10 Best Bookshelf Speakers | May 2017

10 Best Bookshelf Speakers
Best Mid-Range
★★★
Best High-End
★★★
Best Inexpensive
★★★
We spent 39 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Boasting powerful sound in an impressively compact size, these bookshelf speakers will deliver a faithful reproduction of your music or a movie's audio track without looming large in your home office, den or living room. Offering connectivity to most devices via wire or Bluetooth, they're versatile and, in most cases, relatively economical. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best bookshelf speaker on Amazon.
10
These BIC America DV62sis prove that good things come in small packages, and that loud things come that way, too. These units are less than 15 inches in height, yet crank out up to 90 decibels and can growl out bass deeper than units twice their size.
  • ferrofluid-cooled dome tweeters
  • 43 to 20000 hz frequency response
  • slightly overpriced option
Brand BIC America
Model DV62SIB
Weight 27.8 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0
9
The Polk Audio T15 have magnetically shielded enclosures that ensure reduced distortion from nearby signal sources and that allow for improved overall audio clarity. The pair works in tandem, one excelling at bass, the other at highs.
  • polymer composite woofers
  • easily removable grills
  • not loud enough for larger rooms
Brand Polk Audio
Model T15
Weight 16 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0
8
A pair of Raumfeld Stereo M Wireless Streaming speakers produce maddeningly great audio quality -- maddening because they cost so much most consumers won't be able to justify their purchase. Their Bauhaus-inspired design uses wood, brushed aluminum, and more.
  • integrated 320 watt amplifier
  • seamless smartphone integration
  • long-throw woofers
Brand Raumfeld
Model 104625004
Weight 54.1 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0
7
These Fluance XL7S High Performance are fine on their own, but make a stellar addition to a surround sound home theater and/or music system, integrating perfectly with woofers and other speakers. Their polymer-treated midrange drivers are clear at any volume.
  • audio-grade mdf wood cabinetry
  • 1-inch neodymium balanced tweeters
  • pricey but high quality
Brand Fluance
Model XL7S
Weight 20.8 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0
6
The Micca MB42 are filled with quality components, like a 4-inch carbon fiber woofer and a silk dome tweeter. They provide precise treble and rumbling bass, and reliably maintain a song or movie's vocal clarity. They are also relatively affordable.
  • can be mounted on stands
  • good fidelity even at higher volume
  • too large for many bookcases
Brand Micca
Model MB42
Weight 8.9 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0
5
These Pyle Home PCB4BK Mini Cubes may not completely satisfy the dedicated audiophile, but for most people who just want to clearly hear their music or movies across the room, they're a fine alternative to larger units. Each speaker has a 4-inch paper cone driver.
  • extremely compact
  • 200 watts peak power
  • decent 8 ohm impedance
Brand Pyle
Model PCB4BK
Weight 4.5 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0
4
The Audioengine A2+ Premium Powered are perfect on the shelves of medium-sized rooms or sitting right there on your desktop. The integrated USB DAC delivers hi-fi sound straight from your computer, your television, or from any audio device.
  • impressive bass for such small units
  • hand-polished finish
  • award-winning design
Brand Audioengine
Model A2+B
Weight 9.4 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0
3
The Dayton Audio B652 are rather basic, but produce sound quality that's more than suitable for enjoying music or for a heightened movie watching experience. Their low price tag compensates for the fact that they're not super powered.
  • black ebony pica vinyl finish
  • polycarbonate cooled dome tweeters
  • cases with keyhole hangers
Brand Dayton Audio
Model B652
Weight 11.5 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0
2
The Edifier R1280T Powered have analog-style dial controls built into the active speaker that allow you to control volume, bass, and treble settings. You can also use the included remote control to raise or lower the volume or to mute the sound.
  • dual rca inputs for multiple devices
  • flared bass reflex port
  • great quality to price ratio
Brand Edifier
Model R1280T
Weight 12.3 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0
1
A pair of Audioengine P4N Passive come loaded with high quality components, such as their gold-plated, five-way binding posts and four-inch, front-ported design. These units outperform models twice their size in terms of power and clarity.
  • 85-plus decibel output
  • durable kevlar woofers
  • beautiful natural wood look
Brand Audioengine
Model P4N
Weight 14.8 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

Buyer's Guide

Can You Hear Anything, Now?

It seems that, for the most part, the desire to maximize the quality of one’s audio experience has all but disappeared from the populace. In many instances, especially among younger music fans, an effort to reach a baseline audio quality isn’t even there.

