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The 5 best bookshelf speakers in 2024: Passive and powered

The journey of an audiophile is defined by relentless evolution. As your taste for high-fidelity audio evolves, you might find yourself craving richer sonic palettes, more immersive soundscapes, or simply a more powerful sound to galvanize your listening sessions.

If that sounds familiar, here are the best bookshelf speakers you can buy this year across all price tags.

Quick recommendations

After testing and comparing an extensive range of bookshelf speakers, I think the Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3 is the best option for most people.

A feast for the ears, the new 606 S3 offers a wide soundstage with exceptional accuracy and tonality that’ll please audiophiles of all levels.

Those looking for the best wireless option should look no further than the KEF LS50 Wireless II, which gives you the accuracy that makes most KEF models legendary without the hassle of having wires lying around.

Finally, for the uncompromising music enthusiast, the Sonner Audio Legato Unum is an investment that’ll satisfy your audiophile needs for decades, thanks to a pristine sound texture and top-notch imaging.


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Why you should trust me

I’m an audiophile and audio engineer with over 10 years of experience in the music industry.

Marco Sebastiano Alessi, writer at Higher Hz

My journey in the audiophile world started with my parents’ old Aiwa sound system, and over the years, I developed a taste for high-quality sound and accurate reproduction, with a particular focus on affordable yet highly performing audio gear.

Inevitably, this led me to explore the realm of bookshelf speakers, where it’s relatively easy to find excellent items at a reasonable price.

Here at Higher Hz, my aim is to offer information to anyone who wants to upgrade their system or enter the world of high-fidelity in the best possible way.

How I chose the best bookshelf speakers

To identify and analyze the best bookshelf speakers on the market this year, I considered various factors such as sound quality, design, build quality, value for money, versatility, and user-friendliness.

To summarize, here’s what I focused:

  • Sound: A transparent reproduction and accurate imaging regardless of the sound system used.
  • Good Bass: A strong bass without drowning out everything else.
  • Size: A small footprint is what most of us are after these days.
  • Looks: Because appearance matters too.
  • Materials: All the speakers below are built to last.
  • Features and price: I looked for speakers with great features for their price.
  • Connectivity: I checked how easy it was to connect them to different systems.
  • Sweet spot: You want a speaker that performs well in as many environments and locations as possible.
  • Easy setup: I love simple, hassle-free setups.

Here are all the bookshelf speakers I recommend for 2024:

Also, be sure to check the Honorable mentions for bookshelf speakers that didn’t quite take out the award this year but are nonetheless worth your attention.

Best overall: Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3

  • Tweeter: 1″
  • Woofer: 6.5″
  • Frequency response: 52 Hz to 28 kHz
  • Impedance: 8 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 88 dB
  • Bi-amp/wire: Yes
  • Bluetooth: No
Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3 bookshelf speaker
606 S3 bookshelf speaker in Oak | Image: Bowers & Wilkins

A revisited version of the already excellent S2, the 606 S3 offers an improved soundstage while preserving its timeless sound signature: a dynamic and precise texture that works magnificently when playing articulate music.

When compared to the S2, the B&W 603 S3 provides a compelling and entertaining texture that feels incredibly authentic.

With its defining Continuum cone midrange, the 603 S3 produces a pure and vibrant sonic representation, while the low-frequency cones offer a precise and well-integrated bass that blends perfectly with the rest of the soundstage.

While delivering a mostly neutral reproduction devoid of coloration, the speakers are designed to provide a pleasant sound experience with clarity and detail.

With the Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3, the articulation of vocals, orchestral symphonies, and acoustically rich compositions are taken to a whole new level.

To sum it up, I really enjoyed my time with the new 606 S3 and I’m happy to recommend them to anyone looking for bookshelf speakers at around $1000.

Read my full Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3 review to find out more.

What I like

  • Enveloping soundstage.
  • Built to last.
  • Value for money.

