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Passive Speaker Recommendations for USA (by @sweetchaos)

sweetchaos

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I'm constantly asked which speakers to purchase...so, here you go! :D

This guide is for PASSIVE speakers. For ACTIVE speakers go here.

What market are these recommendations for?
USA, with USD prices listed below

Does this include discontinued speakers?
No, since i'm only counting speakers that are currently sold at major retailers/resellers in the US.

What is the preference score?
The preference score (introduced by Sean Olive) (also sometimes called "Olive score") is the best science-based representation we have on how to classify whether a speaker (either active or passive) is preferred or not. A more neutral speaker will get the best preference score, and will likely win in a blind listening test, comparing two speakers. You can read about it here.

What are the limitations of the preference score?
1. Distortion handling
Amir and Erin talk about this in their reviews, so you can take a look there.
Distortion handling of a loudspeaker is usually secondary to frequency response. Meaning, a great frequency response and poor distortion handling speaker will still be preferred over a poor frequency response speaker with great distortion handling. A great example of this is the fact that JBL 305P/306P/308P MKII speakers have higher-than-normal distortion, but because of their relatively neutral frequency response, a lot of people still enjoy them.
2. Loudness handling
Amir and Erin talk about this in their reviews, so you can take a look there.
In terms of loudness handling, I've made a few notes to speakers below.
3. Your own preference for wide or narrow directivity
In terms of directivity, I haven't added this information below, but I could if enough people show interest.

Accuracy of data:
There are a few speakers in this list that weren't measured using Klippel NFS (that Amir and Erin have), which provides very accurate spinorama. A less accurate (in terms of resolution) spinorama can be made using quasi-anechoic methods as described in this post.
If you see * => We have quasi-anechoic spinorama or similar, but the speaker wasn't measured using Klippel NFS.

Are you biased in any way?
I purchased PSB Imagine X series of speakers before joining ASR. Read into that what you will.

How did you make this list?
I looked at all the speaker spinorama that we have and their computed preference score and compiled this list.
I also mention a few speakers of note, and talk about which speakers to avoid at a certain price point, based on my own understanding.

What is the limitation of this guide?
Blind reliance on measurements can be misleading ‐ one needs to tie those measurements back to subjective perception. Amir and Erin both give their overall opinion on speakers, so feel free to read the written reviews.

What am I showing?
Top 3 speakers in terms of preference score, plus other worthy picks.

Potential further improvements:
- Add speakers recommendations that ignore the bass output, and assume you're going to get a subwoofer to extend the bass down to 20hz. Is this interesting?

Exclusions:
I didn't include DIY type speakers (where you buy the kit, install it yourself, and paint the speaker). Instead, only speakers you can purchase from major retailers/resellers in US.

Do you need an amplifier with these?
Yes, since the speakers are passive.

What's the difference between 2-way and 3-way center channel?
Read my explanation here.

Assumptions:
I'm going to assume these JBL 4367 and similar speakers are "towers" and not "bookshelves"

Limitation of preference score?
Flipflop: "Using vendor data is not just a problem because of potential credibility issues, but also because some of the data, like the R152 spin, uses a higher amount of smoothing, which results in lower NBD_ON and NBD_PIR values, which in turns result in an artificially increased predicted preference score."

PASSIVE BOOKSHELF SPEAKERS:
1637452533537.png

This is the Kef R3, the best measuring passive bookshelf speaker.


LEGEND:
ValueDescription
#1Best rated-speaker in terms of preference score.
#22nd best-rated speaker in terms of preference score.
#33rd best-rated speaker in terms of preference score.
WorthyWorthy picks that either Erin or Amir measured and recommended. Plus a few models that weren't measured but still for consideration, since we can predict will be good, based on similar model's measurements.
PSPreference Score (with no subwoofer added). Value can be negative (for really badly designed speakers) and goes up to a 10 (theoretical limit). Higher is better.
LFXLow Frequency Extension (in hz). This is the bass output at -6db point. This was computed, not estimated. Lower is better.
*We have quasi-anechoic spinorama or similar. However, this speaker wasn't measured using Klippel NFS (that Amir and Erin have), so it's resolution is less accurate. Warning: This will artificially boost the preference score higher than if the same speaker was measured using NFS.


