Best stereo speakers for 2022
Our top picks for a stellar two-channel listening experience at home
In this article: My list of best stereo speaker picks for 2022...
- Best budget bookshelf speakers — Klipsch Reference R-50M
- Best budget tower speaker — Polk Audio Signature Elite ES60
- Best retro speaker — JBL L100 Classic
- Best small-footprint tower speaker — Definitive Technology BP-9060
- Best hi-fi tower speaker — Wharfedale Evo 4.4
- Best hi-fi bookshelf speakers — Bowers & Wilkins 606 S2 Anniversary Edition
- Best powered speakers — KEF LS50 Wireless II
- Best stereo speaker technology — Polk Audio Legend L800
Consider me a speaker junkie. From the old Kenwoods in my dad's garage to the several-thousand-dollar models I've auditioned here at Crutchfield, I've always enjoyed discerning sonic differences between speaker models and learning what makes each one tick.
A good pair of loudspeakers can put the front row of a concert in your living room. That airy sense of audible depth, width, and height some models reproduce help crank the immersion up to eleven. Some even make you start noticing things in your music you hadn't before.
I put this list together to help you get started enjoying music and movies the way they were meant to be heard.
Why are these my favorite speakers?
We carry a plethora of floor-standing speakers, bookshelf speakers, and powered stereo speakers — so many that, even to me, it’s overwhelming. By no means is this an exhaustive list. It's just a short one that has some of my all-time favorites on it to help you narrow things down.
Best budget bookshelf speakers — Klipsch R-50M
Our customers adore Klipsch’s Reference line, as it offers premium sound at an affordable price. The R-50M bookshelf speakers are the best bookshelf entry in that line, and their performance makes them a great value. These next-generation speakers use a 5-1/4” spun-copper TCP (thermoformed crystalline polymer) woofer for punchy bass and articulate midrange, as well as a 1” tractrix horn-loaded titanium tweeter for clean highs.
Each speaker also sports a circular port on the back. That port allows more efficient airflow in and out of the cabinet, effectively reducing port noise and distortion while also making the bass have more punch.
Since these speakers are rear-ported, I strongly recommend pulling them away from your bookshelf or wall to give them some breathing room.
- 5-1/4" spun-copper TCP woofer and 1" LTS titanium tweeter
- frequency response: 58-21,000 Hz
- sensitivity: 92 dB
Best budget tower speaker — Polk Audio Signature Elite ES60
Polk released the Signature Elite line as a testament to how good affordable speakers could sound. The ES60 is the flagship floor-standing speaker of the line, and it packs quite a punch. A 1” Terylene tweeter reproduces silky smooth highs while three 6-1/2” mica-reinforced polymer woofers work a double shift, dishing out detailed mids and deep, impactful bass.
The ES60 has smooth corners and a beautiful finish, helping it blend into most modern décor. Whether you’re using a pair of them in a two-channel music setup or you’re running a full Polk home theater system, these towers help to increase your immersion into whatever you’re listening to
- three 6-1/2" mica-reinforced polypropylene woofers and a 1" Terylene tweeter
- frequency response: 32-40,000 Hz
- sensitivity: 90 dB
Best retro speaker — JBL L100 Classic
The original JBL L100s were one of the most iconic speakers of the 1970s, and are still the company’s best-selling speaker of all time. The revamped L100 Classic pays homage to the original’s retro appearance and 3-way speaker design, but the drivers have been updated to ensure it keeps up with the demands of modern audiophiles.
A 12” pure pulp woofer delivers stout low-end performance, aided by the front-firing port. The 5-1/2” polymer-coated pulp midrange and 1” tweeter work together to provide engaging detail and depth in the mids and highs. There’s even two attenuation knobs on the front that let you fine-tune the mid and high frequencies to get the speaker sounding exactly as you need it to
To get the best possible sound from the L100 classics, you’ll need the JS120 speaker stand.
- 12" pure pulp woofer, 5-1/4" polymer-coated pulp midrange, and 1" titanium tweeter
- frequency response: 40-40,000 Hz
- sensitivity: 90 dB
Best small-footprint tower speaker — Definitive Technology BP-9060
Definitive Technology’s BP-9060 left quite the impression on me the first time I heard a pair of them. The width and detail of their soundstage had me checking around the room to make sure there weren’t actual musicians in there. Their bass output far surpassed what I initially thought they could output, given the speakers' slim profile.
There’s a lot to enjoy about the BP-9060, to say the least. Its bi-polar design uses front-and-rear-firing speaker arrays, which creates a spacious, realistic soundstage. It’s not a bass-shy speaker, either. Its 10” side-firing powered subwoofer is a powerhouse that tackles deep bass notes with ease, negating the need for a large, boxy subwoofer elsewhere in your room.
The 9060s are also an excellent option if you’re looking to create a space-saving home theater system. They do great as front left-and-right speakers, and you can even add the A90 Atmos-enabled speakers on top and enjoy immersive overhead sound effects.
- bi-polar front-and-rear-firing speaker arrays for wide sound dispersion
- two built-in 10" powered subwoofers for enhanced bass
- frequency response: 18-40,000 Hz
Best hi-fi tower speaker — Wharfedale Evo 4.4
The Evo 4.4 floor-standing speaker is a culmination of everything Wharfedale does best at a surprisingly manageable price point. Twin 6-1/2” Kevlar woofers do a standout job of keeping the bass tasty and impactful, while the 2” soft-dome driver maintains an elegant smoothness on the midrange. The AMT (Air Motion Transformer) tweeter is the real icing on the cake, dealing out tons of high-frequency detail without a hint of shrillness.
