Bookshelf speakers are a great way to save space and updates in audio tech over the last ten years means you no longer have to trade off sound quality for size. We’ve been busy collecting reviews of these tiny titans and put together the definitive list of the best affordable bookshelf speakers.
1. KEF Q100
The Positives: For all round vocals, bass, soundstage, detail, response and clarity the KEF Q100s comes out on top.If you have £300 to spare then you simply can’t get better sound quality for the price.
The Negatives: We feel like we’re slightly abandoning our duty here, but there are no real negatives of note.
Verdict: They used to be priced at around £400, which would have made our pick of the best speakers a hard choice indeed. However, as they have travelled down in price our decision has become easy and we have no hesitation in recommending these as our winner.
2. Q Acoustics 3020
The Positives: It was a close run contest for our second spot, but these 3020 speakers get the silver medal. They are an update to the 2020i model (which itself has made the list) with a new ‘2 in 1’ Concentric Ring Dome tweeter and a 125mm aramid fibre/paper bass cone (previously it was paper/mica). The high-end is incredibly accurate and you will definitely feel the bass, but the new set up has what Q Acoustics calls a more ‘natural tone’ and we have to agree.
The rounded edges also give this model a more natural look. It comes in Matt Graphite and American Walnut which are very pleasing to the eye.
The Negatives: You have to pay considerably more for the white and black options.
Verdict: A very welcome update from Q Acoustics.
3. ELAC Debut B6 Bookshelf Speakers
The Positives: These speakers would be excellent value at double the price.
ELAC, while they may not be a household name, are a solid and respected German company. They have an expert designer in Andrew Jones, who has previously worked for pedigree brands such as KEF and Infinity and also designed £60,000 professional speakers.
The Debut B6s will deliver pitch perfect sound whether you are listening to music or connecting them up to your television. Their sweet spot though is their bass production – we’ve simply never quite heard anything like it in a speaker of this price.
The Negatives: They only come in one design, so if you are not a fan of their look there’s little you can do. Also, they are a bit on the large side (35.5 by 21.6 by 25.4 cm), so if you are after bookshelf speakers to save space then you might be slightly disappointed.
Verdict: An excellent all round set of speakers.
4. Q Acoustics 2010i
The Positives: Q Acoustics is a spin-off from Armour Home Electronics. They specialise in budget speakers and are very good at what they do. For a hundred quid you are not going to find better build quality and their sound quality in the highs and midrange belies their diminutive stature. They are also very revealing with Tech Radar noting that they could hear a pianist moving during their review.
The Negatives: The bass. When it comes down to it, such small speakers (8 x 20.3 x 15 cm) are never going to be able to match bigger rivals in this department.
Verdict: Simply the best bang for your buck.
5. Wharfedale Diamond 220s
The Positives: The Diamond range has real heritage, starting in 1981 and making incremental improvements in each generation. The result is that the 220s have clear and responsive highs and midrange with a deep and energetic bass. They are a gold star pick whether you are integrating them into your music setup or connecting them to your TV.
The Negatives: The looks are not quite to our taste – and comments on various websites suggest we’re not alone in that opinion. If we were being hyper critical we would say the sound is a bit more boxed and narrow than rivals, so if you’re after a really open soundstage you may want to look elsewhere. However, that’s really the only downside!
Verdict: Wharfedale is a class act and the Diamond 220s live up to this British manufacturers reputation.
The Positives: Despite the tiny size of the speakers (162 x 274 x 228 cm), these Dalis provide an exceptionally fun sound. The midrange is crisp and clear and they manage to avoid the muddy bass that so many other rivals in this price bracket fall prey to. These speakers are comfortable with both classical and R&B, so if you have a fairly eclectic taste then they could be for you.
Their design is quietly eye-catching – especially the walnut finish – and build quality is high.
The Negatives: These speakers were unparalleled at their price point for many years – but now and rivals like the Q Acoustics 3020 and Wharfedale Diamond 220 are offering a better soundstage.
Verdict: At the time of writing, nobody has given the Zensors a bad review on Amazon UK, and we can see (or more correctly hear) why.
7. Monitor Audio Bronze 2
The Positives: We’re not sure the pictures do justice to just how good looking these speakers are. They are not just a pretty face though with their well-balanced sound handling classical music especially well.
The Negatives: They may need a larger room for you to get the best out of them.
Verdict: If you want bookshelf speakers that look as good as they sound, then the Monitor Audio Bronze 2 is the system for you.
8. Mission LX2
The Positives: These great affordable speakers are a return to form from Mission. They do well in filling the whole room with sound and perform well above average in all areas.
The Negatives: Can apparently be a little bit difficult to partner, so would go for these ones only if you really know what you are doing.
Verdict: You would probably be better shelling out the extra 15 quid for the Q Acoustic 3020.