Moving on a sailboat - bookshelf speakers?

I've decided to spend a year on a sailboat. I'm loath to give up my home system as it's about as good as you can get before spending silly money. (LX521s, ATI/Parasound, maxed-out Linn LP12 with Blackbird arm and VdH Frog) All of it is going in storage except for my Ayre QB-9 Twenty powered by my M1 Mac Mini. 

I am interested in opinions on great bookshelf speakers that actually need to live in a bookshelf. (No room for stand-mounted speakers in a 40' monohull sailboat.) I also need a good integrated amp to power the speakers. (I'm leaning towards the Audio by Van Alstine Vision SET 120 Control Amplifier.) 

I think I've got about 18" tall by 12" deep as limitations. Maybe less. (I'll update when I know for sure.) 

What speakers should I be looking at? Various reviews like the KEF but declare that it needs stands. Others declare the sub-$1000 B&W anniversary speakers and don't mention stands. I wish I could fit a pair of LX Minis, but the associated mid/bass tube knocks it out of the running. 


The Spendor Classic 4/5 is truly a great bookshelf friendly speaker. The cabinet is not ported and is only 6 1/4” deep. They might sound best on stands out in the room but actually sound very good tucked away on a shelf. 

As for the KEF it is much deeper at 10.6” and rear ported so might not be ideal for true shelf use. 

I am interested in opinions on great bookshelf speakers that actually need to live in a bookshelf.

I get seasick just reading this.

Its been over a decade ago. I installed a Gallo Acoustics system on a Newport 30. He would leave the little sub in his dock locker on race days.

A wide beam tub with a tiller, glorified day sailer. The Newport 30's would blow right past the big Islanders even in the shade. Fun times.


+1 Spendor

There is the Spendor A1 listed here for $1500. Same sealed design like the 4/5 and can be placed on a bookshelf. I’ve owned many Spendors including the A1s and the 3/5r2s ( pre 4/5s ). BTW, any LS3/5A type of design should do the trick! The Harbeth P3ESR was my favorite of that type of speaker!


If you happen to live in the NW, visit Gig Harbor Audio.

For $1,000 they offer a pair of bookshelf speakers that

beat anything I have heard suitable for bookshelf.

They actually have a pair mounted in a bookshelf.


Not sure if you have considered the marine environment's effect

on speakers? There are brands designed for tougher conditions

as you will be experiencing. 


Keep us posted on your outcome!


Get a bigger boat and solar panels, take it with you. No really be safe and I am green…with envy I love being on the water.

I never heard the LS50 Meta but have heard the older one. They were ok. Not very good for rock IMO. The Guru won’t be as detailed but I feel more natural sounding. Best thing is it’s more or less made to be right up against the wall. The bass is surprising! 

Thing is IMO any speaker made to be out in the room a bit is going to be boomy. 

Ever think about powered speaker with dsp? I hear the KEF Wireless is way better than the passive version. I’m assuming but don’t know for sure that the dsp can fix most issues you would have with the bookshelf placement. 

the new Buchart looks awesome as well. Maybe too big though. 

Not sure if you have considered the marine environment's effect

on speakers? There are brands designed for tougher conditions

as you will be experiencing. 

That was my thoughts too.  The salt air is hard on everything, especially home appliances not really designed for the humid/salt in the air there.  I'm afraid I'd go with whatever was most likely to survive.

Vandersteen VLR Wood or CT’s. Richard designed these specifically for bookshelf placement. He doesn’t really hype them as they are for that singular purpose, which is pretty limited, but those that I have them and heard comment, they are very nice.

I would buy powered speakers with room correction. Genelec or something like the JBL 4329P, and many others. 

Beware any electronic equipment you get will likely be ruined after a year of sailing if you sail on salt water. 

On second thought, considering the destructive nature of salt air, I’d go Bose cubes. :)

Good headphones and an iPhone will be just fine and you can multitask and not wary about ruining your equipment. Good luck sailer. Be safe. Bon Voyage!

Fresh water, and I’ll mostly be at the dock except for day sails and overnights with my sons.

