The Best Bookshelf Speakers for 2020
Are you in the market for bookshelf speakers? Finding the perfect speakers for a smaller room can feel like a struggle.
You have your main entertainment area all set up. But to truly maximize the enjoyment you derive from spending time at home, you’re now shifting your attention to the next room. Maybe your bedroom?
And sadly, full-sized floor standing speakers are overkill. The area is too small, not to mention the cost of those bad-boys. And since tower speakers are not typical in such rooms, they’ll look out of place.
Yes, it feels frustrating. You’re into the perfect sound, and now you have to compromise.
But don’t worry. Reading these speaker reviews will truly surprise you. Below I have well-researched, detailed reports on the best bookshelf speakers available on the market today.
Bookshelf speakers are not as powerful as floor standing speakers. But you’ll be impressed by the quality sound and beautiful design of these speakers.
By the time you’ve finished reading this article, you’ll be excited about the prospect of going for bookshelf speakers instead of floor standing speakers. And you’ll have your mind made up about the exact pair that’s perfect for you (and your budget).
- What Are Bookshelf Speakers?
- How to Choose the Best Bookshelf Speakers?
- What Are the Benefits of Using Bookshelf Speakers?
- Are Bookshelf Speakers Good for Music?
- Are Bookshelf Speakers Full Range?
- Can Bookshelf Speakers Be Used as Front Speakers?
- Where Can Bookshelf Speakers Be Used?
- The Criteria I’ve Used to Rate The Best Bookshelf Speakers
- #1 Q Acoustics 3020i: Best Overall and Best Bookshelf Speakers Under 300
- #2 Pioneer SP-BS22-LR: Second Overall and Best Bookshelf Speakers Under 100
- #3 Kanto TUK: Best Bookshelf Speakers Under 1000
- #4 Klipsch RP-160M: Best Bookshelf Speakers Under 500
- #5 ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2: Runner-Up Bookshelf Speakers Under 300
- #6 KEF LS50 Mini Monitor: Best Bookshelf Speakers Under 2000 and Best High-End Bookshelf Speakers
- #7 Edifier R1700BT: Best Bookshelf Speakers Under 200
- #8 Polk Audio S20 Signature Series
- #9 Fluance Ai60
- #10 Bose 301 Series V
- What Are the Best-Sounding Bookshelf Speakers?
- So, Which Pair of Bookshelf Speakers is it Going to Be?
Before we dive in, let’s consider the answers to some common questions.
What Are Bookshelf Speakers?
The name of these speakers derives from their size and shape. They can (quite literally) fit onto a bookshelf.
And some of the speakers you’ll discover below make pretty classy bookends!
Bookshelf speakers typically feature a two-way design, consisting of two drivers — a tweeter and a mid-range/bass driver known as the woofer. Two-way design speakers feature a simple electronic crossover that sends the appropriate frequencies to each driver.
More expensive bookshelf speakers might feature a three-way design — a tweeter, a mid-range driver, and a bass driver. These can deliver better sound, with each driver optimized for its specific target range. However, no three-way design speakers made it onto this list.
Bookshelf speakers are smaller than floor standing speakers, but they don’t hold back an inch in terms of performance. Except maybe at the lowest bass octaves because floor speakers have additional drivers explicitly suited to those octaves.
How to Choose the Best Bookshelf Speakers?
In your quest to find the perfect bookshelf speakers, you’ll need to consider numerous factors. We cover most of these factors in our reviews below, but sometimes it can come down to your personal preference or unique situation.
If you answer the following questions, you’ll come close to choosing the perfect bookshelf speakers:
- Will you be listening to podcasts, radio, music, or are you setting up a home theatre system?
- What is the size of the room where you plan on using the speakers?
- How much are you willing to pay?
- Is deep bass crucial to the audio setup you’re building? If so, you might want to opt for an additional subwoofer.
The overall look and feel of the speakers will also be a vital consideration for the “partner acceptance” factor.
