Top 5 Best Bookshelf Speakers Under 200 for 2020
Midway through the past century, bookshelves stopped being just for books.
This was the time when the bookshelf speaker entered the market and flipped the world upside-down. The reason it became so popular is simple - small size, but a big sound.
This is a very compelling reason, and it’s why bookshelf models still hold a large piece of the audio market. They are the ultimate all-purpose speakers, and I imagine this is why you're here today.
Regardless of whether you want to listen to music on your PC, or watch movies in the living room, bookshelf speakers are the way to go. Have no dilemma about this.
Also, with the stellar advances in technology, you can get high-quality sound for a very tempting price. A $100 will get you much more than it did just a decade ago, so there’s no need to go broke just to enjoy good audio.
So, where am I heading with this?
I just want to say that versatile, quality, and affordable speakers are indeed a real thing, and to convince you, I’ve prepared reviews of the best bookshelf speakers under $200 that’ll knock you off your feet.
In a hurry? The test winner after 22 hours of research:
Last Updated: May 1, 2020
By Barry Allen: This article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information regarding best bookshelf speakers under 200 available for those who are interested in enhancing their audio setup without breaking the bank. The best 5 available have changed, and information has been added to assist individuals in finding the best cheap bookshelf speakers currently available on the market. The FAQ has also been updated.
Best Bookshelf Speakers Under $200 On The Market - Comparison Table
EDIFIER R1850DB ACTIVE BOOKSHELF SPEAKERS
60 – 20 Hz
Yamaha NS-6490 3-Way Bookshelf Speakers
55 – 20 Hz
Edifier R1700BT Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers
60 – 20 Hz
Sonos One SL Microphone-Free Smart Speaker
50 – 60 Hz
Polk Audio T15 100 Watt Home Theater Bookshelf Speakers
24 – 45 Hz
Best Bookshelf Speakers Under $200 Reviews
Since $200 isn’t a lot, you’ve got to dig deep to find the best you can get for it.
Don’t worry, I already did the digging.
And, here’s what I’ve found. Five solid, flexible sets of speakers that’ll make you forget just how little you paid for them.
Let me be very clear - you will not find better speakers for the money than the ones that you’re about to see, so don’t waste your time, but start reading!
1.Best Overall: Edifier R1850DB Active Bookshelf Speakers
Our Rating: 90/100
What I love about these new bookshelf speaker models is that they’re redefining what it means to be versatile. Seriously, with each passing year it seems that they can do more and do it better.
The rant above somewhat refers to Edifier R1850DB speaker set, as even I was surprised by what the manufacturer managed to put in it for less than $200.
As soon as you lay your eyes upon them, you’ll see that Edifier wasn’t taking any chances with these speakers. What I mean is, the design isn’t innovative by any stretch of the term, but that’s completely fine for this kind of product.
The two MDF black boxes have the dimensions of 6.1 x 8.8 x 10 inches. The front side is not vertical, but is leaning back, as if the speakers were designed to be placed on the floor.
If anything, this feature gives them a characteristic look, in case that’s what you’re looking for.
The fabric panel on the front hides three speakers, and you can remove it if you like the more aggressive look.The above-mentioned speakers include a 19mm silk dome tweeter as well as a 4 inch woofer/mid-range.
The connectivity options with R1850DB are vast. You can choose between coaxial, optical, line and even bluetooth. If you think that this isn’t enough, the left speaker hides a sub out, so you can attach a woofer for more bass.
As for the weight, the speakers aren’t the heaviest out there, but at 16.45 pounds (both), they aren’t light either.
Don’t be fooled by the term “bookshelf” as these speakers are fit for a party. They have 56 dB sensitivity and 70 watt power output, which is probably more than you’ll ever need.
Now, the frequency response range of 60hz-20kHz, isn’t bad per se, but could be a bit wider. In other words - it could use a bit more bass.
Don’t be discouraged by this because they can still pack a punch!
The overall sound is clear and fills out the entire room without a hint of distortion. The stereo separation is immaculate, which a well defined sound that’s important when listening to music.
Given that these are stereo speakers, the placement is important if you want to get the most out of them.
Again, perhaps the greatest thing about this set is the absence of any kind of rattling or unwanted vibrations.
There’s not much to add except that it’s hard to go wrong with Edifier R1850DB, if you’re willing to pay a bit more (within the $200 range, of course).
2. Budget Pick: Yamaha NS-6490 3-Way Bookshelf Speakers
Our Rating: 87/100
At first glance, Yamaha NS-6490 made me giggle with excitement. Why? Because these speakers look so damn old-school, and if you ask me, there’s nothing better than that!
Of course, this industry giant needs no special introduction, and the Yamaha name gave me one more reason to check out this pair.
These speakers are not for the faint of heart, or those looking for a compact model. They don't share the versatility of some other speakers on this list, nor do they aspire to be.
Instead, they will find sympathy with people who love loud, quality audio and don’t need a high-tech, over-the-top model. For this kind of crowd, they have a lot to offer.
