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Published Nov. 19, 2021

When it comes down to it, the consensus on the best of the best speakers for music is that they are top-of-Mount-Olympus reference units that run into the tens of thousands of dollars—far out of reach for most mortal humans. But don’t despair. You don’t have to forego buying a house or having children just to afford amazing speakers for music. There are plentiful options for awesome music speakers that don’t cost audiophile prices. That said, the best speakers for music on any budget do include a wide range of price points for speakers of different sizes and use cases, from computer speakers that accompany you at work to showpieces that highlight your den of relaxation. Here are some of our approachable picks.

How we picked the best speakers for music on any budget

Sifting through hundreds of choices to find the best speakers for music may be impossible if it weren’t for relying on a combination of our own experience, the input of trusted listeners, and the consensus of experts. The sets of speakers on this list range widely in price, but all present their own case for value when it comes to the performance you get for the money. Every pair of speakers here has set a recognized standard for audio quality within its own category and is built on meticulous and innovative audio research and engineering.

Things to consider before buying speakers for music

With so many attractive options available, it’s easy for music fans to fall into bouts of shiny-object syndrome when shopping around for speakers. The sleek designs, impressive specs, and latest technological tweaks can pull you in many different directions fast. Remember to keep it personal and narrow down the choices to match your specific needs. (And it can’t hurt to scroll through our primer on what makes up a speaker while you’re weighing your options.)

The listening space

Where will you use the speakers? An imposing set of tower speakers may look cool in a dorm room but will be overkill as far as the power they put out for the space. If speakers are too big for a space, you may end up running them at low levels that don’t maximize their potential. And if you crank up speakers to 11 that are too small for a large space, they may distort the sound and burn out faster.

Complexity of setup

Do you want a single set of stereo speakers to be the only component you buy? If so, then you’ll need powered speakers, which have their amplifier and different audio connections built in. And they should be big enough and bassy enough to give you as much low-end frequency as you want without having to add a subwoofer. Passive (unpowered) speakers often provide better sound for the same price as powered speakers, but they also require an amplifier/receiver to power them and supply audio connections.

Connectivity needs

The diversity of audio sources you plan to play from will affect your speaker choice or the amplifier/receiver choice if you purchase passive speakers. To play from turntables, you’ll need a phono-level analog input. To stream from devices, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity is in order. Speakers and amps range from including sparse, basic connections to the whole works of analog and digital connections, including USB audio inputs and HDMI ARC ports for home theater.

Look and feel

While many speakers look similar, there are more and more designers doing different things with speakers, including experimenting with the shape of the enclosure, going all-out on glossy veneers and finishes, reaching back in time with retromodern looks, and so on. In this highly subjective area, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. As a music lover, the audio should probably come first, but you can also find something that sounds great and suits your style as well.

The best speakers for music: Reviews & Recommendations

Taking those factors into mind, and considering that the best speakers for music can’t be determined by descriptive writing alone, we’ve rounded up specs and specifics that offer something for everyone who’s passionate about music. While we’ve rounded up the best desktop speakers for workstations and the best studio monitors for music production in the past, the following speakers up the fidelity for those serious about dedicating space to a rich listening experience, whether using the best bookshelf, floor-standing, or stand-mounted speakers.

Best computer speakers for music: Audioengine A2+ Wireless

Everything Just Clicks

USB input and an overachieving sound let these compact speakers supply a powerful soundtrack to your desk job.

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Why it made the cut: The Austin, Texas-based Audioengine manufacturers many of its speakers’ own components, such as woofers and tweeters, and its commitment to affordable, quality sound have made its speakers favorites since its founding in 2005. They are some of the best computer speakers for music you can buy.

