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Best bookshelf speakers 2022: budget to premium

Best bookshelf speakers Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best standmount speakers you can buy in 2022.

Big speakers might give you the meatiest sound, but not everyone has the space, budget or inclination for a set of floorstanders. Thankfully, a more compact set of bookshelf (or standmount) speakers can give you a pretty amazing listening experience, if you a) know which ones to get, and b) you have the right kit to drive them.

How to choose the best bookshelf speakers

While bookshelf speakers have a name that suggests they fit on a bookshelf, this isn't always the case, so you need to decide what size and set-up you plan to have them in. If you want stereo speakers for a system in your living room, whether that be passive ones that require an amplifier, or active ones with amplification built in, you've come to the right place. If you just need some quality wireless stereo speakers for your office, however, our best computer speakers guide is worth checking out instead.

As far as audio quality goes, it's definitely important to find a great-sounding pair of speakers, but how your speakers sound is naturally tied to what you're using to drive them. Building a hi-fi setup can quickly become complicated when there are thousands of different, highly-technical products out there, so if that's what you're doing, check out our ultimate guide to building the perfect hi-fi system.

Below you'll find our selection of our favorite bookshelf speakers that are great picks for anyone. Want something bigger? Check out our best floorstanding speakers

Best bookshelf speakers: KEF LS50 Meta

With awesome transparency and a precise presentation, the KEF LS50 Metas are a great pair of speakers. (Image credit: KEF)
These bookshelf speakers set new standards at the price

Specifications

Speaker terminals: Single
Frequency response: 79-28,000Hz
Sensitivity: 85dB/W/m
Dimensions (hwd): 30.2 x 20 x 27.8cm

Reasons to buy

+
Exceptional sonic transparency
+
Subtle and precise presentation
+
Innovative technology

Reasons to avoid

-
Nothing at this price

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

Best bookshelf speakers: Elac Debut B5.2

The Elac Debut B5.2 might just well be the most robust, capable budget bookshelf speaker out there.
Arguably the most capable budget standmounters we’ve heard

Specifications

Speaker terminals: Single
Mid/bass driver: 5.25cm
Tweeter: 25mm
Sensitivity: 86dB/W/m
Dimensions: 34 x 18 x 23cm (HxWxD)

Reasons to buy

+
Detailed and organised sound
+
Solid build
+
Unfussy nature

Reasons to avoid

-
Tough competition

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

Best bookshelf speakers: Bowers & Wilkins 606 S2 Anniversary Edition

Bowers & Wilkins 606 S2 Anniversary Edition sacrifices nothing in order to offer clarity, detail, great bass, and lots of punch. (Image credit: Bowers & Wilkins)
B&W hones its 606 standmounters to great effect

Specifications

Sensitivity: 88dB/w/m
Driver: Continuum 16.5cm mid/bass, 25mm tweeter
Impedance: 8 ohms
Max power handling: 120W
Speaker terminals: bi-wire
Dimensions: 35 x 19 x 30cm (HXWxD)

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent clarity
+
Agile and articulate bass
+
Impressive dynamic punch

Reasons to avoid

-
Nothing at this price

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

Best bookshelf speakers: Bowers & Wilkins 607 S2 Anniversary Edition

If you can find a speaker better than the Bowers & Wilkins 607 S2 Anniversary Edition for the price, we'll be impressed. (Image credit: B&W)
A happy anniversary for these upgraded B&W 607 S2 speakers

Specifications

Speaker terminals: Double
Frequency response: 52-28,000Hz
Sensitivity: 84dB/W/m
Dimensions (hwd): 30 x 16.5 x 20.7cm

Reasons to buy

+
Improved clarity and detail
+
More expressive than predecessors
+
Tighter, more agile bass

Reasons to avoid

-
Nothing at this price

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

Best bookshelf speakers: Dali Spektor 2

The Dali Spektor 2s check all the boxes, including great sound at an even better price. (Image credit: Dali)
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 Dali Spektor 2 review

Best bookshelf speakers: Triangle Borea BR03

The Triangle Borea BR03s won't break the bank, but they will impress with their sophisticated sound. (Image credit: Triangle)
These bookshelf speakers are serious contenders

Specifications

Tweeter: 25mm
Mid/bass driver: 16cm
Impedance: 4.2 ohms
Sensitivity: 90dB/w/m
Dimensions: 31.4 x 20.6 x 38cm

Reasons to buy

+
Sophisticated, detailed sound
+
Impressive sense of scale
+
High-quality, agile bass

