Top 20 Best Bookshelf Speakers in 2018-2019:Under 200-300-1000 Reviews

Best Bookshelf Speakers in 2018-2019:Under 200-300-1000 Reviews

Best Bookshelf Speakers in 2018-2019:Under 200-300-1000-Having the best bookshelf speakers may just be what you need to upgrade and add to your house’s décor. Whether you’re just looking for high quality sound in your TV room, some source of ambient music in your study or bedroom, shelf speakers play a crucial role in delivering quality sound without taking up lots of floor space.Best Bookshelf Speakers in 2018-2019:Under 200-300-1000.

Check Out The MostPopular And The Best Selling  Speaker In Amazon

Advancements in technology have in the recent years made bookshelf stereo systems improve in quality to achieve sound volume. On the brighter side, this has increased the number of cheap bookshelf speakers available in the market.
However, with numerous comes tough decisions and we understand how daunting this can be. This is why we spent lots of time reviewing the best models that boast powerful sound in a compact size.

 Speaker NameImage Price  OfferCheck Price
Edifier R1700BT Micca MB42 Shelf SpeakersBuy On Amazon
Edifier R1700BT Edifier R1700BT Bluetooth Shelf SpeakersBuy On Amazon
KEF Q100B Shelf Speakers KEF Q100B Shelf SpeakersBuy On Amazon
Dayton Audio B652 Dayton Audio B652Buy On Amazon
Klipsch R-14M Klipsch R-14MBuy On Amazon
Klipsch R-12SW Klipsch R-12SWBuy On Amazon

DALI – ZENSOR 1 – Bookshelf

 Buy On Amazon
   KEF Q300WH Bookshelf Loudspeakers - White (Pair)Buy On Amazon
  Dynaudio Xeo 2 Wireless Bookshelf Speakers, Limited Edition - Pair (Blue/White)Buy On Amazon

Best Bookshelf Speakers in 2018-2019:

1.AOMAIS Sport II Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speakers

Sale: $45.99
You Save: $124.00 (73%)

AOMAIS Sport II

The Sport II is a next generation speaker that will deliver crisp and robust sound just as it promises even allowing you to pair two speakers together for improved sound quality and better experience. It’s a portable 40 watts system that will produce rich sound quality whether at home or outdoors.
The best part about the AOMAIS Sport II is its waterproof exterior and weather resistant feature you can always take it with you even on extreme water-related outdoor adventures. Its high capacity rechargeable battery equally lets you enjoy quality music time for hours without worrying about power.
This portable wireless Bluetooth speaker is designed for your iPhone device, iPod, iPads, phone or tablet. Moreover, its durable and resistant exterior makes it the best Bluetooth speaker that won’t damage and the smooth rubber on the exterior protects it from any scratches.

2. R1280T Powered Bookshelf Speakers – 2.0 Active Near Field Monitors

Edifier R1280T

Edifier introduces in the market the bestselling, versatile and cheap bookshelf speakers packed with amazing features that will give you one-of-a-kind audio quality. Thanks to the R1280t’s 4-inch bass driver that comes fitted with a bass reflex port, this system produces top-notch sound quality.
You can conveniently connect to any two devices via the AUX without plugging or switching. The bookshelf stereo systems allow for wireless manipulation with a remote control where you can comfortably adjust the volume.
Well, aside from its studio sound quality, you’ll love its classic wood finish that’s designed with high-quality MDF wood and will complement your home’s décor perfectly.

3. Micca MB42 Shelf Speakers

Micca MB42 Shelf Speakers

Amid the top best bookshelf speakers ranks the Micca MB42 and this comes as no surprise at all. It features a 4-inch carbon fiber woofer allowing for an enhanced impactful bass. The silk dome tweeter gives a smooth treble no wonder the MB42 delivers top-notch sound quality.
These shelf speakers will take up little space in your room of course aside from the fact that you won’t have to adjust your budget to purchase it inconveniently. It blends perfectly in any room and will match your home’s décor. The 5-wire binding post allows for various speaker wire connectivity choices including pins, banana plugs, and spades.
You’ll surely love its simple yet sophisticated design made from high-quality materials that equally makes the MB42 quite durable. Place these bookshelf speakers on your bookshelf, your desk or speaker stand and enjoy high-quality audio in your home.

4. Edifier R1700BT Bluetooth Shelf Speakers

Edifier R1700BT Bluetooth Shelf Speakers

You’ll love these versatile speakers that will make you want to play any device on them. you can plug in your TV, gaming console and computer if you’d love to enjoy exceptional sound quality. The R1700BT truly brings out a new definition to clear sound with its 19mm Eagle Eye dome tweeter.
Its walnut vinyl elegant look will match your home while the 10 degree angle directs sound perfectly allowing for better listening experience. Moreover, it comes with a wireless remote thus you can always alter your music with ease wherever you are. Enjoy a hassle free wireless experience with the Edifier R1700BT by pairing it with your phone or tablet.

