7 Reasons to Avoid a New Pair of Bookshelf Speakers Today

Professional wooden bookshelf speaker has the classic elegance look

7 Reasons to Avoid a New Pair of Bookshelf Speakers Today

Key Points

  • Bookshelf speakers are popular due to their compact size and versatility, making them a convenient choice for smaller spaces like apartments or bedrooms.
  • However, despite their appeal, bookshelf speakers often sacrifice sound quality compared to larger speaker models.
  • There are seven valid reasons to avoid a new pair of bookshelf speakers, including the loss of valuable shelf space, lower power output, and limited surround sound capabilities.
  • Additionally, bookshelf speakers have limited customizability, reduced flexibility in placement, and can be expensive compared to higher-quality alternatives.

In the market for a new pair of bookshelf speakers? Before you continue your research, consider this: a new pair of bookshelf speakers might not be the best choice for you. In fact, it may be worth taking a moment to consider the potential drawbacks before making such a big purchase. While these speakers advertise convenience and compactness, certain factors could make you think twice about investing in a pair. Let’s examine seven legitimate reasons why you should avoid a new pair of bookshelf speakers at all costs.

5 Must-Know Facts About Bookshelf Speakers

  • Bookshelf speakers fit snugly on bookshelves or other small spaces. People commonly use them for home audio systems or as part of a stereo setup.
  • These types of speaker claim to deliver high-quality sound despite their smaller size. However, they typically consist of much smaller woofers and tweeters than standard-sized speakers or towers.
  • Bookshelf speakers can be passive or active. Passive speakers require an external amplifier or receiver to power them, while active speakers have built-in amplification.
  • Remember, speaker size affects the overall sound output, while power handling determines how much power the speakers can handle without distortion. Frequency response indicates the range of frequencies the speakers can reproduce accurately, and impedance affects how the speakers interact with the amplifier.
  • Placement is crucial for optimal sound quality with bookshelf speakers. Ideally, you should place bookshelf speakers on sturdy stands or bookshelves at ear level for the best listening experience. Also, position them away from walls and other objects that may cause unwanted distortions.
Budget-Friendly Alternative
Klipsch RP-600M Bookshelf Speakers
  • 6.5-inch spun copper cerametallic woofers
  • Bass reflex through rear-firing Tractrix port
  • Dual-binding posts for bi-wire/bi-amp
  • 1-inch titanium vented tweeter with hybrid Tractrix horn
  • 100W max output power
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11/25/2023 05:41 pm GMT
Audioengine HDP6 Passive Bookshelf Speakers
  • 2-way powered speakers
  • Real wood veneer
  • Walnut finish
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Fluance Ai41 Powered 2-Way 2.0 Stereo Bookshelf Speakers
  • 5-inch drivers
  • 90-watt amplifier
  • Compatible with TV, PC, Phone
  • Subwoofer output
  • RCA and optical inputs or connect via Bluetooth 5.0
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Saiyin Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers
  • Speaker (woofer) size: 5.2 inches
  • Power: 40W
  • In the box: 2 Bluetooth speakers
  • Ports: Optical, Subwoofer line, RCA, coaxial, 3.5mm headphone jack
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11/26/2023 12:55 am GMT

The Appeal of Bookshelf Speakers

To understand why a new pair of bookshelf speakers might not be right for you, you must first understand why they’re appealing in the first place. These speakers have grown increasingly popular in recent years. Their special charm and unique appeal have made them a popular choice among a rising tide of audio enthusiasts and casual users. They’ve enjoyed particular attention among the resurgence of vinyl enthusiasts, allowing listeners to place two speakers conveniently next to their record player on a shelf or small table.

Ultimately, this is the main draw of bookshelf speakers: their compact size and versatility. Unlike larger speakers placed on the floor or fixed on designated speaker stands, bookshelf speakers fit neatly and discreetly on bookshelves or desks. Some consider them the ideal choice for those living or working in smaller spaces such as apartments, office cubicles, or bedrooms. Because they take up less room and blend seamlessly into the environment, a new pair of bookshelf speakers seems like a super flexible and incredibly versatile audio option.

This isn’t exactly the reality, though. The inherent appeal doesn’t translate to proven results. Given their smaller stature, bookshelf speakers aren’t capable of delivering impressive sound quality. Even though many models incorporate advanced technologies such as tweeters and woofers and well-designed cabinets, they can’t quite optimize their audio performance like larger speaker models. They don’t sacrifice space, but they do sacrifice sound as a result. This only scratches the surface of why you should avoid a new pair of bookshelf speakers at all costs.

bookshelf speakers
Bookshelf speakers don’t have to go on a bookshelf. They also fit nicely on desks or TV stands.


Why Avoid a New Pair of Bookshelf Speakers?

Though they might look like affordable, versatile, convenient products, purchasing a new pair of bookshelf speakers may not be the wise choice you believe it to be. From casual listeners to audio experts, the consensus is clear: There are seven valid reasons to pass over a new pair of bookshelf speakers in favor of a better, more high-quality audio setup. Let’s delve into these seven reasons at length below.

Loss of Valuable Shelf Space

A pair of bookshelf speakers can take up lots of valuable space on your bookshelves or desks. This leaves little room for other items on your shelves. Not to mention, it could even create the illusion of a cluttered environment. If you have a small living space or limited room on your shelves, these speakers may not be the best choice.

