- 1. Micca MB42 Bookshelf Speakers
- 2. Edifier R1280T Powered Bookshelf Speakers
- 3. Edifier R1700BT Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers
- 4. Polk Audio T15 100 Watt Home Theater Bookshelf Speakers (Pair)
- 5. Pioneer SP-BS22-LR Andrew Jones Designed Bookshelf Loudspeakers
- 6. Edifier R980T 4in Active Bookshelf Speakers
- 7. Edifier R1280DB Powered Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers
- 8. Klipsch R-15M Bookshelf Speaker (Pair)
- 9. Klipsch R-14M 4-Inch Reference Bookshelf Speakers
- 10. Fluance SX6WH High Definition Two-Way Bookshelf Loudspeakers
- Bookshelf Speaker Selection Tips
- Types of Bookshelf Speakers
- Top Bookshelf Speaker Brands
- Average Bookshelf Speaker Pricing
Speakers are the reason music reaches its ultimate target – our ears and our brains. If a speaker can deliver a great performance, it would have done the great music that was recorded and is being played justice. In decades past, the gigantic speakers were the kings and queens of the prom. That is not (always) true these days when the top bookshelf speakers can almost compete with their bigger, meaner cousins.
Bookshelf versions are lighter and more compact but with the right build, they can deliver impressive sound quality just where it is needed most. If you are looking for a space-saving audio system that sounds good, here are the top bookshelf speakers that should make your list.
1. Micca MB42 Bookshelf Speakers
When Micca's designers and sound engineers designed the MB42, they went for the basic, simple lines to create a classy and stylish product. What they came up with is an expensive-looking set of speakers that is as handsome as it is functional. Petite in built, the budget-friendly MB42 can handle around 75W of power, with impedance rating at 4-8 ohms. It will work well with integrated amps and AV receivers as long as the music is played moderately loud. It will not work with direct connection to a turntable.
In terms of sound quality, the MB42 is capable of a reasonably good bass sound. This is one area where the MB42 shines the most, in spite of its size. The sound quality is such that it can completely eliminate a subwoofer in small and mid-sized rooms.
-Very good handling and sound performance for its class
-Solid build with binding posts to keep the body intact and sturdy
-Stylish, classy and compact design
-The sound quality could be better
-At midrange, the sound is not as balanced as other bigger speakers
-Not the best speakers to use for piano- and drum-heavy music
-Vocals are not as full-bodied as in other speakers
2. Edifier R1280T Powered Bookshelf Speakers
Chunky and conventional, the R1280T from Edifier offers plenty of capability without a subwoofer. If you are looking for a pair of speakers to supplement what your laptop or desk computer came with, the R1280T is a pretty good choice. Yes, it is a bit chunky but not bulky and by no means complex. Each speaker has 4-inch primary woofers and its own tweeter, both of which feed off of 42W of power. There 2 RCA audio jacks and adjustment knobs that are built into the right speaker. The speaker runs on 42W - decent enough to enhance the puny sound quality of most computers but not powerful enough to handle more heavy-duty work.
-Registers very good midrange audio and clear high tones
-Very good balance between left and right speakers
-Works well as a laptop or desktop speaker system
-Has dual inputs; does not require switching
-Only works well in small rooms; at just 42W, the R1280T cannot be used with or integrated as entertainment center speakers
-Shows some distortion when playing low bass
-Power cable is fixed
-Body is made from MDF wood
3. Edifier R1700BT Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers
The R1700BT is a good looking and stylish pair of speakers. Capable of a balanced performance that allows it to just skim hi-fi territory, it is capable of delivering warm and clear tones, performing exceptionally well with the trebles. At mid-range, the tone is balanced and defined. However, it will begin to show its weakness when you focus on the bass, thanks (or no thanks) to its 4-inch drivers.
-Comes with Dynamic Range Control; capable of delivering well-balanced tone and sound
-Great general purpose speakers but with limited range
-Sturdy build and decent looks
-Port is located on the front side
-Does not deliver well when playing low tones
-Best used for homes and offices; will require a subwoofer if you want the sound to really pop
4. Polk Audio T15 100 Watt Home Theater Bookshelf Speakers (Pair)
The T15 is a great set of speakers to use with other entertainment elements such as the TV or computer when you want to experience the highs and lows of a live album. It boasts of Dolby and DTS Surround and while it leaves something to be desired in the bass department, this is a decent audio option that offers a cost-effective performance.
