A good set of speakers can transform a room into a home theater -- and they don't have to be large or expensive. A high-quality set of bookshelf speakers can make a difference when you are streaming shows or listening to music. While bookshelf speakers can stand on their own, they can also supplement an existing sound system or home theater, filling in any dead spaces and providing a richer sound. We will break down the essential considerations when you are shopping for the ideal pair of bookshelf speakers for your needs and budget. Our favorites are from Klipsch are small but powerful - customers rave about the bright sound quality.
Considerations when choosing bookshelf speakers
Before purchasing a pair of bookshelf speakers, look into whether they have a built-in amplifier. If you already have a sound system with an amplifier, you can opt for bookshelf speakers without a built-in amplifier to save money. Otherwise, speakers with a built-in amplifier can simplify your audio setup needs.
Speakers without amplifiers are often called "passive" speakers, while speakers with an amplifier are referred to as "active" speakers. Active speakers are also known as "powered" speakers, as they draw their own power and do not need power via an audio cable to operate. Passive speakers require a power source and draw power through an audio cable.
You should also look for speakers appropriate to the room you plan to install them in, as large speakers are often needed to sufficiently fill a living room. However, speakers that are too large for a room may resonate unpleasantly with furniture and walls, and in such a case, you wouldn't be able to use your speakers to their full potential.
Take note of the materials used inside a speaker, as this is the largest determinant of sound quality and durability. High-quality speakers often have aluminum or titanium woofers, while budget models often use polypropylene.
Entry-level speakers, which may have foam and cloth components, typically cost $100 or less.
Mid-range speakers cost from $100 to $500 and use materials of higher quality. They may also have a third driver.
The best bookshelf speakers cost $500 and above and use materials of the highest quality.
When reading a product's specs, look for ratings on these aspects of a speaker, as they directly impact performance:
Hertz: A lower hertz rating lends to a deeper bass.
Watts (or power): This tells you how much power the speakers can handle without sustaining damage.
Drivers: Most speakers have a tweeter and a woofer for high-frequency and low-frequency sounds. Pricier speakers may also have a mid-range driver.
Q. Can bookshelf speakers actually be used on a bookshelf?
A. They can, but there is a good chance that the sound would cause the wood to resonate unpleasantly. Your best bet is to put the speakers in a more open place so sound can travel freely.
Q. Can you switch between inputs with bookshelf speakers?
A. While you can often plug in multiple input sources to your speakers, there is rarely a way to switch inputs. This does mean that you can play sound from two sources at once.
Q. Can bookshelf speakers be used with a remote?
A. This depends on the speakers. Some models come with a remote, but those that don't cannot usually be controlled with other remotes.
Bookshelf speakers we recommend
Best of the best: Klipsch Bookshelf Speaker
Our take: This is one of the best pairs of bookshelf speakers available, whether you intend to use them on their own or with a surround sound system. A few customers find these speakers to be on the brighter side.
What we like: Despite the small size of these speakers, they perform well and can be quite loud.
What we dislike: It may take as much as 100 hours to break in these speakers.
Best bang for your buck: Dual Electronics High Performance Indoor, Outdoor & Bookshelf Speakers
Our take: For the price, these extremely high-quality speakers are great for beginner audiophiles. The wire may be difficult to connect to the terminals, however.
What we like: Not only do these speakers sound great, but they can also withstand a good deal of weather.
What we dislike: Though the speakers will keep working outside after several seasons, the grill may rust quickly.
Choice 3: JBL Black Bookshelf & Surround Speaker
Our take: If you are looking for entry-level speakers but are willing to spend a bit more, these are an excellent option. These speakers sound great, but notably, they work best when supporting a surround sound system.
What we like: The 5.5-inch woofer provides great sound whether you are listening to music, playing video games, or watching a movie.
What we dislike: The wall-mounting template does not match the speakers.
Peter McPherson is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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