Written by 1:01 am Audiophile

The 25 Ultimate Audiophile Speakers of All Time

We picked the 25 absolute best audiophile speakers over $5,000. See how your speakers stack up.


No. 25: Quad ESL $2,850 -$7,999/pair
Performance 81
Longevity/Relevance 14
Value 14
Aesthetics 15
Lust 17
Total Score 141
These British electrostatic speakers basically defined the category for many audiophiles. Top speaker engineers are known to own Quad ESL 63s as part of their personal reference systems. Their warm sound and longevity have made them one of the most sought-after speakers ever.
No. 24 – Meyer Sound X10 $51,120/pair
Performance 84
Longevity/Relevance 16
Value 14
Aesthetics 10
Lust 18
Total Score 143
The Meyer Sound X10 is one of the best audiophile loudspeakers that no audiophile has ever heard. This powered, pro audio speaker has more dynamics than any speaker on the list and will make people rethink what a speaker can do. Top studios use these speakers as do people like Stevie Wonder and Hans Zimmer.
No. 23 – RBH T30 – $15,000/pair
Performance 83
Longevity/Relevance 13
Value 15
Aesthetics 19
Lust 14
Total Score 144
These limited edition speakers from “the other speaker company from Utah” provide a big-tower sound with impressive bass, highly respectable audiophile sound and amazing wood finishes, all at a good price.
No. 22 – VonSchweikert VR-4 $5,995/pair
Performance 83
Longevity/Relevance 18
Value 20
Aesthetics 12
Lust 13
Total Score 146
Talk about a speaker company that reinvented itself. Without its Internet direct business model – we don’t think they would have made the list, but the increased value of a lower price point helped these speakers quite a bit.
No. 21 – Avalon Acoustics ISIS $62,000/pair
Performance 84
Longevity/Relevance 16
Value 14
Aesthetics 20
Lust 15
Total Score 149
What a well-balanced loudspeaker system. The Avalon Acoustics ISIS does everything well. In many ways their overall performance reminds us of a Mercedes in that they don’t blow you away with performance alone but the whole package.
No. 20 – THIEL CS 3.7 $12,900 -$13,400/pair
Performance 79
Longevity/Relevance 18
Value 19
Aesthetics 17
Lust 17
Total Score 150
The THIEL CS 3.7 is arguably the best loudspeaker the late Jim Thiel ever designed, which is no doubt how they’ve managed to capture the number 20 spot on our list as well as the hearts of many audiophiles the world over. THIEL CS 3.7 speakers can be hard to drive without a powerful amp but in their sonic window – they sound pretty sweet.
No. 19 Definitive Technology BP7000 $5,700/pair
Performance 83
Longevity/Relevance 20
Value 21
Aesthetics 14
Lust 13
Total Score 151
Sandy Gross’ best speaker design/product at Definitive Technology is without question the BP7000 Super Towers. While their lower price and somewhat drab look don’t scream audiophile – their sound absolutely does – especially in the bass where BP7000s rock in ways many higher price speakers on this list can’t compete with. The BP7000 and the rest of the Super Tower lineup are truly some of the best values in all of high-end audio.
No. 18 – MBL 101 – $70,500/pair
Performance 86
Longevity/Relevance 16
Value 10
Aesthetics 19
Lust 22
Total Score 153
Talk about a dramatic loudspeaker: the German-made MBL 101s are just that, dramatic and a bit over the top. Their omni-directional performance makes for an audio experience that is unlike anything else you will hear in the ultra high-end class of speakers. And when it comes to “Lust Factor” this is why we created the category. You just WANT MBL 101s. Badly.
No. 17 – Magnepan 3.7 – $5,500 -$5,900/pair
Performance 81
Longevity/Relevance 21
Value 22
Aesthetics 12
Lust 18
Total Score 154
The Magnepan 3.7 is the latest version of one of the longest running speakers in audiophile history. In the zone, with the right music and enough power, the Magnepan 3.7s make for a compelling musical experience, one that continually captivates audiophiles in ways few other speakers have.
No. 16 – Revel Performa F52 $6,498/pair
Performance 83
Longevity/Relevance 20
Value 23
Aesthetics 13
Lust 16
Total Score 155
Harman gets a lot of ink for their Revel Ultima Salon line of speakers; however their “butter zone” in their product lineup is in the Performa F52 speakers. With full range performance, excellent cabinetry and top of the line drivers, these speakers bring 90 plus percent of the high-end audiophile experience to the table for a fraction of the price.
