If you think you need a serious investment in giant, space-grabbing speakers to create a the best sound system for your home theater or living room, take a step back. The best bookshelf speakers offer a solution that is both cost effective and space effective. These small speakers often offer some meaningful kick despite the relatively modest space they take up. In fact, the best bookcase speakers can sit out of sight and out of mind until you need them.
To make things a lot better, there are plenty of decent bookshelf audio speakers for a modest price. We’ve identified 10 of the best bookshelf speakers under 200 bucks, and also put together a comprehensive shopping guide to make your experience stress free.
- 10 Best Bookshelf Speakers Under 200 Dollars
- 1. Edifier R1280T Powered Bookshelf Speakers
- 2. Edifier R1700BT Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers
- 3. Sony SSCS5 3-Way 3-Driver Bookshelf Speaker
- 4. Polk Audio T15 100 Watt Bookshelf Speakers
- 5. Edifier R1280DB Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers
- 6. Edifier R1850DB Active Bookshelf Speakers
- 7. Klipsch R-15M Bookshelf Speaker
- 8. Micca MB42 Bookshelf Speakers
- 9. Yamaha NS-6490 3-Way Bookshelf Speakers
- 10. Klipsch R-14M 4” Bookshelf Speakers
- Budget Bookshelf Speakers Buyer’s Guide
10 Best Bookshelf Speakers Under 200 Dollars
1. Edifier R1280T Powered Bookshelf Speakers
On the surface, the Edifier R1280T looks like a pretty conventional set of bookshelf speakers. But the quality of the build ensures that these are some of the top bookshelf speakers under 200 dollars. In fact, the cost of these powered speakers is under $100. Their relatively small size means they can function as dedicated speakers for your computer, TV, or turntable, and they can be easily swapped out from one device to another on the fly. The presence of two aux outputs allows you to connect them to two sources at the same time.
These speakers aren't going to be powerful enough to serve as the cornerstone of your home theater setup, but the great performance is more than capable of working in smaller spaces. There's a neutral sound catered towards discerning listeners, and while the bass is a bit muted, the highs and the mids come through with some of the best type of clarity. It also features wireless remote control to help you tune your music volume without any manual stress.
2. Edifier R1700BT Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers
If you're willing to sink an extra $50 into your investment, you can get your hands on one of the best bookshelf speakers that builds off the already great design of the R1280T model and adds in wireless support. The Edifier R1700BTis a phenomenal pair of wireless bookshelf speakers. They add a sense of style that goes beyond what their wired brethren offers. That extends to both the finish and the cutely aerodynamic design that still manages to hold onto its classic sensibilities.
But performance is what really matters, and these speakers retain much of what makes the R1700BT one of the best models under 200 bucks: phenomenal clarity in the high and mid ranges of the frequency response range, solid bass performance, and a nice balance between warmth and neutrality. The fact that you get a wireless remote control and you can stream music directly from your phone through these Bluetooth bookshelf speakers is just an icing on the cake.
3. Sony SSCS5 3-Way 3-Driver Bookshelf Speaker
Sony's SSCS5 takes an interesting approach to the 3 way bookshelf speaker formula. Rather than devote the third driver to the lows, Sony has opted to include an additional soft dome tweeter. The result is one of the best, exceptional frequency response ceiling. However, it can sometimes struggle to capture the complexity of bass on the deeper end of the register. But since these are the best bookshelf speakers under 200 dollars, these sound machines are probably best paired with a dedicated subwoofer. That may raise the ultimate cost of your stereo setup a little bit, but these black speakers alone are still a steal at just over $100.
The relatively low decibel level means they're most appropriately used in smaller spaces. But the fact is that the unique design makes these speakers one of a kind. If you're looking for a level of meticulous detail on the highs for a budget price that's under 200 bucks, the SSCS5 is the best way to go.
