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Published Mar. 28, 2021

If you’re looking to enhance the way you listen to music, sound, and other kinds of audio, you have to have a quality pair of speakers. The speakers your sound plays through affects its volume, its clarity, and the overall listening experience. However, you don’t have to invest in a whole-home sound system — or even replace your current sound system — in order to bring your music, movies, and more to new heights and better quality. A pair of bookshelf speakers can be just the right fit. Designed to sit on a shelf, table, or any other elevated surface, bookshelf speakers are made to maximize sound in small to medium spaces, making them a perfect pick for your living room, office, or any other room at home. They can be standalone speakers or part of a larger system; it’s entirely up to you.

No matter how you plan to use your bookshelf speakers, they’ll make everything you hear sound so much more impressive. Check out our picks for the best bookshelf speakers in an array of sizes and styles right here.

A pair of Edifier R1280T Bookshelf Speakers offers everything you could need and want from a set of speakers. You’ll get high-quality sound, plenty of control and customization options, and exterior housing that makes your speakers look as stylish as every other piece of furniture in your home. These bookshelf speakers feature a classic MDF wood exterior and deliver natural sound reproduction via a 13-millimeter silk dome tweeter and a 4-inch full-range unit. A series of bass, treble, and volume dials allow you to customize the sound and its balance, and you can make even micro adjustments of treble and bass. A remote control is included so you can keep the volume in check even from a distance. With two aux input options, you can connect up to two devices simultaneously, too. Just keep in mind this speaker set doesn’t offer Bluetooth capability. Both speakers are backed by a two-year hassle-free warranty for even more reliability.

If you’re looking for great speakers that won’t cost you a ton of money, you’ll get excellent value for your money with the Pyle 3” Mini Cube Bookshelf Speakers. Each little speaker measures just 3.6 x 3.6 x 4.6 inches in size and delivers 100 watts of power, with 200 watts of peak power handling. You’ll get surprisingly high sound resonance out of these speakers, and their 8 Ohm impedance is ideal for watching movies, listening to music, and even using on a day-to-day basis for TV. Built with video shielding, these bookshelf speakers will give you optimum sound no matter how you’re using them. Each individual speaker features a 3-inch paper cone driver that’s good enough for a home theater experience, delivering powerful audio and great quality. Even more importantly, you can place this pair of speakers just about anywhere and they’ll blend right in with the background.

If you don’t mind spending more to get some seriously high-quality speakers, the Elac Debut 2.0 Bookshelf Speakers are a fantastic option. These premium speakers are revamped and updated to offer you the latest audio technology, including a new wide-dispersion tweeter, a woven aramid-fiber woofer, and new front firing ports to reduce problems with placement. Designed for exceptional performance, you’ll get a sensitivity of 87 decibels and a 2,200 hertz crossover frequency, with a total frequency response range of 44 to 3,500 hertz. These speakers deliver a nominal impedance of 6 Ohms and a max power input of 120 watts. Built with a soft-dome tweeter and smoother, more responsive woofer, you’ll get little vibration yet enjoy full-bodied sound no matter what you’re listening to. You’ll really pay for premium results when you opt for these speakers, but they may be a bit too expensive for some.

The Polk Audio T15 100 Watt Bookshelf Speakers may be relatively compact in size, but they pack a serious punch when it comes to surround sound. These speakers are just right for anyone who wants to enhance the sound of movies and TV shows, and they can be used to create a wholly impressive home theater experience right in your living room — with no extra components needed. Designed to deliver immersive sound, each of these bookshelf speakers is built with a 0.75-inch silk dome tweeter and a 5.25-inch dynamic balance composite driver. They create natural, nicely balanced sound and can really deliver some strong bass, even at a low frequency. Vocals are wonderfully clear, and you’ll love the details you hear in any kind of audio. Muffled noises, rattling, and distortion will become problems of the past. You can choose to place these speakers on a bookshelf or mount them to your walls for more customization.

Not sure exactly how you want to create a home sound system? You’ll want to choose the Klipsch R-41M Bookshelf Home Speaker Set. This pair of high-quality speakers is designed to offer the utmost versatility, allowing you to use them alone in a small space or as a part of a larger, whole-home sound system. You can buy these bookshelf speakers now for a small space and upgrade later on; you can even downgrade over time. Each speaker measures 11.3 x 5.75 x 7.9 inches, you’ll get 1-inch aluminum LTS tweeters, 90 x 90 square tractrix horns, 4-inch spun copper IMG woofers, and a strong, removable magnetic grille. These speakers feature 8 Ohms of impedance and a compatible crossover frequency of 1,730 hertz. With power handling of up to 200 watts and a 90 decibel sensitivity, you’ll get minimized distortion and wonderful sound detail no matter what you’re playing or listening to. No matter how you plan to put these bookshelf speakers to use, you won’t sacrifice quality in favor of increased versatility.