5. Micca MB42X

Micca MB42X

The MB42X’s fiber woofer material enhances the quality of bass produced while the silk dome covered tweeter helps create some smooth treble. Its ported enclosure help deliver extended bass response with very low distortion.
The advanced 12dB crossover design utilizes baffle step compensation yielding a transformed sound signature that is balanced, dynamic and incredibly open. You can easily take off the front magnetic grill system for a clean baffle.

6. Polk Audio T15

Polk Audio T15 Bookshelf Speakers, Pair, Black

Polk Audio T15

Polk Audio’s T15 is a bookshelf speaker deserving of your attention and time of course because it gives you excellent music performance at home. Its dynamic balance tweeters and drivers allow for very low distortion and wide response. The exterior rubber designed on the T15 promises a lifetime of service and high performance.
Moreover, the magnetic shield enclosure will reduce distortion from nearby video sources while improving the audio’s clarity. The sonically matched speakers allow for a balanced sound production thus giving you a fuller and richer sound. The Polk Audio T15 comes with a keyhole slot for easy wall-mounting.

7. KEF Q100B Shelf Speakers

KEF Q100B Shelf Speakers

For a KEF product, this model, the Q100B speakers are quite affordable and perfect for anyone working on a tight budget. It features a 1-inch tweeter and 5.25-inch audio driver on each speaker to deliver high-quality sound. Moreover, its elegant and attractive design gives it an eye-catching finish you’ll surely notice it among other models.
The Uni-Q driver array keeps the stereo image balanced you’ll be able to enjoy the same clear music sound regardless of where you are in the room. While these speakers are large enough for a home theater setup, they are quite compact and the perfect fit for a small listening room.

8. M-Audio AV32 with 3 inch Woofer

M-Audio AV32 with 3 inch Woofer

The AV32 from M-Audio allows you to enjoy professional standard audio quality on your desktop. It’s designed with a 3 inch woofer and 10-watt per channel amplifier just perfect to give you an excellent listening experience.
The AV32 bookshelf speakers are compatible with all devices including your smartphone, your tablet or computer. The uncovered tweeter cones and woofer allows for excellent sound quality, but this model remains child and pet-proof.

9. Elac B6 Debut Series

Elac B6 Debut Series

The Elac B6 is the best bookshelf speakers for the money and ideal for anyone looking for lowly priced speakers available in the market. Its custom design Aramid fiber woofer is made to offer superior strength which in turn helps achieve a broad bandwidth with smooth response.
And you’ll undoubtedly love the textured vinyl finish that makes it look quite elegant and sophisticated. The 5-way binding posts that are gold plated allow for various connection possibilities while its 8-element crossover allows for superior accuracy.

10. Dayton Audio B652

Dayton Audio B652

Do not underestimate the B652’s mall size since this bookshelf speaker will offer you excellent performance and improve your listening experience. This two-way shelf speaker is perfect for your dorm room, your living room or office. Its stylish ebony vinyl finish will add to your interior’s great décor.
Its removable grill allows for easy access into the speakers interior. It can easily be installed anywhere using the keyhole, and the best part is, it won’t eat up a lot of space in your room.

11.Micca MB42X Bookshelf Speakers

Micca Covo-S

This is another compact bookshelf speaker system that will deliver great sound in a small model that fits a very small listening room. The concentric driver design of the Covo-S helps improve its audio performance.
A balance application of enclosure tuning, crossover construction and sophisticated drivers actually makes your dream of having the best bookshelf speaker come to life. If you’d like better bass output, you can always place them near a corner or along the wall.

12. Klipsch R-12SW

 

Klipsch R-12SW

The Klipsch R-12SW has a 12 inch 400w copper subwoofer and Line inputs making it compatible with most receivers whether old or new. Its brushed black vinyl cabinet finish will compliment your home’s décor without taking too much space. The Low Pass crossover lets you blend the R-12SW with other Klipsch speakers aside from establishing an ideal bass level.
Much as the woofers are quite rigid, they are exceptionally light in weight reducing the impact of cone distortion or breakup. You’ll want to own these bookshelf stereo systems with all-digital amplifiers that will make your listening experience truly worth it.

13. Polk Audio TSi200

Polk Audio TSi200

Don’t just take our word, try these black pair bookshelf speakers and understand what we mean. The TSi200 is a pair of sturdy yet cheap bookshelf speakers that is equipped with a one-inch silk dome tweeter intended to improve sound quality. The Polk Audio TSi200 ranks as the best performing shelf speaker and is perfect to use where high quality sound is needed.
The dual mid-bass produces rich high quality sounds making you enjoy your music and movies anytime. Its stylish look perfectly complements the flat screen technology while its elegant finish will look great in your living room area or wherever you choose to put it.

