Last updated: August 11, 2021

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Welcome to our big bookshelf speaker test 2021. Here we present all the bookshelf speakers we have tested in detail. We have compiled detailed background information and added a summary of customer reviews on the internet. In this way, we would like to make your purchase decision easier and help you find the best bookshelf speakers for you.

You will also find answers to frequently asked questions in our guide. If available, we also offer interesting test videos. Furthermore, you will also find some important information on this page that you should definitely pay attention to if you want to buy bookshelf speakers.




Summary

  • Bookshelf speakers take up much less space and are cheaper than comparable floor-standing speakers or surround systems.
  • Basically, a distinction is made between passive and active bookshelf speakers. The design can have an effect on the sound and the amplification.
  • Passive bookshelf speakers need an external amplifier. Active models have such a device already built in and often come with additional functions such as Bluetooth.

The best Bookshelf Speakers: Our Picks

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a bookshelf speaker

Bookshelf speakers - what are they?

It can be confusing when you read about bookshelf speakers everywhere. It's easy to wonder what's so special about a bookshelf speaker, and whether there's more to the term than first meets the eye. A bookshelf speaker is nothing more than a loudspeaker that can be placed on a shelf. This term has only been developed to distinguish these speakers from the so-called floor-standing speakers.

Floor-standing speakers are speaker columns that are placed on the floor. They are usually more expensive (and better) than bookshelf speakers - but also take up considerably more space in the room. This definition makes it clear that so-called bookshelf speakers do not necessarily have to be placed on a shelf: because mounting them on stands, in particular, results in better sound because the bass does not "pile up" and the sound image becomes clearer. However, this can have visual disadvantages.

weißer Lautsprecher auf Kommode

Loudspeakers are transducers that convert an input signal (usually electrical) into mechanical vibrations that can be perceived as sound. Photo: Greg Tockner / unsplash.com)

Bookshelf speakers vs. floorstanding speakers?

Bookshelf speakers have a maximum height of 50 cm. Floor-standing speakers, on the other hand, usually start at a height of 90 cm. The larger cabinet volume also allows for more sound volume. However, if you have little space and still want good sound, bookshelf speakers are the way to go. In summary, bookshelf speakers offer the following advantages over floor-standing speakers:

  • Lower price
  • Less visually dominant

Bookshelf speakers are, as the name suggests, optimised for placement on a shelf, i.e. for placement close to the wall. They are not as visually obtrusive as floorstanding speakers or a surround system and are well suited for smaller living rooms. Because of the more favourable cabinet production, bookshelf speakers usually cost considerably less than comparable floor-standing speakers. The packaging unit almost always consists of two pieces. However, it cannot be said that floor-standing speakers automatically sound better than bookshelf speakers.

This is because the room in which the speakers are placed is a really decisive factor in sound quality. Imagine putting expensive speakers in your bathroom, no matter how good the speakers really are, the room will shape the sound in such a way that you won't be able to appreciate the quality of your speakers. You can only get very good sound if you also optimise your room acoustically. If the acoustics of your room are reasonably suitable, in most cases floor-standing speakers will have some design advantages. Last but not least, the appearance of floor-standing speakers is usually very appealing. But this also costs money.

Should I optimise my room acoustically?

Let's say you want to buy bookshelf speakers and you have a budget of €400. Should you rather a) buy the 400€ pair of speakers or b) spend only 300€ and spend 100€ on acoustic optimisation ? The answer is: it all depends. In most cases, however, variant b) is preferable to variant a). The room shapes the sound. Every frequency reproduced by the loudspeaker is either amplified or weakened by the reverberation of the room.

The optimum situation is when the room neither strengthens nor weakens, but only adds a pleasant reverberation time to the sound. And it is precisely at this point that there is increased potential for improvement in most cases. But how do you optimise your room acoustically, how do you prevent certain frequencies from being amplified, for example? The easiest way to do this is with acoustic absorbers. You can hang these like pictures in your room or set them up like columns in the corners of the room (so-called bass traps). Acoustic absorbers can either be bought ready-made or you can assemble them yourself.

Are there wall brackets for bookshelf speakers?

Good news: There are also wall brackets for bookshelf speakers. However, before you buy them, make sure they are compatible with your chosen pair of speakers. Wall brackets are not recommended for large and heavy speakers. This has another reason than the obvious balance problems: If you mount your speakers very close to the wall, the bass range will be disproportionately reproduced due to reflection from the walls. You can avoid these negative sonic consequences by leaving some space between the back of the speaker and the wall, or even by mounting sound-absorbing material in between (for example, rock wool or the more expensive Basotect).

Is it possible to run a bookshelf speaker without a subwoofer?

Yes, this is definitely possible and in many cases even recommended. A subwoofer is designed to reproduce extremely low frequencies that a normal speaker cannot, or can only produce very quietly. There are a few things you should be aware of when considering the purchase of a subwoofer:

  1. Low frequencies are incredibly difficult to attenuate, which means that the neighbours will definitely hear the low rumble of your subwoofer
  2. Low frequencies are only really fun when they don't sound muddy, but clearly separated. This can only be achieved by comprehensive acoustic optimisation of the room. Above all, a lot of damping material should be used.