No. 15 Dynaudio Evidence Temptation $44,000/pair
Performance 89
Longevity/Relevance 16
Value 22
Aesthetics 19
Lust 18
Total Score 156
Real speakers do best when playing real music and over the years Dynaudio has proven that point. With a high lust factor, these slender speakers whisper sweet nothings into your ears in ways that make you not just want them –but also need them.
No. 14 Sonus Faber Guarneri Memento $15,000/pair
Performance 83
Longevity/Relevance 18
Value 15
Aesthetics 22
Lust 20
Total Score 158
These Italian speakers are one of many in the Sonus Faber line that bring absolutely stunning craftsmanship to the table while never forgetting audiophile performance. So many other speakers do one or the other but rarely does a company get both elements so right. For imaging, these small speakers must be considered some of the very best speakers available.
No. 13 Magico Q5 $59,950/pair
Performance 91
Longevity/Relevance 16
Value 15
Aesthetics 17
Lust 19
Total Score 158
One of the newest players in the high end game, Magico speakers are built internally in ways that make an Audi S8 look flimsy. They are about as heavy as a Wilson Alexandria with a footprint more like a WATT Puppy. Sonically, these speakers are at the top of the heap. Their look isn’t offensive but they don’t have the sex appeal of other speakers in their category. Overall, you ears will thank you for a session with the Magico Q5s. They are one of the very best speakers money can buy today.
No. 12 – Meridian DSP 8000 – $40,000/pair
Performance 87
Longevity/Relevance 17
Value 16
Aesthetics 19
Lust 20
Total Score 159
Talk about speakers ahead of their time – Meridian’s DSP8000s are pretty much an audiophile system inside a speaker cabinet, as they include amps, DACs and more. Custom colors to match your Ferrari, the popsicles in your freezer or anything your heart desires makes wives understand why you need $40,000 imported speakers. Integration with products like Meridian’s Sooloos music server, Meridian’s long-standing 861 preamp and other products yield a high value grade. Ask any audiophile about DSP 8000s and they will tell you that you can’t go wrong.
No. 11- Revel Ultima Salon – $16,000 -$22,000/pair
Performance 88
Longevity/Relevance 17
Value 17
Aesthetics 18
Lust 20
Total Score 160
Harman’s tremendous design resources plus the passion of Kevin Voecks makes for one of the very best audiophile speakers money can by. Unlike many other audiophile brands Revel has kept their prices stable by outsourcing their cabinets to China; however their cutting edge drivers and insightful design make for one hell of a compelling loudspeaker experience.
No. 10 – Bowers and Wilkins Nautilus – $60,000/pair
Performance 90
Longevity/Relevance 15
Value 12
Aesthetics 23
Lust 21
Total Score 161
This game-changing design set the bar for more than a decade of trickle-down speaker designs for Bowers & Wilkins, including speakers that are ranked even higher on this list. Sonically, the Nautilus makes as much of an audio statement as it does a visual one.
No. 9 – MartinLogan CLS $2,490-$6,000/pair
Performance 80
Longevity/Relevance 19
Value 20
Aesthetics 20
Lust 23
Total Score 162
The MartinLogan CLS is the speaker that made the company back in the days when Gayle Sanders was cutting his teeth. This pure electrostatic speaker has no sissy woofer or hybrid design – this is the real deal Holyfield for pure audiophiles who can’t get enough of the electrostatic sound. While the CLS isn’t made any more, it enjoyed a long run with MartinLogan and fanboys still pay big money for nicely conditioned old pairs. MartinLogan can also restore an old pair to modern performance thus making them even more lustworthy even to this day.
No. 8 Canton Reference 3.2 DC $16,000/pair
Performance 89
Longevity/Relevance 18
Value 17
Aesthetics 21
Lust 20
Total Score 165
Germany’s largest loudspeaker company, Canton, rocks peoples’ worlds with their Reference 3.2 DC. Like the Avalon earlier on the list, the Canton 3.2 DC is an extremely well balanced speaker and its ratings on this list show that. Excellent audio performance should be expected from a speaker coming in at number eight on the list but they do all of the little things too, including beautiful finishes, strong value and high relevancy.
