Best bookshelf speakers Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best bookshelf speakers you can buy in 2021.
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 a bookshelf 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. Do your research and see what fits your space.
Here are our favorite bookshelf-friendly speakers.
The KEF LS50 Meta don’t look any different from the LS50, and in many ways they aren’t. The company considered revising that beautifully made enclosure but concluded that little could be improved.
The one area where it could improve was the LS50’s Uni-Q driver array, where the tweeter sits in the throat of the mid/bass unit. This has been thoroughly reworked, taking in all the refinements that KEF has developed over the past eight years and adding something new in the form of Metamaterial Absorption Technology (MAT) – KEF’s way of coping with the sound that comes off the back of the 25mm aluminium tweeter dome.
It doesn’t take long to realise that the LS50 have improved significantly. While the basic sonic character is instantly familiar, these new ones have gained a level of clarity and finesse the originals only hinted at. Stunning.
Read the full KEF LS50 Meta review
Elac has been in the speaker business since the 1980s and has made many fine products in that time. It’s fair to say that these new Debut B5.2 speakers should be considered some of the company’s finest efforts.
They're brilliant performers for the money. The speakers feel solid, they're unfussy about placement, and they take any music you throw at them in their stride. They have the dynamic expression, detail resolution and tonal sophistication to handle it all, and enough stretch in their abilities to get even better with a system above their natural price range. For this sort of money, they're exceptional.
Read the full Elac Debut B5.2 review
The Bowers & Wilkins 600 range is now 25 years old. On paper, the low-key nature of the revisions to the 606 S2 leaves us underwhelmed considering the significance of the anniversary. Cosmetically, they amount to the addition of an oak finish to go along with the existing black and white options, and an inscription on the tweeter surround to mark the Anniversary status.
The only performance related change is an upgraded crossover that now features better-quality capacitors, some of which were originally seen in the recently announced and more premium 700 Signature series.
Given the modest nature of the engineering changes we weren’t expecting much of a difference in the sound. We were wrong. While retaining a broadly similar sonic character, the 606 S2 Anniversary Edition prove significantly more capable than their predecessors.
Read the full B&W 606 S2 Anniversary Edition review
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 Dali Spektor 2 review
Try finding a better-sounding pair of speakers for this price – we dare you. Little has changed between last year's B&W 607 and this year's Anniversary Edition, other than some new capacitors and an inscription around the tweeter, but the sonic gains have been huge.
This is a cleaner, more insightful and overall more engaging performance from a pair of speakers that were already among the best you could buy for their outlay. The older versions would have remained on top of the tree, had they not been knocked off by the 607 S2 Anniversary Edition. But when you have both pairs in the same listening room, it’s difficult to go back.
If you’re looking for a pair of lower-midrange speakers and the B&W 606 S2 are just out of your budget range, then these are a superb option – and a pair of speakers worthy of celebrating any silver anniversary.
Read the full Bowers & Wilkins 607 S2 Anniversary Edition review
The Oberon 1 C have evidently been designed to appeal to more than one kind of buyer and set-up. This standmounter package belongs to a three-strong active speaker system series, which also incorporates the 7 C floorstanders and On-Wall C wall-mounted speaker, and is based on the Danish company’s Oberon passive speaker range.
However, the Oberon C models are a slightly different proposition to their active system siblings, largely due to their more accessible nature. That is in terms of tech and sonic presentation, which matches detail and musicality with the kind of balance that can be accommodated in even the smallest of rooms.
Read the full Dali Oberon 1 C review
We love a surprise like this. French speaker manufacturer Triangle has entered a tough, crowded part of the stereo speaker market – and come out with flying colours. This pair of affordable bookshelf speakers truly deserves a spot on anyone's shortlist.
The Triangles deliver a huge sense of scale, much larger than rivals such as the formidable B&W 607. They can also boast impressive separation and precision. There’s detail and insight across the frequency range and, given their size, the quantity of bass is perfectly acceptable. Where previous Triangle speakers may have sounded hard or bright, these are perfectly balanced.
A distinctive design, which is finished to a good standard, the Borea BR03 are savvy musical performers with a great sense of scale and an even greater appetite for presenting music in a transparent and mature manner. Well worthy of consideration.
Read the full Triangle Borea BR03 review
Part of the company’s premium R series, the R3 offer a large chunk of the pricier Reference 1’s engineering content and sonic performance at a fraction of the cost.
It's a winning combination. The R3 are brilliant all-rounders. They’re expertly sonically balanced and work well across a wide range of systems, but give them a top class feed and they will deliver a sound good enough to worry most standmounters below the two grand mark. This is one to buy with confidence.
Read the full KEF R3 review
The Q Acoustics 3030i are now the largest of the three standmounters in the 3000i range and, with all the current models already having gained five-star reviews, they had quite a legacy to uphold.
Give these boxes a few days to settle and they produce a sound that’s familiar yet surprisingly muscular compared to other 3000i series standmounters. Like the others in the range, these are impressively cohesive performers with a smooth tonal balance and easy-going nature. Rivals such as Dali’s Oberon 1 or B&W’s 607 may deliver a more vivid and exciting sound, but the Qs counter that with a balanced, slightly understated but always engaging performance.
Read the full Q Acoustics 3030i review
The bigger brothers of those Elacs featured in number two on this list, the B6.2 are a wonderfully transparent pair of standmount speakers. Content not to colour your music with their own character, they offer a mature performance that will shine a light on the electronics in the rest of your chain. That can prove a problem if the rest of your system is not quite up to scratch, but you'll struggle to find a more honest pair of speakers at this price.
Read the full Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2 review
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 Q Acoustics Concept 20 review
If you want a new speaker that's built using modern methods and materials, but that takes an old-school approach to styling and sound, then you might well want the new version of the Linton, launched to celebrate Wharfedale's 80th anniversary. A pair of rear-firing reflex ports aids a big, bassy sound, without skewing the balance, and they pair wonderfully with the bespoke, vinyl-carrying stands. Pair with some energetic electronics and you can buy with great confidence.
Read the full Wharfedale Linton review
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 KEF Q350 review
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 M20 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 Dynaudio Emit M20 review
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