8 Best Bookshelf Speakers Under $500 – Entering The High Performance Territory

The $500 segment of the market is one of the most exciting brackets you can find. This is where some of the best bookshelf speakers can be found, period. Going with a set that belongs to this category is usually the going to give you the absolute best bang for your buck. This is why we have selected and arranged some of the best bookshelf speakers for you to check out. These models have proven their worth numerous times by now, which has earned them quite a reputation. With that said, let's get started with the overview of our picks.

Top 8 Home Speakers Under $500

When it comes to bookshelf speakers at this price range, you’d have to work hard to find a better option than the Imagine Minis from PSB Speakers. The attention to detail in terms of the audio engineering is only matched by the attention which has been given to providing a beautiful housing for all the components. Audio performance is fantastic. 

Although the audio performance is exceedingly authoritative across the board, we would have liked to hear a little more from the dynamics which can feel muddy at times. This was most evident when cranking up the volume towards the upper end of what was available, and should not be an issue when listening at regular volumes. All in all, a very solid purchase. 

With their SM45s, Definitive Technology has succeeded in creating a speaker that, once warmed up, provides a thoroughly pleasing audio experience that is about as good as you are likely to find at this price range. The design is certainly very simple, but this only adds to the overall versatility. 

As we have written about many bookshelf speakers, bass response can be a real issue with this comparatively compact form factor. The SM45s are no different, and if you are hoping for lows that will thump throughout the entire room and really deliver clarity with dynamic bass reproduction, then you may want to look elsewhere. Other than this, the listening experience is difficult to fault for this reasonable a price range. 

Andrew Jones' cooperation with ELAC has proven to be extremely fruitful for all parties involved, including the end user. This creation by Jones features a three-way configuration that includes a coaxial tweeter/midrange setup. Combined with a fairly capable woofer, you are looking at a great bang for the buck speaker. 

We found that the cabinet design, though undeniably sleek, elegant, and generally a very nice looking aesthetic, did present some limitations to the sound reproduction. Most notably, the hardware feels limited by the simple fact that they are very compact in scale in order to maintain that bookshelf form factor. With slightly more room to breathe, one gets the sense that the audio would benefit immeasurably. But this is fairly standard for this type of product. 

DALI's Zensor 1 bookshelf speakers rocked the industry when they were first released. Fast forward to today and their performance is still very much relevant. DALI's use of innovative solutions and great materials makes Zensor 1 both an attractive set of speakers as well as a capable one. Bang for the buck, you won't find speakers much better than these. 

While the overall balance that the Zensor 1s deliver across the full range of the audio spectrum is surprisingly good, and whilst our usual complaint that the bass was underwhelming does not hold true with this model, it is true that the overall power which this model is capable of putting out means they are best suited to small or medium rooms, not large ones.

Wharfedale's Diamond series of affordable bookshelf speakers have seen several iterations so far. The latest Diamond 220 ironed out a lot of imperfections that plagued its predecessors. This time around, we've beefier drivers, better cabinet design and a more balanced performance. Overall, the result is a speaker that offers what is usually reserved for more expensive segments of the market. 

Unusually for the relatively compact form that bookshelf speakers have, the Diamond 220s perform particularly well in producing a weighty bass response that has real presence within the room. This is a welcome surprise, and really rounds Wharfedale’s offering out as a serious contender within this price point. If you are all about the bass, this is a fantastic choice. 

Edifier once again delivers an active set of speakers that merge high-quality audio with current versatility demands. Their S1000DB are packed with great transducers as well as a fairly powerful, built-in amplifier. On top of that, we get to enjoy Edifier's well-known design which doesn't leave anyone disappointed. 

In the modern era, we have all developed a pretty relaxed attitude towards technology thanks to the majority of it providing an essentially plug and play experience. Whilst the S1000DBs certainly do fall into that category, they hearken back to a simpler (or more complex, depending on how you look at it) time by requiring a fairly significant burn-in period before achieving their best possible audio performance. Keep this in mind when you first get them, and you’ll be fine.

Audioengine A5+s are among the rarer active speakers that really have a lot to offer. With 100 Watts of RMS power, you are looking at one capable set, especially for home use. A5+ deliver a great performance with a balanced response across the range and a decent amount of bass. 

We tested the A5+s in several different locations, and found that it produced quite unusually variable results depending on the kind of room they were in. Given that there is minimal control available in terms of adjusting the audio to best suit the room you’re in, it may unfortunately come down to an element of luck as to how good your listening experience is based on where you place the speakers. 

Definitive Technology ProMonitor 1000 are anything but ordinary. Even though they're still considered conventional in their core, the overall design of this speaker is anything but. This is a perfect set of speakers for those who want to squeeze the most bass out of compact bookshelf models. Lastly, the price is right where it should be for a package like this one. 

Despite being called ‘bookshelf’ speakers, it is well accepted and understood in the industry that many consumers like to wall mount their bookshelf speakers to save surface space. It’s a little disappointing, then, to find that there is no wall mount bracket available with this model. Of course, this is not a huge concern by any means, but it is something worth keeping in mind when it comes to pull the plug. 

What Kind Of Performance Can A $500 Set Of Home Speakers Offer?

The jump in performance between the $200 set of speakers and $300 one is nothing in comparison to going from a $300 to a $500 set. This is where most brands will start using their good hardware, cutting costs mostly on cabinet designs. Seeing how CnC and other technologies have greatly simplified the manufacturing process of speaker cabs, we have run into a pretty interesting phenomenon. A good portion of speakers found in the $500 price range can easily go head to head with models that are twice or even three times as expensive. In other words, high quality audio has become ever more attainable.

In general, most of the speakers that will cost you around $500 will meet the needs of audiophiles. The only thing you need to pay attention to are the subtle but unique natures different models have. This being such a competitive segment of the market, most brands are compelled to deliver well rounded speakers. On the other hand, some brands such as ELAC, like to venture into more exotic designs. At this point, you are probably wondering why would anyone go and get a $1000 set of speakers, if $500 models are so great? The answer here is power. Going up the price scale will definitely bring some improvements in terms of performance, but the biggest difference you will see is raw output. Expensive loudspeakers generally tend to be optimized for larger rooms. That ability to saturate additional space costs money.

Even so, unless you have very specific requirements in terms of spatial performance, a $500 will give you a great bang for your dollar. In a way, this explains why speakers in this price range are among the most popular ones on the market. Another good thing about this particular category of speakers is the fact that almost all of them come with decent crossovers. That alone does a lot for overall performance. Because of everything we have said so far, dodging all of the more affordable speakers and jumping straight into a $500 set is an idea we can stand behind any day.

Conclusion

The $500 segment of the bookshelf speaker market is pretty exciting. Considering the type of performance you can find here, these speakers are often considered to be the optimal sweet spot. Models we’ve listed above perfectly explain that claim. Each one of the speakers from our list can go toe to toe with models that are twice as expensive. No matter what your favorite genre of music is, our picks will allow you to enjoy your favorite songs the way they are meant to be heard. At the end of the day, $500 speakers can easily catch you by surprise.

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