Bookshelf speakers on a budget

Hi, I'm looking for suggestions for a decent pair of bookshelf speakers. However I'm on a budget in the $400-$500 range; I know this is a low dollar amount but it's all I can afford right now. If anyone has any suggestions I'd appreciate them.

Look at the Tannoy Mercury lineup - good value and performance.

Quite neutral and well balanced.

Depending on the model you may find a sub will provide significant improvements without the need for those floor-standers

Want to build it yourself? The LM-1 or Jeff Bagby's Continuum are in your price range.  Figure you'll end up with speakers worth $1,500 to $2,500 speakers for the same spend.

I have no financial interest in you building either, but I did design the LM-1 and would love to have more people building them.

If you absolutely must buy, used Monitor Audio Silvers.


New Elacs designed by Andrew Jones are all the buzz. Cheers,
I have to agree with Williewonka and Sbank. I have owned the Tannoy Mercury M2 speakers a couple of years ago and they are a VERY musical speaker and if you can find them they will hit your budget. A sub may be needed. When I had the Mercury M2 powered by a Hafler DH500 and the bass was good but the highs were so so. Like stated above you may need a sub.

Years later I just couldn't resist the ELAC Debut B6 speakers because of the price and buzz around them. With a pair of Red Dragon M1000 monoblock amps they were wonderful sounding. I felt the air coming out of those ports when I cranked up the volume. With a Jolida JD502P tube amp the B6 speakers were almost as nice. A little more warm in the top end.

YMMV and good luck with the search.
Dali Zensor.Zensor1 if you have a really small room,Zensor3 will give you BIG bass but will need a bit more room to breathe.BOTH will give you a wonderfuly musical presentation with excellent imaging & sound staging!
Any opinions on the Wharfedale 10.2 speakers?

If you can stretch the budget just a bit, I'd suggest taking a strong look at the Peachtree D5 at $599 a pair.  These used to sell for $799, and were a good bang for the buck then.  Very nice looking and decent bass for their size.  I'm really happy with mine.
Audio Engine makes some of the best sounding small speakers for around $250.00-$500. And they are self powered! just connect a source and your good to go.

Also, check out the Audioengine A3.

Matt M
Ascend Acoustics CBM 170SE at $350.  Direct Order.  USA Made

Omega Loudspeakers Super 3i monitors at $595.  Direct Order. USA Made.

Have owned/ continue to own both.  


Hi, I'm looking for suggestions for a decent pair of bookshelf speakers. However I'm on a budget in the $400-$500 range;

I'm sure all the above suggestions are fine recommendations given from folks that have experience with them.  Do you have any experience with them?  Have you heard them?  Do you even have an amp and is so, is it capable of properly driving them?

You fail to mention what kind of amp you have and this would be my first question when asked a question such as yours.  What good is a speaker that meets your price point if you cannot properly drive it?

Also, pay attention to whether the bookshelf speakers are front or rear ported.  If rear ported, they should be used with stands or the rear ports will be pressed up against a wall and you won't get all the bass the designers intended.  

And last, you must go out and hear them for yourself.  Speakers are the most subjective component in the chain and what one persons likes, may sound like crap to another.

Just a few points to consider when asking for suggestions on speakers so you can find the best speaker for you.   Theres a lot more to getting a pair of speakers than just asking for suggestions on the internet.  Good luck!
Used Triangle Comete  or Titus
+1 Paraneer.  I believe all previous recommendations to be sound (no pun, well maybe). Mating speaker with amp is paramount to getting top value from both units. Value of a speaker is highly subjective. There are many good possibilities in your price range, new, discounted, used. 
I use Wharfedale 10.2s in my office system and they sound fine even in a less than optimal setup.  I can tell you that they will react to better upstream components.  Before I brought them to the office, I hooked them up to my home system and was amazed at how musical they were.  If you feed them well and take care in the positioning, they will respond.
Thanks for all the suggestions everyone. 
Easy, LSR308
Elac Uni-Fi UB5. Nothing comes close for the money.
I own and enjoy Silverline Minuets, they are $350 or so used probably. Mine are in a modest system and sound great.

I'd like to hear the Elac as well. They were selling some for $100 off due to a discolored cone defect but I'm not sure if there are amy left at that price.

The Peachtree are well thought of, too, and may be a great speaker.

I think you'll be able to get a nice pair of standmounts in your budget.

Good luck!

the top three are:


You can try to do better for that kind of money, but you will fail......
100% guaranteed......
Basically, if you want things to sound damn good, go ELAC, if you want accurate reproduction, go JBL.
I'm leaning toward to Dali Zensor 1's over the ELAC Debut 6's.