What Are the Benefits of Using Bookshelf Speakers?
Maybe the top advantage of using bookshelf speakers is that you get sound far superior to the average Bluetooth or wireless speakers (#3 below is an exception to that!).
You get this without sacrificing much in terms of size.
And you won’t break the bank to acquire a good pair. These speakers are typically way more affordable than floor standing speakers.
Are Bookshelf Speakers Good for Music?
Yes, they are an excellent choice for music.
However, if you love listening to vocals the sound of some bookshelf speakers might be a bit too shallow for you.
Also, if you’re setting up a home theatre, you might want to consider getting a quality subwoofer in addition to the bookshelf speakers. Again, this will help with the proper representation of the vocal range in addition to better lower frequency sound effects.
If you plan on only listening to general music, you should be golden with bookshelf speakers only.
Are Bookshelf Speakers Full Range?
No, they aren’t but only a sound aficionado is likely to tell the difference.
Bookshelf speakers with a two-way design only have two drivers and sacrifice a little at the lowest bass octaves.
Three-way design speakers with a third driver are closer to full range, but can’t match the range of top-quality floor standing speakers.
Can Bookshelf Speakers Be Used as Front Speakers?
Yes, they can.
In fact, you can use them as fronts, rears, or surrounds to achieve a great compact surround sound.
And remember you can enhance the surround sound of your home theatre by adding a dedicated subwoofer.
Where Can Bookshelf Speakers Be Used?
Place your bookshelf speakers on small tables, open media stands, speaker stands, or mount them on the wall.
Any enclosed space can cause the sound from a speaker to resonate unpleasantly. So, despite their name, using a bookshelf speaker in a bookshelf may compromise the sound quality.
The Criteria I’ve Used to Rate The Best Bookshelf Speakers
I considered several factors in rating and ranking the bookshelf speakers presented in this guide.
Price is one of the main criteria used. There’s always a strong positive correlation between a product’s price and its quality. And it’s no different here — expect better speakers to cost you more money.
So, higher quality at a lower price counted in favor of the speakers considered.
In addition to price, we considered the following criteria:
Sound is a crucial consideration. Speakers are all about sound.
So, sound quality played an essential part in my reviews and recommendations.
Bookshelf speakers generally lack power and quality at the lowest bass octaves. So I paid particular attention to the integrity of the sound produced at these lower ranges.
The soundstage or speaker image is the perception of a 3D space created by the sound of the speakers. The soundstage, in effect, allows the listener to hear from what direction sound originates.
In a surround sound speaker setup, the soundstage is a vital consideration. It’s also essential for stereo music or live recordings.
Materials and Construction
The construction quality of speakers profoundly influences the integrity of the sound produced. So it was a major consideration in the reviews.
The outer casing of a bookshelf speaker is known as the cabinet. I make frequent reference to the quality of the cabinet construction.
Other Design Aspects
I also considered the visual aesthetics of the speakers. More pleasing designs improved ranking.
We live in an era where quality technology also needs to look good. Just look at your phone as an example. How much better do they look today compared to 20 years ago?
Okay, it’s time for the big reveal! Ready to learn all about the ten best bookshelf speakers?
The Q Acoustic 3020i speakers are clear winners. They deliver incredible detail with a generous soundstage that fills up the room. Distortion levels are very low, and the build quality of these speakers is tremendous.
They feature a tall and deep cabinet, which results in deep bass and a large scale sound.
The binding posts are of top quality, ensuring stable, reliable wire connections. They’re also deep enough to fit 4mm Banana Plugs.
The pair comes with magnetic speaker grilles. They protect the drivers but can be left off for a different looking appearance. They also come in four different finish options. And you can buy a matching center channel if you’re keen on creating a home theatre system with these speakers.
These speakers are rated at number one since they tick all the boxes. They are:
- Fairly affordable,
- Offer excellent sound,
- Have a generous, room-filling soundstage,
- Offer surprisingly deep base for two-way design bookshelf speakers,
- Built with quality material, and
- Soft on the eye.
