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Best stereo speakers for 2020

Our top picks for a stellar listening experience

In this article: My list of best stereo speaker picks for 2020 ...

  1. Best value floor-standing speaker  Polk Audio RTi A7
  2. Best value bookshelf speaker — ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2
  3. Best small-footprint floor-standing speaker — Definitive Technology BP-9060
  4. Best small-footprint bookshelf speaker — MartinLogan Motion® LX16
  5. Best high-end floor-standing speaker — Bowers & Wilkins 702 S2
  6. Best high-end bookshelf speaker — Bowers & Wilkins 705 S2
  7. Best bang for the buck powered speakers — Audioengine HD3
  8. Best high-end powered speakers — ELAC Navis™ ARB-51
  9. 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.

Polk RTi A7 floor standing speakers

Best value floor-standing speaker — Polk Audio RTi A7

Over the years Polk Audio speakers have been beloved by our customers. And for good reason — they offer clear, natural sound and deliver great performance for the money.

The three-way RTi A7 floor-stander is a prime example of a speaker that delivers WAY more sound than its price tag might suggest. It's no wonder that after 12 years of carrying the RTi A7 that it's still one of our most popular speakers.

Use a pair of these top-rated towers in a budget-friendly stereo system, or as the front channels of a Polk home theater system.

What our customers say

Pair of ELAC bookshelf speakers

Best value bookshelf speaker — ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2

ELAC has a well-earned reputation from both industry critics and customers alike for their lineup of high-quality, high-value speakers.

The Debut 2.0 B6.2 is the second iteration of the company's popular bookshelf model. It offers an improved 1" silk dome tweeter for extended high-frequency response, and an updated 6-1/2" aramid-fiber woofer for smooth mids and punchy bass.

Fans of ELAC know that renowned speaker designer Andrew Jones has been at the helm of the Debut Series since the beginning. Jones himself designed the magnets, woofers, crossovers, and enclosures for each Debut speaker, which allows for high-quality components without the added cost of outsourcing parts and supplies.

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

Martin Logan bookshelf speakers

Best small-footprint bookshelf speaker — MartinLogan Motion LX16

MartinLogan's Motion LX16 bookshelf speakers have been a smash hit with our customers — and for good reason. They create stunningly natural, transparent sound without taking up much space.

These value-packed speakers don't just sound good — they're visually striking as well. Each one sports a furniture-grade, high-gloss finish. And their magnetically attached perforated steel grilles lend a stylish look to any room you put them in.

I particularly like these speakers for a small living room or bedroom system.

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

Audio Engine powered speakers

Best bang-for-the-buck powered speakers — Audioengine HD3

Not every room or system calls for big speakers with a separate amplifier. Cue the Audioengine HD3 — a pair of powered desktop speakers that offer huge sound without taking up a ton of space in your room.

The HD3s have their amplification built right in, so you don't need a separate amp or receiver to power them. Plus, Bluetooth® lets you can stream music right from your phone or computer.

These smallish speakers are perfect for a dorm room or home office. I recommend using the matching DS2 desktop speaker stands to angle the tweeters toward your ears for the best sound.

What our customers say

ELAC Powered speakers

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

Earlier I mentioned the ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2 as a wonderful choice for budget-friendly bookshelf speakers. Well, ELAC 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 has 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.

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. It 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 here.

What our customers say

Tips on choosing the right pair of 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 Martin Logan LX16s, 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? Call, email, or chat with us today.

Our expert Advisors know the 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.

Your Advisor can send specific Crutchfield pages to your screen, saving you a lot of browsing time. You'll get a shopping cart loaded up with everything you need for your new stereo system or home theater.

Free lifetime tech support is included with your Crutchfield purchase.

Last updated 11/27/2019

Please share your thoughts below.

  • 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?

    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.

    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!
  • 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?

    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!

  • Steven G.

    Posted on 12/1/2018

    Still very happy with my Vandersteen 2ce signatures.

  • Bryan from Houston

    Posted on 11/20/2018

    I'm partial to my Revel F206s.

  • Mike Conrad from Washington DC

    Posted on 6/4/2018

    Those KEFs are a work of art!

  • Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/3/2018

    Hi James, I'm passing along your inquiry to one of our Advisors, who will get a little more information about your setup to make the right recommendation. Thanks!

  • James Townsend. from Blanchard, OK

    Posted on 5/31/2018

    Mr Crane, I've been looking for some compact speakers that would be equal to my JBL 4311's with Crown amplification. I have an extra Crown 300 watt to use with them, but I need something more compact for the space they are to be used in. Any suggestions?

  • Phillip from Gorham

    Posted on 5/11/2018

    Still, after 60 years, nothing comes close to Klipschorn Loudspeakers. Others keep making speakers that cost 100's of thousands of dollars, but the Klipschorn still overtakes them

  • Horace from Hampton, VA.

    Posted on 5/10/2018

    I see my Sony bookshelf speakers didn't make the list...

  • Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 4/13/2018

    Hi Victor — the Signature S60s are indeed excellent speakers. If this list were longer, or if it were focused on a specific price range, I could see them being on it for sure. Our customers have certainly loved the S60s since their debut.

  • Victor from Saint Louis

    Posted on 4/12/2018

    Hello Kramer, I'm surprised that you didn't mention any of the Polk Signature Series speakers in your recommendations. I have owned many speakers over the years and I am truly impressed with the Signature S60 speakers from Polk. For the price, and well above it, I don't feel there's anything out there that competes with the S60. I also have the Signature S15 and they are a great bookshelf speaker that can pair well with one or two subs for immersive sound. Thanks for the article and the impressions of the speakers mentioned therein.

  • Steven Mitchem from Sanford, NC

    Posted on 3/17/2018

    You are spot on when it comes to the PSB Imagine T3's. I have a pair and they are the best I've ever owned. Beautiful as well with the cherrywood finish. They image like no other! I like the way that they sound the same weather you are sitting or standing. Deep tight bass with a silky smooth midrange and highs that are non fatiguing so you can listen for hours. Great speakers.

  • Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 3/8/2018

    Hey Don, that's a great question. I'm a big fan of the Uni-Fi UB5s. In fact, Andrew Jones himself brought them in for us to listen to when they first debuted. They are terrific speakers, and offer better low-frequency punch than the LX16s.

    The only real downside is that the UB5s are incredibly inefficient. Not a bad thing in and of itself — but it does mean you need a high-octane amp to really get the most out of them. That's true for most of ELAC's speakers (especially their new Adante line).

    By comparison the LX16s are much easier to drive, and offer a similar level of fidelity and nuance. Some folks find they are also more detailed in the high frequencies. I do prefer the MartinLogans personally, but you can't go wrong with either pair — both are excellent.

  • Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 3/8/2018

    Hi Ken, thank you for your kind words. As for the center channel, it really comes down to the other speakers that you'll be using in your system. It's important to have a voice-matched front soundstage regardless of what brand you go with.

    For example, if you're using Klipsch Reference tower speakers as your front left and right channels, you'll want a Klipsch Reference center channel as well. This ensures tonal consistency as the action pans across the room — a key element to believable surround sound.

    Feel free to call or chat with an Advisor for more detailed advice on matching up speakers to your room, receiver, etc.

  • Don from Evansville, IN

    Posted on 3/8/2018

    There seems to be a lot of buzz about the ELAC Uni-Fi UB5. Virtually same price point as Martin Logan lX16. How do they compare in sound ?

  • Ken from Redmond, WA

    Posted on 3/8/2018

    Hi Kramer, great article on speakers, I was hoping you would of said something about your favorite Center Channel Speaker as well, as I am in the market for one.