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Home stereo speakers buying guide

Find the right pair for your ears and your space

In this article: tips on choosing the right stereo speakers for your home. What size should you get? How much should you spend? How should you position them? We'll cover all of these questions and more to help you choose the best speakers for your system.

There are few things more enjoyable for me than listening to music. There's just something magical about firing up a playlist, and letting my favorite songs transport me to an imaginative inner landscape.

Part of what makes my listening experience so rewarding is that I have a speaker system that's well-suited for my room and taste in music. This aim of this guide is to help you achieve the same in your home.

Along the way we'll look at some real-world examples of how you might approach your new system. Have questions as you're reading? Give one of our expert Advisors a shout.

What size speakers should you choose?

You'll want your new speakers to be a good sonic match for your space. For example, a large open living room with a tall ceiling is an excellent candidate for floor-standing speakers. Floor-standing speakers offer big, natural sound with solid bass thanks to their large acoustic chambers.

Klipsch Reference R-610F floor-standing speaker

Have a large room? Floor-standing speakers deliver big sound, and can add visual pop to your décor. Depending on how much bass you like, you may or may not want a separate subwoofer.

If this system is going into a smaller room — say your home office or bedroom — a pair of bookshelf speakers might be a better fit. Bookshelf speakers generally use the same tweeter and mid-bass driver as a floor-standing model of the same series. The key difference is placement flexibility. Many bookshelf speakers can be placed on stands, mounted to the wall, or put on top of a piece of furniture.

Bookshelf speakers don't play as deeply as larger speakers. If you love hard-hitting bass with your music, consider adding a powered subwoofer to your system to round out the low end.

Polk Audio Signature S15 bookshelf speaker

Compact bookshelf speakers are perfect for smaller rooms where space is at a premium.

What's your listening style?

My family isn't hip to me blasting music super loudly when they're around. So when I have the house to myself, I love to crank it up. That's part of why I have large tower speakers in my living room — even though I don't always "listen loud," the option is there when I want it.

On the other hand, you might prefer to listen at more moderate levels, perhaps even as background music while you do other activities. In my home office I have a pair of compact bookshelf speakers since I listen at relatively low levels there. For that system, large speakers would have been overkill. Give some thought to how you'll listen to your system. This will help you avoid over- or under-buying.

Which specs really matter?

We've all made purchases by sifting through feature filters, plugging in a price ceiling, and sorting by customer reviews. But how do you decide on your best option when you're looking at dozens of speakers in your price range that each get excellent reviews? That's where comparing specs is handy. Here are the most important to consider:

Frequency response

A speaker's frequency response — measured in Hertz (Hz) —  indicates the range of tones it can produce. The first number tells you how low the speaker plays; how deep its bass goes. The second number indicates the upper limit of the speaker's tonal range (high frequencies). The wider the frequency response, the fuller the sound a given speaker can produce.


A speaker's sensitivity rating tells you how effective it is at converting power into volume. The higher the rating, the louder your speakers will play with a given amount of power. Sensitivity is often measured by driving a speaker with one watt of power, and measuring the loudness in decibels (dB) one meter away.

The chart below illustrates that just a few dB in sensitivity can make a big difference in what you hear. A speaker with a sensitivity rating that's only 3 dB higher than another speaker's only needs half as much power to deliver the same amount of sound.

If you have a low-powered amp, look for speakers with high sensitivity ratings (90 dB and above) to get the most out of your system.

Speaker Sensitivity rating Power needed
to produce a given volume
Speaker A 85 dB 100 watts
Speaker B 88 dB 50 watts
Speaker C 91 dB 25 watts

Power handling

You'll see a recommended power range on most of the speakers we carry. This gives you a sense of how strong your amp should be. The lower number indicates the minimum wattage required, and the higher number tells you the maximum wattage the speaker can handle for an extended time.


A speaker's impedance indicates the amount of electrical resistance that it presents to an amplifier. Like power ratings, impedance can be a little tricky, because while playing music a speaker's actual impedance constantly fluctuates. For the sake of easily comparing models, speakers are usually given a single nominal impedance rating.

It's worth mentioning that low-impedance speakers (4 ohms) can cause problems with receivers or amplifiers that are not designed to deliver large amounts of continuous current. Check your amplifier's specs to make sure it's compatible with the speakers you're considering.