Q Acoustics 3020i: Why I Like It
- The Q Acoustic 3020i delivers incredible sound across a remarkably broad range.
- While not cheap, they are affordable.
- Well designed and attractive, especially minus the grilles.
- They are compact.
Q Acoustics 3020i: What I Don’t Like
- Not much.
The Q Acoustics 3020i’s are Best for:
- Anyone who wants the best possible quality at a reasonably low price,
- Who wants decent bass performance from a two-way design bookshelf speaker, or
- Who wants to set up a surround sound home theatre system in a smaller room without an extra subwoofer.
Our second-ranked bookshelf speaker pair is the Pioneer SP-BS22-LR. These attractive speakers offer excellent value and a well-balanced sound experience.
The woofer is 4 inches in diameter and features a structured surface that provides a bass response superior to some of the competition.
The tweeter is one inch in diameter, featuring a soft dome that prevents the sound from being tinny at the higher ranges.
What sets these speakers apart is the six-element crossover between drivers. It separates the transfer of low-, medium- and high-frequency sound between the drivers and produces a smooth audible experience. This ensures an accurate sound at different ranges. Far more so than if the signals were combined and transferred together through a simple crossover.
The cabinets of the speakers are curved and molded, a design that effectively reduces internal standing waves.
These speakers are truly affordable, but you’ll need to combine them with a separate subwoofer for successful use in a home theatre setup.
The Pioneer SP-BS22-LRs are ranked number 2 on our list of bookshelf speakers mainly because of the high quality they provide at such a low price point.
Pioneer SP-BS22-LR: Why I Like It
- These speakers are genuinely affordable, and they offer excellent value at a low price point.
- They feature a visually pleasing design.
- While they have a two-way design, the smart six-element crossover provides a better experience across the whole frequency range.
Pioneer SP-BS22-LR: What I Don’t Like
- While solid for their price, these speakers aren’t built quite as well as some of the options around $300 or higher. If you can afford to spend more, I recommend you do so.
The Pioneer SP-BS22-LRs are Best for:
- Anyone who wants to maximize their sound experience at the lowest price.
Coming in at number three, the Kanto TUKs are more powerful, but also more expensive. These speakers present a more premium option than the preceding two pairs.
Importantly, these speakers are active, wireless speakers. Many enthusiasts will claim that passive speakers are superior. However, several factors ensured these speakers rank so high on our list.
If you’re one of the skeptics, wait until you hear the sound produced by these speakers!
TUK uses aluminum drivers that weigh less and are quite rigid, causing lower distortion at loud volume.
The speakers feature high-performance Air Motion Transformer (AMT) tweeters. These provide crisper, pin-point accurate highs. And, the vast horizontal dispersion ensures a top-notch soundstage and smart stereo imaging.
In addition, the Kanto TUKs has integrated Digital Signal Processing (DSP) which optimizes audio quality while providing better sound reproduction accuracy.
TUK also features an active crossover. When this is enabled, it filters out low frequencies and sends them directly to your subwoofer. Through doing this, it reduces distortion and improves resolution.
These speakers feature Bluetooth 4.2 (slightly outdated). They also offer inputs for your turntable and a dedicated headphone amp.
The Kanto TUKs comes in at number 3 in the rankings due to subtle yet thoughtful technical innovations that provide a premium experience. In my opinion, innovation is worth the extra cost.
Kanto TUK: Why I Like It
- The Kanto TUKs are the best-looking speakers in this guide. The simple, sleek black, pure white, or stylish gray will be pleasing to any set of eyes, including those of your partner!
- Performance at high frequencies is simply extraordinary due to the use of the AMT tweeter.
Kanto TUK: What I Don’t Like
- These speakers aren’t exactly affordable, but as mentioned, I do believe the price is justified.
- The Bluetooth version used is outdated.
