A bookshelf speaker is the perfect way to round out your home audio system for all of your entertainment needs. Bookshelf speakers are portable, compact units that can easily fit in small spaces such as on a bookshelf or in a bookshelf cubby. These units can deliver higher-quality audio for needs such as watching movies in surround sound or playing music throughout your home.
Finding the best set of bookshelf speakers under $500 can help you get the most out of your home entertainment with amplified, clearer, and more vibrant sound.
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How Bookshelf Speakers Work
Bookshelf speakers work by transmitting power and data into sound: from watts to decibels. Your speakers will need to be placed on a raised surface (not on the ground!) and connected to a source of data information such as your TV or your smartphone.
Then, you can play music, watch videos, or play games and turn up the volume to get the best home audio experience. Bookshelf speakers come in wireless and wired forms. Wired gives greater audio quality and greater control, while wireless is more portable and convenient. Both speakers transmit sound to give you a quality audio experience and help to immerse you in your entertainment world.
People are also often unaware that bookshelf speakers sound better when they are not on bookshelves. If you want to use a bookshelf to hold your speakers, you want your speakers to be approximately 12 inches away from the wall.
Make sure that your bookshelf is away from the wall or that the shelves have a greater depth that will allow you to place the speakers 12 inches away from the wall. Amazon also offers speaker stands that can be used to hold your bookshelf speakers. Your bookshelf speakers will work best if they are 12 inches away from the wall.
Benefits of Bookshelf Speakers
The greatest benefits of bookshelf speakers include portability, compact size, affordable pricing, and easy customization options.
Bookshelf speakers come in smaller sizes with most weights ranging from 10 to 50 lbs, and most dimensions (height x width) under 15 inches. This small compact size makes it easy to move your bookshelf speakers and continually enhance your home audio set-up.
Another benefit of bookshelf speakers is the affordability. Tower speakers can be pretty pricey. Choosing bookshelf speakers under $500 can give you excellent sound quality at a price that you can afford. With more affordable pricing, you can also afford to purchase additional pairs of bookshelf speakers to create a dynamic surround sound system. Creating a surround sound system with bookshelf speakers vs. tower speakers can save you thousands of dollars.
Bookshelf speakers also allow for easy customization options. They work well on their own, but can just as easily be repurposed into a home theater system later on. They also are easy to move around and place in different positions. If you are considering moving to a new home in the future or want the convenience of repositioning furniture and home decor, then bookshelf speakers are the best option for you.
Choosing a High-Quality Bookshelf Speaker Under $500
Build Quality & Design
Bookshelf speakers use different design components, but there are a few qualities you want to look for when purchasing.
These include anti-vibration protection with internal components, port location, and the materials used. Internal bracing that helps to protect against vibration will ultimately lead to a better quality sound.
Port location is a design consideration. Front ports allow the speaker to rest close to the back of the wall without sacrificing sound quality, while rear ports mean that your bookshelf speakers must stay at least a foot away from the back of the wall. Thicker materials produce better sound quality and avoid the resonance problem that shows up in thin materials.
The sensitivity of the bookshelf speaker speaks to its audio performance. Manufacturers give bookshelf speakers sensitivity ratings, and this can help you choose a high-quality speaker. The higher the sensitivity rating, the better the speaker is at doing its job of transmitting energy into sound.
Look for speakers with a sensitivity rating of more than 85 decibels. If you want the absolute best audio quality (this will come at a cost!), look for a speaker system above 90 decibels.
Connectivity & Flexibility
Bookshelf speakers come in both wireless and wired formats. Wired allows more control over the sound customizations and generally creates a better sound. However, wireless speakers are easily moved. Wireless speakers may come with additional connectivity options such as Bluetooth, but wired speakers can be paired with add-ons such as Bluetooth amplifiers to give you Bluetooth connectivity.
When using bookshelf speakers as part of a home entertainment audio system, we recommend placing a pair in the front on opposite sides of your entertainment unit and a pair in the back on opposite sides of the room.
