We need not tell our readers that inflation has had a major impact on hi-fi sales over the past 15 months. After emerging from the pandemic where consumers spent a lot of money on TVs, wireless headphones, speakers and turntables, manufacturers are currently struggling to get people to buy. For those looking for a new pair of speakers in 2023, there are some fairly good options if money is tight. The best budget hi-fi speakers of 2023 feature some fairly well-known brands and a few outliers that might not be on your radar.
Bookshelf or rack-mounted speakers are evolving, and while the movement is in the direction of wireless speakers, there’s still a lack of excellent, affordable passive bookshelf options right now. Our favorite budget bookshelf speakers of 2023 feature a wide range of options
Not everyone has the space or budget for floor standing speakers and there is also a growing number of consumers who have not heeded RTO fees from their employers and continue to work from home and would like something for their desktop or office.
None of these sub-$499 subwoofers will break the bank, but don’t forget that nearly all of them would benefit from using higher-quality amplification; Either an existing subwoofer you may own, or something from our list of built-in amplifiers.
Building the system is a process and it’s not a bad move to find a pair of speakers and amplifiers you like before the rest of your budget runs out on sources and cables.
Dayton Audio B652-AIR
I can hear laughter all over the world, but 99% of you have never listened to the original Dayton Audio B652 or B652-AIR which used a small 1×1 AMT amplifier with surprisingly good results.
How good can a $60 pair of speakers be?
The ebony black vinyl cabinet doesn’t win any awards for industrial design, but were you really expecting a pair of Sonus faber Amati for $60?
The 6.5-inch woofer delivers relatively powerful sound considering the size of the enclosed cabinet, and a sensitivity of 87 dB (6 ohms) makes this drive fairly easy. Roll-over below 70Hz is somewhat noticeable, but that makes it a great candidate for an inexpensive subwoofer or as a pair of speakers in the bedroom or on your desktop.
The treble can be somewhat peaked on the B652, but we didn’t find that to be the case with the AMT tweeter sounding smoother and more detailed.
The old receiver will get the hell out of these fun speakers and a warmer tonal balance would definitely be better.
where to buy: $59.98/pair on amazon
RSL CG3M Speakers
The new C3GM bookshelf speakers replace the discontinued CG3 bestseller in 2022 and it’s nearly impossible to find a better pair of speakers for the price; RSL sells all of its products directly to consumers and at $120/pair there is tremendous value here.
The C3GM works well on either a stand or desktop; The speakers don’t take up much space (9.5″ H x 5.3″ D x 6.7″ W) and there’s a keyhole mount for those who might want to mount them on the wall and use them as rear channel speakers.
The 4-inch woven aramid fiber cone woofer and 1-inch silk dome tweeter deliver fairly powerful bass, but there’s a noticeable rounding around 90Hz that makes these an ideal candidate for a subwoofer.
The 86.5dB (6ohm) sensitivity is on the lower side but will work just fine with 30-50W; And it certainly won’t explode from the inside if you’re driving it with 100 to 125 watts of power, too.
A pair of clean-sounding bookshelf speakers with above-average detail and speed considering the entry-level price.
where to buy: $210 per pair at rslspeakers.com
Elac 2.0 B5.2 debuted
Andrew Jones shot up the entry-level category a few years ago when he was tasked with creating something music fans could sink into for less than $400. Not only has the acclaimed loudspeaker designer built impressive brand standing, but it has forced the competition to rethink what can be done for so little. Jones moved to MoFi – but we still have an Elac Debut 2.0 B5.2 to recommend for under $300 depending on where you find it.
A sensitivity rating of 86 dB (6 ohms) may sound like it’s on the low side, but this is one pair of bookshelf speakers that can work with a wide variety of amplifiers and AVRs.
The 5.25-inch aramid fiber bass driver and 1-inch soft-dome tweeter deliver deep, impactful bass and smooth, extended top-of-the-line performance that makes it suitable for both music and movies.
If you had to put your Debut 2.0 B5.2 close to the wall behind them, Jones wisely placed the bass ports at the front of the cabinet allowing for a bit more flexibility when it came to room placement.
The 46Hz – 35kHz frequency response is fairly accurate and you’ll be amazed at how deep these bookshelf speakers can go with the right tweeter.
