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You don’t need to pay someone to find the right speaker system for you. If you are in the market for a good set of bookshelf speakers, you’ve come to the right place. In the following article, we will break down the top options by price range. Whether you are looking to spend $2000 or $500, there are some good options to consider.
We have weeded out the lower quality product offerings that have shoddy workmanship and a poor track record. By personally testing these speakers, we have narrowed down the list to a select few speakers that we can recommend and endorse fully. See below for the details:
The Best Bookshelf Speakers under 2000
In this price range, we are looking at some of the best industry options for bookshelf speakers. There is really only one speaker set in this price range that we can fully endorse and that is worth the money. See below for the down-low:
KEF LS50 Mini Monitor
If you are looking for an outstanding set of speakers and price is really not an issue, the KEF LS50 speakers are – hands down – the best set on the market. The LS50 was designed as a celebration of KEF’s 50th anniversary. The end result was a memorable present to audiophiles everywhere. To get the full review, check out this article.
- Technology: Not to get too far into the weeds, but the LS50 packs a powerful audio-technical punch. Using the latest Uni-Q driver (a full range driver created for this specific model) and the same game-changing technology found in the $30,000 KEF Blade, the LS50 is a turbo-charged little coupe.
- Sound: The end result of all this hi-tech infrastructure? A warm and clean sound that will sweep you up and take you to a higher level of acoustic pleasure. The sound is spacious without being overly so, allowing for a deep and smooth – yet precise – resonance, especially at deep bass levels. Most importantly, these speakers deliver studio-grade sound at a relatively affordable price. The only downside is that if you are looking to project into a very large space, the LS50 will struggle (just a bit – almost imperceptibly) at very high volumes. For what a bookshelf speaker should do, it does extremely well.
- Speaker Design: With a high gloss finish and a discreet KEF logo (with the Anniversary symbol), the LS50 is designed as the quintessential high-end bookshelf speaker. At 10.9″ x 7.9″ x 11.9″, they are perfect for subtle display or for easy hiding (like if someone comes home and starts asking about the $1500 that disappeared from your checking account). The ergonomic design has a classic sensibility with a modern flare. The carefully engineered cabinet box is optimized to have zero interference with the overall sound quality with perfect internal strut placement.
The LS50 radiates an extremely large listening sweet spot and delivers a remarkably fast, clean, and expansive sound with its Unit-Q driver Array.
Overall, the LS50 speakers have set the standard for the best speakers in the $1000-2000 price range. You can generally find a good deal at this listing here. You can also check out the key features and dimensions below:
The Best Bookshelf Speakers under 1000
If you are looking to spend on a high-end audio system, but not go overboard, these mid to high-end speakers will not disappoint. This is where things start to get interesting in terms of product variation. Below we have highlighted two of the best options to consider. While you might find some other speakers in this category, they really can’t compete with the two offerings by KEF below.
Staying in the KEF fan club, the Q300WH model has garnered many positive reviews from both users and industry experts alike. It’s a classic mid-level speaker set, with something for everyone.
It might sacrifice a bit on gloss and sheen, but it still produces an excellent mid-range sound. Best of all, it generally sells between $550-600, making it easily affordable for those looking to spend less than $1000.
- Technology: Like the higher-priced LS50, the Q300’s come standard with the latest version of the Uni-Q driver. In a similar fashion, KEF has exploited the progress of the Blade speakers and shared much of the core technology down the price range.
- Sound: We can discuss the finer points at length, but the bottom line is that the Q300’s deliver a well-detailed and expressive sound performance. There is certainly some tough competition in this price range, but this model can stand its own against the best of them (and for a lesser price). The overall experience with the KEF Q300 is actually quite dynamic. Each individual instrument can be heard in detail. The level of precision is actually quite good for this category of speakers. The only downside is that things will tend to get a bit thin at a very high treble.
- Speaker Design: The Q300 speakers have a more traditional bookshelf speaker design and offer a variety of different color schemes to choose from. Internally, the design features “tangerine” sound wave tweeters. This enables the Q300 to maintain and improve the sound wave flow. Another nice engineering feature is the control of “Cone Breakup”. What this does is essentially is establish a “moulding” to mediate between the driver’s cone and central motor, thus reducing resonance in the mid-level ranges.
If you are trying to find a good balance between cost and performance, these speakers will leave you with plenty of room to spare in your budget. You really can’t go wrong with these speakers. Prices tend to vary online, but you can find a good price at this listing (in my experience price hunting).