Are there (very) small bookshelf speakers?

Bookshelf speakers come in a wide variety of sizes, including very small models that can fit comfortably in very small spaces. But remember: if you want to connect your bookshelf speakers to the TV, for example, check whether the new, small speakers are also better than the ones already built into your TV. In general, it is advisable to plan a little space for the speakers, because the larger a speaker is, the higher the frequency spectrum that can be reproduced.

Lautsprecher auf freiem Regalbrett

Bookshelf speakers are particularly suitable for people who have little space and money, but still want a good sound system. They are particularly suitable for student (parties). (Photo: Free-Photos / pixabay.com)

What wireless bookshelf speakers are available?

Wireless sound can be transmitted via various technologies. Today, there are speakers that work via radio, WLAN or Bluetooth. Wireless bookshelf speakers usually have Bluetooth. You can also find wireless bookshelf speakers in the upper entry-level price range. These are often active speakers that already have an integrated amplifier. However, wireless does not necessarily mean that no cables are needed. A pair of bookshelf speakers needs a connection cable and also a power supply.

How much do bookshelf speakers cost?

Bookshelf speakers are available in many price ranges - from very inexpensive devices for hi-fi purists to high-end speakers that sometimes cost four figures. In our opinion, these prices are well worth it if you listen to a lot of music and an authentic and loss-free sound is important to you. Inexpensive devices from no-name manufacturers start at around 50 euros. The price range for hi-fi beginners then extends to about 150 euros. From 150 to about 300 euros, we are in the middle class. There you will find more solid and technically sophisticated devices.

Price range Euro
Entry-level approx. 50 - 150
Mid-range approx. 150 - 300
Upper-range from approx. 300

You can find high-end bookshelf speakers for about 300 euros and up. However, you can also spend four-digit sums for high-quality high-end devices. These are definitely worthwhile only in acoustically optimised rooms.

Where can I buy bookshelf speakers?

Bookshelf speakers can be bought in well-stocked hi-fi shops and electronics stores as well as in many department stores and larger supermarkets. Bookshelf speakers have also been selling more and more over the internet in recent years. Of course, the selection there is much larger and the prices are often lower. According to our research, most bookshelf speakers in Germany are currently sold via the following shops on the internet:

  • amazon.com
  • otto.com
  • Media Markt
  • Saturn
  • Conrad

All bookshelf speakers presented here are provided with a link to at least one of these shops. Then you can buy immediately when you have found a suitable device.

Decision: What types of bookshelf speakers are there and which is the right one for you?

If you choose bookshelf speakers from a wide range of possible speaker variants (floor-standing speakers, desktop speakers, compact speakers), you probably do so because this variant is not only more discreet but also less expensive compared to the larger models. Compared to the smaller models, these speakers also offer a better sound volume. However, it should be briefly noted here that the sound advantages come into their own primarily when providing sound in smaller rooms. If you have made your purchase decision for the reasons mentioned above, you can choose between three different versions of the bookshelf speaker in a further step:

  • Passive Bookshelf Speakers
  • Active bookshelf speakers
  • Active Passive Bookshelf Speakers

Active/passive speakers as matched sets are the norm. Most loudspeakers in the price range of 100 to 200 euros usually have this combination. Nevertheless, it does not hurt to inform yourself in advance and thus avoid possible additional costs. If, for example, you already own an amplifier, you can get away with a passive speaker for less and have a few more advantages. Here, it is important to decide according to individual preferences and possibilities where the music should come from. The advantages and disadvantages listed below can help in the decision-making process.

How does a passive speaker work and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

A passive speaker, unlike an active speaker, requires an amplifier. Therefore, it cannot be connected to the respective playback device and play music without further ado. If you cannot count an amplifier among your equipment, you have to reckon with additional costs.

Advantages
  • Flexibility
  • sound image can be optimised
  • bi-wiring and double stereo possible
Disadvantages
  • Usually no Bluetooth
  • additional costs due to amplifier

However, these additional costs should pay off for hi-fi fans and people with finely tuned hearing. With the right technical know-how, the sound can be optimised exactly as desired. So if you know a lot about technology yourself or know someone who can adjust the speakers optimally, you can look forward to some acoustic advantages.

How does an active loudspeaker work and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

An active loudspeaker can be connected to the source device without difficulty and, unlike a passive loudspeaker, plays the required music.

Advantages
  • Easy installation
  • Bluetooth possible
  • Wireless version available
Disadvantages
  • Possibly poorer sound quality

No amplifier needs to be connected in between. While the passive speaker allows for better fine-tuning, the actual audible differences are likely to be less noticeable with a bookshelf speaker than with, say, a home theatre system.

