A bookshelf speaker is a compact loudspeaker, made to sit on a shelf, table or another elevated surface. They maximize sound in small-to-medium spaces, and they're perfect for enjoying music with clarity and precision. However, quality varies widely with bookshelf speakers, so if you’re looking for the best of the best under $1000, keep on reading.
How Bookshelf Speakers Work
All bookshelf speakers have the same underlying mechanism to create sound signals. Where they differ, is the extras and quality of parts which can improve the quality of sound.
Benefits of Bookshelf Speakers
Choosing Quality Bookshelf Speakers Under $1000
Build Quality & Design
In the past, bookshelf speakers have only been passive. What's that? It means that they must be powered with an external amp. You'll usually have a CD player, music streamer, or computer, smartphone, etc. The preamplifier section switches between these previously mentioned sources and also controls the volume.
If you’re using a record player as your source, you’ll also need a phono stage to boost the output from the cartridge to line level to equalize the signal before moving it to the preamp circuit. To move the line-level signal from the preamp while also making it strong enough to drive your speakers, you’ll need a power amp. The output passes through a crossover network which does not require a power source to operate, making it passive.
Active systems are identical up until after the preamp stage. The signal goes from the preamp into a dynamic crossover network, working at line level instead of at speaker level. This allows the components to be optimized for precision instead of handling power. This results in a filter network which is much more accurate in operation, delivering a clear and optimized sound.
Frequency response is measured in Hertz (Hz) and indicates the range of frequencies it can produce. The first number tells you how low the rates it can produce goes, while the second tells you how high it can go. The wider the response, the more complete or "full" the sound produced will be.
Sensitivity tells you how loud your speakers can go at a given volume. It's measured in decibels and often referred to as "efficiency." This is the easiest way of figuring out the volume the model you're looking at can deliver.
Connectivity & Flexibility
While wired speakers have traditionally been seen as more powerful or reliable, that has changed with many of the best bookshelf speakers under $1000.
Logistics in wiring will also no longer be an issue, making the setup process much easier. If you can connect or pair them to any or multiple devices, that’s even better. Sometimes you’ll want to connect your phone, while other times you may want to connect to your laptop, and so on.
If you want the best sound, make sure to place your speakers at ear-level and try to create a triangle between you and the two speakers with each at an equal distance from each ear.
You’ll notice that some speakers are “2-way” and some are “3-way”. These are referring to the number of speakers found in the monitor. 2-way setups feature one speaker that handles high frequencies, and another that handles mid and low frequencies. 3-way speakers feature an extra speaker for mid frequencies on their own.
Speaker impedance is a bit complicated. It's the resistance a speaker gives to the current and voltage applied to it. Where it gets tricky is that it's not a set thing and changes depending on the frequency of the signal fed into it.
As music is comprised of a wide range of frequencies, you get "nominal" impedance which is the lowest amount the speaker goes in resistance to the load applied at any given frequency within its working range. 8 ohms is standard, and 4 ohms is quite good but often much pricier.
Price & Warranty
While there is an excellent selection of bookshelf speakers all across the price spectrum, in this market, you get what you pay for. A warranty is a manufacturer's way of saying how long they think your speaker should last you. We recommend at the bare minimum that you pick a model with a 1-year warranty.
5 Best Bookshelf Speakers Under $1000 Reviewed
1. Dynaudio Xeo 2
Best Bookshelf Speaker Under $1000
Sound Level (Loudest Volume)
65 watts x 2
6.8 x 10 x 6.1 inches
Yes, 5 Years with Registration
”We’ve given the Xeo 2s some of our most advanced digital processing technology; these speakers aren’t just well connected, they’re smart too,” says Dynaudio.
That means you can place them on stands, set them on your desk, or place them on some side tables for an immersive aural experience in your living room. You can even put them on their included wall brackets for a seamless appearance that looks sleek anywhere.
Dynaudio isn’t exactly the most well-known brand out there, but this pair is still one of the best high-end Bluetooth speakers out there currently.
With their 28mm tweeter and 14cm mid/bass driver placed in a solid aluminum baffle and sturdy composite housing, unwanted interference is a thing of the past. Coming in either White or All-Black, they blend in well with just about any kind of décor. As they stand 255mm tall and have a small footprint, they're perfect for keeping on a bookshelf or desk without taking up valuable room.
