Totem Acoustic Model 1 Signature are the best bookshelf speakers (that are actually bookshelf sized) that I have heard.
12 responses Add your response
I'll second the North Acoustics Spirit recommendation - we have a pair (in Sapele finish) in a built-in bookshelf in our family room and they sound great. They're close together, so not much imaging to speak of, but the bass reinforcement of the cabinet balances them out nicely. The speaker is also very well finished, so no concerns there. Good luck!
For shelf placement, only acoustic suspension/sealed box or front ported monitors will work best ... you can't change physics, though marketing spiels may try. Question seriously any manufacturer that will claim that a rear ported or a "plugged" rear ported speaker will work well in your situation, unless it can be demonstarted that the speakers work well with near rear wall (less than 3 inches) placement. Fortunately, speakers on an open shelf fare better than speakers on a shelf inside of a bookcase (you ultimately wind up with a box inside of a box). I speak with a lot of experience, as I have had speakers on shelves in numerous systems for the last 15 years (mischievous, high-flying cats).
Hell if I know which are the "best" speakers for anything. Speakers that I have owned which excelled at shelf placement are: NHT SB2 (depending on your shelf width though, I would go with the SB3 ... a very underrated performer that with the right equipment would shock most people with its nuanced musical performance); Omega Super 3 (a single driver speaker that is magic with tubes); and EPOS 11 (the new version would be M12.2). What didn't work were Wharfedale Diamonds; B&W 300 series; and KEF Uni-Q's.
The Coincident triumph is perhaps the cleanest most transparent good staging true bookshelf sized speaker Ihave heard but it tends to lack good bass extension . They have unreal treble if your a fan of that. I have also liked earlier versions of the VR1 from Von Schwiekert which is more balanced overall. I heard both of these on shelves not stands, but that doesn't mean they wouldn't really be better on stands away from the wall. I own the SB-2 from NHT they are neutral more laid back and have better bass but aren't nearly as defined as the above. They seem almost impervious to placement and if you like them they are a fraction of the cost. I'll sell you mine if your interested.
Just an additional note about the NHT SB2's ... I didn't appreciate how nuanced these sealed box speakers could be until I paired them with a Prima Luna Prologue Two tube integrated amplifier. Most people would not pair a $1350 amp with $400 speakers ... I did on a lark and I could not believe that these were the same speakers that I was using in a bedroom system with a vintage Marantz receiver. And I was doing every questionable placement that one could do with these speakers ... I had them on shelves, on their sides, inside a bookcase about 4 1/2 feet off the ground. One of the most musical speakers I have heard under a grand ($400 list) . Now that the SB line is being phased out, I am seriously considering purchasing a new pair of SB-3s and replacing the Omegas that I have currently paired with the Prima Luna. I am not slighting any other speaker, I just think that NHT doesn't get its due because most would classify NHT as mid fi.
Thanks for the great feedback so far. Tarsando, I too am aware of the new Wilson Duette speakers and cannot wait until any nearby dealer gets a pair to demo.
While some friends are fortunate enough to have dedicated listening rooms for their 2 channel system, I must live with my real world constraints.
I am surprised that nobody mentioned any Meridian speakers, as I also wonder if their new 3100 powered model might offer a good option.
I use a pair of Audio Note AN-K in a similar application- but probably a smaller room (11X15). I've tried a variety of other bookshelf speakers (Spendor, Soliloquy, Reynaud), but the Audio Note has worked out the best for near wall placement. I drive them with a Jungson solid state amp- the K's don't necessarily need tubes.
If you can swing a small sub, something like the Gallo A'Diva or Duo might be what you are looking for in terms of transparency and soundstage.