How does an active-passive speaker work and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

A combination of active and passive speakers is actually not so much an exception as the norm. Most of the time, an active speaker is sold with passive speakers, making another amplifier unnecessary.

Advantages
  • Easy installation
  • Good sound
  • Bluetooth possible
Disadvantages
  • Relatively expensive

Since this combination of components is tuned to each other, there is no need for fine-tuning. This version can therefore appeal to anyone who wants an appealing sound for little effort.

Buying criteria: These are the factors you can use to compare and evaluate bookshelf speakers

In the following, we would like to show you which factors you can use to compare and evaluate bookshelf speakers. This will make it easier for you to decide which device is suitable for you and which is not. In summary, these are:

  • Amplification
  • Equipment
  • Rated power handling and total output
  • Impedance
  • Frequency range
  • Efficiency
  • Dimensions
  • Colour

In the following, you can read about the individual purchase criteria and how you can classify them. A high-quality cabinet is the be-all and end-all. This makes for better sound. The natural resonance of plastic cabinets would have a detrimental effect on the sound.

Amplification

Amplification is divided into active and passive speakers. If you already own an amplifier or want to buy one, passive bookshelf speakers are the right choice for you. If you don't need an external amplifier, an active bookshelf speaker is an interesting alternative. These often come with wireless transmission options such as Bluetooth. Active speakers are recommended if you want to simplify your purchase decision and absolute control over tonal nuances is not so important to you.

Equipment

Speakers use a built-in crossover to distribute the different frequency ranges to different drivers. The drivers are the individual speakers built into the cabinet of the speaker. Bookshelf speakers are usually a 2-way version. In most cases, a tweeter and a combined midrange and woofer are used.

Power handling and total output

Rated power and total output represent the power handling capacity of bookshelf speakers and are not power ratings. The nominal power rating indicates how much electrical power the loudspeaker can handle in continuous operation without suffering damage. The total or music power, on the other hand, describes the short-term power handling capacity and is usually significantly higher. You should compare both values with the power specifications of your amplifier.

Impedance

A music signal consists of different frequencies that are distributed by the amplifier to the respective shelf speakers. Impedance describes the electrical resistance to a signal and is measured in ohms. For bookshelf speakers, the impedance indicates how much the speaker loads the amplifier in relation to its output impedance. So when choosing your bookshelf speakers, you should match the values with those of your amplifier. Combining different values can lead to a loss of quality, which usually affects the volume.

Frequency range

The frequency range indicates from which lowest sound frequency to which highest sound frequency a loudspeaker can reproduce audible sounds. The human hearing range is approximately between 20 and 20000 Hertz. Loudspeakers are selected according to their intended use based on volume, the frequency range or the space available.

Did you know that the sound level above a volume of 85 decibels is potectively damaging to hearing with prolonged exposure? Children who are permanently exposed to music that is too loud can suffer physical and psychological impairments. They may experience delays in learning to speak and read, increased blood pressure and sleep disturbances. Therefore, pay special attention to an appropriate volume for the speakers

Efficiency

The efficiency of a loudspeaker is very relevant for the maximum volume that can be achieved. It shows the ratio with which loudspeakers convert electrical power into acoustic power. The higher the value, the more efficiently a sound transducer works.

Dimensions

Bookshelf speakers are a maximum of 50 cm high. On average, the height is between 20 and 30 cm. They are very compact and can almost disappear on the living room shelf. Bookshelf speakers are often the right choice for smaller rooms.

Colour

Since bookshelf speakers do not immediately catch the eye, the colour plays a subordinate role. Most products are available in black. If you are looking for a different colour, white or wood look are sometimes offered.

Facts worth knowing about bookshelf speakers

How do you set up bookshelf speakers correctly?

Bookshelf speakers take up little space due to their small dimensions and are very flexible. For an optimal sound experience, however, you should follow a few rules.

Did you know that the loudspeaker was first introduced to the market in 1925? The first sound transducers were developed in the 1860s and 1870s by Philipp Reis and Alexander Graham Bell. However, it was not until 1925 that the first loudspeakers were introduced to the market by numerous manufacturers. This is mainly due to the fact that the development of a powerful tube amplifier did not take place until the 1920s.

Ideally, the listener forms an equilateral triangle with the bookshelf speakers, the so-called stereo triangle. This triangle has three equal 60-degree angles. The speakers should also be positioned on the shelf so that the tweeters are at ear level. The tweeters are also called tweeter. If you are serious, it can help a lot to optimise your room acoustically, e.g. by installing acoustically absorbing materials such as rock wool or Basotect.

Before you do this, it usually makes sense to test your room, to see how your room reacts to frequencies. You can do this with software like "RoomEQWizard" (free) and a measuring microphone. However, such an elaborate procedure is only advisable if you can a) perceive the different nuances in the sound image and b) they are very important to you. Acoustic optimisation of a room can be a very complicated subject.

Photo credit: Fernando Arcos / pexels.com

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