The Best 3 Bookshelf Speakers in 2018

Updated on January 16, 2018
BigBrains profile image

Paul has been passionate about playing, recording, and listening to music for over 35 years. Born in the U.K., he now lives in Florida.

One of my old Klipsch RB-35's (no longer made). Bookshelf speakers are great for delivering audio in bedrooms, kitchens, office spaces, dens, and other rooms. Advances in technology mean that they can deliver an impressive level of power and quality.
One of my old Klipsch RB-35's (no longer made). Bookshelf speakers are great for delivering audio in bedrooms, kitchens, office spaces, dens, and other rooms. Advances in technology mean that they can deliver an impressive level of power and quality. | Source

In my experience, bookshelf speakers can be an excellent way to fulfill home audio and theater system needs. They are especially great for bedrooms, office spaces, kitchens, studies, and den areas, as they can provide respectable audio quality without taking up lots of precious floor or wall space, or interfering too much with the general décor.

The technological advancements in speaker technology 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 large speakers anymore to achieve an audio quality that is acceptable to most audio buffs.

I do often use them in conjunction with a subwoofer to provide an additional boost to the lower frequencies, but not always. It depends on the speakers and the room.

2018's 3 Best Bookshelf Speakers

Below are three speakers that I feel confident in recommending.

  • Sony SS-B1000: Reliable and affordable
  • Cerwin Vega SL5M: Compact and punchy
  • KEF Q300B: Clear and crisp audio

I give some general background to speaker technology, specifications, and set up below, followed by a detailed explanation and links to each of my selections.


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.

One of the Sony SS-B1000 speakers in my "man cave", alongside a Roku box, and with the dust cover removed. I am a big fan of these speakers, they offer excellent value for money in my opinion. They fill my room with some pretty high fidelity audio.
One of the Sony SS-B1000 speakers in my "man cave", alongside a Roku box, and with the dust cover removed. I am a big fan of these speakers, they offer excellent value for money in my opinion. They fill my room with some pretty high fidelity audio. | Source

Reliable and Affordable: Sony SS-B1000

I've had a pair of these Sony SS-B1000 speakers in my kitchen for almost five years (I love to play music while I cook and clean). Despite their compact size, they put out 120 Watts of power, which makes them more than capable of filling a small room with some quality sound.

The audio is delivered via a 5¼" H.O.P cone woofer combined with a 1" Nano-Fine balanced dome tweeter. My only qualm with them is that I wanted more bass, so I did end up buying a subwoofer to compliment and fill out the sound.

These speakers are difficult to beat when it comes to price, however, and I'm sure that it's a main reason why they are one of the most popular products in this category available.

Pros

  • Great value for money, especially if you have a limited budget.
  • Reliable. I've had them for five years and they still perform just as well as the day I got them.
  • They don't take up much space.
  • Powerful

Cons

  • I felt I needed a subwoofer to boost the bass end of the sound.

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.

A pair of Cerwin Vega SL5M 2-Way bookshelf speakers.
A pair of Cerwin Vega SL5M 2-Way bookshelf speakers.

Cerwin Vega SL5M: Compact and Punchy

I have a pair of Cerwin Vega SL5M 2-Way bookshelf speakers in my bedroom.

They are compact but put out a punchy sound, with an efficient 5 1/4" driver, a 1 inch soft dome tweeter for the highs, and a Bass Reflex cabinet for the lows.

Here are my pros and cons:

Pros

  • A much more expensive speaker might give you slightly crisper sounds in the high register, but the mid-range audio is excellent.
  • The bass is good enough for me to not buy an accompanying subwoofer.
  • Good value for money.

Cons

  • These speakers are pretty heavy for bookshelf speakers. That may not matter to you, but it's worth knowing.


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.

KEF Q300B: Clear and Crisp

My admiration for KEF speakers goes back some time. Therefore when I was looking for some quality speakers to use in my office space, they were definitely one of the companies on my list. I work from home and spend most of my waking hours listening to music so the audio quality has to be good, even if the room is not huge.

These speakers are state of the art, each with a 6.5" Uni-Q driver, a 1" aluminum vented dome tweeter, and generous cabinet space for a bookshelf speaker, meaning increased performance at the treble and bass ends.

My pros and cons are:

Pros

  • Outstanding audio, clear and crisp, especially in the mid to high frequencies.
  • Well built and sturdy construction
  • State of the art driver technology..
  • They look just great.

Cons

  • Despite the lows produced being exceptional for a bookshelf, I would still recommend a subwoofer if you like your music to make a thump.

Questions & Answers

    © 2013 Paul Goodman

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • profile image

        AudioNirvana 

        20 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.

      • profile image

        Sanjay 

        21 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 

        3 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 

        4 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.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, turbofuture.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://turbofuture.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)