14. Klipsch R-14M

Klipsch R-14M

The averagely-priced Klipsch R-14M gives you a taste of both style and excellent sound to make the listening experience worth your money. Even for such a small size, this monitor speaker comes with high power and versatility without taking too much space in the room.
It includes two speakers and a bonus 16AWG speaker wire. The 4 inch copper woofer is made from high quality material that will deliver you the best for a long time.

15. Micca PB42X Shelf Speakers

Micca PB42X Shelf Speakers

The Micca PB42X bookshelf stereo systems are packed with quality components that promise quality sound for a very long time. Their price tag will surely catch your eyes, and while it’s not about this, you want a speaker that fits your budget yet still guarantees excellent value and performance.
It has a smooth frequency response with low noise floor and distortion. Aside from the 18V/2A power adapter, these bookshelf speakers have 15 watts clean power for the two channels. The mounted volume control help preserve its looks while its elegant design makes it a preferred option to many customers shopping for the best bookshelf speakers.

16. Polk Audio OWM3

Polk Audio OWM3

This white pair of on-wall speaker will surely complement your room’s décor without taking too much space. It has seven different mounting options and comes equipped with a single 1-inch dome tweeter and 4 and a half inch cone woofer. It has a removable base and unique curved design making it very easy to mount in a corner.
Moreover, you have the option to choose either a white or black finish depending on your preference. And while it has a very simple and straightforward design, the Polk Audio OWM3 will truly give you quality sound you’re sure to feel your money’s worth.

17. Edifier R2000DB Bluetooth Shelf Speakers

Edifier R2000DB Bluetooth Shelf Speakers

This is the ideal speaker for your gaming consoles, mini home theatre or computer. The MDF wooden enclosure is designed to help reduce acoustic resonance while still allowing it to produce spectacular sound. The 25mm silk dome tweeters makes even the slightest sound very clear and the in-built Dynamic Range Control help minimize distortion.
The RCA input lets you connect more than one device at a time. You can equally pair it with your smartphone using Bluetooth if you want to avoid using wires. The wireless remote control makes it convenient for you to adjust the volume even while sitting on the couch.

18. Polk Audio RTI A1

Polk Audio RTI A1

This pair of real wood cherry bookshelf speakers is equipped with a 5.25-inch cone driver and features a Power Port technology that helps reduce port noise or chuffing.
Features such as a heat sink behind the neodymium magnet and low viscosity ferrofluid cooling make this the best speaker in producing quality and rich sound for your music or movies.

19. Polk Audio TSx 220B

Polk Audio TSx 220B

The bookshelf speakers very light in weight though stiff enough to offer service for a long time. If you’re looking to feel the impact of your music sound tracks, then this is the only way to go considering you won’t have to dig deeper into your pocket to purchase the shelf speakers.
It has a superior enclosure design and features amazing audio technology while the state-of-art materials used to create it make it rank among the best bookshelf stereo systems. The stiff and durable driver cones help deliver a smooth natural sound while the silk dome tweeters anchors the action with clear highs even when the volume is high.

20. BIC America DV62si

BIC America DV62si

The DV62si includes a 0.75 inch soft dome tweeter and 6.5 inch poly graphite woofer which creates a great impact when listening to your audio. Moreover, the black laminate finish made from high quality material will compliment your room’s design while promising long-term service.
These bookshelf speakers will serve you perfectly as main speakers, front or rear center. For the bass lover, you’ll surely want to have these small speakers that extend low-frequency response to 43Hz. They are suitable for your dorm, apartment, bedroom or living room and they won’t even take too much space.
They are magnetically-shielded preventing distortion when placed near your computer monitor or television. the 6 inch woofer is light and rigid allowing for accurate and remarkably extended bass while the 0.75 inch dome tweeter allows for extended high frequencies.

What Are Bookshelf Speakers?

Bookshelf speakers are designed to be used as part of a discrete audio system. You are not connecting them to your surround sound system (although you probably could, with a little tinkering). Instead, what you’re doing is pairing them with an amplifier, or a dedicated player, in order to create a single, self-contained system. Hence the use of the word bookshop; they’re meant to be off on their own, away from everything else. Typically, these are easy to spot. They’re big, boxy, and usually have one small driver (the tweeter) and one big one (the woofer). You can usually cover these with a mesh grille, which makes them a little easier on the eye.

Prior to the 1960’s, home audio entertainment was mostly in the shape of integrated radio or record player units sporting built-in amps and speakers. Standalone ‘high fidelity’ speakers were at the time pretty much without exception floorstanding models – huge, bulky and very expensive.

