Top 5 hi-fi speaker systems

Our favourite hi-fi speakers and home theatre systems.

JBL ES900 Cinepack surround sound speakers: massive weight but excellent all-round sound

JBL ES900 Cinepack surround sound speakers: massive weight but excellent all-round sound

Choosing a suitable set of high quality speakers doesn't have to be a difficult process. Sure, there are plenty of choices on the market but by working out what you will use the speakers for — and where you are going to be using them — you will be able to make the best purchase. We have collected some of the best speaker sets we've tested to make your search a little easier.

Best surround-sound home theatre on a budget: AAD M Series

If you splurged on an expensive television and forgot about ensuring you had cinema-rivalling sound before maxing out your credit card, the AAD M Series 5.1 surround-sound speaker system is your last best hope. Under $1500 nets you two floor-standing loudspeakers, two bookshelf rear speakers, a centre speaker and a dedicated subwoofer — definitely great value for money. The sound quality is great, too.

What’s Hot: Detailed highs, incredibly smooth mid-range, tight bass.

The Final Word: AAD’s M Series surround-sound home theatre offers great sound quality for movies at an affordable price. The speakers are quite light and easy to set up, although their styling is more conservative than impressive.

Best stereo speakers on a budget: JohnBlue JB4 Mk2

JohnBlue is a Taiwanese manufacturer that offers a small range of speakers. The JB4 Mk2 is a bookshelf speaker with a single full-range driver and a clever internal design that allows it to recreate a full range of audio frequencies. If you are after a sweet musical experience that exposes minute detail, the JohnBlue JB4 Mk2 bookshelf speakers are a great budget choice.

What’s Hot: Beautiful construction, smooth and sweet sound.

The Final Word: Just like JohnBlue’s entry-level JB3 desktop speakers, the JB4 Mk2 speakers provide a beautifully sweet interpretation of music and other audio. Notes from mid-bass all the way to higher registers are reproduced smoothly yet with immense layering of detail. Frankly, there’s not much we don’t like about the JB4 Mk2s.

Best stereo bookshelf speakers: Tannoy Revolution Signature DC6

For supreme sound quality without compromise on any frequency range, the Tannoy Revolution Signature DC6 is a true enthusiast’s setup. Sure, you might only be getting two bookshelf speakers for $2500, but the adage ‘You get what you pay for’ rings very true here.

What’s Hot: Exceptional bass even without a subwoofer, brilliant separation, great treble and mid-range.

The Final Word: Made for the true audio enthusiast, Tannoy's Revolution Signature DC6 speakers don't come cheaply, but they offer absolutely phenomenal sound that has to be heard to be believed.

Best surround-sound speakers: JBL ES900 Cinepack

When the JBL ES900 Cinepack turned up at our doorstep (and had to be lugged up two flights of stairs), we were stunned at the sheer size and weight of the speaker setup. With a combined weight of 83 kilograms, the system is no featherweight and the sound it creates is titanic. Floor-shaking bass, rich mid-range from the dual 8in drivers of the floor-standing speakers and sweet treble were all present and our overall impression of the system was that it was well worth the outlay.

What’s Hot:Incredible sound quality, ability to adjust subwoofer.

The Final Word: JBL's ES900 Cinepack offers amazing quality and depth of sound, even if it's at a price not many can afford.

Best mini hi-fi speaker system: JohnBlue JB3

Despite being no larger than a box of tissues, JohnBlue’s JB3 speakers are able to produce loud, rich sound. If space is at a premium — cramped, busy computer desks are a prime example — team the JB3 speakers up with a mini-amplifier like the Kingrex T20 and enjoy sound that seems as if it is coming from a far larger, far more expensive setup.

What’s Hot: Smooth, rich sound in an incredibly small unit.

The Final Word: Truth be told, the JB3s sound like much larger speakers with multiple drivers. Their sound is astonishing and involving, even though the speakers themselves are no taller than a paperback book. If you need small speakers but want big sound (at a decent price) it's hard to find anything better than these.

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Campbell Simpson

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