Speaker materials

A speaker's drivers can be made from a variety of materials, such as metal, paper, plastic, and rubber — each with its own sonic properties. For example, tweeters made of softer materials, such as silk, tend to have smooth sound.

Most manufacturers choose driver materials that offer a good balance between light weight (for more efficient movement) and strength (for clearer sound without distortion). Premium materials generally yield better sound than their lower-cost counterparts.

Focal woven flax fiber driver

Focal uses a unique woven flax fiber woofer in many of their speakers to create warm, natural sound. A premium driver design like this one is something to look for when shopping.

How much should you spend on speakers?

One nice thing about stereo speakers is that there are great-sounding choices available for most any budget or space. Industry stalwarts like Polk Audio and Klipsch offer reasonably priced, high-performance bookshelf and floor-standing speakers that get phenomenal reviews from our customers. A few hundred dollars goes a long with these and other value-packed brands.


The Polk Audio TSi 200s are well-made and sound great, making them one the best bookshelf speaker values around.

If you have a flexible budget and want the best of the best, consider an upper-echelon brand. Elite stereo speakers use the finest materials available to create as pure a listening experience as possible. They also sport impeccably built cabinets and furniture-grade finishes.

Monitor Audio Gold 300 floor-standing speaker

Meticulous attention to build quality — like heavy-duty outrigger feet and gold-plated speaker terminals — help make Monitor Audio's Gold 300 one of the finest floor-standing speakers we offer.

Mapping out your budget

While you're planning out your new system be sure to budget for amplification, as well as cables and wire. You want to make sure you have everything you need for your new speakers to shine.

In The Complete Guide To High-End Audio, industry guru Robert Harley makes a case for putting about the same amount of money into your amplification as you do your speakers. A high-quality "front end" means that your speakers are reproducing a strong, clean signal. He points out that if you have low-quality amplification, really nice speakers are only going to reveal the flaws in the signal, and could end up leaving you disappointed. It's much better to have a high-quality amp and budget-oriented speakers than the other way around.

Give us a shout if you have any questions about matching up speakers and amplifiers together. We're happy to give you a free personalized recommendation that best suits your budget, room, and listening preferences.

Get the most out of your new speakers

Half of getting great sound from your speakers is proper placement and setup. Their location within your room makes a big difference in terms of how they'll sound. Check out my article on stereo speaker placement for tips on positioning.

Making the right connection with your amp is important too. Steve's speaker wire guide offers insight into choosing the right wire for your system.

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 stereo 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.

As I touched on earlier, the sensitivity of your speakers is an important factor when choosing your amplification. Highly sensitive speakers, like Emily's Martin Logan LX16s, produce excellent volume with 40 or 50 watts of power.

Many higher-end (and less sensitive) speakers need a lot of power to sound their best. You'll want 100 or even 200 high-quality watts driving these speakers. Our integrated amplifiers buying guide gives a great overview of matching speakers and amps together.

Want to skip the amp all together? Consider powered speakers

So far, all of the speakers we've discussed require an external amplifier for power. We also carry a nice selection of powered stereo speakers which have built-in amplification.

Powered stereo speakers are ideal for the music-loving minimalist who wants great sound without needing a whole bunch of gear. Our powered speakers buying guide walks you through the options.

Powered stereo speakers and a turntable

Powered stereo speakers provide excellent sound without taking up a lot of space in your room.

Get free personalized advice from a music enthusiast

Have questions about home stereo? Our expert home stereo Advisors know the gear inside and out. Contact us today. For some home stereo system design tips, read our budget audiophile playbook.

  • Mohamed shoukry from Egypt

    Posted on 6/25/2022

    Hello I need your guidance as I want to buy pair of ground standing speakers that will be connected to Denon AVR system, which one is better:- 1- Paradigm phantom v4 (Canadian made) 2-Jamo s606 with s60 cen 3- JBL E90 4- Infinity primus 300 tower( made in Denmark) Thanks for support M Shoukry

  • Omar from St.Marys

    Posted on 3/8/2022

    So many different options adds to the confusion. Looking for speakers floor standing or bookshelf for a 1,760 cubic foot living room. I enjoy almost everything as I have a SiriusXM acct. Any sort of educated answer from the pros would definitely help my choice 10x's easier. 2nd floor apt BTW, Thanks

  • Randy from Greenville

    Posted on 10/30/2021

    Thank you Eric. A follow up question, will the improved accuracy of the 3 way speaker (psb, b&w, Jamo) for example help with dialogue while watching tv over my Klipsch RF620s. With my Marantz NR1200 I need to stay with towers. I tried a Klipsch a RC62 and 2 RB 61s in the past with a pioneer receiver and did not like it for music and it was just okay for tv. Thank you again.