Power Rating - Volume & Wattage
The best bookshelf speakers are at least 50 watts with anything above 100 watts considered "elite." The higher the watts rating, the more stable and high-quality the sound will be at louder levels. The best bookshelf speakers are between 4 and 8 ohms. Ohms measures impedance, which is how well your speaker flows with the current.
The lower the ohms, the better your speaker can draw power from your receiver. Remember, the lower the ohms, however, the more power you need from your amplifier. Make sure your amp can handle whatever bookshelf speaker you choose.
As mentioned above, impedance is how much the speaker resists the electrical current so the greater the impedance, the lower the sound quality. Look for bookshelf speakers between the ranges of 4 to 8 ohms. Bookshelf speakers also come in two-way and three-way configurations. The two-way configurations have a tweeter and a midrange/bass driver (also known as a woofer).
The three-way configurations have a tweeter, midrange, and bass driver. Two-way configurations are more than enough for most homeowners, but three-way configurations offer greater range and more precise audio quality. If you want the best of the best, then you want a three-way configuration, but two-way configurations also provide excellent sound quality and are much more affordable.
Price & Warranty
Most bookshelf speakers offer warranties that range from one to three years, depending on the component that needs to be replaced. All warranties, however, are only valid for speakers sold by authorized retailers. When purchasing from Amazon.com, be sure to buy from an authorized retailer, so your warranty remains intact. Price varies among the speakers but our six best bookshelf speakers under $500 all retail between $225 and $450.
6 Best Bookshelf Speakers Under $500 Reviewed
1. ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2
Best Bookshelf Speaker Under $500
7.69 x 14.76 x 10.55 inches
One to three years depending on the type of part and if purchased from an authorized seller
These ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2 bookshelf speakers are an excellent choice for homeowners who want to create a surround sound home entertainment system. These speakers are perfect for either front placement or rear placement and come in a sleek black ash vinyl finish. Sturdy enough with anti-vibration internal bracing in the cabinet, these ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2 bookshelf speakers deliver stellar sound quality under $500.
One of the benefits of these particular speakers is that they are the “2.0 version” of the ELAC Debut speakers, which were given several audio industry awards for their high-quality audio performance. The Absolute Sound awarded the original ELAC debut speakers with their 2019 Editor's Choice Award, and Stereophile gave them their 2019 Recommended Components Award for using quality build materials.
This updated and advanced 2.0 version takes everything audio connoisseurs loved about the original version and improves upon it. By choosing the ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2 bookshelf speakers, you know you are getting high-quality sound at an affordable price point and backed by industry professionals.
Another benefit of these particular speakers is the high build quality materials used to create the speakers. Some of the best bookshelf speakers for under 500 lack quality build materials, which means that they won’t last and they won’t deliver superior audio quality. Inside the ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2 bookshelf speakers you’ll find a newly developed woofer with a tight weave pattern.
This pattern uses a new fabric fiber to create stronger and tighter weaves. This produces better sound quality because it allows the speakers to have higher frequency responses and more accurate treble sound coloring. It also creates a tighter bass sound that offers a louder, more precise sound that can be significantly amplified.
We also love the internal bracing. This particular speaker set includes internal bracing components that help to minimize vibration. This means that your speakers will stay in place rather than shimming off the bookcase and crashing to the floor. It also means that the lack of vibration won’t interfere with your sound quality. Too much vibration can create interference and muddy sound.
There isn’t much to dislike about the ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2 bookshelf speakers. They do reach 16.31 lbs and depending on your bookshelf or speaker stands, that weight may be too much to support. They also do not come with Bluetooth capabilities, so if you rely heavily on Bluetooth for all of your entertainment connections, then you will be disappointed. Adding a Bluetooth amplifier, however, can solve this problem for you.
2. Pioneer Elite SP-EBS73
best under $500 for music
10 x 7 x 15 inches
Yes, two year limited warranty as long as purchased through an authorized retailer.
