5 Best Bookshelf Speakers Under 500 Dollars in 2020

If you’re on the hunt for a new pair of speakers to liven up your listening experience, you might find yourself gravitating towards big speakers. However, in most cases, you won’t have enough space to fit those speakers in. While this might be a bummer, it’s not necessarily the end of the road as there are plenty of smaller speakers that can provide you with excellent sound quality. We’re talking about bookshelf speakers. As you might have guessed from the name, these are speakers that can fit in a bookshelf, table, desk as well as a stand.

In order to get the most out of your speakers, you might want to check the manufacturer’s recommendations. In most cases, you’ll find yourself investing in speaker stands or other accessories that will help optimize the speakers’ performance. With that said you shouldn’t worry too much about the costs of those accessories. In fact, in this article, we’ll tell you about five of the best bookshelf speakers under 500 dollars. You don’t have to invest an arm and a leg in order to be able to enjoy your music the way it’s meant to be enjoyed.

Additionally, we’ll also be providing a buyer’s guide so you can find the best bookshelf speakers under 500 dollars if you want to do a bit more research on your own after this article, though you’ll find everything you need to know here and we made sure to make it comprehensive.

Top 5 Bookshelf Speakers Under 500 Dollars – Our Picks

#1 – Q Acoustics 3020i Bookshelf Speaker

We start off strong with Q Acoustics’ 3020i bookshelf speaker. This is easily among the best bookshelf speakers under 500 bucks if not the best one. The manufacturer’s goal with this speaker was to strike the perfect balance between audio hardware, computer technology, and visual design and it delivers in all of these departments.

The 3020i features a five-inch bass and midrange driver made out of coated paper and low-hysteresis rubber surround that minimizes any movement that might detract from the sound quality. It also features a 0.9-inch suspended tweeter that helps in avoiding distortion caused by the woofer’s vibration. Furthermore, the speakers are elegantly designed. They have a glossy black and white frame with four miniature legs which make them look beautiful on any shelf or desk you put them on.

When it comes to the size of the speakers, they’re 11.1x67x10.9 inches and 21.16 pounds. This means that you’ll need a spacious shelf or desk for these speakers. They’re also not very portable so you won’t be able to move them around too often. Another caveat we have with the speakers is the increase to the cabinet size, it’s been made 25% bigger but that also means that the bass is a little bit too deep for our liking.

Overall, the 3020i are among the best bookshelf speakers under 500 dollars that you can get your hands on. If you have spacious shelves or a wide desk, then you can’t go wrong with these exquisite speakers.

Pros
  • Elegantly designed
  • Well-engineered
  • Large drivers
  • Streamlined
Cons
  • Bass is too deep

#2 – ELAC Uni-fi UB5 Bookshelf Speaker

If you’re a rigorous audiophile on a budget, then the ELAC Uni-fi UB5 are some of the best bookshelf speakers under 500 dollars. There are two drivers overlapping on top of each other. These speakers also have a 5 ¼-inch woofer that’s made out of aluminum and a four-inch midrange cone inside it along with a one-inch soft dome tweeter. The end result is a pair of well-engineered speakers that offer an excellent balance between bass, midrange, and treble frequencies.

These speakers are truly unique in the quality they offer. However, this comes at the price of being larger and heavier than most other bookshelf speakers. They are 10.8 x 7.9 x 12.8 inches and 35.9 pounds heavy. If you have enough space for them, then these might be the best bookshelf speakers under 500 dollars that you find on the market.

Pros
  • Excellent balance of bass, midrange, and treble frequencies
Cons
  • The large size and heavy weight limits the speakers’ versatility

#3 – EDIFIER S1000DB

Looking for the best bookshelf speakers under 500 dollars but also want something elegant? Look no further than the EDIFIER S1000DB. It’s hard to find speakers that sound as good as they look, but this is definitely the exception to the rule. These speakers are capable of delivering amazing sound quality while looking stylish.

Another thing worth mentioning is the fact that each speaker is equipped with proprietary DSP technology which allows clean and detailed sound at 120 RMS. There is aptX Bluetooth, which further improves the sound quality and minimizes latency issues.

Pros
  • Elegant design
  • Solid build and excellent sound quality
Cons
  • A bit expensive compared to other speakers

#4 – KLIPSCH R-41M

You might be already familiar with Klipsch’s high-quality monitor speakers. It’s no surprise to hear that they also have some of the best bookshelf speakers under 500 dollars. Not only do they provide amazing sound quality, but they also look great wherever you put them.

Having one 4-inch spun-copper Injection Molded Graphite woofer, a one-inch aluminum Linear Travel Suspension tweeter, as well as a 90×90 square Tractrix Horn, this speaker, is capable of reaching 68Hz-21kHz frequency range. Even though they can be loud, they never feel overwhelming or deafening. You’ll be able to hear every minute detail and enjoy your music in a whole new way.