This was until bookshelf speakers were invented and popularized (by Edgar Villchur at Acoustic Research), and their name really came about from the speaker enclosures’ size – they were big enough to live on a bookshelf and yet reproduce a full range of frequencies, often matching the frequency response of larger floorstanding units.

It’s easier said than than done to manage such a trick – up to that point in time, smaller speakers were famed for their thin and brittle sound that couldn’t match the sonic oomph of ported (also known as bass-reflex) floorstanding speaker designs.

The invention of air suspension (also known as acoustic suspension) speaker enclosures was the real game changer. Instead of using ported design, the boffins at Acoustic Research came up with a sealed cabinet designs and those being (nearly) airtight, helped the air inside the cabinet act as a sort of a cushion or even a spring behind the woofer aiding its retraction. This significantly reduced excursion of the bass woofer actually delivered a tighter, richer and more controlled sounding bass, and in turn that gave bookshelf speakers the much flatter frequency response they are famed for.

They certainly sounded awesome, so the name bookshelf speakers stuck around and countless music lovers living in small apartments created a huge demand for this smaller speaker format – a trend continuing until today.

The key thing to remember is there’s a subtle difference between bookshelf speakers and computer speakers. Bookshelf speakers are more geared towards hifi sound – in other words, with separate amps and subwoofers. Computer speakers, or desktop speakers, are more likely to be made for use with computers and laptops, despite the similar size and design.

Passive vs. Active Speakers

Bookshelf speakers are traditionally Passive, meaning that they need to be powered by an external amplifier. A classic hifi component system featuring bookshelf speakers would normally consist of your source media players (CD, MP3, DVD, BluRay, etc) connected to a receiver/power amp which itself feeds the speakers in stereo (one channel per speaker).

Increasingly, you might run all their media off a PC or laptop. If this is the case, instead of a full receiver, you might opt for a simple stereo amp (receiving audio directly from your computer’s soundcard) to power your pair of bookshelf speakers.

Active (self-powered) bookshelf speakers are becoming increasingly popular too. In this case, each will have its own built-in power amps (two actually, one for the woofer, one for the tweeter), and all they need is an audio feed – a mini-jack from your smartphone or a tablet, or if you are using an A/V receiver, the main Line Out  (normally RCA) connected directly to the powered speakers’ input. Perfect example: the Audioengine HD6, one of the few active speakers on this list. No amp matching needed here.

Note: you really don’t want to connect power amp outs (from a receiver) to active speakers! Things may get a little…smoky.

Impedance And Wattage: How To Match Amps And Speakers

You might be a little confused with the wattage/impedance/sensitivity figures in the table above – that’s the suggested amplifier wattage thing. Not to worry – we’ve got an entire explainer on those specs here.

Here’s a shorter version, if you don’t want to click through.

Wattage is important – and that’s before you’ve even bought your bookshelf speakers. We’ll ignore active pairs here – they are all internally matched, wattage-wise. Things may get a little less clearcut when matching passive speakers to an external amp, as you’d ideally have to know whether they are compatible. The good news is that the vast majority of bookshelf speakers follow the traditional specs – they’d be between thirty and fifty watts each, making a stereo pair perfectly matched to regular A/V receivers or hifi amps.

We always advise to trust your ears – if something is not sounding completely right, it probably means that there is a reason for it. A common sonic artifact when (mis)matching speakers to an amp is when the amp is too powerful for your speakers – when this is the case you will find your optimum volume level on the amp dial reduced. You will find that turning the volume higher than a certain level (say half way) results in a flabby, tearing sound known as speaker distortion. Prolonged playback in such conditions may result in blown drivers.

The other way round is equally problematic – when an amp is too under-powered for your speakers. This scenario normally involves the amp clipping and going into the ‘red’ as it struggles to deliver the wattage – if you keep pushing it, it would just go ‘boom’.

Just like with wattage, you’d rarely need to worry about impedance figures as they are largely optimized for regular home audio setups. Those rare instances where you might to match impedance would be in situations where you happen to have two pairs of bookshelf speakers and want to string them up to one power amp. You’d need to make sure that your amp or A/V receiver has a lower impedance figure than that of the speakers.

Here’s a good place to note that amps utilize their full potential wattage at their lowest impedance. For instance, if an amp is rated at 100 watts at 4 ohms, the rule goes that when the amp is working at 8 ohms (powering a pair of 8 ohm speakers), it  can only deliver half the wattage of its 4 ohm potential – which in this case would be 50 watts. This might sound too much like a maths lesson, but many people use this rule to their advantage – to get the amp’s full power working, they simply would add another pair of 8 ohm speakers, as the combined impedance of the four 8 ohm speakers to 4 ohms, thus matching the amp’s impedance figure!

