Top 7 Best Bookshelf Speakers Under $500: Enter The High-Performance Range
Chances are you’re a bit too young to remember, but back in the 60s, home audio entertainment mostly came in the form of built-in amplifiers and speakers inside radios and record players.
As far as stand-alone HiFi units went, you had the option of using something that resembled today’s floor-standing models. But more often than not, these were too bulky and way too expensive to justify purchasing them for the sake of at-home audio entertainment.
That all changed when bookshelf speakers entered the market as we know them – with their small cabinets and larger-than-life sound.
Fast forward to today, and I’ve tested bookshelf speakers that cost less than $50. I’ve also had those that could pay one month’s rent – or more. I’m not bragging here; I’m making a point:
I still think that the middle ground is the best way to go for most people.
At a $500 mark, the price is low enough to be easily justifiable, but at the same time, high enough to give you plenty of reliable, high-quality options.
So, today’s all about the best bookshelf speakers under $500 – and getting the best bang for your buck!
In a hurry? The test winner after 23 hours of research:
Last Updated: January 1, 2020
By Barry Allen: This article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information regarding best bookshelf speakers under $500 available for those who are interested in getting the best sound available. The best 5 available have changed, and information has been added to assist individuals in finding the current bookshelf speakers under $500 currently available on the market. The FAQ has also been updated.
Best Bookshelf Speakers Under $500: Comparison Table
50 – 22 Hz
55 – 20 Hz
48 – 20 Hz
Best Bookshelf Speakers Under $500 Reviews
So, what’s the absolute best you can get in this price range as far as bookshelf speakers go?
To answer your question, I’ll give you a few Hi-Fi speakers worth considering. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better-sounding, more flexible set of speakers for less than $500 than the ones listed below, so pay attention!
1. Best Overall: Audioengine A5+ 150W Wireless Powered Bookshelf Speakers
Our Rating: 88/100
The world of wireless technology is ever-growing, and to think that a Bluetooth speaker could never match the performance of an analog HiFi speaker is archaic and outdated.
To audiophiles reading this and frowning upon the fact that not only a wireless bookshelf speaker but a powered one, too, landed on top of my list of bookshelf speakers under $500:
Keep an open mind.
Read the rest of this review, and give this set of speakers, known as Audioengine A5+, a chance to impress you.
Even at a glance, it’s clear that Audioengine didn’t spend too much time or effort trying to come up with a revolutionary enclosure for the A5+. In terms of design, these bookshelf speakers are nothing but two 10.75 x 7 x 7.75-inch black boxes.
Then again, there’s something so undeniably attractive about their simplicity and industrial-like flair. Less can be more in some cases, and the A5+ proves it to be true.
The sturdy built, MDF cabinet’s front panel is home to two drivers – a 0.75-inch tweeter and a 5-inch aramid fiber woofer driver, complete with advanced voice coils.
The left speaker is the one that houses the analog amplifier, and all its connectivity options, including RCA and 3.5-mm inputs, a USB port, and the Bluetooth antenna on the back. A volume control knob and a power indicator can be found on the front panel.
You’ll undoubtedly be able to tell which is which because the left speaker weighs a whopping 5 pounds more than its right counterpart.
With the RMS rating of 50 watts per channel and 95-dB sensitivity, these speakers can get loud when you need them to – insanely loud, might I add. But more importantly, with a 50 Hz to 22 kHz frequency response range, they avoid shrillness and harshness and sound good doing it.
So good, in fact, that they make you want to get up and dance!
The sound packs clarity, producing every single note with deliberateness. The highs are tight and defined – but not at all edgy – and mids seem to lean towards a warmer, smoother side.
It’s the wonderfully natural bass response that blew me away. There’s none of those overly-enhanced, simulated boosts – just deep, rich, and tuneful bass.
And if you get the placement right, you’ll get some astounding stereo imaging, too.
They’re good enough to have those of you who correlate the term „wireless“ with lower-quality sound sold on the idea of buying a pair of $500 Bluetooth-enabled bookshelf speakers.
Our Rating: 85/100
I first encountered Edifier almost a decade ago but forgot all about them for a couple of years there. It was nothing personal – their speakers just fell under my tech radar.
Or was it because they simply couldn’t compete, considering that they were never a company that spent vast portions of their budget on advertising?
Either way, by the time I rediscovered them, their range of speakers had become enormous. Now, that includes everything from home theater and surround sound systems to as of lately, Bluetooth-enabled, active speakers.
And one such example of their bookshelf speakers is the Edifier R2000DB.
The R2000DB is pretty much the definition of „function meets style.“ The slightly backward-sloping cabinet takes on a sleek and elegant form with its high-gloss, black finish – but it’s not just for show. The angled design helps direct the sound right where you want it.
