The best passive bookshelf speakers for most people

Image credit: Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

To be honest, many of the speakers I tested sounded very similar.but not $399 audio engineExcept for the much more expensive pair of KEFs, their sound is much brighter and clearer than all others. The pair I tried was especially in a gorgeous “walnut” shell to help them stand out in a sea of ​​practical black.

HDP6 provides a particularly powerful midrange, which performs well in vocals and guitars. But they sound fairly balanced across the entire spectrum. Towering works like the nine-inch nail “The Day When the Whole World Disappeared” came to life and revealed nuances, and frankly, I hadn’t even noticed it on headphones before.with committed toThe recent albums released by Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders and the London Symphony Orchestra are so inclusive that I want to throw my current floor-standing speakers into the trash.

Although no bookshelf speaker itself can provide the kind of thumping sound that a floor-standing speaker or a subwoofer can provide, the HDP6’s performance in heavy bass songs is admirable. They don’t have the lowest-end in my test unit, but the drums and bass are still powerful and clear.

Buy Audioengine HDP6 on Amazon-$399

For those who want the best sound: KEF Q150

Terence O’Brien/Engadget

If you are most concerned about sound quality, no matter what else, please check Q150sThese are entry-level options for the well-known audiophile brand KEF, and the only speakers that beat Audioengine in any of my blind tasting tests. They are not always among the best. Some people have difficulty deciding between the two, but in the end I think KEF is slightly better in terms of pure sound quality. They have more volume at the very low end and high end of the spectrum. It adds a certain luster to Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t Be Nice” and other tracks, and Run the Jewels’ “JU$T” is harder to play than HDP6. Depending on what you are listening to, the difference may be small, but this is undeniable in the side-by-side test.

The audio profile of KEF is similar to the audio profile of Audioengines. Compared to all the other speakers in this review, they are brighter and have more treble and midrange. If you want to listen to classical or jazz music on high-quality vinyl records, these will provide the kind of frequency response you are looking for.

What prevents Q150 from topping this list is the list price. They are tied with the most expensive speaker I have tested at a price of $599. (This Polk R100 It was also $599, but did not advance. ) Although Q150 sounds slightly better than HDP6, they are not necessarily better than $200.

Buy KEF Q150 at Crunchfield-$399

Bargainer: JBL A130

Guide to passive bookshelf speakers

Terence O’Brien/Engadget

This JBL In terms of audience preferences, they have always been in the middle. They are not as bright as KEF and Audioengines, but not as muddy as Polk S15 at the low end. If you are just looking for a good set of speakers and will not bother with the spec sheet, or if you mainly listen to streaming music and only occasionally play vinyl records, then if you can find them, these are a good choice.

A130s is not bad at a price of $300. But I saw that they discounted it to $180, and at this point, they were stealing outright.

Buy JBL A130 at B&H Photo-$300

For those who need more bass: ELAC ​​Debut 2.0 DB6.2

Guide to passive bookshelf speakers

Terence O’Brien/Engadget

Okay, so these speakers are a bit against our rules, but if you choose a slightly larger 6.5-inch DB6.2 instead of DB5.2, you will get more thumping sound at the bottom.This Debut In terms of clarity, it can’t match Audioengine or KEF exactly, but you will feel more hit every 808 times. Backxwash’s new album I lay here with my ring and my clothes It is more raging on ELAC than on Polks, JBL or even KEF. And they only cost $350, which is not bad at all.

If you mainly listen to electronic music and modern hip-hop music, you might consider Debut 2.0 DB6.2s.

Buy ELAC ​​Debut 2.0 DB6.2 on Amazon-350 USD

For those who want to ignore my advice:

Polk S15

If you can’t find the JBL A130 on sale and really want to save as much money as possible, you can buy Polk S15No sound from S15 bad, But JBL is definitely better. Their sound field is not as deep as other speakers I have tested, and the low end may be a bit uncertain. These may be more suitable as part of a home entertainment system than stereo. At a list price of $229, they may look like a bargain, but I will save your pennies for a while and then buy something better.

Polk R100

This Polk R100 The speakers are decent. Maybe a little better than JBL, but the sound profile is closer to Polk’s own S15. The problem is that they are $600, which is tied to the most expensive price I have tested. At half the price, these may be a good choice, but each tester ranks higher than R100 for the $600 KEF and the $400 Audioengines.

Q Acoustics 3020i

I have no doubt These ones Are very good speakers: they are currently Wire cuttersThe first choice. But I cannot test them, so I cannot vouch for them.

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