like a professional studio monitor.
Best Studio Monitors:
Yamaha HS8 at Amazon
The cabinet is made of a rigid, frequency-rejecting MDF, making for a tuned, forward-facing, focused sound.
Best Affordable Bookshelf Speakers:
Edifier R1280T at Amazon
They produce a clear and balanced sound that will be ideal for your home, and they even have built-in amplifiers.
Best Affordable Tower Speaker:
Polk Audio T50 at Amazon
For only about $150, this is a great way to start a home theater system.
Best In-Wall Speaker:
Polk Audio RC85i at Amazon
The Polk RC85i speakers are a solid middle-of-the-road option, whether you're looking for something in your living room or on the porch.
Best Wireless System:
KEF LSX Music System at Amazon
KEF calls these speaker cones 'Unit-Q' drivers, which it touts as offering 160 degrees of sound coverage.
Best Budget Wireless System:
Edifier R1700BT at Amazon
At under $200, the price point is great for those who aren’t as discerning.
The Klipsch Cinema 600 is designed to produce epic sound in a small package.
The Playbar brings with it virtually all the things you could want in a Sonos speaker and everything you’d want in a soundbar.

Choosing the best Hi-Fi speaker can be a bit of a daunting task. As one of the original categories in consumer sound devices, high fidelity speakers aim to give you one thing first and foremost: incredible sound. But not every set of speakers is created equal.

First, are you looking for speakers to fit into a surround system or TV setup? Are you hoping to get a full, rich response for your record or lossless music collection? Or are you a studio producer who wants balanced, professional monitors? All of these questions are crucial for picking your set of speakers.

In this article, you’ll find a good spread of options, from the reasonably priced ELAC B6.2s or the impressively full-featured Sonos Playbar. But there’s quite a range of options, so pay close attention to features—powered or unpowered, stereo or not, inclusive of a subwoofer, etc. Read on for a few of our favorites in a variety of budgets.

Best Overall: ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2 Speakers

Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2 Speakers
What We Like
  • Excellent frequency response

  • Low-resonance cabinets for a clean sound stage

  • Affordable price point

What We Don't Like
  • Somewhat boring design

  • Lacking on the low end just a bit

As far as consumer-focused speakers go, the Elac Debut 2.0 line offers some of the truest, most natural sound stages at its price point. And that price point—only about $260 for a pair of 6.5-inch speakers at the time of this writing—is a truly impressive feat for the research and construction that’s gone into them. The tweeter, a newly developed 1-inch soft dome that gives you response up to an astronomical 35 kHz, and the tightly woven woofer provide a really nice spread. And covering 44Hz all the way to that 35kHz is plenty of coverage for most needs, though you’ll likely want a subwoofer to round out the low end.

The nominal impedance of 6 ohms means that, when paired with the right amp, you’ll get about 120W of RMS output. Even the cabinets, which have been braced internally to limit unwanted resonance, give you a solid foundation. All of this amounts to an even sonic response that will go nicely in a standard stereo setup or alongside your TV. In short, you won’t get a ton of nuance and the speakers look a little lackluster, but everything else is excellent.

Wattage: 120 | Driver Size: 6.5-inch woofers, 1-inch tweeters | Frequency Response: 44Hz–35kHz | Powered: No | Wireless Connectivity: No

Best Design: Q Acoustics 3030i Bookshelf Speaker Pair

What We Like
  • Sleek, eye-catching design

  • Solid power from a large enclosure

  • Nice, even bass response

What We Don't Like
  • Design could be too much for some setups

  • Lacks some detail on the high end

  • A little pricey for the category

Q Acoustics is a design-forward brand that gives you a lot of incredible power for a comparatively small package. The 3000 range has earned a lot of awards in the Hi-Fi audio space, and it’s led Q Acoustics to use phrases such as “delivering the biggest, most commanding sound ever achieved by a speaker.” Marketing gravitas notwithstanding, the 3030i pair is a solid set of speakers if you can afford the price tag.

Rather than some speaker manufacturers that try to prop up the drivers and ignore the cabinets, Q Acoustics leans into it with a 7.9 x 12.8 x 13-inch enclosure with rigid point-to-point bracing that accentuates the low end of the frequency range while clarifying the stereo image. The actual, on-paper coverage is only about 46Hz to 30kHz, but the effective feeling is a really full, powerful bass response.

