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Things you should look for before purchasing a shelf speaker

We’ll give you several tips to help you purchase shelf speakers that will up your audio game. 

galaxy home speaker on shelf
Image: Samsung

Shelf speakers aren’t one-trick ponies. While some are designed specifically for movie buffs, others will take your music listening experience to the next level.

Also, while most shelf speakers are compact enough to fit into a bookshelf, few of them require a bit more space to perform at their best.

All of this is to say that you should do your homework before heading to the market to purchase a shelf speaker. That is why we have come up with this guide.

In the following paragraphs, we’ll give you several tips to help you purchase shelf speakers that will up your audio game. 

Check out the sound quality

bookshelf speaker
Image: YouTube / Tharbamar

Sound quality is not objective. Everybody likes different types of music, so what seems fabulous to me might underwhelm you. That means that there is no “best-ever speaker” out there. 

When shopping for shelf speakers, bring along your favorite music on a flash drive with digital tracks or on your smartphone. Playing your favorite music will help you make a purchase decision one way or the other.  

Yet another way to gauge sound quality is listening to the speaker playing live music. Any speaker worth its price tag will make live music sound natural to your ears. The tone quality will be balanced, and you’d be able to listen to the music for long periods. 

Pay attention to the size

You’ll want your new speakers to fill your space with music. For instance, a small closed living room with a low ceiling is an excellent candidate for bookshelf speakers. In contrast, floor-standing speakers are typically a good sonic match for a large open space. 

That isn’t to say that you cannot get large bookshelf speakers. It is just that the larger models are heavy and unwieldy, and if your intention is to place the bookshelf speaker on an actual shelf, they might not be the ideal candidate. 

Wired or wireless?

Wired speakers require you to connect them to a stereo amp with a speaker wire – the amp supplies them with the audio signal as well as the power. Wireless speakers, meanwhile, have built-in amps, meaning you only have to hook them with a power supply.

This difference makes wired speakers seem a little clumsier – as they require you to deal with a lot of cables. However, they make up for their clumsiness with a guaranteed boost in sound quality than wireless speakers cannot get anywhere near. 

Sure, there isn’t any hard and fast rule that states that all wireless speakers sound rubbish and all wired speakers sound great. But this assumption is a good starting point when you are just beginning your search for a new set of speakers for your stereo system. 

Check out specs that matter

enclave cinehome 2 rear speaker
Image: Joe Rice-Jones / KnowTechie

We have all seen dozens of specs on a speaker’s package. But not many know which of the seemingly endless specs really matter. Here are the specs that do:

  1. Sensitivity

Sensitivity is a technical term for a speaker’s loudness. It measures how many decibels (dB) pass through a speaker when one milliwatt of power is put through it. 

Any shelf speaker under 86dB is considered low, 87 to 95dB range is taken as average, and 95dB+ is pretty loud. Take the comparison of Edifier R1280DB vs R1700BT by Soundton. These speakers have 87dB and 85dB sensitivities, respectively. So none of them can be categorized as loud. 

  1. Frequency response

Frequency response indicates the range of tones a speaker can produce. Measured in Hertz (Hz), the frequency response is presented in two numbers – the first number tells how deep the speaker’s bass goes; the second number indicates the upper limit of its tonal range.

The wider the gap between the two numbers, the better a speaker’s sound quality. 

  1. Power handling

Power handling comes in handy if you’re buying a wired speaker. Those of you who intend to opt for a wireless speaker can skip this section.

The lower number of the power range indicates the minimum wattage a speaker needs to output sound, and the higher number tells you the maximum wattage it can withstand. Both these numbers indicate how strong your speaker’s amp should be. 


Bought a set of speakers with the tips given above? Take time to set up the speaker in your room. A little effort will pay off in the long run. 

Some speakers sound best when placed in the middle of the room, while others require you to put them up against a wall. Experiment with the placement until you get the best possible sound. 

Have any thoughts on this? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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