Best Budget Bookshelf Speakers 2020 : Buying Guide & Reviews
Bookshelf speakers are becoming more and more popular in homes across the world. They provide that middle ground between speakers that can be used for casual listening and more high-end studio speakers. There are lots of people that are looking for an upgrade when it comes to sound, whether that is from their games consoles, or even home cinema systems, crisp quality audio is always desired.
A decent pair of budget bookshelf speakers could be the answer in gaining that extra quality you need for your home speaker set up, and in this guide, we have reviewed some of the best you can buy.
The technological advances have really jumped in these more budget models, and the options you have at these price points can actually be really well rated. You can’t expect incredible audio clarity or high clarity but for the money, you will get a speaker that has great power and produces audio at a great standard.
Before we take you through our best budget bookshelf speakers, consider whether you want something like this or something different – for example, the best budget audio interfaces might provide an attractive alternative.
Best Budget Bookshelf Speakers Under $200
1. Polk Audio T15 Speakers
Best Features: Low frequencies have a Bass Boost. Surround system capabilities being able to connect to other speakers. Solid build quality with a 5-year warranty.
For the price, the Polk T15 bookshelf speakers are a great choice. They are made from MDF that is usual from these kinds of units, as this material can resist any undesired vibration sounds. A 5.25-inch woofer and 0.75-inch tweeter set of speakers are featured in the T15 with a silk and polymer design. An extra feature is a neodymium magnet that isn’t always offered on speakers at this price.
These speakers overall are well made and come with the extra mounting slot which allows you to attach them to the wall rather than just sitting on a surface such as a bookshelf, which is great giving you that extra option.
Overall the T15 speaker from Polk is definitely worth the price tag they come with, combining durability, high sound quality performances, and the affordability they truly are an amazing set of speakers. These speakers have not been designed for professional use, but they tick all the boxes that an average user would need on a lower budget. They are also a great addition to boost your existing speakers turning them into a 5.1 system.
2. Polk Audio RTI A1 Bookshelf Speaker
Best Features: Upgraded Power Port Plus design. MDF cabinet prevents audio vibration.
The RTI A1 is the first in the line of new technology from the upgraded RTI A series that is being made from Polk Audio. This new technology includes dynamic balance cone drivers that have been developed to look more beautiful, re-imagining the entire style of the cabinet.
Both cabinets surrounding the speaker system are made from MDF providing that vibrationless comfort of listening. The enclosed power port that uses Polks patented Power Port Plus design is a newly developed system that helps to improve the bass sound that is emitted, by eliminating any distortion risks through the optimal ventilation.
The dynamic balance drivers are 5.25 inches in size and are made from a composite, polymer/mineral mix, and with this sizing and material they provide a smooth crossover and dynamic frequency response. Heat sink magnets feature in the soft dome tweeter making them handle really well with a lot of frequencies that are thrown at them, especially with the added material design of silk and polymer.
These magnets are neodymium, which at the back use a low viscosity Ferrofluid that maintains a cool temperature at the higher frequencies.
Overall the Polk Audio RTI A1 bookshelf speakers, whilst they are actually floor standing speakers are great, they are generously equipped with upgraded cone drivers and specially dedicated tweeters. They can perform great in any home scenario and even in some studio formats. They come with a super sleek finish with a cherry red coloring, they have also a recommendation of 20-125 watts per channel when it comes to amplification.
3. Edifier R1280T Speaker
Best Features: Attractive and strong MDF structural design. Great mid, and high-frequency performances. Comes with remote control for convenience. Multiple audio sources are easily connected with the dual RCA inputs. Active speakers mean no need for an amp.
These active bookshelves speakers from Edifier are amazing, this model the Edifier R1280T speakers deliver a well-balanced performance when it comes to the frequency they give out. A great thing about these speakers is that they are active, this means they do not need an amplifier which is one less thing to think about and also one less expense.
As with a lot of budget bookshelf speakers, the R1280T is made from MDF, which is a great material for resisting any unwanted vibrations. This material is also great in keeping these speakers at the budget price they are available for. For convenience, these speakers feature remote control and an EQ setting which isn’t always seen making them really good high quality and modern.
