The Best Bookshelf Speakers for Your Bedroom, Office or Den

best bookshelf speakers
Image courtesy of Amazon

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If you’re setting up your home audio system and floor space is at a premium, consider picking up a pair of bookshelf speakers. Larger than a portable speaker but more compact than standing speakers, bookshelf speakers deliver loud amplification and solid, stereo sound for small to medium-sized rooms.

Though they’re often shaped like a cube or rectangle, the best bookshelf speakers think outside the box regarding audio quality, dynamics and efficiency, creating fuller sound and rounder textures than a Bluetooth unit can deliver. They don’t just have to sit on a bookshelf either — place them on a table, stand or windowsill, adjusting the height to be as close to your ear level as possible for best performance.

Bookshelf speakers won’t get you the same room-shaking power or rumbling bass that a full-sized set will provide, but for your office, den or bedroom, they’ll be more than enough. If you’re setting up a home theater system, pair the speakers with a subwoofer to enhance your listening experience. Read on for SPY’s list of the best bookshelf speakers.

Read More: 11 Best Wireless Soundbars

  

Bookshelf Speakers 101

It’s easy to get lost under tech jargon when looking for the best bookshelf speakers, but aside from the all-important price tag, there are only a few numbers to keep in mind. Here’s a quick primer:

  • Hertz (Hz): A speaker’s frequency response — how accurately it converts the frequency of an input signal — is measured in Hertz. Yes, that’s jargon-y. Here’s the short-form answer in layman’s terms: the lower the Hertz, the lower the bass sound. For a deep, driving bass, look for a lower Hz number.
  • Watts (W): A watt when discussing speakers is the same as when discussing electricity: a watt is a measure of electrical power. A speaker’s wattage measures how much power it can handle. Simply put, more Watts means more volume. Big wattage, loud speaker.
  • Drivers: A driver turns an audio signal to sound. Wait — isn’t that the definition of a speaker? What’s the difference? Well, different drivers convert different sounds — woofers create bass sound, tweeters convert treble sounds. A speaker is usually a collection of drivers. There are such things as “full range drivers” that convert all the sounds but think of an old-fashioned transistor radio. One driver, all the sound, none of it good. Make sure your bookshelf speaker has a full set of drivers.
  

1. Q Acoustics 3020i Bookshelf Speakers (Pair)

BEST OVERALL

Here’s what you’re getting for under $300: a well-designed set of speakers that deliver generous, room-filling sound, reliable quality and low distortion.

The Q 3020i speakers update previous models in the series by boosting the cabinet size by 25% (they come in at just over 11 inches tall). The result: a taller and deeper cabinet, which means fuller sound and deeper bass. “P2P” (point to point) bracing keeps the speakers tight and the enclosure quiet for less noise disruptions.

Reviewers say the sound from these speakers is smooth, not sharp, and they like the fullness of the notes that come through the grills. Fans of classical music or songs with lush production will appreciate the speakers’ ability to reproduce dense textures so you hear every part of the track. The speakers feature a 5-inch bass driver and a power input of up to 125 watts. Available in three colors.

Q Acoustics 3020i Bookshelf Speakers Courtesy of Amazon

  

2. Sony SSCS5 3-Way 3-Driver Bookshelf Speaker System

RUNNER UP

It would almost seem odd if there were not a pair of Sonys on any list of best bookshelf speakers. Sony has been one of the leading brands and innovators in home theater for decades, and these 3-way, 3-driver bookshelf speakers, are yet another feather in their cap. They’re the perfect bookshelf size (7 1/8 x 13 1/4 x 8 3/4 inches, and a hair under 10 pounds each) and pack a strong but not overwhelming 100-watt punch.

The three drivers, including a high-range super tweeter, mean you do not necessarily need to add a separate subwoofer for enhanced sound. However, Sony offers a complementary model at a good price to augment the 50Hz bass driver inside the SSCS5 case. And for an extra $20, you can buy the Dolby Atmos version of the SSCS5s.

Sony-SSCS5-3-Way-Bookshelf-Speaker-System Courtesy of Amazon

  

3. Dayton Audio B652-AIR 6.5-Inch 2-Way Bookshelf Speakers (Pair)

BEST BUDGET

Two speakers for $60 surely has you thinking these are cheap-quality units from a no-name brand. Still, Dayton Audio has built an excellent reputation for creating inexpensive speakers that vastly outperform their price tag. The B652s are small enough for tight spaces (6.4 x 7.1 x 11.8 inches), but the 6.5-inch woofers allow them to deliver a surprisingly punchy level of sound.

You won’t put your eardrums at risk or make enemies of the neighbors with these 40-watt speakers, but that’s not the point of good bookcase speakers. You’re getting quality sound at a very, very good price, in keeping with the entire Dayton line. Keep in mind these are hardwired speakers, not Bluetooth, so they will need to be placed in proximity to a receiver.

Dayton-Audio-B652-AIR-Bookshelf-Speakers Courtesy of Amazon

 

  

4. Klipsch RP-160M Bookshelf Speaker

BEST AESTHETICS

Loud, theater-like sound in a bookshelf speaker. That’s what reviewers say you’ll find in this best-selling kit from Klipsch. Whether as part of a home entertainment system (say, paired with your TV) or for your bedroom or den, the 17-inch speakers deliver bold, bracing sound thanks to a 1-inch titanium tweeter, 6.5-inch copper woofer and a hybrid horn design that pairs a circular horn “throat” with a square horn “mouth” to better direct sound transfer while enhancing dynamics. The compressed rubber material, meantime, helps to dampen errant frequencies for clearer resolution and detail.

What we like: Klipsch’s signature cerametallic woofers are lightweight yet sturdy and help to reduce cone breakup and distortion. The MDF cabinet on these speakers is finished with a brushed veneer coating, giving it a more premium look than some of the other units on this list.

Klipsch RP-150M Bookshelf Speaker - Ebony (Pair) Courtesy of Amazon

  

5. ELAC Uni-fi UB5 Bookshelf Speaker

BEST UPGRADE

Serious audiophiles will want to upgrade to these ELAC bookshelf speakers, consistently rated at the top of their class. The reason: ELAC’s unique three-way speaker assigns dedicated drivers to the low, mid and high frequencies individually, meaning each driver is optimized for only one frequency range instead of trying to blend everything. Sound is more natural, cleaner and more accurate.

For its small size (just under 13-inches tall), the speakers deliver some serious bass, thanks to its 5 1/4-inch aluminum woofer. An extended magnet generates better power, while the vented pole piece propels the bass.

elac-bookshelf-speakers-review Courtesy Amazon

Reviewers say the ELAC outperforms units more than five times its price point, which makes sense since the Uni-fi UB5 uses the same custom driver and crossover components as some of the brand’s larger, pricier models.

This set was designed by Andrew Jones, the preeminent speaker designer in the industry who worked with several leading audio brands before joining ELAC as its chief engineer. The speakers have a nominal impedance of four ohms and can handle up to 140 watts per channel. Note: This comes as a set of two, even though only one speaker is pictured above.

  

The original version of this story was republished with the permission of Rolling Stone. To read the original article, click here.

Update: This story was last updated on August 11, 2022. We added the Bookshelf Speakers 101 section and replaced the Pioneer SP-BS22-LR Speakers and Bose 301-V Stereo Loudspeakers, both of which were unavailable, with the Dayton Audio B652-AIR 6.5-Inch 2-Way Bookshelf Speakers and the Sony SSCS5 3-Way 3-Driver Bookshelf Speaker System.