-Capable of producing well-balanced, solid sound to a wide area
-Excellent audio at a higher mount which makes it a good option for surround sound setup at a budget
-Easy to set up mid-sized speakers
-Uses a 5.25-inch woofer and a 0.75-inch tweeter
-Wood-grain finish gives it a warm and appealing look
-Some sound issues when on direct axis
-Audio may sometimes sound "veiled" or slightly muted, which becomes problematic when listening to instrument- or vocal-heavy music at normal height or listening position
5. Pioneer SP-BS22-LR Andrew Jones Designed Bookshelf Loudspeakers
Pioneer is one of the most recognizable brands in the market and for good reason. Their SP-BS22-LR shows very good performance, giving its best show in the midrange tones where it is more than a match for the demands of the best albums you can play. It is even effective with low-frequency melodies, so playing bass and male vocals should not be a problem. It even performs with the upper highs, although it falters a bit with the higher/highest tones. Overall, it is a big performer in a small body.
-Very good sound performance; highly capable speakers that can play a wide range of musical genres
-Well-rounded audio performance
-Low distortion, very clean and even sound
-Over time, the midrange might begin to sound a little thin
-The speakers have to be moved farther apart to improve sound projection in a bigger room, which in turn can affect its sound balance
-The speakers are best played without the grilles as they affect the performance
6. Edifier R980T 4in Active Bookshelf Speakers
The R980T is an active speaker system. It has a built-in integrated amplifier that does the job, eliminating the need to supplement its power and capability. With fewer extra components, the system can look streamlined and simple - perfect if you want to save space. Looks-wise, it has a solid built and nice aesthetics.
-Very good sound quality; good bass sound capability for its size
-Good speaker system for use with a computer, small rooms, and small spaces; compact space-saving design
-Dual RCA inputs that connect any 3.5mm output device
-Designed mainly to work with computers
-Volume is limited which makes setting the sound a challenge
-Power output is at 24W - sufficient for limited space but will require supplementation if used in a bigger room
-Available only in black
7. Edifier R1280DB Powered Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers
The R1280DB has been touted as an improvement from its last evolution and it does have a few improvements to show off. It comes with a Bluetooth function which gives better flexibility in terms of connectivity. It delivers a smooth, reasonable sound that should do well in small to mid-sized rooms. The system comes with plenty of cables to connect the speakers but the quality is not much, to say the least. Overall, though, this system is a decent option that produces warm and smooth tones.
-Good natural midrange, reliable audio performance
-Has wireless capability via its Bluetooth feature; can be connected to smartphones and computers
-Remote-controlled to allow adjustments from a distance
-Excellent looks with flexible inputs
-Good budget speaker system option
-Can't handle the bass well for a more immersive experience
-Good treble that falters above the lower range
-Included accessories could be better
8. Klipsch R-15M Bookshelf Speaker (Pair)
The clean-looking R-15M is a great option if you are looking for a slightly retro look. Beyond the first impression, however, the system boasts the Klipsch 90x90 Tractrix horn that makes whatever shortcomings this unit might have somewhat forgettable. The system produces an 80W power output from each speaker with a limit of up to 340W. It will require an amplifier as a passive system but the supplementation should only enhance its performance. It is a simple system but quite an effective performer on its own.
-Can deliver well-balanced audio with some tweaking
-Crisp and clear trebles
-Good looks thanks to the use of contrasting copper color to break off the Darth Vaderish scheme
-Output can be flat if the system is not adjusted correctly
-Speaker can't reach lower frequencies effectively
-Rear ports require some clearance should the system be placed next to the wall
9. Klipsch R-14M 4-Inch Reference Bookshelf Speakers
Size is not everything and the R-14M is proof that you do not have to be a gargantuan speaker system to deliver a good performance. This a well-built system that goes a little further than the most basic of features. It is quite capable of broader coverage, with good capability when it comes to low ranges. However, its size is what puts the R-14M's virtual feet on the ground. It is designed to work in small and slightly bigger rooms, which means it is guaranteed to lose sound quality if played in bigger venues.