UPCOMING REVIEWS (announced):
SpeakerCostReviewer
Arendal Sound 1961 (tower)Erin
Jamo speaker (bookshelf or tower)??Amir
Monoprice Encore T6 Tower$400/eaErin
Monoprice Encore C6 Center$250/eaErin
Sony SS-CS3 (tower)$110/eaAmir
Revel M8 SP2 (on-wall bookshelf)$600/pairAmir

------

Bookshelves Under US$100/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Dayton Audio MK402X (Amir)3.751

Bookshelves Under US$150/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Polk Audio XT15 (Erin)4.360
#2Dayton Audio MK402X (Amir)3.751

Bookshelves Under US$250/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Emotiva Airmotiv B1+ (Amir) (Erin)5.254
#2Polk Audio XT20 (Erin)4.448
#3Polk Audio XT15 (Erin)4.360

Bookshelves Under US$350/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Infinity R1525.3*52*
#2Emotiva Airmotiv B1+ (Amir) (Erin)5.254
#3Polk Audio XT20 (Erin)4.448

Bookshelves Under US$450/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 (Amir)5.451
#2Infinity R1525.3*52*
#3Emotiva Airmotiv B1+ (Amir) (Erin)5.254

Bookshelves Under US$600/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1JBL Studio 530 (Amir)5.441
#2Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 (Amir)5.451
#3Infinity R1525.3*52*

Bookshelves Under US$650/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Polk R100 (Erin)5.652
#2JBL Studio 530 (Amir)5.441
#3Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 (Amir)5.451

Bookshelves Under US$700/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Elac Debut Reference DBR-62 (Amir)5.843
#2Elac Uni-Fi 2.0 UB52 (Amir)5.641
#3Polk R100 (Erin)5.652
WorthyArendal Sound 1961 Bookshelf (Erin)4.468

Bookshelves Under US$750/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Polk R2006.3*42*
#2Elac Debut Reference DBR-62 (Amir)5.843
#3Kef Q350 (Amir)5.738
WorthyArendal Sound 1961 Bookshelf (Erin)4.468

Bookshelves Under US$1000/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Polk R2006.3*42*
#2Elac Debut Reference DBR-62 (Amir)5.843
#3Kef Q350 (Amir)5.738
WorthyRevel M16 (Amir)5.645
WorthyArendal Sound 1961 Bookshelf (Erin)4.468

Bookshelves Under US$1600/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Polk R2006.3*42*
#2Elac Debut Reference DBR-62 (Amir)5.843
#3Kef Q350 (Amir)5.738
WorthyKef LS50 Meta (Amir)5.743
WorthyRevel M16 (Amir)5.645
WorthyArendal Sound 1961 Bookshelf (Erin)4.468

Bookshelves Under US$1650/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Polk R2006.3*42*
#2Elac Debut Reference DBR-62 (Amir)5.843
#3Revel M105 (Amir)5.851
WorthyKef LS50 Meta (Amir)5.743
WorthyRevel M16 (Amir)5.645
WorthyArendal Sound 1961 Bookshelf (Erin)4.468

Bookshelves Under US$1700/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Kef R3 (Amir) (Erin)6.535
#2Polk R2006.3*42*
#3Elac Debut Reference DBR-62 (Amir)5.843
WorthyRevel M105 (Amir)5.851
WorthyKef LS50 Meta (Amir)5.743
WorthyRevel M16 (Amir)5.645
WorthyPhilharmonic BMR (Erin)5.146
WorthyArendal Sound 1961 Bookshelf (Erin)4.468

Bookshelves Under US$1800/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Kef R3 (Amir) (Erin)6.535
#2Polk R2006.3*42*
#3Elac Debut Reference DBR-62 (Amir)5.843
WorthyRevel M105 (Amir)5.851
WorthyJBL HDI-1600 (Amir)5.838
WorthyKef LS50 Meta (Amir)5.743
WorthyRevel M16 (Amir)5.645
WorthyPhilharmonic BMR (Erin)5.146
WorthyArendal Sound 1961 Bookshelf (Erin)4.468

