The 10 Best Bookshelf Speakers

Updated January 28, 2018 by Chase Brush

10 Best Bookshelf Speakers
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 45 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. Dayton Audio B652-AIR

The Dayton Audio B652-AIR are rather basic, but produce sound quality that's more than suitable for enjoying music or watching the occasional movie. Their low price tag compensates for the fact that they're not super-powered, and that their look is rather uninspired.
  • black ebony pica vinyl finish
  • cloth grill is removable
  • sub-par cabinet craftsmanship
Brand Dayton Audio
Model B652-AIR
Weight 11.8 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

9. BIC America DV62si

These BIC America DV62si prove that good things come in small packages, and that loud things come that way, too. These 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
  • can sound a little harsh
Brand BIC
Model DV-62SIB
Weight 27.8 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

8. Fluance XL7S High Performance

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
  • treble may be too bright for some
Brand Fluance
Model XL7S
Weight 20.8 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

7. Edifier R1280T Powered

The best-selling 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
  • might require break-in period
Brand Edifier
Model R1280T
Weight 12 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

6. Audioengine A5+

The Audioengine A5+ are perfect on the shelves of medium-sized rooms or sitting right there on your desktop. They're a bit bulky, but do feature a USB-to-DAC connection that can deliver hi-fi sound straight from your computer, your television, or from any audio device.
  • impressive bass for such small units
  • compatible with macs or pcs
  • fairly pricey option
Brand Audioengine
Weight 29 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

5. Micca MB42X

The Micca MB42X are filled with quality components, like a 4-inch carbon fiber woofer and a silk-dome tweeter. They provide precise treble and rumbling bass, reliably maintain a song or movie's vocal clarity and, perhaps most important, are also very affordable.
  • can be mounted on stands
  • good fidelity even at high volume
  • smaller woofer than on other units
Brand Micca
Model MB42X
Weight 9.5 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

4. Klipsch R-15M

From a leading name in audio come the Klipsch R-15M, which, though minimalist in design, are extremely efficient in sound production, making them quite a bit louder than similar units. They're perfect for home theater applications in small to medium-sized rooms.
  • spun copper img woofer
  • proprietary 90x90 tractrix horn
  • make live recordings sound natural
Brand Klipsch
Model R-15M
Weight 25 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

3. Q Acoustics 3020

Offering lots of detail and a wide soundstage across many genres of music, the Q Acoustics 3020 are one of the best all-around bookshelf pairs currently on the market. Plus, the company also offers a compatible center channel to really round out your entertainment system.
  • compact well-designed chassis
  • paper and aramid fiber bass driver
  • available in three finishes
Brand Q Acoustics
Model 5036694039427
Weight 21.7 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

2. Polk Audio Signature S15

Combining superbly balanced audio with superlative cabinet construction quality, the new Polk Audio Signature S15 are a force to be reckoned with -- even more so because they're justifiably priced. The pair works in tandem, one excelling at bass, the other at highs.
  • high-resolution terylene tweeter
  • anti-diffraction grille
  • can be wall mounted
Brand Polk Audio
Model S15
Weight 28.3 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

1. Elac B6 Debut Series

A longtime favorite among audiophiles, the Elac B6 Debut Series come loaded with high quality components, such as their gold-plated, five-way binding posts and intricate, eight-element crossover. These outperform models twice their size in terms of power and clarity.
  • extremely good bass output
  • center speaker also available
  • best-in-class in terms of audio
Brand Elac
Model DB61-BK
Weight 33.9 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

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 January 28, 2018 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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