$300 at Amazon Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2 Best stereo speakers $300 at Amazon $87 at Walmart Dayton Audio B652-AIR Best bookshelf speaker under $100 $87 at Walmart Price alerts on for Dayton Audio B652-AIR $154 at Amazon Monolith by Monoprice Encore B6 Best home theater on the cheap $154 at Amazon Price alerts on for Monolith by Monoprice Encore B6 $549 at Amazon Q Acoustics 3030i Best bookshelf speaker under $600 $549 at Amazon Price alerts on for Q Acoustics 3030i $600 at Amazon Fluance XL8F Best floorstander under $600 $600 at Amazon Price alerts on for Fluance XL8F NEW! CNET Shopping Extension Get the lowest price on everything Add CNET Shopping $999 at B&H Photo-Video Bowers & Wilkins 606 S2 Anniversary Best bookshelf speaker under $1,000 $999 at B&H Photo-Video Price alerts on for Bowers & Wilkins 606 S2 Anniversary Show more (1 item)
Soundbars and powered speakers are great for regular use. But if you want the best sound possible for your listening experience, you’ll want a pair of passive speakers powered by an AV receiver or amplifier for high quality audio performance. No matter your budget, there’s a set of speakers for you — from the adorable $65 Dayton Audio B652-AIR to the seriously thrilling $999 Bowers & Wilkins 606 S2 Anniversary. You can buy them on their own or use them as a basis for a surround system in the future.
Whether you want to listen to music or even enjoy a movie night these are the best stereo speakers I’ve tested at CNET between $50 and $1,000.
Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2
Best stereo speakers
Though you will often see them on sale, even at their regular price of $400 these speakers are still the best for the money. The step up from the $65 Dayton Audio (see below) to the Elacs puts you as a listener in a whole new ballpark. These little audiophile speakers can challenge even the best on this list. Best proverbial bang for the buck by far.
$300 at Amazon
Dayton Audio B652-AIR
Best bookshelf speaker under $100
If you’re looking to fit out a workspace or children’s room, the Dayton Audio B652-AIR offers a great deal of performance for the price of a meal for two. They don’t look cheap, either, with that striking folded-metal tweeter at the top. Sure, you can always do better, but if the budget’s tight, these are the ones we’d choose.
$87 at Walmart$60 at Amazon You’re receiving price alerts for Dayton Audio B652-AIR
Monolith by Monoprice Encore B6
Best home theater on the cheap
Monoprice has been producing audio products from the day it started, but with its offshoot brand, Monolith, the company has shown it wants to compete with the big names. The Encore 6 is a fantastic speaker with an excellent build and a sweet, seductive sound perfect for vinyl. The only unusual thing about this speaker is that it’s rated at 4 ohms instead of the industry norm of 8 ohms, but it shouldn’t pose a problem for a $500-or-so receiver. At its sale price of $136 (each) the Encore B6 is up there with the Elac Debut in providing audiophile quality within reach of the rest of us.
$154 at Amazon You’re receiving price alerts for Monolith by Monoprice Encore B6
Q Acoustics 3030i
Best bookshelf speaker under $600
We love the Elac Debuts, but to hear them at their best, they really need a good (read: expensive) amplifier to partner with. If you’re looking for something that’s a little more even-handed, the Q Acoustics 3030i offers great looks and a satisfying amount of bass. They’ll also perform well with budget receivers, making them perfect for an AV setup.
$549 at Amazon You’re receiving price alerts for Q Acoustics 3030i
Best floorstander under $600
The Fluance XL8F offers an exceptional value for floorstanding speakers: They boast both a high-level finish and involving sound quality. If your budget is under a grand and you have the room, these speakers should be at the top of your audition list.
$600 at Amazon$600 at Walmart You’re receiving price alerts for Fluance XL8F
Bowers & Wilkins 606 S2 Anniversary
Best bookshelf speaker under $1,000
Bowers & Wilkins has been at the forefront of speaker manufacturing for a lifetime. The best part about this company is that when it invents a new technology — such as the silvery Continuum drivers that appeared on its flagship models — the tech ends up trickling down to the mainstream. Better for everyone! The 606 Anniversary look amazing, thanks in part to the drivers, and they sound great, too. Currently on sale for $200 off at $800.
$999 at B&H Photo-Video You’re receiving price alerts for Bowers & Wilkins 606 S2 Anniversary
- JBL L82 $2,750: More dynamic than the Q Acoustics 3050i floorstanders and with better vocal articulation than our favorites, the Bowers and Wilkins 606. What they don’t do is razor-sharp imaging — instead these are rock and roll speakers. They’re for kicking back and enjoying your records rather than intensive listening sessions, and for that they’re great. The cheaper JBL L52, at a third of the price, offer a similarly “rock focused” performance and are a much better value.
- Q Acoustics 3050i $1,099: The Q3050i are excellent performers, and relatively slim as far as floorstanding speakers go. While a speaker like the $999 JBL L52 bookshelf may offer more dynamics, these speakers offer great imaging and impressive bass. As a result the Q Acoustics are my current reference speaker in the CNET test labs. At the time of writing they’re listed as out of stock.