Best Dorm Room Speakers for College Students
Find the Best Speakers for Your Dorm Room!
Great speakers are essential for music and entertainment fans heading off to college. Who wants to live in dull surroundings with no music or entertainment? Also, having great-sounding stereo speakers will really impress others in your dorm, and friends who stop by.
Going with a reputable speaker brand isn't enough. You need to choose ones that can really improve the overall entertainment system in your (presumably smallish) room. To do that, you must learn about key speaker features and specs: Should you get two-way, three-way, or four-way speakers? Bookshelf or floor-standing speakers? Don't worry; having the best doesn't always mean buying the most expensive—we'll help you be mindful of your budget.
Read on to learn about some great-sounding speakers for dorm rooms, and how to choose yours!
My Top Dorm Room Speaker Recommendations
For those who prefer to cut to the chase, here's a list of five great speakers for dorm rooms. The first three are smaller, so-called bookshelf speakers, and the last two are larger, floor-standing units.
- Pioneer SP-BS21-LR: Great speakers for those on a budget.
- Sony SS-B3000: Sony quality in a compact package.
- Pioneer SP-BS41-LR: A step up in quality from the SP-BS21-LR
- Sony SS-F6000: Large and powerful floor-standing speakers
- Sony SSF-5000: A lot less expensive than the SS-F6000, but still a quality speaker.
You can find more detailed descriptions as well as pricing and where-to-buy info further down. But first, I've put together information on speaker specs that can help you if you either can't find these specific models (because vendors are constantly refreshing their product lines), or want to understand the jargon you encounter in sales materials for any speakers.
Key Speaker Features and Specs
You'll see a lot of jargon when you read about speakers. The most frequently used terms include:
- Number of components (drivers): two-way, three-way, four-way etc.
- Frequency response
- Bookshelf vs. floor-standing
Below, we'll explain these terms and how important they are (or aren't) in choosing your speakers.
Two-Way Speakers vs. Three-Way Speakers, or More?
Most people know that a speaker has at least two components: a tweeter to process high-frequency tones and a woofer to handle low (bass) frequencies. This is because it's extremely difficult to design a single speaker driver that can capably reproduce all sound frequencies without distortion, especially at high volumes. Two-way speakers have only these two basic components (known as drivers); three- and four-way speakers have additional drivers that process mid-range tones and ultra-high frequencies.
Don't make the mistake of assuming speakers with more drivers are superior to those with fewer ones. A well-designed two-way speaker can produce better sound than a poorly designed three- or four-way speaker.
Crossover Frequency in Loudspeakers
Another spec you'll see in speaker descriptions is called crossover, typically expressed in frequency or frequencies. Speakers and amps use filters to send audio signals to the appropriate driver; a crossover is the circuitry that runs these filters. In a two-way speaker, tones above the crossover (i.e. treble tones) go to the tweeter and those below (i.e. bass tones) go to the woofer. In speakers with more drivers, the crossover further divides the signal, acting as a sort of traffic cop.
There are two types of crossovers. Active crossovers have their own power source, and you can typically adjust them to your liking. Passive crossovers are hardwired into speakers and amps; they filter signals that have already been amplified, and the filters are set in stone.
Active and Passive Crossovers
Speaker specs give you the range of frequencies the speaker will handle. The range of frequencies the human ear can detect is about 20Hz (the lowest bass tones) to 20kHz (the highest trebles), but you'll often see speakers with wider ranges. Why? The answer has to do with the way audio is reproduced and filtered: Basically, a speaker with sensitivity beyond the range of human hearing is more likely to properly reproduce the tones we can hear.
Also, while a wide range is desirable, unless that range is accompanied by a decibel variance (e.g. +/- 3db), it may not mean much. The decibel variance tells you that the speaker will reproduce all tones within the range at a volume that varies no more than, in the example, three decibels, which is about the level at which you begin to really notice changes in volume. You don't really benefit from a speaker that can only reproduce a very low tone so softly that you can hardly hear it at the volume that works fine for mid-range tones.
Unfortunately, the manufacturers of mass-market speakers don't always provide such detailed information, so your best bet is to listen to a speaker you're considering.