The Pioneer Elite SP-EBS73 Dolby is the ideal set of bookshelf speakers for music and movies. These bookshelf speakers are one of the most expensive sets on our list, but well worth the price for the superior sound quality that they deliver. The impedance at 4 ohms delivers a detailed sound quality.
The gold plated wires create stronger durability and ensure that the connection remains strong. This will help reduce the potential for interference issues. It also allows for complex crossovers. The slightly curved edges offer aesthetic appeal and help reduce diffraction (split sound waves), leading to better sound quality.
We also love the brand's connection to Dolby with its Dolby Atmos specifications. If you want to create the ultimate home theater experience, then these Pioneer Elite SP-EBS73 Dolby bookshelf speakers are the way to go. However, you need a minimum of five speakers around the room. It’s best to have one subwoofer, two height speakers, and two speakers at the front next to your TV.
To get the full home theater experience, you'll have to choose content that plays in the Atmos format, but this isn't difficult. Netflix, Vudu, 4k, and Blu-ray discs all offer Atmos. For the ultimate home theater nerd, these speakers allow you to have a full-bodied immersive theater experience at home.
The Pioneer Elite SP-EBS73 Dolby bookshelf speakers offer more than most homeowners need for budget speakers but are the perfect bookshelf speakers under 500 for cinephiles. If you need the complete home theater experience and are willing to shell out more money for five-speaker system set-up, then you need these speakers.
3. Audioengine P4N
best passive bookshelf speaker under $500
6.5 x 5.5 x 9 inches
3-year limited warranty on all parts when purchased from an authorized retailer
The Audioengine P4N bookshelf speaker set is one of the most stylish speaker sets on our list with a classy natural wood option. To save a bit of money, you can choose to go with black or white instead. These passive bookshelf speakers offer one of the best woofer options in the under $500 range. The proprietary Audioengine woofers are 4-inches in diameter and rest on top of a sturdy aluminum foundation.
These passive speakers are perfect for homeowners who want a full quality sound that will work with their existing amplifiers and receivers. Adding these passive speakers to your home entertainment system is an excellent way to expand your sound.
These Audioengine P4N bookshelf speakers work with tube amplifiers, stereo receivers, and integrated amps as long as there is a 4, 6, or 8-ohm speaker output impedance. The versatility makes these speakers our favorite passive speakers under $500.
The build quality on these passive speakers from Audioengine is fantastic. In addition to the woofers with aluminum foundations, these speakers are highly portable coming in at under 10 inches. This makes it easy to rearrange your home audio system and keeps everything fully customizable. Silk dome tweeters also ensure the highest build quality.
These Audioengine P4N bookshelf speakers are also front-ported, so you won't have to worry about audio trapping if the speaker’s back is pressed up against a wall or other object. If you want a high-quality passive speaker, we highly recommend the Audioengine P4N.
4. Audioengine A5 Plus Classic
best active bookshelf speaker under $500
7.75 x 7 x 10.75 inches
3-year limited warranty when purchased from an authorized retailer
If you loved the Audioengine P4N bookshelf speakers but wished that they were available in an active model, then you will love the Audioengine A5 Plus Classic bookshelf speaker set. Audioengine’s A5 Classic bookshelf speaker set is a two-way speaker with dual analog audio inputs.
Similar to the previous model, there are silk tweeters and five-inch Aramid fiber woofers on an aluminum foundation. These speakers come in black, white, and the more aesthetically pleasing natural bamboo.
As active speakers, these Audioengine A5 Plus Classic bookshelf speakers come with wireless capabilities. There is an RCA cable and input so that you can use the speakers with wired gear options, but the wireless capability means that you can seamlessly connect to devices. The speakers offer indicator lights for Bluetooth capability so it’s easy to tell when your device can be connected or not.
These speakers are highly portable and can be re-positioned around the room in new configurations. The speakers are also on the small side coming in at 10.75 inches high but are built with quality materials and heavier than similar units. One aspect that might steer you away from these speakers is their lack of grille. Without a protective speaker grille, it's easy for children or animals to damage the speakers by playing with them or poking at them.
