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Best stereo speakers for 2021

Our top picks for a stellar two-channel listening experience at home

In this article: My list of best stereo speaker picks for 2021 ...

  1. Best value bookshelf speakers — Klipsch Reference R-51M
  2. Best value floor-standing speaker — Polk Audio Signature S60
  3. Best "old school" stand-mount speakers — Wharfedale LINTON Heritage
  4. Best small-footprint floor-standing speaker — Definitive Technology BP-9060
  5. Best high-end floor-standing speaker — Bowers & Wilkins 702 S2
  6. Best high-end bookshelf speakers — Bowers & Wilkins 705 S2
  7. Best powered speakers — ELAC Navis™ ARB-51
  8. Best stereo speaker technology — Polk Audio Legend L800

... plus a bonus pick for creating your own streaming music system, and some shopping tips.

There are few things more enjoyable for me than listening to my favorite albums through a good pair of stereo speakers. It’s one of the things I purposefully carve out time for when I'm at home. Plus, I get to audition all sorts of incredible speakers at the office — it's a pretty sweet gig!

What makes these speakers my favorites?

We carry hundreds of different bookshelf, floor-standing, and powered stereo speakers. So many in fact, that it can be difficult to narrow things down. I’ve put together this short list of my favorites to help you choose.

My selections are based off of my listening experiences, ratings and reviews, and feedback we’ve gotten from our customers. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it highlights some of the best options available within different sizes and price ranges.

Klipsch speakers next to a cabinet

Best value bookshelf speaker — Klipsch Reference R-51M

Klipsch Reference speakers have been a customer favorite at Crutchfield for years. And for good reason — they deliver excellent sound for the money.

The Reference R-51M bookshelf speakers are a prime example of the value you get from the Reference lineup. Each features a 5-1/4" spun-copper woofer for tight bass and smooth midrange, along with Klipsch's signature 1" horn-loaded tweeter for clear, detailed highs.

A horn that enhances bass, too

Take a look at the back of these speakers and you'll find a Tractrix horn-shaped opening for smooth, efficient airflow in and out of the cabinet. This unique design reduces port noise and low-frequency distortion compared to conventional round ports.

Because these speakers are rear-ported, I recommend pulling them away from your wall or the back of the bookshelf to give them room to "breathe."

What our customers say

Polk S60 speakers in a living room

Best value floor-standing speaker — Polk Audio Signature S60

Polk Audio's Signature S60 floor-standing speaker represents one of the best home speaker values we offer. The S60 is the flagship tower in the lineup, and can be used as part of a dynamic stereo or Polk Signature Series home theater system.

Each of these sleek-looking towers uses three 6-1/2" woofers for tight, clean bass and textured midrange. They're paired with a 1" Terylene high-res dome tweeter for sparkling highs.

The smooth corners give this attractive tower a modern look that blends well with most décors.

Great for music and for movies

I particularly like the S60s if your system pulls double duty for music and movies. Pair yours with other Polk Audio Signature speakers for a fantastic home theater experience.

What our customers say

Wharfedale Linton speaker in a room

Best "old school" stand-mount speakers — Wharfedale LINTON Heritage

Wharfedale has a distinguished history of creating high-fidelity loudspeakers that sound — and look — terrific. A prime example is the LINTON Heritage: a stand-mounted, three-way speaker that first arrived on the British hi-fi scene in the 1960s.

The latest iteration of the LINTON retains the speaker's classic look, while sporting newly designed drivers that deliver superb sound.

Each speaker combines an 8" Kevlar® woofer with a 5" Kevlar midrange driver for rhythmic bass and rich, warm mids. A 1" woven textile dome tweeter delivers clear, crisp highs.

The included stands offer stability and storage

This package includes a matched pair of LINTON Heritage speakers, along with two custom stands that ensure a sturdy, vibration-free foundation.

As a bonus, each stand offers built-in storage space for your cherished vinyl records.

What our customers say

Definitive Technology BP-9060 speakers

Best small-footprint floor-stander — Definitive Technology BP-9060

There’s a lot to love about Definitive Technology’s BP-9060 floor-standing speaker. This tower’s unique bi-polar design uses both front- and rear-firing speaker arrays for enveloping, three-dimensional sound.