- Volume control could be easier to use and offer extra precision.
The Kanto TUKs are Best for:
- Anyone who doesn’t mind spending more for a premium experience.
- Who are not opposed to active, wireless bookshelf speakers.
- Who considers the look of their bookshelf speakers as a decisive buying factor.
The Klipsch bookshelf speakers come in at number 4 on our list. And that is no surprise as Klipsch has been keeping movie and music fans happy for 70 years.
These speakers provide proper construction with pleasing performance. They strike a great balance between light-weight and rigid!
What stands out about them? Apart from the all-round clean sound, they provide exceptional performance at higher frequencies.
They feature a 90×90 Hybrid Tractrix Horn. It’s a hybrid design with a circular horn throat and a square horn mouth, improving high-frequency output.
The horn is constructed using molded rubber to further contribute to high-frequency damping. The material improves resolution and detail.
But the clever use of horns doesn’t stop there.
At the back of the speaker, there is no round port tube. Instead, you’ll find a Tractrix horn-shaped opening, allowing for better airflow. The result is better airflow and high-integrity bass with reduced distortion at low frequencies.
The Cerametallic™ woofer covers the mid- to low-range frequencies without fail. The woofer looks like it is constructed from copper, and adds to the edgy appearance of the speakers.
Klipsch RP-160M: Why I Like It
- The sound of these speakers is remarkable. Even more so at the higher frequencies.
- Klipsch makes clever use of modern technology and pioneering innovation to improve the experience of listeners.
- It comes with a magnetic, removable grille.
- The speakers feature a stylish design and a refined finish.
Klipsch RP-160M: What I Don’t Like
- The speakers are a little too large for my taste.
The Klipsch RP-160Ms are Best for:
- Someone with a medium-sized budget who doesn’t mind a slightly larger set of speakers.
- The high-frequency enthusiasts who care about clear, natural sound.
The ELAC Debut B6 hit the industry hard in late 2015, surprisingly soon after designer Andrew Jones left Pioneer.
It was and still is a great speaker, and to improve on it is no easy task.
Yet, here you have the ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2. Take a bow, Andrew Jones!
These speakers are affordable, offer class-leading sound, and are constructed really well.
Granted, the design is possibly a little square with a wooden finish that looks too retro for my taste. If I owned these speakers, I would leave the grille on. The speakers are also on the slightly larger side.
Yet, these speakers have a lot going for them.
Let’s start with the front-facing bass port. Why don’t more speaker designers do this? Especially for bookshelf speakers that are likely to be placed close to walls or inside the enclosed space of a bookshelf, placing the bass port in the front is a smart design move.
The 1-inch silk dome tweeter is no longer recessed like that of the previous model. It is flush with the front panel. The B6.2 features an aramid fiber woofer.
The B6.2s deliver an excellent bass performance, but this comes at the cost of a smaller than ideal soundstage and the loss of some background detail.
The manufacturer also offers matching on-wall surround speakers, Atmos speakers, and center channels. So those wanting to build a home theatre setup might prefer these speakers over some of its competitors.
ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2: Why I Like It
- Moving the bass port at the front of the speakers is a smart move, and one, other designers should note.
- The pair offers excellent bass performance for bookshelf speakers.
- The price is great for the quality of the sound offered.
- The speakers are constructed very well.
ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2: What I Don’t Like
- The retro design of these speakers might impress someone else, but not me. If you place these next to the Kanto TUKs and I have to choose one based on looks only, I will choose the TUKs every day of the week and twice on a Sunday.
The ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2s are Best for:
- Those listeners who are setting up a surround sound home theatre system in a small room and want matching speakers.
KEF recently had its fiftieth birthday, and in celebration of the big Five-Zero, it produced the LS50. The concept behind these speakers was influenced by the LS3/5a BBC studio monitor.
I can hear you say: “Hold on! What is a monitor doing on a list of bookshelf speakers?”
