Bookshelf speakers are the most compact form of hi-fi speakers you can find. We say that even though some of these can be quite large. A good set of bookshelf speakers made by a reputable brand can do a lot towards introducing you to high-quality audio and teaching you the basics of finding a great sound. If this is something that you are looking into at the moment, you are in the right place. We have gone and compiled a list of best bookshelf speakers you can find at the moment. The list isn't too extensive, but it represents a good cross-section of what is currently available.
Our picks are divided into several different price ranges, giving every reader an idea what might work for them regardless of budget. The first portion of this guide is going to be dedicated to our top choices, while later we will talk about home speakers in general. With that said, let's get started.
Top 10 Speakers On The Market
This is a high-end bookshelf speaker made by a brand that goes the whole nine yards for every detail. A set like this one gets you impressive sound, great balance and an overall higher level of audio quality. However, that kind of package comes with an adequate price tag.
The build quality feels robust in a way you won’t always find with a bookshelf speaker, and they feel every bit a premium product. A combination of innovative and classic design tropes, they will blend well into any room without drawing unnecessary attention. With performance which is about as good as you’re likely to get from bookshelf speakers, these are a fantastic choice if you are in the market for a top of the range product.
KEF is one of the few brands who offer complete coaxial solutions in the bookshelf segment of the market. Their entire Q series is dedicated to this. Q300 is the largest of the bunch and packs a pretty heavy punch when it comes to the bass response in particular. On top of that, it looks pretty stylish and rather unique compared to its immediate competition which, when considering the price range, is something of a rarity.
Featuring aluminium brushed bars and a natural wood grain finish, the Q300s are an elegant product through and through. They manage to deliver on the promise of a solid performance that is best suited to people who are interested in customizing their listening experience.
Danish brand DALI defines what clinically accurate engineering and manufacturing can do for the world of high fidelity audio. Zensor 1 won many awards when it first appeared, while it is still among the best in its segment of the market. Compact, stylish and full of balanced power. What else could one ask for?
Whilst the Zensor 1s are not the best choice if you plan to use them in a larger room, they do pack a decent punch considering both their size and price point which makes them a highly competitive option all things considered. With a nuanced, well articulated, and dynamic response across the board and across genres, they are nonetheless a fantastic choice for the majority of consumers.
Andrew Jones is one of the most famous speaker designers in the world. While his work usually costs in the mid five figures range, he occasionally designs an affordable speaker. ELAC's Uni-Fi UB5 is the fruit of one such endeavor. Needless to say, he has managed to pack an incredible amount of performance in an affordable price range.
We do have some reservations about the design of the cabinets themselves which, given their size, can seem to provide a real upper cap on the quality of the sound which they output, but these are fairly standard concerns when it comes to bookshelf speakers. To a certain extent, this just comes with the territory, and the sound stage is certainly good enough to suffice.
Edifier is among the few manufacturers who insist that active speakers can meet the requirements of quality audio. Their S1000DB gives you a mix of both worlds. You get a great sound combined with the type of connectivity and versatility that only a good active set can provide. Needless to say, their speakers are great for all manner of use cases, and will work well across a variety of settings given their form factor.
It came as something of a surprise to discover that these speakers required quite a long burn-in period before achieving their full potential. This is not something we have come across often in bookshelf speakers, but is worth taking into consideration when deciding to pick up Edifier’s latest offering.
ELAC is not the only brand Andrew Jones cooperated with. One of his most affordable heavy hitters sports a Pioneer badge and goes by the name of SP-BS22-LR. These tiny speakers are among the very best in their highly affordable price range. There is so much potential packed into a tiny package that simply works, which is very refreshing to encounter.
We are not huge fans of the aesthetic of these speakers—a very generic, simple, but somehow quite obtrusive presence—, but their overall size means that this won’t be a huge problem within the majority of settings. And given the sheer immersion which these bookshelf speakers are capable of producing, it probably isn’t going to be a deal breaker for most consumers.
MB42X from Micca were designed to offer great value in a segment of the market where there isn't much room for that. This is why Micca packed this speaker with as much raw performance as they possibly could. The result of that effort is a speaker that hits hard and comes with a super affordable price tag.
The MB42Xs are highly sensitive to positioning, which can be a good or a bad thing depending on the variety and number of options you have available to you within whichever room you plan on using the speakers. That said, the performance and build quality are both robust enough to ensure that you get a decent experience as long as you find an acceptable placement.
Those looking for a somewhat balanced, but still capable entry level bookshelf speaker can find a decent solution in Polk Audio's T15. These speakers bring a great bang for the buck, especially to the budget crowd. On top of that, T15 features magnetic shielding as well as front-firing ports, which are both features usually found in more expensive speakers.
The bass response is somewhat lacking compared to other models we have tested in this price range, but the clarity of the overall performance is high enough that some listeners will not be put off by this fact alone. Overall, a decent offering which can output a serious amount of volume which, to many, is at least half of the battle!