I got the measurements today. 5 3/4" (146mm) high by 14 1/8" (360mm) wide by 11 3/4" (300mm) deep is what will fit inside the bookshelf area I identified. Otherwise, I could fit slightly bigger speakers that are wall mounted.

The Gallo Acoustics Strada 2 would fit.

The Vandersteen VLR Wood is in my budget (less than $2K) but would require wall mount. They won’t fit inside the bookshelf.

The Spendor A1 is 12.1" x 6.5" x 7.3" (308 x 165 x 186 mm) and that might be the ticket if they sound ok on their sides. I seem to remember a pair of Advents I had in high school that sounded good with the tweeters on the inside and the woofers on the outside while lying on their side. Oh, wait.. they are 3/4 inch too wide. Dang. They'd have to be wall mounted. 

The hard part is I know that no matter what, I’m going to loose a lot of soundstage and imaging compared to my incredible LX521 based system. I’m trying to minimize the pain.

Now, I am very familiar with the modern car audio world. I have a Sony XAV-9500ES, Helix DSP.3S, Biketronics BT4180 (N-Core amp), and Audible Physics NZ3 speakers in my Cayenne and it sounds much, much better than any car system I’ve ever heard. However, it’s not in the same league as my current home system. I wonder if I used the Helix/Biketronics for amp/dsp and find a nice analog pre-amp to mate to my Ayre........ You think that would be better than the Audio by Van Alstine integrated? I’ve always been anti-EQ in my home system, preferring location and treatments. I don’t know..... I’m in the in-between world here.

@jeffseight - What speakers are you referring to?  I'm a GHA customer so am curious what they would offer for $1,000.  I was thinking the Dragster or Speedster speakers, but both are quite a bit more expensive from what I've seen.

Check out the Usher mini-x with the Diamond tweeter and 7” mid/woofer or a cheaper usher, you could get the x-719 or the s-250, I still have some of these and sold some. 
a nice integrated amp that has the power to power any of these speakers and many others like my smaller Revel’s, is the ps audio sprout 100.

Vandersteen VLR with Van Alstine SET 120 control amplifier would be excellent — I have the VLR-CT paired with same Van Alstine in den system — unfortunate that it won’t fit in your bookshelf.  Used front ported Aerial 5T, used sealed ATC, or a standard MoFi edition sealed Falcon Acoustics LS3/5a ($1995 new) would likely be a good match in your budget. Happy sailing!!!

Your options are extremely limited given the dimensions of the bookshelf. The Gallo Strada 2 seems like it might withstand a marine environment, and I am hard pressed to think of anything better given the limited height of the bookshelf. 

Watkins Stereo Generation 4.  I did not see a budget listed, but these are around $2,500.  Watkins Stereo Store is in my hometown of Kingsport, TN, and have been building speakers since 1974.  Bill Watkins, Sr., founded the company and developed and patented the Dual Bass Driver that was leased and sold to Infinity.  The original WS-1 bookshelf speakers are Holy Grail discoveries in East TN,  Western NC, SW Virginia, etc.  The Gen 4 punch WAY ABOVE their price -- blow speakers that are $10,000 out of the room.


If you walk in the store and ask to listen to what I described

I am sure you will be pointed in the right direction.

Sorry for the hijack. 

JBL and Focal may offer marine grade speakers.


It would be great if your amplifier could be run from DC rather than an AC signal coming out of an inverter. Worth looking into.

+1 bkeske

The Vandersteen VLR woods/CT. Designed for exactly that purpose. The 60 hi current watts made by the amp you mentioned should be enough to drive them. I have the older version of this speaker at my mountain house and am driving them with an older Sonos amp. The one thing I'll say about any bookshelf that's made to live on a shelf is that the bass will be a little thin. Without a port there's only so much that can be done. If you want full range down to deeper bass you'll likely need a sub. 

Easy! Get Closer Acoustics OGY. They’re front ported. Are built for SET (but any amp will power these speakers). They use single drivers so vertical / horizontal directivity don’t suffer much from placement. 

ROKSAN Caspian integrated amp driving SPENDOR D1’s might stir your drink.