As a whole, the Edifier R1280T is really good value for money, and with them being active you are going to save money not having to purchase an amplifier for them to work. We do recommend that you pair these speakers with a subwoofer if you want to bring a little more low end in the bass to your listening audio, but all in all, they are amazing little speakers. We highly recommend them for people who want to have a set of speakers with decent sound quality at a low price coming in at under $100.
4. Sony SSCS5 3-Speakers
Best Features: 100-watt system. An amazing 3-way class system. The high-frequency range increased with the addition of super-tweeter.
This model is a very versatile speaker with outstanding drivers and sharp acoustics is the amazing 3-way class bookshelves speaker system from Sony. The whole units comprise a rigid Mica Reinforced Cellular woofer, tweeter, and super-tweeter, allowing all kinds of frequency levels to be handled with at a great quality.
The woofers that are included are 5.2 inches in size and boost low-end frequencies at a powerful standard thanks to the Mica-Cellular diaphragm featured. The tweeter is fairly smaller in size measuring just under 1 inch, but the new feature in the Sony best bookshelf speakers is the use of a super tweeter of 0.75 inches.
Each speaker has a composite nature, with precise acoustic tuning that ensures vocal definition. The rear sound pressure is eliminated by sound-absorbing felt which is a great little addition and not found in most budget speakers. Featured are optimized crossover components and due to these upgrades, they are better than ever before. The outer casing is designed in a very strong way, constructed completely of wood to dampen any unwanted vibrations.
Overall the speaker has a wide directional radius making them great for listening even in a larger room. They are affordably priced and outperform that price tag, with a recommended 100-watt maximum. With a wooden finish being a smart black that blends with most contemporary interior designs, a high-quality structure that is strong, with port enclosure allowing rich and resonant acoustics.
The design is compact being space efficient making them easy for installation in tight areas. The premium components include air-core inductors in the tweeters, silicon plates in the woofers, and winding material that is the thickest it can be, plus film condensers that are really high-quality.
5. Edifier R1280DB Powered Bluetooth Speaker
Best Features: MDF construction. Front-firing bass port. The right speaker has two RCA inputs. On-speaker controls and a wireless remote controller. Great price.
When it comes to the design the Edifier R1280DB model is a simple construction, looking neutral in appearance, yet simultaneously having a sleek retro feeling. They’re not intended to be a real show stopper making them look good in nearly any kind of decor, and also allowing the price to be at a low rate, but for bookshelf speakers at this low budget, they are pretty stylish.
Both of the speaker cabinets are made from MDF, with a matt gray finish on the top of the unit. The sides are covered with a wood-imitation vinyl veneer and the entire speaker unit measures 6.9×9.5×5.8 inches. There is a detachable grill that comes with the speakers allowing you to conceal or show off the 13-mm silk dome tweeters and four-inch full-range drivers that are fitted on both systems
The main selling point making these different to a lot of other speakers is the back panel, it holds an active speaker with 2 RCA inputs, a power switch, and wire jacks for the left speaker. On the side of the right speaker bookshelf unit sits separate controls for volume, bass, and treble.
Shared between the two speakers is 42 watts of RMS power and an 85 dB sensitivity, these speakers won’t be loud enough to produce sound for a larger room, but will be perfect for a desktop or small bedroom styled listening scenarios.
The frequency response isn’t the largest only being between 75 Hz to 18kHz giving some worrying initial thoughts of the performance but overall the small dome tweeter delivers clear and well-detailed highs in the audio, along with the surprisingly good quality mid-range that brings smooth, rich, and well-balanced sounds from the speaker.
The low range is where these speakers begin to struggle with the bass response not being the best, but if take into consideration the price range this is typical of these kinds of speakers. The speakers overall are great, they may not be as high defined as you expect but will bring a little punch to your listening experience.
6. Klipsch R-14M Pair Of Speakers
Best Features: High-quality manufacturing. 180 watts, not usually seen in bookshelf speakers. Tractrix horn LTS tweeter.
