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Looking to upgrade your sound? Here are the best speakers so far this year

Paired with high-quality components, the ELAC Uni-Fi UB5 sounds much better than you have any right to expect from a speaker of this size and price.
Paired with high-quality components, the ELAC Uni-Fi UB5 sounds much better than you have any right to expect from a speaker of this size and price. TNS

A great pair of speakers can make an otherwise mediocre audio system sound amazing. And these days you don’t have to empty your bank account to make that happen. Here are four of the best-sounding speakers from CNET.com, which rates personal technology products.

ELAC Uni-Fi UB5

CNET rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 (Outstanding)

The good: The ELAC Uni-Fi UB5 loudspeakers offer the best performance of any speaker we’ve seen for the money. They deliver deep, tight bass; an effortless midrange and sweet highs. The soundstage is wide and unexpectedly deep.

The bad: The speakers’ vinyl finish isn’t all that durable. Low sensitivity and low impedance mean they may require an expensive, high-quality amplifier to sound their best.

The cost: $448.99 to $499.99

The bottom line: Paired with high-quality components, the ELAC Uni-Fi UB5 sounds much better than you have any right to expect from a speaker of this size and price.

LG SH7B

CNET rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 (Outstanding)

The good: The LG SH7B offers excellent performance for the money, particularly for movies. The connectivity on offer is better than most competitors with HDMI, optical, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Streaming options include Google Cast, Spotify and Pandora.

The bad: Adding surrounds is a little ad hoc. If you want to listen to music, a dedicated stereo system will sound better for the money.

The cost: $349.00 to $399.99

The bottom line: The LG SH7B proves how far affordable sound bar/wireless subwoofer systems have come, and sounds equally credible with movies and music.

Emotiva Airmotiv T1

CNET rating: 4.0 stars out of 5 (Excellent)

The good: The Emotiva Airmotiv T1 is a large, affordable three-way speaker featuring high-end appointments including a folded ribbon tweeter. The T1’s sound quality offers close to the holy trinity of sound quality: full punchy bass, expressive midrange and airy highs. The bass response is deep enough to forgo the need for a separate sub in smaller rooms.

The bad: Bulky appearance, utilitarian black finish.

The cost: $349.50

The bottom line: The Emotiva Airmotiv T1’s dynamic sound will appeal to audiophiles on a budget who are hankering for a big-speaker sound for music and home-theater systems.

KEF Q350

CNET rating: 4.0 stars out of 5 (Excellent)

The good: The relatively affordable KEF Q350 speaker sounds good with almost everything, and offers an excellent sense of depth and space in decent recordings. Fit and finish are superb.

The bad: The Q350 doesn’t come with grill covers, but KEF will sell you a pair for extra cost. Competitors such as Klipsch and Elac sound more exciting.

The cost: $649.99 to $650.00

The bottom line: The KEF Q350 bookshelf speaker looks exquisite, and sounds bigger and more expensive than it really is.

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