The new ELACS at $500 are out of my range (I have hear about the defective colored UB5s for $00, and if they are around by the time I purchase I might get those)
hfarrior3,the Elac B5's are around $225.00 a pair delivered BUT I listened to them & chose to spend an extra $150.00 on the Zensor 1's because I felt the treble was a bit sweeter & imaging was MUCH better.The Elacs sound stayed between the speakers where as the Dali's imaged well outside with the right recordings.JMO,YMMV.
With all due respect hfarrior3, I asked you in an earlier post what amplifier you have as this is what is critical in selecting a pair of speakers.  I also advised to watch out for rear ported designs, as these will require stands too.

You have not advised which amp you have but I see that you have narrowed it down to the Dali and Elacs.  Good speakers but at 6 ohms and 86/87db, not exactly efficient and will require some good power to make them sing.  They are also rear ported and will need to be used on stands to get those rear ports away from the wall.

If you feel you can drive them and stands are not an issue, then both are nice choices.  Pick the one that sounds best to you as their specs are nearly identical.   Good luck!
Right now I'm using a Jolida FX-10 that my friend is letting me borrow. When I get enough money saved up I'll either buy his or look for another option (I've read mixed reviews on the FX-10). I'm looking to put the speakers on a credenza so they will be about 1'6'' away from the wall, will this be enough space?
18" from the front of the speaker or the back? Proximity to the wall generally impacts bass response. Some speakers are more sensitive to placement than others. Some speakers are designed for near wall placement, and others benefit from being further in the room. 

(I prefer the smaller speakers I own farther from the wall on stands.)

A couple of things you may want to consider:

Box speakers come in ported and sealed designs. Some may fit your needs better than others regarding your placement options. There are articles/posts online that explain the difference, etc.

The other issue is power. Different speaker designs require different amounts of power to get the most from them. For example, if you know you are buying a 10wpc amplifier, I'd buy speakers with that in mind. Some 'bookshelf' speakers are not efficient enough to be driven well by 10wpc. On the other hand, you won't need a ton of power for efficient speakers. You can sometimes meet the minimum power requirement listed for speakers, and although they sound good you will not get the best of them.

It's not good vs bad- just different. The thing that matters most is that you're happy with your gear/music.

Hope this helps
You could look for a pair of B&W 685s used. Likely would cost ~$350 shipped ($650 when new). They are front ported and work well close to back wall. One issue is that they require power much as the aforementioned Dali and Elacs do. Many think very highly of the Silverline Minuets, as recommended by uncledemp. They are easier to drive and sealed box but harder to find used (I have been watching for a used pair myself).  

My concern is that the FX-10 amplifier will severely limit your choice of speakers that fit your budget.  Unless you have a large listening room or like to make your ears bleed, I believe a quality SS 50wpc amplifier, one that can play into 4 ohms, can mate well power wise with most budget speakers having 86-90 dB sensitivity and nominal impedance of 6-8 ohms (allowing of a dip ~4 ohms somewhere in frequency range).  I use an NAD 326BEE (50wpc) and have driven several such speakers, including the 685s in a second system.

One last thought, I seems that you are in need of speakers and an integrated amplifier. This becomes a difficult proposition with a budget of $500 and the current list of recommended speakers. You might consider looking for a used integrated amp and purchase a pair of Pioneer BS21s, 22s or 41s which can be found for ~$100. These are a very highly recommended truly budget speaker. This will allow you to enjoy your music now, purchase an integrated amp that will drive an upgraded speaker in the future, and to develop a feel for what attributes you most desire from a speaker while exploring the speaker market at your leisure.

Good luck in your quest! 
I have a cambridge azur 551P MM Phono premap. 

Would it be better to find a cheaper, more powerful amp to drive the Dali or Elacs?

I found this list of affordable amps. Not sure which ones are "decent" or powerful enough to drive the speakers I'm looking at.
What budget do you have for an amp? Speakers?

Is $500 total budget or just speakers?

I'm piecing this stuff together overtime so I'm focusing on speakers right now. $400 is now my top limit.

For the time being I'm going to use my friend's amp until I either purchase his, or (depending on what power needs of me speakers) purchase another one.
The discounted (discolored driver) Elacs are on Amazon in your budget, fwiw- I saw them today. Not sure if returns are accepted, etc.

I don't know how they will work with your gear in your room- that's the true test. 

The Elac reviews are generally positive, but I didn't pay attention to setup or amplifier details. 
Right now I'm using a Jolida FX-10 that my friend is letting me borrow.
IMO, not enough power for either the Dali's or the Elac's.  If your are strongly considering buying this amp from your friend, then start looking at easier to drive speakers that have an impedance of 8 Ohms or greater and sensitivity ratings in the mid 90's.