If you're searching for a minimal design, these are easily the best book speakers for under $1000.
The speakers operate as one as the master and one as the slave, but both are active, so you don't need to connect them with a wire. However, you will require a power socket for each. On the back of the master, you'll find an RCA stereo phono line input, 3.5mm stereo line input, S/PDIF optical input and a USB so you can always update your firmware.
So, how’s the sound? Ideal for modern-day hi-fi and intimate settings, though don’t plan on it putting out a lot of deep bass.
2. Definitive Technology D11
Best Audiophile Bookshelf Speaker Under $1000
Sound Level (Loudest Volume)
12.5 x 7.3 x 13 inches
Yes, 5 years
I know how difficult it can be to be an audiophile; we didn't choose to have exceptional hearing that loves the supreme-quality sound, but we do! The Definitive Technology D11 Demand Series Bookshelf Speakers will fit exactly what you're looking for and more. Offering rich, natural sound that can fill all sizes of rooms, you'll hear music like never before.
“Featuring technology advancements to both our aluminum dome tweeter and midrange/woofer sections, each speaker delivers an unrivaled sweet spot, smoother high-frequency reproduction, and three-dimensional imaging for the most technically-advanced, premium bookshelf listening experience,” says Definitive Technology.
I'd have to agree. Their 1" annealed aluminum tweeters provide clear, natural highs complete with a precise center image.
You'll also find the 6x10" oval Passive Bass Radiators which produce a deep bass response, while simultaneously ensuring it's clear and precise. Each part of the spectrum has its own space while working together to create beautiful results. In fact, if I hadn't known any better, I'd swear that these were a pair of floor-standing models. With it capable of producing up to 90dB, you should have no issue filling even larger rooms with this warm and clear sound.
3. SVS Ultra
Best Sounding Bookshelf Speaker Under $1000
Sound Level (Loudest Volume)
10.9 x 8.5 x 15 inches
Yes, 5 years
SVS is one of the most reputable companies out there, known for consistently producing high-quality, powerful speakers. However, their Ultra Bookshelf Speaker is something special, packing a ton of force and quality sound in a compact unit. The 14.9 x 8.5 x 10-inch speaker weighs a whopping 19 pounds, which attests to the caliber of design you're getting. They'd be best placed on metal floor stands, but a bookshelf cabinet would work well, too.
When they first arrive, you can immediately see they look very classy, coming in a black wooden box that looks sleek and sophisticated.
First off, we have a premium 6.5” mid-bass driver and a 1” aluminum tweeter.
"Elevating high-frequency performance, the Ultra Bookshelf speaker's aluminum dome tweeter is pristinely neutral and revealing. Light, efficient, rigid and impervious to distortion, even at high sound pressure levels, the tweeter's airy presentation of vocals and unveiled highs compare with the best tower and bookshelf speakers in the world," state SVS.
The driver comes with a glass fiber cone which is entirely receptive to vibrations, allowing the reproduction to be incredibly precise on both low and high frequencies.
Going all the way down to 45Hz, expect pretty deep bass, but not to the point of what subs would give you. If you’re not looking for wall-shaking bass, then these are perfect without a sub.
4. ELAC Uni-fi UB5
Best Rated Bookshelf Speaker Under $1000
Sound Level (Loudest Volume)
12.75 x 7.87 x 10.75 inches
Yes, 5 years
While the ELAC Uni-fi UB5 Slim Bookshelf Speaker is one of the best that money can buy, it’s surprisingly inexpensive. If you’re looking for incredible pair while keeping your wallet lined, I can’t recommend these enough.
“Space constraints should never compromise great sound, and the Uni-Fi BS U5 Slim is the perfect solution when floor space is at a premium, but audiophile sound and refined good looks are not negotiable,” states ELAC.
Even if you do have ample space, I found myself going back repeatedly to the Uni-fi UB5 for its sound and ease of use.
As you may be able to deduce from the name, these are a bit narrower than the regular Uni-fi UB5, making them perfect if you're limited on space. Their design through and through is incredibly fashionable and pleasing to the eye with the all-white color scheme.