Specs:

  • Frequency response: 65 Hz-22 kHz
  • Power rating: 60W peak power (2 x 15W RMS)
  • Connectivity: USB input, Bluetooth 5.0 aptX HD, stereo RCA I/O, stereo mini-jack input
  • Drivers: 0.75-inch silk dome tweeter, 2.75-inch aramid fiber woofer
  • Dimensions: 5.25 x 4 x 6 inches each (HxWxD)
  • Weight: 6.61 lbs. total

Pros

  • Warm and clean sound
  • Impressively loud for small speakers
  • High-quality components and design

Cons

  • A little less bass than medium-sized smart speakers and desktop speakers
  • Sound cohesiveness gets lost in large spaces

The Audioengine A2+ Wireless look good in their Satin Black, Hi-Gloss Red, and Hi-Gloss White finishes but, most importantly, they impress listeners with a clear, warm stereo sound and powerful volume that overachieve for their conveniently compact size. The A2+ Wireless pair updates the older A2 speakers by adding Bluetooth aptX HD and, most importantly for computer audio, a USB input, making them the perfect companion to improve upon computer speakers in an office, bedroom, or other small room.

When listening to music, the A2+ Wireless system sounds great for genres like rock and Americana, delivering strong, present vocals and tight, clear response to instruments with satisfyingly wide stereo separation. They can even do justice to bass-heavy genres like EDM; however, for seriously gut-rumbling bass, add an optional subwoofer.

To get the same quality hardware components and design but with more bass and louder output, the A5+ Wireless has you covered. It does not, however, have the USB input of the A2+ Wireless, which makes a computer setup easy while skipping an analog-to-digital conversion step in the signal chain. The A2+ Wireless fills up small rooms with rich musical sound and are highly portable, coming in soft, microfiber bags for taking with you to a rental (or parental) house. They make wonderful computer speakers for listening to music whether at the home office or on the road. 

Best Bluetooth speakers for music: Fluance Ai41

It Takes Two, Baby

The real smart choice for Bluetooth speakers, the Ai41 pair outputs wireless tunes in beautifully balanced, spacious stereo defying their size and price.

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Why it made the cut: Fluance makes audio products that deliver hi-fi sound without the high-end price tag, and the compact Ai41 provides the convenience of Bluetooth connectivity with a full-bodied stereo soundstage. It’s definitely one of the best Bluetooth speakers for music.

Specs:

  • Frequency response: 35 Hz-20 kHz (DSP enhanced)
  • Power rating: Class D 90W continuous average output (2 x 45W RMS)
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, digital optical, analog RCA (with subwoofer output)
  • Drivers: 1-inch silk soft-dome neodymium ferrofluid-cooled tweeter, 5-inch woven glass fiber composite driver
  • Dimensions: 10.9 x 6.5 x 7.6 inches each (HxWxD)
  • Weight: active speaker: 8.52 lbs. / passive speaker: 7.44 lbs lbs.

Pros

  • Spacious stereo soundstage
  • Clarity and balance to the audio
  • Sound quality and loudness belie its size and price

Cons

  • Tricky to dial in EQ settings on the remote
  • Hard to reach, angled binding posts on the left speaker

For just under $250, the Fluance Ai41 stereo bookshelf speakers emit a beautiful and balanced wide stereo image with a Bluetooth option that beats the listening experience of most single wireless speakers. The powered speakers are somewhat portable, small enough for a bedroom or kitchen, yet sound good enough and loud enough to be the upgrade to your TV speakers in a living room.

The Ai41 speakers handle any musical genre, from bluegrass to bass music, with clear details and balanced frequencies. You will hear the thump of kick drums more than might be expected from its 5-inch drivers, while high-end elements like cymbals stay crisp without sounding harsh. All the midrange and upper-mid frequencies come through as well; transient response is very natural on sounds like stringed instruments and plinking pianos. While the Ai41 gets impressively loud for its size without distorting, you could opt for the larger and more voluminous Ai61 speakers for an extra fee. Or, if you definitely prefer to play your Bluetooth music through a single wireless speaker and aren’t that concerned with portability, the Tivoli Model One Digital (Gen. 2) retromodern speaker sounds far superior to many compact choices. However, the affordable Fluance Ai41 stereo speakers find a sweet spot of rich sound, connectivity options, and surprising power in a compact package suitable for listening to music in a variety of settings.

Best floor-standing speakers for music: Klipsch RP-8000F

Stand And Deliver

You don’t have to go into big debt to have big, bold, room-filling sound with the power to rock hard and the subtlety for sweet softness.

