Edifier R1280DBs on table
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What to Look For in Bookshelf Speakers in 2022

Whether you’re buying bookshelf speakers for music or as the core of your home theater system, there are quite a few variables to consider.

First, it’s useful to know what a bookshelf speaker is. These are smaller than floor-standing speakers and typically sit on either a speaker stand or a shelf, hence the name.

Bookshelf speakers typically have a single woofer and tweeter combination, sometimes with a port on the back or bottom for improved bass. Compared to larger speakers, bookshelf speakers can be lacking in low-end sound, so they’re commonly paired with either a subwoofer or other speakers.

When it comes to purchasing a bookshelf speaker, the most important aspect to consider is size. Not only does this affect how much space your speakers will take up, but also how they sound. For example, larger speakers often feature deeper bass and a fuller sound.

While size is important, the most critical factor is whether to choose active or passive speakers. Active speakers are powered, meaning you can plug in a turntable or CD player without additional amplification. On the other hand, passive speakers require an A/V receiver or turntable to work at all.

You’ll also need to consider what you plan to hook up to your speakers and how you plan to do so. For example, if you’re using a record player, things could get tricky, as you’ll need an A/V receiver or powered speakers with phono-ready inputs.

You may also want to consider digital physical connections. CD and Blu-ray players have optical or coaxial digital outputs that can offer better sound quality. If you want to use these, make sure they’re available on your speakers or A/V receiver.

If you’d rather not deal with wires, there’s wireless connectivity to consider. In most cases, this is Bluetooth, but you may also find speakers with other wireless connectivity methods like Wi-Fi built-in.

Finally, think about any extra features you may want. For example, most powered bookshelf speakers don’t feature built-in EQ, but some do.

Best Bookshelf Speakers Overall: KEF LS50 Meta

LEF LS50 in living room
KEF

Pros

  • Fantastic sound quality overall
  • Smoother than the originals, particularly in the highs
  • Same great-looking design as the originals
  • Sweet spot for listening is surprisingly large
  • Available in four color varieties

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Needs an amplifier or A/V receiver

If you’re spending a fair bit of money on speakers, you don’t want to hear the speakers. Instead, you want to hear the music coming out of them. That is precisely what you get with the KEF LS50 Meta pair, as there’s absolutely nothing standing between you and the music.

While the Meta speakers are an evolution of KEF’s well-loved LS50 set, you may not notice much difference initially. This is intentional, as KEF couldn’t find many ways to improve the design of the previous generation of speakers. Instead, the company upgraded the materials, building the LS50 Meta with metamaterials.

The LS50 Meta speakers are designed around KEF’s Uni-Q 12th Generation driver array, which uses Metamaterial Absorption Technology (MAT). This aims to absorb sound from the driver’s rear, reducing overall distortion and achieving a more natural sound.

What does this mean? While the KEF LS50 Meta speakers are similar to the original LS50, they’re smoother in the high end. Overall, the LS50 Meta pair is even more detailed and transparent than the original.

Of course, all these new materials and engineering expertise don’t come cheap. This is an expensive set of speakers, and unless you already own a high-quality amplifier or A/V receiver, you’re only halfway there. You don’t spend this much on speakers without wanting an amp to match, so this can be an expensive road to start down.

Best Bookshelf Speakers Overall

KEF LS50 Meta

They're not cheap, but pair the KEF LS50 Meta speakers with a suitable amplifier or A/V receiver, and you've just taken a shortcut to audio heaven.

Best Budget Bookshelf Speakers: ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2

ELAC Debut on blue background
ELAC

Pros

  • Improved woofer and tweeter make for better sound
  • Plenty of volume for small to medium rooms
  • Still sounds great at lower volumes
  • Improved cabinets are easier to place

Cons

  • Requires a separate amp or receiver

The term “budget speaker” may conjure mental images of harsh, overly colored sound, but you can throw them out the window. While the ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2 speakers may be affordable, they’re anything but cheap.

The Debut 2.0 B6.2 speakers have plenty of upgrades compared to the original. The cabinet has been overhauled, and the speakers have both been replaced. The pair now boasts new 6.5-inch woven aramid fiber woofers and 1-inch soft dome tweeters.

