Bookshelf speakers have long been a staple of audio systems dating back to the heyday of Hi-Fi systems. These small speakers pack an acoustic punch while taking up as little space as possible. Bookshelf speakers work with any setup, but the key is to know what to look for. If you are looking for small dimensions, loud sound, and budget-friendliness, look no further than a good pair of bookshelf speakers.
Best Bookshelf Speakers – Taking Sound to the Next Level
Knowing that you want bookshelf speakers and choosing the speaker are two very different things. The aesthetics of the speakers can catch your attention, but there is more to a killer speaker than its looks. If you want the ultimate listening experience, you need to look beyond the casing of the speakers.
Buyer’s Guide to Getting Killer Sound
Does Size Matter?
When imaging a bookshelf speaker, you tend to picture a smaller speaker that is able to fit on the standard bookshelf. The standard bookshelf has a shelf height of 8 to 12 inches which results in speakers that are slightly smaller than this. Many bookshelf speakers are slightly larger than this height which can be disconcerting.
Despite the name, most bookshelf speakers are not placed on bookshelves. They rest on speaker stands or TV stands depending on the stereo setup. This changes the impact of size when you look for the best speakers. Instead of looking for speakers that fit the bookshelf, you need to look for speakers that fit the room.
If you have a specific space for the speakers, you need to measure this and find speakers that fit while offering killer sound. This includes speaker stands where the speaker needs to have the right dimensions to rest securely. If you simply know you want these speakers and have not thought further, you should focus on other factors to choose the best speakers.
Pure Sound Quality
The purpose of speakers is to produce sound and the quality of that sound will impact your audio experience. The best speakers will produce balanced audio without any echoes or reverberations. When the sound is unbalanced, audio that you know and love will sound much different.
Many speakers are designed to offer a balanced sound where treble and bass are well matched. There are some speakers that emphasis one or the other. This must be taken into account when choosing a speaker because it will impact your usage of the system.
The size of your speaker will impact the sound quality. Larger speakers are better at producing a solid bass without straining to produce the lowest notes. Smaller speakers may not reach the depth needed resulting in heavy bass sounding light or uncontrolled.
Single-Wired or Bi-Wired?
Looking at the connections on the speaker, you will notice that some have four terminals while others have two. Two terminals are common and are used with a single set of cables connecting your speaker to the rest of the sound system. With single cables, all tone frequencies are sent to the speaker in one line.
Four terminals offer greater control and purer sound. Two sets of cables will be used to split the upper and lower tone frequencies. Bi-wiring is not a must, but having the option does increase the ways you can use the speakers in the future.
- Premium Pick – KEF LS50
KEF LS50 Review
To celebrate their anniversary, KEF has produced a glorious speaker which a high-end finish and perfect sound. The perfection of these speakers does highlight any flaws in the rest of the stereo system. To get the most out of these speakers, you will need the right partnering equipment.
A compact mini monitor the size of the KEF LS50 rarely offers the sound quality you expect for the cost, but these speakers will surprise you. The LS50 is the 50th-anniversary product from KEF and breaks the stereotypes for these products.
They are usually expensive statements or retro throwbacks to the early days of the company. The LS50 is neither and offers an amazing speaker for the cost.
The LS50 may seem simplistic in design at first glance, but the cabinet is the result of hard work. It offers a curved front made from DMC providing inertness and mass. The rest of the cabinet is made with MDF to minimize the resonances.
The finish is offered in high gloss piano white or black. The speakers also have an elliptical reflex port to reduce unwanted midrange distortions. The dimensions of 11.9” x 7.9” x 10.9” is not as mini as the name suggests.
The sound that is produced is deeper and more agile than the size should provide. There is a big bass, but everything is still balanced and no tones overpower others. The upper frequencies are clear and there are no problems with the transitions. The clarity, depth of bass and bright notes make listening to the speakers fun.
The maximum sound output is 106db and there is a sensitivity of 85dB at 2.83V. The nominal impedance is 8 ohms which place it above many other speakers on this list.
- Amazing sound quality for the size
- Outstanding build and finish
- Demanding of partnered equipment
- Best Choice – SVS Ultra
SVS Ultra Bookshelf Speaker Review
SVS is a company that is primarily known for subwoofers and they have put their knowledge to the test with the SVS Ultra bookshelf speaker. The design of the speakers offers a high-gloss finish and a sleek aesthetic. The woofer in the speaker is the focal point for the designers, but the overall sound is clear and rich.
