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Best Overall Bookshelf Speaker: ELAC Bookshelf Speakers at Amazon
"Improving on its predecessors' already excellent sound is a high-performance woofer with 6.5-inch fiber cones and a one-inch soft dome tweeter."
Best Overall Home Theater Speaker: Onkyo HT-S7800 at Amazon
"Includes support for Apple’s AirPlay and Google Cast, as well as streaming for Pandora, Spotify and Tidal."
Best Budget Floor Speaker: Polk Audio Tower Speaker at Amazon
"Works with a pair of 6.5-inch woofers, a one-inch silk dome tweeter, and a dedicated 6.5-inch midrange driver."
Best Budget Bookshelf Speaker: Dayton Audio B652-Air at Amazon
"Along with great sound, the B652s look good for the price."
Best Overall Floor Speaker: Polk Audio Signature Series at Amazon
"Buyers can count on these speakers hitting 100 dB without any distortion."
Best Overall In-Wall Stereo Speaker: Polk Audio 255-RT at Amazon
"Installation is a snap with easy one-cut, drop-in setup with “perfect fit” templates."
Best Budget In-Wall Speaker: Theater Solutions Speakers at Amazon
"Aesthetically speaking, the frames and grills are paintable to match your décor."
In the realm of low-cost stereo speakers, the name ELAC requires little introduction and their Debut 2.0 B6.2 bookshelf speakers show why. Measuring 10.6 x 7.7 x 14.8 inches in size, the speakers fit well on most bookshelves and deliver powerful audio. Improving on its predecessors' already excellent sound is a high-performance woofer with 6.5-inch fiber cones and a one-inch soft dome tweeter.
Elac recommends that each B6.2 speaker be paired with a receiver up to 120 watts per channel. That all but ensures it will fill a medium-sized house with crisp, solid sound. Midrange sound hits on all the right notes while higher frequencies add a vibrancy that’s a slam dunk at this price range. Even if you put sound aside, the speakers’ good looks and clean design are reason enough to put them on a bookshelf.
The Onkyo HT-S7800 is one of the systems that helps provide concrete reasoning why Onkyo is such a prolific manufacturing company of excellent quality audio equipment. There’s support for all the latest and greatest digital trends, including Dolby Atmos, 3D support, TrueHD, DTS:X, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. Right out of the box are an a/v receiver, five satellite speakers, a powered subwoofer and a full assortment of color-coded cables for easy setup. The front left and right speakers have an additional speaker on the top that aids in support of the Dolby Atmos sound, so audio output bounces off the ceiling.
While the sound quality might already have you hooked, there’s more to love with the HT-S7800 home theater in a box. As a bonus, all eight 4K HDMI inputs support 4K/60Hz video and if your television isn’t 4K compatible, the receiver will scale 1080p content to display at 4K. The HT-S7800 includes support for Apple’s AirPlay and Google Cast, as well as streaming capabilities for Pandora, Spotify and Tidal.
With the Polk name behind it, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that this budget floor-standing speaker delivers big sound. The T50 works with a pair of 6.5-inch woofers, a one-inch silk dome tweeter, and a dedicated 6.5-inch midrange driver — features that punch well above their pay grade. Polk’s use of Dynamic Balance technology is responsible for its powerful sound. The highs are balanced and the mids feel crisp and clear while the bass feels sturdy with plenty of heart-pumping potential for action and horror movies. Dialogue and vocals are excellent. It’s only when you try and push the Polk to maximum volume that distortion sets in. Leave the volume below 90-percent and you’ll never even notice.
The speaker cabinets are attractive and do well to hide fingerprints. On the rear of the cabinet is a five-way binding post that connects easily to speaker cables from satellite speakers or a subwoofer. You can even choose to utilize them as part of a surround sound system thanks to their compatibility with most home theater AV receivers.
