January 18, 2023

Bookshelf Speaker Buying Guide

Article written by POLK STAFF


Everything you need to know.

What are bookshelf speakers?

Bookshelf speakers are compact speakers intended to sit on a bookshelf, table, desk, monitor stand, essentially anywhere but the floor. Bookshelf speakers are meant for small to medium-sized spaces—think apartments, offices, and bedrooms—that might be overpowered by floor-standing speakers.

Do bookshelf speakers need a subwoofer?

Good bookshelf speakers do not need a subwoofer to produce bass, as they produce full-bandwidth sound on their own. But subwoofers are specifically optimized to produce deep low bass, often below the range of companion full-range speakers. If you like bass-heavy music like EDM or hip hop, or are craving bass impact you can feel in your favorite movies and games, we’d recommend adding a subwoofer.

Do bookshelf speakers require an amplifier or receiver?

Bookshelf speakers require an amplifier or receiver if they are passive models. Active—or powered—bookshelf speakers do not need an amplifier or receiver to work, because amplification is built right in. While you powered speakers don’t need to draw power from a receiver, you will need to send them audio, and you’ll need to plug them into wall AC power. Passive bookshelf speakers do not have built-in amplification, so you’ll need to incorporate an amp or a receiver in your setup.

Should you buy bookshelf or floor-standing speakers?

Whether you should buy bookshelf or floor-standing (tower) speakers comes down to space, budget, and listening preferences. If space and budget are limiting factors and you tend to listen at low volume levels, we’d recommend bookshelf speakers. If you seek superior fidelity with a spacious soundstage and deep bass, and you have plenty of room, floor-standing speakers may be for you.

How to choose bookshelf speakers?

Size is a good first step. Generally, the bigger the speaker, the bigger the sound (and the deeper the bass). Bookshelf speakers should be powerful enough to easily reproduce the most dynamic music, movie, and game content, but they should also be small enough to operate efficiently; if they’re too powerful for the size of the room, they can’t work at their optimal performance level and can end up sounding boomy. Five-inch bookshelf speakers such as the Polk Legend L100 or 6.5-inch bookshelf speakers like the Polk Reserve R200 and Limited 50th Anniversary Edition R200AE) are perform well in small spaces while packing a sonic punch, thanks to flagship Polk acoustic innovations like Pinnacle Ring Radiator Tweeters and Turbine Cone Woofers.

Next, consider your budget. At Polk, we take great pride in offering the best quality for the best price—no matter what kind of budget you are working with. Check out our Monitor XT Series, which offers great performance at an even greater value.

Why buy a Polk bookshelf speaker?

At Polk, we’ve been at this since 1972, and we have never strayed from our mission to create the best speakers at the best price. This obsession extends to our bookshelf speakers: We pack as much passion and technology possible into each set of speakers while delivering an affordable product that will stand the test of time.

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