Bookshelves Under US$2200/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Kef R3 (Amir) (Erin)6.535
#2Polk R2006.3*42*
#3Elac Debut Reference DBR-62 (Amir)5.843
WorthyRevel M105 (Amir)5.851
WorthyRevel M106 (Amir)5.846
WorthyJBL HDI-1600 (Amir)5.838
WorthyKef LS50 Meta (Amir)5.743
WorthyRevel M16 (Amir)5.645
WorthyPhilharmonic BMR (Erin)5.146
WorthyArendal Sound 1961 Bookshelf (Erin)4.468

Bookshelves Under US$4000/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1March Audio Sointuva (Erin)6.933
#2Kef R3 (Amir) (Erin)6.535
#3Polk R2006.3*42*
WorthyRevel M126Be5.9*47*
WorthyRevel M105 (Amir)5.851
WorthyRevel M106 (Amir)5.846
WorthyJBL HDI-1600 (Amir)5.838
WorthyElac Debut Reference DBR-62 (Amir)5.843
WorthyKef LS50 Meta (Amir)5.743
WorthyRevel M16 (Amir)5.645
WorthyPhilharmonic BMR (Erin)5.146
WorthyArendal Sound 1961 Bookshelf (Erin)4.468

Bookshelves Under US$4400/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1March Audio Sointuva (Erin)6.933
#2Kef R3 (Amir) (Erin)6.535
#3Polk R2006.3*42*
WorthyRevel M126Be5.9*47*
WorthyRevel M105 (Amir)5.851
WorthyRevel M106 (Amir)5.846
WorthyJBL HDI-1600 (Amir)5.838
WorthyElac Debut Reference DBR-62 (Amir)5.843
WorthyKef LS50 Meta (Amir)5.743
WorthyRevel M16 (Amir)5.645
WorthyPhilharmonic BMR (Erin)5.146
WorthyArendal Sound 1961 Bookshelf (Erin)4.468

Bookshelves Under US$7000/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1March Audio Sointuva (Erin)6.933
#2Kef R3 (Amir) (Erin)6.535
#3Polk R2006.3*42*
WorthyRevel M126Be5.9*47*
WorthyRevel M105 (Amir)5.851
WorthyRevel M106 (Amir)5.846
WorthyJBL HDI-1600 (Amir)5.838
WorthyElac Debut Reference DBR-62 (Amir)5.843
WorthyKef LS50 Meta (Amir)5.743
WorthyRevel M16 (Amir)5.645
WorthyPhilharmonic BMR (Erin)5.146
WorthyArendal Sound 1961 Bookshelf (Erin)4.468
WorthyRevel Ultima2 Gem2****
** No spinorama for Revel Ultima2 Gem2. I'm including it because we have multiple Revel bookshelf speakers (M16, M105, M106, M126Be) spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these will be good.

Bookshelves Under US$8000/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1March Audio Sointuva (Erin)6.933
#2Kef R3 (Amir) (Erin)6.535
#3Polk R2006.3*42*
WorthyRevel M126Be5.9*47*
WorthyRevel M105 (Amir)5.851
WorthyRevel M106 (Amir)5.846
WorthyJBL HDI-1600 (Amir)5.838
WorthyElac Debut Reference DBR-62 (Amir)5.843
WorthyKef LS50 Meta (Amir)5.743
WorthyRevel M16 (Amir)5.645
WorthyPerlisten s4b (Erin)5.458
WorthyPhilharmonic BMR (Erin)5.146
WorthyArendal Sound 1961 Bookshelf (Erin)4.468
WorthyRevel Ultima2 Gem2****
** No spinorama for Revel Ultima2 Gem2. I'm including it because we have multiple Revel bookshelf speakers (M16, M105, M106, M126Be) spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these will be good.

End of Bookshelves
---------------------------------------------

PASSIVE TOWER / FLOORSTANDER SPEAKERS:
1637449018341.png

This is the Kef Reference 5, the best measuring passive tower speaker.

