Speaker to mount in a bookcase - up to $2000 (somewhat long)

Hi all,

I recently had a bookcase built and have dusted off my old stereo components after years of listening to MP3s and CDs through my computer. My existing system is:

Technics SL-D2 direct-drive turntable with Grado cartridge (model unknown - from the 90s)
Sony CD player (multi-disc, probably from the 90s)
Philips 80-w receiver from the 90s
Cambridge Audio Ensemble satellites and subwoofers

I am going to bring down from the attic several boxes of Jazz and Classical LPs in good condition, as well as several cartons of CDs. I look forward to listening to albums again as an event.

I want to build a hi-fi system but am not yet sure whether to go with pre-amp / amp, or integrated amp. I have a lot of research to do first, as well as listening to options at my local hi-fi place in Richmond VA.

Since I am not yet decided on amp / pre-amp / tuner / etc, I want to start by getting a good pair of speakers that will work with something like Music-Hall 15.3 integrated amp, or work just as well with a discrete tube pre-amp / amp setup. I am willing to spend around $2000 on speakers.

But here’s the condition (and the point of the posting): I need to be able to put the speakers in the bookshelves,not on a stand. The room is 13.5’ deep by 14’ wide, and there is a sofa with an end table at each end. Stand-mounted or floor-standing speakers will not work due to space constraints. Here are some pics of the room and the bookcases:




With all that in mind, can you guys come up with some speaker suggestions for me? I was told that front-ported speakers would be required for this application but I have also read some forum comments that this is a not a universal truth.

Again, this is step one in building a system. As the months (and maybe a year or two) go by I will replace the receiver with either an integrated amp like a Rogue Sphinx or Cronus Magnum, or maybe even go with separate pre-amp / amp. The speaker will be the first step. Also will follow with turntable and CD player upgrades as well.

Thanks in advance for your time and advice,


Guru QM10-2. Big addictive sound and they are made for boundary application. They retailed for 3k when you can find them. The reviews are stellar. I have a pair that I am thinking of posting for a very good price. PM me if you would like more details. The Cronus would be perfect for them. I ran with Cayin A100T and much preferred this combo to SS. 
I am not one to recommend a specific speaker as that choice is most subjective and dependent on environment and system. In your case the environment becomes a much more defining factor regrading speaker performance than for many situations.  One thought that comes to mind is that you may not need to spend $2000 given the bookshelf constraint. I would also be inclined toward an integrated amplifier. I do like the Rouge Cronus, however there are several that could be recommended.

You might want to research local and online dealers and define your situation and ask for recommendations for speakers in the $1000-$2000 range that you could trial at home. 
ezwicky - 

Your pictures help a lot - wish more people would post pictures of their layout.

This is going to sound like very odd advice, but if I had your setup, I'd be shopping for an excellent pair of full range center channel speakers.  

Why?  They are low profile, wide and deliver much better performance than most bookshelf speakers that would fit into your shelving unit.  Also (if you're buying used), center channel speakers are usually a much better value as compared to their "stereo" counterparts.

If it were me personally, I'd probably get a pair of used B&W HTM3's.  These center speakers are essentially a Nautilus 804 floor stander in a different form factor.  You might have to be patient in hunting down a matching set but would look great in your wall unit and would be a really clever solution.

Assuming that you're planning to place them on the 2nd shelf (above the TV) on either side of the door, you'll just need to angle them downward a bit so they image properly when you're seated across from them.

I hope this suggestion resonates with you.


Sojn "the clue" speakers are designed to be mounted (IIRC) about 2" from the wall behind them.  I have heard them in that configuration in a small room and they sounded fantastic.  I think that they are about $1K/pair new, and a bargain at that price, IMO.  If you look up reviews, don't be put off by the one in Stereophile.  They did not set them up per manufacturer's instructions; in fact they refused to do so, even though they often allow owner/distributors to actually set them up in the reviewers' rooms. 
The problem with most bookshelf speakers is that they were never meant to be put in bookshelves. There are a few, however, and it it was my system, I would get a pair of Vandersteen VLR. The VLR's are time and phase correct, just like their floorstanders, and they are well within your budget. If you pair them with an integrated like a Rega Brio, you can get both for just over 2k.
+1 on the Sojn "the clue".  I have used these for 3 years now in my living room setup tucked into bookcases on either side of the fireplace, and they sound pretty good.  My wife definitely appreciates the smaller aesthetics, and the speaker design plans for this near boundary interface/reinforcement, so the low end is reasonably linear (most speakers will get too boomy and smeared in such placement).
Thanks to all for your replies.    After a visit to the listening room of my local hi-fi store I came home with a pair of B&W 686 S2 speakers, a Music-Hall A15.3 integrated amp and a JL Audio Dominion powered sub-woofer.

I am happy with the sound improvement over my existing system, and will be playing around with different settings on the sub-woofer, of which there are several possible parameters.

Thanks again for having replied to my posting and taken the time to give advice.

You are spending way too much on speakers given the quality of the other components. 

For now I guess I might be, but I intend to upgrade the CD player and turntable soon.   I already swapped out the old receiver for a Music-Hall integrated amp.    

I'm thinking about the Music-Man CD player / DAC combination, and also a Music-Man turntable.
One word of advice is to use a small isolation stand like the ones made by Iso acoustics. It should help with the sound quality. 
nycjlee, do you mean for the sub-woofer or for the bookshelf speakers (or all three)?
For the bookshelf speakers. I'm assuming the sub is going to be on the floor no? 

Yes, but it’s a hardwood floor in a 95-year-old house and it’s very flexy. So I was wondering whether or not I would need a stand or feet for it too.

I was looking at the Herbie’s Audio Lab site and it looks like there’s alot of potential options for isolation there. But I have no idea what I need, being new to this.

One step at a time. I would try the isolation stands for the speakers first and if needed go for the sub.
the rega rs1 are always solid for your situation, but the best  speaker i've heard within your budget for an actual bookshelf would be the paradigm signature
A sealed pair of Vandersteen VLRs would work well
 their coax design will be effective for off axis listeners.
They have a very sophisticated presentation with superb vocal clarity that metal drivers cant touch and designed for against the wall positioning.
 Best JohnnyR

" A sealed pair of Vandersteen VLRs would work well
 their coax design will be effective for off axis listeners."

I made the same recommendation, and since his budget is 2k I also recommended a Rega Brio because he won't be too much over budget. I know you sell both brands, so would you recommend the same amp, or something different?
My local hifi shop looked at my bookcase and room pictures along with the measurements, and recommended the B&W 682 since they are front-ported.   I listened to them alongside a pair of Paradigms and one other bookshelf speaker and I went with the B&Ws.

At the recommendation of nycjlee above, I got a pair of IsoAcoustic stands for them and I am happy.

Thanks again to everybody who has replied with suggestions.