We don’t like the black ash vinyl finish, but the MDF cabinetry is massively backed and built well for the money. Elac has sold a lot of these because they sound cohesive, detailed, and much more expressive than your average entry-level amplifier.
where to buy: $289/ebayr at amazon
Borea Triangle BR03
The Triangle Borea BR03 BT made our “Best Wireless Speakers of 2022” list and after two months with them – I’m definitely buying them when my tax refund check arrives in February.
The passive version is more impressive and less than 50% off the price making it one of the easiest recommendations for 2023. The Borea BR03 are fairly svelte speakers, though I do wish the 1-inch silk-dome tweeter had a slightly better behave as per Loudspeaker.
The 6.2-inch woofer has more than enough extension and size to make your orchestral and classical rock selections come to life in my 16 x 13 x 9 inches.
Clarity, detail, and a high level of fidelity make this one of our favorite speakers on the list because it responds so well to compact speakers in the $650 to $1,500 range that you’d never guess how affordable it is.
A sensitivity of 90 dB (4 ohms) is a bit deceiving and we suggest 50 watts minimum to give your vibrant speakers the foundation they need. Triangle did a great job with the Borea set and they still fly under the radar for most people which we find a little weird.
where to buy: $300 per pair on amazon
Q Acoustics 3020i
He looks a lot like Jason Statham Lock, stowage and two smoke barrelsThe Q Acoustics 3020i is a tad unleashed. They belt out the music like an easy weapon, with some serious punch in the lower registers with the right amplifier. They borrow some of their driving techniques from their much larger siblings; The Q Acoustics 3050i floor standing speaker that sells for almost three times the price.
Q Acoustics tweaked something in the cabinet design and crossover of the 3020i that made it more rugged than one would expect given the size of the cabinet and drivers.
The 3020i’s speakers aren’t too tough to drive (88 dB, 6 ohms) but they definitely benefit from an amplifier with some midrange hold and punch. Steer clear of speakers that veer into the dark because this 1-inch soft dome tweeter needs some lighting.
Available in graphite gray, English walnut, carbon black, or polar white. They are all finished with attractive chrome bezels around each driver and feature magnetic speaker grilles.
Throw away the grating covers and don’t use foam seals even if you need to put them close to a wall; The bass and lower midrange lose some clarity in the process. The price has gone up over the past 12 months which is a shame because these are very good speakers.
Where to buy: $449 on amazon
Acoustic Energy AE100 MK2
Revised AE100 MK2 (also referred to as MKII or AE1002) from Acoustic Energy are very well balanced bookshelf speakers with great build quality and excellent punch. It may not be the last word on the lower registers but they can still deliver the goods for just $400 USD.
for more information: Read our AE100 MK2 review.
where to buy: $499 per pair in essence | £259/ebayr in Audio Affair
Daly Specter 2
The Danish manufacturer is now distributed by Lenbrook in North America and this status makes them much easier to find. DALI makes excellent speakers across the board, but the affordable Spektor 2 is a great value and a great platform for a wide range of speakers.
Spektor 2 delivers insightful, detailed, and highly expressive rendering. They’re not overly fussy about placement, but they can be somewhat frustrating with low-powered speakers. Anything over 50 watts per channel should be sufficient.
where to buy: $499 per pair on Amazon | £249/pair on Amazon.co.uk
Wharfdale Diamond 12.1.2
The Diamond Series receives a facelift every 3-4 years and the new Diamond series 12 It has already proven to be a huge success.
Wharfedale understands that most consumers don’t have a lot of space and are running within a very tight budget when purchasing a hi-fi system.
There are specific brands of electronics that work exceptionally well with Wharfedale amplifiers; Audiolab, Croft, Marantz, Cambridge Audio, Quad, Rega, NAD.
The Wharfedale Diamond 12.1’s are the perfect size for a desktop speaker or placement on a credenza in a home office scenario.
These stand holders are two-way, bass reflex design. The 5-inch bass driver uses a polypropylene/mica composite cone material, and the woofer is a 1-inch textile dome that provides a very smooth top end and excellent dispersion.
where to buy: $449 per pair in Crutchfield | Amazon
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