Bookshelf Speakers vs. Surround Sound

To be honest, these two setups work well together. There’s nothing to say you can’t incorporate your bookshelf speakers into a multi-speaker 5.1 or 7.1 setup.

You would of course need a capable surround A/V receiver with ideally enough power to match your speakers. As always, it is OK (and sometimes even recommended) if your amp/receiver has a little more wattage than your speakers. Each speaker needs to connect to its own power outlet (black to black, red to red as explained above).

The only catch really is that most bookshelf speakers are sold in pairs – for a classic 5.1 set up you might have to buy three pairs (and a sub) and leave one speaker in storage. Or just make it a novelty coffee table ornament. We don’t know. Whatever. If you decide to go this route, then we suggest you use the bookshelf speakers as your front left and front right speakers in the surround setup.

Audioengine HD6 | Audioengine

Audioengine HD6 | Audioengine

Placement Explained

Very often bookshelf models are aimed at a particular sweet spot – it may be your seat in front of your computer, or the sofa. Manufacturers strive to optimize this sweet spot, and some models are naturally better at this than others. What you could do to improve your listening experience, though, is to try and level your speakers so the tweeters are at the same level as your ears. The best listening spots are roughly where you form a triangle with the speakers, and they are at an equal distance from your left and right ear.

Speaking of ‘tuning’, as noted in our list, some cheaper models may have some issues with frequency ‘holes’ or even worse: over-emphasized frequencies. Most receivers have very capable EQ processors built in, or even self-calibrating frequency modes. These can really do wonders and can ‘cure’ such little imperfections.

Bookshelf speakers used in surround modes, would have to be placed in the now established traditional way – front center, front left and right, rear left and right and so on, depending on the size of the format – 5.1, 7.1 and so on.

Speaker Stands Explained

Not surprisingly, many hifi stores demo their products on speaker stands. These really improve the stereo imaging and the frequency response. The opposite scenario – of placing your brand new pair on a large oak table for instance, might make things sounding quite boomy  as furniture tends to vibrate with the music, enhancing certain frequencies.

Speaker wall brackets are another good option – they can be a little more discreet, though not invisible. If these choices spoil the vibe and the look of your music room,  they will at least for sure make the music sounding a tiny bit better!


Wrapping Up

Finding the best bookshelf speakers isn’t an easy task and a decision to be taken lightly. You want to have shelf speakers that will not interfere with your budget yet deliver quality audio to impact significantly on your music soundtracks. Factors such as the size, mount-ability, voltage sensitivity and a low Hertz are worth taking into account while shopping for the best bookshelf stereo systems.

The Nature of Bookshelf Speakers

Bookshelf speakers, as the name implies, are speakers that work best when placed on a raised surface. While a bookshelf works, a more common option is a singular shelf or a table. Many audiophiles attach their bookshelf speakers to a wall mount. Bookshelf speakers seldom appear by themselves. While newer versions create high quality sound, bookshelf speakers function best as part of a set of speakers.

Bookshelf Speaker Placement

Bookshelf speakers exude the most clarity when raised atop some sort of sturdy surface. They should never remain in an enclosed area for long periods of time. Cramming a bookshelf speaker inside the door of an entertainment center within a tightly enclosed area subsequently prevents sound from flowing smoothly.

Ideal Placement Ideas

Bookshelf speakers ideally do not sit inside a bookshelf, but instead rest on a speaker stand. A bookshelf speaker stand keeps the speaker at the ideal height. As a result, the user wastes no time measuring shelves and walls in an attempt to find the perfect height. Speaker stands come in several varieties made from different materials such as metal or wood. These stands also contain rubber stops, keeping them from shifting around as the speaker performs. Speaker stands are far more versatile than other options as they sit away from a wall, creating an optimum sound bubble.

Placements to Avoid

Speakers that are capable of producing a lot of bass simply send the bass reflecting off of the walls of the cabinet. Likewise, if the speaker sits anywhere near hard, flat surfaces, the sound quality tends to diminish. Soft surfaces, including furniture and plants, could potentially break up the sound as well. Keep in mind that too many soft surfaces diminish overall sound quality.

Units of Measurement

All speakers, including bookshelf speakers, function primarily in the same way. People use three main units of measurement in order to determine how well a speaker operates. These units include hertz, watts, and decibels.

Unit of Measurement

Definition

Practical Application

Hertz (Hz)Unit of sound frequencyLower hertz number indicates heavier bass
Watts (W)Rate of energy conversionUsed to match speaker to amplifier
Decibels (dB)Intensity of a particular soundDetermines potential speaker volume

Speaker manufacturers routinely list statistics in order to let people know how a speaker might perform before they make a final purchase. More experienced speaker buyers look for speakers in a set that complement each other and create a richer, fuller sound.

