Bookshelf Speakers For 350 Or Less?? new & used


A female friend asked me to recommend some bookshelf speakers for $350 or less, but I'm not too familiar with many of those models (I've heard the Mission 731i at $200-ish, but not much else). Which used or new (perhaps manufacturer direct?) models would you folks recommend in that price range?

Her receiver / CD combo is Sony / JVC mass market stuff. She listens to a lot of classical and some acoustic-based rock/pop. Most of her listening is probably background while she's cooking or roaming the house, but she is a musician and she does *listen*.

Any info would be appreciated, including recommendations that cost less than $350.


I have a pair of Mirage FRX-3's that cost about $350/pr new.
They sound pretty darn good for that money, especially with decent electronics behind them.
NHT Super Ones are also great for the money.
NHT Super Ones. They actually put out some really good sound for the money. I used to own a pair for my second room, and according to some of my female friends, they liked the way they looked too.
B&W DM302 used under $200, or the new DM303 which is $300 new I think. The DM303 just won the european speaker of the year award. The DM302 has been the lowest priced speaker with a Stereophile recommendation for years.
For $350 get a kit speaker and build the cabinets yourself or hire a carpentar. Even if your contract a carpentar $50 for cabinets and then $300 on drivers and crossovers you'll walk away 10 times better. A pair of NHT Superones have got about $3 worth of crossover parts in each one. And even compared to their competition I've never liked'em (and I've owned the superzeros). The Murphy Blaster MB1 can be had for $170 in parts using the GR research driver and I can't remember which tweet he stuck in. But the Hiquphon OW1 tweeter can be substituted, much nicer, and they run $90 each. So you're still looking at around $350. And you won't get anything for $350 commerically with a tweeter like that. maybe or its under who has kits too. The also have a Dillon acoustics design using the hiquphon for a little more. The Murphy Blaster website is down but chat forums would have the new link buried somewhere if it exists, I know mr. murphy posts on there. The design is just as important as the parts but most of the designs out there are quite good and will smoke anything commmercally by virtue of better components. even had a nice project called the esquire that was only $150 using all vifa drivers in a two way. But I would build something myself/herself for that, get that custom finish too.

I agree with Sugarbrie

I have a pair of the B&W 302's in my office setup
they are great and have gotten justly rewarded high marks and awards.

I have hooked these up to my high end system for kicks and they really do have alot to offer, only missing the lowest end for obvious reasons, but what's there is surprisingly tight

these will be in my daughter's dorm room setup in 4 years when she heads off to college

If you just have to slap the plastic and won't do diy, sound and vision did a blindfolded face-off a few issues back of 5 $350 bookshelf designs and gave a Monitor Audio design 1st place. There was the NHT SB1 or something like that and they hated it. There was also an Acoustic Energy AE1 or something that got a close second. But that's all new, if you buy used....? I don't normally read magazines but somehow or another I got a free subscription to the magazine--it just started showing up one day?
If it's for a female ;-), I'd try to keep it around $100/pr.

Wharfedale Diamond Anniversary 7.2
BIC Venturi 6.2
Sound Dynamics RTS-3
Older Polk 5jr or 7 (one here on audiogon)

Try for the wharfdales <$100 but watch out for the shipping charges.

Good luck.
Check out the reviews for Ascend Acoustics on 5/5. They are inexpensive and
have a small footprint.
Used - Spica TC50; New - PSB Alpha Mini, NHT Super One, Paradigm Titan
Thanks for all of your suggestions. Please keep them coming. I couldn't find many threads that focused on this price range. ANy experiences with PSB, Paradigm, or Axiom? I've read great things about the Axiom MT3i(?) for $275 from
The Mission 731 you mentioned is a sweet little speaker and would probably fit her needs perfectly, I think there are some used ones listed on a-gon.
Are you wanting to spend the 350, thats something you have to addrss. There is a pair of B&W 302 right here on the site,posted yesterday, for 135 + ship, thats a very good deal. I have a pair of Conrad Johnsons SL21's of JBL L20t's for 175 that I think is a good value(duh) The Missions 731's or the NHT's are great as well. These are all available under 200 in my book. I honestly don't think you need to be DIYing it for someone not familiar with audio, females tend to be a little pickier than guys. And the Spica's, which are great, aren't what I call real rugged and don't move or ship well, as the voice coil's are at a very tight tolerance.
350, if you spend it all, takes you to another realm, in my opinion. The small Maggies like the SMG's are available for that used, another great value. There is also a pair of Proac Super Tablettes and a pair of Rauna Tyre on this site available for 350, both incredible loudspeakers.
You could buy a few of the above and some decent stands and cable(all used) and still get out for under 350. I guess it is harder than it sounds like.
I own Paradigm Titans. Used them in office system with NAD reciever, for the money can't be beat. About $225 brand new for the pair.
You might find a pair of Vandersteen 1B's for that price. They are excellent, but perhaps too large to strictly be considered "bookshelf."

