The smartest speaker-buying tip of all
If you really love music or movies, stretch your budget to the max and buy the best speakers you can, and they'll last a long, long time.
Nothing gets old faster than new tech -- most of today's cutting-edge products will be old news in a few years, but the best speakers of 2004, or 1994, or even 1984 still sound great today. So it's hardly a stretch to see that the best of today's new speakers will sound terrific in 2034. Pushing your budget to either buy terrific new speakers that will provide decades of enjoyment -- or for less money, a set of vintage high-end speakers -- makes a lot of sense.
One of my closest audio buddies owns a pair of Quad ESL electrostatic speakers that were originally designed in 1957, but his pair were made in the mid-1970s. In terms of clarity, they sound better than a lot of brand new high-end speakers. Quad ESLs aren't perfect -- they don't make a lot of bass and dynamic punch is limited, but every time I sit down and listen to those speakers they amaze me. Used Quad ESL speakers are pretty affordable.
Another one of my all-time favorite speakers is the Klipsch Heresy -- I reviewed a brand new pair just a few months ago -- and used ones start around $300 a pair. Sonically, they're the opposite of Quad ESLs, clarity is just OK, but Heresys can totally rock out! They are party animals. I know a guy who puts them on his back porch and cranks 'em way up, no problem! The Heresy is another ancient design. It also debuted in 1957, but unlike the original Quad ESL, the Heresy is still being made.
I'm also a big fan of 1980s and 1990s-vintage Snell Acoustics (models A, C, E, J, and K), and Vandersteen (models 1, 2, and 3) speakers, look around on eBay; they're not hard to find.
Of course, buying used speakers, like used cars, cameras, and so on, may be a hassle and require a bit of repair, but deals are out there. Buying new speakers costs more but eliminates those concerns, and new speakers will certainly look nicer! Here's a list of some of the best new speakers of 2014.
So while I strongly recommend buying the best speakers you can, I'd never advise spending big on Bluetooth and other types of wireless speakers. They're all tied to technologies that won't stick around for the long haul. Quad, Klipsch, and Vandersteen speakers are still serviceable; I doubt too many of today's wireless speaker companies will be offering parts or service for their 2014 products in 2024.
If you've scored a great set of new or old speakers, tell us about them in the comments section.
You can subscribe to the Audiophiliac RSS feed here.