-Capable of delivering clear, crisp audio
-Features the Linear Travel Suspension tweeter that helps minimize sound distortion
-Good power performance in a small package; yes, it is quite small
-Has the signature Klipsch look featuring a polished black veneer body with a contrasting woofer cone
-Good value for the sound quality and performance it offers
-More of an entry-level unit; may not please audiophiles who prefer more advanced features
-Works best in small to mid-sized rooms; will not perform optimally in larger or open spaces
-Rear ports may require clearance if the system is placed against the wall
10. Fluance SX6WH High Definition Two-Way Bookshelf Loudspeakers
The SX6WH was designed to allow you to hear the magic of the human voice with instruments in the background. The designers of the SX6WH designed this system to provide you with a reasonably decent audio performance at an affordable cost. It is built with Butterworth audio crossovers to enhance equalization. Now here's where it gets tricky. At first play, the speakers may not sound much. The audio performance is a bit weak. However, this system needs time to properly break-in and that's where it begins to show its goodies. What sets this system apart is that it can translate sound and translate it big. The soundstage is expansive and the volume level that it gets to is quite impressive. It does, however, show some issues with the bass which it can't seem to handle well. It can be remedied a little bit by tweaking the subwoofer but even then it can't seem to deliver more.
-Capable of bright, good tones; allows the trebles to really sing
-Can handle a very good range of frequencies
-Shows fine form with classical and orchestral music
-Magnetic shielding that helps eliminate interferences
-Offers great value for its price
-Wall-mountable, which may be an attractive option due to its size
-Struggles with some issues with the tone
-Not very competent when it comes to registering bass - the low range tends to be muted and the system falters at around 70Hz; bass-heavy music fans may find this system wanting
-Slightly bigger than most bookshelf-type speakers
-May appear generic due to its design and finish
Bookshelf Speaker Selection Tips
As with any purchase, you should be mindful of the cost of various available products. Manufacturers of bookshelf speakers know that they are selling to audiophiles who have higher expectations compared to the general public. They tend to produce high quality items with good materials and engineering so offerings are more expensive than the typical speaker system. Still, these companies will introduce products for different market segments to cater to every type of budget. Look around to see how much the prevailing rates are and ask yourself how much you can really afford to spend for this purchase.
Check the dimensions of the bookshelf speakers. These tend to be small as they are meant to be at an elevated position such as on desks, shelves, and stands. If you want full sound but you don’t have the space for a floor-mounted speaker, then these compact alternatives are a great fit. However, people’s definition of small vary a lot. If you already have an idea about where you are going to place them, then take some measurements. You want to make sure that the speakers can fit with ample room as recommended by the manufacturer.
You also want to make sure that the speakers can receive the kinds of input that you have. For example, if you like streaming music on your phone or your laptop, then you may want speakers that accept USB input. You could always purchase an adapter but that would be a hassle and not the most efficient way to do things. You may even prefer wireless speakers to cut the cables and make your room clutter-free. Others prefer the traditional RCA and XLR cables. It all depends on your preferences. Thanks to technology, you have more choices than ever before.
Since they are sources of sound, listeners are drawn to find and look at speakers. It is not unreasonable to try to get ones that look as good as they sound. Being on an elevated platform means that bookshelf speakers tend to be quite visible. They should therefore be a suitable match for the existing interior décor. If you have a small modern apartment, then a matte or glossy all-white body is a great pick. You could also pick black or chrome. If you have a traditional home, then search for something with a wood finish that celebrates the grains and other natural characteristics.
You should always buy speakers primarily for their sound. See if you can test the product at the store. Turn the volume all the way up to listen to distortions. It will be clear just how far they can hold until the audio begins to break down. Play different types of music to check whether the speakers are able to reproduce the layers of instruments with clarity. Some will make it hard to makeup certain sounds and frequencies. Others will do well no matter what you throw at them. If you are buying online, then you may simply read the reviews to get feedback on sound quality.
Before buying anything, you must see to it that you know all of the pros and cons of the product. Read both the positive and the negative feedbacks about your candidates. You cannot just be swayed by their strengths. You must also know their weaknesses as you will need to assess whether or not these are deal-breakers. If you think that you can live with them, then you are one step closer to finding the right product. For example, a weak bass response may not be too bad if you already have a subwoofer or if you simply do not place too much importance on this.