Certainly the sound of the 1B is excellent, as are many of the above suggestions.
I would look for (used) Triangle Titus xs or Dynaudio 40. Or get her to pony up a little more cash for pretty little Silverline SR 12s. She might develope an affection for one of these nice sounding AND attractive speakers, sparking a new love affair with all things audio.
I recently needed to pick up some cheap speakers for both a home theater and 2nd system and would suggest the following:
1. B&W DM302 or 303
2. B&W DM601 or 602 (these would have to be used to work within your budget)
3. Paradigm Titan. However, be careful here. These sounded great in the store, but would not work in my room. They have a rear port and need plenty of room or they boom.
4. If you really want to go cheap, try Cambridge Soundworks small Ensemble system. Very forgiving (but also not revealing) of cheap electronics.
I had little Paradigm's and I heard several other speakers. I ended up with Soliloquy Sat-5's in my office. They are in a beautiful maple, and have the same drivers as their larger (and more costly) 5.0. Also, the speaker is a sealed box, so you can put it quite close to the rear wall.

They are about 500 or more new, but used, or b-stock (from Underwoodwally) you can get them for less.

These are one of the great buys I've found.
Hey! Where are the accolades for the Sound Dynamics RT-3 ?
These are Harry Person's favorite small speaker for under $500, and I could not agree with him more ( I rarely agree with this guy, and his typical overpriced recommendations).

I bought these speakers for a small office system, and cannot believe how much they offer for around $200 new! We are talking about high end sound here. The sweet treble and integration of both drivers is utterly amazing. (I have another serious high end system that is over $30k+ , and I'm not complaining the least about these small wonders).

Since I have owned these, I have compared them (at my home) to Spica TC-50's , the NHT super ones and the Paradigm titan. In my opinion the Sound Dynamics are in a totally different class by themselves.(The Spicas had some interesting qualities of their own, but DON'T even think about playing them loud, these things do NOT rock).

Something to note about the Sound Dynamics is that they can get quite boomy sounding if they are too close to a rear or side wall. Like almost every speaker I've ever tried, you can't put them against boundries without sonic comprimises.
As of right now I think I'm leaning towards the Axiom 3MTi, the B&W 302/303, or the Sound Dynamics RT-3. I've also owned several pairs of Mission speakers, so I'm fond of those too. I'm not sure if she's going to want to deal with ordering several and comparing, or if she'll just pick one. She may have to try several to see which sound best with her placement.

Unfortunately, she has her left speaker sitting on top of a bookshelf (in the open...not closed in) with its back to the wall, and her right speaker is about six inches above the floor (but away from both walls). I know that's not ideal placement, but I'm not sure if the placement is negotiable...ya know?
Just saw B&W 601 mkII listed for $350 obo. Much better than the 302, best bet IMO.
I believe both the Axiom and B&W 303 have bass ports at the rear of the speaker. This may not be a good thing considering that one of your speakers will be placed against a wall..may want to look at the PSB Image 2B ($399 new)... or something like a used Triangle Titus, which I believe has the bass port at the front of the either case I believe they will offer you more flexibility in terms of placement
Not sure of the price but the Bronze line from Monitor Audio should fall somewhere in your budget range. I just replaced a pair of JM Labs Tantal 505 with the MA Bronze 2 and there was a nice swing upwards in definition and low end reproduction - somewhat typical of the "polite" British sound which may very well mate nicely with the lower priced solid state sound of the Sony/JVC gear. Dual front ports and nicely finished in cherry although I prefer the fit and finish (rosewood) of the Tantals. The Tantals have been replaced by the Chorus line which you should also look at.
B&W LM-1 (I beleive the model is abreviated for Leisure Monitor)...nice speaks for $350 or less!!!
I live in an apt. so I needed speakers that wouldn't disturb the neighbors, take up much room, or sound small. I listened, auditioned, to all the big name lil giants from Proac, B&W, NHT...and none of them could render the music as well as the Mission 733i's. Spend more if you must, but hey some of us got it like that!