Upgrading your sound system is a lot like upgrading a car: it can take several years, it’s expensive, and quite often, the people around you just don’t get it.
To the enthusiast, though, finding the perfect hardware and tweaking the settings until they’re just right is its own reward.
Unfortunately, for the sake of your bank account, you can’t just buy every set of speakers that you lay eyes on but don’t worry, we’ve put together a list of some of the best stereo speakers around so that you don’t have to.
Top 5 Stereo Speakers 2020 – Compared
The table below shows the name of each product we’re reviewing, as well as a couple of specifications to allow for an at-a-glance understanding of our most highly recommended stereo speakers.
|Product Name||RMS Power (Watts)||Frequency Response||Amazon URL|
|Edifier R1280T||42||75Hz – 18kHz|
|Logitech Z333||40||55Hz – 20kHz|
|Klipsch R-14M (Editor's Pick)||200||64Hz – 24kHz|
|Fluance Signature Series||200||35Hz – 20kHZ|
|Micca MB42 Bookshelf Speakers||75||60Hz – 20kHz|
With every article we write, we strive to identify the very best products in each category, which means we won’t be shying away from describing any weaknesses in the product. This, of course, in the other direction, too, so any strengths will be described just as fully.
Now, we know you’re probably anxious to get to the real meat of this list: the reviews, so let’s begin. The first product we’ll be looking at is the R1280T by Edifier.
Edifier R1280T – Best Mid-Budget Stereo Speakers
The Edifier R1280T’s are a pair of gorgeous wooden bookshelf speakers that would look great in any home office or living room – but they aren’t just great looking, they’re great sounding too.
One speaker is passive and the other active, so there’s plenty of scope to add an amplifier of some kind, although we’d recommend pairing a good subwoofer with these speakers, since while the bass is good (taking into account the small size of the speakers), it sometimes lacks the power that audiophiles look for in their setup. We were pleasantly surprised to find that, even at very high volumes, there was no detectable distortion or white noise – clean sound, however loud.
This model boasts a fantastic mid-range, with vocals coming across crisp and clear, and a top end that doesn’t underwhelm.
If you do find that the sound profile isn’t quite to your tastes, you can tweak it a bit by using the control dials on the side of the right speaker. These allow you to adjust the bass and treble from -6dB to +6dB, so there’s definitely some wiggle room. If you want further control over your sound, you can use your stereo or amplifier, since these usually come with fancy equalizers anyway.
If you’ve ever had a party and switched your speakers on in the morning, you’ll be familiar with the mad dash to turn the volume down before the music starts.
Thankfully, this isn’t a problem for this product, since it has built-in digital volume control which reduces the volume to a comfortable level when they’re switched on. When at their loudest setting, these speakers are enough to fill a 20×20 room, but for larger spaces, you’re going to need something with more power.
The two speakers are connected to 8 feet of standard speaker cable and each has a removable mesh grille.
Whether you keep the grille on or not will depend on your preference, but we think that they look slick either way. The power cable is 5 and a half feet long and is connected directly to the right speaker, so take this into account when planning your positioning.
Let’s focus on connectivity for a moment – Each speaker has an auxiliary input and an RCA input and even better, each speaker can play independently of the other.
This means that you could even use these speakers as a basic surround sound system if you feel like it by routing the left and right audio channels into their respective speaker. These speakers do come with a remote control but it’s very basic and features just three buttons: volume up, volume down and mute.
There’s also a mounting hole on the back face of each speaker which allows you to mount them on a stand or wall – perfect for environments with limited space. There is a green power light on the right speaker which can’t be turned off and is pretty bright, so we’d recommend putting a small piece of tape over it, especially if these will be placed in the bedroom since it might make it a little hard to sleep.
You don’t have to worry about these speakers breaking, which should take some weight off of your mind. Edifier offers a free two-year parts and labour warranty (in the USA and Canada) with these speakers, so even if something does go wrong, you’re covered.
Overall, we think these speakers are great. They provide full, well-balanced sound and have dual input functionality, whilst being quite small, attractive and reasonably priced. If you’re looking for stereo speakers on a low to medium budget, these are the best for you.