Klipsch has released the R-14M, it is a great speaker from the bookshelf range, with some high-end designs and assets like the 90 x 90 Tractrix horn technology that gives their dome tweeters that extra edge compared to the competitors. These soft dome tweeters are aluminum Linear Travel Suspension (or LTS) tweeters that give lots of extended high-frequency responses making them one of the best. LTS is a technology that helps minimize any distortion.
The cabinet enclosing all of this technology is a rear-firing ported design that has been flared to minimize any unwanted noise even further. This enclosure has been brushed with black polymer veneer for sleek stylish results.
The dedicated woofer is a copper spun, injection-molded graphite woofer that handles amazingly well, producing very little when it comes to breakup and distortion. Added to the LTS tweeters this advanced crossover technology provides some of the best audio sounds in its range. They also handle up to 90 watts peak RS per individual speaker.
7. Edifier R1700BT Wireless Speaker
Best Features: Small in size. 10-degree upward tilt. Bass port is front-firing. On-board controls for volume, treble, and bass. Different connectivity options between Bluetooth and line-in connectivity.
Usually, Edifier doesn’t pay much attention to the design of the speakers with some of them looking standard, but that is a different thing when it comes to the Edifier R1700BT wireless speaker. It is given a classic and timeless look, whilst still bringing in some modern aesthetics with the matte black front and top and the vibrant brown side panels.
The entire cabinet measures 6x8x9.7 inches and has been fixed with an upwards tilt of upwards of 10 degrees, which both look good and helps direct the sound to the listener providing multiple purposes. Typically of the construction made by Edifier, the cabinet has been made from MDF and covered with a walnut vinyl veneer.
When the grill isn’t attached is where the beauty is really shown in these amazing best budget bookshelf speakers with the 4-inch woofer, 19-mm dome tweeter, and a front-facing port that gives a mean look when exposed.
On the right speaker, there is a side panel that holds the controls for the volume, treble, bass, and also the Bluetooth connectivity, plus two RCA inputs in the back of the speaker.
Regarding the actual sound quality and performance that the Edifier bookshelf speakers produce, it really is hard to not take the R1700BT seriously, they produce a bright and clear sound, with a loud bass sound coming through. When it comes to the bass sound it isn’t the deepest of sounds due to the restricted frequency range of 60 Hz to 20 kHz but the sound can still be dominating through its sound reproduction.
The dial on the right speaker will help with any bass range issues you have, easily altered for your own listening pleasure. The better side of this speaker is the mid-range, where it really comes into its own, delivering rich, warm, and detailed sounds.
When it comes to the high-end treble range there is a little thinning in the sound but it isn’t anything too severe so doesn’t compromise the overall performance that the speakers give. They are balanced enough to delve into the range of a Hi-Fi, even when the wireless mode is in use.
8. JBL Arena 120 Bookshelf Speakers
Best Features: Compact. Premium components. Surround sound settings.
For another speaker that is affordable and versatile, you should try the JBL arena series, especially the JBL Arena 120 bookshelf speakers, it looks sleek and stylish with a completely black finish. The exterior unit has integrated wall mounts which are a great solution for flexible installations and system configurations. The main design intention for the JBL Arena 120 speakers is to be a part of the entire series, creating a completely surround sound unit perfect for any home.
The Arena 120s are a 2-way class with construction from premium parts, the bass driver has been compiled of a poly cellulose material that is rigid and highly responsive. They are 5.5 inches and contain the JBL patented image waveguide technology that was originally developed for the amazing JBL M2 Master reference speaker.
A wide frequency response is achieved by the woofer and the dome tweeter. The tweeter is 25mm in size which is a great size to offer lots in terms of mids and lows. There is high-quality crossover circuitry between the two speakers which delivers well balanced, full-range sounds that will completely fill the room.
These bookshelf speakers are affordable, and part of JBL’s Arena system range although they will work with most configurations that are available. For the best dynamic results when it comes to sound it is best to connect these speakers with 2-floor standing options, a center channel L/C/R, and a dedicated subwoofer to provide the bass.