As Pepe said, “Honestly, the best speakers I’ve ever owned. Bass is incredible for such small enclosures, not muddy at all in the lows and doesn’t get tinny in the highs, literally can’t think of anything I don’t like about them, if you’re thinking about buying these, do it you won’t regret it.”
The Audioengine warranty covers three years on limited parts as long as purchased from an authorized retailer. If you love streaming and want an active wireless bookshelf speaker set-up, then this is your best choice for under $500.
5. Edifier R2000DB
best powered bookshelf speaker under $500
9.5 x 11.25 x 7.5 inches
Two-year limited warranty as long as speakers were purchased from an authorized retailer.
The Edifier R2000DB bookshelf speakers are an affordable speaker option for the homeowner who wants excellent quality at an affordable price point. These active speakers also offer both wired and wireless connectivity options, which is perfect for those who want to hook up their smartphones and computers via Bluetooth. The style of these speakers is sleek and minimalist so that the design aesthetic will match modern home decor options.
An easy-to-use remote control is included so that you can quickly change audio settings at the touch of a button. For an affordable quality bookshelf speaker set, you even get customizable sound options. Edifier has a classic eq and dynamic eq that you can select in the sound settings to customize your sound.
Classic eq allows the imperfections of voices and instrumentals to shine for an authentic feel while dynamic eq offers a manipulated sound that is more modern and polishes off all the edges.
The 24mm silk dome tweeters help distinguish between frequencies. The power output is strong at 120 watts, and the 85 decibel sound level is in a reasonable range. If you want a pair of bookshelf speakers with the highest levels of sound differentiation, then this set won't quite work for you.
The two-way audio system falls short of three-way audio systems and some of the higher range models under 500. However, for an affordable quality bookshelf speaker set at the lower to mid-range under $500, you can't go wrong with these speakers.
6. Edifier S1000DB
best audiophile bookshelf speaker under $500
8 x 13.5 x 10.5 inches
Two-year limited warranty as long as speakers were purchased from an authorized retailer.
The Edifier S1000DB bookshelf speakers are one of the most attractive speaker sets on our list. These speakers come in beautiful wood finish and offer angled construction to help distribute sound. The visibility of the speaker’s woofers also contributes to a more attractive, sleek look.
When it comes to performance, the Edifier S1000DB bookshelf speakers have it all. For bookshelf speakers under $500, these are the highest quality you can find. Front-facing drivers mean that the sound moves outward, and the back of the speaker can be placed against the wall.
The 120 watts of power is robust and comes with 5.5-inch bass drivers, a "wow" factor for bookshelf speakers. These speakers are a favorite among gamers who want something affordable because of their ability to create low-frequency sound. This makes every explosion and pop heard when playing action or adventure games.
The level of connectivity makes these speakers a must buy with maximum versatility and connection points. Bluetooth aptX, optical, coaxial, PC, and Aux inputs are all included in the design. A wireless remote control lets you take control of your sound while gaming or watching movies.
An intelligent status indicator light makes it easy to tell which input is selected on each speaker. The colors light up as either red, green, or blue. These additional settings play into a new Edifier 2.0 Studio Series quality. You can tune the volume, treble, and bass to your exact audio preferences.
These speakers lack the definition in mid-low and low ranges that higher-end ($750—$2000) speakers produce. But if you want the best audiophile bookshelf speakers under $500, then you need the Edifier S1000DB bookshelf speakers for your home.
Matching Amps & Speakers
Impedance and wattage are both essential factors in matching amplifiers and speakers for better audio for your bookshelf. Impedance is the resistance that speakers have to the wave current. Wattage is the amount of power that the speakers can use, and the higher the watts, the louder and clearer the speakers will sound.
When you choose to buy your speakers and amplifiers instead of a home theater or home audio system package, you need to make sure that you match your amps and speakers together in a compatible way. All speakers will have impedance, and most will range from 4 to 8 ohms. When you purchase an amplifier to go with your speaker, you want to look at the number of ohms that it can support. Most amplifiers will work with most speakers.
