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Best bookshelf speakers 2019: budget to premium

Best bookshelf speakers Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best bookshelf speakers you can buy in 2019.

Big speakers might give you the meatiest sound, but not everyone has the space, budget or inclination for a set of floorstanders. Instead, a small set of speakers can give you a pretty amazing listening experience. They're known as bookshelf (or sometimes standmount) speakers. And as the name suggests, they're small enough to fit on a bookshelf, on stands, on a desk or a table.

But that isn't necessarily where you should put them. Some speakers demand a bit more space in order to perform at their best, so make sure you check the manufacturer's recommendations before buying, while crucially all of these speakers will benefit from a dedicated pair of speaker stands.

You should also see how easy these speakers are to partner with other products, as your complete system will determine the final performance. And of course size is another consideration, as some are considerably smaller than others - when you do your research, see what fits your space. 

Here are our favourite bookshelf-friendly speakers. And with Black Friday around the corner, it's a good time to look out for a bookshelf speaker bargain.

Best bookshelf speakers 2019: prices to suit all bookshelves

(Image credit: Mission)

1. Mission LX-2

Create a superbly entertaining speaker that doesn't cost the Earth? Mission possible!

SPECIFICATIONS

Speaker terminals: Single | Frequency response: 60-30,000Hz | Sensitivity: 87dB/W/m | Dimensions (hwd): 30.5 x 19.1 x 26cm

Reasons to Buy

Insightful sound
Strong dynamics
Great build quality

Reasons to Avoid

Need care in partnering

If you're looking for a pair of bookshelf speakers under £200, you've found them. These are the best at that price bracket, knocking even the excellent Q Acoustics 3020 off their perch. They're designed and engineered with obvious care and attention, and it shows in the performance: sound is fast, packs a serious punch and delivers deep bass with precision and authority. The timing is very good indeed - especially at this price - with changes in momentum posing no challenge whatsoever. Put some thought into what you partner them with, and you'll have a stone cold bargain on your hands.

Read the full review: Mission LX-2

Best bookshelf speakers 2019: prices to suit all bookshelves

(Image credit: Dali)

2. Dali Spektor 2

Fine build, great sound and a bargain price.

SPECIFICATIONS

Speaker terminals: Double | Frequency response: 54-26,000Hz | Sensitivity: 85dB/W/m | Dimensions (hwd): 29.2 x 17 x 23.8cm

Reasons to Buy

Agile, articulate and expressive
Small
Unfussy

Reasons to Avoid

Nothing of note

On paper, these tick all the boxes, but get them going and it's clear they go above and beyond a decent pair of budget bookshelf speakers. They offer a range of skills that few at this price can match. Vocals are distinctive and powerful, delivered with nuance and precision, and there's plenty of energy to the performance. They handle dynamics with aplomb, while the soundstage is impressively expansive. They're easy to partner kit with too. Highly recommended.

Read the full review: Dali Spektor 2

Best bookshelf speakers 2019: prices to suit all bookshelves

3. Q Acoustics 3020i

Q Acoustics has taken an Award-winning design and made it even better.

SPECIFICATIONS

Speaker terminals: Single | Frequency response: 64-30,000Hz | Sensitivity: 88dB/W/m | Dimensions (hwd): 17 x 28 x 28cm

Reasons to Buy

Warm sound
Impressive bass
Accurate treble

Reasons to Avoid

Cabinet too deep for some

The 3020is are easier to set up than their predecessors, and they sound better too - audio is a little more refined, while maintaining their winningly warm, insightful character. There's more detail across the frequency range, and better spatial awareness, while the bass has some (very welcome) added oomph. Just about the only downside we can think of is that the cabinets will be too deep to fit some spaces, but as long as you measure up beforehand you should be fine.

Read the full review: Q Acoustics 3020i

Best bookshelf speakers 2019: prices to suit all bookshelves

4. Monitor Audio Bronze 2

As good a pound-for-pound bookshelf speaker as you can buy.

SPECIFICATIONS

Speaker terminals: Double | Frequency response: 42-30,000Hz | Sensitivity: 90dB/W/m | Dimensions (hwd): 35 x 18.5 x 25.5cm

Reasons to Buy

Balanced audio
Impressive insight
Pleasingly bassy

Reasons to Avoid

Need room to breathe

They might look very similar to the original Bronzes that launched almost 20 years ago, but all the improvements are under the bonnet. You get new drive units with a new cone, offering more rigidity and better-damped sound. The diaphragm behind the tweeter has also been redesigned to reduce distortion. The result? A refined sound that's equally comfortable handling luscious strings as it is dynamic shifts. There's bags of insight on offer, and a very confident level of bass. A carefully honed pair of speakers that brim with refinement.

