While passive speakers are more suited to audiophile hobbyists because they allow for more customization, powered speakers (or active speakers) are devices with built-in amplifiers, meaning they don’t need to be connected to an external hi-fi amp.
When it comes to bookshelf speakers, powered speakers tend to be the best choice for the average consumer, because you don’t need to buy any additional devices. They’re often wireless, too, which is an added benefit.
They tend to be pricier, as well as heavier, than passive speakers, but considering the extra cost of hardware required for the latter, you’re not necessarily paying more.
It can be tricky to know which powered speaker is right for you, especially if you’re not sure what you’re looking for.
The following are six of the best powered bookshelf speakers, as well as a buyer’s guide to said products, and answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding powered bookshelf speakers, and powered speakers in general.
To clarify: all of the speakers on the following list are powered bookshelf speakers, but we will be looking briefly at some of the best passive bookshelf speakers a little further down.
- Power: 130 watts
- Connectivity options: RCA sub output, optical, line-in, USB, and aptX HD Bluetooth
- Streaming support: None
The Q Acoustics M20 speakers provide a more powerful sound than most speakers at this price point, offering substantial clarity and bass.
It should be noted, though, that it’s not actually completely wireless as the name would suggest. They’re merely referring to the speaker’s Bluetooth capabilities.
The speaker isn’t wireless in the traditional sense; you’ll need to plug them in and connect the pair with a cable.
Still, if you don’t mind the wired aspect, these are speakers well worth considering. Their design is minimal and sleek, and there’s a number of options when it comes to connectivity: RCA, optical, line-in, USB. It’s a lot more versatile than most speakers.
While you can connect to the speakers via Bluetooth, though, there’s no option to stream with Wi-Fi services like Spotify Connect. If you usually just use Bluetooth, though, then this won’t be a problem.
- Variety of connectivity options: If you’re someone who likes their speakers to have more than just Bluetooth connectivity, you’re in luck here.
- Switch between left and right channel: This is guaranteed to save you some hassle.
- Name is misleading: They’re playing fast and loose with the term ‘wireless’ here. Not that a wireless speaker is necessarily better- the name is just potentially misleading for customers.
- Quite long: Best to do your measurements before purchasing a pair of these, as they may not fit on narrower bookshelves.
- Music. Movies. Gaming. Designed to deliver stunning wireless high-resolution stereo sound, the flexible M20 HD audio system from Q Acoustics is the most powerful and immersive and way to enjoy music, movies and gaming sound anywhere in the home.
- One powered and one passive speaker form a stereo pair, guaranteeing a focused, punchy stereo sound, and a wide accurate soundstage for which Q Acoustics is famous. With the pre and power amp onboard dispensing 64 watts digital power, the M20 offers neat wireless audio solution without the clutter of extra components.
- Featuring aptX HD Bluetooth connectivity for wireless streaming of high resolution-quality audio (up to 24-bit/48kHz) from devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and network streamers, the versatile M20 also features an array of inputs to connect a games console, TV, set-top box, CD player and portable music players alike. There’s also subwoofer output in case you need to really shake the room.
- The beautifully sculpted cabinets use Q Acoustics’ proprietary P2P (Point to Point) bracing to support the parts of the enclosure that need to be stiffened. The result is an exceptionally rigid cabinet that eliminates internal standing waves to improve the focus of the stereo image and give the soundstage more accuracy than ever before. The grille’s curved contours are also designed to disperse any tweeter activity, keeping unwanted reflections to a minimum.
- The speakers can be wall mounted with Q Acoustics 3000WB or can be placed on Q Acoustics 3000i floor stands.
- Power: 42 watts
- Connectivity options: 3.5mm headphones, AUX, and dual RCA
- Streaming support: None
Packing a surprising punch despite their relatively low price point, the Edifier R1280T speakers also boast a pleasant wooden finish that should fit nicely in most homes.
In terms of connectivity, you’ll be able to hook up 3.5mm headphones (as these speakers are mostly designed for desk use), as well as use two AUX inputs, and dual RCA.
