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September 1, 2022  |  Electronics

Which bookshelf speakers are best for compact rooms?

Even if you don’t have a large space to work with, a good pair of bookshelf speakers can transform how you hear your favorite music and movies. These small-scale speakers can produce excellent sound quality in petite packages, making them especially useful for smaller rooms. Today’s bookshelf speakers even offer features like smart-home compatibility and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity.

What are bookshelf speakers?

Bookshelf speakers are compact speakers designed to fit just about anywhere without compromising the sound quality, including on top of shelves, on speaker stands or mounted to the wall. They offer many of the same features as full-size speakers and come in various decor styles.

While bookshelf speakers overall tend to have less power and frequency range (and therefore slightly lower sound quality) than larger floor speakers, they’re actually better suited to small rooms because their sound is better optimized for more confined spaces.

What to consider when shopping for bookshelf speakers

Active vs. passive speakers

As you’re shopping for bookshelf speakers, you may notice them being labeled active (or powered) or passive. If you’re not an audiophile, the distinction can be confusing. Essentially, passive speakers need to be paired with a compatible amplifier or receiver, while active speakers are all-in-one systems that include a built-in amplifier.

Along with being generally easier to set up, active speakers tend to feature more connectivity options, including Bluetooth and USB or HDMI. Passive speakers may be a better choice for someone looking to build out a larger, customized sound system that they can fine-tune at every step. Which bookshelf system is best for you may depend on whether you want to listen to a turntable, smartphone streaming or your TV.

Bookshelf speaker drivers

Most speakers in this category tend to have two drivers: a tweeter to reproduce high-frequency sounds and a woofer for bass. If a thumping bass is a high priority for you, look for bookshelf speakers with a woofer measuring at least 6 inches. Most bookshelf speakers feature woofers that measure 5.25 inches.

Bookshelf speaker dimensions

While the name “bookshelf speaker” may make you picture a speaker of a certain size, the dimensions can vary widely. Once you’ve determined where you will place your speakers, take note of the height, width and depth available. Note that larger speakers usually allow more room for larger drivers and better, clearer sound.

Where to put bookshelf speakers

Despite the name, it’s actually not a good idea to place your bookshelf speakers within a bookshelf since this can make the sound echo and distort. Ideally, you should place bookshelf speakers a foot or two away from any walls. Position them at ear level so they’ll be tonally balanced. If your speakers are optimally positioned and you’re still not getting as much bass as you’d like, you may need to add a subwoofer to the mix.

Best bookshelf speakers for small rooms

Edifier R1700BT Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers

These active speakers are easy to set up with various devices, including Bluetooth. You can individually adjust the bass, treble and volume on the speaker cabinet, and it comes with a remote control for changing the volume or switching inputs. The angled design makes them great desktop speakers.

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Audioengine A2+ Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

Another good pick for your computer desk, these compact powered speakers offer multiple connectivity options, including long-range wireless and Bluetooth 5.0 with a range of 100 feet. They feature 0.75-inch silk dome tweeters and 2.75-inch woofers. The hand-built cabinets are also available in red if you’re hoping for something besides basic black.

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Klipsch Reference R-51PM Powered Bookshelf Speakers

They’re large for bookshelf speakers, but these excellent active speakers feature rich, customizable sound, no matter what you’re listening to. They offer a wide variety of connection options, including Bluetooth. Plus, its remote lets you control the woofer as well as volume and input. Quality materials include aluminum for the 1-inch tweeter and a distinctive copper woofer.

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Polk Audio T15 100-Watt Home Theater Bookshelf Speakers

This budget-friendly pair of speakers delivers high-quality sound. They feature sharp-looking black wood veneer cabinets with removable grilles. The 0.75-inch silk dome tweeter and 5.25-inch Dynamic Balance Driver make these passive speakers equally adept for listening to music or watching your favorite blockbuster.

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Sony SSCS5 3-Way Three Driver Bookshelf Speaker System

These passive speakers, sold as a pair, feature a 0.75-inch super tweeter in addition to a 1-inch tweeter for accurate high-frequency sound. All wood enclosures provide a more resonant sound. They can be integrated with other speakers in this system for a full Dolby Atmos home theater experience.

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Dayton Audio MK402X4 Inch Two-Way Bookshelf Speakers

When it comes to sound quality for the price, it’s hard to beat these speakers. They are passive speakers, so you’ll need to supply an amplifier, but they produce good-quality, balanced sound even at higher volume, thanks to the huge 6.5-inch woofer and 5/8-inch polycarbonate dome tweeter. They can also be wall-mounted.

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Sonos One SL

A well-regarded pick for small rooms and wireless-only listening, this speaker also offers plenty of smart features, such as 360-degree sound and Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity. Its app controls bass, treble and volume, and it can connect all your favorite music streaming apps. Use it individually or pair it with another One SL for stereo sound.

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Klipsch The Fives Powered Speaker System

These high-end active speakers offer two retro aesthetic options: garage-band black and midcentury modern walnut. It also has all the connectivity options you could want, including Bluetooth, HDMI-ARC, USB and RCA. Their 1-inch titanium dome tweeter and 4.5-inch woofer deliver excellent sound quality. Controls are located on top of the speaker cabinet instead of on the back.

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Laura Duerr writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.