9. Polk Audio TSi100 Cherry Red Bookshelf Speakers
Best Features: 200 Watts. High performance results. Excellent value for money in their range.
The Polk Audio Tsi line shares more than just good looks with the high-end versions in the Polk range, although the cherry red finish on the construction of these speakers makes them look stylish right from the get-go. This wooden finish brings a warm feeling to any room, having an essence of retro style added to them as well.
Measuring 10.2 x 7 x 11 inches and only weighing around 10 pounds, these are compact speakers that will fit and look good in some of the tighter of spots. Made from MDF which is a classic from this company, allowing an affordable price that also gives high results with no unwanted vibrations happening through audio listening.
These best bookshelf speakers are a fully equipped 2-way pair, they have woofers that offer a super-wide dispersion, even though they have a smaller size of 5.25-inches. Even though they have this smaller size the dynamic balance of the drivers that are made from a bi-laminate blended composition.
There is one dome tweeter included on each speaker 1-inch in size made from a silk polymer creating great dynamic balance. The frequency response is amazing, although the low end is a little weak compared to some other speakers. This lack of low end is expected in these kinds of speakers as they have been specifically designed to be part of a system to alleviate some of the sonic strain from just one speaker.
Best bookshelf like these come in a passive state, which means they require an amplifier as a power source rather than just plugging straight into the speaker from your listening device. Comfortably these passive speakers will handle between 20-100 watts per channel, and the price range they come at makes buying an entire system more achievable than you would expect.
10. Micca MB42 Bookshelf Speakers
Best Features: Strong and durable build quality. Impressive soundstage and acoustics. Decent low and mid frequencies. Silk dome tweeters.
The Micca MB42 passive speakers are great, they will fit pretty much any kind of decor with a neutral black coloring and a minimalist feeling to them. The magnetic grill system will also make sure that these speakers are perfect for your home. On the back of the speaker are connections for them to be mounted on the wall giving more placement options.
The pair of speakers both contain a 4-inch carbon fiber woofer and a 0.75 silk dome tweeter. The use of this soft dome and carbon fiber woofer allows amazing crossover making these one of the best budget speakers that are available on the market today. The crossover in these speakers helps with the distribution of sound frequencies between the two speakers which helps improve the clarity of the sound that is produced.
These passive speakers overall a great, they have a stylish look and perform really well, from the soft dome tweeter to the dynamic range they are amazing speakers with great frequency response in the overall listening due to the crossover technology.
Buyers Guide to Choosing Bookshelf Speakers
Bookshelf speakers usually come in compact sizes being able to fit easily onto desks and actual bookshelves, hence the name. There are some floor-mounted editions but the majority of these designs are a smaller condensed design. With this smaller sound, you are expected to encounter different frequency outputs such as loss of bass or losing some high end, that is why it is also a great idea to connect these with a system to get the most out of your speaker. A pair of speakers with an extra subwoofer added to them will have less pressure to create the bass tones and not have to compromise in those areas.
The design of bookshelf speakers is all down to the user. There are lots of different options whether its something sleek and more contemporary you are looking for that will go with a modern home, or you desire that more retro approach. Another thing to think about is the usability that your speaker has. If you have the capability and space to function an amplifier with a preamp to help create and control your sound then passive speakers can be a great option. If this setup seems too complex for you or you want an easy connectivity option then active speakers are probably your best bet. They are easy to set up and if there is wireless connectivity then pairing devices is a lot easier than a wired approach.
So you have researched what speakers it is you are wanting to buy, considered the sound quality and all the elements that they can bring to your audio setup, you take them home and everything is ready, you play your favorite song but the sound quality isn’t quite what you were expecting.
What is the problem? Is it you? Are the speakers faulty? It’s probably none of these and is in the positioning of your speakers.
Below are five golden rules you should implement in positioning your bookshelf speakers for better audio results. Please note that everyone does have their own preferences so there isn’t one definitive answer, but this is a great guideline to follow to get you started on the right path allowing you to make any tweaks along the way.
