Your first speaker purchase should be a quality pair for your desktop. After all, this is where you probably spend most of your time at home. To listen to my desktop, I love it ILoud Micromonitors ($ 350). They are a small couple who sound exceptional for their size and have a surprisingly amazing bass response.
As for the shelf speakers, my favorite pair is the KEF LS50 Wireless II ($ 2,126 per pair). They have the biggest, most detailed sound I’ve ever heard from a pair of speakers their size. The cheapest KEF LSX ($ 950 per pair) The model is also fantastic, as are the KEF LS50 Meta with cable ($ 1,600 per pair).
The KEF and iLoud models I just mentioned are powered. They have built-in amplification and draw their power from a wall outlet, so they can be used without a dedicated amplifier. If you already have an amplifier (or if you plan to buy one), a pair of passive speakers is the best way. These are connected with regular speaker cords and you don’t have to worry about plugging them into the wall.
Some models of passive shelves that I love are the ELAC Debut 2.0 ($ 400 per pair) i JBL 4309 ($ 2,000 per pair). The ELACs are a great entry-level speaker that will easily take you into the territory of hearing aids with the right amplifier, where the 4309 sounds more or less amazing with anything that feeds them. I’m a fan of the fun, energetic sound when I listen to the speakers, and these two models offer that, but with enough detail so you don’t feel like you’re sacrificing anything.
Moving away from the shelves and towards the passive speakers standing, I will highlight two very different models. He Paradigm SE 6000F Monitor ($ 1,000 per pair) they’re a good pair of speakers for those who like things a little more clinical and accurate; they are amazing for classical music, jazz and folk, thanks to their amazing detail. Some audiophiles prefer the narrow type of precision you get from speakers like Paradigms. He Klipsch Forte IV ($ 4,998 per pair) they are more animated. In fact, they are perfectly tuned masterpieces of mid-century inspiration. They come with handmade wooden cabinets and gorgeous horn tweeters, and the 15-inch passive bass radiators on the back of the sealed speakers make them punch deeper and more authoritative than a professional boxer. If you’re looking for the funniest thing you’ve ever heard listening to Hendrix at high volume, speakers like these are the way to go.
Your taste may be different from mine! The best way to find your favorite high-end speakers is to use your ears. Find a local dealer and listen to various models before you buy. As a reference, other brands that make great speakers these days include Yamaha, Bowers & Wilkins, Focal, Bang & Olufsen and Polk Audio, among many other boutique brands.
You’ll never know what a pair of speakers really sound like in your room until you put them in, so try them out at home. Most high-end retailers allow some form of this, but large retailers may not, so check the return policy for anything you buy.
Digital to analog converters
Digital-to-analog (DAC) converters take the digital audio signal from your audio files and convert them to an analog audio signal that you can send (using an amplifier) to your headphones and speakers. Every piece of digital technology you have that includes a headphone jack already has a DAC chip inside, but it’s usually pretty cheap. If you route your signal through a dedicated DAC, one with better components and a higher build quality than your phone or computer, you’ll get more fidelity from your digital files.