Best Budget Bookshelf Speakers - Including A cheap under $100 Pick
Large speakers give you a much more powerful Hi-Fi sound experience, and soundbars and tower speakers are all the rage these days – we all know that. But here’s the thing:
Not everyone has the need, the available space – or the budget – for such ridiculously large units.
I’ve been thinking about it lately, and then it hit me:
There’s a way to balance the quality of sound and compact cabinet formats with the bang-for-the-buck value – the so-called bookshelf speakers are your best bet here.
As simple as these speakers are, they are surprisingly versatile, as well, which makes them an excellent addition to any existing sound systems, home theaters, desktops, and the like. Plus, they won’t wreak havoc on your checkbook.
On that note, I know how hard it is to find pocket-friendly speakers that didn’t get the short end of the stick when the budget cuts were made.
So, I did the digging for you:
In a hurry? The test winner after 23 hours of research:
Fluance SX6WH High Definition Two-Way Bookshelf Loudspeakers
Why they are better?
Last Updated: September 1, 2021
By Barry Allen: This article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information regarding best cheap bookshelf speakers available for those who are interested in enhancing their audio setup. The best 5 available have changed, and information has been added to assist individuals in finding the current cheap bookshelf speakers currently available on the market. The FAQ has also been updated.
- Best Budget-Friendly Bookshelf Speakers: Top 3 Table
- Best Bookshelf Speakers Under $200 Reviews
- Best Bookshelf Speakers – Frequently Asked Questions
Best Budget-Friendly Bookshelf Speakers: Top 3 Table
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20 – 60 Hz
18 – 75 Hz
Best Bookshelf Speakers Under $200 Reviews
Bookshelf speakers can be an excellent option for anyone looking for a compact, aesthetically-pleasing design that doesn’t compromise on sound quality. However, at the same time, depending on your budget and the speaker’s specifications, their performance can vary quite a bit.
Picking the right speakers for the job means that you’ll have to consider all aspects of their design and performance – and that can be somewhat tricky.
I’ll do my best to help you in your search, though – which brings me to my next point:
Check out my best budget bookshelf speaker reviews!
1. Top Pick: Fluance SX6WH High Definition Two-Way Bookshelf Loudspeakers
Our Rating: 86/100
Sound quality depends on (and is directly related to) the quality of the components – and better parts typically cost more. At least that was the case until Fluance decided to break the mold and play by its own rules.
The result was a set of speakers capable of holding their own in a sea of options that cost several times as much.
If you’re interested in seeing an audiophile’s view on Fluance SX6 – and I know you are – stick around for my detailed review!
The most obvious thing about their design is the size – at 13.5 x 8.3 x 9.1 inches, they are somewhat large for what they are.
And yes, that bigger-than-average cabinet size does translate into bigger-than-average sound, but more on that in a second.
Next, I have to say that they’re quite easy on the eyes, too. The MDF construction is finished off by wood-mock vinyl veneers, which is the industry standard in the pocket-friendly range – but it’s the details that get you.
For example, the elevated MDF platform with chrome stands gives them a unique touch and helps them avoid that “plain box” of similarly priced models.
Hidden behind the detachable grille is a 5-inch woofer driver with butyl rubber surround and a one-inch soft dome tweeter. The bass ports are rear-firing, but I’m willing to let it slide, because I discovered banana plugs and five-way binding posts on the back, too.
Besides the premium components and a cabinet designed to minimize resonance, the SX6 brings some impressive specs to the table, as well. They boast a 50 Hz to 20 kHz frequency range, 30-watt to 100-watt power handling, and 89-dB sensitivity.
If you’re wondering what it all this sounds like, the best answer would be – phenomenal. And it only gets better as you turn up the volume!
They blow most other bookshelf models out of the water with the imaging, the expansive soundstage, natural-sounding acoustics, and frequencies that are distinct and separate, yet come together into a coherent whole.
There’s also this incredible level of immersion with the highs and mid-range sounds, and vocals that have a presence so rich and powerful that they’ll make you weep.
Do the SX6 sound as good as a pair of $1000 speakers?
Well, no – but they do get pretty darn close. That, in itself, should be enough to land this model a spot in your Hi-Fi audio setup!
2. Best Bluetooth Option: Edifier R1700BT Bookshelf Speakers
Our Rating: 83/100
If you’re surprised to see Edifier ranking so high up on my list, I get it – they’re not typically regarded as a high-end brand. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, though. It’s just that there are far more prominent names in the speaker industry.
But if you’re hoping to get into the Hi-Fi world going down the Bluetooth technology route – and on a budget, too – you won’t find a better fit than the Edifier R1700BT.
Yes, I said the “B” word:
You’re looking at the best Bluetooth bookshelf speakers here!