When is it a problem? We see the most issues with speakers that have a lower impedance. For example, 4 ohms. This is because the lower impedance can strain the amplifier if it isn't prepared to handle it. If you have found an amplifier or receiver that you like, but it can only handle 6 to 8 ohms, and you have a 4-ohm speaker, then you need to keep shopping.
It will still work, but the chances of ruining your speakers through burnout is high. The audio quality will also be muffled. So always review the impedance level that the amplifier or receiver can handle and then buy accordingly for the speakers that you use. This video from UniqueSquared can give you additional information.
Active vs. Passive Bookshelf Speakers
Bookshelf speakers come in both active and passive models. Active speakers include their own amplifiers. These amplifiers are built into the unit so homeowners won’t need to purchase an amplifier. A passive speaker requires an external amplifier that it must be connected to work.
Passive speakers are easier to upgrade because you can replace amplifiers as you and are also easier to place because you only need to worry about a standard speaker wire connection. You will have fewer wires to deal with.
Active speakers make it easy to know that you are using the correct amp for your speakers. Most active speakers also have wireless capabilities and allow for wireless streaming. Both models can work well for home set-ups.
How to Use Bookshelf Speakers
Bookshelf speakers are relatively simple to use. If you have passive speakers, you will need to connect them with a cable to your device. If you have active speakers, you can connect devices via Bluetooth. Most bookshelf speakers are plugged directly into the wall, but others have batteries that will need to be replaced in time. Passive speakers also won't come with an amplifier and will need to be connected to an amplifier.
Many homeowners purchase bookshelf speakers as stand-alone speakers, but many also buy these speakers to add to or create a home theater system. Home theater systems offer better audio quality with surround sound options.
To set up a home theater system, you will need a home theater receiver, a TV or video projector, a subwoofer, and 4-6 bookshelf speakers. You will need to connect these components using wireless connections or wired connections. Then, you will need to place the speakers to create a dynamic surround sound.
The video display should have a subwoofer to the side, and then a front left speaker as well as a front right speaker. You should then place a surround left speaker and right speaker towards the back of the room.
To create an even more immersive experience, you can purchase an additional set of speakers and place them in between the front speakers and back speakers on either side of you. Make sure these speakers are placed on a bookshelf or speaker stand so that they are at ear height. This will give you the best home theater experience.
Care and Maintenance of Bookshelf Speakers
Taking care of your bookshelf speakers with proper maintenance can help extend the life of your speakers. Start with regular cleaning of your speakers. Did you know that when dust enters your speaker system, it can create interference and also lead to the degradation of your speaker unit?
If you want the best performance from your bookshelf speakers, then you need to routinely dust them off including the woofer. Wiping off the speakers won't always pick up the dust, so we also recommend vacuuming as well. Once a month is recommended.
We also frequently hear from customers who ruin their bookshelf speakers by allowing static electricity to touch the speakers. Keep all static away from your speakers. Static electricity can cause speaker burnout.
Another important maintenance tip for bookshelf speakers to focus on ventilation. Speakers need to stay cool and to have airflow to help them stay cool. If you do place your speakers on an actual bookshelf, make sure they are away from the wall and that there is additional space to the sides.
Placing speakers directly next to books or a home decor item can cause overheating and damage the speakers. This video from Dynaudio will guide you through the process of cleaning your speakers and keeping them in excellent shape.
Common Bookshelf Speaker Issues & Fixes
Running into problems with your bookshelf speakers? Need to update new firmware? We’ve got you covered. If you find that your bookshelf speakers are not working and you would like to reset them, look for the small pin-hole reset button.
Most bookshelf speakers have small pin-hole reset buttons that can be used to set your speakers to default settings. This button is typically next to one of the wired cords. You will need to take a paperclip or similarly small, thin item to press against the reset button.
If you need to install new firmware, most brands will provide the firmware online. You can download the firmware on to your computer and then use a connecting USB cord to connect your bookshelf speakers to your computer. At this point, the firmware will transfer into your speakers, and the update will begin. More detailed instructions are available in your manual.