- Gorgeous finish
- Dual inputs supported
- One passive, one active speaker
- Bass lacks power
- Bright, distracting power light
Logitech Z333 – Best Stereo Computer Speakers
If you’re looking to make the jump from the $10 speakers you bought when you first got your PC to something a little more substantial, you can’t go wrong with the Logitech Z333.
These connect directly to the back of your PC using a 3.5mm audio jack and are plug and play, so you don’t have to concern yourself with installing drivers or any other technical stuff that gets in the way of you enjoying your music. It’s also worth noting that these speakers have an RCA input too, so you could even connect them to your TV or HiFi if you chose to.
One very important specification: these speakers require 110/120V of power, so if you live in the US, you’re good to go, but buyers elsewhere in the world will have to purchase a converter to reduce their voltage down to a safe level for this product. These are inexpensive and readily available, so don’t let that put you off.
Now, how do these sound? Well, the bass is excellent, thanks to the 5” front facing subwoofer.
We’re sure that unless you already have an expensive set of PC speakers, these will be a massive upgrade.
The high end is good, but not great – there can be a bit of distortion at times, especially at louder volumes, which is a shame, since the mid-range is also very good and so the treble is the only weak link.
One feature that we’re sure most people will appreciate is the control pod.
This is attached to the speakers by a 6-foot long cable and will be placed on your desktop or computer tower.
This allows you to adjust the volume or power directly by turning a dial, but more importantly, it features a headphones jack for quiet night time listening. Too often, your speakers are too far away to comfortably use headphones, and the control pod solves this problem in a way that’s both innovative and legitimately useful.
The whole system weighs just 9.8 pounds and as such is light enough to place on a shelf or desk.
Similarly, the small size of the speakers (excluding the larger central one) means that they won’t have too large of a footprint on your desk area and can be placed in even a small workspace. The satellite speakers are connected to the woofer via a 55” cable, which could cause some issues, depending on how you plan to position them.
You could always extend these, but in the short term, you’re stuck with them, unfortunately.
As these are primarily designed for use with a computer you don’t get a lot of the bells and whistles that TV or sound system speakers have but the upside is that you don’t really need them. Instead of a remote control, you have the control hub, instead of multiple input functionality, you have plug and play speakers; features which are designed to make things easier for the PC user.
Given the impressive sound quality of these speakers plus the fact that they cost under $100, they’re well worth your time. If you’re really interested in dissecting audio signals and measuring performance, you might feel a bit let down by these, but for the everyday user who’s looking for an upgrade to their stock speakers, these are perfect.
- Control hub is innovative and truly useful
- Easy setup
- Strong bass
- Relatively short cables
- May need to buy a power converter, depending on your location
Klipsch R-14M – Best Passive Stereo Speakers
If you’re an audiophile, you might have resigned yourself to spending a whole lot of money in order to get serious sound quality and customization from your speakers, but as the Klipsch R-14M prove, it is absolutely possible to get these things for under $200, provided you’re up for a challenge.
These are a pair of brushed black polymer speakers with an attractive copper finish on the drivers. Each speaker has a removable grille, but honestly, we’d recommend keeping them off just for the wow factor alone – copper is an uncommon choice and really contrasts well against the black casing. The speakers are each 7.5” tall, 5.9” wide and 9.8” deep: pretty standard dimensions for bookshelf speakers, but trust us, you’ll want these to be the centerpiece of your room.
The rear of the unit features a 5-way binding post, but unfortunately, these speakers don’t come with the required cable, so you’ll have to purchase these too.
Your best bet is standard 16 gauge speaker wire, just make sure to get enough for the positioning setup you have in mind.
These speakers weigh a little over 7 pounds each, making them light enough to place on a shelf or mount on a wall via the mounting holes on the rear.
These are passive speakers, so they will have to be connected to some kind of amplifier in order to output sound.
This also means that there’s a little more work required, but with great risk comes great reward, and if you’re capable enough to connect these, you’re more than deserving of the fantastic sound that they produce.
We’ll elaborate: the R-14M’s have a 4” woofer capable of producing strong, heavy bass undertones whilst not neglecting the other frequencies. Further, we’d suggest that the mid ranges are these speaker’s biggest strength – vocals and instruments alike come across clearly whilst sounding rich and deep.