Bookshelf vs. Floor-standing, and How Many Watts?
In terms of size, speakers typically fall into two categories. Bookshelf speakers, as the name implies, can fit on a bookshelf. Floor-standing speakers are larger and sit on the floor (or perhaps on a stand). The size and layout of your room is obviously an important consideration here: In a cramped space, floor-standing speakers may not be practical.
The speaker spec most people are familiar with is watts, which is the amount of power the speaker is designed to handle. Amplifiers deliver power to speakers, so you don't want a big mismatch—if the amp delivers more power than the speaker can cope with, audio quality suffers. (Read more about speaker wattage on "Speaker Watts, Quality and Loudness Explained.") This is one reason why power ratings alone aren't a reliable indication of audio quality.
Now that you've learned something about specs, you can start checking out products. Many of these are the perfect addition for your dorm room. Just make sure you don't turn up the volume too loud and upset the resident assistants or your neighbors!
Below you'll find specs on the models mentioned above, ranging in price from under $100 to $450 for the most expensive floor-standing speakers. Because speaker manufacturers are always updating their products, some may be difficult to find. Prices were current as of late 2014.
Recommended Dorm Room Speakers Compared
Bookshelf/Floorstanding & Price
Number of drivers
Where to buy
65Hz - 20kHz
Amazon (third-party seller)
Amazon (third-party sellers)
Amazon (third-party sellers)
Pioneer 80 Watt SP-BS21-LR RMS Two-way Speakers
These particular speakers are a great choice in the bookshelf design, so if you are running out of space, you can use them in a tight area. They are a two-way type with crossover design that would definitely boost the sound quality. These speakers come with four woofers, accept 80 watts of power, and have a 2 kHz crossover frequency with a decent minimal frequency response of 65 Hz. They should produce booming as well as crispy sound, and if you can find them (Pioneer has since replaced them with the pricier SP-BS22 speakers), they should cost less than $100, making them perfect for budget-conscious students.
Sony SS-B3000 Bookshelf Speakers
The great thing about these speakers is that they include H.O.P (Highly Oriented Polyolefine (a type of plastic) woofers with Kevlar, materials that really help drive the quality sound. The mid-driver cone with enhanced power also contributes to the bright and clear audio. The SS-B3000's minimum frequency response is 50Hz, and it accepts power input of around 120 watts. Don't be deceived by the small and compact design, because these speakers can produce really big sound. They may cost more than the Pioneer SP-BS21-LRs, but if you've got the cash they're really worth it.
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR 130 Watt RMS Two-way Speakers
At $150 a pair, these speakers are a bit more expensive than the SP-BS21's described above, and as of late 2014 go for about the same price as the Sony bookshelf models that accept a bit less power. Designed to maximize clarity, these two-way speakers have oversized magnets that help produce strong and powerful bass. The curved cabinet style reduces vibration so you won't get too much annoying and unnecessary noise.
These two-way speakers come with 5.25-inch woofers, type 1 dome tweeters, and 2.50 kHz crossover frequency, The reviews for these speakers have been very positive.
Sony SS-F6000 Floorstanding Four-way Speakers
Depending on the space available in your dorm room (and the house rules), you might want to consider these impressive four-way floorstanding speakers. At about $450 for the pair, these are the most expensive speakers I'm recommending for a dorm room, but they are really worth it for both the size and sound quality. The SSF-6000's four components generate powerful, dynamic sound. Bass tones will be just superb. The design is simple, yet stylish and timeless, If cost isn't as much of an issue, these speakers will deliver a greater range of quality audio for your dorm room system. (Note that Sony has since refreshed its line with the SSF-7000, so you should track down the SSF-6000s as quickly as possible.)
Sony SS-F5000 Floorstanding Three-Way Speakers
If your budget doesn't permit splurging on Sony SS-F6000 or SS-F7000 four-way floorstanding speakers, don't despair. At just under $200, their three-way sibling, the SS-F5000, still produces quality 150-watt audio for rooms large enough for floorstanding models.
Are you considering certain speaker models or types for your dorm room? Do you currently have a brand you recommend most? Leave your thoughts and feedback below to help other stereo speaker buyers get the best for their dorms!