Bookshelf Speaker Reviews and Buying Guide:
The right speakers can enhance the quality of your home theater or stereo systems tremendously, increasing the pleasure you find right in your own home. Who needs movie theaters or concerts when you have a set of kick-butt speakers? But who needs speakers taking over their home? Big floor speakers are powerful, and yes, you will feel like you are front row center every time you use them, but they tend to be a bit bulky. This may be fine if you have a dedicated home theater, but for the rest of us with living rooms (or more modest budgets), it can be a bit much. A perfect solution, then, and one that is becoming more and more popular, is bookshelf speakers
. These provide similar sound quality to floor speakers, but they are much more compact. As the name tells us, they can usually fit on your bookshelf or a small floor stand so you have more room for sitting and letting people into your home and other such luxuries. If you're not an audiophile, picking good speakers can be difficult. There are over 500 different brands from which to choose, and the price range varies from friendly to absurd. How do you choose the right speakers for your needs and your budget?
Choosing the Best Bookshelf Speakers
So, how much power output should your amp have? How many watts per channel? What are speaker efficiency, pre-amplifiers, power amplifiers? If you're still not quite clear on what a subwoofer is, you could be in trouble! No, it doesn't have to be that hard. Admittedly, there is a growing list of stereo specs, and it is perfectly ok if you are not familiar with all of them. More and more stereo experts, including Gary Altunian, who writes About.com's Stereo Guide, say that choosing the right speaker depends on what sounds good to you. They suggest taking a few CDs with you and testing them out on the speakers you are considering. If it sounds good to you, that's the one. And if it has a higher amp distortion measurement than another, who cares? It is important to look at three main areas: the size of the speakers, the listening quality, and the price. It is also important to see how they stack up in comparison to other speakers on the market so you can make the best choice. Bookshelf speakers are typically 2-way. This means that they can handle two frequencies. The tweeter handles upper frequencies, while the woofer handles mid-to-low frequencies. Many people who choose bookshelf speakers opt to get an additional subwoofer for the lower bass tones. Bookshelf speaker reviews
- Want to hear from the experts and actual owners. We started with Audioholics.com since they are well respected in the industry and their reviews are thorough and up-to-date. Their Budget Bookshelf Speaker Shootout 2009 - where they evaluated 9 pairs of speakers included all the top brands like Yamaha, JBL, Infinity, Pinnacle, Behringer, Polk Audio, and several more. CNET also does some great technical reviews of bookshelf speakers that are relevant and educational. I was recently in the market for a good pair of bookshelf speakers after having to part way with my Cerwin Vega VS-120's. They were too big for our lifestyle and so we had to downsize to the smaller bookshelf speakers. I finally settled on the Bose 161 speakers and so far am happy with results, but I still miss that deep bass sound that the CV's produced on real rock and roll. You can browse the best selling bookshelf speakers online here
. Some are meant for wall mount (like the Bose 161), but so far I have not done that. A few are just fine as floor standing speakers or on bookshelfs or TV stands.
Best Bookshelf Speakers for Smaller Budgets:
- Speakers can be expensive. If you've been researching them, this is not news. You can find six-figure speakers (and even some seven-figure ones - ouch!) and while that price level is not one most of us shop at, even the "less expensive" speakers can be painful. You can easily spend a few thousand. Bookshelf speakers tend to be more expensive, and you can find quality speakers for around $250. BestCovery.com named the Polk Audio Monitor 30 Bookshelf Speaker System
as the best budget bookshelf speakers on the market. This set is designed to fit your home and your budget, providing a high-performance loudspeaker. The modest receivers and amplifiers provide lifelike sound. It has a polymer-composite dynamic-balance dome one-inch silk tweeter (say that three times fast) with a powerful neodymium magnet structure. What this means is that it will deliver clear, lifelike high frequency sounds, making anything from vocals to instrumentals sound great. It also has a 5.25-inch dynamic-balance driver with bi-laminate composite - excellent bass and lower amp distortion. Crisp, defined sound, in layman's terms. Among the features that reviewers consistently love best: the price. A pair of these Polk Audio speakers lists for $230.
Best Mid-Range Bookshelf Speakers:
- These are "mid-range" for us normal people who don't go shopping with our AmEx Black cards. You can find great speakers for around $600 - $1000 because more manufacturers are catering towards larger demographics. They want more people to buy, so they have to make more speakers people can afford. This has resulted in more "low end" speakers. Don't be fooled by the words "low-end." They often have the same technology found in the much more expensive speakers. The KEF iQ30 Bookshelf Speakers are a high-quality choice. These were rated as one of the best pairs of bookshelf speakers under $1000 by Stereo.About.com. These KEF speakers have a 2-way bass reflex speaker, a 165mm Uni-Q driver and a 19mm aluminum dome tweeter for great depth and tone. Other features include a curved cabinet to minimize internal reflections which distort sound, and KEF's "tangerine" waveguide for clear, crisp high frequency sounds. These speakers also have a much better bass quality than many bookshelf speakers, especially at this price. Stereo.About gave it two enthusiastic thumbs up. You can find a pair for $600 here
. Bestcovery chose the Focal Chorus 706 V as its favorite mid-range bookshelf speaker. These speakers have 6.5-inch polyglass mid-bass and 1-inch inverted dome tweeter. They create even sound with great high and low ranges. According to Bestcovery's review, they "take a bit to break in." When they do, though, they provide defined, accurate sound, especially on female vocals. They do not hit the same lows as more expensive speakers, but they do give you outstanding quality considering the price. Bestcovery isn't the only site to praise these speakers: they got a 100 percent positive expert score on TestSeek. A great value at about $500 per pair. View all the top rated mid-priced bookshelf speakers here
High-End Speakers: What are the Best Bookshelf Speakers?:
- If you are an audiophile and love great sound - and don't care how much they cost - you can easily spend a few thousand dollars. B&W is a name that you will see again and again. One of their top models is the Nautilus 805S. These speakers are about $2000 per pair. They have a 1-inch driver and a 6.5-inch woven Kevlar cone. The 26-pound speakers deliver clear, crisp sound that is precise and balance. The "Balanced Drive" system minimizes distortion, and the copper and aluminum components reduce voice variations. The 805 is a scaled-down version of the popular, and expensive, 801's. Bookshelf speakers offer incredible sound, and the prices are not as intimidating as those of floor-standing speakers. Remember, the most important things to keep in mind when you're buying speakers is the size and if they are a good fit for your home, if they are affordable, and if they sound good. Look at the extensive selection here. You don't have to go over budget to have great sound. See a list of the most popular high end speakers here