Specific Specs to Recommend a Bookshelf Speaker


Looking for recommendations on a bookshelf speaker. Must be either sealed or front-ported and shorter than 13" tall. Budget under $2k a pair (new or used). Music styles range from 50's jazz to 2010's indie. Low end supported by TBI subwoofer (small, musically tight).

Are they going on stands or on an actual bookshelf?
An actual shelf (with left, right, top, bottom and back cabinet walls). Thx.
Long response.

Don't bother spending up to $2k, as you may not be happy with the results of putting the speaker box inside the bigger furniture box. That is the physics of what you are attempting to do. The issue is that speakers need some room to breathe.

Placement inside a bookcase negates some of the audiophile niceties like soundstage and speakers disappearing in the room. Music can be moving and sound clean and accurate, but that will be as far as it goes. You may or may not need a subwoofer, as the bookcase will usually reinforce the bass.

I have spent more than 20 years attempting to make this type of speaker placement work. I was always afraid that my cats would knock the speakers off their stands and hurt themselves. I have used acoustic suspension (sealed box), rear ported, and front ported speakers. Spending more on better speakers didn't give better results.

So, what worked best ... Rega Aras (now the RS1), Ascend Acoustic Sierra Monitors, and NHT SB2 (now the Classic Three). What did not work ... Spendor SA1, Totem Mites, EPOS ES11, B&W 302s, and KEF Q55. What were ok ... Energy RC10, Wharfedale Diamond 8, and Omega Super 3i. The amps used were the tube Prima Luna Prologue 2 and the solid state ADCOM GFA 545 and Outlaw RR2150. The source was primarily CD.

So from my experience, the placement of the port was not the critical bit. Speakers that were designed to work close to a rear wall and/ or on their sides sounded best. As you can see, lots of trial and error. Speakers that have a generous return policy may be useful.

An alternative worth exploring ... place the speakers on top of the bookcases. I am doing that now with my Ascend Acoustic Sierra 1s and they sound much better than inside the bookcases.

Zu audio cube may be a choice. Easy load, efficient with a large 10" frd which is excellent with voices. Sealed design. Generous 60day return policy.
How about a pair of quality in-wall speakers. Those are designed to sit flush with the wall. Just a thought.
A pair of cheap NIT super zeros will do better than most,spending more is useless.
Give a look at definitives studio monitor 65's...at 450 a piece you will be surprised at there sound and output.
I second the in wall choice - you may have to make a suitable box for it, but a in wall is designed for just what you are wanting to do.

If you can find a pair of Jamo D830IW I'd highly recommend it, I designed them for Jamo back in 2001. Not too long ago there was a NOS pair offered here on Aodiogon. We made 500 of them the first go around in 01 and 250 sometime in 05.

Good Listening

Try to audition the ATC SCM7s or SCM11s - they're unbelievable!
Since the speakers are going on actual shelves, you are going to have to do some experimenting. There's just no telling how this is going to sound, given your situation.

Here's a couple of options. First, you can go into a store that has a return policy, like Best Buy, and try something from them. They have those little speakers by Mirage. Something like that may work. If you feel guilty about buying something and returning it, don't. Just be honest with them and say how you are going to set the speakers up. If they recommend something that doesn't work for you, its not really your fault.

Another option, and probably a better one, is to call a place like The Cable Company, and tell them your situation. They specialize in lending out audio components to customers for in home demo's. I've used them myself many times and find them to be one of my most valuable resources.

One last thing I want to note is that I assume you don't have a good local dealer that you can go see. If you do, I would definitely recommend you stop by. You may be very surprised. A good dealer is almost always willing to come out to your house for an in home demo.
Thanks for all the responses. You guys were right! In the end, after trying some speakers on the shelf, I was not happy with the aesthetic inability to toe-in the speakers. It could be done, but it kind of defeats the purpose and I think having the drivers inside the cabinet at all (result of toe-in) detracts even further from sound staging. So back to searching for a new floor-stander for my Rega Brio-R.