The BP-9060 can really bring the bass, too. It has a side-firing 10”, 300-watt powered subwoofer built right into the cabinet. This active woofer moves in tandem with two 10” passive radiators, which together provide deep, powerful bass without the need for an external sub.

A pair of the BP-9060s makes for a formidable small-footprint hi-fi system with a huge soundstage. They’re also excellent as the front channels of a home theater system. Add Dolby Atmos® speaker modules to the top of each speaker for immersive overhead effects.

What our customers say

Bowers & Wilkins floor standing speakers

Best high-end floor-standing speaker — Bowers & Wilkins 702 S2

Bowers & Wilkins got their start way back in the 1960s. And for the last 50 years the British hi-fi specialist has delighted customers with innovative speaker designs and other-worldly sound quality.

The 702 S2 is a perfect example of why audiophiles love Bowers & Wilkins so much. A pair of these exquisite tower speakers offers an exceptionally vivid listening experience, thanks in part to a three-way, five-driver design and a unique, top-mounted tweeter housing.

What our customers say

Bowers and Wilkins bookshelf speakers

Best high-end bookshelf speaker — Bowers & Wilkins 705 S2

If you want the fidelity that the 702 S2s offer but in a smaller package, the 705 S2s are a fantastic choice for your listening room. These beautiful speakers offer a huge soundstage, along with precise musical imaging that lets you hear instruments in space the same way you would in front of a live band.

Use this pair with confidence as part of an audiophile-grade stereo system, or as the front or rear channels of a Bowers & Wilkins 700 Series surround sound system.

Place them on stands for the best performance

Proper speaker placement is crucial to getting the best performance out of the 705 S2s. I recommend buying Bowers and Wilkins' matching FS-700 S2 speaker stands so you can position your speakers within your room to get the best possible sound. They also help eliminate unwanted vibrations and reflections.

What our customers say

ELAC Powered speakers

Best high-end powered speakers — ELAC Navis ARB-51

ELAC has been delighting customers for years with its lineup of conventional bookshelf and floor-standing speakers. The hi-fi company also knows a thing or two about ultra-high-performance powered speakers, like the Navis ARB-51.

ELAC's speaker design guru Andrew Jones offered this as he demonstrated the Navis here at Crutchfield HQ: "Listening to them, I'm really happy. They're open and transparent. You can play all different sorts of music on them. Even with contemporary music with a lot of bass, they do really well."

These speakers are ideal if you're a music-loving minimalist that wants sublime performance without a huge external amplifier. As an added bonus, the ARB-51s are powerful enough to fill even large rooms with exceptional sound.

Note: Navis ARB-51 powered speakers do not have a volume control. Instead, they rely on using a source that has its own variable level control, like the acclaimed ELAC Alchemy Series DDP-2 stereo preamplifier/DAC/streamer.

What our customers say

detail of Polk Legend SDA speakers

Best stereo speaker technology — Polk Audio Legend L800

Polk Audio recently debuted their best-ever speakers, and I was so impressed by the unique stereo listening experience the Legend L800s deliver that I wanted to mention them here.

They're unlike any speaker I've auditioned before — their soundstage is so wide I found myself "retraining" my ears to be able to take in the wraparound sound I was hearing.

Read my in-depth article for more info about these awesome speakers, along with an inside look at Polk Audio's R&D facility.

What our customers say

Sonos Amp

Bonus pick — Create your own amplified streaming music system

You can turn most any pair of passive (non-amplified) speakers into a music system that lets you stream Spotify®, Pandora®, and more. The Sonos Amp is my favorite way of achieving this because it easily lets you control your music from an app on your phone or tablet.

The Sonos Amp has AirPlay® 2 built in, which means you can stream audio directly from your iPhone®, iPad®, or Mac® through your Sonos system. You can even connect a CD player or turntable to play your favorite albums.

Learn more about Sonos' customer-favorite music players and home theater solutions.

What our customers say

Tips on choosing the right pair of home speakers

Choosing hi-fi stereo speakers is very much a personal decision. Your room’s acoustics, your amplification, and your source material all affect how speakers will sound in your listening room.