Edifier doesn’t typically pay too much attention to the aesthetics speakers, but they did a fantastic job designing the R1700BT wireless speaker.
Everything, from the matte black front and top to the vibrant, brown color of the side panels, gives them a timeless, classic, yet modern look.
The whole cabinet measures 6 x 8 x 9.7 inches and is tilted at an upward 10-degree angle, which not only looks good but helps to direct sound at the listener, too. And in a typical Edifier manner, it has an MDF construction with walnut vinyl veneers.
They look a lot better with the grille off, though – the four-inch woofer, the 19-mm dome tweeter, and the front-facing port give it a mean, neat appearance when exposed.
You’ll also find controls for sound volume, bass, treble, and Bluetooth pairing located on the right speaker’s side panel, as well as two RCA inputs in the back.
Moving on to the actual performance and sound quality of these bookshelf speakers, and it’s clear that Edifier made it hard to ignore the R1700BT.
I would say that the sound they produce is best described as energetic, bright, and clear.
The bass doesn’t dig too deep due to the restrictions of a 60 Hz to 20 kHz frequency range but still comes through loud, to a point where it dominates the speaker’s sound reproduction entirely. You can keep it in check by sticking to the half-way point on the bass dial.
The mid-range is where these speakers score big points, though, delivering warm, rich, and detailed sound. There's a slight thinness in the upper treble range, but nothing too severe to compromise its overall performance:
They are still balanced enough to dip into the Hi-Fi territory – even when used wirelessly.
3. Best Cheap Option – Bookshelf Speaker Under $100: Edifier R1280T
Our Rating: 82/100
This whole article is about pocket-friendly options, but I decided to go the extra mile and track down the best bookshelf speaker under $100 – the Edifier R1280T.
And yes, it’s the second Edifier review on this list – it was too good to skip.
Cheap and compact, these are the best speakers for someone looking to upgrade their home stereo on a tight budget.
Edifier took a simple route designing this pair of speakers:
The speakers are neutral in appearance, yet at the same time, they have an attractive, retro vibe. They’re not intended to stand out, but that’s a good thing here, as it allowed the manufacturer to cut down production costs.
On that note, for a set of bookshelf speakers that cost less than $100, they look pretty good.
Each cabinet features MDF construction, with a matte gray finish on top and wood-imitation vinyl veneers on the sides, and measures 6.9x9.5x5.8 inches. The front panel’s grille is detachable, revealing a tiny 13-mm silk dome tweeter and four-inch full-range drivers on both units.
The difference is in the back panel. On the active speaker, it houses two RCA inputs, along with a power switch, and wire jacks for the left speaker. Also, on the side of the right speaker, you’ll find separate controls for volume, bass, and treble.
With 42 watts of RMS power shared between them and sensitivity of 85 dB, these aren’t powerful enough to fill the whole room with booming sound – but they hold their ground in desktop or small-bedroom listening scenarios.
The 75 Hz to 18 kHz frequency response only added to my concerns about its performance.
However, that tiny tweeter ended up being quite snappy, delivering clear and well-detailed highs. At the same time, the mid-range was surprisingly good, as well – smooth, rich, and well-balanced.
If you’re expecting tight, punchy bass, you’ll be disappointed by its sluggishness in the lower range, though. But if you manage your expectations according to the price range, you’ll learn to appreciate the balanced bass response.
It won’t be as well defined as you might hope, but it will undoubtedly move some air.
4. Polk Audio T15 Home Theater Bookshelf Speakers
Our Rating: 81/100
I figured that including another super cheap budget option couldn’t hurt. So, allow me to present you the Polk Audio T15 – a mainstay in the Hi-Fi bookshelf speaker market, and an excellent entry-level option for the budget crowd.
I’m sure that the majority of my audience is already familiar with this model, so I’ll cut this introduction part short, and get straight to the point:
Are the Polk Audio T15 speakers even worth considering with so many up-to-date models available?
Read my review and find out!
What you think about the T15’s design depends primarily on whether or not you decide to include its price range as a contributing factor:
I mean, sure, these 7.3 x 6.5 x 10.7-inch boxes aren’t the most attractive things I laid my eyes on recently. But relative to the rest of its similarly-priced competition, things start to look up for T15’s design and build quality.
Their MDF cabinet construction is topped off with a black, wood-grain finish, which helps it avoid looking outdated. Moreover, the speakers have a reasonably modern look, despite being around for quite some time.
With the bland grille out of the picture, the front panel reveals a 0.75-inch silk dome tweeter alongside a 5.25-inch composite driver, both engineered with Dynamic Balance technology. You’ll also find a front-firing bass port there, which means that these are wall-mountable, as well.