The latter means you’ll have the option to connect the speakers to your TV, so they act as home cinema speakers. You can buy the Edifier R1280T Powered Bookshelf Speakers on Amazon, Best Buy, and Rofoxe.
- Aesthetically pleasing: They’ll probably blend in well with your home decor.
- Affordable: The price is remarkably low for powered bookshelf speakers.
- No Bluetooth: Bluetooth is a must-have for a lot of people, so this could be a deal breaker.
- 2 x AUX INPUT - Convenient connection to any device that has a 3.5mm headphone output or dual RCA output. Connect to two devices via AUX at the same time, no plugging and switching needed. (None Bluetooth version)
- STUDIO SOUND QUALITY - Natural sound reproduction from 13mm silk dome tweeter and 4 inch full range unit
- REMOTE CONTROL - Adjust volume at your figure tips. Bass and treble control located on the side of main speaker.
- CLASSIC WOOD FINISH - High quality MDF wood build finished with wood effect vinyl serves as a great compliment to any home decor.
- 2 YEAR WARRANTY - Guaranteed high quality and reliability with hassle-free parts and labor warranty for two years in USA and Canada.
- Power: 100 watts
- Connectivity options: Most receivers, including composite driver, subwoofer and bass port
- Streaming support: None
When it comes to cheap powered bookshelf speakers, the Polk Audio T15 speakers are hard to beat in terms of value for money. They’re not only fully equipped with Dolby surround, but they can also be mounted easily on your wall.
They’re compatible with the majority of receivers, are made from high quality materials, and have a 0.5 inch tweeter. They’re a solid choice if you want speakers with a classic look.
- Can be mounted on wall: This offers you even more flexibility for where you want your speakers to live.
- Very affordable: You’re unlikely to find many other speakers of this quality at such a low price.
- Not Bluetooth compatible: Most listings don’t make it as clear as they probably should that these speakers are not compatible with Bluetooth.
- GET SUPERIOR HOME THEATER EXPERIENCE WITH IMMERSIVE SURROUND SOUND – Featuring (1) 0.75" tweeter & (1) 5.25" Dynamic Balance Driver, these speakers are designed to produce a natural, well-balanced sound with massive bass even at the lowest frequencies
- Use these wall-mountable bookshelf speakers as FRONT, LEFT-RIGHT SETUP, SURROUNDS OR AS REAR SPEAKERS and get mesmerized by detailed audio with crystal clear vocals, enough to fill any small to medium sized room
- CREATE A FULL-FLEDGED 5.1 HOME THEATER SETUP with the complete range of T-series speakers from Polk with two T50 Tower Speakers, one T30 Center Channel, two T15 Bookshelf speakers and a subwoofer
- Polk speakers are COMPATIBLE WITH MOST HOME THEATER AV RECEIVERS giving you many setup arrangement options - in single or multi-room with 2.0, 2.1, 3.1 systems or an immersive 5.1, 7.1 or 9.1 setup
- POLK'S UNMATCHED QUALITY AT AN AFFORDABLE PRICE. With these value-priced speakers, you can now enjoy premium acoustics, high quality construction, easy setup and a spectacular theater experience right at home
- Power: 240 watts
- Connectivity options: USB-C and Bluetooth
- Streaming support: Apple AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Deezer, Tidal, Qobuz and more
You won’t find a bookshelf speaker looking much more modern than this! With the curved shape of a zeppelin, this speaker’s design is remarkably sleek.
Bowers & Wilkins are known for producing high quality speakers, and have been for over 15 years, when they released their first Zeppelin speaker for the iPod.
Now, their speakers are completely wireless, and are compatible with both Bluetooth and WiFi based streaming, such as Spotify Connect and AirPlay 2.
The sound quality is a cut above, and there’s even a companion mobile app which allows you to adjust the bass and treble. Alexa voice control is built in, and works as all other Alexa compatible devices do.
But… it’s pricey. For such great sound quality and features, that’s par for the course. Is it worth the price, if you can afford it? Certainly. But it’s still fairly steep.