4. Polk Audio T15 100 Watt Bookshelf Speakers
You shouldn't come to the T15s by Polk Audio expecting the best in sound reproduction. But you might be surprised to find out how smartly these speakers are built and how good the sound they produce is, all for well under 200 dollars. With these powered speakers now going for half their original price, they're undoubtedly one of the best deals on speakers you'll find anywhere. The T15 sounds better when elevated, and they fortunately come ready to be mounted on the wall right out of the box.
At their core, these are pretty simplistically designed speakers. But that simplicity allows Polk to focus on getting the fundamentals right and providing a decent clarity of sound. In that regard, they succeeded. There's a decent sense of quality across the entire frequency spectrum, but they really excel when given some room to work with. Larger rooms will benefit from the depth of coverage they offer as well as their expansive soundstage.
5. Edifier R1280DB Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers
The R1280DB is another pair of the best Bluetooth speakers from Edifier. In addition to costing marginally less than the R1700BT and still being under 200 dollars, these bookshelf stereo speakers manage to develop an identity of their own. They could rightly be called budget audiophile speakers. Because while they can't necessarily compete with speakers way above 200 dollars, there's a distinct warmth and richness to their performance that's not readily available in their contemporaries. That's especially true when you listen to the mids.
Just don't expect to get a rattling experience from the R1280DB. The relatively muted bass means they aren't going to get the party started with your favorite rap beats or create the sort of shuddering performance you'd expect from your favorite action movies. But the handsome design, aural performance, and exceptional build of these under 200 dollar speakers makes them real winners. The generous variety of inputs also makes for a similarly strong argument.
6. Edifier R1850DB Active Bookshelf Speakers
The last set of Edifier speakers on our list of the best speakers under 200 dollars stand out distinctly from their competitors at first blush. The black matte design suggests a sleeker and more modern approach. It's a decision that reflects their beefier performance. The R18050DB can provide you with a loud experience if you need them to. And the huge range of inputs aligned on the back allow them to hook up to just about any source imaginable. This pair of speakers is a real pinch hitter, capable of serving just about any role in your home.
But Edifier has kept things the same in the qualities that are important. The drivers are angled similarly to their contemporaries to offer a better acoustic flow, and despite these being one of the best and definitely the most expensive Edifiers on our list, they still dramatically outperform what should be expected from their price. You'd have to search hard to find better active bookshelf speakers under 200 dollars.
7. Klipsch R-15M Bookshelf Speaker
These R-15M speakers stand head and shoulders above their contemporaries in terms of aesthetics. While many bookshelf speakers under 200 bucks sacrifice good looks for the sake of functionality, the combination of black vinyl and copper that make up the design of these speakers make them as much a conversation piece as a piece of sound equipment. Of course, that wouldn't mean much if they don't have the power to offer a matching sound performance.
Fortunately, these passive speakers really bring the noise with them. With the right amplifier, they can push out a respectable 340 watts together. And while they may be under 200 dollar models, they could reasonably function as studio monitors in a pinch. The sound quality here is resoundingly clean. The treble offers a particularly clean and appealing experience. And while the bass is a little underwhelming in comparison, it's more just a counterpoint to the absolute quality of the highs rather than a deficit.
8. Micca MB42 Bookshelf Speakers
If the Klipsch R-15Ms stand out due to their relatively loud and retro design, the Micca MB42s are some of the best counterpoints. Their matte black faces and dark wood frames are elegant in their own right, and that's only enhanced by their subtle curves. That level of quality extends to their build as well. They're also a relatively compact duo, so they'll look exceptionally good as a pair of home theater bookshelf speakers. They're also one of the cheapest pairs of bookshelf speakers under 200 dollars with a price tag of under $60.
We should be clear that they aren't really in contention with some of the pricier models on offer, but they definitely work a lot better than you could expect such an inexpensive bit of gear to. The sound quality experience here is solid, especially when given enough space from the walls, but it's a little shallower than other models.