The volume can get pretty loud – if you’re in an apartment, expect the neighbours to complain if you decide to turn these up to full blast. We’d advise against this for another reason, however, and that is that there’s a small amount of distortion at higher volumes that really detracts from the experience.
Where these speakers really begin to shine is when used in a larger space, despite their small size they’re pretty powerful.
When given 50 Watts RMS input, they can produce a minimum of 115dB of noise, which is roughly equivalent to the loudness of an ambulance siren. This is more than enough to fill a 400 square foot room, making it more suited to placement in a living room or even in a covered area outdoors, since these are humidity and fog proof.
Let’s not beat around the bush: these speakers are not for everyone.
It’s going to take an enthusiast to even want to set these up, let alone spend this much money on speakers, but this seems to be the exact demographic Klipsch were targeting, so it all works out in the end. Those who do invest their time and money into these speakers will be richly rewarded with sound quality that rivals even more expensive speakers, for a much lower price.
- Fantastic mid and high ranges
- Very loud
- Can be used outdoors
- Tricky to set up
- Some distortion at high volumes
Fluance Signature Series – Best Floor Standing Stereo Speakers
The first thing that strikes you about these speakers is their colossal size. Each speaker in the pair measures at 4 feet tall, 11” wide and 15” deep and weighs a massive 62.4 pounds. One thing’s for sure – you’re going to need some help setting these up. They come either in all black or with a walnut veneer, although both versions look great.
The speakers are secured to the floor by way of floor spikes and metal brackets on the bottom corners of each unit. Unfortunately, the documentation didn’t cover how exactly the spikes should be installed and relies on you knowing what to do with them. Once you’ve got these spikes fitted, however, they do a pretty good job at minimizing vibration noise and keeping the speakers stable.
Each speaker comes with a magnetic front grille which can be removed to show off the dual 8” woofers and the vivid 5” yellow fibreglass driver. Centred in the driver is the 1” silk dome tweeter which does a fantastic job of at the high end, with crystal clear instruments and vocals.
The frequency range is pretty wide, and the dual woofers create booming bass all the way down to 35Hz.
When used as a surround sound system, there are noises that you feel more than you hear – for example, the rumbling of a train passing in Hugo, or the ominous background music in Batman VS Superman (Batman’s throaty growls are particularly well replicated). There are few speakers that do more your immersion than the Fluance Signatures.
The rear of the speakers features a four-way binding post, allowing for greater versatility with regard to connected devices. They don’t come with the required cable, so you’ll need to pick some up, and possibly some banana plugs, but frankly, if you’re getting these speakers, there’s a good chance you know what you’re doing. If something goes wrong with these speakers, you can take advantage of the lifetime parts and labour warranty that comes with them, although you will have to pay for shipping.
Given their large size and footprint, these are obviously not suitable for use in a small apartment.
Ideally, you’d have at least a 40×40 room to really give these speakers a chance to live up to their potential. They do appear to have a short burning in time, with audio seeming to sound better after a week or so of use than it did when the speakers were brand new.
We realize that these speakers are expensive, but if you’re looking for the highest quality audio for your home theatre, you could do a lot worse than these. Some tower speakers cost well into the thousands, and the Fluance Signatures are much cheaper, although a bit larger.
If you want premium quality, you need to pay premium money and believe us, “premium quality” is a term that applies to not just the audio output, but also the attractive exterior of these units. These speakers will give you the closest possible recreation of a cinema in your home that you can get for under $1000, so really, what could be better?
- Fantastic bass, clear high-end
- Very attractive appearance
- Loud enough to fill a large room
- Installation instructions are unclear
- Very large
Micca MB42 Bookshelf Speakers – Best Budget Stereo Speakers
Any budget speaker aficionado knows about the Micca MB42 bookshelf speakers.
They’re known as some of the best speakers available for under $100, and for good reason: they look fantastic and sound great.
If you were worried about these looking cheap due to their low price, relax.
The wooden black veneer looks classy and blends in with the surrounding décor, no matter what that is. Each speaker has a removable cloth grille, although we wish the front face of the speaker didn’t have the grille attaching holes since they detract from the otherwise great appearance.
