Best Budget Bookshelf Speakers

John C.
By John C. / October 31, 2016

So you want to step up your audio game? Not loaded with cash? Me neither. But I’ve been playing, teaching and listening to a pretty eclectic blend of music almost my entire life and I always have a good setup for listening to music or watching movies in my apartments. In New York City and the like, bookshelf speakers are the perfect addition to your audio systems. They aren’t huge but they can add quite a noticeable punch to your audio output. You can also purchase them as an add-on to home theater systems. If you’re like me, it’s always slowly but surely when it comes to buying quality toys, and bookshelf speakers make listening like a king on a budget possible. Here’s my list of the 5 top best bookshelf speakers under $400.

Bookshelf Speaker Comparison Table







Polk Audio RTI A1

12  x 11.5

x 7 in.

12 lbs.


Sony SSCS5

17.8 x 10.7

x 16.2 in.

19.9 lbs.


Pioneer SP-BS22-LR

8.4 x 7.1

x 12.6 in.

9.1 lbs.


Edifier R1280T

6.9 x 9.4

 x 5.7 in.

10.8 lbs.


Dayton Audio​


6.4 x 7.1

x 11.8 in.

11.6 lbs.


As you can see from the ratings above, all of these speakers deliver great value for the buck. Since the listening experience is a highly personal one, there is no clear cut winner here. Other factors need to be considered, such as size, aesthetics and price. So in no particular order, here is a brief review of each one.

What beauties! The Polk Audio RTI AI is at the top of the budget, but when considering that Polk has been in the speaker game since 1972, and they’ve been killing it, these real wood bookshelf speakers are worth it every penny. Here’s why; First off, they’ve upgraded their driver which makes the bass bassier (that’s not a word) and those highs stand out even more, without getting ear piercing. It also has their definitive Power Port Plus technology which helps reduce any extra “noise” that may naturally occur when hooking up to an audio source. These speakers are beautiful, sound beautiful and are still under our budget. Go Polk!

2. Sony SSCS5 

If you’re looking to spend closer to $200, the Sony SSCS5 might be your best bet. Lacking the wood, but delivering unbelievably lifelike quality right to your living room these Sony’s pack a wallop. They’re sporting a 3 way, 3 driver system (kind of like 3 speaker outputs in each speaker…can you picture it? Just check out the link!) This helps deliver a wide sweet spot. These speakers can handle a lot with up to 50 kHz of high-resolution audio output power. The tight bass, crisp sound overall and a crossover network (adapters), which aids in minimal signal loss, all help replicate the original audio experience of the studio recording. These are some of the best bookshelf speakers on the market for sure!

These curved cabinets are sound efficient! From their sleek design to their added structure surface to the woofer (which helps to improve the bass) the Pioneer SP-BS22-LR Andrew Jones Designed Bookshelf speakers are budget friendly and ear friendly. I love these speakers mainly because they can fill a room. When I evaluate speakers, or sound quality, whether it be a guitar amp, snare drum or speakers themselves I always think to myself, “how will they sound in the setting that they’re about to be played in?” These versatile bookshelf speakers can fit a variety of home venues, as they are one of the best bookshelf speakers on the market and will be a welcome addition to your home theater or speaker system setup.

4. Edifier R1280T

And we’ve hit well below the $200 mark! The Edifier R1280T Powered Bookshelf Speakers are an easy option if your main concern is setting up sweet sounding speakers in a hurry. It comes with everything you need to plug in your smartphone and Spotify your party to the next level. No need to get technical here but ease of the controls and the quality of the natural sound reproduction make these speakers the number 1 choice at their price point and are one of the best bookshelf speakers on the market overall.

5. Dayton Audio B652

Last but not least, these are the least expensive speakers on the list. But don't let that fool you. They sound good, they look good, what more do you want?! Let me tell you why these speakers might be your best bet. The Dayton Audio B652’s are an incredible deal for the price. Coming in at under 12 inches tall these unobtrusive yet mighty speakers are the value winner for the best bookshelf speakers out there simply because of their surprisingly clear sound at this price.

Rock on rockers, watch on watchers and let a pair of the best bookshelf speakers out there help make the experience, whatever it may be come alive in your home! And be sure to check our pick of Best Turntables to use with your new speakers!

About the author

John C.

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