JBL L100 Classic
This list of best bookshelf speakers, aka stand-mounts, is brimming with budget, mid-fi, and high-end contenders, and each one was selected for its exceptional sound quality.
One of the most iconic speakers ever from the 1970s, the original JBL L100 is back as the L100 Classic, it's unabashedly a baby boomer's dream speaker. If you're of a certain age and remember how the original held sway, this new one will rekindle your love of music. If you're a millennial audiophile with deep pockets and want to treat yourself to a sound that fueled classic rock back in the day, the L100 Classic deserves a serious audition. The L100 Classic sells for $4,000 a pair.
The Fluance Ai40 is a self-powered speaker. It's a sealed (acoustic suspension) rather than ported design, and the sound was free of the bass boom and thickening I hear from a lot of small speakers trying to sound bigger than they are. The Ai40 has a 1-inch (25mm) silk dome tweeter and a 5-inch (127mm) woven glass fiber composite woofer. They're $200 a pair with free shipping in the US. UK and Australia prices haven't yet been released, but they convert to roughly £151 and AU$269.
Klipsch RP 600M
The Klipsch Reference Premiere 600 was the Audiophiliac Speaker of the Year for 2018 because it sounded more alive and dynamic than any other speaker near its very reasonable $549-per-pair price (£625 in the UK, and AU$1,500 in Australia). The RP 600M is a lot of fun -- it's the sort of speaker that's hard to stop listening to. You just want to keep playing one more song, or even one more album. I love it when that happens.
ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2
ELAC's Andrew Jones just recently revised the Debut B6 speaker; now it's the Debut 2.0 B6.2 ($298 per pair), and the sound is much improved. Home theater buyers can partner the Debut B6.2 with ELAC's matching Debut Series F5.2 towers ($299 each), C5.2 center channel speaker ($198) and an ELAC SUB3010 subwoofer ($449).
Q Acoustics Concept 300
I first heard the Concept 300 at a press preview in New York, and I immediately requested a pair for review. At home the sound was pretty much what I heard at the preview, but I could play LPs at home. I quickly discovered the Concept 300 is "format agnostic;" digital sounded great and so did analog. The prices run $4,499 a pair in the US, £2,999 in the UK, and AU$5,999 in Australia.
Vanatoo Transparent Zero
The Vanatoo Transparent Zero are self-powered speakers ideal for desktop applications or small rooms. It comes highly recommended for folks seeking quality sound from a very small pair of speakers ($359 per pair).
Wharfedale Denton 85th Anniversary Edition
Founded in 1932 Wharfedale is very much the elder among the world's speaker companies, and Denton 85th Anniversary Edition reflects the that. The handsome genuine red mahogany veneer is impeccable, as is the warm sound. The Denton is a honey; I love the way it hearkens back to the classic 1980s UK sound, and still sounds great today. The Denton sells for $899 a pair in the US, and £549 in the UK.
Kali Audio is the new kid in town, it's just one year old, and its LP-6 is a knockout. The LP-6 is a powered, biamplified speaker with built-in 40-watt Class D amps, one for the tweeter and one for the woofer. Considering the speakers' modest size, they play high-energy music with remarkable ease. The White Stripes' live Under Great White Northern Lights album turned up nice and loud was a ball -- the LP-6 likes to party. The LP-6 sells for $149 each.
Dayton Audio B652 Air
This low, low priced speaker measures 11.8 inches high (299mm), and it has a 6.5-inch (165mm) polypropylene woofer that's a good deal larger than what you'll find in most budget speakers. And instead of a dome tweeter, the B652-AIR boasts an air motion transformer tweeter. This flat, 1-inch (25 mm) square tweeter promises clearer, lower-distortion sound than many dome tweeters can manage. ($49.88 per pair)
Klipsch The Sixes
The Sixes are part of Klipsch's new Heritage Wireless series of self-powered speakers that connect to a turntable, TV, computer or Bluetooth device. The Sixes are sold in pairs, so bona-fide stereo was part of the allure. The Sixes sound more dynamically alive and clear than what we've heard from pairs of Sonos Play:3 speakers, that's for sure! ($799 per pair)
Definitive Technology D9
Sumptuous is a word we've never applied to affordable bookshelf speakers, but that's exactly what the Definitive Technology Demand Series D9 sounds like. The sound feels like a warm hug. ($799 per pair)
Harbeth P3ESR 40th Anniversary
It seems like every time I listen to the Harbeth P3 ESR 40th Anniversary speakers, I hear something different (review to come). It's harder to get a handle on the sound, which is always a good sign. The speaker is a total chameleon, because it so faithfully serves the music. They're $2,890 a pair in the US, £2,495 in the UK.
Wharfedale Diamond 220 speakers
The Wharfedale Diamond 220 sports a 1-inch (25mm) soft dome tweeter and 5-inch (130mm) woven Kevlar woofer. It's a small, affordable speaker that sounds richly balanced, yet never lacking in detail.