Well, the only real difference between these two types of speakers is the purpose for which they’re typically used. Bookshelf speakers are generally listened to from various distances — both near and far.
On the other hand, monitors are mainly used for short distances. They are typically listened to in-studio recording sessions.
Anyone spending this kind of money on bookshelf speakers will not be using them in the main room so that the short listening distance will be okay in this instance.
And the LS50s are so good that I couldn’t leave them off this list. If price weren’t a factor, these speakers would have been ranked at number 1.
For many people, price is a factor, and therefore they come in only at number 6.
But if you’re ready to spend some money on your speakers, take note! These might just be the pair of bookshelf speakers for you.
The LS50 has many technical similarities to the KEF Blade Flagship Floor Standing Speakers.
The speakers come in one of two finish options — either white piano lacquer or high-gloss black.
They feature a prominent, newly-developed 5.25-inch Uni-Q array. The white version has an ‘electric blue’ magnesium-aluminum cone and the black version a ‘rose gold’ one.
In the center of the driver, you see a 1-inch aluminum dome tweeter. It has a ‘tangerine waveguide,’ which contributes to the vast sound distribution of the LS50s.
The shape of the midrange driver is credited for the ability to send sound in all directions.
The cabinet is well-designed, and insulation is used in certain parts to separate the internal structure from the external.
I can carry on like this! But let me conclude by saying that if you’re looking for state of the art in sound, this is it.
KEF LS50 Mini Monitor: Why I Like It
- Where do I start? I like pretty much everything about these speakers.
- They are the best sounding speakers on the list.
- They take second place in the looks category.
- The soundstage is profound, and the bass does not disappoint.
- And the material and construction is the next level.
KEF LS50 Mini Monitor: What I Don’t Like
- The price, although it is worth every penny.
- These speakers are so good that they will point out any deficiencies in your other equipment.
The KEF LS50s are Best for:
- Me! And the discerning audio connoisseur who doesn’t mind paying extra to ensure their sound is the best it can be.
These Bluetooth speakers come in at number 8 on our list. At this price, these speakers are an appealing option.
They feature Bluetooth 4.0, have great sound (for the price), look smart, and are compact.
I would not have opted for the color of the walnut vinyl used in the design, but I must admit that the look of the speakers appeals to me. The contrast created between the walnut and the bold black is visually pleasing.
The speakers are also designed with a slight up-facing tilt. According to the manufacturer, this design feature ensures the sound is aimed directly at the listener.
On the right side of the speakers, you find controls for volume, bass, and treble. This placement ensures that the controls are accessible without defacing the front appearance.
The sound of the R1700BTs is fun and likable! It’s undoubtedly not the most precise sound, but you’ll find it pleasant.
The midrange is nicely detailed, but sadly the treble is a little thin. Thankfully it’s not sharp.
The Edifiers disappoint in the bass department. It’s too bold and boomy and overshadows the other ranges.
Edifier R1700BT: Why I Like It
- The sound is fun.
- The speakers don’t present too badly.
- The price is almost unbeatable.
Edifier R1700BT: What I Don’t Like
- The bass performance is unrefined.
The Edifier R1700BTs are Best for:
- Those on a budget who like a pleasant sound with big, boomy bass.
These passive bookshelf speakers look really cool, and they present a solid choice. They look slightly better without their grilles, in my opinion, but not bad either way.
However, they might be considered underpowered by some. And they are expensive for what you get.
They feature a dynamic balance acoustic arrays, with two drivers — a 1-inch Terylene tweeter and 6.5-inch mid-range driver.
The patented power port technology in the Polk delivers a deep bass response. It uses a turbulence-reducing diffuser that transitions airflow into the listening area and minimizes any distortion.
The speakers deliver clear vocals, solid music, and deep bass.
Polk Audio S20 Signature: Why I Like It
- The design is pretty cool.
- These speakers deliver a nice, deep bass, with little to no distortion.