9. Yamaha NS-6490 3-Way Bookshelf Speakers
The Yamaha NS-6490 takes a more traditional approach to three way speakers than their Sony counterpart. With dedicated components for the lows, mids, and highs, the soundstage and imaging here is phenomenal. The entire frequency spectrum has a deep clarity that allows them to perform admirably regardless of the style of music that you're listening to. Just bear in mind that these speakers are on the larger end of the spectrum for bookshelf models, so you may want to make sure that you have the space available in your stereo or home theater setup before making a purchase.
And as with the two prior models, these are in the running for the most attractive speakers under 200 dollars. They combine the outstandingly distinct design of Klipsch's speakers with the modernity of the Miccas, sporting chrome components that show their best distinctiveness on the black finish.
10. Klipsch R-14M 4” Bookshelf Speakers
If you were to glance at both the Klipsch R-14M and the R-15M, you might have a hard time telling them apart, at least until you see the sticker price. The former is currently available for $50 less than the latter, which makes it one of the best under 200 dollar sound systems. And while they can't perform on quite the same level, only the most discerning listeners will probably note the difference. These are both quality reference speakers, and the distinction between them will really come down to how well tuned your ears are.
The Klipsch R-14M takes a modest hit to the lower frequency range and sport a slightly lower maximum decibel level. But they rock the same beautiful and sporty design as their bigger sibling and take up slightly less space on your bookshelf. They're still a phenomenal pair of speakers that will look good just about anywhere in your home.
Budget Bookshelf Speakers Buyer’s Guide
So, you’re looking for the best bookshelf speakers under $200? They are versatile pieces of sound equipment that can fill a lot of roles in your home, but there’s a bit to unpack in terms of how they perform and the experience they give. Keep reading to learn more about the listed specs so that you can make an informed decision with your purchase.
Frequency response is the factor that determines the clarity of the sound that comes out of your speaker. Measured in a scale from Hertz to MegaHertz, it’s the frequency response range that makes drums sound like drums, guitars sound like guitars, and vocals sound like vocals. A narrower frequency response range will make music sound muddier and less robust. The sound that falls across the frequency response range is generally split into three categories.
- Bass refers to the lowest sonics. In musical terms, that refers to low frequency instruments like bass guitar and drums. If you’re using your speakers for video games or movies, bass will be most often reflected in explosions, gunfire, and other deep and rumbling noises. Strong bass is essential in hip-hop and a lot of electronic music, and it can add a real sense of weight to sound. It’s measured in the range of 20 to 400 Hz.
- The majority of sound in most music is going to fall into the mid range. Most vocals, guitar work, and plenty of other traditional instruments are represented by the mid range. But since it falls square between bass and treble, making sure you have full coverage really isn’t an issue with speakers. It covers the range of 400 to 2,000 Hz.
- Treble represents the highs. They tend to be thinner and more sibilant noises. High pitch vocals, violins, and cymbals would all fall into the treble category. While it tends to be less prevalent in a lot of music than bass, a good level of clarity is important if you really want to capture the full musical spectrum. Treble falls into the range of 2,000 Hz to 20 MHz.
The frequency response range that humans can hear is between 20 Hz and 20 MHz. But some speakers offer ranges that extend well beyond those standards. Despite that, investing in a speaker with a wider frequency range can be more worth your time. A wider frequency response range allows greater level of distinction between various frequencies. In practical terms, that means a richer soundstage and imaging which means the speakers will do a better job of replicating the illusion that the sounds are coming from different parts of the room when they hit your ear.
Tweeters and Woofers
Most modern speakers come with two separate drivers that help produce the sounds across the frequency response range in a more accurate way. These are known as the tweeter and the woofer, and the presence of both creates both a broader frequency range than a speaker could otherwise achieve and offers a more robust and distinct soundstage.
The woofer is basically a diaphragm that disperses the sound that passes through it making for a more excellent sound. They are the drivers that deliver bass performance, and bigger is usually better in this instance. Bigger woofers allow sound to filter through the face of the speaker with more of a resounding rumble and create immersive bass. Four inches is generally considered the standard to look for in woofers, but size isn’t the only factor worth considering here. The quality of materials that a woofer is made from can also determine the experience and performance.
