Bookshelf speakers have maintained wide popularity for years thanks to their amazing performance and compact size. Whether you are an audiophile, musician, bass-head, or a regular guy who loves music, you need a quality set of speakers in your home.
However, with a budget as low as $300, things will not be easy. You will definitely stumble upon some lousy products that would fill up your tracks with infernal distortions.
No worries, though. I went along and did the boring research for you. In this article, I will review the best bookshelf speakers under $300. I included passive, powered, 2-way, and 3-way speakers to match most of your needs. Let us get going!
The 5 Best Bookshelf Speakers Under $300
In the following section, I will review each pair of speakers to see the technical specs, performance, and possible shortcomings.
Edifier R2000DB Powered Bookshelf Speakers – Best Overall
There is nothing better than setting back in your chair and enjoying your favorite music. But the experience would be totally ruined if you must walk over to the speakers to adjust the volume. That is why the Edifier R2000DB speakers have made it to the top of my list.
With their wireless remote, you can control all the speaker’s features effortlessly. And of course, you can still use the speakers’ side panel to control the bass, treble, and master volume.
Speaking of wireless connection, you can also play music directly from your phone and forget about the chaotic wires. And do not worry, the wireless quality of the Edifier R2000DB is unique for its low latency and minimal distortion.
Since the R2000DB are two-way speakers, they feature a tweeter and a woofer. Together, they support sound in the range between 55 Hz and 20 kHz.
Although many speakers reach frequencies even lower than 55 Hz, the R2000DB speakers manage to do it without the annoying rattle.
However, when it comes to highs, things might not be perfect. Edifier supposedly used 25mm silk-dome tweeters to deliver the most accurate treble. But as you turn up the volume, you might notice faint hissing in the background.
- ✓ They support wireless connection
- ✓ Excellent bass tones
- ✓ Attractive design
- ✗ They produce faint hissing with high frequencies
Klipsch R-51M Passive Bookshelf Speaker – Best Design
The best audio quality is a necessity for any audiophile speakers. But opting for a vintage design can take the music experience to a whole new level. For this matter, there would be nothing better than Klipsch.
In case you are not familiar, Klipsch has been in the speakers’ market since 1946. The 2-way R-51M speakers come in a mesmerizing grey tone that throws you back into the 1960s. And with the copper woofers, they could not be any more premium.
If you like the thumping feel of bass, you might not like the R-51M because their low frequencies are capped at 62 Hz. But frankly, the missed frequencies might not be noticed by recreational listeners. Still, you can get a subwoofer to compensate for the missing tones.
On the other hand, you will be pleased with the high tones. With a maximum range of 21 kHz, you will not miss any of the high-pitched instruments. This is possible thanks to the 1″ Aluminum LTS tweeters and the 90×90 square tractrix horns.
To improve durability, Klipsch used reinforced MDF to build these speakers. You do not need to worry about scratches, cracks, etc. As a plus, this material is fabricated with enough thickness to dampen most of the random vibrations.
Check out our full Klipsch R-51M Review.
- ✓ Vintage design
- ✓ Excellent high frequencies.
- ✓ Durable construction
- ✗ Insufficient bass tones
Yamaha NS-6490 Passive Bookshelf Speakers – Best 3-Way
If you want the purest sound, 3-way speakers should be your best bet. Yamaha NS-6490 is among the best in this category. I think it is enough to know that these speakers have been on the market for 15 years! During this period, they were able to maintain overall positive feedback.
Technically speaking, the NS-6490 speakers have 8” woofers, 4” midrange drivers, and a 0.75” dome tweeters. As a result, they can support frequencies from 45 Hz to 23 kHz.
To be frank, if you are searching for a modern design, the NS-6490 would likely bore you. As I said earlier, these speakers have been around for 15 years. They come in an old-school design with black vinyl-covered box and silver drivers.
However, when it comes to sound quality, these speakers will certainly amaze your ears. With a sensitivity of 90 dB/W/meter, they can produce a whopping 108 dB when driven at full volume.
Best of all, Yamaha shielded the interior of both cabinets against magnetic interferences. In simpler words, you will not have to worry about placing these speakers too close to the monitor.
Furthermore, the NS-6490 speakers feature an acoustic suspension design. This means that the drivers are kept in airtight cabinets. This way, the bass will not be affected by how close you place the speakers to the wall.
- ✓ 3-way speakers
- ✓ Wide frequency range
- ✓ High sensitivity
- ✗ A bit outdated design
Polk Audio T15 Passive Bookshelf Speakers – Most Affordable
If you are absolutely restricted on budget, you can go lower than $100 and still find quality speakers. If this is what you need, I am sure you will like the Polk Audio T15.
Polk is already a well-known name in the audiophile world. Purchasing one of their products at this price is a valuable bargain. With 0.75″ tweeters and 5.25″ woofers, these speakers can produce warm sound in the range between 60 Hz and 24 kHz.
On the downside, their base and the sub-base feel a bit weak since these speakers do not extend that far into the low frequencies. Still, at this price, you can easily invest in a standalone subwoofer.
Furthermore, the mids are good, but not great. Thus, T15 will not be suitable for vocal-heavy music. Nevertheless, they can produce perfectly balanced highs. So, all in all, the T15 speakers give just the right value, given their price.
In terms of the construction, the T15 speakers are made of sturdy hardwood. Since this is notably rare to see in this price range, these speakers would be the best if you are searching for durability.