The aesthetic design of the Ultra is fairly standard and the finish offers two different types of black. The overall build quality is excellent and you will not worry about the speakers being damaged when you move them. The dimensions are among the larger of the bookshelf speakers on the market at 14.9” x 8.5” x 10”.
The increased size of the speaker does provide a deeper bass. SVS claims that the speaker can go to 45Hz which is deep bass territory and this can cause problems when you attach the speakers to a subwoofer. The bass will become overpowering. To get the most out of the speakers, you will need to place them at least 6 to 7 feet apart.
The nominal impedance is 8 ohms which put the speaker in line with the best on the market. The sensitivity is also impressive at 87dB at 2.83V.
The Ultra Bookshelf speakers live up to the expectations set out by the brand. The build quality is high and the sound is clear with good depth of bass and clear mid and upper range. While the sound cannot be faulted, it can be too clinical making it hard to enjoy the experience. If you use a subwoofer, the depth of the bass can become overwhelming.
- Great build quality
- High-end sound clarity
- Clinical sound
- Overpowering bass when combined with a subwoofer
- KEF Q150 Bookshelf Speaker
KEF Q150 Bookshelf Speaker Review
If you are looking to upgrade your current bookshelf speakers, the KEF Q150 is a good choice. Costing a bit more than some other bookshelf speakers they offer a fair punch for the price. The Q150 offers good sound and sleek design while being slightly larger than average.
These speakers are visually appealing with a minimalist and sleek modern design popularized by the KEF Q Series predecessors. The speakers are available in black and white finish, but the speaker grills are not included and magnetic ones must be bought separately. If you want a clean look, you cannot go wrong with these speakers.
The internal design makes use of the KEF Uni-Q array. The array offers perfectly timed frequencies for better sound accuracy and it has been placed in the center of the cabinet in the Q150. This provides better clarity with the back of the tweeter being dampened to reduce sound leakage.
The sound quality offered is distinctive with a deep and powerful bass. The midrange is warm, but the upper midrange lacks a presence and warmth that you would expect from these speakers. The clarity of the higher frequencies is impressive, particularly when listening to dialogue.
The sensitivity of the speakers is good for the price at 86dB at 2.83V. The nominal impedance is 8 ohms with a minimum of 3.7 ohms which is a very wide range.
The Q150 offers a sleek and modern design that will fit into any home theater setup. The bass is responsive and there is good clarity in the higher tones. The upper midrange is where the speakers fall short as it lacks the presence found in other KEF speakers, but at the price, they pack a good sound punch.
- Sleek design
- Excellent bass response
- Uni-Q driver array
- Lack of presence in the upper midrange
- Best Budget – Elac Uni-Fi UB5
Elac Uni-Fi UB5 Bookshelf Speaker Review
Those in search of the perfect sound quality for music and home theater alike will love the Elac Uni-Fi UB5 bookshelf speaker. While the speaker is not without problems, you will never want when it comes to sound clarity and performance. These Andrew Jones designed speakers are just in the affordable range and offer an amazing feature found in higher priced speakers only.
The amazing feature is the concentric driver which is a tweeter inside the midrange. This is a change to the usual Hi-Fi arrangement which reduces the interference between the drivers. This tweeter offers the same accuracy as a 4-inch midrange cone and the delicacy of the 1-inch soft dome tweeter.
The use of the concentric driver delivers a sound quality that is next to none. The bass definition is controlled and detailed. The midrange tones are effortlessly produced and the high tones are sweet. Overall, the sound produced by the speakers is deep and wide which is unexpected for the price of the speakers and the size.
While the sound quality cannot be faulted, the speakers fall when it comes to the design. The fundamentals of the design are not new and the dimensions are what you come to expect from these speakers at 10.8” x 7.9” x 12.8”.
The case of the speaker is brushed vinyl which is aesthetically appealing, but lacks durability. The finish is easily damaged when moving the speakers into position.
The low nominal impedance is another issue at only 4 ohms. This is the lowest range and places the speakers at a disadvantage when compared with others on the market. There is also an unusually low sensitivity of 85dB at 2.83v increasing the power needed to play as loudly as other comparable speakers.
The Uni-Fi UB5 speakers are the best when it comes to pure sound quality. If this sound quality was paired with a more durable finish, better nominal impedance and sensitivity, they would be hard to beat. With their affordable price, they are still top contenders when choosing speakers.