Learn more about this incredible set of speakers below!
Like I’ve said, NS-6490 has an old-fashioned design, the kind that was popular around the early 2000’s. They are quite bulky for bookshelf speakers and the dimensions of one speaker amount to 10.5 x 16 x 12 inches.
Yeah, if want small speakers, keep scrolling.
When trying to picture how they look, imagine two black boxes. There you go. The speakers weigh 13 pounds each, so be careful when moving them around if you have back problems, and definitely don’t place them on a flimsy shelf.
It’s not clear which materials were used to make the cabinets, but they feel very sturdy and durable. These are three-way speakers so, under the cover, you will find three drivers - 8” woofer, a 4” mid-range, and a 0.87” tweeter.
If you’re looking for connectivity, look elsewhere, because NS-6490 can only be attached to a stereo, record player or home theater systems.
The nominal input power is 70W while the max that it can tolerate equals 140W. The 90 dB sensitivity is the highest out of all the speakers on my list. To put it simply, these speakers are loaded with power
The speakers have a solid frequency response which ranges from 55 Hz to 20 kHz. It delivers quality low ends with clear highs, and has an excellent crossover, thanks to the three-way design.
The lack of acoustic fine-tuning is something that audiophiles will notice, while it shouldn’t bother your “average” listener. The sound is a bit more saturated than necessary, so you won’t be able to hear the fine details.
As I’ve said earlier, the speakers are excellent for living room (or any other room) music listening purposes, as well as a home theater. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll get something as powerful for this price.
3. Fan Favorite: Edifier R1700BT Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers
I want to share something with you - I’ve never considered Edifier a high-end brand – and I’m sure a lot of you will agree with me on that.
But when I first got my hands on the Edifier R1700BT, a "not so remote" cousin of R1850DB, I couldn’t help but feel amazed:
What they managed to fit inside these speakers while retaining a pocket-friendly price tag is beyond me.
They’re easily one of the best active Bluetooth-enabled speakers you’ll get for less than $200 – and you’ll find out why soon enough!
Edifier isn’t a speaker manufacturer that bothers with the aesthetic aspect of their products. Instead, they offer well-constructed, sturdy-feeling speakers, as the MDF cabinet of the R1700BT goes to show.
You only get one finish option – matte black of front and top panels is paired with the warm brown color of the vinyl wood veneers. It’s a classic yet straightforward approach to design.
They measure 6 x 8 x 9.7 inches, so they’re not oversized, but they are a little hefty for a set of bookshelf speakers. With the weight of 14.5 pounds, placement is something you should carefully consider.
Under the grille, you’ll find a 19-mm soft dome tweeter, a 4-inch bass driver, and a front-firing bass port located directly underneath it. I find that it looks much better when the grilles are off – but maybe that’s just me.
On the back, you’ll find dual RCA inputs and the main power switch. The right speaker’s side panel, however, houses all the essential controls, including sound volume, Bluetooth pairing, as well as bass and treble adjustments.
The R1700BT employs DSP (Digital Signal Processing) and DRC (Dynamic Range Control), which form a program designed to provide improved sound quality and minimize distortion.
They offer a well-balanced performance, enough to land in the Hi-Fi sound territory – for the most part, that is. The sound is clean and energetic and full of clarity and warmth, which is particularly noticeable in the richness of its mid-range reproduction.
Granted, you’ll notice a bit of thinness around the rim of treble, but it’s nothing too severe – it doesn’t turn into uncomfortable, ear-piercing sharpness.
The bass, however, is somewhat faltered, and limited by the 60 Hz to 20 kHz frequency range. But what it lacks in range and definition, it makes up for in its ability to move a lot of air. Its wattage is decent, so your inner basshead will be satisfied.
Even though it doesn’t dig deep, you’ll hear it booming away – sometimes to a point where it will unintentionally dominate the sound entirely!
4. Best Smart Bookshelf Speaker Under $200: Sonos One SL Microphone-Free Smart Speaker
Sonos expanded its One speaker range by adding one more to the line-up – and with this one, they quite literally dropped the mic.
While retaining the same rich, room-filling sound and nearly identical design, the Sonos One SL is, in many aspects, a carbon copy of the highly-popular Sonos One. Except that it doesn’t have voice control built-in, a key feature of the latter.
The „SL“ portion of its name stands for „speechless.“
It’s okay – I was left speechless when I first saw it, too.
Visually speaking, you’d be hard-pressed to pinpoint the exact differences, and tell the Sonos One SL apart from the Sonos One – especially from a distance.
Measuring 6.4 x 4.7 x 4.7 inches and weighing just over four pounds, it has the same dimensions as its microphone-carrying counterpart.
The similarities don’t end there, either. It has that compact, modern-looking design with an industrial vibe to it, and comes in two available finishes. You guessed it – all-white or all-black with a matching matte grille.
