The 5 Best Budget Bookshelf Speakers

There are a lot of reason to go for a nice pair of bookshelf speakers instead of all other options out there such as bluetooth speakers, tower speakers or wireless multiroom speakers. They are often the perfect addition to any existing audio setup, simply by hooking them up to your receiver, computer or turntable creating a great looking audio corner.

Bookshelf speakers are known for giving you the best bang for buck as they simply focus on producing the best possible audio quality. While tower speakers will often perform better in the bass department, adding a subwoofer to your bookshelf pair will always perform better.

Nowadays with audio setups becoming more wireless there are solutions that can make any bookshelf pair wireless such as the Sonos amp or use a Receiver that has Bluetooth built in.

So to somethings up the benefits of bookshelf speakers is that they provided the best bang for buck in terms of audio quality and are the easiest to connect to any existing audio setup such as a turntable.

Why Should You Trust Us

Having reviewed dozens of turntables, speakers, receivers and other audio gear, from what started as a fun hobby now has become much more than that. I try to be as objective as possible and think of every possible user when writing my reviews. Ranging from beginners with a small budget to the Hifi expert that seeks new gear. I hope to guide you through the wonderful world of audio hardware and let you have the best music experience there is! Best, Sjoerd

The Short Answer: Our Highest-Rated Budget Bookshelf Speakers

Name Buying Option
Q Acoustics 3020i Q Acoustics 3020i
PreSonus Eris 3.5 PreSonus Eris 3.5
Elac-Debut-B6.2 ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2
Speaker Review Sony SS-CS5
Edifier R1280T Edifier R1280T

What were the considerations?

This list focuses on budget bookshelf speakers where we have pairs ranging from 100 to 300 dollar. Of course the term budget is pretty relative we feel that within this price range there should be option for everyone. Going lower than 100 dollar will result in lower quality speakers that simply will be the bottleneck in any audio setup and will likely last a bit shorter. Going higher than 300 dollar will give you more additional features and better hifi audio quality but in general the improvements will not be worth the price increase for most people.

So what were the aspects we looked at when selecting and reviewing these speakers:

Sound Quality

The most obvious aspect is the sound quality. Often when we test speakers we tend to focus on a few sound aspects: balance, detail and sound stage. 

Talking about balance we what a decent flat frequency response, meaning all frequencies are equally distributed. The bass and treble are equally as prominent and every audio layer will have the volume that was intended. And while a bass boost might sound nice initially studies found that over the long run people prefer a flat frequency response. This gives the option to play any genre as the sound is as neutral possible.

Other aspects that are important in audio quality is soundstage and detail. The speakers must give room to the sound as if it were live. This is tied to having good dynamics that is not squeezing the audio layers together like on radio but rather making it breath. This helps with hearing each layer individually or being able to clearly hear the different instruments like drums and guitar. The detail also comes forward in how precise and clear you can hear the instrument itself, the bass is often the most difficult to tackle. Therefore a tight bass sound is often a good indication of a great bookshelf speakerset.

Design and Build Quality

Design is important in the sense that it must look great. In bookshelf speakers the use of materials and the finishing can give it a premium look. Speakers at the same time are often pretty neutral in their design and don’t want to be the centerpiece in your living room. There are some models in this list that don’t only come in black but it still is the standard color in the industry.

Talking about the build quality the use of  quality materials is important and also the construction. The cabinet has to be a certain thickness to avoid any resonance. The same goes for the amount of pieces the speakers were build upon, more components mean a higher chance of resonance. Therefore the most simple designs will often be the best performing ones.

In terms of design we also found some slight differences. For example, two bookshelf speakers in this list feature a three way design which jas the tweeter, midrange and bass as seperated drivers. This can produce a more detailed sound for each frequency range although in this price range the differences seem neglectable. Also the connecters for each can differ from spring-clip connectors to binding posts, this comes down to personal preference. 

The process

We first narrowed down the list of candidates base on price, launch date, user reviews trackrecord and our own experience. Often consumer will go with the best selling models without knowing that there are newer models on the market that have some nice improvements. We try to tackle this by keeping this list updated.