Towers Under US$300/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Polk Audio T50 (Amir)3.941

Towers Under US$500/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Polk XT60 (Erin)4.939
#2Polk Audio T50 (Amir)3.941

Towers Under US$700/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Polk XT70 (Erin)4.939
#2Polk XT60 (Erin)4.939
#3Polk Audio T50 (Amir)3.941

Towers Under US$800/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Infinity R253 (Amir)4.938
#2Polk XT70 (Erin)4.939
#3Polk XT60 (Erin)4.939

Towers Under US$1000/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Infinity R2636.0*32*
#2Emotiva Airmotiv T2+ (Erin)5.832
#3Infinity R253 (Amir)4.938

Towers Under US$1250/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Infinity R2636.0*32*
#2Emotiva Airmotiv T2+ (Erin)5.832
#3Revel F35 (Amir)5.739

Towers Under US$1550/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Infinity R2636.0*32*
#2Emotiva Airmotiv T2+ (Erin)5.832
#3Revel F35 (Amir)5.739
WorthyRevel F36****
** No spinorama for Revel F36. I'm including it because we have multiple Revel tower speakers (F35, F226Be, F228Be, F206, F208, Ultima2 Studio2) spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these will be good.

Towers Under US$2000/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Infinity R2636.0*32*
#2Emotiva Airmotiv T2+ (Erin)5.832
#3Revel F35 (Amir)5.739
WorthyJBL 4309 (Amir)3.841
WorthyRevel F36****
** No spinorama for Revel F36. I'm including it because we have multiple Revel tower speakers (F35, F226Be, F228Be, F206, F208, Ultima2 Studio2) spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these will be good.

Towers Under US$2600/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Infinity R2636.0*32*
#2Kef R5 (Erin)5.933
#3Emotiva Airmotiv T2+ (Erin)5.832
WorthyRevel F35 (Amir)5.739
WorthyJBL 4309 (Amir)3.841
WorthyRevel F36****
** No spinorama for Revel F36. I'm including it because we have multiple Revel tower speakers (F35, F226Be, F228Be, F206, F208, Ultima2 Studio2) spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these will be good.

Towers Under US$3600/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Revel F2066.4*36*
#2Infinity R2636.0*32*
#3Kef R5 (Erin)5.933
WorthyRevel F35 (Amir)5.739
WorthyJBL 4309 (Amir)3.841
WorthyKef R7****
WorthyRevel F36****
** No spinorama for Kef R7. I'm including it because we have Kef R3, R5 spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these are better.
** No spinorama for Revel F36. I'm including it because we have multiple Revel tower speakers (F35, F226Be, F228Be, F206, F208, Ultima2 Studio2) spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these will be good.

Towers Under US$3850/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Revel F2066.4*36*
#2Infinity R2636.0*32*
#3Kef R5 (Erin)5.933
WorthyRevel F35 (Amir)5.739
WorthyJBL 4309 (Amir)3.841
WorthyKef R7****
WorthyRevel F36****
** No spinorama for Kef R7. I'm including it because we have Kef R3, R5 spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these are better.
** No spinorama for Revel F36. I'm including it because we have multiple Revel tower speakers (F35, F226Be, F228Be, F206, F208, Ultima2 Studio2) spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these will be good.

Towers Under US$4800/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Revel F2066.4*36*
#2Infinity R2636.0*32*
#3Kef R5 (Erin)5.933
WorthyRevel F35 (Amir)5.739
WorthyJBL 4309 (Amir)3.841
WorthyKef R7****
WorthyKef R11****
WorthyRevel F36****
** No spinorama for Kef R7. I'm including it because we have Kef R3, R5 spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these are better.
** No spinorama for Kef R11. I'm including it because we have Kef R3, R5 spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these are better.
** No spinorama for Revel F36. I'm including it because we have multiple Revel tower speakers (F35, F226Be, F228Be, F206, F208, Ultima2 Studio2) spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these will be good.

Towers Under US$5500/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Revel F208 (Amir)6.726
#2Revel F2066.4*36*
#3Infinity R2636.0*32*
WorthyKef R5 (Erin)5.933
WorthyRevel F35 (Amir)5.739
WorthyJBL 4309 (Amir)3.841
WorthyKef R7****
WorthyKef R11****
WorthyRevel F36****
** No spinorama for Kef R7. I'm including it because we have Kef R3, R5 spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these are better.
** No spinorama for Kef R11. I'm including it because we have Kef R3, R5 spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these are better.
** No spinorama for Revel F36. I'm including it because we have multiple Revel tower speakers (F35, F226Be, F228Be, F206, F208, Ultima2 Studio2) spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these will be good.