All the controls are located on the speaker’s top panel, and that’s where the first differences become visible:
Since it lacks a microphone, the One SL’s top panel features only capacitive touch controls for Play/Pause, volume adjustments, and Previous/Next Track. It does have an LED status indicator, though.
I'd like to add that this model is one of the most portable bookshelf speakers under $200.
Oh, and one more thing:
You can team it up with another One or One SL model – and with a $20 discount, too – and have them working as a pair of speakers for stereo sound reproduction.
They’re a lot closer than one might expect regarding sound quality, too. Considering that the One SL boasts the same setup of a tweeter, a mid-woofer driver, and two Class-D digital amplifiers, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.
I told you, these two are nearly identical – and the brilliant sound quality of the One SL only proves my point. It’s rich and warm, with crisp, nicely-balanced and clearly-pronounced highs and mids, and thumping bass.
With a lower-end frequency response of 25 Hz, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, though.
And despite its minuscule size, it’s perfectly capable of filling the room with high-quality sound due to a combination of power handling ratings and 90-dB sensitivity!
And despite its minuscule size, it’s perfectly capable of filling the room with high-quality sound!
The sound isn’t the only aspect of its performance worth mentioning here. Wi-Fi connectivity and the option to control it via dedicated apps are key features that make it a smart bookshelf speaker – even one without built-in voice control. And the Sonos One SL excelled in that department, as well.
If you’re not big on built-in voice controls, anyway, you’ll love the Sonos One SL!
5. On A Shoestring Budget: Polk Audio T15 100 Watt Home Theater Bookshelf Speakers
Our Rating: 82/100
The last one up might be the perfect bookshelf speakers under $100 for those of you who are on a shoestring budget. It doesn't come from one of Polka Audio's famed signature series, but it's a pleasant surprise.
Seriously, the Polk Audio T15 is a remarkable solution for the budget crowd!
They might not blow your mind with their modern design or hard-hitting bass. But still, if money is tight, I recommend that you give these speakers a shot (they cost way less than $200).
What an offer, right?
Looking at the design of the T15 bookshelf speakers, it’s somewhat clear that the price range they were aiming for was a somewhat limiting factor. I wasn’t surprised to see that they feature a magnetically shielded MDF cabinet construction.
With the grille on, the all-black finish looks inconspicuous enough to blend in seamlessly into any modern home interior. Remove the cloth grille, and you’ll uncover the three key components located on the front baffle.
Considering that we’re talking about two-way speakers, the two Dynamic Balance drivers shouldn’t come as a shock. The T15 features a 0.75-inch composite dome tweeter and a 5.25-inch mineral-filled polymer composite-cone mid/woofer driver.
The front-firing bass port was a pleasant addition to the front panel, though.
The front-facing port, paired with a keyhole mount on the back, gives you the freedom of mounting these on the wall.
This particular pair of speakers, which measure 10.7 x 6.5 x 7.25 inches and weigh 8.25 pounds each, aren’t tremendously complex. Then again, very few models in this price range are.
These aren’t meant to be exceptionally-sounding – they’re intended to give an unbeatable price-to-value ratio. And that they most certainly do!
First off, they boast a 45 Hz to 24 kHz frequency response range, which blows some of its much pricier competitors out of the water.
Their power handling isn’t exactly mind-blowing, though. The recommended wattage per channel is 20 watts, coupled with 89-dB sensitivity, and 100-watt peak power.
That said, they still produce a sound loud enough to fill a smaller-sized room.
Now, for the sound quality:
The highs are crisp and crystal-clear, even at higher volumes, and the wide-open mid-range offers plenty of definition, too. Even more so, there were no noticeable distortions.
I was expecting more in the lower range, though – when it’s time to dig deep, the woofer driver fails to keep up and lacks that signature punch. To improve the overall listening experience, you'll need to add a dedicated subwoofer to it.
Best Bookshelf Speakers Under $200 – Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Are bookshelf speakers good for surround sound?
A: As long as you get the positioning right, you can use pretty much any speakers – including bookshelf ones – as a part of your surround sound setup. To answer your question more specifically, yes, bookshelf speakers perform rather well when integrated into a surround sound system as either front and surround channels.
Q: What are bookshelf speakers used for?
A: These speakers are specifically designed to be more compact than their floor-standing counterparts, and maximize sound in small or medium-sized rooms. As the name implies, they’re meant to rest on a bookshelf, sit on a table, or any other elevated surface, such as a dedicated stand. They’re best suited for consumer-grade audio applications, such as stand-alone use, home theater and surround sound setups.
Q: What is a passive bookshelf speaker?
A: As opposed to an active speaker, which has an amplifier built into the cabinet, a passive speaker doesn’t. It has to be connected to an independent amplifier. Such speakers are sometimes referred to as non-powered speakers, as well, because they require an external power source.
Because they’re not all-in-one systems, you’ll have to be extra careful when matching them to a dedicated amplifier’s power ratings. On the plus side, you always have the option of upgrading your system if you want more power.