Less Powerful Output

Because bookshelf speakers tend to be much smaller than standard speakers, they consequently have smaller drivers to work with. This results in much lower power output compared to larger floor-standing models. If you’re hoping for a powerful speaker system that can deliver booming sound that fills all corners of a large room, then bookshelf speakers may disappoint you with their muted output.

Small speakers on computer desk.
The smaller the speaker, the worse the audio quality tends to be. This applies to bookshelf speakers.


Lower Audio Quality

Another result of this smaller size? Bookshelf speakers often struggle to reproduce deep bass frequencies like a standard speaker could. While they may produce decent mid and high-range sounds, this low-end performance can be lacking. If you enjoy music genres featuring lots of deep bass (such as electronic or hip-hop), the bookshelf speaker’s lower audio quality might leave you feeling disappointed.

Surround Sound Struggles

Bookshelf speakers typically have a narrower soundstage compared to floor-standing speakers. In other words, a pair of bookshelf speakers will seriously hinder your surround sound capabilities. From stereo imaging to distinct separation of instruments, your surround sound will not be as pronounced or expansive as it would be with larger speakers positioned around the room.

Limited Customizability

Bookshelf speakers are standalone units. This means there aren’t many options for future upgrades or expansion of your sound system. If you’re someone who enjoys the flexibility of upgrading individual components or expanding your audio system, then bookshelf speakers may not provide the same level of versatility that you’ve come to expect.

Home theater with bookshelf speakers.
It’s hard to build a full-powered sound system with only a pair of bookshelf speakers.


Reduced Flexibility

When placing your bookshelf speakers, you’re going to have to consider the fact that a shelf on one side of the room may not give you the best audio quality on the other side of the room. Bookshelf speakers require specific placements for the best sound quality, but your available shelf space seriously limits your options. For this reason, if you don’t have suitable bookshelves or dedicated speaker stands, it may be challenging to achieve the best sound performance with inflexible bookshelf speakers.

High Cost

You might think that a new pair of bookshelf speakers would be an affordable alternative to something like a soundbar or a proper surround sound system. However, many bookshelf speaker models are as (or more) expensive as the higher-quality alternatives. Some brands price their bookshelf speakers as high as $250 per piece. For that price, you may be better off buying a pair of tower speakers instead.

Effortless Connectivity
Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3
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11/26/2023 08:46 pm GMT
Floor Speaker
Sony SSCS3 3-Way Floor-Standing Speaker (Single) - Black
  • Single floor-standing speaker with Hi-Res Audio and three-way coaxial, four-driver speaker system
  • Supports Dolby Atmos and 5.1.2 home theater setups 
  • Dual 5.12 in. woofers, 0.75 in. super tweeter, and 1 in. tweeter
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In Review: Reasons to Avoid a New Pair of Bookshelf Speakers Today

It’s easy to see the appeal of a new pair of bookshelf speakers. They’re little, they seem affordable, and they blend in nicely with your existing shelves. However, no matter how attractive they seem, it’s important to remember these potential downsides.

These seven factors should be carefully weighed against the convenience and compactness that bookshelf speakers offer. Let’s review.

  • Bookshelf speakers take up valuable shelf space
  • Audio output is less powerful than that of floor or tower speakers
  • Bookshelf speakers have lower audio quality than other models
  • Surround sound is harder to achieve with bookshelf speakers
  • It’s hard to customize an audio system made up of bookshelf speakers
  • Bookshelf speakers offer very little flexibility
  • Some bookshelf speakers are too expensive for their lower quality

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a bookshelf speaker?

Bookshelf speakers are smaller than regular speakers and are designed to fit on bookshelves or small spaces. Whereas bookshelf speakers prioritize compactness and convenience, regular speakers often offer more powerful sound output and better low-frequency performance.

Do bookshelf speakers have good sound?

Yes, bookshelf speakers can deliver good sound quality despite their smaller size. They typically consist of a woofer for low frequencies and a tweeter for high frequencies, allowing for balanced audio reproduction. However, factors such as speaker size, power handling, and frequency response can all impact the overall sound quality in their own ways.

Do bookshelf speakers need an amplifier?

Whether or not a pair of bookshelf speakers need an amplifier depends on whether the bookshelf speakers are passive or active. Passive bookshelf speakers require an external amplifier or receiver to power them. Active bookshelf speakers have built-in amplification, eliminating the need for a separate amplifier. Before buying, check the speaker’s specifications to determine if an amplifier is needed.

Can you use bookshelf speakers in a home theater setup?

Yes, bookshelf speakers fit in nicely in a home theater setup. They can serve as either front or rear speakers in a surround sound system. Nevertheless, for a complete home theater experience, it is recommended to pair bookshelf speakers with a center channel speaker and a subwoofer to ensure proper dialogue clarity and deep bass reproduction.

How do you get better sound from a bookshelf speaker?

Bookshelf speakers should ideally be placed on sturdy stands or bookshelves at ear level for the best listening experience. They should be positioned away from walls and other objects that may cause unwanted reflections or distortions in the sound. Additionally, it’s recommended to place the speakers at an equal distance from each other and the listening area to create a balanced soundstage. Experimenting with placement and using speaker isolation pads can also help optimize the sound quality of your bookshelf speakers.

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