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Why it made the cut: Klipsch has earned a reputation over 70 years as the American torchbearer for hi-fi sound, and the RP-8000F, the best floor-standing speakers, represents that legacy well at a mid-tier price that makes it accessible.

Specs:

  • Frequency response: 32 Hz-25 kHz
  • Power handling: 150W RMS (600W peak)
  • Connectivity: two pairs of speaker wire binding posts
  • Drivers: 1-inch titanium LTS vented tweeter with hybrid Tractrix horn, dual 8-inch spun copper Cerametallic woofers
  • Dimensions: 43 x 10 x 18 inches each (HxWxD)
  • Weight: 60 lbs. each

Pros

  • Accurate and sensitive audio response
  • Meticulous build quality
  • Large sweet spot envelopes listening spaces

Cons

  • Not compatible with Dolby Atmos audio
  • Harmonics and sound coloration may be pleasant, but counter to purists

The Reference Premier line is one of the most popular loudspeaker series for its powerful and very dynamic sound at an accessible, moderate price. The RP-8000F floor-standing speakers fill up large spaces with consistently high-quality sound regardless of where you are in the room. Their dual 8-inch woofers pump out resounding, deep bass with low distortion and precise articulation even at high levels. The midrange and top-end frequencies also perform superbly, with a warm, detailed sound and significantly low resonance coming from the injection molded silicone tweeters.

When listening to music, the RP-8000F provides focused imaging and precise details, so you hear not just stringed and percussion instruments, but also the nuances of their fretboards and bodies. The distinct spacing of musical elements throughout the soundstage and the tangibility of the acoustic space in musical recordings come through the speakers with admirable authenticity. Instruments like brass sound visceral without any distorted tones; vocals sound pristine.

Klipsch may have a reputation as rock ’n’ roll speakers, but the RP-8000F towers do justice to not only loud and grinding styles, but also to nearly any genre, such as soft choral music, intimate acoustic music, bass-heavy electronic music, and more. In the highly competitive space of mid-priced floor-standing speakers, the RP-8000F makes for a smart, well-rounded choice that pumps out powerful sound with balanced, full-frequency clarity and accuracy in a sleek and sturdy construction.

Best bookshelf speakers for music: KEF LS50 Meta

Low Distortion, High Impact

True audiophile reference sound with a bookshelf footprint; the LS50 Meta plays everything you should hear and nothing you shouldn’t.

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Why it made the cut: KEF speakers stand out with the impeccable sound that audiophiles revere just as well as they stand out in appearance.

Specs:

  • Frequency response: 79 Hz-28 kHz
  • Power handling: 40-100W amp recommended
  • Connectivity: speaker wire binding posts
  • Drivers: 12th-generation Uni-Q driver, embedding a 1-inch tweeter within a 5.25-inch woofer
  • Dimensions: 12 x 8 x 11 inches each (HxWxD)
  • Weight: 17.2 lbs. each

Pros

  • Entirely transparent sound
  • Extraordinary detail
  • Singular style

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Not as good in the low end as some less expensive passive speakers

The dazzling KEF LS50 from 2012 has been updated with even greater accuracy and detail in the LS50 Meta two-way bass-reflex speakers. A new 12th-generation Uni-Q driver embeds the 1-inch tweeter within the 5.25-inch woofer to give the LS50 Meta a stark, single-cone look, while new, proprietary Metamaterial Absorption Technology (MAT) greatly reduces distortion and resonance. The result is a beautiful design and an even more satisfying sound.

As passive (unpowered) speakers, the LS50 Meta needs an amplifier to go with it, and something like the compact NAD D 3045 will give it ample analog and digital inputs—including phono and high-resolution USB computer inputs—as well as HDMI ARC connectivity and 60W per channel.By taking their predecessor’s stunning sound clarity to an even higher level, the KEF LS50 Meta speakers are the best bookshelf speakers for music at this price point. If you’d prefer to achieve the same sound in an all-in-one powered package, the KEF LS50 Wireless II builds in 100W of power; HDMI, analog, and digital audio ports; plus Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, including 24-bit/96kHz wireless streaming and compatibility with Airplay 2, Chromecast, Roon, HD and Ultra HD music from Amazon Music, and more.