The cabinets here are slightly larger than the originals, and this helps the low end. A new front-firing bass port also helps with the low end, as these speakers will reach down to 44 Hz without the help of a subwoofer.

These are passive speakers, so you’ll need an amplifier or A/V receiver. You’ve got quite a bit of power to play with, as the ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2 speakers handle up to 120 watts per channel. These aren’t the loudest speakers in the world, but they’re more than enough to fill a medium-sized room.

Looking at the opposite side of the volume, these will be a great fit if you listen to music at lower volumes. Some speakers can start to lose certain elements as you drop the volume, but the Debut 2.0 B6.2 speakers still keep the depth and power of the music.

If you’re looking to use these for your home theater, you can find them bundled with the ELAC C5.2 and C6.2 center channel speakers.

Best Budget Bookshelf Speakers

ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2

If you're looking for a great sounding, affordable speakers that will stay with you for years, the ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2 pair will be perfect for you.

Best Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers: Fluance Ai61

Fluance Ai61 on green and blue background
Fluance

Pros

  • Natural sounding highs and deep bass
  • Bluetooth 5.0 and plenty of digital and analog inputs
  • Adjustable EQ
  • 120 watt internal amplifier

Cons

  • Bass can be lacking without a subwoofer

There’s a significant difference between a good pair of Bluetooth bookshelf speakers and “just” a Bluetooth speaker. The Fluance Ai61 pair is a perfect example, with great sound and an impressive list of features.

The Fluance Ai61 speakers pair a 6.5-inch woven glass fiber driver with 1-inch neodymium soft dome tweeters. To power these, the pair uses an internal 120-watt class D amplifier. Fluance combines these elements with robust internal bracing for precision sound.

While these speakers feature Bluetooth 5.0 wireless connectivity, that’s just where it begins. They also have a TOSLINK optical digital input and a USB-C audio input. That’s not something you often see, even on more expensive speakers.

The Fluance Ai61 speakers also feature an analog RCA input and a 3.5mm output that you can use to attach an external subwoofer. To switch inputs, you even get a remote, another feature you won’t always get with powered bookshelf speakers.

The speaker pair features an internal digital signal processing (DSP) chip that allows you to EQ the speakers. Being able to do this without any additional software or settings on your playback device is helpful if you listen to different genres that may benefit from different EQ curves.

The Fluance Ai61 speakers are available in Black Ash as well as Lucky Bamboo, Natural Walnut, and White Walnut.

Best Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers

Fluance Ai61

The Fluance Ai61 speakers combine the convenience of Bluetooth with the company's fantastic sound and a host of other options to connect your audio gear.

Best Powered Bookshelf Speakers: Edifier S1000MKII

Edifier S1000MKII on yellow background
Edifier

Pros

  • Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX for better sound
  • Bass and treble knobs make dialing EQ easy
  • Rich bass for the small driver size
  • Hi-res audio certified

Cons

  • No subwoofer output

Whether you’re hooking up a second audio system or are just a fan of simplicity, there are plenty of reasons you might not want an A/V receiver or amplifier. If you’re looking for powered speakers that can handle anything you throw at them, the Edifier S1000MKII speakers are a fantastic option.

These are slightly smaller than the majority of speakers on this list, with a 5.5-inch midrange driver and a 1-inch tweeter in each speaker. They are powered by a pair of internal amplifiers which pump 120 watts into 60 watts per channel.

The class D amplifiers in these speakers are ready for hi-res audio, with support for 24-bit/192hKz playback. In the case of these amplifiers, they use a high PWM frequency, which results in low overall noise.

These speakers feature ample connectivity options, with Bluetooth 5.0 at the center. The Edifier S1000MKII pair supports the aptX HD codec, so if you’re playing audio from a compatible device like an Android phone, you’re getting a higher-quality Bluetooth signal.

If you’d prefer to connect the old-fashioned way, you’ve got plenty of options. The speakers feature both coaxial and optical digital audio inputs, as well as a pair of RCA line inputs. You also get onboard EQ via bass and treble knobs, plus a wireless remote.