Generally speaking, you’ll want to match the size of your speakers to the size of your room. In my small home office, I use a pair of small bookshelf speakers and get excellent results. In my large, open-to-one-side living room, I use floor-standing speakers to get the performance level that I like.

Get the most out of your new speakers

I’ve found that proper speaker placement goes a long way towards getting the best sound from your loudspeakers. And the right wire and connections make a big difference, too.

Illustration showing stereo speaker placement

Want to create a "sweet spot" for your system? Read my placement tips on how to get the best sound out of your speakers.

What type of amplifier should you use?

There are lots of different ways to power your speakers. For a budget-friendly system, consider a stereo receiver, which combines amplification with source control and an AM/FM tuner. For higher-end systems, I recommend an integrated amp or power amp for the best sound.

An important factor when choosing your amplification is how efficient your speakers are. In other words, how much volume a speaker produces when fed a given amount of power.

A pair of highly efficient speakers like the Klipsch Reference R-51M produces excellent volume with 40 or 50 watts of power. Some high-performance speakers — like the Polk Legend L800s — are real "gas guzzlers" when it comes to power consumption. You'll want 100 or even 200 high-quality watts driving these speakers.

For additional insights into choosing speakers, read our stereo speakers buying guide. Check out our home stereo systems guide to learn more about how all the components in a stereo system work together.

While this article is intended to help you choose the best speakers for music, the models featured here are also good choices for home theater systems. To learn how to approach speaker shopping for surround sound, read my intro to home theater speakers.

Get free personalized advice from a music enthusiast

Have questions? Contact us today.

Our expert advisors know home stereo gear inside and out. They'll help you choose the best speakers for the money you have to spend, the type of music you love most, and the gear you'll connect them to.

Free lifetime tech support is included with your Crutchfield purchase.

Last updated 12/15/2020
  • Kendog from OXFORD

    Posted on 8/18/2021

    These Klipsch bookshelves R-51's sound so much bigger than they are. When in the listening zone they really do sound twice as big, but if you move out of that zone the become small fast. These are what they are, but they are very good sounding speakers. I'm driving with 85wpc Yamaha and the bass is impressive as are the highs. They can get pretty loud too.

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 8/19/2021

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Kendog! I agree — the R-51Ms are excellent for their size and price.
  • Mark from Wilmington

    Posted on 10/21/2020

    Hello Kramer, I really enjoyed this article since I am currently listening to the ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2s. I feed them with Qubuz through Audirvana via USB to a Cambridge CXA81. This is in a 13x13 listening room. (also using an Elac subwoofer) If I want to replace the Elac's for even better sound, what do you recommend on a lower budget? I guess I want to know what the next step is for even better sound. Or, do I just stick with the Elacs? They sound great. I just don't know what more is out there. Thanks.

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 10/22/2020

    Hi Mark, thanks for your questions. I empathize with your situation, because I really like how my stereo system sounds, but the temptation to tweak/improve is ever-present! Here's what I'd do in your shoes:

    Before replacing speakers, I'd consider room treatment and other acoustic improvements that are likely to make a bigger difference than simply swapping out your ELACs. A rock-solid pair of speaker stands, drapes/carpets/sound absorbing wall treatments, and/or simple positioning changes (including your subwoofer) can all make an audible difference.

    That said, something like the KEF Q150s are worth a look for not too much more than the B6.2s. I will say though, it's tough to beat the Debut Series for quality you get for the money.

    Thanks again for reaching out, and happy listening!
  • Joe from Buffalo NY

    Posted on 3/28/2020

    The B&W 702 S2's are hard to beat at their price point! Great selection of speakers on this list! Good job.

  • Logan from Louisville

    Posted on 3/9/2020

    There's many speakers that are far above and beyond what's on this list. I understand that you can't carry and sell speakers from companies such as Totem and that you can't sell the higher end Monitor audio speakers. But still. If your going to put together a top list then maybe try getting your hands on some of the best to compare with.

  • Willie from Parker

    Posted on 1/9/2020

    Nowhere do I see any speakers in your whole catalog that have RIBBON tweeters! They are the BEST type if you want CLEAR, SHARP and CLEAN treble high notes coming out from your front end towers! I like the Golden Ear Triton tower speakers myself! Why aren't you stocking speakers with ribbon tweeters?