#2 KEF X300A
The X300A’s are a slightly more affordable model than the Q300 pair. They share many similarities – including the same core technology – but are usually about $50 cheaper. These bookshelf speakers are versatile, making good PC speakers or traditional bookshelf speakers (as needed).
- Technology: Just like the other KEF offerings, the X300A comes standard with the proprietary Uni-Q driver. This is the “secret sauce” that makes these speakers stand out from the crowd. KEF doesn’t mess around with low-quality – or low-budget – speakers. Most of their speakers are north of $500 (at minimum). Digital integration is central to the feature list on this set. You can easily connect to any smartphone or tablet device as well as Mac / PC computers.
- Sound: The X300A’s have an intimate sound, just what you’d expect from a good bookshelf speaker. Tiny details and fluctuations in instrumentation are immediately perceptible in a nuanced fashion. Nothing is missed. Many listeners have compared it to wearing a good pair of headphones, except sans the headphones. For the size of these speakers, the sound is incredibly detailed. Like with some of the other KEF speakers, the only problems are at higher vocal ranges on higher volumes the sound can become a touch strained. Again, if you use these as bookshelf or desktop speakers, they are incredible.
- Speaker Design: From the first glace, the X300A has a more pedestrian look than many of their higher-end offerings. They’ve paired back the gloss instead of an incredibly functional desktop/bookshelf speaker. As previously mentioned, this model was designed with digital integration. If you are looking to get up and running quickly, the X300A is a self-contained system with multi-device adaptability.
These speakers are a good value for the money. This is probably the lowest you can go to find KEF speaker and this brand name happens to be worth every penny. You can find a great price at this listing here.
Overall Category Comparison:
See the following table for the two best speakers under $1000 head-to-head:
The Best Bookshelf Speakers under 500
At this price point, you will find some great value options for the money. You’ll start to miss out on some of the higher-end features, but you are still in the category of feature-rich speakers. The following are three of our favorite bookshelf speakers for less than $500.
The JBL L830 speakers are one of the most popular bookshelf speakers in this price range. And with good reason. You can’t a pretty good back for your buck here.
- Technology: One of the nicest features about the L830 is that it comes standard with the same 1-inch tweeter as the much higher-end JBL Synthesis line of speakers. The core technology is also the same. They’ve replicated a good thing right on down the line to the mid-priced models like the L830. I’d recommend pairing these puppies with a good subwoofer for maximum effect.
- Sound: These speakers have a very good base response as well as quality mid and high ranges. The bass is good enough to set it apart from its peers. Not by a lot, but by enough. Overall, you’ll get much more sound than you expect out of these bookshelf speakers. In our test, they were shaking the studio with a decent 200-watt amp. The higher ranges definitely have some dynamism to them, so get ready!
- Speaker Design: The first thing you’ll notice is that these are a classier set of speakers than other speakers in this price range, based on appearance and polish. The speakers are a bit taller than skinnier than most, but this shouldn’t be much of a problem for most bookshelves and stands. Check out the comparison table at the bottom of this section for the exact dimensions.
If you are in the market for a good bookshelf speaker in this range, you at least owe it to yourself to take a look at this set. You can find a good price and additional features here. Money does not always ensure quality, but these speakers are well worth it and aren’t over the top expensive.
Check out more reviews and comparisons from JBL:
Klipsch RB-51 II
Klipsch is another leading brand in the acoustic space. They generally have very solid, higher-end products, from headphones to speakers. Their RB-51 bookshelf speakers are no exception. Coming in sub-$500, these speakers are among the best in this price category. You can check out our assessment below:
- Technology: The RB-51’s feature a frequency range response of between 50Hz and 24KHz, with excellent power handling (maxing out at a 300-watt peak). At the core of these speakers is Klipsch’s patented Tractix Horn technology. While it’s a bit of mystery just what goes into this, the end result is a smart combination of clarity, precision, and power. This unique mix helps to set these speakers apart from the competition. Like KEF, Klipsch has scaled its technology from the high end down to the smaller compact bookshelf speakers.
- Sound: The 5.25-inch woofer really helps to enhance the bass quality significantly. It’s not necessarily a true subwoofer, but it still provides a very solid bass for a bookshelf speaker. The 1-inch titanium tweeter helps to keep the speakers running smoothly, even at a high frequency. There is a good definition, even at higher ranges. Overall, the sound is quite dynamic which is the mark of a good speaker system. The higher highs and the lower lows – and all the nuances in between – are accurately rendered.