Despite being slimmer than their big brother, they're made to have the same powerful sound. The three-way models feature a 13cm aluminum bass driver, which has two drivers in one. The woofer's large magnet and vented pole piece boost the handling power, which makes for incredibly controlled and detailed. The 2.5cm cloth dome tweeter is located concentrically within a 10cm aluminum midrange to create an even dispersion of sound and a “unified source” to give an accurate sound every time. Just keep in mind that these don't quite have the power of the others on this guide. Connecting them to a more powerful amp resulted in filling up larger rooms with no issue, sounding like the speakers that cost twice as much as these do.
The only real complaint I had was that the finish on the model was not resilient at all, which comes in the form of a vinyl wrap.
5. Audioengine HD6
Best Powered Bookshelf Speaker Under $1000
Sound Level (Loudest Volume)
7.3 x 9.9 x 11.9 inches
Yes, 3 years
The HD6 150W Wireless Powered Bookshelf Speakers from Audioengine are powerful in construction and mind-blowing in sound. Expect robust, tight bass balanced perfectly with the gentle high end and well-rendered midrange.
Everything about the HD6s scream "high-end" from the packaging to the speakers themselves. They even arrived in microfiber bags; even the accessories each had their own! Instead of the high-gloss you'll find on most today, these look like they're made of real wood. You can get them in either Cherry, Satin Black or Walnut.
"HD6 Wireless Speakers are not just another great-sounding Audioengine speaker but a complete, full-sized Bluetooth music system that works with all your apps, music and devices," informs Audioengine.
If you’re that person that can’t seem to keep away from your various gadgets, this model is perfect. You can connect and switch between them seamlessly, listening to the TV one minute, and Spotify the next. With no receiver nor wires needed, setup and use is incredibly simple and makes for a neat and clean look.
Made of Kevlar, the 5.5” woofer is nice and deep with the 1” silk dome tweeter producing highs without distortion. The bass sounded notably more profound than the 50Hz the manufacturer indicates. I did notice that when it came to the mid-range, they were also accurate but not overly-detailed. Voices sound clear and "real," making these ideal for music, videos, TV, etc.
Matching Amps & Speakers
You’ll need to take into consideration the wattage you need, depending on the power you want and the size of the room you’ll be working with. Active pairs are already internally matched as far as wattage goes, but passive speakers are another story.
Take a look at the suggested amp wattage of your speaker, then make sure to find an amplifier that puts out wattage within that range. While it does happen quite often, you need to avoid mismatching your speakers to an amp that's too powerful for them.
Using your speakers and amp together like this can result in blown drivers. You can also get an amp that's too weak for your speakers, which involves the amp clipping and struggling to give them the wattage they need to work correctly. If you keep pushing them, they're eventually going to pop or "boom."
Impedance is also crucial. Ensure your amp or A/V receiver comes with either equal of lower impedance than what your speaker has. For example, if you have an amp rated at 100 watts at 4 ohms when the amp is operating at 8 ohms, it can only provide half the wattage of its 4-ohm capabilities, which would be 50 watts.
Active vs. Passive Bookshelf Speakers
Traditionally, bookshelf speakers have been passive, meaning they require an external amp to operate, and are connected to the amp with speaker wire. They're often seen in pro audio for PA systems and monitors, though are commonly used in consumer audio as well. An active speaker has its own amp built into the cabinet.
If you're mainly concerned with ease of placement or fewer wires, then you may prefer passive speakers that require a speaker wire connection. Active speakers need to be plugged into AC power so they'll have to be close enough to a wall outlet unless you feel like hooking up unsightly extension cords.
With passive speakers, if you want more power, you can go out and purchase a new amp and hook it up to them. However, with an active speaker, this is much more difficult and sometimes impossible. However, you probably won’t need to upgrade the amp in this case at all, because the ones that the speakers come with should be ideal for them anyway.
Passive speakers are almost always more lightweight than active ones, due to the lack of built-in amplifiers. This makes them much easier to mount on the wall in your home.
How to Use Bookshelf Speakers
If you're planning on connecting them to a device with Bluetooth, make sure they're within the allotted range of your speakers. Switch to Bluetooth mode (often an indicated "Bluetooth" or "BT" button on the remote).
After this, the speakers will start searching for a previously connected Bluetooth device and connect. If they don't, they'll enter pairing mode, and the blue LED will start flashing. Then you can go to your device into the Bluetooth manager and select the speakers.