Best speakers for music production: JBL LSR 305P MKII

A Streak-Free Window

All the accurately uncolored sound that a music mixer needs with a wide sweet spot and a price that throws a bone to the starving artists.

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Why it made the cut: JBL imbues its affordable studio monitors like this pair with innovative technology from its high-end models, which are the legacy of decades of development, and they have become the trusted choice of legions of professionals.

Specs:

  • Frequency response: 49 Hz-20 kHz
  • Power rating: 82W per speaker
  • Connectivity: 1 XLR, 1 TRS per speaker
  • Drivers: 5-inch woofer, 1-inch woven-composite Neodymium tweeter, both magnetically shielded.
  • Dimensions: 11.75 x 7.3 x 9.9 inches each (HxWxD)
  • Weight: 10.43 lbs. per speaker

Pros

  • Details stand out in dense music mixes
  • Wide sweet spot
  • Room-correction EQ settings

Cons

  • Frequency response begins a little high
  • No audio cables included

Home studio musicians, DJs, and music producers can benefit from the professional technologies that JBL has passed down to the LSR 305P MKII from some of its highest-end loudspeakers. For example, this affordable bi-amplified speaker incorporates JBL’s proprietary Image Control Waveguide: the bowtie-shaped, beveled tweeter panel, which contributes to the monitor’s wide stereo soundstage, precise imaging, and remarkable high-frequency detail. The broader-than-usual sweet spot for a studio monitor allows listeners to move around more while still hearing an accurate soundstage. And the “Linear Spatial Reference” technology takes dozens of measurements 360 degrees around the speaker to optimize what you hear when you’re not in that sweet spot.

This MKII series updates the previous LSR3 line with high-frequency and low-frequency transducers, and its bass response is even fuller and punchier with lower distortion. Because accuracy is important when producing music, it’s not bass overkill. The rear-firing Slip Stream bass port helps output accurate bass even at low playback levels. Because of its 5-inch woofers, however, the LSR 305P MKII’s frequency response is not quite as low as the larger LSR 306P MKII and LSR 308P MKII monitors in the series, which can reproduce lower frequencies while still maintaining accuracy in the mix. Advanced technology, reliable and accurate frequency reproduction, and affordability all combine to make the JBL LSR 305P MKII some of the best studio monitors for music production at home or in small studios.

Best stand-mounted speakers for music: Bowers & Wilkins 705 S2

Astound With Sound

When you have the means for luxurious listening, the 705 S2’s high-tech design and jaw-dropping audio treat your music with style.

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Why it made the cut: For more than 50 years, British speaker designer Bowers & Wilkins has practiced innovation in the service of exceptional music listening, creating hi-fi products for audiophiles with elevated taste and budgets.

Specs:

  • Frequency response: 45 Hz-33 kHz
  • Power handling: 120W RMS continuous power
  • Connectivity: two pairs of speaker wire binding posts
  • Drivers: 1-inch Decoupled Carbon Dome tweeter, 6.5-inch Continnum midbass driver
  • Dimensions: 16 x 7.9 x 11.9 inches each (HxWxD)
  • Weight: 20.5 lbs. each

Pros

  • Transparent but robust sound perfect for music
  • Exquisitely detailed audio
  • Gorgeous design and superior build

Cons

  • Excited sound may be fatiguing over time
  • Top-notch speakers need a top-notch amp to match 

The Bowers & Wilkins 705 S2 stand-mounting passive speakers pay off in extraordinary musical sound for those willing to pay the significant toll for not only the speakers, but also for a high-end amplifier to power them. And while they are more indulgent than other options on this list, they are actually a mid-priced set in the company’s product range, representing a significant step up from the less costly but also worthy 706 S2 and 606 S2 stand-mounters, in part because of the technology pulled from the high-end 800 series, which costs at least twice as much per speaker. Both of the 705 S2’s audio drivers descend from the 800 series: its top-mounted, solid aluminum tweeter banishes resonance from the main cabinet, and the composite midbass driver ensures precise and smooth music reproduction.