When reviewing we always try to use the same audio setup and play different styles to get the most equal and broad overview of the sound quality. We listened to some audio streams via Spotify on the high quality setting and tested a few vinyl records on the U-Turn Orbit Special which is our top turntable pick

When comparing price was a big factor since some models are twice the price of others. The benefit of is that there should be something for everyone in this list.

The Best Bookshelf Speakers on a Budget:

Q Acoustics 3020i

Our top pick

The Q Acoustics 3020i bookshelf speakers stand out for providing clean, faithful sound reproduction across the spectrum. The dynamic response of the Q Acoustics 3020i speakers is superb.

From vocals to bass, the audio is detailed. However, the bass is a little muted compared to some of the other choices for best budget bookshelf speakers.

The frequency response is 64Hz to 30kHz. The speakers are slightly limited at the low end, which may cut off some of the bass notes on heavier music.

For vocals, high notes, watching TV, or playing games, you should enjoy a pleasant audio experience. The sound is full and clear, outperforming most other speakers in the same price range.

The 3020i speakers also look great, with four different wood grain finishes to choose from. The corners are rounded to prevent chipping and create a cleaner look. The box is built from high-quality MDF board and includes several features to combat sound resonance and vibrations.

The inside of the speaker box has additional supports, including behind the drivers. The extra support and curved design increase the durability and overall performance of the speakers.

The enclosure is deep, measuring just under 11 inches deep and 11 inches tall. However, it is also narrow, with a width of 6.69 inches.

On the back of the speakers are low-profile binding posts. The posts match the aesthetics of the rest of the speakers, creating a clean, sophisticated look. The posts also have deep sockets, allowing them to support 4 mm banana connectors.

Overall, the Q Acoustics 3020i is a top recommendation for those wanting balanced, neutral sound from a powerful set of bookshelf speakers.

Our Verdict

Pros

» Neutral, faithful sound reproduction
» Attractive design made from wood
» Delivers a wide, open soundstage

Cons

» The bass could be louder
» The speaker enclosures are deep

PreSonus Eris 3.5

Best low budget pick

The PreSonus Eris 3.5 speakers cost a bit less compared to the Q Acoustics and ELAC bookshelf speakers. Along with a lower price tag, these speakers have a smaller frequency response.

The pair of two-way speakers have 3.5-inch woofers and 1-inch silk-dome tweeters with a frequency response of 80 Hz to 20 kHz. Due to the slightly limited frequency response range, the sound is less dynamic and crisp.

The sound is supplied by an onboard amplifier. Each speaker receives up to 25W of power. For a mid-sized room, this may not be a problem. However, when using these speakers in large rooms, you are going to notice the limited soundstage. Increasing the volume to compensate only creates additional distortion.

The design is simple, with solid black exteriors. However, instead of wood, the enclosure is made from plastic. This may impact vibrations and sound resonance.

While the sound may not compare well to higher-priced options, it is still satisfactory for a budget pair of bookshelf speakers. The real value comes from a wide variety of controls and inputs.

The back panel of the right speaker has RCA unbalanced inputs and balanced inputs. It also has speaker wire connectors for connecting the left speaker. In the upper left corner of the panel is a two-band equalizer with knobs for adjusting bass and treble.

The front panel of the right speaker has the on/off button and volume control. It even has a headphone jack and an audio input jack.

These speakers are also compact. They each measure 5.6 x 6.4 x 8.3 inches, which is useful for those with limited shelf space.

Our Verdict

Pros

» Multiple inputs and outputs, even audio input and headphone output on the front
» Includes an EQ for adjusting the bass and treble
» Powered speakers with 25W per channel

Cons

» Has a limited frequency response

ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2

Runner-up for top pick

The ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2 bookshelf speakers deliver solid bass and decent vocals until you push it to its limits. With a max input of 120 watts and a nominal impedance of 6 Ohms, you can crank these speakers beyond reasonable levels. However, you will likely start to notice distortion before reaching the highest volume.

The speakers have a sensitivity rating of 87 db. Distortion is most noticeable when playing audio from inferior sources. If you use quality equipment and avoid blasting the music, you should be treated to full, transparent sound.

The unit has a maximum power input of 120 watts and a nominal impedance of 6 Ohms, suitable for 4 to 8 Ohm receivers. The frequency response is 44Hz to 35kHz. With a slightly extended range, the speakers deliver crisp high notes and vocals. The bass is also surprisingly detailed.