To listen to your speakers, simply press the “Power” button on your speakers. Typically, it will have a red standby indicator that will turn off while the source indicator light turns on. Turn the audio source device connected to your speakers on and start playback.
Care and Maintenance of Bookshelf Speakers
Maintaining your speakers properly is crucial if you want to keep them operating 100% while extending the life of the build. Always make sure they’re free of dust. If they do happen to gather dust, blow off any loose dust with a can of air, wiping it away with a soft brush if that’s not available. To get rid of fingerprints or other oils, gently wipe with a slightly damp microfiber cloth. Use either water or a mild ammonia-free cleaner.
Here’s a helpful but concise video if you’re more of a visual learner:
Common Bookshelf Speaker Issues & Fixes
One of the most common issues is a scratchy sound coming from the speaker. You could also have a blown driver, but if the tweeter is still producing sound, this isn't likely the problem. Woofers can blow, though, and create a scratchy sound. Test by pressing gently on the center of the woofer. If it springs back, then this won't be the case. If it resists or makes a scraping noise, though, it's probably blown.
To improve the sound quality, first, make sure they're appropriately placed. Every room will affect how specific frequencies are amplified or attenuated. If you can, avoid having the ideal listening spot be dead center within walls. If they’re resting on the floor, try getting some quality stands or raising them up around five feet from the ground. Just make sure that they’re at least a foot from the wall to eliminate unwanted noise.
Finally, try checking and adjusting the sound functions and features your speakers come with. The speaker size determines the frequency range delivered by the receiver. The bass output settings can determine whether the lows will be reproduced by the left or right speakers or both. Also, try adjusting the frequencies with the stereo equalizer controls.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where is the best place to buy bookshelf speakers?
Hands-down, Amazon.com is the best place to purchase your new bookshelf speakers. Not only do they have the best prices, but they also have incredible customer service and make sure your product gets to you quickly and safely.
What does sensitivity mean in speakers?
It tells you how loud speakers can go at a particular volume. If you want to know the max volume your speakers can provide, then this is the number (measured in decibels) to look for.
What determines the sound quality of speakers?
Various factors go into sound quality. First, take a look at the frequency response, which is the range of frequencies your speaker can produce. You'll want them to provide a full range of frequencies so the wider the range, the fuller it will be (generally).
The range of human hearing is between 20 Hz (deep bass) and 20 kHz (extremely high frequencies). Sensitivity isn't related to the sound itself but does have to do with how efficient your speaker is. Mid-80s numbers are average, while anything over 90 dB is excellent.
Are expensive speakers worth it?
Yes, especially when it comes to audio, you really do get what you pay for. While in general, speakers aren’t hard to make, getting precise and pleasing sound reproduction and power is.
More pricey speakers are listed at higher prices because they need to account for the greater amount of time applied towards creating these products along with the research necessary to come up with the cutting-edge technology the speakers come with.
What kind of audio performance can I expect from bookshelf speakers under $1000?
You should absolutely expect quality, from the build design, finishes, and hardware. In addition, you should expect larger woofers, along with more accurate tweeters with precision design. Depending on the manufacturer, you'll have some of their proprietary additions like custom-voiced transducers or cones. As far as power goes, you will easily be able to saturate a medium-to-large room.
What are the best brands of bookshelf speakers?
Dynaudio may not be a huge name, but they’re easily one of the most reputable brands out there that always produce quality. Aside from that, Audioengine creates incredibly beautiful designs with precision and high-quality components. ELAC and SVS are honorable mentions.
Are there any disadvantages of owning a bookshelf speaker?
The only real disadvantage to a bookshelf speaker is the limited volume. They can’t typically reach the volume levels floor-standing models can. They’re not party speakers and not made for floor-rumbling bass reproduction.
Are bookshelf speakers as good as tower speakers?
In many senses, yes. The only real difference is in volume capabilities, which I just covered briefly. Tower speakers may be able to reproduce bass deeper and more powerfully, but they do take up more room and are notably more expensive.
Now that you’re practically a pro when it comes to the best bookshelf speakers under $1000, which one will you be using in your home?
If you’re still undecided, allow me to reiterate how incredible the Dynaudio Xeo 2 Bookshelf Speakers are. The sound reproduction is crisp and clear amongst all the spectrums and is built to last. What’s most important, though, is that you select the perfect set of speakers for you. I hope that this article has helped you do exactly that.
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