Best stereo speakers for 2021

Soundbars and powered speakers are great, but if you want the best sound possible then you’ll want a pair of passive speakers powered by an AV receiver or amplifier. No matter what your budget there is a set of speakers for you — from the adorable $65 Dayton Audio B652-AIR to the seriously thrilling $900 Bowers and Wilkins 606 S2 Anniversary. If you listen to music then just add a pair of these, but each set will also perform well on movie night as part of a surround system.

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At their normal price of $350 these speakers are still the best for the money, but if you can find them on sale their value becomes just astounding. The step up from the $65 Dayton Audio (see below) to the Elacs puts you in a whole new ballpark. These little audiophile speakers can challenge even the best on this list. Best proverbial bang for buck by far.

Read our Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2 review.


Sarah Tew/CNET

If you’re looking to fit out a workspace or a 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. 

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We love the Elac Debuts but there’s a couple of little chinks in their armor — firstly, they’re a little bass shy, and secondly, they really need a good amp in order to shine. 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.

Read our Q Acoustics 3030i review.


Ty Pendlebury/CNET

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.

Read our Fluance XL8F review.



Klipsch has been making rock ‘n’ roll speakers since before rock was even a thing. The Klipsch RP-600M offers an up-front performance that’s perfectly suited to AC/DC, but they will also handle the odd piano concerto or two. The RP-600Ms also look the part with their bold, brass-colored drivers. CNET’s Audiophiliac chose them as his favorite speakers of 2018. 

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

Alongside Klipsch, Bowers and 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 — it ends up trickling down to the mainstream. Better for everyone! The 606 Anniversary look amazing, thanks in part to the drivers, and they sound amazing, too

Read our Bowers & Wilkins 606 S2 Anniversary Edition review.


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