No. 7 Paradigm Reference Signature S8 $5,400-$6,000/pair
Performance 87
Longevity/Relevance 22
Value 24
Aesthetics 18
Lust 16
Total Score 166
When it comes to audiophile grade floorstanding loudspeakers, names like Revel, Wilson Audio and Bowers & Wilkins are often dropped – but at one third the price, the Paradigm Reference Signature S8s hang right in there with the 800s and WATT Puppies of the world. While the S8s might not pack the “audiophile mystique” of speakers costing three times the price – they have the performance. For those looking for no-holds-barred performance from a slim, gorgeous speaker that won’t ruin your IRA – take a serious look at the Paradigm S8s.
No. 6 Wisdom Audio Sage Series Varies
Performance 91
Longevity/Relevance 18
Value 16
Aesthetics 21
Lust 20
Total Score 166
Oh yes we did. We put an in-wall speaker system on the list. Wisdom Audio deserves it as they are making a serious run at the likes of Wilson Audio, Bowers & Wilkins and others with their line of in-wall speakers. No speaker on this list is better on WAF (wife acceptance factor) than the Wisdom Audio Sage Series. We know a few dealers that would make the argument that there might not be a better sounding speaker on the list – period.
No. 5 Wilson Audio MAXX – $68,000/pair
Performance 97
Longevity/Relevance 12
Value 13
Aesthetics 22
Lust 25
Total Score 169
Wilson Audio is the darling of audiophile speakers and their MAXX speakers get special attention as they woo tube lovers with their high sensitivity. The move from MAXX 2s to MAXX 3s was an ugly one that drove the price up and ended the physical upgrade path but with that said, if you have the room and the budget, Wilson Audio MAXX speakers are a true experience. How do you do better than a WATT Puppy or Sasha W/P? The answer is easy – buy a pair of Wilson MAXX.
No. 4 Wilson Audio Alexandria/Grand SLAMM $158,000/pair
Performance 100
Longevity/Relevance 12
Value 11
Aesthetics 22
Lust 25
Total Score 170
Wilson’s current flagship speaker is the Alexandria 2 and is a statement in every sense of the word, for no other speaker on our list scored 100 for performance. The ability to adjust and tweak these custom finished monolithic speakers makes them the ultimate goal for any audiophile (note, the 25 for lust). We would have gone higher if we could.
No. 3 JM Labs – Focal Grand Utopia $180,000/pair
Performance 95
Longevity/Relevance 18
Value 15
Aesthetics 21
Lust 22
Total Score 171
Possibly the most aesthetically pleasing speaker on the list, the French-made Grand Utopias are nothing short of breathtaking when it comes to audiophile speakers. Professional mastering labs use these reference level speakers on the best recordings made today, while audiophiles dream of the day when a speaker such as this will grace their listening rooms. These speakers are beyond good … They are truly special.
No. 2 Bowers & Wilkins 800 Series Diamond $24,000/pair
Performance 90
Longevity/Relevance 21
Value 19
Aesthetics 21
Lust 21
Total Score 172
No speaker may have done better with relevance and longevity than Bowers & Wilkins’ 800 Series. For more than two decades this speaker has been the reference for studios like Abbey Road as well as a staple for audiophile reviewers and music enthusiasts alike. We talked about balance earlier on the list but no speaker does it better than the Bowers & Wilkins 800s. Overall, you simply cannot go wrong with these speakers.
No. 1 Wilson Audio WATT Puppy Sasha W/P $26,950/pair
Performance 91
Longevity/Relevance 21
Value 21
Aesthetics 21
Lust 21
Total Score 175
And the winner is… The Wilson Audio WATT Puppy (now called the Sasha W/P). While the price has nearly tripled since its launch in the late 1980s, this Wilson Audio icon has undoubtedly become the face of high-end loudspeakers within the audiophile community. Their custom finishes are stunning. Their compact footprint makes them as relevant in luxury homes as they are in audiophile listening rooms. They can easily and convincingly pull double duty as home theater speakers too. The biggest reason the Wilson Audio Sasha W/P (WATT Puppy) speakers came in at number one on the AudiophileReview.com list is because dollar for dollar in the world of expensive speakers – you just can’t do better even if you can spend more.