These are passive speakers, so you will need an amplifier and an input of some kind to be able to play sound through them, but surprisingly for a budget so low, Micca has forgone the standard RCA connectors in exchange for a five-way binding post on the rear side. These provide a more secure grip on your cables and help these speakers punch above their weight, although as usual, the cables aren’t included.
The 4” woofer allows for solid bass, but it’s important to bear in mind the small size of these speakers and adjust your expectations accordingly. They measure just 9.5” high, 5.8” wide and 6.5” deep, so you’re not going to get earth shattering bass. The audio you do get, though, is warm and full, and can easily fill a 20×20 room.
Again, their small frame is their biggest disadvantage, as they simply lack the power to be usable in a larger space.
The only real issue with the sound is that the upper mid-range can occasionally come across a little muddied, especially with vocals. Instruments sound great, but for some reason, some singers just don’t sound as good as they should.
Due to the ported design of the casing, you get the best results when the speakers are placed a few inches out from the wall, so if you’re planning to put these on a shelf, make sure that you allow for this.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to mount these to a wall short of drilling a hole in the back yourself or buying a wall bracket of some kind.
Whilst there are a number of features that these speakers don’t have (Bluetooth, mounting holes, a built-in amplifier), it’s important to consider the cost.
They are significantly less expensive than the competition and yet somehow manage to almost match them in terms of sound quality. Given their low price, they make an excellent and cost effective surround sound system when more than two are connected, or a strong addition to your stereo when used in a pair. For strong performance, low cost and a high build quality, choose Micca.
- Strong performance
- Very inexpensive
- High-quality components
- Mid-range could be better
- Can’t be wall mounted
Best Stereo Speakers – Buyer’s Guide
Speakers can be tricky to evaluate: there are a hundred and one different specifications that manufacturers give you, and not all of them are relevant to sound quality or performance. To help you sift through the noise, we’ve put together a short guide to the main things you should consider before buying a set of speakers in order to prevent the dreaded buyer’s remorse.
Almost every speaker on the market will list the frequency response, and you should avoid the ones that don’t. This refers to the range of frequencies that these speakers can output, and are either given as a range of numbers (e.g. 20Hz-20 kHz), or as a graph. If it’s given in graph form, you’ll notice that usually, there are higher values at one end, which signifies that these speakers favour either bass or treble.
In a perfect world, the line would be flat, but realistically, as long as there isn’t a large recessed portion of the graph, you should be okay.
How do you plan to use these speakers? If you want them mainly for music, you’ll likely want to put them on a shelf or desk somewhere, and as a result, you might be better suited towards smaller speakers (sometimes called bookshelf speakers). These often come with mounting holes or brackets in case you’d like to hang them on a wall, and are usually reasonably inexpensive since their small size limits their power.
If you’re more interested in a speaker system for your TV, you’ll probably want larger, more powerful speakers that, once placed, will not move for a long time.
In these situations, you might consider floor standing speakers.
These are essentially tall, narrow speakers for a stronger performance and are often very heavy. Stability is important with these since they’re expensive and you don’t want them to topple over, which is why they often come with floor spikes. These spikes attach the speakers to your carpet for enhanced stability but make it a chore to reposition the speakers later on.
If you want to use your speakers outside, first of all, make sure they’re moisture resistant, and secondly, place them under a covered area like a porch, since very few outdoor speakers are made to be left out in the elements forever. We can’t stress this enough: check and double check before using them outside.
There are a few different ways in which manufacturers’ measure power of a speaker, but the most useful of these is the root mean squared (RMS) power draw.
This is the average power draw across the speaker’s operating range. A higher RMS means a higher power requirement, which usually means louder audio. We know things are getting complicated, so we’ll leave it at that. If you’re interested in learning more about the relationship between power and performance, there’s a useful article on CNET.
Passive vs Active
A speaker can either be passive or active – in short, an active speaker has its own amplifier built in and only requires an input, like a turntable or stereo to produce sound. Passive speakers require both an input and an amplifier, but often provide higher quality audio with more scope for customization.
If you’re new to the world of speakers, we’d recommend looking at active speakers for now since they’re easier to set up and use, but for seasoned audiophiles, anything other than a passive speaker just won’t cut it.