Best Bookshelf Speakers Under $300 - Bang-For-Buck Picks For 2021
The advent of bookshelf speakers in the mid 20th century was nothing short of a revolution.
Suddenly, you could replace the bulky floorstanding mammoths with compact devices while retaining the audio quality. As it turns out, people still prefer bookshelf models over their bigger counterparts - and they usually fulfill the role of an all-purpose sound system.
Now, the word "all-purpose" is often a codeword for "mediocre."
But, in truth, it boils down to the price. For slightly less than $300, you can get yourself a fantastic pair of bookshelf speakers that'll be equally enjoyable when listening to music or using them in your home theater.
If you're like most people, you'll want to get the best audio bang for your buck. That's where my list of the five best bookshelf speakers under $300 on the market jumps in.
Give it a read!
- In a hurry? After 21 Hours of Research, We Recommend:
- Best Bookshelf Speakers Under $300: Comparison Chart
- Best Bookshelf Speakers Under $300 Reviews
- 1. Best Overall: ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2 Bookshelf Speakers
- 2. Runner Up: Klipsch RB-51 II Bookshelf Speakers
- 3. Best High-End Option: Edifier R2000DB Powered Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers
- 4. Best Budget Option: Yamaha NS-6490 3-Way Bookshelf Speakers
- 5. A Well-Balanced Choice: Wharfedale Diamond 220
- Top Bookshelf Speakers Under $300 – Frequently Asked Questions
- After it's all said and done, we recommend:
In a hurry? After 21 Hours of Research, We Recommend:
Last Updated: September 1, 2021
By Barry Allen: This article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information regarding best center channel speakers available for those who are interested in ramping the quality of their sound up. The best 5 available have changed, and information has been added to assist individuals in finding the best center channel speakers currently available on the market. The FAQ has also been updated.
Best Bookshelf Speakers Under $300: Comparison Chart
ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2 Bookshelf Speakers
44Hz - 35kHz
Klipsch RB-51 II Bookshelf Speakers
Edifier R2000DB Powered Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers
24W x 2 + 36W x 2
Yamaha NS-6490 3-Way Bookshelf Speakers
45Hz - 23kHz
Yamaha NS-6490 3-Way Bookshelf Speakers
Wharfedale Diamond 220
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Best Bookshelf Speakers Under $300 Reviews
Let's be honest; $300 isn't a small amount of money. However, when you consider that bookshelf speaker prices go as high up as several thousand dollars, then it's pocket change.
Don't get me wrong; it'll still buy you a decent bookshelf speaker system. It's just that you'll have to do a bit of research to get to the best ones.
Luckily for you, I already did all the hard stuff - and now I bring you the very best speakers under $300, each covered in a detailed review.
Our Rating: 93/100
ELAC has been producing top-tier audio products since the 1920s, and it seems that they have no intentions of stopping. It looks like there's still room for improvement, even after all that time, as their speakers are only getting better.
The affordable and fantastic ELAC Debut 2.0 bookshelf speaker system is a testament to the company's competence, dedication, and consumer-oriented strategy.
At first glance, you won't be able to tell the difference between Debut 2.0 and most of its competitors. It has a simplistic, dare I say unexciting black box look, slightly more elongated than you'd expect from your average bookshelf speaker.
Its dimensions are 7.69″ x 14.76″ x 10.55″ (WxHxD), so it's a standard-sized audio device. It would be safe to say that the design of Debut 2.0 is as classic as it gets, which can be good or bad depending on what you prefer.
Behind the fabric, you will find a 1-inch soft-dome tweeter and a 6.5-inch woven aramid fiber cone woofer. The front port sub allows you to bring the boxes as close to the wall as you want - without losing out on sound quality.
With a max input of 120W, Debut 2.0 B6.2 can make some serious noise - in a good way - if needed. Just connect them to your PC, TV, or stereo and fire away!
Their frequency response range is decent, and it amounts to 44Hz - 35kHz. The aramid fiber driver enables them to deliver dynamic audio. The bass sound, which is a big concern for many buyers, is more than satisfying, especially when the bookshelf speaker system is used in a small to mid-sized room.
Compared to its predecessor, the B6, this one has distinctly clearer and livelier audio.
