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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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