The editors of AudiophileReview.com recently sat down for a classic debate over what are truly the best, ultimate level loudspeakers of all-time. Everyone has their cross to bear in an argument like this. Some love electrostats. Others love hulking tower loudspeakers. Some remember game-changing speakers from the past while others gravitate towards the latest, cutting edge speaker technology. In the end one speaker had to win.

The Rules
We agreed to a format for voting that takes a “Sabremetric” (the Bill James-created science behind baseball and inspiration for the book Moneyball) look at the topic so that we would vote with more accuracy than judging upon pure emotion, passion and reputation.

We created five weighted categories to judge speakers including:
Performance 100 total points max
Longevity/Relevance 25 points max
Value 25 points max
Aesthetics 25 points max
Lust Factor 25 points max

Total 200 points maximum

* Ties are settled by highest score in Performance, Longevity-Relevance, Value, Aesthetics and Lust Factor (in that order).

Performance is easy to understand. The highest performing speakers would get the highest grade of 100 points.  Longevity/Relevance is a topic about how meaningful a speaker is in the marketplace and how long it has been a relevant speaker for those seeking top-level audiophile speaker performance. Some speakers have been around for years but are getting a bit long in the tooth, whereas others had/have a long run but are still highly relevant, thus earning a higher grade. Others have specific applications that make them uniquely relevant.

Value is a funny topic when you talk about speakers costing $5,000 and above; however some speakers are a better deal than others. Some speakers that perform very well also cost more than the GDP of a small nation. Some speakers hold their value when others drop 50 plus percent the day you buy them. The better the value for the speaker the better the grade in this category.

Aesthetics is a key vote as anybody who tells you speakers are all about sound and not about design have no idea what they are talking about. At these prices you deserve to get it all; however some of the speakers on this list are just plain ugly. Others are fantastically designed, finished and appointed and those speakers are the ones who get the highest grade for this category.

Lust is the most ambiguous category and likely the biggest wild card. There was more than one occasion when a speaker got medium to poor grades across the board. But when it came to the question of “How badly do you want to own this speaker?” its score suddenly changed. Other speakers could do well in every category but when it came to lust – there was just nothing there. In many ways, this was the most fun category.

We created a basic list of speakers at $5,000 and above for consideration and put the list out for external recommendations. We ended up with 45 qualified contenders that in many ways represent the elite best loudspeakers ever made. Then we voted, argued and then voted again. And again. This was the process we used in order to come to our final, 25 Best Expensive Audiophile Speakers of All Time list.

The Winners
Ever speaker on this list is a winner. They are excellent at one or more elements, thus have a place in audiophile history – but only one speaker can win and you will have to count down the 25 best speakers in our slide show to see who wins. Then you can see the runners-up after that.

We encourage you to be part of our experiment in several ways:

• Download our spreadsheet here (link) and vote like us and use Facebook to post the results in the comments below.

• Vote on each slide on a scale of 1 to 10 as to how good a pick you think each speaker is.

• Comment on the overall list, the voting, your list of winners, and speakers you think should be on the list that weren’t considered and more.

The goal here wasn’t to pick a single winner (though we did) but to engage you, the reader, to really get down to thinking about what are the best expensive speakers of all time. It’s a fascinating debate when you get involved and you are invited to be part of the discussion right here on AudiophileReview.com.

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