Towers Under US$7700/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Revel F208 (Amir)6.726
#2Revel F2066.4*36*
#3Revel F226Be (Erin)6.043
WorthyKef R5 (Erin)5.933
WorthyRevel F35 (Amir)5.739
WorthyJBL 4309 (Amir)3.841
WorthyKef R7****
WorthyKef R11****
WorthyRevel F36****
** No spinorama for Kef R7. I'm including it because we have Kef R3, R5 spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these are better.
** No spinorama for Kef R11. I'm including it because we have Kef R3, R5 spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these are better.
** No spinorama for Revel F36. I'm including it because we have multiple Revel tower speakers (F35, F226Be, F228Be, F206, F208, Ultima2 Studio2) spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these will be good.

Towers Under US$11,000/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Revel F208 (Amir)6.726
#2Revel F2066.4*36*
#3Revel F228Be (Amir)6.230
WorthyRevel F226Be (Erin)6.043
WorthyKef R5 (Erin)5.933
WorthyRevel F35 (Amir)5.739
WorthyJBL 4309 (Amir)3.841
WorthyKef R7****
WorthyKef R11****
WorthyRevel F36****
** No spinorama for Kef R7. I'm including it because we have Kef R3, R5 spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these are better.
** No spinorama for Kef R11. I'm including it because we have Kef R3, R5 spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these are better.
** No spinorama for Revel F36. I'm including it because we have multiple Revel tower speakers (F35, F226Be, F228Be, F206, F208, Ultima2 Studio2) spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these will be good.

Towers Under US$16,000/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Revel F208 (Amir)6.726
#2Revel Ultima2 Studio26.5*24*
#3Revel F2066.4*36*
WorthyRevel F228Be (Amir)6.230
WorthyRevel F226Be (Erin)6.043
WorthyKef R5 (Erin)5.933
WorthyRevel F35 (Amir)5.739
WorthyJBL 4309 (Amir)3.841
WorthyKef R7****
WorthyKef R11****
WorthyRevel F36****
** No spinorama for Kef R7. I'm including it because we have Kef R3, R5 spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these are better.
** No spinorama for Kef R11. I'm including it because we have Kef R3, R5 spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these are better.
** No spinorama for Revel F36. I'm including it because we have multiple Revel tower speakers (F35, F226Be, F228Be, F206, F208, Ultima2 Studio2) spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these will be good.

Towers Under US$16,500/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Revel F208 (Amir)6.726
#2JBL 43676.6*34*
#3Revel Ultima2 Studio26.5*24*
WorthyRevel F2066.4*36*
WorthyRevel F228Be (Amir)6.230
WorthyRevel F226Be (Erin)6.043
WorthyKef R5 (Erin)5.933
WorthyRevel F35 (Amir)5.739
WorthyJBL 4309 (Amir)3.841
WorthyKef R7****
WorthyKef R11****
WorthyRevel F36****
** No spinorama for Kef R7. I'm including it because we have Kef R3, R5 spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these are better.
** No spinorama for Kef R11. I'm including it because we have Kef R3, R5 spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these are better.
** No spinorama for Revel F36. I'm including it because we have multiple Revel tower speakers (F35, F226Be, F228Be, F206, F208, Ultima2 Studio2) spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these will be good.

Towers Under US$17,600/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Revel F208 (Amir)6.726
#2Revel F328Be (Amir)6.629
#3JBL 43676.6*34*
WorthyRevel Ultima2 Studio26.5*24*
WorthyRevel F2066.4*36*
WorthyRevel F228Be (Amir)6.230
WorthyRevel F226Be (Erin)6.043
WorthyKef R5 (Erin)5.933
WorthyRevel F35 (Amir)5.739
WorthyJBL 4309 (Amir)3.841
WorthyKef R7****
WorthyKef R11****
WorthyRevel F36****
** No spinorama for Kef R7. I'm including it because we have Kef R3, R5 spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these are better.
** No spinorama for Kef R11. I'm including it because we have Kef R3, R5 spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these are better.
** No spinorama for Revel F36. I'm including it because we have multiple Revel tower speakers (F35, F226Be, F228Be, F206, F208, Ultima2 Studio2) spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these will be good.

