A good pair of space-saving, budget-friendly, great-sounding speakers aren't impossible to find. You just need a solid set of bookshelf speakers, and this week we're looking at five pairs that meet those criteria.
Title photo by Razvan Donca (Shutterstock).
A good bookshelf speaker needs to deliver great sound, save on space and have decent looks, all without crushing your bank account. Here are five of the best, in no particular order:
Pioneer's SP-BS22LR Andrew Jones-designed bookshelf speakers may not have a fancy name or anything, but they do have the honour of being budget friendly (only about $125 from B&H), and being praised by by The Wirecutter as their budget-friendly pick for great bookshelf speakers. They sound great, work well on their own or as part of a larger setup, and at their price you can pick them up and then add additional channels and speakers later to expand your setup. Their flexibility is their strongest suit. Each one packs a 4" structured surface woofer and a 1" dome tweeter, 80 watt power handling, 6 ohm impedance, 55Hz-20kHz frequency response, and, as The Wirecutter notes, sound way better than other speakers at their price range.
Dayton Audio's B652 bookshelf speakers are only about a food tall, but hide a 6.5" woofer and 5/8" dome tweeter in their small stature, come highly recommended by the folks at Stereophile for being great-sounding in their price range. They will set you back a reasonable $74 new on eBay. For your money you get 40 watts of power handling (75W maximum), 70Hz — 20kHz frequency response, 8 ohm impedance, clarity and sound quality that would normally come in speakers more than twice this price, and a good-looking black ebony pica vinyl finish. Make no mistake, these aren't the best when it comes to sound quality, but if sound quality is one factor and you use more than that to determine what the best is, these are worth considering.
At about $249 from B&H for a pair, Audioengine's P4B passive speakers have earned a wide following for being expandable and capable of sounding out both small and large spaces without taking up a lot of space, or really emptying your wallet. At about 9" tall, featuring 58Hz-22kHz frequency response, 4 ohm impedance, 125W maximum power handling, and a 4" kevlar woofer paired with a 3/4" dome tweeter, there's a reason Audioengine is pretty popular with cash-strapped audiophiles. A space-saving design with threaded inserts for mounting on the back or securing to a stand on the bottom complete the package, with the cabinet made of thick resin MDF that may not be the prettiest to people who love wood exteriors, but that's designed to keep noise and unwanted sound reflection from inside the cabinet down. They even come with their own cloth storage bags and a choice of black, white, or bamboo.
Stepping up in price, but up again in quality as well, the Klipsch RB-61 II bookshelf reference speakers are $999 from Digital Cinema. These speakers are extremely well loved among online reviewers (they have a full five stars after about 50 reviews on Amazon), and a little bit bigger than some of the others in the roundup. They stand about 15" tall, 12" deep, at about 8" wide, but the copper-on-black design of the woofers and the cabinets is definitely striking, and good looking if you like the aesthetic. The cabinets are black ash woodgrain vinyl, and the speaker offers 100W power handling (400W maximum), 8 ohm impedance, 45Hz-24KHz frequency response, and a 6.5" cone woofer. This model is likely due to be replaced soon, so they're affordable for the sound they pack, and they're particularly designed for medium-sized spaces, so you can sound out an apartment, living room or den, or any sized space pretty well without having to leave a huge footprint in your setup just for speakers.
M-Audio's AV 40s are well known, popular speakers, for good reason. They're powered, which means you can connect them either directly to your sound source without an amp, or you can connect them to a powered sound source like a receiver, the same way you would with traditional speakers. They're pretty small too, standing at about 8" high, and about that deep. They pack 20W per channel in amplified power handling, 85Hz-20kHz frequency response, 10 ohm impedance, and a 4" woofer paired with a 1" cone tweeter. These are a little unlike the others, but they pack big sound in a small package. They're certainly not for large spaces, or even in the same arena you could probably get for home theatre systems, but they will set you back $266 at StoreDJ and can be connected to multiple audio sources, making them perfect for desktop setups, mixing stations, or second rooms. Their versatility and significant sound for the money make them really popular among people who want power and clarity in small spaces, like dorm rooms or home offices. They even have front ports for headphones or an auxiliary input, so you can connect something like a phone or a music player.
This week's honorable mentions go out to the KRK RP5G3-NA Rokit 5 Generation 3, which deliver incredible sound. These are also powered speakers, so they're versatile enough to be connected right to a computer or another audio source, or to get hooked up to a receiver.
Of course, if you're looking for bigger sound and you have a budget to match, check out our roundup of the five best overall living room speaker sets for options that may cost more and take up a much bigger footprint in your space, but deliver sound to match.
Have something to say about one of the contenders? Want to make the case for your personal favourite, even if it wasn't included in the list? Don't just complain about the top five, let us know what your preferred alternative is — and make your case for it — in the discussions below.