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Top 5 Best Bookshelf Speakers 2017

Updated on January 13, 2017
These KEF Pair of Bookshelf Loudspeakers deliver superior high end performance.  If you are used to cheap, low quality speakers, this pair will open your ears up to a whole different level of experience.
These KEF Pair of Bookshelf Loudspeakers deliver superior high end performance. If you are used to cheap, low quality speakers, this pair will open your ears up to a whole different level of experience.

Bookshelf speakers are an excellent way to fulfill home audio and theater system needs. They can provide high quality audio without taking up lots of precious floor space, or interfering with the décor.

Whether they are used for a main room, or in a family room, bedroom, or study, or whether they are used to provide rear audio in a home theater system, or for general purpose, multi-room set-ups, bookshelf speakers can play a vital role in delivering quality audio, in my experience.

The technological advancements that have been made in recent years in order to achieve sound volume and fidelity in compact speakers are really quite remarkable. You simply do not need anything large anymore, and you can always add a subwoofer, if you decide that you require extra bass to provide an additional boost to the lower frequencies.

Speaker Driver.  Bookshelf speakers generally have two drivers, a woofer and a tweeter.  That means that the bass end can be limited.  If you want good quality low frequencies, however, you are often better off adding a subwoofer.
Speaker Driver. Bookshelf speakers generally have two drivers, a woofer and a tweeter. That means that the bass end can be limited. If you want good quality low frequencies, however, you are often better off adding a subwoofer. | Source

Brief Guide to Types of Speaker Drivers/Cones

The drivers, also called cones, are crucial to the audio quality because it is they that have the role of converting electrical energy into the sound waves.

Bookshelf speakers typically have two drivers: a woofer and a tweeter. The woofer supplies the bass end of the sound, typically around 40 to 1000 Hertz. Tweeter deal with the high end, sounds, up to around 20 kilohertz.

Some speakers are 3-way, which means that they also have mid-range drivers to deal with the mid-range frequencies. There are also full range drivers which are supposed to supply low, mid, and high sounds all from one driver - I would be cautious about buying an inexpensive full range driver, however, as the audio quality is generally not good.

Two speaker drivers.  There are three way bookshelf speakers, but often the audio quality is not that great at the bass end.  Accordingly, I would generally suggest considering buying a subwoofer too to fill out the lower frequencies.
Two speaker drivers. There are three way bookshelf speakers, but often the audio quality is not that great at the bass end. Accordingly, I would generally suggest considering buying a subwoofer too to fill out the lower frequencies. | Source

Speaker Specifications

Most novices and casual buyers skip reading through all the technical specifications. But understanding what the specs mean for each speaker model can help you to buy the right speakers for your needs.

Below is a very brief explanation of what they mean:

  • Frequency response - This is basically telling you the range of sounds that a speaker can produce. The better the speakers, the better the drivers deliver both the extreme highs and lows of a piece of audio in a natural sounding way. Generally speaking, if you are buying a more expensive speaker, then look for accurate bass, if you are searching at the more affordable end, then look for speakers with extended high frequency response. The best speakers have a balance between the high and low frequencies. The majority of bookshelf speakers are made with some limitations, however, and are capable of reaching 45-20,000 Hz
  • Impedance This is a measure of electrical resistance encountered by the speaker driver, normally 4, 6, or 16 ohms. Knowing the impedance can be useful for matching speakers with an amplifier, so that distortion can be minimized. Bookshelf speakers should generally have an 8 ohm impedance.
  • Voltage Sensitivity This relates to how loud the speaker will play at a given voltage and requires special attention when deciding the right match up between an amplifier and speakers. It is usually expressed as X dB per X V input. Most people buying bookshelf speakers will be using a relatively small amplifier so will desire a higher decibel ranking: at least 86 dB.
  • Power Handling Another important spec worth understanding, this spec tells you how much power a speaker can handle and is expressed in watts. See what output your intended amplifier has and try to match the speakers accordingly.

Low Frequency Bass Driver.  Low frequency sounds fill out the audio output and give a fuller experience.  More depth is also provided.  Bookshelf speakers are sometimes too small to output sufficient bass, so you may wish to buy a separate subwoofer.
Low Frequency Bass Driver. Low frequency sounds fill out the audio output and give a fuller experience. More depth is also provided. Bookshelf speakers are sometimes too small to output sufficient bass, so you may wish to buy a separate subwoofer. | Source

Consider Adding a Subwoofer

A subwoofer will fill out the low frequency end of your audio, supplying a fuller overall sound with more depth and allowing your bookshelf speakers to work on the mids and highs.

Accurate and powerful bass delivery can dramatically improve the audio experience, whether you are listening to music or watching a movie (it's incredible how much actually being able to hear the deep tones improves your experience of a drama!).

If your speaker does not reach 50 Hz or lower frequencies, then it is not considered to be full range, and you should definitely seriously think about buying a subwoofer. Plus even if your bookshelf speaker does deliver bass, it won't do it as effectively as a sub will.

Subwoofers can vastly improve a sound system in my experience, especially when they are complementing smaller sized bookshelf speakers.

My Top 5 Selections

Here is my top 5 list for the best bookshelf speakers available in 2017. I have deliberately included a variety of products in order to suit a range of tastes and budgets.

The Dayton Audio B652 pair provide profound performance for a very affordable price.  Excellent clarity is delivered and the black ebony pica vinyl cabinet finish means that these speakers will look good in any home or other location.
The Dayton Audio B652 pair provide profound performance for a very affordable price. Excellent clarity is delivered and the black ebony pica vinyl cabinet finish means that these speakers will look good in any home or other location.