- Unique design: That zeppelin design is straight from the future.
- Companion app: The smartphone app allows you to adjust the bass and treble levels.
- Expensive: As impressive as it is, it feels quite exclusive.
- Bluetooth compatable
- Zeppelin Wireless is designed for very high performance and convenient music streaming
- On each side of the Bowers & Wilkins logo at the front of Zeppelin Wireless are a bluetooth touch button
- Designed to be simple and concenient
- Power: 150 watts
- Connectivity options: RCA input/output, 3.5mm mini-jack, USB, and Bluetooth
- Streaming support: Apple AirPlay, and Apple Airport Express
Cheaper than the aforementioned Zeppelin but still in the higher end of bookshelf speakers, the Audioengine A5+ is a multi-award winning piece of tech, offering a reliable, high quality Bluetooth connection and impressive sound quality considering how compact it is.
It’s no wonder the device is so highly regarded. Upgrading to this speaker is likely to completely change the way you consume music.
- Comes in three colors: A lot of speakers only come in black, but the Audioengine comes in white or brown, too.
- 30 foot Bluetooth distance: You won’t have to worry about the sound level decreasing as you move throughout your home.
- Bright LED light: It may seem minor, but the bright LED light on these speakers might be a little much for some people.
- PREMIUM POWERED BOOKSHELF SPEAKERS: Clear, precise and powerful audio that fills any room, the award winning A5+ system has been recognized as having Audiophile-quality sound at an unbeatable price.
- FEATURES: Analog class A/B power amplifiers with dual analog audio inputs for connecting multiple devices at once. The A5+ system features true stereo sound in hand-finished wood cabinets, 5" custom aramid fiber woofers and 0.75" silk dome tweeters. Control volume using the remote control or the front mounted knob, and save power when not in use with an auto-sensing sleep mode.
- 150 WATTS OF POWER: Experience room filling sound from a small footprint with 150W of combined peak output. Easily connect the compact Audioengine S8 or S6 subwoofer via the RCA variable output. And at 10.75”H x 7”W x 9”D ea, the A5+ Powered speakers sound much bigger than they are.
- WHAT’S INCLUDED: Pair of Audioengine A5+ Powered Speakers, 12ft Speaker Wire, 6ft AC power cord, 6.5ft 3.5mm mini-jack audio cable, RCA audio cable, remote control, microfiber speaker and cable bags, setup guide
- WARRANTY: Stellar US based customer support and 3 year product warranty is included. Based in Austin, TX, Audioengine has been changing the way people listen to music since 2005. We believe in the power of music and our passion is to inspire you to listen every day.
- Power: 200 watts
- Connectivity options: Bluetooth
- Streaming support: None
There’s a reason Kanto is such a renowned name in the world of audio. Its bass isn’t quite as impressive as that of some of the other speakers we’ve listed, but when it comes to overall sound quality it’s somewhat better than most mid-range powered speakers.
It’s very compatible, with a wide range of modern devices but also vinyl turntables. The Bluetooth connection is stable and fast, and the speakers come with a handy remote control, too.
- Striking design: These speakers would fit in well with most home decor, acting as an aesthetically pleasing centerpiece.
- Power saving mode: You won’t have to worry about remembering to turn your speaker off, as the power saving mode will activate once you haven’t interacted with the speaker for a certain amount of time.
- Bass could be better: The bass will suffice for most, but audiophiles might want to find better elsewhere.
- This Bundle Includes (4) Items: (2) Kanto YU6 Powered Bookshelf Speakers with Built-In Bluetooth and (2) Kanto SP 9 Inch Desktop Speaker Stands
- Kanto YU6 Powered Speakers are armed with a formidable Class D amplifier pumping out 200-watt peak power
- The dome shape of the tweeters improves sound dispersion to ensure your ears capture every sound
- SP desktop speaker stands bring your speakers into better alignment with your ears letting you capture a wider range of frequencies
- Capture every frequency your speakers have to offer by bringing them closer to ear-level. Each top plate also provides up to 30° of rotation ensuring your speakers are always directed towards you
- Power: 30 watts
- Connectivity options: Auxiliary and RCA
- Streaming support: None
If you’re looking for some more affordable powered bookshelf speakers (which is to say powered bookshelf speakers that get the job done with minimal bells and whistles), then the Micca PB42X Powered Bookshelf Speakers are well worth a look.