Reasons to avoid

-
Aesthetic won’t be for everyone
-
Slight peakiness to treble

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

Best bookshelf speakers: Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2

The Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2 speakers will let the musicality and character of what you're listening to shine through. (Image credit: Future)
A mature and understated pair of bookshelf speakers

Specifications

Speaker terminals: Single
Frequency response: 44-35,000Hz
Sensitivity: 87dB/W/m
Dimensions (hwd): 37.4 x 19.5 x 26.8cm

Reasons to buy

+
Hugely transparent
+
Don’t force their own character
+
Rhythmic and dynamic

Reasons to avoid

-
Unforgiving of poor sources

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

Best bookshelf speakers: Wharfedale Diamond 12.1

While compact, the Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 speakers offer up a detailed sound with a seamless midrange. (Image credit: Wharfedale)
Surprisingly sophisticated standmounters for their size

Specifications

Type: 2-way, bass reflex
Max power: 100W
Mid/bass driver: 130mm
Tweeter: 25mm
Sensitivity: 88dB
Frequency response: 65Hz to 20kHz
Dimensions (hwd): 31 x 18 x 28cm

Reasons to buy

+
Detailed but easy-going nature
+
Seamless and fluid midrange
+
Pleasing build and finish

Reasons to avoid

-
Tough competition

Wharfedale started with a clean sheet here, and it shows. Pretty much everything is new, from the drive units to the cabinet construction. The result is a pair of compact, 31cm-tall boxes that have the ability to make the most of price-compatible hi-fi components.

Sound is organised, cohesive and musical. They deliver a good soundstage that, for the price, is expansive and stays stable even when recordings become layered and demanding. We like the reassuring way the Diamonds handle larger-scale dynamics too, delivering more authority and scale than one might expect for speakers of a modest size and price.

This is a tough area of the market, however, and Wharfedale's superb standmounters find themselves besieged by talented rivals (such as brilliant Elac Debut B5.2, above). Still, impressive Diamond 12.1 deserve a place high on anyone's shortlist.

Read the full Wharfdale Diamond 12.1 review

Best bookshelf speakers: Wharfedale Linton

The modern Wharfedale Linton takes an old-school approach to style and sound that plays and looks great. (Image credit: Wharfedale)
The best of old hi-fi combined with the best of the new

Specifications

Speaker terminals: Single
Frequency response: 40-20,000Hz
Sensitivity: 90dB/W/m
Dimensions (hwd): 56.5 x 30 x 33cm

Reasons to buy

+
Effortless bass production
+
Detailed, open soundstage
+
Authentic good looks

Reasons to avoid

-
Looks won't be to everyone's taste

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

Best bookshelf speakers: Q Acoustics 3030i

The Q Acoustics 3030i won't cost an arm and a leg, but these all-rounders will still sound fantastic. (Image credit: Q Acoustics)
Excellent all-rounders that don't cost the earth

Specifications

Bi-wire: No
Driver: 16.5cm mid/bass, 22mm tweeter
Sensitivity: 88dB/w/m
Impedance: 6 ohms
Dimensions: 32.5 x 20 x 33cm

Reasons to buy

+
Insightful and expressive
+
Impressive, well-integrated bass
+
Fine build

Reasons to avoid

-
Tough competition

The largest of the three standmounted speakers in the 3000i range, the Q Acoustics 3030is, produce a sound that's familiar to anyone who's dabbled with Q Acoustics before. Though, you might not be expecting this level of muscle.

These speakers have an impressive weight at the low-end, but they never threaten to dominate the proceedings. Instead, the bass remains well-integrated, like it's kept on a tight leash.

Power aside, they boast an impressive level of cohesion, with an even tonal balance and easy-going nature, much like other speakers in Q Acoustics' 3000 range. And impressively, the dynamics stay composed even when working hard at high volumes, never managing to sound distorted.

In all, they're detailed, rhythmic and ultimately very rewarding. A great option for anyone wanting more from their sound system.

Read the full review: Q Acoustics 3030i

Best bookshelf speakers: KEF R3

Though expensive, the KEF R3s set the standard for sound quality at the price.
These superb standmounters set the standard at this price

Specifications

Sensitivity: 87dB/w/m
Impedance: 8 ohms
Max power handling: 180W
Biwire: Yes
Dimensions: 42 x 20 x 34cm (HXWXD)

Reasons to buy

+
Exceptional insight and resolution
+
Balanced and entertaining sound
+
Excellent build and finish

Reasons to avoid

-
Nothing at this price

Part of KEF's premium R series, the R3s offer a large chunk of the pricier Reference 1’s engineering and sonic performance at a fraction of the cost, making these speakers an excellent value.