In its high-quality, low-resonance MDF cabinet, the speakers house a 25-mm Eagle Eye silk dome tweeter and a 5-inch alloy bass driver each, complete with rear-facing bass ports. The right speaker is the much „busier“ of the two, featuring RCA and optical inputs, the indicator light, and the control knobs for bass, treble, and volume levels.
Oh, and the speakers are Bluetooth-compatible, too.
Not only are they built to the highest of standards but have the right performance specs to deliver high-quality sound, as well – which brings me to my next point.
In terms of RMS power, you’re looking at 60 watts per channel, coupled with not-so-stellar 85-dB sensitivity. They can get crazy loud if you want them to. But as promised, the sound remains free of audible distortions thanks to built-in Digital Signal Processing and Dynamic Range Control.
Regarding the frequency response of 55 Hz to 20 kHz, it delivered more sound than anticipated in the lower end. It remained powerful but detailed throughout the range, with no noticeable dips or „dead spots.“
The tweeters did a fantastic job with the highs, all while blending seamlessly with the mid to lower-end contributions of the woofer drivers, resulting in smooth, well-balanced sound.
One particular area where the sound reproduction of the R2000DB truly excels is stereo imaging. Not only are the depth and the width there to give you a wider soundstage but offer a relatively large stereo „sweet spot,“ too.
They might be overkill for desktop uses, but could be a key component to a home theater setup. Plus, considering the price range, the listening experience that these Edifier speakers offer is hard to beat.
3. Best Self-Powered Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers: Edifier S2000 Pro Powered Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers
Our Rating: 84/100
There’s a fine line that separates consumer bookshelf speakers from professional studio-quality monitors. Well, I think I’ve found a pair of powered speakers that walks it perfectly, punching way above their weight class:
The Edifier S2000 Pro – a couple of powered speakers that combine classic Hi-Fi concepts with cutting edge technology in a way that can go neck to neck with professional-grade studio monitors. And considering that they cost less than $500, they’re a flat out steal!
This review will tell you everything you need to know!
The S2000 Pro features genuine birch side panels, and I know that people either love or hate wooden veneers. However, the subtle throwback to classic bookshelf speaker form is here paired with matte black baffle plates and a metallic surface grille.
These details give them an elegant and luxurious touch, rather than making the speakers feel outdated.
The cabinet, which measures 8 x 13.5 x 10.5 inches, has an angled design, with the front panel leaning back slightly, for both aesthetics and functional purposes.
You’ll find flat diaphragm tweeters and a 5.5-inch aluminum cone woofer on both speakers, along with a status indicator on the main speaker.
The master speaker’s back panel packs quite a bit of connectivity options, too, including RCA, XLR, optical, coaxial, and 3.5-mm ports, and three knobs for adjusting the bass, treble, and volume levels. And yes, Bluetooth connectivity (paired with an aptX decoder) is enabled, as well.
The Edifier S2000 Pro boasts three digital amplifier chips, which power the tweeter and the woofers individually at 12-watt and 50-watt RMS respectively, along with 94-dB sensitivity and 48 Hz to 20 kHz frequency range.
More importantly, every bit does its part, exceeding all expectations performance-wise:
The sound character can be best described as dynamic, yet neutral with a touch of pleasant warmth, especially throughout the mid-range, and crisp and clear highs. Furthermore, the balance throughout the entire range is nothing short of amazing.
The most impressive part has to be the bass response. It squeezes out every bit of power, sounds deep and hard-hitting, but doesn’t affect the overall musicality. It’s safe to say that you won’t need a dedicated subwoofer for these.
Our Rating: 80/100
The M200 series has been around the speaker market long enough to know what’s up – for over a decade, to be precise. So, when Swans Speakers decide to release a new and improved version of the speakers – and in the below $500 price range, too – I had to take a closer look at this redesigned classic.
They stuck to the sloping wooden cabinet design but upgraded it where it counts, adding a digital amplifier and optional Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.
That’s how you keep up with the digital era – Swans Speakers style!
Is it just me, or does this pair of speakers loosely resemble the Edifier S2000 Pro?
The combination of cherry-accent side panels with the otherwise black baffle and a slightly angled cabinet form gets me every time.
You’re looking at high-quality MDF braced cabinet construction here, measuring 7.2 x 12.5 x 9.5 inches. Both the one-inch silk dome tweeter and the 5.25 woofer driver sit on the front panel.
The grille is nothing but a mesh screen, so you have to consider if this „exposed look“ would fit your home theater or the stereo sound setup.
A huge plus to the designers of the M200 MKII HiFi speakers for placing the controls for volume, bass, and treble on the front panel, making them much more accessible. The back panel is reserved for two lines, AUX, optical, and coaxial inputs, as well as LAN connectivity.
On that note, the speakers are capable of going fully wireless, as well, by utilizing either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection.