#5 Very Affordable and Compact: Dayton Audio B652!

Very much at the affordable end of the price scale, this 6 ½ inch pair by Dayton are profound performers for the bucks, especially when you consider their compact size.

The audio is delivered via a 6-1/2-Inch polypropylene cone woofer and a 5/8-Inch polycarbonate ferrofluid cooled dome tweeter in each cabinet. This means despite the Daytons measuring only 12 inches in height, they produce a mighty sound.

They look great too, having a black ebony pica vinyl cabinet finish and removable grilles.

For those seeking excellent clarity audio detail for an affordable price, they can't come more highly recommended!

#4 High Resolution and Inexpensive: Sony SS-B1000!

This 5 1/8-inch pair may be compact, but the Sony SS-B1000 models are capable of delivering 120 watts of power using their advanced design (essentially a 5¼" H.O.P cone woofer combined with a 1" Nano-Fine balanced dome tweeter).

Sony have succeeded in producing one of the most popular products available and it's not difficult to understand why when you consider that you are getting high resolution audio for such a very competitive price.

I have a pair of these myself in my bedroom and I can vouch for their quality and value. As far as budget bookshelf speakers go, they are difficult to beat.

#3 Highly-Rated and Stylish: RTI A1 from Polk Audio!

The RTI A1 from Polk Audio are stylish, popular, and very highly rated. I would recommend them as the best bookshelf speakers under $300, if that is your budget range.

They each come with a one-inch silk/polymer composite dome tweeter and PowerPort technology, which cuts down on "chuffing" or "port noise".

The audio is delivered via a combination of a 5.25-inch dynamic balance mineral/polymer composite cone driver and 1-inch silk/polymer composite dome tweeter in each cabinet.

A highly rated and popular, technically advanced product that features a neodynium magnet, low viscosity ferro-fluid cooling.

#2 Crystal Clear Audio From 3-way Speakers: JBL L830!

This JBL L830 pair are beautifully designed. They are 3-way loudspeakers, which means a superior output range of both high and low frequency sounds.

The quality is truly exceptional, they deliver crystal clear audio and a considerable amount of bass - the frequency response boosted by the 3/4" Mylar-dome, cast-frame chassis mounted in a bi-radial horn.

Visually these speakers are also very well crafted and attractive, which is important if you want something that will work well with your existing décor.

The KEF Q300B pair feature rigid new aluminium cone technology with increased cabinet space to give extra depth at the bass end.  Its bi-wire terminals are gold plated.  These speakers are classy in appearance and output.
The KEF Q300B pair feature rigid new aluminium cone technology with increased cabinet space to give extra depth at the bass end. Its bi-wire terminals are gold plated. These speakers are classy in appearance and output.

#1 Unbelievable High End Performance: KEF Q300B!

KEF are a leader in producing high quality bookshelf speakers. These speakers feature advanced bass technologies, brand new Uni-Q array, and are bound to impress even the most discerning audiophiles.

The KEF Q300B pair are an 8th generation Q Series product and have been fully re-engineered and designed, guaranteeing a superior high end performance and opening up a whole new world of quality sound to all those who experience them.

The newly engineered KEF patented 6.5" Uni-Q driver provides optimum quality, while a 1" aluminum vented dome tweeter, and increased cabinet space mean increased performance at the treble and bass ends.

The bi-wire terminals are gold plated and wall mount bracket are also included.

© 2013 Paul Goodman

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      AudioNirvana 9 months ago

      I have to disagree with the argument that small speakers sound as good as large. This may be true in extreme cases, such as very expensive small speakers. You simply cannot get the same low end response from an 8" sub as you get from a 15" sub. In my opinion, the smaller subs trying to do the work of a large sub sound sloppy and overworked,especially when your really pushing them. A larger sub with better power handling will sound tighter, deeper, and more pleasing. You can get a set of pioneer csg-405 speakers on eBay for $200 that will blow away any small speakers until you start spending thousands, and maybe even then. I think it comes down to budget. If you need great sounding speakers with a mediocre budget, go for the large speakers. If you have a large budget, then get a bigger house so you can get bigger speakers! If you don't believe me, you can get a frequency analyzer app and test your speaker's frequency response. The larger speakers simply do a better job at low frequency. A plus to having them is that you no longer have to buy a powered subwoofer.

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      Sanjay 10 months ago

      Your article was very helpful

      I have YAMAHA AS500 AMPLIFIER PLZ SUGGEST ME MATCHABLE BOOK SHELF SPEAKERS AND A POWERED SUB

      HOPE U WILL GUIDE ME WITH YOUR EXPERT OPINIONS

      HAVE A GOOD DAY SIR

    • profile image

      Grant S 2 years ago

      Interesting I notice you did not mention the Pioneer low end speakers designed by Andrew Jones. They blow away most of the speakers in your list and are cheap. Have you actually listened to them?

    • Jason R. Manning profile image

      Jason R. Manning 3 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Greetings fellow audio buff. Nice hub, I happen to agree with you regarding the quality and ability of modern day bookshelf speakers. I used to own a couple pairs of full range tower speakers. I recently sold my Monitor Audio RX8's and now have a pair of KEF R300's. I added a Polk Audio pro sub and I can tell you I have no loss from missing the RX8's. My soundstage is deeper and wider with this new set up.

      I also happen to own a pair of Polk Audio Rti4 in my bedroom. Very capable pair that I picked up direct from Polk Auidos's outlet at $175. Good job on this hub, I hope you get more readers. Cheers.