Read the full review: Monitor Audio Bronze 2

Best bookshelf speakers 2019: prices to suit all bookshelves

5. Dynaudio Emit M10

A rage of talents as long as your arm (even if your arms are very long indeed).

SPECIFICATIONS

Speaker terminals: Single | Frequency response: 50-23,000Hz | Sensitivity: 86dB/W/m | Dimensions (hwd): 29.2 x 17 x 23.8cm

Reasons to Buy

Versatile
Detailed sound
Entertaining

Reasons to Avoid

Nothing at this price

These £500 speakers provide a lively listen, with an effortless grasp of rhythm and a real handle on precision. Seriously, no track is too challenging for these, but they're versatile enough to do justice to more traditional recordings too. They're dynamic too, which all adds up to a hugely enjoyable, passionate sound. And they go very loud indeed, which is all the more impressive given their small stature. A doddle to set up, just give them space and let them do their thing.

Read the full review: Dynaudio Emit M10

Best bookshelf speakers 2019: prices to suit all bookshelves

6. Monitor Audio Silver 100

Every Monitor Audio range has something to recommend it - but the Silver series may be the best of the lot.

SPECIFICATIONS

Speaker terminals: Double | Frequency response: 40-35,000Hz | Sensitivity: 88dB/W/m | Dimensions (hwd): 37.5 x 23 x 32.9cm

Reasons to Buy

Well-organised presentation
Punchy, balanced sound
Impressive timing and dynamics

Reasons to Avoid

Nothing of note

Like other speakers in Monitor Audio's Silver range, these feature a HiVe II port, to accelerate airflow through the speaker and reduce turbulence. This serves to enhance the bass response, which is very welcome if you're listening to head-nodding music. But it's not all about the bass - the focus is on overall musicality and cohesion, with an impressive level of detail on show. Instruments have plenty of texture, punch and dynamic expression to keep listeners happy. Worth a place on any bookshelf.

Read the full review: Monitor Audio Silver 100

Best bookshelf speakers 2019: prices to suit all bookshelves

7. Revel Concerta2 M16

As entertaining a sub-£1000 speakers as we've heard.

SPECIFICATIONS

Speaker terminals: Single | Frequency response: 55Hz | Sensitivity: 86dB/W/m | Dimensions (hwd): 37 x 22 x 27cm

Reasons to Buy

Authoritative bass
Excellent integration
Solid build quality

Reasons to Avoid

Fussy to partner

These are some of the best speakers we've heard for under a grand. Why? The wooden cabinet is curved and strongly braced, reducing vibrations and hence distortion. Its aluminium cone is coated on both sides with a ceramic composite which adds both stiffness and damping, while the rear firing port is curved to deliver a high output without adding any noise. It all adds up to an impressively spacious soundstage with large-scale dynamics, coupled with an authoritative presentation. You'd be hard pressed to beat them at this price. 

Read the full review: Revel Concerta2 M16

Best bookshelf speakers 2019: prices to suit all bookshelves

(Image credit: Ruark Audio)

8. Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2

Superb sound and vanishingly small dimensions make these the perfect bookshelf choice.

SPECIFICATIONS

Speaker terminals: Single | Frequency response: 55-20,000Hz | Sensitivity: n/a | Dimensions (hwd): 17 x 13 x 13.5cm

Reasons to Buy

Beautifully musical
Subtle
Small and stylish

Reasons to Avoid

No USB

Small but perfectly formed, these are some of the best compact speakers around. Bluetooth comes as standard for wireless playback, and they boast CD-quality sound. Audio is clear and insightful, providing a wonderfully cohesive and musical listen. But the sound is subtle too, and never in danger of becoming overwhelming. Timing is spot-on, as is the timing and dynamic expression. They beautifully built too, oozing retro charm. If space is at a premium, or you're looking for small speakers with a big sound, look no further.

Read the full review: Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2

Best bookshelf speakers 2019: prices to suit all bookshelves

(Image credit: Wharfedale)

9. Wharfedale Diamond 220

These really are hard to fault.

SPECIFICATIONS

Speaker terminals: Double | Frequency response: 56-20,000Hz | Sensitivity: 86dB/W/m | Dimensions (hwd): 31.5 x 17.4 x 25.5cm

Reasons to Buy

Balanced, informative sound
Easy to integrate
Bags of detail

Reasons to Avoid

Nothing of note

These were released all the way back in 2014, and the fact they're still available says a lot about how well they're made. They might not be the classiest speakers around in terms of design, but for £99 we're really not complaining. Anyway, what really matters is the sound, and the 220s have that in spades. The bass is deep and agile, and they sound much bigger and more powerful than their size would suggest. Vocals are clear and expressive, and it all hangs together very well indeed. For under £100, you can't really go wrong.