Higher frequency noises are broken down into the tweeter. They tend to handle the higher mids as well as the treble, and since they add more delicate and sibilant sounds, smaller tweeters are usually an advantage here. Like woofers, both size and material quality are a factor in how well a tweeter performs, but you generally want to seek out speakers with woofers that are an inch or smaller.
While most bookshelf speakers under 200 dollars feature only two drivers, you’ll find a couple of options on our list that are categorized as three driver speakers. They’re exactly what they sound like. They make use of a third driver that helps do some of the heavy lifting. The type of drivers used for the third model varies depending on what the manufacturer is looking to do. Most three drivers speaker contain a driver that falls in size somewhere between the tweeter and the woofer for higher clarity in the mid range, but some come with a second woofer for better bass performance.
The addition of a third driver allows a greater level of clarity across the frequency response range, but it can also have a meaningful effect on creating a richer and more segregated soundstage. That said, three driver speakers won’t always have the power to outperform models with two drivers. It’s important to look at the actual quality of the drivers to make sure that the quality of the sound is worthwhile. Muddy drivers are going to sound muddy across the board regardless of how many drivers you have add to a speaker.
Active vs. Passive Speakers
Our list features both active and passive speakers. The difference is pretty basic, but it can have a significant impact on your stereo system setup. Active speakers come with an amp built right in. What that means is that all you need to do is plug them into your source and let them go. The amplifier will automatically project your sound at a volume that’s reasonable for listening. Any speaker that natively offer Bluetooth wireless connectivity are going to be powered by default.
Passive speakers don’t come with their own amp. That means that you’ll either need to already own your own amplifier or factor in the cost of an amp for your purchase. Including an additional amp in your stereo setup means that you’re going to have to account for more space, but it also means that you have control over the quality of your amp, and it’s easier to swap it out. But since the speakers themselves aren’t wired, they don’t need to be plugged into the wall. That means that you can just plug the centralized amp in and connect the speakers directly to it without having to make sure all of your speakers are in reach of a power outlet.
Wattage is the amount of power that a speaker can put out, and it’s important whether you’re using active or passive speakers. Wattage is measured in RMS (which is what we cover in the specs) as well as peak performance. The former refers to the standard, constant amount of that a speaker can put out over an extended amount of time, while the latter refers to how much wattage a speaker can put out in short bursts.
By and large, a higher wattage is always going to be preferable to a lower one. Speakers with higher wattage need less power from amps to work as intended. That means that you can get better quality sound with less juice. In other words, you’ll get better quality from a comparable amp when working with a high wattage speaker. It also affects the maximum volume for a speaker.
One final consideration is pretty distinct from the specs. That’s how you want to set up your speakers. When you’re setting up a stereo system with two or more speakers, the best sound comes from where the two sound waves meet. As such, when you’re looking to design a stereo system, you want to make sure that the maximum point of impact is in the most comfortable part of the room, whether that be a chair situated in your listening room or the living room couch for your entertainment center.
Functionally, you need to picture the point of sound intersecting as a triangle. You want your listening position to be situated just in front of that point of intersection so the soundstage can form behind you and make sure that the speakers are equidistant apart from each other. The wider the triangle you can create, the richer the soundstage and imaging. For bookshelf features, that means that you’ll typically want a distance of roughly four feet between them and make sure that the tweeters on the speakers are roughly the same elevation as your ears.
Bookshelf speakers are incredibly versatile pieces of sound equipment. They can function in their own right as a stereo system for your turntable or be combined together to form a more robust surround sound setup for your home theater system. But quality is important. Fortunately, you can count on our list of the best bookshelf speakers under 200 dollars to offer you great performance and experience for the price. If you’re looking for something more specifically tuned to gaming, be sure to check out our list of the best gaming speakers of 2020.