I'm looking to put the speakers on a credenza so they will be about 1'6'' away from the wall, will this be enough space?
Wow, that is one deep credenza.  Since the speakers are 8.6" to 9.9" deep plus the 18" you site, the credenza must be at least 27-28" deep!  Are you sure?  Remember, its the rear ports that must be at least 18" from the back wall for proper bass response.

I really think your looking at the wrong speakers for your amp.  This is a classic case of why speakers should always be the first component you should buy.  And then the amp to properly drive them.  Right now your severly limited by your low wattage tube amp. 

Not enough power is CRAP!I'm driving Dali Zensor 1's with 10wpc.Se Class A EL34 integrated in a 12'x14' apartment living room & it's plenty loud!
This is a classic case of why speakers should always be the first
component you should buy.
Well, I kind of am buying my speakers before my amp. The components I've purchased are the table and the pre-amp. Remember I haven't bought an amp yet. I'm going to buy some speakers, power it with my friends amp for the time being until I find a reasonably priced, decent amp to power the speakers. I'll probably end up getting speaker stands down the road. 

Which leads me to my next question. What is a reasonably priced amp to drive these speakers. I posted a link to an article with a few options. 

You all have to remember, I don't have the disposable income to go out and by speakers, stands, and an amp all at once (plus I need a new cartridge). This is why I'm piecing stuff together little by little.

I agree with Paraneer. It's not about loudness. A lot of speakers will operate with 10 watts and thrive- others will sound okay but not as good as they would with some headroom- in my opinion. Sounds like the Dali's are a good match for small tube amps- the Elacs may not be as an example.

Big picture, I think 10wpc will limit your speaker choices somewhat. 

I have small tube monoblocks that are 8-10 wpc. If they were my primary power, it would limit my personal speaker choices to speakers that would thrive on that power. I have an Anthem Inegrated that is 225 wpc. I don't think I 'need' that much power, but it does keep my Ushers on their toes, and does great with Silverline Minuets.

I once ran B&W 801's with a 40 wpc Luxman. It was okay but the bass responded well with 200 wpc - and some use much more with those speakers.

Are any of these amps decent?
Yes, several of them are good values in my opinion. If you take the time to read up on a few of them, both in that article and out, you will start getting a sense of the features and benefits of different models and what is available.

For example, the small T amps sound pretty good, but may not have a remote or enough inputs for your needs. Reading through reviews will help you get a clearer picture of your options.

Some of the models in the article will show up for sale on here. So once you read up a little just keep your eye out and grab one.

Consider the speakers you may end up with as you read, etc.

Hope this helps

Thanks for all the help!
If you are willing to purchase used check out the SS integrateds offered here on AG. 
You bet. Have fun learning, but in the end it's not difficult to put together a nice little system. My girlfriend's system:

2 Mission standmounts w/stands (used on Craigslist)

lepai 2020 t amp (Amazon)

bluetooth receiver (Amazon)

Cost was less $125 for everything.

Plugged the amp and Bluetooth receiver in behind a chair with volume at 50% and hooked up the speakers a few feet apart.

She's never seen the amp, etc. She plays Pandora and controls volume via Bluetooth from her phone- has it playing everyday.

Learn as you go and buy wisely. This hobby is as simple as her system or as complex and costly as a dedicated listening room with high dollar gear. It's up to you.

Hope you enjoy your new system,

I found this review on the ELAC Debt 6

He seemed to like them better than the Zensor 1's. 

Is this site pretty credible, seems like he put a lot of work into the review.
Probably so, the Elac is well thought of in general. It may be just what you need. I think I could use them and be pretty happy, personally. I have seen the Elac for sale used on here- unless you want the ability to return them.

However, they are not a 'ringer' for your tube amp, as Paraneer pointed out. (They may be fine.) I'd listen to them with a higher powered amp (50wpc or more) before committing to the tube amp purchase.

If you are in a good Craigslist area, look to see if there is anything locally for sale used. A nice seller may be willing to let you bring your speakers over for a demo. From time to time I see solid, older receivers for sale for $50-$100. Some have a phono input and remote.

May not be cutting edge, but you would be listening to music for around $300 or so.

Once you get things up and going you will start to develop some preferences and know better what you want and need. 

FYI, Amazon has several used pairs of the B6 for $237.00.
You should take a serious look at these at this price:
>>  Elac Uni-Fi UB5. Nothing comes close for the money.

I just purchased a 'blemished' pair of these from Amazon for $399 and they are amazing sounding for the price.   I have them beside my TV up against back and side walls so I can't comment on sound stage or bass quality, but their accuracy and resolution for the money is killer.   My big-rig speakers are Magico S1s and I'm amazed how much I enjoy listening to my favorite music through the Elacs :)
I see from another thread you have settled on the Dali Zensor 1s. Have you purchased them yet? If so have you tried them with the Jolida amp?
ML Lx 16 really nice same as the motion 15. Great sound for the money