The Best Option: A Real Stereo
All-in-one wireless speakers have become the audio system of choice for average listeners. But anyone who’s serious enough about music to be reading this magazine will appreciate a real stereo system with separate left and right speakers. A stereo system can create a convincing illusion that the musicians are right there in the room with you, and it’ll also produce more realistic sound than most all-in-one audio systems can. And by the way, it doesn’t necessarily cost more than an all-in-one.
The first thing to consider in a stereo system is the speakers, and the best-known designer of great budget speakers is Andrew Jones. When he worked for Pioneer, Jones designed the SP-BS22-LR speaker, which any audio critic will tell you is the best sound you can get for less than $150. Jones has since moved on to a company called Elac, where he has designed more advanced speakers, including the Debut B4. While I’m hesitant to make blanket recommendations in audio, I haven’t yet heard an Andrew Jones-designed speaker that didn’t impress me, and the models listed above are compact enough to fit into a small room. If you do have more to spend, consider stepping up to Jones’ Elac Uni-Fi B6, which has an even more natural sound than the Debut B4, in part because of an extra driver dedicated only to the midrange.