While bookshelf speakers are traditionally meant to sit on a shelf or flat surface with no need for mounting, it is possible to find a pair that can be mounted to your walls — like the Acoustic Audio AA321B Bookshelf Speakers. These speakers are mountable indoor models that wire to an amplifier or receiver. They do require more effort to get up and running than your average pair of bookshelf speakers, but they’re a fantastic choice for those who want to create a traditional home audio system. Featuring full-range sound coverage, these speakers are built with 2.5-inch polypropylene woofers, a frequency response of 150 hertz, and 8 Ohm impedance. You’ll get big sound from these black ABS-sealed speakers that each measure just 3.5 x 3.5 x 4.5 inches. Both raw wire connectors and mounting brackets are included for easy mounting. These speakers even have fully directional swivel mount attachments so you can angle them to your liking.

The Sony SSCS5 3-Way Bookshelf Speaker System is a step up from your average pair of bookshelf speakers. In this complete set, you’ll get everything you need to create a whole-room sound system, including three three-way speakers that create a bass-reflex setup. These speakers offer a 5.25-inch foamed mica cellular reinforced woofer, a 1-inch polyester main tweeter, a 0.75-inch Sony Super Tweeter, and optimized crossover componentry. When you turn these speakers on, you’ll love the immersive sound staging, high-resolution audio, and 6 Ohm speaker impedance. From high-frequency notes to precision reproduction to deep, stable bass, you’ll get everything necessary for expansive, in-depth sound. Even the exterior housing of these speakers helps the acoustics, with ported all-wood enclosures that suppress diffraction and deliver natural sound. You won’t have to worry about vibrations, the effects of bass pressure and speed, or other potential distortions thanks to the quality build.

You’re going to get a whole lot of bass for your money if you choose the Polk Audio Monitor 40 Series II Bookshelf Speaker. This is a speaker that’s made for bass, and you’ll feel the vibrations, the power, and the immersive beat each time you turn up the volume. Equipped with a dynamic balance dome tweeter and two 5.25-inch dynamic balance woofers, the two-way speaker offers quality sound backed by solid power. You’ll enjoy crisp, clear sound with a wide range of dispersion that results in a three-dimensional listening experience. A high frequency response and realistic vocal reproduction paired with deep bass will enhance everything from parties to movie nights at home. You can choose to use this Polk bookshelf speaker alone or as part of a larger whole-home sound system, adjusting and adding components as needed for bigger spaces. If you love bass, this is the speaker to choose.

If you love listening to music played in its most stripped down form, you’re going to want to choose the Micca COVO-S 2-Way Bookshelf Speakers. This pair of speakers is designed to deliver high-quality results when it comes to acoustic sounds, and it’s a fantastic option to use for music alone. Built with a patented concentric driver that enhances acoustics and maintains coherency, plus a 3-inch wool paper cone woofer, you’ll get better dispersion and crystal-clear treble. The ported speaker enclosure delivers extended bass response, and distortion is low. Though these bookshelf speakers are small in size, they provide rich sound that’s ideal for using while you work in an office or play music in the background. If you want to enrich and deepen your acoustic music even more, you can place these speakers against a wall or in the corner of a room to enhance their output.

You don’t have to purchase a huge speaker setup or many pieces of equipment in order to get whole-room sound — you just need the Yamaha NS-6490 3-Way Bookshelf Speakers. These smaller speakers work together either as a standalone pair or as part of a larger sound system to deliver truly impressive results that fill a room of any size. These three-way speakers are built with three drivers, including an 8-inch woofer, a 4-inch midrange, and a 0.75-inch dome tweeter, all of which provide a 45 hertz to 23 kilohertz frequency response range. With a 90 decibel sensitivity and 8 Ohms impedance, these speakers offer balance and tightly responsive sound. You’ll love the clarity and richness, and the high-fidelity sound that results will wow you when you’re watching movies. When it comes to music, the ultra-wide frequency range delivers vocals that shine with little distortion.

Related: 6 noise-canceling headphones that deliver audio bliss

Why should you trust us

I have nearly a year of experience reviewing products for Brookline Media’s websites, including The Drive and Car Bibles. My past reviews include best ATV bags, best solar chargers for backpacking, and best waterproof tents. I’ve also written historical articles for War History Online, how-to articles for WonderHowTo, and the nonfiction book Fidget! for Adams Media.