Modern affordable loudspeakers offer a decent amount of performance for the money. Getting an entry level set for less than $100 will get you a decent amount of definition as well as power. The main limitation with these speakers is their bass response, which is often lacking due to smaller driver size.
Going one class above the most affordable segment, you run into better balanced and more importantly, more powerful speakers. Right around the $200 price range is where we start seeing first crossovers, which is a pretty significant upgrade for anyone looking to find good response across the range.
A $300 set of bookshelf speakers brings a lot of significant upgrades to the table. First and foremost, we see much better hardware being installed, more effort applied to building cabinets and generally tuning the speaker for performance. You could say that this price range is the sweet spot for decent home speakers.
Right around $500 mark is where we enter the audiophile territory in terms of bookshelf speakers. This is the price range where most brands will use their latest tech combined with top end hardware. Power and output is better as well, while the overall performance is often comparable with much more expensive speakers.
Investing a $1000 in a set of loudspeakers gets you close to the maximum potential this type of speaker can offer. The performance, materials used and general sound of speakers found in this price range will satisfy even the more conservative audiophiles out there. Connect a turntable (click here for turntables reviews) to them for example and just sit back and enjoy the output.
How To Choose Bookshelf Speakers?
Finding a bookshelf speaker that will work for you depends on the specs of the speaker, but also the specs of your room. One of the most prolific misconceptions about high fidelity audio is that bigger is always better. Not only is this notion wrong, but it can actually be pretty detrimental. Every speaker is finely tuned to cover a specific area. Home speakers, in general, are designed for smaller rooms where you will be around 1 or 2 meters away from the speakers. However, that also depends on the model you are looking for.
The very first thing you need to do is define which room in your home are the speakers going to be in. Based on this single piece of information, you will be able to narrow down your choices. Just as going with an underpowered speaker sucks, getting a set of large bookshelf speakers can bring you nothing but frustration.
Once you have figured out space where your speakers are going to work in, next thing you need to define is the application. Are you the type of person who spends a considerable amount of time enjoying music, or do you casually listen to your favorite songs for a few minutes per day? Those who belong to the former category will benefit from higher end speakers. On the other hand, casual users will get a decent performance even out of the more affordable models.
The third application that is often mentioned is music production. This is where a very niche type of speakers are necessary. These are what you call studio monitors, and they are very much different from your average bookshelf model. We at AudioRumble wrote a full guide on the top studio monitors, so if this is something that interests you, we suggest you head on over there.
What Makes A Good Bookshelf Speaker
Defining a good bookshelf speaker isn’t as easy as it sounds and a lot of people would argue that they are a lot harder to come by compared to buying a good soundbar for example. There are numerous factors that need to come together in order for you to experience a good sound. With that said, we know what some of the more important requirements are.
Number of Speakers
No single speaker is capable of authentically representing every portion of any given frequency range. In other words, there is no jack of all trades type of speaker. Instead, different transducers are tasked to handle different portions of the frequency range. The most common configuration of loudspeakers is the two-way design. This means you have a smaller high-frequency tweeter that deals with trebles, and a larger driver that does the rest. Capabilities, build quality and overall nature of these two speakers can define what you’re going to hear.
Frequency range supported by most speakers goes high enough where we as humans are barely able to recognize anything. Problems start when you try to define the lower limit. Those who love a thumping bass will need to find speakers that dig low enough in the bass portion of the range. Otherwise, you will either have to get a subwoofer (click here for our article on the best subwoofers) or deal with a shallow bass.
When you have multiple speakers working at the same time, they often tend to come into conflict with each other. The most common way of this manifesting is when you hear a sudden dip in response at a very specific frequency. Crossovers are devices which are tasked with eliminating these conflicts and giving you as smooth of a transition as possible. Crossovers are borderline necessary if you want to get into high fidelity audio with any seriousness.
Believe it or not, cabinets are often times the most expensive and most complicated part of creating a speaker. You will generally want to have an MDF cabinet at the very least. This material is considered to be the standard in the industry right now and offers great performance. The design of the cabinet matters because this component of the speaker does a lot to shape the output you hear. Cheaper bookshelf speakers will generally come with questionable build quality, which is also something you want to avoid. If you are on a budget, finding a solid cabinet might prove to be the hardest part of selecting your first speakers.
Necessary Additional Equipment
Some loudspeakers are active. In other words, these speakers come with a built-in amplifier, allowing you to just plug them into whatever device holds your music. However, the large majority of bookshelf speakers are passive. That means that a standalone amplifier is necessary in order to power them. When you are choosing your first bookshelf speaker, it is a great practice to budget in some kind of an amplifier as well. It makes life so much easier.
Bookshelf speakers are probably the best way to get into high-quality audio. You don’t have to spend too much money in order to get good performance. Models listed above represent what we consider to be the best choices available across different price ranges. This should give you a good insight about what you can find out there at the moment. No matter which one of them you go with, you are guaranteed to get a good value for your money.