Pros
  • Great for home theaters
  • High-quality sound
  • Well-engineered
  • Elegant design
  • Great bass presence
Cons
  • Not suited for large rooms
  • They need power to reach max volume
  • Midrange frequencies are not the best

#5 – Pioneer SP-BS22-LR Speakers

These speakers have been designed to deliver sound quality that would usually cost you thousands of dollars. Saying that these are the best bookshelf speakers under 500 bucks does not do them enough justice. These beauties will blow your socks off with the quality they’re capable of delivering.

These speakers are equipped with a four-inch woofer with a structured surface and vented pole piece. When you combine this with a one-inch soft dome tweeter, you get a pair of speakers capable of delivering a satisfying bass response as well as a great balance of highs and lows.

What we noticed when using these speakers is how well balanced the sound was no matter what we were listening to. Whether we were watching a movie, listening to music, or any record, the listening experience felt really good and the sound was optimized.

With that said these are big speakers. They’re meant to be used for home theaters. They’re 8.4 x 7.1 x 12.6 inches. However, they’re quite light, weighing in at only 9.13 pounds, which means that you can move them around without too much hassle.

If you’re looking for something to put in a large room, then these are the best bookshelf speakers under 500 dollars. Their quality is unrivaled on the market. However, we don’t recommend using them in small rooms as they will stick out like a sore thumb in small areas.

It’s also worth noting that these speakers are part of a 5.1 surround sound home theater set. If you want to complete the set, you’ll need to get the center channel speaker for $100 and the subwoofer for $160 but they are not mandatory.

Pros
  • Impressive sound quality
  • Lightweight
Cons
  • Not meant for small rooms

Choosing the Best Bookshelf Speakers Under 500 Dollars – Buying Guide

Best Bookshelf Speakers Under 500 Dollars BG

Why You Need the Best Bookshelf Speakers Under 500 Dollars

With the rise of smart speakers such as Amazon’s Echo and Google Home’s smart speakers, traditional speakers have fallen from grace. Now you might be asking yourself: why should I be investing in the best bookshelf speakers under 500 dollars if they won’t be relevant anymore? This is a valid question. However, comparing smart speakers to stereo bookshelf speakers is like comparing apple to oranges, it isn’t really fair. Each speaker is designed for a certain listening experience, and in the case of listening to anything mixed in stereo, traditional speakers are the absolute go-to in that department.

Even though smart speakers gained more ground and popularity recently, they are still not up to a level where they have beaten the traditional speakers. Almost all of the speakers we listed in our list of the best bookshelf speakers under 500 have smart speakers beat in terms of sound quality. If you want to prioritize convenience above all, then you might find yourself gravitating towards smart speakers. However, if you’re an avid audiophile, then you’d be better off investing in the best bookshelf speakers under 500 for now.

Bookshelf Speakers Vs. Powered Monitors

Before we delve into more detail, we have to establish the differences between bookshelf speakers and powered monitors for the uninitiated. Even though you can’t tell the difference at first glance, there are distinct differences that you need to keep in mind.

The biggest difference between bookshelf speakers and powered monitors is that the latter has built-in amplification in the speaker while the former requires you to use a separate AVR. There is no clear better option here. It’s up to you to choose which one is better. Some people prefer to use their existing AVRs while others just want a full all-in-one package. The main advantage of having bookshelf speakers is that you can upgrade the AVR separately down the line without having to buy new speakers. With that said powered monitors allow the manufacturer to deliver the optimal experience that they want so you don’t have to do a lot of tinkering. It will eventually come down to personal preference.

Active Vs. Passive Bookshelf Speakers

Passive speakers require amplification while active speakers have built-in amplification. There are plenty of great options on both sides and there is no clear winner. With that said, there are advantages and disadvantages to each one. For instance, passive speakers are more flexible, allowing for multiple combinations since you’re the one who decides which amplification goes with the speakers. With that said, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you might end up making the speakers worse than what they’re supposed to sound like.

It’s also worth mentioning that active speakers usually cost less since you have one less component to worry about. With that said it’s a one and done type of deal where you’ll have to work with what you’re given without being able to change anything about it. This is why some people prefer to have the ability to change out the amplification every now and then if it breaks or becomes obsolete. This is where passive speakers become an attractive option.

All in all, you’ll want to pick the type of speakers that suits your preferences more. No matter the type you choose to go with, you’ll be spoiled for choice.

Analog or Wireless

Back in the day, this wasn’t a hard choice to make. If you wanted quality, you went with analog. Wireless speakers back then were still lagging in terms of quality which nullifies all of the advantages it had over analog. With that said things have changed now thanks to speakers such as the KEF LS50 Wireless and Devialet Phantoms. These speakers are capable of delivering excellent sound quality while also having the advantages that come with wireless speakers.