1. Stay Focused On The End Result
Rule one when it comes to planning your listening room is probably the most complex task to think about, and that is having an end goal in mind. An example is if you wanted to have your speaker units placed in the window but you are still looking for the right sofa for this room, it is probably best to try and find the sofa first. It is always better to start working on your music space towards the end of a remodel of a room and all the space variables have been defined.
A lot of bookshelf loudspeakers are extremely adaptable, but they cannot just be placed anywhere in your room, it’s better to keep them away from being too close to walls, windows, or glassware, so it is much better to finish your home record before placing your speakers around the room, then them ending up not being fully utilized for their purpose.
2. Look at the clock hand
It is a golden rule when it comes to the positioning of loudspeakers is think about the listening position. Bookshelf speakers should be placed at 10 and 10, angled towards the desired listening position. It is always recommended that the tweeters are placed at ear height, giving their best results around here.
3. Watch out for vibrations
Placing your bookshelf speakers above a table or shelf is probably going make you work a little harder when isolating the cabinet from the surface, the use of feet or tips as decoupling materials is a great choice, separating the speaker base and the surface to prevent any potential vibrations that could ruin the transparency of sound.
For this exact reason, decoupling silicone feet have been designed by different companies such as Amator to stop these kinds of vibrations, Sonetto in the Sonetto I and the Sonetto II are loudspeakers that are already raised making them easier to position in your household, but not all speakers have this extra features.
If you do prefer to use a stand, then try to choose the recommended stand for your speaker, or a model that is suitable for your brand of speaker.
4. Leave space
If you don’t have much space to work within your room or the furniture is fairly large, it is better to pay attention to the space between the speakers, and the furniture rather than the back or sidewalls. Generally, a distance of up to 50cm from the wall is never advisable, and also speakers that are placed on any shelves should have space and air around the speaker to avoid any unwanted changes with the low frequencies, avoiding the unwanted rumble effect.
All of this is true unless you have Sonetto speakers, These specially designed speakers have base support that has been purposely designed to let air pass through the reflex port of the speaker. This does allow you to place your bookshelf speaker anywhere with less concern for these kinds of problems.
5. Beware of objects around the speaker
Even though the main elements that complete a room are the style and design, it is always good if you try and avoid positioning your speakers in close vicinity to blank walls, big windows, or floors that don’t have carpets. These kinds of materials such as carpets or curtains can really make a difference in the quality of sound that is going to be produced. The acoustics of the environment will be affected positively by these things adding to the absorption of the first reflections and the lowering of reverberation.
Bookshelf Speaker FAQs
Can bookshelf speakers be used as front speakers?
The usual way that you are going to spot these speakers is being a part of a home theatre set up with loads of different speaker options, but they work in a much more compact set up so would be great and easily handle the capabilities of being a front speaker.
A lot of people will use their bookshelf speaker in this way if they have size limitations on their floor area, and both passive or powered speakers can be used in this way. There are quite a lot of successful setups with bookshelf speakers being used as front surround speakers offering amazing results overall.
Should I get speakers with Bluetooth?
Blue tooth connectivity isn’t really a must-have connection for a bookshelf speaker because it is only something for convenience. It is nice being able to connect to your speaker with your laptop, phone or smart device without the use of a cable but to say that this is a definitive feature over the sound and build quality is a little bit of an overstatement.
Do you need a separate subwoofer?
On a technical basis, a bookshelf speaker can work on its own without the addition of a subwoofer, but due to the limitations from the size and practicality, the emission of lower frequencies will lack a little. Also due to the bookshelf speaker having to cope with the low, mid, and high frequencies all together then it ends up compromising on all of them together.
The use of a dedicated subwoofer will mean that you will get a better bass sound and response from the targetted speaker, but it will also make your bookshelf speakers sound better as they are moving to cope with or produce any of these bass frequencies. This lets the speaker focus on the areas it has been optimized for such as the mid and high frequencies that are being made from the sound source.