Vinyl has been making a resurgence for a while, and this pandemic only added to that trend. There are many out there looking to upgrade from a cheap Crosley turntable and build their first HiFi system. Of course, there are several pieces that go into making a good stereo, but the most important thing is the speakers. If your speakers don’t sound good, it doesn’t matter what you connect them to.
They are working against Passive Speakers
This is understandably the part of their setup that people spend most of their time researching. And you have to choose several. One of the main ones is this: active or passive? Both have their advantages, but for the sake of this guide we will focus on the silent speakers, which require a separate amplifier.
Active speakers have a built-in amplifier. Often times, these two things are designed to work together, which means you’re getting the designer’s clear vision. And since you don’t need an external amplifier, standard speakers also take up less space. Although active speakers are more expensive than passive speakers, the fact that you need to buy an amp to power passive speakers means that the savings are not as great as they first appear. The biggest benefit of being passive is the flexibility. You can’t go out and buy your amplifier and hook up your speakers to it; You are not satisfied with what is built. Also, since active speakers require a power source, you should make sure they are close to an outlet.
We’re also putting a cap on our spending on this book: a flat $600. Anything above that and you’re starting to enter the budget audiophile segment. It also prevents us from talking about a bookshelf between five and five inches. While you can find stand-alone speakers under that price range, the quality of the drivers may be better for off-the-shelf speakers at the same price.
Information about testing
Obviously, I couldn’t test it each one a set of five to six inch bookshelf speakers under $600, but I’ve tried enough and done enough research to feel confident in my opinion. I’m sure there are other good speakers out there, but I don’t think anyone will regret buying a set here.
In addition, the speakers’ preferences are fixed. But I tried to have a purpose. Both speakers were connected to a Pyle PSS6 switch with the same wiring for quick side-by-side comparisons. After testing them all myself I asked several people to listen blindly and rank them according to their preferences to see if their opinions matched mine. Testing includes playing new and vintage vinyl, as well as streaming music from Spotify.
Also you should know: I am not an audiophile. This is not a guide for audiophiles. I want my music to sound good, but I don’t want to drop the price of a used sedan on my stereo. My setup includes an Audio Technica Audio-Technica AT-LP120 and Chromecast Audio running through a Technics SA-EX110. This isn’t high-end, but it’s an upgrade from a Crosley Suitcase turntable or even a Sonos high-end speaker.
Best for the masses: Audioengine HDP6
To be honest, most of the speakers I tested sounded surprisingly similar. But not $399 Audioengines. It had the brightest and clearest sound of all, with the exception of the more expensive KEF. The pair I tested also came in a beautiful “walnut” finish that helped them stand out against a sea of black.
The HDP6s provide a powerful midrange that shines when it comes to vocals and guitars. But they sound good on the whole spectrum. Big hits like Nine Inch Nails’ “The Day the Whole World Gone” came to life and revealed something that, to be honest, I didn’t even notice off the top of my head. And PromisesThe latest album from Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders and the London Symphony Orchestra, was a cover that made me want to throw my current floor speakers in the trash.
While no bookshelf speakers on their own can produce the room-shaking sound that floor-standing speakers or a subwoofer can deliver, the HDP6 performed admirably with heavy music. It didn’t have the low end of my test units, but the drums and bass were still strong and clear.
For those who want the best sound: KEF Q150
If your first problem is good, regardless of anything else, check it out Q150s. These are the entry-level speakers from the legendary audiophile brand KEF and are the only speakers that beat Audioengines in any of my blind tests. They didn’t always come out on top, and some people had trouble deciding between the two, but in the end I think the KEFs have a slight edge in sound quality. They had more volume at the very bottom and extreme end of the spectrum. It added some sparkle to tracks like the Beach Boys’ “Would It Be Good,” while Run the Jewels’ “JU$T” hit a little harder than the HDP6s. The difference may be subtle depending on what you’re listening to, but it’s undeniable in a side-by-side test.
KEF’s audio profile is similar to that of Audioengines. Both are brighter and have more treble and mids than any other speaker setup in this category. If you want to listen to classical music or jazz on high-quality vinyl, this will give you exactly the frequency response you’re looking for.
What puts the Q150 at the top of this list is the list price. At $600 they are tied for the most expensive speakers I’ve tested. (The Polk R100s they were $599, but they didn’t make the final cut.) Although the Q150s sounded slightly better than the HDP6s to my ears, they weren’t exactly $200 better. At the time of this writing, however, the Q150s were selling for $400, making them a compelling option for Audioengines.
For the bargain hunter: JBL A130
The Pictures of JBLs he was pretty consistently in the middle of the pack when it came to audience preferences. They are not as bright as the KEFs and Audioengines, but not as muddy as the Polk S15s. If you’re just looking for good speakers and don’t sweat the paper, or if you listen to live music and only put on vinyl occasionally, these are a great option if you can find them on sale. .
For those who need more bass: ELAC Debut 2.0 DB6.2
OK, so these speakers break our rules a bit but, if you choose the larger 6.5-inch DB6.2s, instead of the DB5.2s, you get more in the end. The First things first it can’t match Audioengine or KEF when it comes to sound quality, but you can feel every 808 hitting hard. Backxwash’s new album I lie here buried with my rings and my clothes it was more aggressive on the ELACs than it was on the Polks, JBLs or KEFs. And they only cost $350, which isn’t bad at all.
If you listen mainly to electronic music and modern hip hop, you might consider the Debut 2.0 DB6.2s.
For those who want to ignore my advice:
If you can’t find the JBL A130s on sale, and you really want to save as much money as possible, you might as well screw it up. Polk S15s. The S15s are unheard of bad, but the JBLs are definitely the best. They don’t have as much depth as other speakers I’ve tested and the low end can be a bit indistinct. This is probably better suited as a home theater unit than a stereo system. At a list price of $229 it may seem like a bargain, but I’d save your money for a little while and spring for something better.
The Polk R100s and clear speakers. Maybe a little better than the JBLs, although they have a sound profile close to Polk’s S15. The problem is that they are $600, tying them for the highest price I’ve tried. At half the price these would be tough, but the $600 KEFs and $400 Audioengines were ranked higher than the R100s by every tester.
I don’t doubt that this and eloquent: They are present Wirecutter‘s top choice. But I haven’t been able to test them, so I can’t confirm them.