If you have a home theater, you need surround sound. Great visuals count for the experience, but so does great audio. If you’ve built your set up to the point of installing surround sound, you’re likely quite a few bones deep.
Bookshelf speakers are the cherry on top to a surround setup, or great for installing in a living room to listen to music.
However, like all high quality speakers, they can very expensive, some pairs going for $10,000 and above. We found the best bookshelf speakers that keep both your ears and your wallet happy.
Before we jump in, here are a few notes. Our prices listed are for a pair of speakers, meaning each speaker would be half the listed cost here. Also, we tried to choose speakers across the range of prices, ones that we feel offer a lot of value. Because of that, they are in no particular order.
On with the list!
SVS Ultra – About $999 MSRP
Starting off the list are the
Internally, you’ll find both a 6.5” woofer and a 1” soft dome tweeter. Both of these drive units have their own sub-enclosure to minimize interaction between them. What results is a clear frequency response across the spectrum, one that sound surprisingly full for the size.
If you have the budget, these are some of the best speakers you can go with. They sound amazing and look amazing, and the cost because of that is easily justified.
Bowers & Wilkins 686 S2 – About $900 MSRP
Bowers & Wilkins make some of the best looking, and best sounding, audio devices today. The Phone Cable are no exception to that, providing top notch looks and sound at a price point that is easy to chalk up considering what’s offered.
Now, the speakers look nice, but they look nice in their own way. The yellow-ish woofer cone and grayed out sides may not fit in with every set up. They’re intended to be part of a surround setup in the Bowers & Wilkins family and, for that, they’re essential. Going outside of that, you may find these speakers don’t match up.
The S2s are slightly smaller than the Ultras, coming in with only a 5” woofer. However, a 25mm voice coil helps bass out significantly, and the double dome design of the tweeter ensures highs are crisp without being brittle.
Definitive Technology D11 – About $999 MSRP
Jumping back up in price (only by a little bit) are the Definitive Technology D11s. The first thing that stands out about these speakers is the way they look. The offset tweeter and UFO looking cone nipple are strange at first. However, after awhile, I could appreciate the look of them, falling into the same spot as the S2s where they look good, but look good in their own way.
The sound, however, can stand up to just about anything. As opposed to a soft dome tweeter, these speakers sport an aluminum dome tweeter, which can stand up over time. It also improves the high-end response, a must for bookshelf speakers.
The UFO looking thing is actually a linear response waveguide. This disperses midrange frequencies as they are pumped out of the driver, leading to a more natural midrange with better imaging. This fixes problematic areas in the mids, and is one of the most unique designs I have ever seen.
Klipsch RP-160M – About $438 MSRP
Coming in much cheaper than the previous options are the Klipsch RP-160M Bookshelf Speaker - Ebony, Pair (Renewed). Don’t let the price tag fool you, though. These speakers are more than capable to standing next to any of the others on this list with little to no issues.
If you’ve used anything from Klipsch, you know that the star of the show is the midrange. Across every Klipsch product, the midrange is very natural, lending a sound that sounds full, but not muddy. As opposed to many other speakers, this area doesn’t sound scooped, making the precise in the room feel like it’s surrounding your ears.
The looks are no slouch either. Klipsch’s signature copper-spun woofer is present here, which gorgeous reflects light. Even mismatched with other speakers, these manage to stand out in a way that works in the favor of the whole setup.
Sonus Faber Chameleon B – About $899 MSRP
Externally, the Sonus faber Chameleon B Bookshelf Speaker (Pair, Black) are the most interesting speakers on this list. The outside of them are completely covered in leather, something I haven’t seen on any other speaker. This is further embellished by aluminum accents are the drivers edges.
What makes it special are the interchangeable side panels, though. The Chameleon collection, as the name implies, can turn into anything you want. A series of pins on the sides easily allow you to pop in and out different side panels, completely changing the look of your speakers.
They sound pretty great too. An extended top-end lends itself to be very useful when watching movies, enhancing explosions behind you in a surround setup. Dialogue also comes through very clearly, which is a huge plus.
Audioengine HD6 – About $749 MSRP
The Audioengine HD6 Wireless Speaker | Desktop Monitor Speakers | Home Music System aptX HD Bluetooth, 150W Powered Bookshelf Stereo Speakers, AUX Audio, USB, Optical, RCA, 24-bit DAC (Walnut) stick out as an interesting choice in this list. They are not only the only wireless option but the only powered option as well. If you’re looking for just a set of speakers, not part of a larger setup, then these would be for you. They’re totally self-contained, being powered, and super easy to set up due to them being wireless.
Just because they’re wireless and powered doesn’t mean they sound bad, though. Yes, a high-quality amp with passive speakers is preferred over a powered option, but these sound good. The woofers have diecast aluminum frames, which holds the woofer in firm. This pushes the bass out without the cone overreacting and absorbing the impact.
They look great too. Audioengine calls this a “retro-forward design”, something that looks retro, but not like an antique. Furniture-grade wood veneers are used to finish the cabinet in either natural, black, or cherry. Aluminum trim accents line the body, as well as detachable magnetic grills to fit the look you want. Read our full Audioengine HD6 Review.
Wharfedale Diamond 220 – About $349 MSRP
Coming in as the cheapest option on the list are the Wharfedale - Diamond 220 (Black). Even though the price is cheap, these speakers sit just slightly below the other options on this list. They look great and sound great, focusing more on features that matter than anything external.
Not to say the external isn’t nice. The speakers come in black, walnut, rosewood, and white, all of which feature wood grain.
I would have liked to see some sort of gloss finish, but I can’t complain too much. Additionally, instead of using a grill for the whole front, Wharfedale has included grills for both the tweeter and the woofer. I prefer this look, still giving the nice accents around the cones.
Sound-wise, there is some cool technology as well. On top, there is a standard 1-inch soft dome tweeter, with a 5.1-inch kevlar woofer. Nothing special there. However, on the bottom, there is a section that the speaker rests on. This separates the speaker from the surface. This reduces vibrations that could infect the sound. Overall, you get a cleaner and more open sound.
Final Note on the Best Bookshelf Speakers under $1000
No matter what option you go with, you’re sure to find a great set of speakers from this list. Most are going to run you at the top of the budget, but we tried to mix a few in for those at that even more budget conscience. Still, you should be able to find something great no matter what your budget is.
The best way to go about it is finding the ones you think will work with your setup (or ones that you like the look of if you’re starting from scratch) and then go out and listen to them. Each of them sounds amazing, but they don’t all sound the same.
What are your favorite bookshelf speakers? What ones do you have now? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.