The Best Budget Hi-Fi Speakers 2023
We don’t need to tell our readership that inflation has had a huge impact on hi-fi sales over the past 15 months. Coming out of the pandemic where consumers spent a lot of money on TVs, wireless headphones, soundbars, and turntables, manufacturers are currently struggling to get people to buy. For those looking for a new pair of loudspeakers in 2023, there are some rather good options if funds are tight. The best budget hi-fi speakers of 2023 features some rather well known brands and a few outliers that might not be on your radar.
Bookshelf or stand-mounted loudspeakers are evolving and while the movement is in the direction of wireless loudspeakers, there is still no shortage of excellent and affordable passive bookshelf options right now. My favorite budget bookshelf loudspeakers of 2023 feature a wide range of options
Not everyone has the space or budget for floorstanding loudspeakers and there are also a growing number of consumers who have not heeded the RTO charge from their employers and continue to work from home and desire something for the desktop or their office.
None of these loudspeakers priced below $499 will break the bank, but don’t forget that almost all of them will benefit from using higher quality amplification; either an existing amplifier that you might own, or something from our list of integrated amplifiers.
Building a system is a process and it’s not a bad move to find a pair of loudspeakers and amplifier that you prefer before blowing the rest of your budget on sources and cables.
Dayton Audio B652-AIR
I can hear the laughter around the globe, but 99% of you have never listened to the original Dayton Audio B652 or the B652-AIR that utilizes a 1″ x 1″ mini AMT tweeter with surprisingly good results.
Just how good can a $60 USD pair of loudspeakers be?
The black ebony pica vinyl cabinet isn’t winning any industrial design awards but were you really expecting a pair of Sonus faber Amati for $60?
The 6.5-inch woofer offers relatively robust bass considering the size of the sealed cabinet and the 87 dB sensitivity (6 ohms) makes these rather easy to drive. The roll-off below 70Hz is rather noticeable, but that makes them a great candidate for an inexpensive subwoofer or as a pair of loudspeakers in a bedroom or on the desktop.
The treble can be somewhat peaky on the B652, but we did not find that to be the case with the AMT tweeter which is smoother sounding, and far more detailed.
A vintage receiver would drive the hell out of these fun loudspeakers and a warmer tonal balance would certainly be preferable.
Where to buy: $59.98/pair at Amazon
RSL Speakers CG3M
The new C3GM bookshelf loudspeakers replace the best-selling CG3 that were discontinued in 2022 and it’s almost impossible to find a better pair of loudspeakers at the price; RSL sells all of their products direct to consumers and there is enormous value here for $120 USD/pair.
The C3GM work well on both stands or a desktop; the loudspeakers do not take up a lot of space (9.5”H x 5.3″D x 6.7”W) and there is a keyhole mount for those who might wish to mount them on a wall and use them as rear channel speakers.
The 4-inch mineral-filled woven aramid fiber cone woofer and 1-inch silk dome tweeter offer a fairly robust sound, but there is noticeable roll-off around 90Hz making these ideal candidate for a subwoofer.
The 86.5 dB (6 ohms) sensitivity is on the lower side but they will work just fine with 30-50 watts; and they certainly won’t implode if you drive them with 100 to 125 watts of power either.
A clean sounding pair of bookshelf loudspeakers with above average detail and speed considering the entry-level price tag.
Where to buy: $210/pair at rslspeakers.com
Elac Debut 2.0 B5.2
Andrew Jones set the entry-level category ablaze a few years ago when he was tasked with creating something that audiophiles could sink their teeth into for less than $400. Not only did the acclaimed loudspeaker designer build out a rather impressive niche for the brand, he forced the competition to rethink what could be done for very little. Jones has moved on to MoFi — but we still have the Elac Debut 2.0 B5.2 to recommend for less than $300 depending on where you find them.
The 86 dB sensitivity rating (6 ohms) might feel like it’s on the low side but this is one pair of bookshelf loudspeakers than can work with a rather wide range of amplifiers and AVRs.
The 5.25-inch woven aramid fiber bass driver and 1-inch soft-dome tweeter delivers deep impactful bass and rather smooth and extended top end performance that makes these suitable for both music and movies.
If you have to place the Debut 2.0 B5.2 close to the wall behind them, Jones wisely put the bass ports on the front of the cabinet allowing for greater flexibility when it comes to room placement.
The 46Hz – 35kHz frequency response is rather accurate and you would be surprised just how deep these bookshelf loudspeakers can go with the right amplifier.
