Bookshelf speakers may come with some inherent compromises, but they’re often the most realistic option for anyone that either doesn’t have the space for larger speakers or doesn’t want them to be the focal point of their living room. A good pair, however, can make most people forget about their size and easily fill a room with sound.
Here are eight great options to consider that will suit any space or budget.
Elac’s Debut B6 bookshelf speakers have been a favorite in recent years for their great bang-for-the-buck performance, and the company’s newer Debut 2.0 series speakers look to only improve on that status.
CNET gives the speakers high marks for their improved build quality and clearer sound quality, as well as their redesigned cabinets that allow them to be placed closer to a wall than the previous speakers. Those improvements do come with a slight increase to the speakers price tag, but they remain one of the best values around.
If you’re looking for something small and sleek that still pumps out some great sound, Q Acoustics 3020 speakers may be just what you’re after. They’re The Wirecutter’s top overall pick for bookshelf speakers, and also well-reviewed by CNET and others, which praise their great clarity and detail.
They’re also more likely to fit into any room than many bookshelf speakers—not just for their small size, but because you can get them in your choice of four different finishes, including gloss white, black, graphite, or classic American Walnut (which can also be paired with other matching speakers in a home theater setup).
Klipsch’s signature sound has won it countless devotees over the years, and the company’s RP-160M bookshelf speakers are a great way to get that time-tested performance in a more compact package. They aren’t the smallest bookshelf speakers around, but there’s no mistaking them for anything but a high-end piece of gear no matter which of the four finish options you choose.
And, if you’re looking to save some money, refurbished pairs are also regularly available at a significant discount off the list price.
If you’re willing to step over the $1,000 mark, KEF’s LS50 speakers (made for the British company’s 50th anniversary) are among the most consistently well-reviewed bookshelf speakers around, and can even hold their own against many considerably more expensive speakers. They even come in high gloss red if their already eye-catching design isn’t enough for you.
Thankfully, KEF also makes some considerably more affordable speakers, and the Q100s in particular are a great value at $250 for a more modest setup.
Whether as a secondary set of speakers for an office or bedroom, or as part of a budget-minded main system, there aren’t many more well-reviewed $100 speakers than Edifier’s R1280Ts. Adding to their budget appeal: they are powered speakers with a pair of AUX inputs (not to mention a remote control), which means you won’t need a separate amplifier.
If you’re willing to spend a little bit more, Edifier’s R1700BT ($149) will give you similar performance and also add some Bluetooth connectivity to the mix.
Another oft-recommended pair in the sub-$1000 camp, Audioengine’s HD6 powered speakers pack a range of modern conveniences into a classic-looking package. That includes aptX Bluetooth streaming in addition to optical, 3.5mm, and a pair of standard RCA jacks. At $700, they still may not exactly be affordable, but factor in the cost of the amp they’re likely replacing and they at least start to look more reasonable.
Shopping for bookshelf speakers these days likely also means giving at least some consideration to wireless or smart speakers. While a single Bluetooth speaker may not be a viable substitute, a pair of Sonos One speakers can offer significant upgrade to the already-great sound you can get from a single speaker—and, at $400, is not too far out of line considering all of the added wireless features (including Amazon’s Alexa smart assistant) you get from them.
For no-frills quality audio, you can’t go wrong with this classic pair of bookshelf speakers from Pioneer. Designed by legendary speaker guru Andrew Jones, the SP-BS22-LR has a 1-inch High Efficiency Soft Dome tweeter. Together with the 4-inch woofer and 80 watts of power, these Pioneers deliver plenty of performance out of a small bookshelf pair. These speakers have been on the market for a few years now, but that just means you can often find a good deal on them on Amazon.
If you want to spend a little more for an upgrade in sound quality and aesthetics, Pioneer also sells the SP-BS22A-LR model with a cool angled top and Dolby Atmos compatibility. The higher-end version runs $299 for the pair, up from $129.