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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 floor 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, these speakers think outside of the box when it comes to audio quality, dynamics and efficiency, creating fuller sound and rounder textures than what a wireless 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 really amp up your listening experience.
1. Pioneer SP-BS22-LR Speakers
Pioneer delivers a value-packed set of speakers with this SP-BS22-LR pairing, which gets you crisp, well-rounded sound in a set of handsome decks. The speakers feature a six-element crossover that provides an even transfer of lows, highs, and mids between the woofer and tweeter. As a result, you’re getting more accurate sound because the different frequencies are blended together in a more purposeful manner.
The 4-inch woofers feature a structured surface, which, when coupled with a vented pole piece, provide better bass response than similar units. The one-inch soft dome tweeter, meantime, takes out the “tinniness” you often hear at high volumes.
These speakers feature a curved, cabinet design to reduce any internal noise, 80 watt power handling and a nominal impedance of six ohms (the lower the impedance, the more efficiently the music signal is able to power through the speaker). Reviewers say that while the bass is decent, you’ll want to pair these speakers with a subwoofer if you really want to boost those beats. Purchase: $98.87 on Amazon.com.
2. Q Acoustics 3020i Bookshelf Speaker
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, meantime, 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 that 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. Purchase: $299.99 on Amazon.com.
3. Bose 301-V Stereo Loudspeakers
One of the best-reviewed units online with a 4.6-star rating from users (out of five) the Bose 301 Series V bookshelf speakers deliver clear, room-filling sound in a shoebox-sized package.
Bose is known for their audio innovation, and it’s on full display here, with the speakers blending both direct sound and reflected sound, to create a more natural listening experience. While most speakers radiate sound in one direction, these speakers have a spatial dispersion lens that circulates a wider distribution of sound. The result, Bose says, is audio that’s similar to “what you’d experience in a concert hall or theater.”
Unlike the other speakers on this list, the Bose 301 Series speakers come in a horizontal design, letting them slide easily onto even narrow bookshelves. Reviewers say the MDF and plastic cabinet leaves something to be desired in terms of premium finishing, though the dark grey color blends easily with your home decor.
What we like: Bose’s “automatic protection circuitry” prevents your drivers from being overdriven and your speakers from being blown out even if you’ve turned the music up a little too high. Purchase: $328.00 on Amazon.com.
4. Klipsch RP-160M Bookshelf Speaker
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 one-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, meantime, is finished with a brushed veneer coating, giving it a more premium look than some of the other units on this list. Purchase: $339.00 on Amazon.com.
5. ELAC Uni-fi UB5 Bookshelf Speaker
Serious audiophiles will want to upgrade to these ELAC bookshelf speakers, which are consistently rated at the top of its 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 together. 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 ¼ inch aluminum woofer. An extended magnet generates better power, while the vented pole piece further propels the bass.
Reviewers say the ELAC outperforms units more than five times its pricepoint, 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 pre-eminent speaker designer in the industry, who worked with a number of 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. Purchase: $398.88 on Amazon.com.