The sound comes from two speakers, including a 4-inch fiber woofer and a 1-inch soft-dome tweeter. The drivers are housed in a sleek box with straight lines. It does not feature tapered edges or rounded corners. The design does not stand out, but it provides a solid enclosure for the speakers.

The box is made with thick wood boards and has a clean look, with a matte black ash vinyl covering. It also has a front-facing port to reduce vibrations and allow for easier sound placement, including against the back of a wall or shelf.

The backs of the speakers include a standard set of audio ports with gold connectors. The manufacturer recommends using bare speaker wire, but you should be able to use banana plugs if you prefer.

Our Verdict

Pros

» The sound is clear and balanced
» Offers an extended frequency response
» Includes a front-facing port

Cons

» The design may not appeal to everyone
» The sound becomes distorted at high audio levels

Sony SS-CS5

Runner up for top pick

The SS-CS5 speakers from Sony are among the least expensive options, providing a decent audio solution for those with limited budgets. The sound, including the bass, is clean and bright.

The speakers deliver sound reproduction up to 50 kHz, which is beyond the 20 kHz limit for most speakers in this price range. This helps create a cleaner sound at the upper frequencies. Vocals and high notes are crisp and detailed.

The increased frequency response comes from the super tweeter. This is a three-way set of speakers, which is not something that you often find at this price.

The 53 Hz bass response is also a little lower compared to most budget options. The bass sounds smooth and warm. However, it never truly becomes heavy, which may be an issue for those who enjoy bass-heavy music. For best results, these bookshelf speakers should be paired with a subwoofer that can handle the lower bass notes down to 20 Hz.

The speakers are relatively slim, measuring 7.125 x 13.25 x 8.75 inches. At 13 inches, they are also a little tall. However, they are equipped with three drivers.

The box has a 5.25-inch woofer, 1-inch tweeter, and a 0.75-inch super tweeter and accepts a total of 100 watts per unit.

The box is made from thick, rigid wood, which should help absorb more vibrations. Additional joints are added near the drivers and other spots to strengthen the enclosure. The top also has tapered edges to prevent noise from the cabinet.

The back panel of each box has two standard binding post audio speaker connectors. Sony recommends that you use stripped-wire speaker wire. However, you can also use banana connectors without any problems.

Our Verdict

Pros

» Affordable price for three-way speakers
» Delivers a clean and  bright sound
» Has a small footprint

Cons

» It is a little taller compared to other options
» You may notice a lack of bass on some music

Edifier R1280T

Low budget alternative

The Edifier R1280T bookshelf speakers produce a warm, clear sound. The mid-range response is rich and natural while the upper-range lacks detail compared to some of the higher-priced options. The bass is also a little dialed back.

The frequency response is slightly less than you may expect, with a range of 75 Hz to 18 kHz. This impacts the overall clarity of the bass notes and upper notes at high volumes.

Unlike most of the best budget bookshelf speakers, these are active speakers. They deliver a more open soundstage with a punchier response. They are also relatively constrained, with a maximum power output of 42 watts.

These speakers should fill a large-sized room with sound without having to reach the highest audio output, which helps prevent distortion. Overall, the sound is impressive for the price point, if you avoid cranking up the volume to its max.

Despite a few limitations, the Edifier R1280T is still a popular pair of speakers. The speakers have an attractive design with rounded edges and a class wood finish. Inside are two speakers, including a 4-inch woofer, a 13 mm dome twitter. 

As with most speakers, the box is made from high-quality MDF wood. The outer side of each speaker is also equipped with a vent, which helps reduce vibrations and resonance.

The design is relatively compact. Each speaker measures 9.2 x 5.7 x 7.7 inches. They should fit easily on any shelf.

The right speaker includes the power cord, with power fed from the right speaker to the left speaker. The right speaker also includes two 3.5 mm stereo audio jacks. You can connect two inputs without switching. It even comes with a remote control.

Our Verdict

Pros

» A low price
» Provides a rich and warm sound
» Includes a remote control
» Adjustable bass and treble

Cons

» Distortion is noticeable at high volumes
» Offers a limited frequency response

Looking for something else?

If you are looking for a turntable with a specific feature or within a certain budget you can take look at one of guides below.

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