And then there’s the look of it—the curved edges and single-piece aesthetic of the cabinet and the white outlines on the exposed drivers feel a lot more like a professional studio monitor than a bookshelf speaker. And, while $400 isn’t exactly the most affordable price point, it isn’t a bad get when you factor in the value of 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

Best Studio Monitors: Yamaha HS8 Studio Monitor

Yamaha HS8
What We Like
  • Flat, detailed response

  • Nice, sleek design

  • Impressive build quality

What We Don't Like
  • Not ideal for heavy bass

  • Fairly expensive

  • Specialized for studio use, not necessarily for consumers

As far as professional studio reference monitors go, the Yamaha HS8 is one of the most-used, most-trusted options in the game. But before you pull the trigger on a speaker pair like this, you need to ask yourself if a studio monitor is what you need. Unlike consumer-grade or audiophile-focused products, a studio monitor will offer what is called a “flat response." This means that the speaker itself isn’t doing anything to mold the sound—no bass boost, no on-board signal processing, etc. In these facets, the HS8 does remarkably well.

In terms of construction, these speakers feature an 8-inch cone (important for powerful bass response) and a 1-inch dome tweeter that is tuned nicely to control the higher end. These are also powered speakers, meaning you won’t need a dedicated amp. With that, they offer about 120W total, with a frequency response of 38Hz to 30kHz. The cabinet is made of a rigid, frequency-rejecting MDF, making for a tuned, forward-facing, focused sound.

There are also a couple of controls for room focusing and high frequency softening on the back to tune your speaker for your space. At about $350 for each speaker ($700 for the pair), they are fairly expensive, but for the tried-and-true history and the impressive performance of the HS8, you really can’t go wrong.

Wattage: 120 | Driver Size: 8-inch woofers, 1-inch tweeters | Frequency Response: 38Hz–30kHz | Powered: Yes | Wireless Connectivity: No

Best Affordable Bookshelf Speakers: Edifier R1280T Powered Bookshelf Speakers

Edifier R1280T Powered Bookshelf Speakers
What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Built-in amplifier

  • Includes remote control

What We Don't Like
  • Not as powerful as the competition

Cheap speakers don’t mean you need to sacrifice quality. If you’re looking for premium sound for a budget-friendly price, check out the Edifier R1280T Powered Bookshelf Speakers. They produce a clear and balanced sound that will be ideal for your home, and they even have built-in amplifiers, which saves you from purchasing additional equipment and makes for a simple set-up process. The R1280T are a stylish set of bookshelf speakers too, with a walnut and matte black design.

Each speaker features a 13-millimeter silk dome tweeter, a 4-inch full-range bass driver, a 21W total power output and a frequency response range between 75Hz and 18kHz. You’ve also got two aux inputs, making it easy to connect two devices at a time, such as headphones. A remote control is also included.

While you shouldn’t expect the same sound as you get from a higher-end speaker, especially when it comes to bass, the R1280T still deliver a strong performance. They may leave your friends thinking you paid more for your speakers than you actually did.

Wattage: 21W per channel | Driver Size: 4-inch woofers, 0.5-inch tweeters | Frequency Response: 75Hz–18kHz | Powered: Yes | Wireless Connectivity: No

"When we pulled these out of the box and hooked them up to a smartphone and aux cable, we were surprised at just how full, and substantial the sound quality was." Jason Schneider, Product Tester

Best Affordable Tower Speaker: Polk Audio T50

Polk T50
What We Like
  • Solid build quality

  • Plenty of coverage of the frequency spectrum

  • Great price point

What We Don't Like
  • Not as loud as you might expect

  • Design is nothing special

There are a few things that stand out as key features for Polk’s T series speakers. First, it’s the classic “Dynamic Response” Polk has spent years perfecting in its pro sound line. Then there’s the rigid, frequency-stifling MDF that’s used to build the enclosures, which gives you a solid construction while pushing all the sound forward to the drivers (no weird resonance here).

The T50 tower speaker is a great option if you have the space because it comes with three 6.5-inch woofers—one dedicated to the main part of the spectrum, with two meant to support the bass end. There’s also a 1-inch tweeter to offer a bit of sparkle. This makes these tower speakers great for TV and movies, especially when put together in a stereo pair.

You’ll get coverage spanning 38Hz to 24kHz, plenty on both ends to support rumbling lows and crisp highs. While the handling for each speaker is set to about 100W total, pushing it that hard might yield some roughness around the edges. But for only about $150, this is a great way to start 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

"For the T50 to have such a neutral sound signature is really cool, since you usually have to hunt down studio monitors to get something with sound this flat." — Emily Ramirez, Product Tester

Best In-Wall Speaker: Polk Audio RC85i 2-Way Premium In-Wall 8″ Speakers

Polk Audio RC85i
What We Like
  • 8-inch woofers for plenty of power

  • Moisture-friendly rubber seal

  • Paintable grills to match the look of your space

What We Don't Like
  • Installation and wiring required

  • No enclosure to round out the low end

When space is limited and you have the ability to set up something a little more permanent, in-wall speakers can be a great fixture. The Polk RC85i speakers are a solid middle-of-the-road option, whether you're looking for something in your living room or on the porch (they’re humidity-friendly).