Their design is simple but easy on the eye, and they’re also smaller than most of the powered bookshelf speakers on this list, so they’ll be able to fit on most sizes of bookshelves.
There’s not a whole lot of flash here, but their sound quality is surprisingly good. The sound won’t carry for long distances, but unless you’re in a large room this shouldn’t be an issue.
They’re ideal for both listening to your favorite music, listening to podcasts, or watching TV. And it’s very easy to use, too, with both output and input cables, and numerous stereo jacks.
For this price point, you’re unlikely to find powered bookshelf speakers of this calibre elsewhere. You’ll be able to pick up a pair of the Micca PB42X Powered Bookshelf Speakers on Amazon.
- Simple, stylish design: Nothing flashy, but they’re nice to look at.
- Decent sound quality for the price: You’d expect the sound quality to suffer with such a low price, but while it’s quite far off the level of high end powered bookshelf speakers, anyone who isn’t an audiophile is unlikely to mind.
- No remote: The speakers don’t come with a remote, but whether or not this will be an issue for you depends on if you’re connected to your computer or not- if you are, then that’s remote access right there.
- Balanced woven carbon fiber woofer for enhanced transient and impactful bass
- High performance silk dome tweeter for smooth treble and accurate imaging
- Ported enclosure delivers extended bass response with low distortion
- Highly optimized crossover for incredibly open, balanced, and dynamic sound
- Built-in Class-D amplifier with 15Wx2 of clean power
There are a number of factors to consider when you’re in the market for a pair of bookshelf speakers. Here’s everything you should be looking for- or looking to avoid.
Passive Speakers VS Powered / Active Speakers
While we’ve focused primarily on powered (active) speakers on this list, it may be that you’re looking for passive speakers instead. But what’s the difference?
Passive speakers are usually for audiophiles- people that take sound seriously. This kind of speaker allows for more flexibility and tinkering, mainly because they can be connected to various amps.
When in the market for passive speakers, the main thing you’ll want to look out for is the maximum power output.
Not every amp will be compatible with every passive speaker, and if you pair your speakers with an unsuitable amp, it could end up blowing out your equipment.
With powered speakers you won’t have to worry about this, because they can’t be connected to different amplifiers.
You should also be thinking about how big, or how small, you want your speakers to be.
Powered speakers are usually bigger than their passive counterparts, because they’re essentially acting as their own amplifier, so some powered bookshelf speakers might be a little too large for your home’s bookshelves.
If you’re going with a passive bookshelf speaker this will probably be smaller, but bear in mind the extra hardware required will take up more space.
Passive speakers will offer more flexibility in terms of connectivity, while powered speakers are ideal if you just want to plug them in for the most convenient setup. Flexibility is still a factor you should be considering if you’re going with powered speakers, though.
Some powered speakers offer a variety of connectivity options, such as RCA and AUX, but don’t feature options you might have just assumed all speakers include, like Bluetooth.
Make sure you’re not purchasing a pair of speakers only to find out you can’t even use it the way you intended to use it.
In terms of physical flexibility, consider where you want to put your speakers. Will they always be on your bookshelves, or might you want them to also be compatible with stands? You can even mount certain powered speakers on your wall.
Unless you’re an audio hobbyist, you might not be familiar with all of the jargon when it comes to the specs of different bookshelf speakers. If you’re thinking of buying a pair, though, it’ll help to know some of the basic terminology.
The hertz is the unit of frequency within the International System of Units (SI). Basically, the lower the hertz, the heavier you should expect the bass of the speaker to be.
The watts, on the other hand, refers to the power output. The higher the number of watts, the greater the power output.
