Whether you're looking for a Bluetooth speaker, a soundbar or loudspeakers for your home theater, these are the best products for the money.
Updated Oct. 27, 2023 4:00 p.m. PT
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Reviews ethics statement
Ty Pendlebury is a journalism graduate of RMIT Melbourne, and has worked at CNET since 2006. He lives in New York City where he writes about streaming and home audio.
ExpertiseTy has worked for radio, print, and online publications, and has been writing about home entertainment since 2004. He majored in Cinema Studies when studying at RMIT. He is an avid record collector and streaming music enthusiast.Credentials
Ty was nominated for Best New Journalist at the Australian IT Journalism awards, but he has only ever won one thing. As a youth, he was awarded a free session for the photography studio at a local supermarket.
Whether you're interested in background music for your next BBQ or looking to upgrade a stereo system, there's a speaker set ready for you. Speakers tend to be designed with a specific purpose in mind. For example, do you want speakers for your television, computer speakers or a set for a specific room? Perhaps you need portable Bluetooth speakers to take on a trip? Not all speakers are created equal.
I've highlighted the best wired and wireless speakers I've tested costing between $50 and $1,000. While most of the included systems are powered speakers, you'll also find passive bookshelf speakers, such as the Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2, which just need to be paired with a great AV receiver.
From smart speakers to outdoor speakers to immersive home theater systems, every model I've chosen boasts great sound quality and is the best speaker in its particular category. I'll update this list periodically as we review new products, so you can take your audio setup to the next level.
Elac has been belting out classic, affordable designs ever since its, er, debut in 2015. The Debut 2.0 exemplifies the brand's appeal to both the budget-conscious and audiophiles. It offers a lively, insightful sound and attractive looks for around $400.
Want the biggest sound? You'll need big speakers. The fit and finish of the large Fluance XL8 towers is unmatched by other speakers at its price. The sound of the XL8F is open and thrilling, but never shrill, and when fed a movie soundtrack these speakers simply zing. They're no slouch with music either. If you truly want the maximum speaker for your money, the huge Fluance XL8F has no equal.
Budget Bluetooth speakers are seemingly a dime a dozen, but among the countless options there do lie some gems. The $50 Tribit Stormbox Micro is a compact, portable speaker that offers both waterproofing and excellent bass for its size.
The $130 Roku Streambar is a hybrid soundbar-4K video streamer and the most welcome surprise is that it's able to perform both tasks well. Pair it with a bedroom TV and the optional Onn Wireless Sub for a killer home theater setup.
Klipsch Reference Cinema System 5.1.4 With Dolby Atmos
If there was ever a bargain in home theater it was this -- for around the same price as the Elac speakers above you can get a full Dolby Atmos setup. With a sub! Sound quality is excellent and the Klipsch kit includes all of the cables you need in the box.
The Edifier R1280DB offers almost everything you could want in a PC speaker -- excellent sound, a range of connections including Bluetooth and a compact footprint -- and all for a reasonable $150. It doesn't offer USB, though, so connect the headphone/line out of your PC to it instead.
The Yamaha YAS-209 is one of the most fully featured soundbars the company has ever offered -- especially at the price. With Alexa, HDMI connectivity and a wireless subwoofer, this soundbar doesn't want for anything. The sound quality is great too.
The Vizio Elevate may have one big gimmick at the core of it, that revolving height speaker, but it also offers sound quality to back up the gee-whizzery. This is a 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos soundbar, with a hefty subwoofer, and its performance is equally thrilling in both movies and music. Add in a bunch of streaming features and you have the best surround system under a grand.