The music we experience today is predominantly digitized, compressed beyond oblivion to minimize the amount of space it takes up on a hard disk, or the amount of cellular data it consumes while you stream it. That results in far less space in which a music file has to breathe.

Imagine you have a nightclub teeming with crazy patrons, each of whom represents a frequency range within a music file. Then the fire marshal–let’s call him Marshal John Capital Ruthlessness–comes along, and he says the club is beyond capacity. So, he forces you to kick out some of the patrons. You start with the lowest and highest frequency ranges because they’re the least utilized by the bulk of musicians.

A week goes by, and everything seems normal again. Then, Marshal Ruthlessness shows up again and forces you to sacrifice another handful of ranges. This pattern continues until you finally have the average 192 kbps bitrate you find across the streaming industry, a bitrate that leaves a lot of sound on the cutting room floor.

The problem gets even worse when you pump that low-quality music through computer speakers or cheap ear bud headphones. In a sound environment like this, we need quality headphones or quality speakers like never before. The bookshelf speakers on our list offer a relatively inconspicuous means by which you can take even the poorest quality audio stream and project a clear and nuanced sound into your space.

Cone Heads

The mechanisms of any speaker system are essentially the same, though the quality of certain ingredients, rather as in cooking, can make a big difference in the tasty tones they produce. You’ll usually encounter two to three cones for audio output on an individual speaker.

The first two, that are present almost ubiquitously, are the woofer and the tweeter. Traditionally, the tweeter handles the highest frequencies in the range, and the woofer handles the lowest. In a set of bookshelf speakers, however, both of of the cones creep a little more toward the middle than they would if they were incorporated into a more elaborate system.

Occasionally, a set of bookshelf speakers will include a third means of audio output, often appearing as a hardened channel through which you can feel air passing. This third opening is sometimes a small, circular hole between the other cones, and other times it's a thin slot toward the bottom of the cabinet. These are bass reflex ports that pump out a little extra low end in support of that centrist woofer.

These are all important mechanisms to consider in your purchase, but you’ll also want to look at things like whether the speakers are active or passive. If you already have a good receiver set up in your home, or you’re planning to get one, a pair of passive speakers would be best. That way, you know that every dollar you spend on them goes into their housing and their sound quality, without extra circuitry taking up space and design.

With a set of active speakers, on the other hand, you can grab an RCA to 3.5mm cable and plug your cell phone right into the back of the unit, unless you have a newer iPhone, of course. That could save you valuable space if you’re tight on room, but the preamps in these are usually pretty middling in quality.

The last thing worth considering, especially if you’re down to two or three options the specs of which all seem like they compete pretty well with one another, is style. These aren’t the biggest speakers on the market, so they aren’t intended to be the centerpiece of any space, but when they’ve got music coming out of them, it’s a simple thing for anyone in your home to trace those vibrations back to their source. This comes down to a matter of taste, so don’t be ashamed to choose a speaker with good specs just because it’s pretty.

Vibrations In A Cave

Early man spent a lot of time in caves. Evidence of fires, meals, and artworks left behind on the walls of those caves all indicate that man was a dweller of enclosures long before he figured out how to build them for himself. Back in those cave, it had to be apparent to those early humans that their voices sounded different inside the cave than they did without. There was an echo, and a kind of amplification, as the vibrations of their voices bounded around off of the rock walls.

They wouldn’t have had the science or the language to communicate this experience abstractly, but these had to have been the earliest kernels of individual understanding that sound could be changed by its environment.

Later, when the ancient Greeks built their amphitheaters, they constructed them in such a way that the voices of the actors carried upward and in the direction of the audience. Even today, if you sit in the top row, you can hear two people talking on those stages.

To help those voices of antiquity reach the back row over a rowdy crowd, however, the actors wore masks that included crude analogue megaphones in their mouths, amplifying the sounds of their words.

Once Edison came along with his phonograph, amplification was off and running toward ever-improving developments. The phonograph used a horn speaker, closer in relationship to the amplifiers in those Greek masks. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that a handful of audio engineers developed the technology that would combine to form the electrodynamic loudspeaker, the magnetic device we see in all of these bookshelf speakers and in almost every speaker system around the world.



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Last updated on May 13, 2017 by Chase Brush

Chase is a freelance journalist with experience working in the areas of politics and public policy. Currently based in Brooklyn, NY, he is also a hopeless itinerant continually awaiting his next Great Escape.


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