In terms of sheer power, these are some of the most powerful bookshelf speakers under $500, consuming 40 watts each at a 90-dB sensitivity. So, yes, the speakers can get pretty loud – and almost come alive at 50-percent volume.
Another key thing I’d like to mention is the frequency response, which goes from 56 Hz up to 20 kHz. Moreover, it offers excellent consistency throughout the range, with hardly any detectable drops around the specified lower limit.
The sound that this set of speakers produces is best described as detailed and clear, and more importantly, capable of achieving impressively coherent imaging. They’re not quite at the level of high-end monitors, but they do come close with the detail-revealing clarity and overall sound quality.
The bass response is outstanding, too – it’s tight, yet deep, and at the same time, it avoids sounding too „boomy,“ if that makes sense.
Our Rating: 82/100
The speaker market is slowly, but surely getting flooded with wireless bookshelf speakers. Klipsch decided to remain on the sidelines of this ever-growing trend – until the release of the R-15PM, that is.
Even though they entered the wireless home audio arena for the first time, the superior sound and build quality still reign supreme – and at a solid price-to-value ratio, too.
Plus, I can see the R-15PM fit in many a scenario – from man caves to college dorm rooms.
First of all, it’s quite refreshing to see a performance-first, two-way powered speaker system with flexible connectivity options. And by „flexible“ I mean everything from 3.5 mm jacks, digital optical inputs to USB and RCA Phono/Line inputs – and yes, even Bluetooth.
These are easily some of the most versatile speakers I’ve seen in the under $500 bookshelf category.
Considering that they’re purpose-built and that their design was a result of intelligent engineering, it all comes together from an engineering point of view:
Both speakers feature a one-inch aluminum tweeter fitted inside the rectangular Tractrix Horn and a 5.25-inch copper-spun, magnetically-shielded IMG woofer, which is an immediate eye-catcher. The bass ports are, however, located on the rear panel of the 8.2 x 7 x 12.5-inch cabinet.
Is it just me, or is the contrast of the brushed black vinyl finish on the housing and the copper accents turning into Klipsch’s trademark color scheme?
Although the R-15PM is small in stature, their production and sound delivery are anything but:
With 50 watts of power per channel coming straight from the built-in amplifier, these things can get loud.
Regardless of what I put them through, the sound remained clear, dynamic, and non-fatiguing. Every single component is perfectly optimized for its task in a real active-powered speaker manner.
The woofers deliver clean, distortion-free, and reasonably full bass. However, the lower-end frequency cuts off at 62 Hz, while still going up to 24 kHz in the upper range. So, an external subwoofer might be a welcome addition in terms of deep-hitting bass.
That said, they offer rock-solid performance throughout their specified range, a natural and lively listening experience, and a wide soundstage with pretty good imaging, too. As such, this model is easy to recommend to anyone interested in stand-alone Hi-Fi speakers.
Our Rating: 81/100
The thing that makes Polk Audio OWM5 speakers stand out is the fact that they can fit into a myriad of home audio applications. From home theater and music-listening setups to gaming stations, you can achieve seamless integration regardless of the placement.
In short, you can pretty much place it anywhere you want, and it’s going to do its job of upping your home entertainment game.
Read the rest of my review and find out how!
The OWM5’s whole thing – and main selling point – is its compact, multi-application design that gives you nine different installation options:
You can opt for vertical, horizontal, corner-mounted, angled, or free-standing installation – and everything in between.
The secret, I’m told, is in its smart, curved shape, but I’m guessing the included stands and mounting hardware have a lot to do with it, as well. Furthermore, at 4.1 x 7 x 16 inches, you shouldn’t have any issues finding the right spot for it.
Design-wise, it’s simple, but in a reasonably stylish way – and overall, I’m under the impression that its multi-purpose concept directly influences this.
Either way, once removed, the grille reveals three distinct Dynamic Balance composite-cone driver units, one of which is a one-inch tweeter. The other two are 4.5-inch woofers, which take on the task of reproducing mid-range and lower-end frequencies.
The focus was obviously on achieving a multi-application design, but that doesn’t mean that the performance was overlooked entirely. It boasts a total frequency response of 60 Hz to 25 kHz and the recommended power of 20 to 150 watts per channel, coupled with 91-dB sensitivity.
Overall, I’d label its performance throughout the range as „extremely correct.“ As weird as it sounds, it’s the first thing that came to mind when I heard how tight and accurate it is, especially in the mids and highs.
On that note, the highs can get annoyingly bright at times.
The bass is understandably a little on the lighter side – even though it features two woofers – but can still be weighty enough at lower volumes. So, yes, the OWM5 could undoubtedly benefit from an additional subwoofer.
I did notice that it copes with higher volume levels rather well, delivering distortion-free sound, which is a huge plus.