Read the full review: Wharfedale Diamond 220

Best bookshelf speakers 2019: prices to suit all bookshelves

(Image credit: Dali)

10. Dali Spektor 1

The babies of the range turn out to be mature beyond their years.

SPECIFICATIONS

Speaker terminals: Single | Frequency response: 59-26,000Hz | Sensitivity: 83dB/W/m | Dimensions (hwd): 23.7 x 14 x 19.5cm

Reasons to Buy

Energetic and entertaining
Great level of detail
Compact

Reasons to Avoid

Nothing

Looking for small, affordable speakers that don't compromise on sound? You may well have found them. Standing about two CD cases tall, and not much wider, these are compact as anything, and small enough to fit in almost any room. The sound is fun, pure and simple. They're upfront, serving up lashings of detail with plenty of energy thrown into the mix. The bass won't blow you away, but it's still impressive from a pair of speakers this dinky. All in all, fantastic all-rounders.

Read the full review: Dali Spektor 1

Best bookshelf speakers 2019: prices to suit all bookshelves

11. Q Acoustics 3010i

Exemplary budget bookshelf speakers for smaller living spaces.

SPECIFICATIONS

Speaker terminals: Single | Frequency response: 65-30,000Hz | Sensitivity: 86dB/W/m | Dimensions (hwd): 25.3 x 15 x 25.2cm

Reasons to Buy

Refined, energetic audio
Entertaining
Full bass

Reasons to Avoid

Bigger rivals have more scale

Musically, these speakers hold everything together well, with a measured approach that always manages to stay fun. The soundstage might be a bit more curtailed than larger rivals', but that's to be expected at this size. The result is certain tracks can feel a bit busy and cluttered. But they always provide a cohesive and entertaining listen. They're built well too, with braced cabinets. They might not be the most sonically versatile bookshelf speakers around at this price, but they’re certainly among the most engaging.

Read the full review: Q Acoustics 3010i

Best bookshelf speakers 2019: prices to suit all bookshelves

(Image credit: Q Acoustics)

12. Q Acoustics Concept 20

Looking for top-quality sub-£500 bookshelf speakers? Ignore these at your peril.

SPECIFICATIONS

Speaker terminals: Single | Frequency response: 64-22,000Hz | Sensitivity: 88dB/W/m | Dimensions (hwd): 26.5 x 17 x 28.2cm

Reasons to Buy

Awesome clarity
Refined sound
Brilliant construction

Reasons to Avoid

Pricey stands

These might be oldies, but - as their inclusion on this list attests - they're certainly goodies. A soft-dome tweeter with carbon fibre and ceramic-coated paper mid/bass combine to give surprisingly effective bass, especially for such a small speaker. They display equally impressive dynamic verve and clarity throughout the frequency range, with an articulate yet subtle presentation. But it's the transparency that really stands out, meaning they manage to stay composed even when really tested. To hear them at their best, you'll need the dedicated stands, which don't come cheap. Still, one listen and you'll know it's worth every penny.

Read the full review: Q Acoustics Concept 20

Best bookshelf speakers 2019: prices to suit all bookshelves

(Image credit: Dali)

13. Dali Zensor 3

A fun, easy listen and top value for money.

SPECIFICATIONS

Speaker terminals: Single | Frequency response: 50-26,500Hz | Sensitivity: 88dB/W/m | Dimensions (hwd): 35.1 x 20.5 x 29.3cm

Reasons to Buy

Spacious soundscape
Tons of detail
Superb tonal balance

Reasons to Avoid

Could be more refined

Once you've run these speakers in - as you should with any new ones - you'll be hit by the scale they achieve. This is a wide open soundstage, dispersing the sound evenly throughout the room, so you'll get a good listen regardless of where you sit. It's balanced too, with a crisp top end and sweet mid, while deep, tight bass impresses for a cabinet of this size. They could do with a touch more refinement, but that's nitpicking, especially at this price.

Read the full review: Dali Zensor 3

Best bookshelf speakers 2019: prices to suit all bookshelves

14. Quad S-1

Lovely compact speakers that impress with an enchanting sound.