Now, a problem that some customers encountered was a loud rattling sound even when the speakers were on low volume. Luckily, this seems to be an exception rather than the rule, and if you encounter this issue, you can ask for a replacement.
Overall, Debut 2.0 B6.2 are probably the best bookshelf speakers under $300. They can deliver a full range of frequencies, and I'm doubtful that you'll find a more well-rounded sound for the price!
Our Rating: 92/100
I have to admit, the first thing that attracted me to Klipsch RB-51 is not their quality but their appearance. They remind me of classic early 2000's bookshelf speakers, which I'm, for some reason, nostalgic about to this day.
They're pretty similar to the wildly popular Klipsch R 15M.
Unless you've lived under a rock for the past fifty years, I'm sure you know about Klipsch, one of the most prominent players on the current market.
Does the RB-51 live up to the company's legendary name? You bet.
You can learn more about its looks and sound in the following review!
As I've said, Klipsch RB-51 sports this sort of old-school look from nearly two decades ago. It has a black woodgrain box, and under the cover, there's a brown driver and a tucked-away tweeter. Its dimensions are 10.8" x 6.5" x 11.4", which fits it into the mid-size category.
The abovementioned woofer is a 5.25" high-output Cerametallic, while the tweeter is 1" in diameter and made from titanium. It is a linear travel suspension horn-loaded tweeter.
The speakers are pretty heavy - 20 pounds (9.5 kg) each - so it takes some muscle to move them around.
The RMS power handling of this speaker is 75W with a 300W max. It's got a relatively high sensitivity (92dB) and a dynamic range.
Ok, how does all of this translate into sound quality?
This speaker can deliver very clear and open audio. The highs and the mids are well-defined, while the low-frequency sound is definitely hearable.
Of course, it isn't a thumping, punch-in-the-gut, deep bass as very few bookshelf speakers can produce that.
If you turn up the volume close to the max, you might run into problems. Namely, the sound becomes quite piercing and metallic, so much that a jump-scare noise from a horror movie would genuinely make you jump.
The bottom line would be:
The RB-51 is a high-quality audio system for all purposes - in its price range - unless you're a big audiophile.
Our Rating: 89/100
Whether Edifier is a high-end brand or not is arguable. But since the price of this product is right on the cusp of $300, I decided to "crown it" with this title.
The price tag aside, this particular model, the R2000DB, can genuinely be considered high-end for reasons I'm about to get into in the review below.
Many would argue that aesthetics is not one of Edifier's major concerns, and I would agree.
The R2000DB speakers sport a rather simplistic look with sharp angles and no curved lines. What sets them apart from most bookshelf models is the slanted front, which received mixed reviews.
The speakers come in two colors - black and wood - so, at least you can choose that. Their dimensions are 6.9" x 11.4" x 10", which could be considered mid to large.
Now, I must say that they look pretty cool with the grill removed. The black matte panel, the Edifier logo on the bottom, the smooth woofer, and silk dome tweeter - it all looks very sleek.
On the back, there are the inputs, namely, optical and aux. You'll also find volume, bass, and treble knobs there. The speakers have Bluetooth connectivity and remote control, one of their main selling features - but more on that later.
Aside from being the only Bluetooth speakers on this list, they're also the only powered ones. That means that you won't need an external amplifier to run them.
The frequency response of R2000DB (55Hz-20KHz) is not impressive - but it's not bad, either. Its biggest shortcoming is the lack of low-end sound, which can make the listening experience somewhat dry.
The power of 120W is more than enough for a home speaker, and the clarity of sound at high volumes is pretty remarkable.
The audio quality coming out of R2000DB is pretty balanced, the only weak point being, again, the bass response. However, this shouldn't be a huge issue unless you want to blast bass-heavy music out of it at parties.
While these aren't the best bookshelf speakers under $300, they're not far off.
Our Rating: 85/100
Ready or not, here come the Yamaha NS-6490 bookshelf speakers - and they mean business. If experience has taught me anything, it's that Japanese brands deliver exceptional value - and sound - for the price. And I'm happy to report that this is true with this one as well.
The NS-6490 are the go-to speakers for someone looking for fuss-free, decent quality audio and a solid build at a low cost.