Consider how you will use the speakers. Do you want to buy it so you can have a better video-streaming experience? Or do you plan on listening to a lot of classical music? These are two very different activities that call for different kinds of speakers. Movies are heavy on dialogue and the human voice is at the middle of the frequency spectrum of the sounds we can hear. If you like action movies, then bass is important as it will get your heart pumping. With classical music, you will need a more refined speaker that can produce audio at high fidelity across the spectrum with excellent dynamics.
Types of Bookshelf Speakers
– Budget, Midrange, and High-end
There are different ways to classify these speakers. If we go by price, then we can divide them into budget, mid-range, and high-end options. Budget bookshelf speakers can still cost quite a bit of money as they can cost up to $500. The good news is that decent options can be found at around $300 so you don’t have to push it too far for quality units. Mid-range would be between $500 and $1,000. You start to get premium materials and design with excellent audio quality. These may not be the best but they can certainly hold their own and should prove to be adequate for most. The most discerning audiophiles will buy the best no matter the cost so they don’t mind spending more than $1,000 on a speaker.
– Wired and Wireless
We can also classify them as wired or wireless. Although most still adhere to the traditional wired speakers for less lag and more reliability, the wireless options are beginning to catch up and even the playing field. Cutting the wires and giving exquisite sound reproduction makes these options quite compelling. In the future, perhaps they will dominate the scene.
– Standalone and Packaged Systems
Some of these bookshelf speakers are sold as a standalone device. Others can be acquired as part of a package. If you don’t have much space and you are happy with a single or dual source, then the former should fit you well. If you want the full surround experience, then go for the whole package and enjoy the system.
Top Bookshelf Speaker Brands
A lot of the brands that dominate this product category are highly respected names in the audio industry as a whole. For example, you should not miss Polk Audio when seeking high-end speakers. The San Diego-based company has been around for almost half a century providing excellent speakers for the home and for automobiles. Their Legend L200 has gained iconic status for good reasons. Klipsch Audio Technologies is another name that cannot be missed. With headquarters in Indiana, the company is known to deliver impressive quality with every product. Other notable labels include ELAC, Bowers & Wilkins, Martin Logan, KEF, and Audio Engine.
Average Bookshelf Speaker Pricing
In this category, you will find options ranging from $100 to more than $1,000. Whether or not the high prices are merited will depend on your appreciation of the sound produced. If you want to stay on the safe side, then go with a mid-range speaker with average pricing to avoid cheap and disappointing products without spending a fortune. Expect to shell out around $800 for a great pair.
What is the best bookshelf speaker?
The best bookshelf speaker is the one that provides all of your needs. Since every buyer has a different set of requirements, the ideal pair will be different for each person. Choose according to your budget, usage, and preferences. Pick something from the known brands.
What are bookshelf speakers used for?
Bookshelf speakers are compact alternatives to floor-mounted speakers. They are smaller yet they deliver excellent performance across a wide range of frequencies. Their size is great for small rooms as they don’t have to take up precious footprint. Place them on shelves, stands, or desks. Use them for a better home cinematic experience or a more satisfying sound trip.
How high should bookshelf speakers be?
Bookshelf speakers are supposed to be placed at ear height. If you plan to buy them for your TV, then make sure that they are about the height of your head when you are sitting at the sofa. The same goes for speakers on the desk while you are using the computer. The ideal height is always dependent on the user.
Do I need a subwoofer with bookshelf speakers?
It depends. Some of these speakers come with drivers that have excellent bass response. You may not need a separate subwoofer to have satisfying audio. Of course, those who crave for that strong low frequency beat can always get a subwoofer to get their fix. Selecting a bookshelf speaker is an extremely individual pursuit.
Do bookshelf speakers have good bass?
In general, these will have a good bass response thanks to the included drivers. Go for a premium model if you want to have excellent bass with impressive highs and mid-frequencies. If you are looking at budget models, then temper your expectations since these are unlikely to have the components or design that would yield booming bass for your music.
George A. Smith received a Masters Degree in Music Education from the University of Berkeley. George has been teaching music professionally for the past 8 years. George regularly contributes content to several music websites including LoadRecords.com.