Very much at the affordable end of the bookshelf speaker scale, the 13.5 x 8.1 x 11.7-inch Dayton Audio B652-Air has a 6.5-inch woofer and weighs just 11 pounds. Along with the woofer, the B652-Air offers an air motion transformer tweeter in lieu of a dome tweeter, which promises a clear, less-distorted sound than what traditional dome tweeters can manage. Along with great sound, the B652s look good for the price, sporting a black ebony pica vinyl cabinet finish and removable grilles.
Overall, the 40-watt Dayton speaker takes up very little space while offering a clear sound and fit in just about any room in the house. The sound comes off nicely balanced without feeling too bassy or too high. Lastly, as a sealed speaker, it’s a little less sensitive to poor placement near walls or corners.
With warm sound that can fill a whole home, Polk’s Audio Signature Series S55 floor-standing speakers are worth every penny. As far as floor-standing speakers go, this model isn't small — they weigh 44 pounds each and measure 41.5 inches tall. Packed inside the frame is a one-inch tall Terylene tweeter and a 6.5-inch low-frequency drive; the combination of the two provides accurate sound that hits all the right notes.
Polk suggests pairing these speakers with an AV receiver or amplifier that can push out 200 watts per channel. That means buyers can count on these speakers hitting 100 dB without any distortion. Even without a subwoofer attached, the Polk will cleanly fill a medium-sized room without leaving any gaps in audio coverage. Because of their down-firing ports, they can be placed near or against a wall without any sound reflection.
Available in a classic brown walnut veneer, the Polk style is reminiscent of days gone by. The absence of a solid black box helps them stand out from the rest of the floor-standing speaker pack.
First released in 2011, Polk Audio’s 255-RT in-wall speakers remain the gold standard for the category with pitch-perfect sound, excellent build quality and good looks. The "vanishing" in-wall center channel speakers have only the screen visible, so they won't be an eyesore in your home. The magnetically secured grille protrudes just 7mm from its surroundings making the "vanishing" claim by Polk all the more believable.
Installation is a snap with easy one-cut, drop-in setup with "perfect fit" templates that help achieve a vibration-free experience with minimal installation time. The speakers itself feature a pair of 5.25-inch woofers made with a composite polymer cone and rubber sound. There’s also a single tweeter with a silk and polymer cone to round out the sound. And drivers mounted on a flat base allow for easier wall mounting.
Striking the right balance between sound quality and design, the Theater Solutions TS50W in-wall speakers deserve a good look. Measuring 11 x 7.5 inches per speaker, inside you'll find a 5.25-inch woven fiber cone woofer along with a silk titanium dome tweeter. Theater Solutions' recommended power is anywhere between 10-200 watts per speaker which makes them suitable for all kinds of AV receivers.
Once installed, the speakers produce full bass sound with mids and highs that sound crisp and vibrant. Theater Solutions claims each speaker is designed to amplify a full range of tones and they deliver, meaning they can play everything from Beethoven to action movies without skipping a beat.
Aesthetically speaking, the frames and grills are paintable to match your decor, so you won't have to worry about them receiving any unnecessary attention. The low-profile housing protrudes ever so slightly from the wall, making them easily integrable in any room. There’s no need for any mounting hardware and cut out templates are included for accurate sizing.
Available space - A lot of great floorstanding speakers are in this price range, but it’s important to consider the space you’re working with. Large floorstanding speakers can easily overpower a room if it’s any smaller than about 10 x 15 feet. If the room is smaller than that, consider less-expensive bookshelf speakers with a subwoofer.
Box vs. ribbon speakers - Most of the stereo speakers in this price range are floorstanding box speakers. If you want a much more convincing soundstage at this price point, and you don’t mind a nonconventional look, consider a set of flat speakers that use an ultra-thin magneplanar film and ribbon driver instead of conventional speakers.
Stand-alone vs. home theater - One of the most significant considerations when buying stereo speakers is whether you plan to expand the system into a full home theater with additional speakers at some point. If expansion is in your future, choose stereo speakers that are designed to work with additional speakers in a home theater setup.