What I don’t like

  • Too analytical at times.
See current price at: CrutchfieldB&H

Best budget: Elac Debut 2.0 B5.2

  • Tweeter: 1″
  • Woofer: 5.25″
  • Frequency response: 46 Hz to 35 kHz
  • Impedance: 6 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 86 dB
  • Bi-amp/wire: No
  • Bluetooth: No
Elac Debut 2.0 B5.2 with speaker stand
Stand-mounted B5.2 bookshelf speaker | Image: Elac

I wrote a love letter to this iconic bookshelf speaker not long ago, but in short, the Elac B5.2 offers the clarity, fidelity, and spatiality of speakers two or three times its price tag, so I’d recommend it to anyone looking to upgrade their listening experience.

The Elac B5.2 has a balanced and detailed sound signature that’ll especially please listeners interested in sonic accuracy.

With a frequency response from 46 Hz to 35 kHz and a sensitivity rating of 86 dB, this bookshelf speaker offers the power and detailed imaging you’d expect from professional speakers.

As for the sound, the 5.25-inch woven aramid-fiber woofer provides a solid bass response which, together with the 1-inch cloth dome tweeter, crafts a remarkable sound texture, full of details and transparent.

Read my full Elac Debut 2.0 B5.2 review to find out more.

What I like

  • Excellent audio reproduction.
  • Good build quality.
  • Affordable.

What I don’t like

  • Nothing at this price.
See current price at: AmazonCrutchfield

Best wireless: KEF LS50 Wireless II

  • Tweeter: 1″
  • Woofer: 5.25″
  • Frequency response: 45 Hz to 28 kHz
  • Max SPL: 108 dB
  • Bi-amped: Yes
  • Bluetooth: Yes
KEF LS50 Wireless II and KC62 subwoofer
Stand-mounted LS50 Wireless II and KC62 | Image: KEF

The LS50 Wireless II is the epitome of the high-quality standards KEF has maintained since its inception in 1961, and this powered speaker has gained critical acclaim for its accuracy and the immersive audio experience it offers to music enthusiasts.

Connectivity options abound: from dual-band Wi-Fi to Bluetooth 5.0, as well as a variety of digital and analog inputs for streaming and playback, which makes the LS50 Wireless II an excellent option for the versatile audiophile.

As you’d expect from KEF, the technology included in the LS50 Wireless II is top-notch. The patented Uni-Q driver array technology enhances the immersive sound of these tiny speakers, while the innovative MAT technology brings to life a clear, detailed sound without distortion or artifacts.

All in all, if what you’re looking for is a wireless bookshelf speaker with a transparent and accurate sound, the LS50 Wireless II is your best bet.

What I like

  • Excellent sound.
  • Cutting-edge technology.

What I don’t like

  • It’s for those into ultra-neutral sound.
See current price at: AmazonCrutchfield

Best under $500: Klipsch Reference R-40PM

  • Tweeter: 1″
  • Woofer: 4″
  • Frequency response: 60 Hz to 20 kHz
  • Max SPL: 100 dB
  • Bi-amped: No
  • Bluetooth: Yes
Klipsch R-40PM powered bookshelf speaker
R-40PM powered bookshelf speaker | Image: Klipsch

Coming in at just under $500, the Klipsch R-40PM offers impressive sound quality and versatility without breaking the bank.

What’s great about this powered bookshelf speaker is that it delivers a detailed sound while still offering a wide sweet spot, which is great if you have limited positioning options.

The R-40PM speaker features a 4-inch woofer with a spun-copper TCP cone which enhances its transparent sound reproduction. Borrowed from the Klipsch Reference Premiere line, the high-quality woofer has additional ribbing to reduce distortion at higher frequencies.

I like the plethora of connectivity options it comes with, including Bluetooth, USB, optical, and analog inputs, which will allow you to reuse the R-40PM as many times as you like, whether as a second sound system or part of a home theater.

The speaker has a great bass response and a bass-reflex design keeps the frequencies at bay and enhances the naturally balanced soundstage of the speakers. All in all, if your budget is $500, you can’t go wrong with the R-40PM.

What I like

  • Great sound for the money.
  • Powerful bass.
  • Plenty of connectivity.

