As technology continues to progress, we audiophiles haven’t changed a bit: At the end of the day, we want our sound clear, full, and true to the original source. Finding a set of speakers that checks our laundry list of requirements, however, is much easier said than done.
To find the best stereo speakers on the market, we reached out to some of the best audio companies on Earth to review and test a wide variety of stereo speaker setups, ranging from compact bookshelf speakers to room-dominating towers with built-in subs. We will be reviewing more units in the future and adding them to this list, so keep your eyes (and ears) peeled for that.
The testing process
In testing these speakers, we compared each stereo set at a comparable power level and tested the same tunes, plucked a variety of music genres.
Our test songs spanned the dynamic range of music and artists, from John Mayer to Tom Petty, and from U.K. prog-metal band TesseracT to the likes of John Williams and Hans Zimmer. Each song was chosen to test the dynamics offered by each set of speakers with some speakers reacting better to certain genre’s than others, depending on their design.
Of course, not all speakers are created equal in function. The Definitive Technology BP9080x towers, for example, are obviously made to cover a more broad frequency range than say the Edifier bookshelf speakers with a 4 inch woofer. We used to our best judgement in testing these speakers according to their individual purpose and affordability, and graded them with that in mind.
Since comparing bookshelf speakers to high performance towers is an obvious case of apples and oranges, we’ll at least try to make it clear which speaker is an apple and which is an orange. Sound good? Good.
Without further ado, these are the best stereo speakers we have tested so far.
1. Definitive Technology BP9080x
Incredible towers that earn their hefty price tag
Dimensions: 7” x 50.5” x 16” (W x H x D) | Weight: 62 lbs | Dolby Atmos / DTS:X enabled: Yes | Active or Passive: Active sub, otherwise passive | Subwoofer: 12 inch powered | Frequency response: 16 Hz – 40 kHz
These sound perfect
Dolby Atmos / DTS:X ready
Incredible bass that can be dialed in
Sleek low profile design
Pricy, but they back up the price tag
In life, money isn’t everything. In sound, however, it’s pretty important.
Case in point: the Definitive Technology BP9080x speakers. Right off the bat we want to make it clear that this stereo pair is a luxury item that is made only for the most avid audiophile on the market.
If that’s you, then let us tell you just how amazing these speakers are.
From beginning to end of the covered frequency range, the BP9080x speakers are crystal clear, articulate, and genuinely moving. The passive design is aided by an active subwoofer, giving the user independent control of the subwoofer volume on each tower, meaning it can be adjusted to fit any room with any standing waves.
The midrange is as full and clear as any speakers we’ve ever heard, never getting overworked or muddy no matter what songs and sounds we threw at it. The pitch-perfect mid range blends perfectly into the gorgeous treble frequencies that never got harsh, even when the windows were shaking from the volume. The clarity from the top of the frequency range to the bottom can’t be overstated.
On top of it all (literally) there are two “height channel” speakers that make this a perfect centerpiece in your Dolby Atmos or DTS:X home theater.
All of this audio goodness is wrapped in a tall and slender package made from premium materials that is impossibly discreet, especially considering the amount of volume it can pump out. All we can say is that if you’re looking to spend the money (and it is a lot of money), we can’t recommend Definitive Technology’s BP9080x speakers enough.
2. Klipsch RP-150M
Amazingly clear reference monitors
Dimensions: 7.67” x 14.57” x 10.67” (W x H x D) | Weight: 14.7 lbs | Dolby Atmos / DTS:X enabled: No | Active or Passive: Passive | Subwoofer: N/A | Frequency response: 48 Hz – 25 kHz
Clear and crisp high frequencies
Rich midrange articulation
If you’re not in the market for full-on entertainment behemoths like the Definitive Technology towers, the Klipsch RP-150M speakers are a surprisingly affordable bookshelf speaker option with a mid-range and high frequency clarity that rivals our top pick.
These light and passive reference speakers are beautifully designed and are a continuation of what Klipsch does best: honest and clear replication without over-coloring the sound. While the 5-inch woofer doesn’t do much in the way of bass, not coming audibly close to the 48 Hz promise on the frequency response, these speakers have a surprising amount of low-mid thump.
The mid range in these Klipsch speakers is completely clear and open, allowing for subtle articulation to come through that would be lost on lesser systems. The upper range never gets shrill and has a natural air under it that seems to be a signature in Klipsch products.
Overall, if you’re looking for a solid pair of stereo speakers for casual listening, studio work, or piecing together an entertainment system, these Klipsch RP-150M speakers are just about as good as they come, especially for the price.
3. Polk Signature S60
A cheaper and worthwhile alternative to Definitive Technology
Dimensions: 11.67” x 44.5” x 15.7” (W x H x D) | Weight: 52 lbs | Dolby Atmos / DTS:X enabled: No | Active or Passive: Passive | Subwoofer: N/A | Frequency response: 26 Hz – 40 kHz
Good looking, discreet design
Clear and cutting mids
Plenty of treble…
…maybe too much treble
Pricy for the sound quality
The beauty of Polk Audio is in its ability to make quality speakers that compete with the biggest name brands while keeping a lower price tag. Do these beautiful full range Polk Signature S60 towers stand up to the prowess of the Definite Technology BP9060x towers? Well, not exactly, but these are stellar speakers in their own right.
Polk’s passive signature series speakers for home entertainment are designed to provide full and immersive sound, and for the most part, they hit the mark. The mid-range, which is the easiest to muddy up, is crystal clear and articulate no matter what sound is blasting through these almost four-foot tall towers.
The high frequency range is certainly lively, occasionally to the point of shrillness when the volume is really pushed, but never gets too harsh for comfort. As for bass frequencies, the packaging advertises a unique porting system that allows more low frequencies to travel more easily. However, to hear the bass really cutting through, the volume needs to be cranked quite a bit. Still, overall the sound quality is excellent in these Polk Audio speakers, the frequencies might could just use a little tweak with an external equaliser.
If you’re looking for a more affordable alternative to the Definite Technology towers, the Polk Audio Signature S60 speakers are a solid option that will likely outshine just about any other run-of-the-mill home entertainment system you’ll encounter. While they don’t handle the highs or the lows as well as our premium pick, we have no doubts that even the most critical ears will be happy with the signal these bad boys pump out.
4. Edifier R1280T
Warm and compact desk speakers
Dimensions: 5.75” x 9.5” x 7” (W x H x D) | Weight: 12.45 lbs | Dolby Atmos / DTS:X enabled: No | Active or Passive: Active | Subwoofer: N/A | Frequency response: 75 Hz – 18 kHz
Affordable and lightweight option
No harsh frequencies
Highs and upper mids are muddy
The Edifier R1280T speakers are a popular choice on Amazon, and for good reason. These compact desk/bookshelf style speakers back an impressive sonic punch and look good doing it, all while keeping the price tag under $100 for the pair. Ok, it’s $99.99, but that penny really does count!
The standout features here include its active design, rich mid-range response, and surprisingly competent bass. Because of the small woofer size, these guys obviously don’t push much low-end, and because of the tweeter design, the highs aren’t as clear as the competition we tested. But other than that, the frequency response and clarity holds its own pretty well.
While they don’t compare to the encompassing power of the Definitive Technology BP9080x or even the clarity of the Klipsch RT-150Ms, these compact speakers certainly serve a purpose. If you’re looking for an affordable set of computer speakers, or better yet a warm stereo set up for your turntable, the Edifier R1280T speakers are a fantastic option for the money.
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