Polk Audio S20 Signature: What I Don’t Like
- They are slightly overpriced for what you get.
- They are underpowered.
The Polk Audio S20 Signature Series is Best for:
- Polk fans who are shopping near the bottom of the price range.
These powered bookshelf speakers offer solid sound and attractive looks for a reasonable price. But the real power these speakers offer lies in its next level connectivity options.
They feature a nice touch in the addition of Bluetooth to connect to any device in range, while various wired connections are possible.
With powered speakers (speakers with an integrated amp), the manufacturer has control over the entire signal path and can optimize for the drivers they use at appropriate frequencies. This delivers improved sound.
Also, the mess of extra wires from the amp is no more.
The speakers are available in black and walnut with black faceplates, or white walnut and lucky bamboo with white faceplates.
The precision-crafted wood cabinets are hand-built with engineered wood. They offer distortion-free sound for precise audio reproduction.
Fluance Ai60: Why I Like It
- The connectivity offered is unmatched.
- The speakers are powered, and thus, there is no need for a separate amp.
- The sound is not bad.
Fluance Ai60: What I Don’t Like
- Some people report a muddy bass and lower level distortion.
The Fluance Ai60s are Best for:
- Anyone who needs speakers that are versatile and can connect with phones, tablets, computers, smart TVs, etc. without hassle.
The Bose 301 Series Vs feature a horizontal design that makes them fit onto a bookshelf even better than other bookshelf speakers.
They make use of a spatial dispersion speaker lens that helps distribute sound better.
These speakers perform well as the front left and right speakers in a home theatre setup. It’s recommended to use a separate subwoofer with them to cover low bass frequencies.
Bose protects the drivers by using automatic protection circuitry that prevents the drivers from being overdriven.
The speakers feature removable grilles.
Strangely these speakers feature a rear-facing driver. I guess this is an attempt at creating a larger sound stage. But, sadly, it fails.
I was really impressed with the ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2 innovative front-facing design port. And then Bose decides to put a rear-facing driver in their design.
This makes for a larger soundstage, yes, but muddy and diffused sound.
Another drawback is the medium-density fibreboard (MDF) and plastic cabinet design. Not exactly what you’d expect for the finishing of speakers at this price.
Bose 301 Series V: Why I Like It
- These speakers feature a fresh horizontal design and small size.
- I like the idea of automatic protection of my drivers.
Bose 301 Series V: What I Don’t Like
- I am not a fan of the rear-facing driver and muddy sound.
- Also, for its price, you do not expect a cheap finish.
The Bose 301 Series Vs are Best for:
- Anyone who has little room for speakers, on shallow bookshelves.
What Are the Best-Sounding Bookshelf Speakers?
I’ve applied numerous rating factors to review ten bookshelf speakers. But the goal of speakers is to produce sound.
So which one produces the best sound?
I already gave this away earlier. The KEF LS50 Mini Monitors are the clear winner. The sound on these bookshelf speakers/monitors is unbeatable. And best of all, there are many other reasons to buy these speakers.
They perform well across the entire range, offering a rich, multi-dimensional soundstage that is impressive given the size of these speakers.
If you have the money, you won’t suffer any buyer’s regret.
So, Which Pair of Bookshelf Speakers is it Going to Be?
For an audio-enthusiast like yourself, the thought of having to compromise on the perfect sound isn’t a pleasant one.
But, thankfully, you can opt for smaller bookshelf speakers without sacrificing much in terms of sound.
I’ve covered speakers fit for every need and budget.
So, it’s time to make a decision!
Order the bookshelf speakers that are best for you.
Is it the Q Acoustics 3020i for best all-rounder, the Pioneer SP-BS22-LR for your low budget, the Kanto TUKs for the best looks and premium innovation, or the KEF LS50 Mini Monitors for best sound and because your budget is not an issue?
No matter what, the room you’re kitting out is about to become a source of extreme enjoyment. And you’re going to love every moment!