- Wide and deep sound range
- Vinyl finish is not durable
- Low sensitivity
- Low nominal impedance
- Most Powerful Sound – Klipsch RP-106M
Klipsch RP-106M Bookshelf Speaker
Klipsch is known for its visually appealing speakers and the RP-106M is no different.
The design is easily recognizable and a mixture of high-quality materials. The woofer is spun copper and is paired with a Tractrix horn tweeter for a unique look. The cabinet of the speaker is made with MDF and the finish is a veneer polymer. There are 4 different finishes on offer and they are all highly durable.
There is no plastic in the design and every part of the cabinet is made with MDF. The size of the speaker is a bit concerning when looking for a bookshelf speaker. With dimensions of 16.67” x 8.81” x 12.86”, these speakers are too large for any bookshelf and for certain rooms. These speakers require space to provide the best sound possible.
The speakers offer 3 options for setup which are single wire, bi-wiring, and bi-amping. The flexibility of the setup allows you to get the best sound performance for your needs. When it comes to sound quality, you cannot really ask for more.
The sound produced is detailed without any distortion at higher volumes. The bass is deeper than the average bookshelf speaker and the upper-frequency tones are clean. This is an improvement on previous RP speakers where high notes were too intense to enjoy. The midrange notes are dynamic and you are able to hear the smallest details.
The impressive sound quality is backed by other impressive specifications. The sensitivity of the speakers is 96dB at 2.83V and nominal impedance is 8 ohms. This places it on par with much more expensive speakers.
- Powerful sound
- Low impedance
- High sensitivity
- Large size
- Best Wireless – Fluance Ai60 2.0
Fluance Ai60 2.0 Bookshelf Speakers Review
If you are starting your home theater journey, Fluance Ai60 2.0 Bookshelf speakers are the best choice. The company claims these speakers are the right ones for any experience and they do offer a good range of sound and build quality. They offer an all-round good package for the price tag.
The dimensions of the speakers are slightly large at 13.1” x 7.8” x 9.2”, but the curved edges soften the look. The design is sealed which provides a tighter bass. The cabinet of the speakers is made from MDF and the finish comes in 3 colors of walnut, bamboo, and black-stained.
The sound from the speakers is neutral, but you can adjust the emphasis using the remote. Adjusting the EQ enables you to get the perfect sound whether you are listening to music or watching a movie. The default bass setting is low, but as the volume increases the emphasis on the bass is dramatically affected.
The stand out feature of the Ai40 is the Bluetooth connection. There are few bookshelf speakers that offer this connection. Connecting to the speakers using Bluetooth is easy and does not affect the sound quality. You can also connect using cables if you do not want to use Bluetooth. These speakers also come with a remote which makes them easy to use.
With a nominal impedance of 8 ohms, you can get what you need from the speakers. The combination of active and passive speakers helps with the overall configuration.
The Ai40 is a great bookshelf speaker that offers Bluetooth connections as well as wired connections. There is true stereo separation in the cable connections. The remote is helpful, but there are delays in the commands. The sound is ideal for any beginner setup, but the bass can be affected by the volume levels.
- Integrated Bluetooth connection
- True stereo separation
- Delayed remote commands
- Volume level affects bass
- Best Depth of Sound – Q Acoustics 3020i
Q Acoustics 3020i Bookshelf Speaker Review
While Q Acoustics is a relatively new name in the speaker market, with the 3020i bookshelf speaker they have matched more established brands. Their 3020 was a bright speaker and the 3020i upgrade has made it even better. The innovative design provides a smoother and richer sound with deeper bass.
To provide the deep bass without increasing the overall size of the speaker, Q Acoustics have gone deep. The speakers remain compact in height and width, but the depth has been increased resulting in dimensions of 10.9” x 6.7” x 11.1”.
The increased depth allows the speaker to move more air and achieve the same bass as larger speakers. This innovative design is matched with a flashier exterior to create an appealing design.
The sound performance is noticeably changed by the design to create a buffer and a more satisfying sound. There is no boosting of the bass or exaggeration to the sound leaving it balanced and smooth. The dynamic reach and scale on offer should be troubling for comparable models and larger speakers.
The nominal impedance of 6 ohms puts the speakers in a good midrange for the price. The sensitivity of the speakers of 88dB at 2.83V is also good when you consider the affordability of the speakers.