Different kinds of bookshelf speakers

Bookshelf speakers are their own kind of speaker — they’re designed to sit on bookshelves or other elevated surfaces to deliver whole-room sound in small to medium spaces. While you might use them on a traditional bookshelf, you can also use them on a media console, living room shelves, and even built-in or mounted speaker shelves. 

However, within the category of bookshelf speakers, you’ll find options in just about every size, weight, and quality level. There are typically two main styles of bookshelf speakers: passive and active. Each has its pros and cons, and you can learn more about these two styles below.

Passive bookshelf speakers

Passive bookshelf speakers are speakers that don’t have built-in amplification. Instead, these speakers must be connected to a stereo receiver in order to work properly and at their highest quality level. Passive speakers are a great choice for serious audiophiles who want to be able to customize and precisely control their sound and its quality. You can choose the hardware you’d like to connect your bookshelf speakers to, and you don’t have to simply stick with the stock option from the same company you purchased your speakers from.

However, for less knowledgeable or particular audio fans, passive bookshelf speakers can be lacking. If you don’t want to DIY a home speaker setup, you’re not going to like the fact that these speakers require additional parts.

Active bookshelf speakers

Active bookshelf speakers are the all-in-one option when it comes to this kind of speaker. Unlike passive models, active speakers do have built-in amplification. They require no extra equipment — they include a preamp, volume controls, and inputs (or ports that allow you to plug in additional devices), all built right into the speakers themselves. 

Active bookshelf speakers tend to be bigger, bulkier, and heavier in weight because they’re designed to carry all of the critical components in one set of speakers. They also typically have smaller drivers because there’s just not enough room in the speaker housing. With less options for customization, active speakers are best for those who want a simplified setup.

Features to look for in bookshelf speakers

Choosing just the right bookshelf speakers can be a bit complicated. Speakers have many specialized components underneath their sleek exteriors, and unless you’re already an expert in this field, it can be tough to determine what’s important and what isn’t.

So, when you’re considering different bookshelf speakers, make sure to look at two particular features: the speakers’ size and their drivers. Size is important because bookshelf speakers were designed (and named) to be small enough to fit on the shelves of a bookcase. Today, there’s quite a bit of variety in bookshelf speakers’ sizing; some are truly small and unassuming, while others look more like full-size floor speakers. Assess your available space and decide whether you want your speakers to be very visible or subtle in the background.

Next, you’ll want to consider the drivers. The drivers are what produce sound in a set of speakers. And typically, larger drivers mean better sound. However, it’s important to consider the size of the drivers as well as their material and placement. Multiple drivers can also be a benefit, as each driver can handle different frequencies for more nuanced sound.

Do you need bookshelf speakers?

Bookshelf speakers are a fantastic option if you’re looking for a way to enhance the sound of your music, TV shows, and movies. Unlike other home speaker options, this style of speaker is designed to be small and unobtrusive. You can simply place them on the shelves of a bookcase you already have, keeping them pretty much out of sight and out of mind. And though they’re compact, they can really deliver impressive sound quality.

There’s also a wide variety of different bookshelf speakers to choose from. These speakers really do offer something for everyone, with different options in size, sound quality, and even amplification. If you add bookshelf speakers to your home, you can get benefits like:

  • Versatility, as you can use these speakers in any small- to medium-sized room, like a living room, bedroom, or even a home office — they’ll even suit your garage;
  • The ability to use your bookshelf speakers just as a standalone pair or as part of a larger home surround sound system, giving you endless customization options;
  • Great sound without — or with — extra accessories like subwoofers and amplifiers;
  • A smaller, more compact size that doesn’t take up a ton of room or draw eyes to your sound system; and
  • Just the right balance of volume and bass to prevent disturbing neighbors, especially if you live in an apartment or condo with shared walls.

Pricing ranges for bookshelf speakers

  • Under $50: If you’re looking for affordable bookshelf speakers, there’s a small selection of options priced at $50 or less. These speakers are very compact and almost “mini” in size, so they are the smallest options you’ll find.
  • $50 to $150: Most bookshelf speakers fall into this price range. You’ll find options at all quality levels and sound varieties, allowing you to choose the right mix of cost and quality for your needs. 
  • $150 to $300 or More: If you’re looking for a premium pair of speakers, the $150 to $300 — or even higher — price range is where you’ll find them. These bookshelf speakers tend to be bigger, more customizable, and feature smarter technology.

How we chose our top picks

In order to create our list of the best bookshelf speakers, we took a look at the highest-rated and most-reviewed product options available on Amazon. From there, we assessed the price, the materials, and the pros and cons mentioned in customer reviews for all of our products to determine if they stood up to real-life use.

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