Bowers & Wilkins 606
Do you see a trend here, so many of our favorite bookshelf, AKA stand mount speakers hail from the UK. Take the Bowers and Wilkins 606, it rocks with more authority than most speakers its size. The familiar woven Kevlar has been replaced with a new Continuum driver and a new double dome aluminum tweeter. The 606 runs $799 per pair in the US, £549 in the UK.
Buchardt S300 MKII SE
Buchardt Audio is a small Danish manufacturer that's quickly gaining a reputation for making extraordinary speakers. I was skeptical, but the buzz was strong enough I requested a pair of their S300 MKII SE speakers for review. Unboxing the beautifully finished satin-black samples, they looked fine -- nothing flashy going on here, but once I started listening my ears perked up. Bachardt sells direct, the speakers run $1,200 per pair in the US, £1,130 in the UK and AU$1,630 in Australia; those prices include free shipping.
Emotiva Airmotiv B1
The Emotiva Airmotiv B1 is a small, affordable two-way bookshelf speaker with a folded-ribbon tweeter and a 5.25-inch (133mm) mid-woofer. It offers a good deal of flexibility and can be used as in-room or nearfield stereo desktop speakers, or as front or surround speakers in home theaters. ($300 a pair)
Dayton Audio MK402
The Dayton Audio MK402, may be small in size and price, but tucked into a cozy bedroom or office it'll sound sweet. ($69 a pair, US only)
Dynaudio Special 40
The Special 40s are really special in that they're unusually small high-end speakers, they're just 7.8 by 14.2 by 12.1 inches (198 by 360 by 307mm) and ideal for apartment-dwelling audiophiles. These made-in-Denmark speakers can play surprisingly loud in small to midsize rooms. The sound had a deliciously organic feel to it. ($2,999; £2,500 per pair)
The TAD ME-1 is an amazingly natural-sounding speaker; it wins by doing less and lets more of the music's essence through unscathed. The stereo imaging was the best I've had at home, as the ME-1 liberates the music while bringing it back to life. Build quality of this Japanese-manufactured speaker is beyond reproach. ($12,495; £10,000 per pair)
Hsu Research CC-8
Hsu Research is best known for its line of high-performance, yet affordable subwoofers, but it also makes speakers. The one we have here, the CCB-8, is a large bookshelf model with a single "coaxial" 8-inch (203mm) polypropylene driver, with a 1-inch aluminum (25mm) dome tweeter nestled in the center of it. The sound is hugely satisfying, high in resolution, with wide stereo imaging. ($699 per pair)
Few audiophiles would have seen this coming, but Technics, the name we associate with DJ turntables, now makes one of the very best monitor speakers on the market. Bass is deep, fast and well-defined; midrange and treble are clear; and stereo imaging is precise. ($1,700; £1,199 per pair)
The Andrew Jones-designed Pioneer bookshelf speakers reset the bar for what we could expect from budget priced speakers in 2011, with the SP-BS21-LR. It was redesigned a year later as the SP-BS22-LR that's still being made, and still sounds unbeatable for the price. ($95 per pair)
Dynaudio Emit M10
Tiny audiophile-grade speakers like the Dynaudio Emit M10 have a special affinity for small rooms. This highly transparent monitor deserves to be used with top-grade electronics to let the sound fully bloom. ($800, £499, AU$999 per pair)
This midsize bookshelf speaker has a rock and roll heart. We say that because it sounds more dynamically alive and vibrant than a lot of similarly sized competitors, including the stellar ELAC Uni-Fi UB5. The slightly larger RP-160M packs a bigger wallop than the RP-150M. ($419 per pair)
PSB imagine Mini speakers
How mini is it? The Mini is the smallest speaker in PSB's Imagine series: it's just 9.25 inches (235mm) high, and it weighs 6.5 pounds (2.94kg). The Mini's proprietary 4-inch (102mm) clay/ceramic-filled polypropylene woofer makes more and better bass than you'd normally get from a wee woofer in a small cabinet. The 1-inch (25mm) tweeter is no slouch, and the Mini produces legitimate high-end sound quality -- it's really, really good! ($749 per pair)
Bowers & Wilkins 805 D3
A true statement design from Bowers & Wilkins that combines bona-fide-audiophile cred with the accuracy required for use as a recording studio monitor. The B & W 805 D3 features a synthetic diamond tweeter and a radically redesigned midrange/woofer. The high-resolution sound redefines the standard for speakers of this size. ($6,000; £4,500; AU$8,500 per pair)
ELAC Uni-Fi UB5
Andrew Jones has done it again with the ELAC UB5. This compact monitor delivers shockingly deep, super-solid bass, vivid midrange and treble, and clearly focused stereo imaging. If there's one catch, it's that you'll need to partner the Uni-Fi UB5 with high-powered, quality electronics to hear it at its best. ($500 per pair)