Wharfedale’s Evo series doesn’t just stop at floor-standing speakers — there’s a complete suite of Evo home theater speakers to help you get the high fidelity surround sound system your movies deserve.
- 3-way speaker design; twin 6-1/2" woofers, 2" midrange, AMT tweeter
- frequency response: 40-22,000 Hz
- sensitivity: 89 dB
Best hi-fi bookshelf speakers — Bowers & Wilkins 606 S2 Anniversary Edition
Bowers & Wilkins have been in business since 1966 and their touted 600-series speaker line has endured a quarter of a century. As such, the 606 S2 Anniversary Edition was made to celebrate the longevity of the 600 series and has gobs of goodies on the inside.
Their 1” aluminum tweeters are decoupled from the rest of the tweeter mounts to reduce distortion, ensuring detailed, vibrant highs across the upper frequency range. Their 6-1/2” Continuum™ cone midbass driver effortlessly reproduces crystal clear mids and punchy lows. These speakers are great for music, and they also work great as front speakers or surround speakers in home theater speaker systems.
- 6-1/2" Continuum cone mid/bass driver, 1" decoupled aluminum tweeter
- frequency response: 52-28,000 Hz
- sensitivity: 88 dB
Best powered speakers — KEF LS50 Wireless II
The LS50 Wireless II speakers offer up unbelievably powerful, spacious sound. The first time I heard the original LS50 Wireless speakers, my jaw hit the floor. That such great sound could come from a pair of powered bookshelf speakers shook my world up and made me rethink how I gauge speakers.
The sound quality of the LS50 Wireless IIs owes itself to KEF’s Uni-Q technology. If you look in the center of the 5-1/4” aluminum woofer, you’ll notice a 1” vented aluminum tweeter. KEF placed the tweeter right in the acoustic center of the cone, essentially making the “sweet spot” much, much wider — so much so that one could argue that the entire room is one big sweet spot. These powered speakers will deliver crystal clear highs, surprisingly stout bass, and intricate mids no matter where you sit.
The KEF connect app (free for iOS® and Android™ ) makes setup and streaming a breeze, and gives you access to almost every music streaming app, including TIDAL, Qobuz, Deezer, and Spotify. The speakers can stream over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, so even if your internet goes out, you can still jam.
- self-powered bookshelf speakers with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
- app controllable through the KEF Connect app
- frequency response: 45-28,000 Hz
Best stereo speaker technology — Polk Audio Legend L800
Polk’s Legend L800 is the company’s best speaker ever. These towers reproduce a soundstage so wide and a sound so rich and vivid that one has to almost retrain their ears to be able to take in the width and beauty of their sound. And they’ve got plenty of bass to boot.
If you’d like to do a deep dive into the L800s, our writer Kramer wrote an in-depth article about them and provided his listening impressions.
- 3-way driver layout with SDA-PRO technology
- frequency response: 32-38,000 Hz
- sensitivity: 87 dB
Bonus pick — Create your own amplified streaming music system
Got a pair of passive (non-amplified) speakers you'd like to stream to without using a large receiver? The Sonos Amp is my go-to pick for creating an amplified streaming music system. Its compact size lets it fit on tables, shelves, and the like without taking up a lot of real estate. No need to worry about your speakers being hungry either — the Sonos Amp's 125-watt per channel output is more than capable of driving all but the most demanding speakers.
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.
Tips on choosing the right pair of home speakers
Choosing hi-fi stereo speakers is very much a personal decision and a considerable investment. Your room’s acoustics, your amplification, and your source material all affect how speakers will sound in your listening room.
Picking the right size speakers for your room is important. After all, you wouldn't want to use a pair of small bookshelf speakers to fill your greatroom with music. For example, in my small home office, I use a pair of bookshelf speakers and get excellent results. In my larger living room, I use floor-standing speakers to get the performance level that I like.
Get the most out of your new speakers
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.
Want to create a "sweet spot" for your system? Read our placement tips 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. Those have ample amplification and source control, plus 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. You can check under the "sensitivity" specification on a speaker's data sheet to see its efficiency. We consider anything rated 90dB or over to be easy to drive, relatively speaking.
A pair of highly efficient speakers like the Klipsch Reference R-51M, which boast an efficiency rating of 93dB, produces excellent volume with 40 or 50 watts of power. Some high-performance speakers — like the Polk Legend L800s — are hungry when it comes to power consumption. You'll want 100 or even 200 high-quality watts driving these speakers to get the most out of them.
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, check out our intro to home theater speakers.
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Popular questions customers ask
Everyone's ears are different, so evaluating speakers for different types of music is subjective. Fortunately, Crutchfield's Speaker Compare technology lets you audition a wide range of speakers online, using your own music so you can get an accurate comparison. Give it a try today!
Not necessarily. Floor-standing speakers use a combination of larger drivers and spacious cabinets to produce full-range sound with great bass. But they are not the only way to go. A pair of smaller bookshelf speakers with a subwoofer might be a good fit for your room. Or you might use tower speakers as front left/right speakers in a surround sound setup with bookshelf speakers as the surrounds.
You'll see a recommended power range listed on individual speaker pages. This gives you a sense of how strong your amp should be. Another spec to consider is sensitivity: the lower the number, the more power the speakers need to play at a given volume. Giving your speakers more power not only lets you play them louder, it helps them render music and voices with greater detail.
Good speakers will sound good no matter what you play through them. If you're putting together a home theater system, it's common to use that same system for playing music as well as movies. Many home speakers are designed to work as part of a "voice-matched" surround sound system, which helps keep the sound consistent throughout your room.