The 8-inch drivers provide a lot of power across the dynamic spectrum, which is important because you normally don’t pair in-wall speakers with dedicated subwoofers. The grill covering is surrounded by a nice rubber seal, which provides two things—decent sound response that doesn’t transfer to the solid wall, and decent protection from moisture. You can even take these aluminum grills and paint them to match your specific color scheme.

Because the speakers are designed with Polk’s tried-and-true audio processing, they will match any other Polk speakers in your system. This makes them a nice choice for surround sound units or a whole-home 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

What We Like
  • Tons of connectivity options

  • Solid, space-filling sound

  • Interesting design and color options

What We Don't Like
  • Very pricey

  • Smaller drivers mean less natural bass response

While Sonos and Bose have earned their spot in the consumer-friendly wireless market, KEF is a brand that is less discussed. That is, in part, because they focus primarily on the audiophile space. The LSX system here does cost quite a bit ($1,250 at the time of this writing,) so if you’re considering this purchase you’ll need to make sure that it warrants the hit on your wallet. 

The name of the game with this system is options. You can connect the speaker via Wi-Fi or ethernet for stable connection and seamless integration with your in-home sound system. Or you can opt for the Bluetooth connectivity for a more point-to-point means of playing music. The Wi-Fi connectivity allows you to transmit your lossless audio files, which is a great deal better than the compression-based artifacts inherent with Bluetooth compression.

The sound quality here is also impressive, even though the drivers are only 4 inches. KEF calls these speaker cones “Unit-Q” drivers, which it touts as offering 160 degrees of sound coverage. Paired with the heat sink on the enclosures, you can push these speakers pretty hard and get some decent volume and fullness in your space. The look is also pretty forward-facing and unique, and there are even three color options.

Wattage: 70 | Driver Size: 4.5-inch woofers, 0.75-inch tweeter | Frequency Response: 49Hz–47kHz | Powered: Yes | Wireless Connectivity: Yes

Best Budget Wireless System: Edifier R1700BT Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers

Edifier R1700BT Bluetooth Speaker
What We Like
  • Nice, professional design

  • Affordable price tag

  • Bluetooth connectivity

What We Don't Like
  • Not as bass-forward as other options

  • Slightly dated Bluetooth functionality

If you’re in the market for a wireless speaker pair but don’t want to shell out Sonos or KEF levels of cash, then Edifier is here with its R1700BT speakers. Designed similarly to the 1280s that don’t feature wireless connectivity, these speakers bring the Bluetooth option to a small, solid set of bookshelf speakers.

While the frequency responses of 60Hz to 20kHz isn’t exactly the most impressive around, the speakers’ tilt-back design and solid enclosures provide a decent amount of fullness. This is impressive considering the main speaker cones are only 4 inches, a size that usually results in a thinner, less powerful sound.

There are a few connectivity options, including a 3.5mm aux input and the Bluetooth connectivity mentioned above. These powered speakers serve as a great setup for your office, plugged straight into your computer, or great for quickly hooking up wirelessly and playing some tunes at a party. The best part? At under $200, the price point is great for those who aren’t as discerning.

Wattage: 15W per channel | Driver Size: 4-inch woofers, 0.75-inch tweeter | Frequency Response: 69Hz–20kHz | Powered: Yes | Wireless Connectivity: Yes

"Edifier flies a bit under the radar in both price and brand recognition, but uses that to its advantage by impressing the listener right out of the box." — Jason Schneider, Product Tester

Best Soundbar: Klipsch Cinema 600 Sound Bar 3.1

What We Like
  • Sturdy build quality

  • Sleek, professional design

  • Full, cinema-ready sound

What We Don't Like
  • Longer than many other soundbars

  • No Bluetooth connectivity

Because a soundbar often features a row of smaller drivers producing sound, you tend to get spectrum that lacks a bit in the bass. That’s why when you’re in the market for a soundbar, specifically for use in a movie room, it’s best to go for one that comes with a subwoofer. The Klipsch Cinema 600 is designed to produce epic sound in a small package.

There are four composite, mid-focused woofers and two suspended tweeters built into the system, as well as some ports on the front for a better sound stage. The separate dedicated subwoofer comes with a massive, down-firing 10-inch speaker to support the bottom end. Because the soundbar features an HDMI ARC input, you can use a single remote to control your whole system.

The enclosure is built of a composite wood painted black, which makes for a classy yet premium look—perfect as the centerpiece of your media room or entertainment setup. And because the whole package comes in under $400, with a brand name to support its quality, the Cinema 600 really is a solid bet if you're looking for a soundbar-and-sub combo.