- ✓ Ultra-affordable
- ✓ Exceptionally durable construction
- ✓ Excellent in producing high frequencies
- ✗ They produce a bit weak base and sub-base
- ✗ The vocal mids are not that accurate
Fluance Ai60 Powered Two-Way Bookshelf Speakers – A Notable Mention
Until now, I have reviewed 1 powered and 3 passive speakers. I thought I should end my list with another recommendation for powered speakers to even the odds.
Just like my top pick, the Ai60 speakers come with wireless compatibility. This way, you can play your music from your phone without hassling with wires and whatnot. Additionally, you can easily control the speakers via the included remote.
To give the best sound possible, these speakers have a powerful class D amplifier. With the 1″ silk dome tweeters and 6.5″ woven woofers, these beasts are capable of producing frequencies between 35 Hz and 20 kHz.
The Ai60 features one of the best versatilities when it comes to input options. Besides the RCA connectors, you’ll get a micro USB and digital TOSLINK ports.
Since these speakers feature the latest aptX Bluetooth, you’ll enjoy wireless music at the highest bitrates. In simpler words, there is no need to worry about issues in latency and distortion.
Expectedly, all these features place the Ai60 at the top of my list in terms of price. This cannot be considered a con by itself. But I highly encourage you to opt for more affordable options if you will not make use of all these features.
- ✓ They offer a wide range of frequencies
- ✓ They have versatile connectivity
- ✓ They come with a wireless remote.
- ✗ Quite expensive
What to Consider Before Buying Bookshelf Speakers
In this section, we will take a brief look at the factors you need to bear in mind before making a purchase. This should help you pick speakers that truly fit your needs.
Powered vs. Passive Speakers
Should you buy active or passive speakers? This is by far the most important aspect you must consider. But to answer this question, we’ve to zoom out a little to know how each system operates.
More times than not, the signals that come from turntables, phones, and laptops are not strong enough to generate sound. In that case, you need a powerful amplifier to strengthen these signals.
To put it simply, powered speakers have built-in amplifiers while the passive ones do not. And since amplifiers need a considerable amount of electricity, powered speakers need to be plugged into the wall to operate.
On the other hand, passive speakers draw their power from an external amplifier via speaker wires.
Powered Speakers Are Plug-And-Play Devices
If you want the least hassle with components, powered speakers should be the best choice. You can directly use them with laptops, PCs, consoles, phones, turntables, and pretty much everything else.
To run passive speakers, however, you need to purchase a standalone amplifier. This would not only cost more money; it would also occupy more space.
Powered Speakers Can Run Wirelessly
Since powered speakers depend on a continuous power supply, they can be equipped with any additional perk. For instance, almost all the recent powered speakers feature a wireless connection.
Originally, this was done to allow for a remote controller to make the experience more convenient. But it has also developed to accept Bluetooth pairing with smartphones to directly play music without any wires.
Passive Speakers Are Upgradable
Although the built-in amps are convenient, they will never be as efficient as standalone devices. Truth be told, many brands opt for moderate materials to keep their powered speakers affordable.
Worst of all, you cannot upgrade a built-in amp. If you want a better quality, you will have to ditch the entire speakers.
With passive speakers, this is not the case. You can use the same speakers with any amplifier that you have. If you want to upgrade, you will only pay for the new amplifier as long as the speakers are properly functioning.
So, What Should You Get?
In my opinion, audio beginners would find huge value in powered speakers. They save you the effort of matching different parts and analyzing technicalities like watts, ohms, ports, etc.
However, audiophiles will outgrow powered speakers in no time. A standalone amplifier would give them more freedom in sound adjustment and upgradability.
Think about the Number of Drivers
If you’re unfamiliar, the drivers are the round parts that actually produce sound in speakers. As you saw earlier, speakers can be either 2-way or 3-way.
2-way speakers have 2 drivers: a tweeter and woofer. The smaller one, aka tweeter, is responsible for producing the highs. While the woofer is mainly intended for lows and midranges.
3-way speakers also have a tweeter and a woofer. But they have an extra driver specifically for midranges.
Which Is Better?
Logically speaking, 3-way speakers should be way better since every frequency range has its own driver. This should decrease the distortion and produce a clearer sound.
Things are not that straight forward. When you are comparing 3-way and 2-way speakers, you have other factors that can affect the sound quality. Things like power, frequency range, and the material quality can make 3-way speakers far worse than a 2-way pair.
That said, the number of drivers will not make much sense unless you are comparing 2 models from the same brand. In that case, we can be somewhat sure that both speakers were made from materials of similar quality.
Consider Your Space
For optimal results, bookshelf speakers must be placed upright on a steady surface. You can mount them on a wall, hang them on a stand, put them over a table, and, surely, put them on a bookshelf.
In some cases, manufacturers recommend placing their speakers away from walls. This would improve the mid-ranges and mid-bass.
To conclude my roundup, I can say that the Edifier R2000DB speakers are the best bookshelf speakers under $300. With Bluetooth connection and a remote controller, they cannot be any more convenient.
If you want to go even lower than $200, you should like the Polk Audio T15 speakers. Their sound quality is quite acceptable, but their superior construction guarantees prolonged durability.
If you want to enjoy the freedom of passive speakers, the Klipsch R-51M should provide the best value. Their vintage design is an awesome addition to any home setup.
I hope this roundup answered your questions. See you in another buying guide!