What I don’t like

  • Piercing highs.
See current price at: AmazonCrutchfield

Best high-end: Sonner Audio Legato Unum

  • Tweeter: 1″
  • Woofer: 5.5″
  • Frequency response: 43 Hz to 23 kHz
  • Impedance: 8 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 87.5 dB
  • Bi-amp/wire: No
  • Bluetooth: No
Sonner Audio Legato Unum speakers
Stand-mounted Legato Unum speakers | Image: Sonner Audio

Highly regarded as one of the finest bookshelf speakers under $5000, the Sonner Legato Unum is a celebration of craftsmanship and dedication to sonic magnificence.

This work of art has won all the possible awards globally, thanks to the unique sonic experience it offers and its innovative design, with a curvature to reduce standing waves and a magnetic sonic lens to enhance imaging.

The smooth transition between the drivers and accuracy across the entire spectrum delivers a natural, coherent soundstage that’ll move even experienced audiophiles.

The materials used for the cabinet, from solid walnut or cherry, contribute to the overall sound quality of the speaker and mitigate unwanted resonances.

The exquisite, rich sound texture coming out of a Sonner Legato Unum is unmatched, so choose it if you want to revolutionize your listening experience once and for all.

What I like

  • Unmatched sound quality.
  • Sophisticated design.

What I don’t like

  • Nothing to note.
Find out more at: True AudiophileSonner Audio

Honorable mentions

  • KEF LS50 Meta. If you’re not interested in wireless functionality and want to save roughly $1k, the LS50 Meta is an excellent alternative to the LS50 Wireless II. I spoke highly about this bookshelf speaker multiple times: it provides a rich and warm soundstage where all frequency ranges are perfectly represented. I’d recommend it to anyone into analytical audio representation.
  • Sony SS-CS5. I’m a big advocate of the SS-CS5 because it offers phenomenal sound quality at an affordable price. For those music listeners on a budget, this bookshelf speaker is the best option at around $200. However, the lack of low frequencies might disappoint those into bass-heavy music.
  • Technics SB-C600. For just around $1000, a pair of SB-C600 offers an incredibly detailed sound for the price. The texture is rich and detailed, with immersive imaging that works well for both audiophiles and home theater enthusiasts. However, the small size has an impact on lower frequencies, which sound more defined on other speakers.
  • Wharfedale Linton. The modern Linton combines timeless aesthetics and modern audio technologies. The sound signature is warm and dynamic, perhaps too much so for the audiophile obsessed with transparency. However, the music coming out of a Linton is a joy to listen to: it’s balanced, cohesive, and evocative.
  • Neat Acoustics Ministra. This is the perfect solution for those who want a deep bass and dynamic frequency response in a bookshelf speaker that fits anywhere. The Ministra performs magnificently across all music genres, with intricate sound textures and detailed imaging that’ll convince even the most demanding listener. However, it requires plenty of power and appropriate gear to truly shine, so get ready to invest to upgrade your system.

Recent updates

  • April 8, 2024: I’ve added the KEF LS50 Wireless II as my “Best wireless” pick. The B&W 606 S3 is still my top pick, as it offers the best combination of sound, tech, and value for most people.
  • April 5, 2024: I’ve added the Klipsch Reference R-40PM as my “Best under $500” pick and moved the Sony SS-CS5 to the Honorable mentions.
  • April 4, 2024: I’ve replaced the B&W 606 S2 with the 606 S3. The newer S3 offers an improved soundstage while preserving its timeless signature.
  • December 10, 2023: I’ve confirmed the product picks and made sure that all the included speakers are widely available for purchase.
  • June 19, 2023: I published the original ‘best’ selection based on my experience with the included speakers and briefly explained the picking criteria.

Final thoughts

I hope my recommendations will help you choose the perfect bookshelf speaker to bring your music collection to life!

Do let me know in the comments below if you think I missed out on some exceptional bookshelf speakers, and I’ll make sure to test them out for the next article update.

Remember, when it comes to audio gear, it’s not always about how much you invest.

You can get great-sounding speakers without spending a fortune, but to make the most of them, you’ll need to spend some time understanding their characteristics and how to use their features to enhance the qualities of your music collection.

Good luck!


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