- Speaker Design: These speakers are quite nice to look at. They feature a vinyl black wood style with a nice dark finish. Structurally, one of the things to like about the RB-51 is the unique woofer construction. It consists of a blend of metal and ceramic with a copper outer layer. This is a smart design feature that helps to project accurate sound and lessen distortion. The system as a whole is a “bass reflex” structure, meaning that it has a port on the back end of the box. This actually makes the speakers more conducive to mounting on a stand or even mounted on a wall as the sound will fire backward into most hard-backed bookshelves.
Fills medium-sized rooms with dynamic sound reproduction. Highly efficient design produces more output using less energy. Accurate, non-fatiguing sound.
This is another great entry for Klipsch. Again, this is one of the bookshelf speakers where you really can’t go wrong. Different types of users might prefer a few of the subtleties in specs, but really there is not much that separates this set of speakers from a similarly priced KEF set. You can find the RB-51’s for a bargain price at this listing.
Check out more relevant reviews and comparisons from this brand:
- Klipsch R-15M Review
- Klipsch Promedia Review
- Klipsch Quintet Review
- Klipsch Heresy III Speakers Review
- Klipsch Music Center 3 Review
- Klipsch Promedia 2.1 vs Logitech z623
Polk Audio RTI A1
Polk makes a nice entry into this category with their RTI A1 bookshelf speakers. They are well below the $500 budget, retailing for close to $325. Not too bad for what we think is more than competent mid-level pair of speakers. These speakers are certainly not the latest models on the market, but their consistency and reliability have earned them a steady stream of sales (and fans) even today.
- Technology: Like the RB-51,s the A1’s come with a 5.25-inch cone driver. Its made of a composite polymer/mineral for optimal sound dynamism and balance. The core technology at play here is the “Dynamic Balance Cone” drivers, aided by 1-inch tweeters.
- Sound: Overall, you get a rich, warm, and natural sound. Due to the superior design (see below), you will not find any discolorations or tonality problems with these speakers. The mid-range is extremely detailed, with ample base response and adept transitions between the ranges.
- Speaker Design: These speakers feature a smart MDF building, designed as a “resonance free” chamber to ensure the best acoustic fidelity. This is the type of attention to detail that makes a good set of speakers “great”. To keep everything cool and operating efficiently, these speakers have a really nice low viscosity cooling mechanism in the back-end. This heat magnet uses a ferrofluid system to ensure optimal cooling. What does this mean for you? The A1’s are great for extended heavy use!
I say, if it’s not broken, please don’t fix it. The Polk RTI A1 speakers have been my personal favorite for reliability for the last 3+ years. Even while newer models from different companies were being released, I kept coming back to these puppies. You can find them with a discount at this listing.
Overall Category Comparison
See the following table for an overview of the previous three speakers head-to-head:
The Best Bookshelf Speakers Under 200
If you are really on a tight budget, but still need a good set of speakers, this is the bargain bin! You have to be very careful in this category because there is a lot of junk. Not to worry, we’ve tested out a number of bookshelf speakers in this category and have found the following three (3) to be excellent value for the money. Check out the following descriptions for details and then review the comparison table at the end.
Pioneer is another icon in the audio industry. Their SP-BS22′s are one of their best sellers and happen to fit perfectly in the sub-$200 price range. If you are looking for excellent value for your money, these are a great option. Check out the details below:
- Technology: The core tech spec for these speakers is the 6 element crossover. This helps project a balanced tone across all of the ranges. On a budget set of speakers, this is money well spent as it helps “cover-up” some of the generally short-comings that you get in this price range. The other emphasis for these speakers is an investment in a competent woofer, designed for a true bass sound. Many competitors in this price range skimp on this, so it’s nice to see that Pioneer put some extra effort in here.
- Sound: What stood out for me with these speakers was the surprisingly ample bass. I honestly wasn’t expected this much deep tone at this price. The mid-range is pretty good for what you pay for. Some might find it a tad thin, but not bad overall. For a cheap set of speakers, these Pioneer’s have a very good tone balance across the board. You won’t be blown away, but you also won’t be disappointed. Overall, a very solid acoustic sound from an affordable speaker.
- Speaker Design: Appearance-wise, there is nothing snazzy about these speakers. They are pretty standard in appearance. I’m okay with that because there is actually some stellar interior design and excellent technology at work here. These are the ultimate functional speakers. They feature a 4″ surface woofer, 1″ dome tweeter, and 5-way binding posts. The stiffer “curved cabinet” design reduces the amount of “standing sound waves” resonating inside the cabinet. The material is generally a combination of vinyl and plastic; nothing too fancy here. Again, it’s very functional design helps maximize the performance of these budget speakers.