Bookshelf Speaker Components

All speakers basically function in the same way. Internal components work together in order to create sound with certain qualities. Some bookshelf speakers are only good for producing sound within a high range while others produce a full range of sound. The quality and design of the individual speaker components determines this type of variation in sound.

Drivers

Many bookshelf speakers have two drivers: a woofer and a tweeter. Others include a third, which is a midrange driver. Woofer and tweeters are cones that do the job of actually making sound. Woofers produce bass, or lower frequency tones, while a tweeter creates high frequency tones. Speakers with two drivers generally cover the full range of sound, but the addition of a mid-range speaker allows the woofer and tweeter to focus on bass and treble, respectively.

Crossover Network

A speaker’s crossover network ensures that high frequency signals do not reach the woofer, and that low frequency signals do not reach the tweeter. Each crossover network has a setting that determines the point at which the speaker blocks signals coming from either direction. The typical setting is 2,300 Hz for speakers with two drivers. Certain speakers and those with a midrange driver have different settings.

Cabinet

The cabinet portion of a speaker contains speaker components with numerous functions. A typical cabinet is wooden, although variations, such as plastic, fiberboard, and metal speakers exist as well. Be aware that different cabinets produce different sound quality. Shape, size, and composition all play a role in how well a speaker performs. The most critical aspect of a speaker cabinet is that it remains sealed. If air escapes through cracks or holes, the quality of sound, especially bass, decreases drastically.

How to Buy Bookshelf Speakers on eBay

Bookshelf speakers, speaker stands, and all other elements of a home entertainment system are available on eBay. You are able to select from new and used speakers, allowing you to fit your audio needs to your budget. An efficient way to find your ideal speakers is to use the search bar found on every eBay web page.

Entering a search term like ” bookshelf speakers ” brings up a number of different options to view. This list of options increases or decreases as the search term becomes more general, or more complex. Don’t worry about losing track of all potential purchases. You are able to save your searches and return to them at another time while you shop for multiple items simultaneously.

What Are Bookshelf Speakers?

Bookshelf speakers are designed to be used as part of a discrete audio system. You are not connecting them to your surround sound system (although you probably could, with a little tinkering). Instead, what you’re doing is pairing them with an amplifier, or a dedicated player, in order to create a single, self-contained system. Hence the use of the word bookshop; they’re meant to be off on their own, away from everything else. Typically, these are easy to spot. They’re big, boxy, and usually have one small driver (the tweeter) and one big one (the woofer). You can usually cover these with a mesh grille, which makes them a little easier on the eye.

Prior to the 1960’s, home audio entertainment was mostly in the shape of integrated radio or record player units sporting built-in amps and speakers. Standalone ‘high fidelity’ speakers were at the time pretty much without exception floorstanding models – huge, bulky and very expensive.

This was until bookshelf speakers were invented and popularized (by Edgar Villchur at Acoustic Research), and their name really came about from the speaker enclosures’ size – they were big enough to live on a bookshelf and yet reproduce a full range of frequencies, often matching the frequency response of larger floorstanding units.

Dali Zensor | Giulio Jiang

Dali Zensor | Giulio Jiang

It’s easier said than than done to manage such a trick – up to that point in time, smaller speakers were famed for their thin and brittle sound that couldn’t match the sonic oomph of ported (also known as bass-reflex) floorstanding speaker designs.

The invention of air suspension (also known as acoustic suspension) speaker enclosures was the real game changer. Instead of using ported design, the boffins at Acoustic Research came up with a sealed cabinet designs and those being (nearly) airtight, helped the air inside the cabinet act as a sort of a cushion or even a spring behind the woofer aiding its retraction. This significantly reduced excursion of the bass woofer actually delivered a tighter, richer and more controlled sounding bass, and in turn that gave bookshelf speakers the much flatter frequency response they are famed for.

They certainly sounded awesome, so the name bookshelf speakers stuck around and countless music lovers living in small apartments created a huge demand for this smaller speaker format – a trend continuing until today.

The key thing to remember is there’s a subtle difference between bookshelf speakers and computer speakers. Bookshelf speakers are more geared towards hifi sound – in other words, with separate amps and subwoofers. Computer speakers, or desktop speakers, are more likely to be made for use with computers and laptops, despite the similar size and design.

Passive vs. Active Speakers

Bookshelf speakers are traditionally Passive, meaning that they need to be powered by an external amplifier. A classic hifi component system featuring bookshelf speakers would normally consist of your source media players (CD, MP3, DVD, BluRay, etc) connected to a receiver/power amp which itself feeds the speakers in stereo (one channel per speaker).