Wattage: Not specified | Driver Size: 3 woofers, 2 tweeters | Frequency Response: Not specified | Powered: Yes | Wireless Connectivity: No

Best Sonos: Sonos Playbar

What We Like
  • Incredibly rich sound

  • Tons of Sonos connectivity

  • Great design

What We Don't Like
  • Very expensive

  • Heavy and bulky

Sonos is a name you’ve likely heard before if you’re reading an article like this. While the brand is known primarily for Wi-Fi-based speakers with smaller footprints, the Sonos Playbar is the original flagship for soundbars. A soundbar is important for those who need home audio because it works well both in an entertainment context and in a pure audio context. The Playbar brings with it virtually all the things you could want in a Sonos speaker and everything you’d want in a soundbar.

There are nine independently driven speaker cones inside the large enclosure, which provide a lot of coverage both physically and in the frequency response. This provides a really nice layer of sound that’ll work well in a home movie setup. 

There’s also plenty of on-board digital signal processing, and even a room-tuning function using the Sonos app. Of course, wireless connectivity is the other key factor here. The Playbar communicates with your devices and other Sonos speakers by connecting to your Wi-Fi network. You can then use Apple AirPlay or voice commands through the Sonos app to control everything. It does come with some drawbacks—namely its price and its massively bulky size—but as far as soundbars go, you really won’t get a whole lot more in a dedicated unit than this.

Wattage: Not specified | Driver Size: 9 drivers | Frequency Response: Not specified | Powered: Yes | Wireless Connectivity: Yes

"When activated through the app, Night mode lowers the overall volume of the speaker for gunfire and explosions, while actively and intelligently raising the volume during quieter moments on screen." Jason Schneider, Product Tester

Final Verdict

At the end of the day, a lot of factors go into picking your speaker setup. Our best overall pick, the Elac Debut 2.0 (view at Amazon), are great for those who have an amplifier and want great bookshelf or surround speakers for a decent price.

If you're willing to shell out a few more bucks, the Q Acoustics 3030i (view at Amazon) provide next-level sound, an incredible design, and a nice build quality. Then there are the soundbars and powered speakers on the list, which provide their own value. The Sonos Playbar (view at Amazon), for instance, offers the most wireless functionality.

In the end, your mileage will vary depending on your system, but almost any speaker on this list will work for the right situation.

About Our Trusted Experts

Jason Schneider has been writing for tech and media companies for nearly 10 years. He is also a current and past contributing writer to Greatist and Thrillist.

Emily Ramirez is a tech writer who studied game design at MIT and now reviews all sorts of consumer tech, from VR headsets to tower speakers.

FAQs

Will the distance of your speakers from the audio source affect sound quality?
Yes, while it's not always possible, for the best audio quality, you'll want to keep the length of cable tethering your speakers to your receiver as short as possible. Although your sound quality won't suffer very much unless they're 25 feet or more from your receiver. For any wired speakers, you should use a 14-gauge cable, and potentially use a 12-gauge cable for any speakers extending past 25 feet from the receiver.

Where should you place your speakers?
This can be a little different depending on if you're using a stereo, 5.1, 7.1, or 9.1 setup. However, there are a couple of evergreen rules to follow regardless of how many speakers you're using. This will obviously depend on your room layout, but you should try and have your speakers equidistant from each other with surround speakers placed in the corners around your listening area. You should also try to keep your speakers free of obstructions and if you can safely mount them on a wall, even better.

How many subwoofers do you need?
This all depends on the size of your room, more subwoofers give you a better bass quality and offer you more flexible placement when looking for the best spot for optimal sound quality. However, having more than a single subwoofer in a small listening area may be overkill. Also, some single speakers provide enough bass as standalone options that an additional woofer isn't required.

What to Look for When Buying Hi-Fi Speakers

Design

Hi-fi speakers can come in a few different designs. Most are bookshelf speakers. They tend to be a pair of modestly sized speakers (small enough to fit on a bookshelf or desk), and often have an exposed woofer and tweeter, though some may have a mesh or fabric covering to keep dust off. Some speakers may have amplifiers built-in, while others may require you to connect to an AV receiver. A few interesting designs include wall speakers that let you hide most of the unit inside a wall mount, as well as soundbars, that live under your TV console.

Audio Quality

A wide frequency response range that goes from the low to high end is an important aspect of hi-fi speakers. If you tend to listen to bassier music, you'll likely want a pair of speakers with good response on the lower end, while if you want music at its cleanest (a flat frequency response) you want a pair of studio monitors. Other factors that impact audio quality include the number of woofers and tweeters, if there's a built-in amplifier or not, and if playback is happening through wired output or Bluetooth.

Compatibility

Some speakers are powered, meaning they can function as standalone devices and plug directly into your TV without needing to go through an AV receiver. Others are passive and will need to be connected to an amp and AV receiver. Other extra features might include Ethernet and Wi-Fi connectivity and Bluetooth, to allow for playback from your phone or other devices.

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