Towers Under US$20,000/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Kef Reference 57.6*23*
#2Revel F208 (Amir)6.726
#3Revel F328Be (Amir)6.629
WorthyRevel Ultima2 Studio26.5*24*
WorthyRevel F2066.4*36*
WorthyRevel F228Be (Amir)6.230
WorthyRevel F226Be (Erin)6.043
WorthyKef R5 (Erin)5.933
WorthyRevel F35 (Amir)5.739
WorthyJBL 4309 (Amir)3.841
WorthyRevel F36****
WorthyKef R7****
WorthyKef R11****
** No spinorama for Revel F36. I'm including it because we have multiple Revel tower speakers (F35, F226Be, F228Be, F206, F208, Ultima2 Studio2) spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these will be good.
** No spinorama for Kef R7. I'm including it because we have Kef R3, R5 spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these are better.
** No spinorama for Kef R11. I'm including it because we have Kef R3, R5 spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these are better.

Towers Under US$25,000/pair:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Kef Reference 57.6*23*
#2Revel F208 (Amir)6.726
#3Revel F328Be (Amir)6.629
WorthyRevel Ultima2 Studio26.5*24*
WorthyRevel F2066.4*36*
WorthyRevel Ultima2 Salon26.3*23*
WorthyRevel F228Be (Amir)6.230
WorthyRevel F226Be (Erin)6.043
WorthyKef R5 (Erin)5.933
WorthyRevel F35 (Amir)5.739
WorthyJBL 4309 (Amir)3.841
WorthyRevel F36****
WorthyKef R7****
WorthyKef R11****
** No spinorama for Revel F36. I'm including it because we have multiple Revel tower speakers (F35, F226Be, F228Be, F206, F208, Ultima2 Studio2) spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these will be good.
** No spinorama for Kef R7. I'm including it because we have Kef R3, R5 spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these are better.
** No spinorama for Kef R11. I'm including it because we have Kef R3, R5 spinorama already, so it's not a stretch to imagine these are better.

End of Towers
---------------------------------------------

PASSIVE CENTER-CHANNEL SPEAKERS:




2-way vs 3-way:
2-way center designs will have terrible horizontal directivity (beyond +-15degrees off-axis to tweeter), meaning anyone else sitting on the couch next to you will have a bad time, while you're having a good time. In other words, a 2-way center channel is for the money seat, directly in front of the tweeter. If you have multiple people listening, get a 3-way center instead, which won't have these narrow horizontal directivity issues.

Example of a 2-way center channel:
The Revel C25 clearly shows the limitation of a 2-way center channel, with narrow +-15 deg horizontal window where the sound power is within +-6db. This makes 2-way center channel ideal for the "main listening position" type of setup.
index.php


Example of a 3-way center channel:
The Ascend Horizont center shows +-70 deg horizontal window where the sound power is within +-6db. This makes 3-way center channel ideal for multiple people.
index.php

2-way:
1641239471867.png


2-way Center Under US$200/each:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Ascend CMT-340 SE (Amir)3.564
#2Polk XT30 (Erin)3.455

2-way Center Under US$300/each:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Polk S30 (Amir)3.855
#2Polk XT35 (Erin)3.867
#3Ascend CMT-340 SE (Amir)3.564

2-way Center Under US$350/each:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Infinity RC2525.3*60*
#2Polk S30 (Amir)3.855
#3Polk XT35 (Erin)3.867

2-way Center Under US$600/each:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Infinity RC252 5.3*60*
#2Polk S30 (Amir)3.855
#3Polk R350 (Amir)3.855

2-way Center Under US$825/each:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Infinity RC252 5.3*60*
#2Revel C25 (Amir)4.279
#3Polk S30 (Amir)3.855

2-way Center Under US$1100/each:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Infinity RC2525.3*60*
#2Revel C2054.7*60*
#3Revel C25 (Amir)4.279
WorthyPolk S30 (Amir)3.855