SPECIFICATIONS

Speaker terminals: Single | Frequency response: 58-20,000Hz | Sensitivity: 84dB/W/m | Dimensions (hwd): 28.5 x 15.6 x 24cm

Reasons to Buy

Detailed, precise sound 
Excellent treble and midrange
Lovely build and design

Reasons to Avoid

Could sound more authoritative

Talk about lookers - these speakers have an exquisite woodwork exterior that's reminiscent of a fine dining table. They'll provide a fine soundtrack to any dinner party too, with the vocal performance being particularly impressive - it has an intimate quality that'll have you falling in love with your music collection all over again. Elsewhere, there's tons of subtle detail and lots of clarity, while the tonal balance is very good indeed. They're not quite as authoritative as some bigger rivals, but if it's an intimate, cosy sound you're after, these are about a lot more than just looks.

Read the full review: Quad S-1

Best bookshelf speakers 2019: prices to suit all bookshelves

(Image credit: KEF)

15. KEF Q350

These speakers' sophisticated, insightful presentation goes beyond their modest price.

SPECIFICATIONS

Speaker terminals: Single | Frequency response: 63-28,000Hz | Sensitivity: 87dB/W/m | Dimensions (hwd): 35.8 x 21 x 30.6cm

Reasons to Buy

Stunning clarity and detail
Huge sound scale
Excellent timing

Reasons to Avoid

Lacks drive
Demands loud volumes

Stunning sound meets elegant looks at a price that will have the competition sweating bullets. Design-wise, they're clean and modern, with a sleek, minimal style that's at once both current and timeless. The sound is equally impressive, offering levels of clarity and subtlety rarely heard at this price. Nuances are dug up and exposed, breathing new life into tracks you might have grown tired of. There's huge scale too, and a beautifully even delivery across the frequency range. A mature set of speakers whose looks perfectly fit their composed delivery.

Read the full review: KEF Q350

Best bookshelf speakers 2019: prices to suit all bookshelves

(Image credit: Dynaudio)

16. Dynaudio Emit M20

Another entertaining set of speakers, as meticulous as they are merry.

SPECIFICATIONS

Speaker terminals: Single | Frequency response: 50-23,000Hz | Sensitivity: 86dB/W/m | Dimensions (hwd): 35.5 x 21.5 x 26.5cm

Reasons to Buy

Sweeping dynamics
Tons of insight
Huge scale

Reasons to Avoid

Nothing

Dynamically, these speakers are always on the move, proving equally adept at handling major changes as they are subtle ones. While some speakers might be great for only certain genres of music, the M20s are comfortable handling whatever you throw at them, be it rock, pop, jazz, classical, or something in between. You'll need to place them with a fair bit of room to get the best of their tonal balance, but once you do there's no looking back.

Read the full review: Dynaudio Emit M20

Best bookshelf speakers 2019: prices to suit all bookshelves

(Image credit: B&W)

17. B&W 707 S2

Compact speakers that pack a mighty punch

SPECIFICATIONS

Speaker terminals: Double | Frequency response: 50-28,000Hz | Sensitivity: 84dB/W/m | Dimensions (hwd): 28 x 16.5 x 26cm

Reasons to Buy

Authoritative
Powerful bass
Great build quality

Reasons to Avoid

Lacks subtlety and rhythmic dexterity

Small speakers can sound big - the S2s are proof of that. Standing just 28cm tall, they manage to sound awesomely authoritative, with a solid, composed presentation that renders bass with plenty of punch and power. It's a full-bodied, refined sound that's overflowing with detail that other similarly-sized speakers tend to miss. And while the low-end comes across thick and fast, it never threatens to dominate proceedings. The only downside is they tend to struggle with more complex rhythms. It's a shame, but for many it won't be a dealbreaker.

Read the full review: B&W 707 S2

Best bookshelf speakers 2019: prices to suit all bookshelves

18. Acoustic Energy AE1 Active

Active speakers that do everything with a flourish.

SPECIFICATIONS

Speaker terminals: Single | Frequency response: 42-28,000Hz | Sensitivity: 104dB/W/m | Dimensions (hwd): 30 x 18.5 x 25cm

Reasons to Buy

Balanced, detailed sound
Rhythmically exciting
Adjustable treble and bass

Reasons to Avoid

Nothing of note

These active speakers are small enough to not dominate your room, but they sound much bigger than they are. They display a fine balance throughout the frequency range, with enough punch and drive to spare. They have a great sense of timing, too, with subtle dynamics. If you want to compete with this sound in separates, you'll need a lot of separate components, which will quickly get pricey. So why not take the easy option and opt for these active speakers instead?  

Read the full review: Acoustic Energy AE1 Active