Good luck to you what an adventure ! As a side note the salt air (I presume it’s the ocean or gulf you’ll be on) will really wreak havoc with the electronics in your system. Nevertheless, having a great audio system with you will certain add to the experience. 

You may want to look into car/mobile audio speakers that are specifically designed for a marine environment.  You are going to compromise the sound quality, but they will at least have a fighting chance (and won't be terribly expensive).  Plus, they are installed into the bulkhead which will make them less likely to be stolen when you are out eating dinner.  

My thought is to get the best marine-grade speakers you can, but plan on headphones for "serious" listening.

But I am also assuming you are going to be on something like a 30-foot sailboat.  If you have Jeff Bezos money and are on a mega yacht, then you should have plenty of air-conditioned space for whatever you want. (30 foot sailboat tour)

vs (mega yacht tour)



@charliech  😂 I wish! 

Actually, it’s a Gulfstream 37-footer. My previous post in this thread mentions my current car system. I’m open to that, but I can do much, much better than marine speakers. The high-end car audio speakers available these days are something to behold. Audible Physics white-labels for a lot of name brands around the world and I’ve been very happy with their product in my car. 

I’m also considering building a pair of LX-Minis into the bookshelf. The mid-woofer lives at the top of a 36” x 6” tube, so the bass response is pretty good. It’s also similar to my LX521s that have to go into storage. I found out I can re-direct the tube 90-degrees and maintain the proper fidelity, so I might just build them into the shelf and hide the tube underneath the shelf behind the bench. If I need a sub, there are plenty of places to hide one in all of the various cubby-holes. 

Lots of good recommendations so far. Thanks everyone! 

Now, I am very familiar with the modern car audio world. I have a Sony XAV-9500ES, Helix DSP.3S, Biketronics BT4180 (N-Core amp), and Audible Physics NZ3 speakers in my Cayenne

OK, between taking a year off on a boat and this system in a Porsche is now just pissing me off with ur 1st-world “problems.”  Kidding   Truth is I’m uber jealous of ur situation   Enjoy!!!  And best of luck finding a good solution to ur speaker “problem.”


Congrats on the Sailing trip, safe travels.  There are lots of choices that are front ported designs.  I would stay away from anything rear ported since it will need more space.

Sounds fun- I’m a sailor as well (Beneteau 411).  I have been extremely happy with the original Kef LS50W in a small room (10 x 11) with Isoacoustics Aparta stands (stands take performance up an entire level).  Not sure if in your smaller space how they would sound, but my experience in the room noted above is a sound quality matching or exceeding much larger and more expensive systems.  You would just have to find a way to secure the speakers for your day sails and really secure them for any potential rough weather (or stow away).  I’d recommend the stands which could be added perhaps for your serious(ly fun) listening.  KEF has done the work of component matching for you and eliminates securing and storing components.  This assumes you have a Wi-Fi connection at the dock.

You are going to need speakers designed for a bookshelf and being close to ‘walls’ (bass tuning) I built my own for this purpose based on designs from troels gravesen. (They are great for the purpose)


other options would be a studio monitor affair the likes that Pmc makes


just wonder what that bookshelf compared to epos , harberth or proac   ,, hoe abou bass , treble and sound vocal  ? everyone can help me about transiator  thanks everyone who had answer to my question lately!

The under 6” height is a real limitation. Find a pair of ADS L300E or 300CCs and drive them with a Rotel Tribute A11. There are several pairs on eBay right now.
Focus on the music and enjoy the year of freedom from audiophilia nervosa.

That’s a pretty modest Audio system  , if you are going to be around constant 

moisture this could for sure be an issue for a  standard Audiophile system.

if on a lake and out of the elements  maybe ok , but salt water is another issue altogether.

If its only a temp move I'd recommend used and specifically used A/D/S Speakers they had a few smaller sealed designs that are quite good and well under $1000 ( under $500 really) on the used market. like the L300, L410. As a long time hi end guy I discovered ADS a few years ago when dabbling in vintage and now have a few sets.  All impress me for the money, they punch way above their price on the used markets. you can probably find a mint set of L300 for a couple hundred bucks for example. 

As previously pointed out, a marine environment is harsh, even when berthed, so I would get outdoor/marine speakers.