3-way:
1637480628900.png


3-way Center Under US$500/each:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Elac Uni-Fi 2.0 UC52 (Erin)5.043
#2Infinity RC263 (Amir) (Last time in stock was in Feb 2021, none since)4.761
Honourable MentionMonoprice THX-365C (review by Audioholics)
image_preview2

3-way Center Under US$700/each:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Elac Uni-Fi 2.0 UC52 (Erin)5.043
#2Infinity RC263 (Amir) (Last time in stock was in Feb 2021, none since)4.761
#3Elac Uni-Fi Reference UCR52 (coaxial) (Amir)4.048

3-way Center Under US$1000/each:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Elac Uni-Fi 2.0 UC52 (Erin)5.043
#2Infinity RC263 (Amir) (Last time in stock was in Feb 2021, none since)4.761
#3Kef R2C (coaxial) (Erin)4.264

3-way Center Under US$1600/each:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Ascend Acoustics Horizon Center (Amir)5.446
#2Elac Uni-Fi 2.0 UC52 (Erin)5.043
#3Infinity RC263 (Amir) (Last time in stock was in Feb 2021, none since)4.761
WorthyKef R2C (coaxial) (Erin)4.264

3-way Center Under US$2200/each:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Ascend Acoustics Horizon Center (Amir)5.446
#2Elac Uni-Fi 2.0 UC52 (Erin)5.043
#3Revel C208 (Amir)4.755
WorthyInfinity RC263 (Amir) (Last time in stock was in Feb 2021, none since)4.761
WorthyKef R2C (coaxial) (Erin)4.264

3-way Center Under US$5000/each:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Revel C426Be6.1*36*
#2Ascend Acoustics Horizon Center (Amir)5.446
#3Elac Uni-Fi 2.0 UC52 (Erin)5.043
WorthyRevel C208 (Amir)4.755
WorthyKef R2C (coaxial) (Erin)4.264

3-way Center Under US$7500/each:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Revel C426Be6.1*36*
#2Kef Reference 4C (Amir)6.029
#3Ascend Acoustics Horizon Center (Amir)5.446
WorthyRevel C208 (Amir)4.755
WorthyKef R2C (coaxial) (Erin)4.264

3-way Center Under US$8800/each:
RecommendationPSLFX
#1Revel C426Be6.1*36*
#2Kef Reference 4C (Amir)6.029
#3Ascend Acoustics Horizon Center (Amir)5.446
WorthyRevel Ultima2 Voice25.3*51*
WorthyRevel C208 (Amir)4.755
WorthyKef R2C (coaxial) (Erin)4.264

End of Center Channel.
---------------------------------------------

I hope that helps. :D

Same guide, but for active speakers is here.

Changelog:
- 2021-11-20: Launched
- 2021-11-20: Removed JBL Arena 120, since it seems to be discontinued. I made a mistake adding it originally.
- 2021-11-20: Added links to reviews by Amir and Erin
- 2021-11-20: Added center-channel speakers
- 2021-11-21: Highlighted center speakers that are 2-way in red, this way you can tell them apart from 3-way speakers. Once more 3-way speakers get tested, I'll probably separate into 2 tables (best 2-way and best 3-way).
- 2021-11-21: Completely missed Polk S30. This was due to an error in my pricing spreadsheet. I've added it, and it becomes top pick under $150/ea, $300/ea, and 2nd place under $350/ea
- 2021-11-21: Added Revel M106 to Worthy Picks, under $2200/pair
- 2021-11-22: Added missing worthy picks for towers, bookshelves. Overall, previously "highly recommended" speakers are now carried forward in price brackets. This expands the number of recommendations as you go up in price brackets.
- 2021-11-23: Added Black Friday deal, JBL Studio 530, which becomes #1 pick under US$250/pair.
- Added upcoming reviews
- 2021-11-24: Added Emotiva Airmotiv T2+ (retails for US$1000/pair), reviewed by Erin. PS is 5.8, It's ranked #2 place for <$1000/pair to <$2000/pair, 3rd place <$2600/pair.
- 2021-11-25:
- Removed preference score of lower than 3.0. Below this score, the level of performance is really not up to par with the rest of the speaker recommendations. So we can make this "line in the sand" as a requirement to make it on this list. As we test more speakers, their position will be filled with better performing speakers. In other words, this is mostly a temporary requirement that we can make until more speakers are tested.
- The following budget speakers were removed: 1. Jamo S807 (tower) 2. Micca MB42X Mark III (bookshelf) 3. Dayton Audio B652-AIR (bookshelf) 4. Pioneer SP-EC73 (center)
2022-01-03: Separated 2-way vs 3-way center channels. Added example of use cases for both 2-way and 3-way center channels. Added Revel C25 to list.
2022-01-07: Added March Audio Sointuva
2022-01-16 Fixed Revel F226Be pricing
2022-01-16 Added Monoprice THX-365C as "Honourable Mention" to 3-way centers.
2022-01-16 Added Elac Uni-Fi 2.0 UC52 (Erin)
2022-01-16: Added Polk XT centers and XT towers
2022-01-17: Added Kef Reference 4C
2022-01-18: Added Arendal Sound 1961 Bookshelf
 