The result is a pristine, unencumbered sound tailor-made for music lovers. A spacious, lifelike soundstage provides the setting for rich and full-bodied instrument tones and perfectly natural vocals, clear and evenly balanced from top to bottom. When you want to not just listen to masterfully performed, recorded, and engineered music, but also feel it emotionally, the 705 S2 faithfully reproduces classical, blues, rock, jazz, and other styles with an authoritative sound seemingly bigger than the speakers themselves. Their bass has weight and punch, but an added subwoofer can only help for true believers in the low-end theory.

FAQs

Q: Do expensive speakers sound better?

At a very general level, speakers costing, say, $1,000 a pair will almost invariably sound better than a $100 pair. Audio companies put money into more expensive materials and sophisticated engineering that can increase manufacturing costs. Those investments often increase the speakers’ sound quality, but not always. Sometimes more extravagant materials and design costs serve to increase the speakers’ durability and/or aesthetic appeal. And sometimes equivalent speakers may cost more or less than each other based on brand recognition and reputation. Even when a higher price means better sound, the performance-to-price correlation is often a logarithmic curve, rather than linear. In other words, the increase in price is not equal to the increase in sound quality. Much like many other consumer goods—for example, wine—upgrading from the lowest-price tier of speakers to the next step up and then another step up will typically yield very noticeable results. But once you get into high-priced systems, you may end up paying an additional 50 to 100 percent or more for an incremental step up in sound quality.

Q: What makes a speaker sound better?

Quite a few factors related to the build quality, materials, and components help determine how good a set of speakers sound—their depth of audio detail, ambient soundstage, and realism. And all of the following factors potentially affect the price of the speakers:
Drivers — The cones and domes that actually produce the sound from a speaker (and which are sometimes covered by grills) have a huge impact. Cheap drivers may not be able to reproduce quality sound at high levels because their components cause vibrational resonance. Better drivers require heavier, more expensive coils and rigid cone materials, often made of high-tech composites or other expensive materials, in order to push more air by moving back and forth farther without producing distortion.
Enclosure — The speaker’s enclosure, or cabinet, can resonate with the sound waves coming from the drivers, creating unwanted noise. To reduce or avoid that, the enclosure must be made of stiff, dense, rigid material that vibrates as little as possible from sound frequencies. That usually requires more expensive, fabricated materials such as high-density fiberboard, aluminum, laminated panels, Corian, etc., and more of those materials to add weight.
Crossover — A speaker’s crossover component splits the audio signal and sends the split signal to the drivers—the low-end to the woofer and the treble to the tweeter. Manufacturers sometimes also put filters in the crossover to make the transition between the low and high frequencies smooth. A cheaply made crossover can make the midrange frequencies sound too thin and make it hard for the speaker to sound good at high volumes.
Quality Manufacturing — Poor quality control in manufacturing can lead to inconsistencies from speaker to speaker, and when you have two speakers, you want them to be as perfectly matched as possible for the best stereo image.
Bigger=Bassier — As a general rule, larger speakers with larger woofers can push more air and produce deeper, more powerful bass. Achieving better bass is one of the most common reasons for purchasing larger speakers or adding a subwoofer to an existing system.

Q: How many watts is a good speaker?

A speaker’s wattage tells you about how loud it can go without distorting. Wattage does not really pertain to how good a speaker’s sound is—only its sound levels. Also, more wattage is less expensive to add than excellent sound, so don’t put too much stock in it. For small-room home listening, 15W to 30W per speaker is sufficient for most people. For large rooms, home theaters, or for hosting parties, 50W to 100W per speaker should be enough.

The final word on picking the best speakers for music on any budget

For reasons we have outlined, the best-sounding and loudest speakers generally do cost more money, but the extra cost does not always lead to better sound and there are still amazing sets available for affordable prices. That’s why almost any music fan can enjoy some of the best speakers for music on any budget. Decide what your highest priorities for speakers are, such as the size and power needed for your space, connectivity options, and style. There’s always going to be something better out there that almost none of us can afford. However, with the quality of modern speakers and the number of choices available, we’re confident that you can find the perfect speaker for you to elevate your music listening to a higher level.

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