The Q Acoustics 3020i is a clear upgrade to the 3020 and offers a richer and warmer sound. The innovative design which increases the depth and not the other dimensions adds to this sound. The increase in depth does have a downside as it makes these speakers harder to install and place in your bookshelf.
- Rich and warm sound
- Innovative design
- Full bass
- Depth of the cabinet
- Most Honest Sound – Elac Debut 2.0 b6.2
Elac Debut 2.0 b6.2 Bookshelf Speakers Review
The Elac Debut 2.0 series launched in 2015 with the B6 and the B6.2 is the 2018 upgrade to the original. These bookshelf speakers are not as forgiving as the original and have a very different aesthetic appeal.
The appearance of the B6.2 is a throwback to the British designs popularized by Wharfdale and Bowers and Wilkins. The dimensions of the B6.2 are smaller than the original B6 at 10.6” x 7.7” x 14.8”.
The Andrew Jones design offers a front bass port allowing the speakers to be placed closer to the wall. The design also incorporates a 1-inch silk dome tweeter offering a response of 35,000Hz which is much higher than the first-generation model.
The woven Aramid-fiber woofer has a revised cone shape which produces a smoother low-frequency response. The design also provides a sensitivity of 87db at 2.83v/1m.
While the design of this speaker does not stand out, the clarity of sound will. There is a noticeable difference in the high and midrange frequencies with the upper range offering better clarity.
Vocal performances on music tracks and in movies are clearer and synthetic accompaniment stands out. To provide this clarity, the B6.2 has traded in some bass weight. The relocation of the bass port could be a factor behind the reduction in bass.
The nominal impedance of 6 ohms places this speaker in range with others in the category. The maximum power input of 120 Watts is greater than other bookshelf speakers.
The retro design of the speaker appeals to many people, while others view this as a problem. The front-facing bass port allows the speaker to be placed closer to the wall, but is linked to poor bass performance. The overall sound quality from these speakers is clear with perfect clarity of upper-frequency ranges.
- Upper range clarity
- Retro British design
- Front-facing bass port
- Poor bass performance
- Best Bang for the Buck – Pioneer SP-BS22-LR
Pioneer SP-BS22-LR Bookshelf Loudspeakers Review
The Pioneer SP-BS22-LR speakers are not the most powerful on the market, but they perform well in the under $200 price range. The design by Andrew James does not push the envelope while retaining some aesthetic attraction. The speaker casing utilizes a curved design which reduces the sound waves inside the cabinet resulting in steady sound quality.
The build quality is what you expect from a brand like Pioneer. While the design is not innovative, the speakers are solid and stand out in terms of size. Compared with similar speakers on the market, the SP-BS33-LR is smaller with dimensions of 8.45” x 7.12” x 12.55”. The relatively compact size places them as ideal for smaller rooms.
In terms of features, the 6 element complex crossover is what stands out. The crossover breaks the audio signals into different frequency ranges and most speakers have a simple crossover with a single capacitor and inductor. The 6 element system used here blends the audio between the tweeter and the woofer providing balanced clarity.
When these speakers were first released in 2012, they set the standard for performance. The crossover provides a smooth transition between tone ranges. While transitions are flawless, there is a shallow bass to the sound. This is a result of the 4” driver in each speaker which does not produce the resonance needed for heavy bass.
The speakers offer 80 Watt power handling and a nominal impedance of 6 ohms. This sets them firmly in the mid-range when this impedance is hit.
At a cost of $129, Pioneer SP-BS22-LR bookshelf speakers offer great value for money. Their sound quality is above their price range and they offer amazing tone transitions. There are limitations on the lower tones as the bass can sound shallow. High volume performance is also a weak point.
- The cost
- Sound clarity across the tone range
- Compact size
- Poor performance at higher volume levels
- Shallow bass
Frequently Asked Questions: Bookshelf Speakers
Are bookshelf speakers good for surround sound?
Yes, bookshelf speakers are good for surround sound in small and medium-sized rooms. They will need to be paired with a home theater receiver that supports the 5.1 channel speaker system at a minimum.
Do I need a subwoofer with bookshelf speakers?
You only need a subwoofer if you are trying to achieve extreme depth in your bass. Certain bookshelf speakers have a bass depth that is almost subwoofer level.
Where do you put bookshelf speakers?
Bookshelf speakers can be placed on any elevated surface from bookshelves to speaker stands to desks.