Increasingly, you might run all their media off a PC or laptop. If this is the case, instead of a full receiver, you might opt for a simple stereo amp (receiving audio directly from your computer’s soundcard) to power your pair of bookshelf speakers.

Active (self-powered) bookshelf speakers are becoming increasingly popular too. In this case, each will have its own built-in power amps (two actually, one for the woofer, one for the tweeter), and all they need is an audio feed – a mini-jack from your smartphone or a tablet, or if you are using an A/V receiver, the main Line Out  (normally RCA) connected directly to the powered speakers’ input. Perfect example: the Audioengine HD6, one of the few active speakers on this list. No amp matching needed here.

Note: you really don’t want to connect power amp outs (from a receiver) to active speakers! Things may get a little…smoky.

Revel Speakers | David

Revel Speakers | David

Impedance And Wattage: How To Match Amps And Speakers

You might be a little confused with the wattage/impedance/sensitivity figures in the table above – that’s the suggested amplifier wattage thing. Not to worry – we’ve got an entire explainer on those specs here.

Here’s a shorter version, if you don’t want to click through.

Wattage is important – and that’s before you’ve even bought your bookshelf speakers. We’ll ignore active pairs here – they are all internally matched, wattage-wise. Things may get a little less clearcut when matching passive speakers to an external amp, as you’d ideally have to know whether they are compatible. The good news is that the vast majority of bookshelf speakers follow the traditional specs – they’d be between thirty and fifty watts each, making a stereo pair perfectly matched to regular A/V receivers or hifi amps.

We always advise to trust your ears – if something is not sounding completely right, it probably means that there is a reason for it. A common sonic artifact when (mis)matching speakers to an amp is when the amp is too powerful for your speakers – when this is the case you will find your optimum volume level on the amp dial reduced. You will find that turning the volume higher than a certain level (say half way) results in a flabby, tearing sound known as speaker distortion. Prolonged playback in such conditions may result in blown drivers.

The other way round is equally problematic – when an amp is too under-powered for your speakers. This scenario normally involves the amp clipping and going into the ‘red’ as it struggles to deliver the wattage – if you keep pushing it, it would just go ‘boom’.

Just like with wattage, you’d rarely need to worry about impedance figures as they are largely optimized for regular home audio setups. Those rare instances where you might to match impedance would be in situations where you happen to have two pairs of bookshelf speakers and want to string them up to one power amp. You’d need to make sure that your amp or A/V receiver has a lower impedance figure than that of the speakers.

Here’s a good place to note that amps utilize their full potential wattage at their lowest impedance. For instance, if an amp is rated at 100 watts at 4 ohms, the rule goes that when the amp is working at 8 ohms (powering a pair of 8 ohm speakers), it  can only deliver half the wattage of its 4 ohm potential – which in this case would be 50 watts. This might sound too much like a maths lesson, but many people use this rule to their advantage – to get the amp’s full power working, they simply would add another pair of 8 ohm speakers, as the combined impedance of the four 8 ohm speakers to 4 ohms, thus matching the amp’s impedance figure!

MartinLogan Motion35XT | MartinLogan

MartinLogan Motion35XT | MartinLogan

Sensitivity Explained

This is a measure, quite simply, of how loud a pair of speakers will go at a given volume. Really, that’s all there is to it.

Measured in decibels, sensitivity (sometimes referred to as efficiency) is a good way of working out the volume that a pair of speakers can deliver. It’s measured in decibels, and as the amount of sound produced when a certain amount of power is put into the speakers – usually one milliwatt. Using these, you can compare different speakers and see how they measure up in terms of loudness. A speaker with a lower sensitivity may struggle to fill anything beyond a small room, whereas one with a higher sensitivity – such as the 96dB MartinLogan Motion 35 – Will put out significant volume for the same amount of power, making them ideal for large rooms.

However: be careful of putting too much emphasis on sensitivity. Although almost all manufacturers listed, what they don’t do is list the amount of power they are applying. This is an standardised across the industry, so there are variances between manufacturers. If you’re choosing a pair of speakers based on sensitivity, keep this in mind. The specs can be fudged.

Speaker Connections Explained

You’re going to need some wire.

Back up for a second. We’re assuming that you already have an amplifier (and of course a media source such as CD player, or a wireless streamer). What you need to look for to get them connected to your amp are the binding posts on the rear of the speakers, which are normally red and black rotaries that can be screwed up and down. Occasionally, they’ll take the form of little squares you can insert wires into, labelled plus/minus.