We don’t love the black ash vinyl finish, but the MDF cabinet is extensively braced and these are rather well built for the money. Elac sold a lot of these because they are cohesive sounding, detailed, and far more expressive than the average entry-level loudspeaker.
Where to buy: $289/pair at Amazon
Triangle Borea BR03
The Triangle Borea BR03 BT made our “Best Wireless Speakers of 2022” list and after 2 months with them — I’m certainly buying them when the tax refund check arrives in February.
The passive version are even more impressive and less than 50% of the price which makes them one of the easiest recommendations of 2023. The Borea BR03 are rather agile sounding loudspeakers, although I do wish that the 1-inch silk dome tweeter was slightly better behaved depending on the amplifier.
The 6.2-inch woofer has more than enough extension and scale to make orchestral and classic rock selections come alive in my 16′ x 13′ x 9′ den.
Clarity, detail, and a rather high level of resolution makes these one of our favorite loudspeakers on the list because they really respond well to integrated amplifiers in the $650 to $1,500 range and you would never guess how affordable they are.
The 90 dB sensitivity (4 ohms) is slightly deceptive and we would suggest 50 watts as a minimum to really give these vibrant loudspeakers the foundation they need. Triangle has a done a great job with the Borea range and these are still flying under the radar for most people which we find a tad strange.
Where to buy: $300/pair at Amazon
Q Acoustics 3020i
Very much like Jason Statham’s character in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, the Q Acoustics 3020i are a tad unleashed. They communicate music like an effortless weapon, and with some serious punch in the lower registers with the right amplifier. They borrow some of their driver technology from their much larger sibling; the Q Acoustics 3050i floor-standing loudspeaker that retails for almost three times the price.
Q Acoustics have tweaked something in the cabinet design and crossover of the 3020i making it hit much harder than one would expect considering the size of the cabinet and drivers.
The 3020i s not a very difficult loudspeaker to drive (88 dB, 6 ohms) but it definitely benefits from an amplifier with some grip and midrange punch. Stay away from amps that veer dark because the 1-inch soft-dome tweeter needs some illumination.
Available in Graphite Grey, English Walnut, Carbon Black or Arctic White. All are finished with an attractive chrome bezel around each driver and feature magnetic speaker grilles.
Ditch the grille covers and do not use the foam bungs even if you need to place them closer to the wall; the mid bass and lower midrange loses some of clarity in the process. The price has increased over the past 12 months which is a shame because these are very fine loudspeakers.
Where to buy: $449 at Amazon
Acoustic Energy AE100 MK2
The revised AE100 MK2 (also referred to as MKII or AE1002) from Acoustic Energy are a very balanced sounding bookshelf loudspeaker with fantastic build quality and excellent punch. They might not be the last word in the lower registers but they can still deliver the goods for only $400 USD.
For more information: Read our AE100 MK2 Review.
Where to buy: $499/pair at Essence | £259/pair at Audio Affair
DALI Spektor 2
The Danish manufacturer is now distributed by Lenbrook in N. America and that situation makes them much easier to find. DALI makes excellent loudspeakers across the board but their affordable Spektor 2 is a fantastic value and wonderful platform for a wide range of amplifiers.
The Spektor 2 offer an insightful, detailed, and very expressive presentation. They are not overly fussy about placement, but they can be rather underwhelming with low powered amplifiers. Anything above 50 watts per channel should be quite sufficient.
Where to buy: $499/pair at Amazon | £249/pair at Amazon.co.uk
Wharfedale Diamond 12.1
The Diamond series receives a facelift every 3-4 years, and the new Diamond 12 series products are already proving to be a massive hit.
Wharfedale understands that most consumers don’t have a lot of space and are working within a very specific budget when buying a hi-fi system.
There are specific brands of electronics that work exceptionally well with Wharfedale’s loudspeakers; Audiolab, Croft, Marantz, Cambridge Audio, Quad, Rega, and NAD.
The Wharfedale Diamond 12.1’s are the ideal size for a desktop loudspeaker or placement on a credenza in a home office scenario.
These stand-mounters are a two-way, bass-reflex design. The 5-inch mid/bass driver uses a polypropylene/mica composite cone material, and the tweeter is a 1-inch textile dome design that offers a very smooth sounding top end and excellent dispersion.
Where to buy: $449/pair at Crutchfield | Amazon
Related reading: Best Wireless Speakers
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