December 11, 2023
At three different price points.
2023 has witnessed a notable surge in turntables and amplifiers embracing advanced Bluetooth and streaming capabilities, and speakers have followed suit.
Manufacturers this year have delivered wireless speakers with a range of features. High-end wireless functionality has transformed the speaker market, extending digital connectivity to analogue setups, while features such as Wi-Fi, built-in streaming, and versatile inputs are increasingly common. Arguably, this has led to a market oversaturation, with speakers that may appear impressive but fall short on quality.
Some manufacturers have either adhered to a more traditional approach with fewer integrated features or surpassed expectations by offering a blend of high-quality sound and wireless capabilities—perfect for any record setup.
Speakers are categorized into two types: active/powered and passive. Active speakers, powered through an outlet, are the most plug-and-play friendly, with built-in features like Bluetooth and wireless connectivity. Passive speakers draw sound and power from a stereo amp/receiver and require an external amplifier for functionality. Despite this distinction, both speaker systems generally provide comparable audio quality at similar price points.
For prospective buyers, we recommend experiencing speakers in person or meticulously verifying online descriptions before making a purchase. While it was challenging to narrow down our three favourite speakers from this year, below, we delve into our selected favourites that not only sound exceptional but also warrant the upgrade. Don’t forget to consider the features that best suit your individual system preferences when picking a speaker.
Pros: Compact design, Bluetooth 5.0
Cons: Stands and subwoofers come at an extra expense, impacting the overall budget
Verdict: The Kanto ORA desktop speakers provide a compact and customizable audio solution with diverse connectivity. While optional extras add cost, the overall versatility and sound quality justify the investment.
Perfect for home studios, vinyl listening sessions and whatever fun you’re up to. These cuties, with their optional stands for that perfect pose, are all about giving your desk a musical makeover. They’re like the Swiss Army knife of speakers–Bluetooth 5.0, analogue RCA, USB-C—pick your play style! Pumping 50W of pure joy, they’ll hit you with highs so clear they’ll rival your morning alarm and bass that’s like a friendly hug.
Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3
Pros: Enhanced design, powerful bass
Cons: Needs a compatible amplifier and dedicated stands for optimal performance
Verdict: The Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3 speakers impress with refined sound, enhanced bass, and advanced technology. While somewhat reserved, they offer a mature listening experience for enthusiasts.
Bowers & Wilkins unveils the 606 S3, the top standmounter in the 600 Series 3 range. Despite a familiar external look, the larger footprint and titanium tweeter bring notable improvements. Incorporating technologies from the 700 S3 series, the speakers boast a cleaner, more open sound with minimal distortion. The enhanced mid/bass driver and deeper cabinet deliver powerful bass, creating a wider soundstage. Though not as immediately charming as the 607 S3, the 606 S3 offers a mature, level-headed performance. With careful pairing and proper setup, these speakers shine, proving to be a significant upgrade over their predecessors.
KEF R3 Meta
Pros: MAT Technology, Uni-Q Driver Array, refined design
Verdict: The KEF R3 Meta impresses with MAT technology, maintaining KEF’s high standards. Minimal design changes, but the refined Uni-Q array delivers transparent and dynamic sound, justifying the upgrade
The KEF R3 Meta speakers, incorporating Metamaterial Absorption Technology, elevate audio clarity. With a familiar design, including the iconic Uni-Q driver array, the refined speakers maintain KEF’s high standards. MAT’s impact is notable, reducing distortion and enhancing highs. The three-way design and precise modifications offer transparency and dynamic sound. Setup is straightforward, and compatibility with various systems ensures versatility. The speakers deliver an open soundstage, revealing intricate details in diverse genres. The integration of MAT and the Uni-Q array results in a musically cohesive performance, offering both refinement and playfulness. The R3 Meta stands out as a versatile and enjoyable audio solution.