Next up, buy some speaker wire – this is relatively cheap. If you are wondering what to choose, you should normally go for a 16-gauge, which is perfect for regular bookshelf speaker impedance (the majority is rated at 8 ohms). If you’re going to be positioning things a very long way away (over 50 feet), you might be better off with a ticker wire (12 or 14 gauge), which is also recommended for lower impedance speakers (4 or 6 ohms).

Once you cut off a decent length of wire, use a boxcutter to strip the insulation off either end. You should be left with a short length of copper wire, which you should twist into a tight coil. You can then insert this into the binding posts on either end, separating speakers right and left, and being sure to screw red into red and black into black. Please, please, please take care doing this – and make sure the amplifier is unplugged. If you don’t, things might not work right at best, or go bang at worst. This system works for the bookshelf speaker model type known as passive – they don’t have amplifiers or internal power included, and so need to draw their power from an external amp.

Pioneer Speaker | The Master Switch

Pioneer Speaker | The Master Switch

Bookshelf Speakers vs. 2.1

Bookshelf speakers are famed for their flat response – they are quite fair to the music content (as intended by the music producer), reproducing the recorded material ‘as it is’ and  not ‘blanketing’ the audio with their own specific character.

That said, they are universally small- to medium-sized (with the exception of things like the Magico Q1, which are insane-to-ridiculous-sized) and the their sealed design and internal woofers can only manage certain bass frequencies.

Adding a sub makes a bookshelf speaker speaker into a 2.1 system and everything starts to sound seriously impressive, as the crucial mid and upper frequency detail is backed up by a fully extended low bass.

How do you add a sub to a pair of bookshelf speakers? Let us start by saying that most subwoofers are self powered. You don’t need separate amplification for them. Adding a subwoofer is therefore really straightforward if you are using a receiver, as most current models have a dedicated and clearly-labeled subwoofer audio output. Just connect to the sub, turn up the level (at the back of the sub) to your liking and you’re set.

Things may get a bit blurry if you aren’t using a receiver. Say you’re running just a stereo power amp. How would you patch that sub in this more spartan approach? Quite simple, really. Subs come with audio inputs and outputs, so the approach here is to plug your source into the subwoofer first and feed the audio outs from the sub into your amp’s inputs (or powered bookshelf speakers audio ins).

Bookshelf Speakers vs. Surround Sound

To be honest, these two setups work well together. There’s nothing to say you can’t incorporate your bookshelf speakers into a multi-speaker 5.1 or 7.1 setup.

You would of course need a capable surround A/V receiver with ideally enough power to match your speakers. As always, it is OK (and sometimes even recommended) if your amp/receiver has a little more wattage than your speakers. Each speaker needs to connect to its own power outlet (black to black, red to red as explained above).

The only catch really is that most bookshelf speakers are sold in pairs – for a classic 5.1 set up you might have to buy three pairs (and a sub) and leave one speaker in storage. Or just make it a novelty coffee table ornament. We don’t know. Whatever. If you decide to go this route, then we suggest you use the bookshelf speakers as your front left and front right speakers in the surround setup.

Audioengine HD6 | Audioengine

Audioengine HD6 | Audioengine

Placement Explained

Very often bookshelf models are aimed at a particular sweet spot – it may be your seat in front of your computer, or the sofa. Manufacturers strive to optimize this sweet spot, and some models are naturally better at this than others. What you could do to improve your listening experience, though, is to try and level your speakers so the tweeters are at the same level as your ears. The best listening spots are roughly where you form a triangle with the speakers, and they are at an equal distance from your left and right ear.

Speaking of ‘tuning’, as noted in our list, some cheaper models may have some issues with frequency ‘holes’ or even worse: over-emphasized frequencies. Most receivers have very capable EQ processors built in, or even self-calibrating frequency modes. These can really do wonders and can ‘cure’ such little imperfections.

Bookshelf speakers used in surround modes, would have to be placed in the now established traditional way – front center, front left and right, rear left and right and so on, depending on the size of the format – 5.1, 7.1 and so on.

Speaker Stands Explained

Not surprisingly, many hifi stores demo their products on speaker stands. These really improve the stereo imaging and the frequency response. The opposite scenario – of placing your brand new pair on a large oak table for instance, might make things sounding quite boomy  as furniture tends to vibrate with the music, enhancing certain frequencies.

Speaker wall brackets are another good option – they can be a little more discreet, though not invisible. If these choices spoil the vibe and the look of your music room,  they will at least for sure make the music sounding a tiny bit better!

Back To Our Bookshelf Speaker Picks Back To Our Comparison Table

Conclusion

Bookshelf speakers are smaller than floor speakers, but they have the benefit of being off of the ground, improving sound quality. Bookshelf speakers are highly versatile, which makes them ideal for home theater systems or home audio systems. They fit into rooms of varying sizes, and move around easily, allowing for simple audio customization and experimentation.

 

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