These speakers utilize a true curved cabinet design. Not only aesthetically pleasing, this stiffer design reduces standing sound waves inside the cabinet, resulting in high-performance and exceptional sound quality.
For less than $150, this is a great set of speakers. You can find them for about $125 at this listing here, with free shipping.
JBL is another company that has successfully moved down the value chain while still providing the same core technology in their speakers. That’s one big reason why we like the ES20’s as a nice option under$200. Below we have highlighted again some of the important areas where the ES20’s deliver.
- Technology: These speakers are pretty stacked with unique technology. It begins with the proprietary PolyPlas transducers which are ultra low-frequency. Other proprietary features are the JBL Elliptical Oblate Spheroidal waveguide, which helps these speakers crossover at 3.3kHz – 12kHz, depending on the octave. Overall, not too shabby for less than $200.
- Sound: The ES20’s offer a very nice balance between providing precise acoustics without overemphasizing any particular aspect. A lot of cheap speakers do this wrong and you end up with some distorted “unique” sounding acoustics. Similarly, the computer-optimized base with a deep base response and zero extra turbulence.
- Speaker Design: Aesthetically, these speakers are modern and functional in appearance. They definitely look a bit trendier when compared to competing speakers. Aside from the physical appearance, the ES20’s feature a Straight-Line Signal Path (SSP). This provides an optimal path from the input components right to the transducers (in a straight line). This helps to preserve sound fidelity as it travels through the system. Another enhancement is the cellulose-fiber polymer-coated cones which help to establish uniform motion within the system. Another nice nuance is that these speakers are magnetically “shielded”, preventing other nearby electronics from interfering with the sound quality. This is actually a bigger problem than most people think. Smart thinking by JBL.
I really, really, like these speakers for the price. They are packed with innovative features and all the small details to be a great value for the money. Yes, they aren’t groundbreaking, but they do almost everything right that you could possibly expect at this price point. You can find them for a competitive $129 price at this listing.
The SX6 is a bookshelf speaker with an attractive price tag and solid performance. It’s cheap, but it has a premium appearance, feels, and execution. If you are looking for a more classic bookshelf speaker, this should be the first speaker you look at.
- Technology: To start with, Fluance has emplaced neodymium tweeters to enhance the level of frequency response. This is a nice feature that sets these speakers apart. The fine-tuned base ensures excellent quality at the lower ends helps ensure fidelity at base levels.
- Sound: To put it succinctly, the SX6 speakers provide nice frequency response, minimal acoustic distortion, and a rich quality of sound. These speakers live and dance beautifully in the mid ranges, something I can’t say about most speakers at this price. Higher ranges are clear and accurate, clearly outclassing peers.
- Speaker Design: On the outside, the SX6 speakers offer a more traditional aesthetic. These are the type of bookshelf speakers that actually look nice…. on a bookshelf. The first thing you’ll notice is the sturdy construction and premium feel. Like some other smart companies, Fluance has mastered the art of intelligent spatial design and sound flow within the speaker box. While the price may be eminently reasonable, they don’t skimp on the construction. Audio MDF-grade wood is standard, helping to reduce resonance issues. 5-way plated bind posts also structurally support optimal sound performance. Finally – unique to the SX6 – is a butyl rubber layer that enhances durability and ensures accurate sound quality.
If you are willing to take a hit on some of the high-quality performance and sound perks, you can still find some excellent bookshelf speakers in this price bracket. You can find them for an excellent price here.
Best Vintage Bookshelf Speakers
Looking for something with a classic appeal? One of my favorite options in this category is the Wolverine RSR100. Here’s why I like it:
- Handmade: This handmade wood cabinet has the classic retro “vintage” feel that I like.
- AM/FM Tuner: This is a neat feature, representative of the classic speakers back in the day.
- Modern Capability: While the design is classic, this box has an AUX-IN jack and Bluetooth capability.
It’s not an amazingly high-tech system, but if the classic look and feel is what you are after, these do the job.
Best Vinyl Bookshelf Speakers
If you are specifically looking for a good bookshelf setup for your vinyl records, my favorite option is the Dayton Audio B452 speakers. They are affordably priced for the technology and quality that you get. In particular, the sound waves are pushed in a square formation, meaning that there is less effort (distortion) in the process. This is ideal for vinyl.