If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, Rolling Stone may receive an affiliate commission.
If you’re setting up a stereo system in a small room, or don’t want big, daunting audio equipment in a common space, your best bet is to get a set of bookshelf speakers.
Because of their size, bookshelf speakers can be used in a variety of situations. You could put a pair on a desk and use them as computer speakers, mount them onto a wall (indoor or outdoor) to save room, or integrate them into a 5.1 surround sound system.
Bookshelf speakers work well in all of those scenarios, and they’re small enough that you can move them around easily if you want to change their position. Many also feature multiple inputs, which allows you to use them with many devices (think turntable and TV) at the same time.
You can spend thousands of dollars on bookshelf speakers but it’s possible to get great sound from a pair that costs under $100. If you’ve been using the speakers built into your computer or TV, upgrading to any of the bookshelf speakers in this guide will be a huge improvement.
What Are The Best Bookshelf Speakers Under $100?
There are many factors to consider when choosing the right bookshelf speakers under $100; below are the most important ones, which we considered while we were researching this list.
Size: Bookshelf speakers got their name because they’re small enough to fit on the shelf of a bookcase. That said, their size and weight can vary quite a bit. We included the height, length, and width measurements with each pick, so you’ll know what to expect. This is especially important to consider if you want to move the speakers around to find the perfect place in your room.
Drivers: Drivers are the components in a speaker that produce sound; generally, larger drivers are better, but their material and location on the speaker matters, too. Our picks have separate tweeters and woofers, which handle different frequencies, so music will sound clear and smooth.
Passive vs Active: Bookshelf speakers come in two different styles: passive (un-powered) and active (powered). Passive speakers, like the one on this list, have no built-in amplification, which means you need to connect them to a stereo receiver for them to work.
Active speakers are a more all-in-one solution; they have a preamp, volume controls, and inputs (ports that let you plug devices into them) on the speakers themselves. This guide features a mix of both styles of bookshelf speakers, so you can pick the one that suit your needs best.
1. Polk Audio T15
Polk Audio’s T15 offer an incredible amount of value for their modest, $99 price tag.
The speakers are incredibly compact and are outfitted with a 5.25-inch inch driver and .75-inch tweeter, designed to optimize sound. They also feature Polk’s proprietary Dynamic Balance technology which means you’ll get deep bass and clear mids and highs on all your music and streaming.
Polk Audio made sure the T15s could be used in as many scenarios as possible right out of the box, with the brand saying you could use them as front or rear speakers or even pair them with other Polk Audio speakers for a surround sound system.
If you’re on a strict budget, the Polk Audio T15 is the best-powered bookshelf speaker you can get at their price. At their compact size, they’ll fit anywhere from your media console to your desk. They’ve even got a built-in keyhole just in case you’re thinking of mounting them.
2. Monoprice DT-3
Monoprice’s DT-3s offer an incredible amount of value for their modest, $80 price tag.
The powered speakers are 14.9-inches tall, 8.3-inches wide, and 10.5-inches deep, which makes them the biggest bookshelf speakers we’re recommending. Monoprice outfitted the DT-3s with a 3.5-inch inch woofer and .75-inch tweeter, and encased them in a custom-built cabinet designed to optimize their sound.
Monoprice made sure the DT-3s could be used in as many scenarios as possible right out of the box, so it design them with a wide assortment of inputs and outputs. On the front, you’ll find a headphone jack and AUX input, while the back features a pair of RCA inputs and 1/4-inch TRS jacks.
If you’re on a strict budget, Monoprice’s DT-3s are the best-powered bookshelf speakers you can get at their price. Just make sure you have the space on your desk or media center for them.
3. PreSonus Eris
Studio monitors are a type of powered bookshelf speakers designed for musicians who want to hear their music with as much clarity as possible. This means they typically have a “flat” or neutral EQ that doesn’t involve boosting the bass, midrange, or treble frequencies, which is what happens with most speakers.
PreSonus’ Eris E3.5s are an excellent pair of studio monitors that both musicians and music lovers can enjoy. They’re 8.3-inches tall, 5.6-inches wide, and 6.4-inches deep, which makes them the smallest bookshelf speakers in our guide. Despite this, the E3.5s have a 3.5-inch woofer and 1-inch tweeter, so PreSonus didn’t have to use less powerful audio hardware when making speakers of this size.
Because they were designed for musicians, the E3.5s have 1/4-inch TRS and balanced XLR inputs, which most casual listeners will never use. They also have an AUX input and one set of RCA inputs, which allows you to use them with a turntable, CD player, or TV.
If you’re an indie musician building their studio or need a pair of powered bookshelf speakers for a small desk or dorm, you can’t do better than PreSonus’ Eris E3.5s.
4. Edifier R1280T
We’ve tested several pairs of Edifier’s bookshelf speakers over the years, which is why its R1280T model is at the top of this list — and we had to include them even though they’re priced slightly over $100.
The powered speakers are 9.5 inches tall, 6.9 inches wide, and 5.8 inches deep, which puts them in the middle of the pack size-wise. Each speaker has a four-inch woofer and a .5-inch tweeter; in our experience, the drivers Edifier uses are top-notch, so expect to hear a lot of detail from your music. The R1280T speakers stand apart from the rest of the sets we’re recommending in a couple of key ways.
The most important one is that Edifier built treble and bass knobs directly into the right speaker. The ability to make little changes to make the speakers sound right for your ears is a level of customization that we don’t see often. Some smart speakers offer the ability to mess around with a digital EQ, but we appreciate the physical controls.
We also appreciate that the R1280T speakers come with two sets of RCA inputs, so you can connect two devices (say a computer and turntable, or TV and CD player) to them at the same time. The speakers don’t have Bluetooth built-in, but you can plug a Bluetooth audio adapter into one set of RCA inputs to add this functionality.
Finally, we appreciate Edifier’s aesthetics. The R1280T’s wooden cabinet makes the speakers look timeless, and ensure they’ll look good in any setting.
Note: If you can stretch your budget by $10, you can get Edifier’s R1280Ts, which have built-in Bluetooth, a subwoofer output, and an optical input. The R1280Ts are available on Amazon for $119.99.