6 Best Bookshelf Speakers Under $500 – Packing the Greatest Punch
For decades, bookshelf speakers have been an essential part of hi-fi systems. Back in the days, you would match them to the furniture in your home. Now, you may want the speakers to complement your desk or the high-resolution video equipment you own.
Although bookshelf speakers have always been a favorite of audiophiles, at one point they were almost replaced by commercial desktop speakers or compact speaker sets in the average households. Fear not, bookshelf speakers have been making a big comeback in recent years. And we might agree that their sound quality is unparalleled.
So, if you are looking for outstanding sound quality, compact design, and aesthetic appeal, bookshelf speakers would be an excellent option. However, their features, size, and performance may vary depending on your needs, budget, and preferences.
6 Bookshelf Speakers Offering the Best Sound in a Budget
I have made a selection of 6 amazing bookshelf speakers under $500. They offer hours of listening pleasure and won’t burn a hole in your wallet.
Klipsch is one of the oldest speaker manufacturers. The company has been around since 1946 and takes pride in its hands-on approach to speaker making. The attention to detail and meticulous engineering is reflected in the Klipsch RP-150M.
These speakers are a good combination of traditional style and modern design. They come in walnut finish, as well as 3 other finishes: cherry, ebony, piano black. Each speaker is a 2-way design with a linear titanium tweeter and a ceramic cone woofer. As is the company’s signature, the tweeter is horn-loaded to give the RP-150M its unique Klipsch sound.
The sound coming from the tweeters is detailed, clear, and pleasant to the ears. Overall, the sound is pristine from top to bottom.
The RP-150Ms are primarily designed for home use. They work great in media rooms and home theaters. The grill is magnetic so you can easily remove it to reveal the beautiful copper cone. And you should make sure to properly place them in the room to get the best sound.
2. KEF Q100
KEF is another well-known company. This British company has been producing high-quality speakers since the early sixties. In their own words, the company is obsessed with high resolution. This obsession can be observed in the KEF Q100.
These speakers are compact. They are big enough to suit home theaters and various media setups, yet small enough to accommodate small areas. The Q100s feature KEF’s famous Uni-Q driver – the tweeter mounted in the middle of the woofer ensures sonic coherence and the best integration of high and low frequencies.
The Uni-Q driver cone is made of a magnesium/aluminum alloy. These drivers are based on KEF’s higher-end speakers, so you can expect low distortion and wide-open sound from the KEF Q100.
3. Micca PB42X
Each Micca PB42X features a silk dome tweeter and a carbon fiber woofer. Unlike our previous two choices which are passive speakers that require an amplifier or receiver, the PB42X’s are active bookshelf speakers with built-in amplifiers.
The speaker enclosures are ported to extend the bass response and minimize distortion. Vocals coming from these speakers are clear and precise. The built-in low-distortion amplifier offers an even response on both channels.
These speakers are a great value for the money. The Micca PB42Xs are also very compact and lightweight. Their size, neutral design, and sound quality may be a great option for most home setups. Since these are active speakers, you can connect them to practically any device that has a headphone audio out or line-level audio outputs.
The Edifier R2000DBs have great pairing options. The Bluetooth connectivity allows them to be easily hooked up to any Bluetooth-enabled smart device or computer. They are labeled as near-field monitors, so you may use them in your small home studio.
What’s more, the R2000DBs have an optical input. This allows you to connect various devices with a digital output to your speakers. The speakers pair well with gaming consoles, receivers, TV boxes, and other similar devices.
These speakers are active, each powered by a built-in 120W RMS amplifier. They offer two auxiliary inputs so you can have two devices plugged in at one time. There’s a remote control that makes switching inputs and changing volume very convenient. The manufacturer gives a 24-month warranty in the US and Canada. And the speakers are available in piano black or walnut finish.
Polk Audio is yet another well-known American company which specializes in high-quality speakers. The Polk Audio S20s are among their mid-range bookshelf speakers. They are designed to suit your media room or small home theater.
The S20s feature polypropylene woofers, terylene tweeters, and Polk power ports. The combination of these features gives them unique sound properties. The high frequencies are very clear, the bass is punchy, and the sound is accurate with wide dynamic range.
These characteristics give the Polk S20s great acoustic balance. You shouldn’t have any issues connecting these speakers to your audio system. They are fairly sensitive at 88dB which allows them to work well even with less powerful amplifiers.
The design of the speakers is universal and they have a slim profile. The removable grills are designed for anti-diffraction to not affect the sound when you listen with the grills on.
6. ELAC B6.2
ELAC has been in business even longer than Klipsch, the company opened in 1926. This German brand has successfully evolved into one of the best hi-fi manufacturers with more than 90 years of history. The B6.2 is one of their flagships in the new Debut series of speakers.
These speakers are relatively small and compact. They come in black ash finish with a simple black grill, so the speakers would easily blend with your media setup or home studio. The components incorporated into the B6.2 represent an upgrade from the previous series.
Also, these speakers received a lot of critical acclaim due to their amazing sound quality. The B6.2s achieve their signature sound from the unique combination of acoustic elements. The woven woofers are soft, made of aramid-fiber, and deliver crisp bass with a distinct distortion-free punch. There is a vented port under the woofer for extended low frequencies.
The tweeters are small, but they feature a waveguide which allows for wider dispersion – the end result is wider soundstage and better imaging. If you are willing to spend some more money, but still stay within the budget, consider getting a subwoofer from the same series to get a full-range speaker system.
Active vs. Passive Bookshelf Speakers
First, let’s make a distinction between active and passive speakers. Active speakers have an amplifier built-in so you don’t need an external amp. However, passive speakers need to be connected to an amp to produce sound. There is an ongoing but inconclusive debate about which ones are better.
Overall, active speakers may be regarded as more convenient because they mostly operate on a plug-and-play principle. However, some speculate that their sound quality is impaired because there are too many components crammed into the cabinets.
Also, the amps inside some of the active speakers may not have sufficient power. Apart from these reasons, most hi-fi enthusiasts also prefer passive speakers so that they can experiment with different amplifiers.
Passive speakers usually have better overall design and integration of the audio components. As mentioned above, they can be hooked to a variety of amplifiers. Although my personal preference is passive speakers, there are some great active ones you can choose.
My list of the best bookshelf speakers should give you a better idea on how to upgrade your media system without spending too much money.
Remember that the speakers are only one part of the audio system. The sound room and positioning is also a critical part of the system. You can make a pair of speakers sound night and day different by properly setting them up in a room.