Best Powered Bookshelf Speakers

Edifier S1000MKII

If you're looking for powered speakers that will play everything you throw them from digital to analog without complaining, look no further than the Edifier S1000MKII speakers.

Best Small Bookshelf Speakers: Audioengine A2+

Audioengine speakers with phone
Audioengine

Pros

  • Great sound for the small size
  • Small footprint makes them fit anywhere
  • Plenty of wired and wireless connectivity
  • Subwoofer output

Cons

  • Accessories can be expensive

While bookshelf speakers are a space-saving alternative to massive floor-standing speakers, they still take up a fair amount of space. If you’re looking for something with less of a footprint, but don’t want to sacrifice sound quality, take a look at the small-sized but big-sounding Audioengine A2+ speakers.

These speakers stand six inches tall and feature comparatively small 2.75-inch aramid fiber woofers and 3/4-inch silk dome tweeters. They’re still fairly powerful, however, with the 60-watt amplifier pushing 30 watts per channel into the drivers.

Looking at connectivity, the Audioengine A2+ features Bluetooth with aptX and a range of up to 100 feet. New in the “plus” version is a USB-C audio input, which is handy if you’re using these as computer speakers, where we picked them as our favorite.

Don’t worry if you’re looking to hook up your analog gear. You get a pair of analog RCA inputs plus a subwoofer output. If you’re looking to get serious bass with speakers this small, you need at least a small subwoofer, which is a key feature.

Don’t worry about leaving the Audioengine A2+ speakers on for long periods. They feature a built-in idle mode that activates whenever you’re not playing music. This means that even though they’re turned on, they’re not drawing power.

The Audioengine A2+ speakers are available in Black, Red, and White.

Best Small Bookshelf Speakers

Audioengine A2+

They may have a small footprint, but you're not sacrificing sound quality with the Audioengine A2+ speakers. Plus, you've got options to connect any device you wish.

Best Bookshelf Speakers for Turntables: Klipsch R-51PM

Klipsch R-51PM on pink background
Klipsch

Pros

  • Built-in phono preamp makes connecting turntables easy
  • Bluetooth, USB, and analog RCA inputs
  • Dynamic bass EQ lets you hear the bass at any volume
  • LTS tweeters and spun copper woofers make for minimal distortion

Cons

  • Matching subwoofer is on the expensive side

If you’re looking to get into listening to vinyl records, it can be tough. Not only do you need a turntable, but an amplifier and maybe a preamplifier, depending on your turntable. Or you could take the easy route and just go with the Klipsch R-51PM speakers.

While all the options we’re looking at have RCA line inputs that will connect to a turntable, there’s a key difference with the Klipsch R-51PM. On the back of these speakers, there’s a switch to toggle that input between line level and phono level, which means that regardless of what model turntable you have, it will work with these speakers.

For the R-51PM, Klipsch opted for dual 5.25-inch spun copper woofers, paired with 1-inch aluminum Linear Travel Suspension (LTS) tweeters. This suspension system means less distortion and improved detail.

Of course, you can use the Klipsch R-51PM for more than just your turntable. You also get optical digital, USB, and RCA inputs, so you can plug in any audio device. Don’t want to plug in? These speakers also feature Bluetooth for wireless connectivity.

Klipsch packed another cool feature into these speakers: dynamic bass EQ. Simply put, these speakers use built-in DSP to change the bass EQ as you raise and lower the volume. Because we hear frequencies differently at different volumes, this gives you a more consistent low end across the entire volume range.

Want even more bass? Pair the Klipsch R-51PM with the matching R-100SW subwoofer.

Best Bookshelf Speakers for Turntables

Klipsch R-51PM

Thanks to the built-in phono preamp, connecting your turntable to the Klipsch R-51PM speakers for great sound is easy. Connecting your other audio gear is just as easy too.

Profile Photo for Kris Wouk Kris Wouk
Kris Wouk is a freelance tech writer and musician with over 10 years of experience as a writer and a lifetime of experience as a gadget fan. He has also written for Digital Trends, MakeUseOf, Android Authority, and Sound Guys. At MakeUseOf, he was Section Editor in charge of the site's Mac coverage.
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