If you want to have the option of streaming audio from your computer, laptop, or tablet, then you’ll find plenty of models that feature built-in wi-fi, Bluetooth, or both. This makes them convenient and versatile. All you need to have is the power source to which the speaker needs to be connected and you should good to go.

Bookshelf Speakers as Part of a Home Theater System

If you’ve read through the list of the best bookshelf speakers under $500 earlier in the article, then you have probably noticed that some of the speakers we mentioned were also part of a home theater system. As a matter of fact, there are a lot of home theater systems that include bookshelf speakers. This means that if you have already invested in the best bookshelf speakers under 500 dollars, you might be able to use them to build a home theater system.

There are plenty of great options available on the market for all kinds of room sizes beyond what we mentioned on our list. However, we recommend you make sure that the bookshelf speakers you’re getting can be part of a big home theater package so you can save up some money in the long term if you decide to switch to a home theater system.

Features to Look for When Looking for the Best Bookshelf Speakers Under 500 Dollars

If you don’t have any prior experience with bookshelf speakers jargon, then you might find yourself at a loss when trying to find the best bookshelf speakers under 500 dollars. With that said, this section is meant to remedy that confusion and explain the main features you’ll need to consider when looking for the best bookshelf speakers under 500 dollars.

  • Hertz: Simply put, the lower the number, the deeper the bass is
  • Watts: This is an indicator of the power output. A higher number usually indicates greater output. You need to take this into account especially when trying to match your bookshelf speakers to the appropriate amplifier.
  • Drivers: Your run-of-the-mill bookshelf speakers usually include 2 tweeters that produce high-frequency sounds and two woofers which produce low-frequency sounds, aka bass. Some high-end bookshelf speakers might include a third mid-range driver for better full-range sound.
  • Size: Even though bookshelf speakers are supposed to be small. The sizes can vary from pair to pair and you’ll have to find ones that can fit in your shelf, desk, or table without sticking out like a sore thumb. You’ll also probably want to get something that’s not too much of a hassle to move around.
  • Sensitivity: Measured in decibels (dB), sensitivity is an indicator of how loud a pair of speakers will be at a given volume.

Bookshelf Speakers Accessories

When you’re looking for the bookshelf speakers, you also need to take into consideration where you’ll put them. You might have a shelf or a desk already cleared up for them. However, there is also the possibility to invest in speaker stands or wall mounts if you simply don’t have enough space on your shelves or table. Another good thing about having speaker stands is that you’ll have more freedom on where you place your speakers which can help improve the listening experience if you know where to place your speakers.

Picking the Best Bookshelf Speakers Under 500 Bucks – FAQ

HOW SHOULD I POSITION MY BOOKSHELF SPEAKERS?

Knowing how to place your speakers is crucial if you want to get the most out of them. Whether you have them placed on a shelf, table, speaker stands, or whatever or accessory, there’s a general rule you need to follow. It is recommended to put bookshelf speakers at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock positions while having them angled to your preferred listening position. Tweeters should be placed at the ear-level.

CAN I INTEGRATE MY BOOKSHELF SPEAKERS WITH SURROUND SOUND?

Yes, you can. As a matter of fact, these two setups paired together can deliver great performance. With that said, if you want to integrate your bookshelf speakers into a multi-speaker 5.1 or 7.1 setup, you’ll need to have a surround A/V receiver with enough power to handle your speakers. However, you need to keep in mind that 5.1 setups require three speakers along with a subwoofer while most bookshelf speakers are only sold in pairs. If that doesn’t sound like a big deal to you, then this something that you can definitely integrate your bookshelf speakers with 5.1 surround sound for surprisingly good results.

CAN I TURN MY BOOKSHELF SPEAKERS INTO A 2.1 SYSTEM?

The great thing about bookshelf speakers is that they’re compact and portable compared to most other speakers. With that said, this comes at the price of having a flat response. While they still manage to deliver great sound quality, they have their own limitations. This becomes especially apparent when you try to assess how they deliver on bass. Since they have internal woofers that aren’t that big, they are only capable of managing certain bass frequencies.

With that said this isn’t that big of an issue since you can add a subwoofer and turn your bookshelf speaker into a 2.1 system. By doing this, you’ll be able to get the best of both worlds. Things will start to sound deep and heavy, yet detailed and crisp.

If this sounds like something you want to try out for yourself, here’s what you need to do in order to achieve it. First of all, subwoofers don’t require the use of a separate amp. What this means is that integrating a subwoofer into your system is pretty simple if you’re using a receiver. All you need to do is to connect the subwoofer to the appropriate audio output on the receiver. It should be clearly labeled in most of the current models so you won’t have any issues finding it. If you’re not using a receiver, you just need to plug your source into the subwoofer and then feed the outputs from the latter into your amplifier’s inputs. 

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