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 11/1/2021

    Randy - I definitely think it will help with dialogue, since it's giving you dedicated drivers and crossover points in those important mid and high-frequency ranges. Nothing truly beats a center channel for giving you that dead-center dialogue, but it sounds like you've already used L/R speakers this way, so you probably have them aimed just right already. Hope it all sounds awesome!
  • Randy from Greenville

    Posted on 10/26/2021

    Nice article. Is there a big difference between towers with say 2, 6 1/2" drivers (Klipsch rf620) and other towers of similar size that are 3 way speakers (PSB or B&W) Also important I guess is efficiency. I have a Marantz NR 1200 (75 w per channel) , does this have enough power for towers in the 88-91 d range? Thank you.

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 10/27/2021

    Randy - For me, the main benefit I've noticed in a 3-way speaker is improved accuracy, due to the dedicated midrange and carefully-chosen crossover points. As for the Marantz, 75 watts is a good amount of power, and they tend to deliver it in an intelligent way. I strongly suspect it will drive a less efficient speaker well. Hope this helps!
  • Keith from Madison

    Posted on 6/12/2021

    I'd think twice about powered speakers. To me its seems like the design engineers don't have the design right or the manufacturers are using cheap components that can't handle the heat. I've fixed both self powered speakers and subwoofers and the problem is either bad capacitors located inside the cabinet or power transistors inside the cabinet that have overheated. And, all the transistors are OEM so they can't replaced outside of a dealership do it.

  • David west from Plattsburgh

    Posted on 12/1/2020

    Hi, thank you for your info,it's a big help. Question? Why would I want to spend money on a larger amp to run low efficiency speaker? Why not just get 91 db speakers and run a low power amp? In the end what is the difference? Which one sounds better? Thanks again david west

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 12/2/2020

    David - I think your instinct is correct: a more efficient speaker with less raw power should perform better. In fact, some really great amps — like the NAD C 268 for example — offer "smart" power rather than huge triple-digit numbers. Long story short, good speakers can do a lot with less power. Thanks for the question!
  • Mark

    Posted on 10/3/2020

    Hello Kramer, given my budget or I am comparing at Q Acoustic 3050 I home theater package and Jamo H809 home theater package. The main purpose is to listen to Music mainly classical rock or Pop which will be 70% and the rest 30% dedicated to watching movies. So what is your choice or do you suggest any alternatives in this budget range. Thank you in advance. Regards, Mark

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 10/5/2020

    Hi Mark, both of those floor-standers are fine options. You didn't mention what you're using as amplification, but as long as you have a decent amount of power (say 90 watts per channel or higher), you should get the performance you're looking for.

    One other option I'd consider in that price range is the Klipsch Reference Premiere RP-280F. It's fantastic with both music and movies, and doesn't need a ton of power to produce rich, room-filling sound.
  • Ken Reiff from Long Beach

    Posted on 5/24/2020

    I was considering the klipsch RP600M for my bookshelf speakers. However I just realized that they will need to be placed next to the wall on my bookshelf. Does that mean that I should consider something else?

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 5/26/2020

    Hi Ken, thanks for reaching out. The challenge we face when a speaker is too close to an adjacent wall is reflection. Instead of hearing just the sound waves emanating from the speaker, you also hear the sound waves reflected off of the wall as well, which negatively impacts performance. To some degree this will be the case no matter which speakers you go with, so it's less about which specific model you choose, and more about the placement of the speakers themselves. Bringing the speakers away from the wall is key. Could they go on a pair of speaker stands, perhaps?

    Feel free to give us a shout if you'd like to discuss more options in depth; we're happy to help anytime.

    Posted on 8/4/2017


  • Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/2/2017

    Hi Dominic, I've passed your question along to our Advisor group. Someone will be in touch shortly with a personalized recommendation for you. Thanks!

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