With a frequency response range of 45 Hz to 24 kHz, the recommended power of 20 to 100 watts per channel, and 89-dB sensitivity, these are nothing to write home about at first glance.
But despite all odds, these speakers sound way better than they should:
The sound is warm with remarkable imaging, complete with clear highs, a well-defined, yet wide-open mid-range, and surprisingly good bass response, too.
These are passive speakers, though, meaning that you’ll have to invest in a quality amplifier if you want to get the best of them performance-wise – and that’s where the cost-effectiveness flies out the window.
Do I still think that these speakers are worth recommending, though?
Yes! The additional investment is far from a total deal-breaker – it’s merely something to consider as you make your choice.
5. Pioneer SP-BS22-LR Bookshelf Loudspeakers
Our Rating: 80/100
What do the TAD’s $80000 speakers and the Pioneer’s SP-BS22-LR speakers have in common?
Well, not much – except for the fact that they were both designed by the famed speaker designer Andrew Jones!
The idea of owning a pair of speakers designed by someone as brilliant as Andrew Jones is mind-blowing!
Can he translate his genius ideas into the budget-friendly range without making too many compromises along the way, though?
Let’s find out in this review!
There’s nothing flashy about this model’s looks, but it’s that simplicity that makes it so attractive in a somewhat conservative way. However, don’t assume that Pioneer merely crammed two drivers in a black, 8.4 x 7.1 x 12.6-inch box, and called it a day.
The curved cabinet design isn’t only there for aesthetics – it reduces standing sound waves, improves acoustics, and keeps resonance on a tight leash, as well. And inside is where the magic happens:
The front panel is home to two speaker drivers – a one-inch soft dome tweeter and a four-inch woofer – and hidden inside is the six-element complex crossover.
The design has taken the back seat with this one, making it all about performance – and I’m not complaining!
A loudspeaker designer, whose creations go for tens of thousands of dollars, decided to shift his focus on budget loudspeakers.
It would be insane to expect anything other than top-notch sound performance!
As far as specifications go, it features 85-dB sensitivity and a maximum power of 80 watts. Furthermore, the frequency range goes up to 20 kHz and maintains a lower limit at 55 Hz.
It sounds way better in action than it does on paper:
The six-element crossover does wonders for transitions between highs, mids, and lows, making them as smooth and flawless as possible, with no noticeable dips or loses throughout the frequency range.
And the deep bass isn’t too shabby, either – it’s clear and well-articulated, and it doesn’t get lost in the mix.
Overall, the SP-BS22-LR sounds like a beast caged inside a small enclosure. That doesn’t even count as an actual downside, though – it’s merely an observation.
Whether you decide to use them as stereo speakers or add them to your multi-channel home theater setup, you can expect an outstanding sound experience.
Best Bookshelf Speakers – Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can bookshelf speakers be used as front speakers?
A: Most of you are used to seeing bookshelf speakers as a part of the home theater, surround sound systems, but they work in more compact setups, too. So, yes, they absolutely can.
Some people choose to use their bookshelf speakers – either passive or powered – as front speakers due to floor space limitations.
And yes, they had quite successful results with a setup where the bookshelf speakers were used as front surround speakers.
Q: Do you need your bookshelf speakers to have Bluetooth or not?
A: I wouldn’t call Bluetooth-enabled connectivity a must in bookshelf speakers, because, frankly, that’s mostly a matter of convenience. Sure, the ability to pair your devices – smartphones, tablets, and such – with the speakers without messing with cables or wires is always a plus.
But to say that Bluetooth – or lack of it thereof – makes or breaks a pair of bookshelf speakers would be an exaggeration.
Q: Do you need a separate subwoofer?
A: Technically speaking, bookshelf speakers can function on their own – and by that, I mean without the addition of a subwoofer. But, due to the practical limitations of a smaller cabinet, their lower-frequency reproduction will be a bit lacking. Plus, the fact that it has to divide its strengths among lows, mids, and highs results in an unavoidable „jack of all trades, master of none“ situation.
Adding a dedicated subwoofer into the mix, though, means that you not only get a better bass response but relieve the speakers of their duty to reproduce low-end frequencies, too. That way, your bookshelf speakers can focus on things that they’re optimized to do best, anyway – reproduce mids and highs.
After it's all said and done, we recommend:
Fluance SX6WH High Definition Two-Way Bookshelf Loudspeakers
Why they are better?
When it comes to the absolute best, high-quality speaker performance, the consensus is that, if it sounds good, it’s probably going to cost you a lot.
But as I’ve hopefully shown you with this round-up of best budget bookshelf speakers – and my top pick, the Fluance SX6WH High Definition Two-Way Bookshelf Loudspeakers – that’s not necessarily the case:
You won’t get a better Hi-Fi bang for your buck!