They're by no means top-notch, nor do they aspire to be. They probably won't satisfy the pickiest audio snob due to their lack of features, but "normal people" should find them acceptable.
The design of this one is as simple as it gets - it's a black box. However, the grill is a bit tricked out, which might appeal to some buyers. These are 3-way (3-driver) speakers, and under the cover, you'll find a massive 8" cone woofer, a 4" mid, and ⅞" dome tweeter, all of them white.
The white on black looks quite good-looking in my opinion, so I prefer these speakers without the grill.
As for the size, they are pretty bulky, the biggest on today's list. To be precise, the dimensions of one speaker are 13" x 13" x 25". That might be too big for some bookshelves, so consider this before purchasing.
The specifications of this speaker are better than expected at this price. Its frequency range is a fantastic 45Hz - 23kHz, and it owes it to the 3-way design.
When listening to music on these speakers, you'll notice that the high-mids are where the emphasis lies. The bass is a bit compressed, and the highs are not too piercing. A pro of this bookshelf speaker system is its bright sound and the ability to reproduce details very well. If you'd like more (deep) bass, you can purchase the subwoofer separately.
The NS-6490 can handle 70W of continuous power with peaks of 140W.
I think most of us would agree that this is enough to use as a home (theater) speaker. It's no surround sound, but it'll do!
Our Rating: 83/100
Wharfedale is the quintessential British audio equipment manufacturer, and their first endeavors date as far back as 1932. Not as old as ELAC - but still, pretty old.
The company offers a wide range of sound systems, and Wharfedale Diamond 220 is one of their most popular affordable models.
I included them in the list as they represent the middle ground in terms of price and audio quality. They are a crowd-pleaser, but some refined listeners would not shy away from them, either.
Check out the review below!
The size of one speaker is 12.25" x 6.8" x 10", so it is a mid-sized device. It has a basic, boxy design and is available in black, white, walnut, and rose finishes.
The front panel is black, and it features two components - a 5.1-inch Kevlar woofer and a 1-inch soft-dome tweeter. It does not have one big grill covering the entire face, but two small ones for each driver.
The speaker features an additional bass woofer on the bottom, hidden away from sight, for a more rounded audio experience.
First off, if you need speakers for playing electronic music, then skip this model. It simply lacks the bass for that kind of audio performance.
The upside here is that Diamond 220 absolutely shines when it comes to bright, rich sounds, like vocals and acoustic instruments. If this is what you'd like to listen to, go ahead and skip all the other reviews and buy this one.
It is also pretty good for home theater use and video games, where, nine out of ten times, its low-end capabilities will suffice. All in all, Diamond 220 earned its place in the best bookshelf speakers under $300 list.
Top Bookshelf Speakers Under $300 – Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Do I need a separate amplifier for bookshelf speakers?
A: Yes, if you're buying passive speakers - and no, if you're buying active (powered) speakers. When it comes to bookshelf speakers, most are passive, which means they need an external power source to reproduce audio. If you already have an amplifier at home (e.g., an old hi-fi), it would be a good idea to get a speaker that's compatible with it. Active speakers, on the other hand, do not require an external amplifier.
Q: Where should I place my bookshelf speakers?
A: Place it on a flat, steady, and elevated surface. A bookshelf, desk, or speaker stands are the most common options for this. If your speakers' bass port is located back, do not place them up against a wall; this will muffle the low-end sounds and cripple the overall audio delivery. Generally, it is recommended to rotate the speakers slightly inwards towards the listener.
Also, if you have a 3-way sound system, look for the manufacturer's recommendations about positioning. It matters which one goes left and which goes right to get the most out of each driver.
Q: Can I use bookshelf speakers as my computer speakers?
A: Certainly. In fact, this is one of the most common applications of these speakers. One setback that you could face is the lack of room on your desk. Bookshelf speakers tend to be bigger than PC speakers, so make sure they can fit before you buy them.
The upside is that the sound quality of bookshelf speakers easily beats almost any PC speaker out there. You will enjoy the excellent audio and will have more power. It would be advisable to purchase active bookshelf speakers for this purpose, as they do not require an external amplifier. The latter would take up even more space in your room!