Another potential issue that you may encounter is speakers not working because of a faulty wiring connection. If your speakers are not turning on or won’t play sound, first look to the wiring and cables. Do you have furniture or other home furnishings that are pressing down on the cable and cutting the connection? Do you see space between the cable input and the cable?
Sometimes cables can become unplugged or through repeated use, space develops, and the connection isn't stable enough. Make sure that your speakers have intact wires and cables that connect the speaker to the power outlet without any spaces.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where is the best place to buy bookshelf speakers?
The best place to buy bookshelf speakers is on Amazon.com. Amazon has numerous bookshelf speaker models under $500 to fit every budget. The best audio quality brands are also available from Edifier and Audioengine to ELAC and Pioneer Elite.
How do I minimize playback interference with bookshelf speakers?
To minimize playback interference with bookshelf speakers, there are a few rules that you want to follow. The first is reducing the number of radio transmitters near the bookshelf speakers. Keep all wireless products 15ft away from your speaker antennas.
The second is to make sure that each speaker is at least twenty inches apart from one another. The third is to check the battery output in each speaker. When batteries are low, speakers are often affected and can have trouble transmitting correctly, which can create the effect of speaker interference.
What does sensitivity mean in speakers?
The sensitivity in speakers refers to the speaker’s ability to convert watts, or electrical power, into decibels, or the volume of sound that you hear when you use your speakers. To track sensitivity in speakers, manufacturers will issue a sensitivity rating.
The higher the sensitivity rating, the louder the speakers will be able to play. A strong sensitivity rating is particularly vital for homeowners who want to use their speakers for surround sound.
What determines the sound quality of speakers?
When it comes to sound quality, there are two primary factors to consider: speaker sensitivity, total harmonic distortion (TDH). Speaker sensitivity is measured in decibels. Higher speaker sensitivity allows the speakers to deliver more sound with less power.
When searching for your speaker, you want to choose a speaker that is above 85 decibels (the higher the decibel, the higher the quality of the speaker). Total harmonic distortion (TDH) is also important for sound quality. TDH is an indicator of how well the speaker can translate values into sound. You want low values for the TDH and anything below 0.08% is considered good.
What kind of audio performance can I expect from bookshelf speakers under $500?
Everyone has their personal preference when it comes to sound and audio needs. However, bookshelf speakers under $500 meet most homeowner's audio needs. As long as you choose a bookshelf speaker set with a strong wattage, then you should be happy with the sound quality.
What are the best bookshelf speaker brands?
The best bookshelf speaker brands depend on your budget range. For the bookshelf speakers under $500 category, we prefer the brands Edifier, Audioengine, ELAC, Pioneer Elite, KEF, and Dynaudio.
How many bookshelf speakers do you need?
Most homeowners need two bookshelf speakers to create a great home entertainment sound for their home.
However, homeowners with either large spaces (think huge square footage rooms) or those who want surround sound should add an additional pair. Some homeowners prefer to create an intensive system with three pairs of bookshelf speakers — two at the front of the room, two at the back, and two at the sides.
Are bookshelf speakers good for surround sound?
Bookshelf speakers are great for surround sound but are often combined with a subwoofer speaker, which helps create a strong bass sound. Bookshelf speakers tend to be used at the front of the room, and at the back of the room to create the "surround sound" quality that people enjoy.
Bookshelf speakers can be used to create surround sound on their own, but without a subwoofer, the entertainment that requires strong bass sounds will fall flat. We recommend starting with bookshelf speakers and adding in a subwoofer when you can.
These six speakers are also excellent additions for homeowners, but what you choose depends on what you need. Your bookshelf speakers will add immersive sound to your home and enhance your dance parties, movie nights, and gaming days.
If you want the absolute best speakers money can buy for under $500, then you need the ELAC Debut 2.0. These speakers offer the most exceptional quality sound and customization options as well as build quality.
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