It's a winning combination, no doubt. The R3s are brilliant all-rounders and arguably the most complete standmounters available at this price. That's partly down to KEF’s Uni-Q driver array, which sits at the heart of the speakers. It might look like a single drive unit, but it's actually a two-way arrangement with the tweeter set into the midrange driver to improve dispersion and integration.

Combined with the high degree of detail and insight these speakers provide – not to mention their even-handed delivery with excellent balance – it makes for an overall great listening experience, regardless of what you're playing.

Build quality is second to none with the R3s, and they work with a wide range of systems from budget to blow-the-budget. Hook them up to a premium feed though, and they'll pump out a sound to worry much pricier rivals. One to buy with confidence.

Read the full review: KEF R3

How we test bookshelf speakers

At What Hi-Fi? we have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London, Reading and Bath where, as a team of audio experts, we review of hundreds of products every year, including one of the most prolific hi-fi products of all – bookshelf speakers.

We judge products on a performance-per-pound (or dollar) basis, so during our testing we always compare products to similarly priced class leaders to help us settle on a star rating for the review and the order for these five-star performers in these buying guides.

We often review bookshelf speakers by them using at least two systems – our reference system, to reveal the best they can sound when fed the most accurate signals, and a more price-comparable one to see how they perform in real-world scenarios. Our choice of test music is varied, too, to see how pairs sound when playing a variety of different music. 

Whether we're reviewing a set of bookshelf speakers that cost a few hundred dollars or a fair few thousand, our review philosophy doesn't change, and you can be sure that any five-star speakers (and particularly What Hi-Fi? Award-winning ones) will offer up a fantastic performance for the price.

As a rule, no input from PR companies or sales teams is taken into account during reviews, maintaining What Hi-Fi?'s decades-long reputation for delivering honest, unbiased critical feedback.

You can read more about how we test and review products on What Hi-Fi? here.

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Ruben Circelli
Staff Writer

Ruben is a Staff Writer at What Hi-Fi? and longtime consumer technology and gaming journalist. Since 2014, Ruben has written news, reviews, features, guides, and everything in-between at a huge variety of outlets that include Lifewire, PCGamesN, GamesRadar+, TheGamer, Twinfinite, and many more. Ruben's a dedicated gamer, tech nerd, and the kind of person who misses physical media. In his spare time, you can find Ruben cooking something delicious or, more likely, lying in bed consuming content.

With contributions from
  • James Robinson
    This is a nice collection of small speakers, but it would be good to see a review of actual bookshelf/wall-mounted speakers, particularly at the higher end of this price bracket. Here many of the higher end speakers actually require stands and the reviews suggest that their performance would be significantly compromised if they were positioned close to/on a wall (or on a bookshelf!).
    Reply
  • scene
    I know what you mean. I was recently looking for some (albeit cheaper) bookshelf speakers - to actually go on Billy bookshelves. I wish that (WHF) reviews differentiated more clearly between "stand-mounters" and "bookshelf" speakers - or at least indicated whether a speaker was suitable for Bookshelf/Desk-standing/Wall-mounting/Stand-mounting. There are probably few small speakers that wouldn't sound better on a stand - but some are designed for it. Others are very much designed to be placed well away from walls...

    And a lot of people want speakers to go on walls/shelves as it's the only practical place to put them.
    Reply
  • James Robinson
    I currently have a pair of Dali Mentor Menuets that are designed to go on the wall, which I've been very pleased with; I also have some on the bookshelves in another room, where they also sound good - they were quite pricey, but worth looking out for secondhand. It would be nice to have some upgrade options, though...
    Reply
  • scene
    Due to budget constraints, my (new) bookshelves are the Q3020i - which are excellent for their price (in my opinion :))
    The Menuets look great - and I'd love to try some... if I had the cash.
    Reply
  • jjmcubed
    I to would love to know which speakers need to be stand mounted. Was about to pull the trigger on Revel M105's, but then I saw the rear ports. I only have approx 8 inches behind the speakers and they have to be on top of a dresser. Have a feeling the Revels will need more room.
    Reply
  • nick12
    If you have the cash, the Focal Aria 906 is definitely worth a demo. I have a pair that sit on shelves very close to a wall and I really couldn't be happier with them - a very detailed and spacious sound with a great sense of scale and authority (and Richer Sounds currently have an excellent deal on these speakers in the walnut finish: £749 compared to £899 in black). I agree though with posters above - an article on *true* bookshelf/close-to-wall speakers would be immensely helpful.
    Reply