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 1/13/2020

    Hi Willie, we carry a few speakers that feature ribbon tweeters. My current favorite is the ELAC Vela lineup. Each speaker's JET 5 tweeter is hand-folded to ensure the best possible performance. They sound incredible!
  • Dave from Santa Rosa Valley CA

    Posted on 12/26/2019

    Thanks Kramer for your thoughtful reply. My wife and I are very impressed with the F228Be's. We started with a pair of F206's. While musical, they didn't have anywhere near the same soundstage and dynamics as the larger and much newer Revels. Thanks to Crutchfield's generous return policy, we exchanged them. I have been driving them with an old school NAD 2600A amplifier which I purchased new in the 1980's while in college. DAC pre-amplifier is a TEAC NT-505 purchased from Crutchfield with MacBook Pro using TEAC's software. High resolution HDTracks AIFF files and some AIFF files from my CD collection. Why did Crutchfield discontinue the NT-505? I get the impression that the 2600A is limiting the sound quality so I just ordered a Parasound Halo A21+ amplifier and a pair of Blue Jean Cable Canare balanced XLR Male / XLR female cables to connect the TEAC to the replacement amplifier. My only regret and I mentioned this to Jenny was that Crutchfield doesn't sell Parasound which is less expensive than the NAD Masters and deliver Class A amplification at low power before transitioning into Class AB.

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 12/31/2019

    It's good to hear from you again, Dave. I'm glad to hear you guys are enjoying the F228Bes. You've certainly got a sweet DAC/network player there. I'm not sure why we no longer carry it, but I know it was quite popular during it's time here.

    With your new amp and updated cables, I expect you'll love your system even more. Let me know how the Halo A21+ sounds!

    I hope you have a wonderful new year!
  • Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 12/24/2019

    Hi Dave, thank you for your thoughtful questions. This article was updated about a few weeks ago.

    As you might imagine, it's challenging to collate a short list because there are so many variables that go into what can be considered "best." I tried to use specific instances where I think a given speaker is a stand-out performer, but not all of my favorites are covered — when only a handful of the hundreds of speakers we carry can be listed, many worthy models — including yours — get left out.

    Your Revel PerformaBe F228Bes are among the highest-performance speakers I've auditioned at Crutchfield. It's hard to make a case that any speaker we carry is "better" than the F228Be, but so much of what constitutes an incredible listening experience is subjective. What sounds sublime to one person may not have the same sonic impact for another.

    In your shoes, I'd spend some time with your new speakers. Let them break in, and let your ears become familiar with how they sound. You have a full 60 days to decide whether you'd like to exchange them. And if you have any questions about matching them up with the right amp, preamp, or music streamer, just give us a call.

    Thanks again for reaching out!

  • Dave from Santa Rosa Valley CA

    Posted on 12/20/2019

    Based on the dates of the comments, are they for the best speakers for 2019 article? I just received my Revel F228Be floor standing loudspeakers from Crutchfield on Monday. I am wondering if I should exchange them for the B&W 702 S2 speakers? Stereophile just recommended the Revel's as Class A (Restricted extreme LF) while the B&W's are only Class B. The best high end floor standing loudspeakers should not consider price. Maybe this decision was based on customer feedback and not really objective.

  • Richard from Niagara Falls

    Posted on 12/4/2019

    Hey Kramer, thanks for providing a very useful list. In regards to the ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2, any idea when you'll start stocking the Elac Debut Reference series?

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 12/11/2019

    Hi Richard, thanks for your note. I'm glad you found the list useful! I haven't heard an ETA yet for the Debut References Series, but they look really nice (and if they're anything like the Debut 2.0 B6.2, they should sound fantastic).
  • Brian King from Nashua

    Posted on 12/19/2018

    Hello, I know something is truly amiss as I don't see Dynaudio on this list. To be honest in my opinion none of these speakers mentioned is in the same class as the Danes. And I have owned PSB, B&W, Paradigm and Definitive. Having gone through all of these led me to the Holy Grail of speakers-Dynaudio!