This will be especially important if you’re going for a passive bookshelf speaker, and need to match the power output with an amplifier.
When it comes to drivers, standard bookshelf speakers will have both a woofer (which generates bass) and a tweeter (which produces high frequency sounds).
If you’re after a fuller range of sound, you might want to consider speakers with a third mid-range driver.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Should You Position Bookshelf Speakers?
If you’re placing your speakers on actual bookshelves, speaker stands, or even on a media console or cabinet, you’re going to need to know the best way to position them.
Generally the best way to place a pair of speakers is one at the 10 o’clock position and the other at the 2 o’clock position, so that they’re angled inwards, directing the sound at wherever you’ll be listening most.
For the best performance the tweeters should be roughly at ear level, so bear that in mind when deciding which shelf to place the speakers on.
Are Passive Speakers Or Powered Speakers Better For Home Theaters?
There’s a few factors to consider when deciding on passive speakers or powered speakers for your home theater.
Powered speakers are the best option if you don’t have a lot of space to work with, because passive speakers will need to be connected to an amplifier via speaker wire at all times, which would in turn take up more space.
With powered speakers, the amplifier is built in. Some powered speakers are wireless, too, so you don’t even have to worry about cables.
If you’re after more options, then passive speakers are the way to go. There’s a far wider variety of passive speakers available compared to powered ones.
With the latter, you’re for the most part limited to stereo bookshelf speakers or 2.1 speakers that feature a subwoofer. But passive speakers come in many different shapes and sizes.
Also, because the amplifier isn’t already built in, you can choose which one you want to use. This means that over time you’ll be able to upgrade your sound system, which is ideal if you’re gradually getting into the world of audio products.
Best Passive Bookshelf Speakers
Let’s take a brief look at some of the best passive speakers (meaning speakers that require an amplifier) on the market.
They’re remarkably pricey speakers, especially considering that they’re passive so you’ll also need to buy an amp, but their quality is certainly impressive.
The speaker can handle amps up to 100 watts, and the sound at any volume level is exceptional. They’re the first in the world that feature Metamaterial Absorption Technology (MAT), specially designed with a number of channels that can absorb 99% of unwanted soundwaves.
- LS50 Meta features KEF's breakthrough Metamaterial Absorption Technology (MAT) reducing unwanted sound from the rear of the driver by 99%.
- Features KEF'S 12th Generation Uni-Q Driver proving a 40% increase in smoothness over the previous version.
- THD 0.07%
- Frequency range (-6dB) - 47 Hz - 45 kHz
- Available in four stunning finishes: Cabon Black, Mineral White, Titanium Grey, and Royal Blue Special Edition
Nothing spectacular, but there’s no doubt that these are reliable speakers with decent sound quality.
They’re fairly affordable, sometimes discounted substantially, and if you don’t really care about specs, then these are speakers well worth considering.
- The JBL Stage is an advanced, home-stereo/home-theater speaker system that offers you the thrill of a live-concert experience
- JBL Stage captures every note of the audio spectrum from high to low
- JBL engineering high-definition imaging waveguide design and 1" aluminum dome tweeters
- JBL Stage is a stylish addition to any theater system.
- Whether it’s for movies or music, the sound of your home will never be the same.
While the variety of powered speakers is slimmer than that of passive speakers, there’s still a considerable range to choose from. All of the powered bookshelf speakers on this list offer impressive, crisp sound- it really just depends how much you’re willing to spend.
Some designs are sleeker and more contemporary, while others have a more classic look. Some have a variety of connectivity options, while others are mostly Bluetooth speakers. The latter will suit you fine if that’s mostly how you’re consuming audio.
If you’re unsure whether to go for passive bookshelf speakers or powered bookshelf speakers, it mostly depends on how much space you have, because more will be taken up by a passive speaker plus an amp, as well as how much flexibility you’re looking for.
Passive speakers offer more options when it comes to receivers and upgrading those receivers, but for most people, the best bookshelf speaker is a powered one.