Last edited:
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sweetchaos

sweetchaos

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Infinity R263 that has best score for towers under US$2600/pair has recently been on sale for US$400/pair. :eek:
I know right? The Infinity's have crazy value way above their price point.

We need more precise measurements for it though, as the spinorama we have is from Infinity.
I do hope Amir will measure it soon!
 
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sweetchaos

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I think the same is true for the Pioneer SP-BS22-LR. I can only find it from a 3rd party seller on Newegg asking 2x MSRP.
Even though they are overpriced currently (I remember last Christmas they were on sale), you can still buy them from newegg 3rd party.
So I'll leave them here for now.
I'll set up an alert to notify me if they ever go out of stock, so I'll remove them then ;)
 

beaRA

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This is a great resource btw! Such a shame the price of the Neumi BS5 went up $10 so we still have to see that awful Dayton Audio B652-AIR on the list. I understand why you didn't put it there, but it may he useful for people to know that the Sony SSCS5 is often available in that under $100/pair category.
 
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sweetchaos

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Thanks. :D
Yes, a $10 difference would have put the BS5's on #1 spot for under $100/pair category.

Tracking price drops gets time consuming and tedious. I'll try to maintain this list as best as I can, since I have direct links to each speaker, it's just a matter of checking them once in a while and updating this thread.
 
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sweetchaos

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stumper3819

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I know right? The Infinity's have crazy value way above their price point.

We need more precise measurements for it though, as the spinorama we have is from Infinity.
I do hope Amir will measure it soon!
Unfortunately, that line may finally be discontinued. I've been waiting for the 263 center for quite awhile. All 10 speakers are currently showing sold out.
 

tecnogadget

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What would be the R2C PS if you compute it from the WhitePaper data instead of Erin’s measurement ? Im still very suspicious of that 2kHz dip, which doesn’t make sense at all (it really looks like an intruder) and haven’t seen that neither on my in-room measurements of two different samples (speaker placed vertical and horizontally) nor from other users. Great work for pulling out this ranking :).
 
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sweetchaos

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Are you doubting Erin’s measurements? Shocked pikachu face.

Do you mean from here?
No, there’s not enough data to computer the pref score.
 

NYfan2

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I expected that the Philharmonic BMR and BMR tower would also be in the list, is the PS not high enough or are we missing the data to rank them?
 
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Philharmonic BMR has pref score of 5.1 with Lfx of 46. So, it didn’t make the top 3 rank for < $1700/pair.

BMR tower was measured by Audioholics recently, but Audioholics didn’t provide us with the spinorama, so we can’t compute the preference score.
 

flipflop

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I guess it's worth pointing out that the "Preference Score" is the predicted preference score and not an actual preference score gathered from listening tests.
Saying that the "value [ranges] from 1-10" is not entirely correct either. Sure, the speakers recommended in this guide all fall into that interval, but there's no theoretical minimum as we've seen with for example Bose 141 and Magnepan LRS receiving scores below 0. A max score of 10 also assumes a LFX of 14.5 Hz.

Using vendor data is not just a problem because of potential credibility issues, but also because some of the data, like the R152 spin, uses a higher amount of smoothing, which results in lower NBD_ON and NBD_PIR values, which in turns result in an artificially increased predicted preference score.
 
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