Our Rating: 78/100
Yes, you read that right – I do not feel comfortable recommending the Thonet & Vander Kugel 2.0.
Why did I decide to include it in my round-up, then?
Well, for the most part, I did it for transparency. I put these speakers to the test and wanted to share my findings with you, good or bad. Plus, it wasn’t all that bad – there were quite a few notable features and bright moments worth mentioning.
Anyway, here’s a more detailed take on what it is about these speakers that warranted such a harsh verdict on my part.
The first noticeable thing is that the cabinet’s overall form avoids a boxy look thanks to the subtle side bevels.
Inside the black cabinet, which uses HDAA, or High-Density Acoustic Absorber, wood finish to prevent vibrations and sound leakage, you’ll find built-in dual amplifiers. The carefully-selected drivers – a one-inch dome tweeter and a larger-than-average 6.25-inch aramid fiber woofer – are hidden behind mesh grilles.
You’ll find the bass ports located on the back, along with dual RCA inputs, a 3.5-mm jack, and an optical port. There’s one more connectivity option, but you can’t quite see it – Bluetooth.
It boasts a robust RMS power of 70 watts per speaker – and insanely high peak power of 700 watts. Furthermore, their frequency response range dips down to 40 Hz and moves up to 20 kHz – but it doesn’t end there.
The so-called Rage Bass technology allows it to extend its low-end reach for more powerful, hard-kicking bass and overall fuller sound reproduction. The level of clarity, energy, and realism throughout the range is lovely.
They get loud and kick hard – until they decide to turn off all of a sudden, that is. I’m all for power-saving features, but this one rubbed me in all the wrong ways.
Then, there’s the wireless remote, which didn’t even bother working half the time. I was able to adjust bass, volume, and treble separately. But unfortunately, I couldn’t tell what the current levels were or how far from the maximum setting I was.
Honestly, I feel bad for Thonet & Vander.
The company did such a fantastic job designing the Kugel, but failed to address these tiny issues – and unfortunately, the outstanding sound performance ended up getting overshadowed by them.
Best Bookshelf Speakers Under $500 – Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are the best-sounding bookshelf speakers?
A: Generally speaking, the best speakers, bookshelf or otherwise, will be those that nail the sweet spot regarding features and performance specifications. That would include power-handling capabilities, sensitivity, driver size and construction, cabinet construction, and frequency response range.
Q: Are bookshelf speakers good for music?
A: One of the great benefits of so-called bookshelf models is their compact size and versatility. It’s all about getting the placement right – that’s when these units shine, delivering immersive sound imaging and detailing. So, yes, they can be an excellent choice for casual music listening – albeit mostly in medium-sized rooms – while also working in surround sound systems and home theaters.
Q: What are bookshelf speakers?
A: Bookshelf speakers are compact, high-performance two-way speakers – typically featuring two driver units, a tweeter, and a woofer. They’re specifically optimized to serve as discrete, stand-alone audio systems and fill small to medium-sized rooms with quality sound.
While the word „bookshelf“ might be a part of their name, the truth is, you’re far from limited to a single placement option – these speakers can be wall-mounted, set on the table, or dedicated stands.
Q: Do I need Bluetooth or wireless bookshelf speakers?
A: When it comes to wireless speakers with Bluetooth-enabled connectivity, it’s not a matter of needing them. It’s not a must-have by any means or a feature that makes or breaks bookshelf speakers. It is, however, a matter of wanting that clutter-free setup and the convenience of switching between multiple sources effortlessly, without having to plug anything into analog inputs.
So, no, you don’t need them per se – but you might want to get them, anyway.
Q: What is the difference between RMS and peak power, and does it matter?
A: RMS and peak power are two fundamental values of a speaker’s power handling ratings. They show you how to match your speaker to your amplifier correctly to avoid catastrophic failures.
RMS ratings show you the continuous wattage that your speakers can handle. It’s a realistic listening rating if you will, that represents what your speakers are capable of more accurately. Peak power refers to the highest possible wattage that can only be sustained only in short bursts – we’re talking split seconds here.
And in that sense, yes, they both matter – but if you want to get a feel of a speaker’s actual capabilities, RMS should be your primary focus.
After it's all said and done, we recommend:
Out of all the units I’ve tested, the Audioengine A5+ Wireless Powered Bookshelf Speakers are, by far, the best bookshelf speakers under $500, and for one simple reason:
Powerful, reliable, room-filling, and oh-so-fun to listen to, they’re the bona-fide audiophile-grade speakers.
And while I genuinely believe that these active speakers are worth every penny for the sound quality alone, I get that not everyone’s budget is the same.
So, if you’re interested in staying way below the $500 price range, you can always check out my round-up of the best budget bookshelf speakers instead.