Tarun (A British Audiophile) and EIC Ian White have a frank discussion about the best bookshelf speakers under $1000/£1000; the list of options in 2022 is rather extensive but we limited our picks to models we’ve had a lot of experience with over the past 18 months. The reality is that you don’t have to spend a fortune anymore to achieve excellent sound quality at home and we really love these 7 loudspeakers.
Sonus Faber Lumina 1
Sonus faber’s Livio Cucuzza was tasked with creating an affordable range of loudspeakers that delivered strong industrial design that paid homage to the storied brand and performance above its rivals at the same price point. He succeeded in every way possible.
For more information: Read our Sonus faber Lumina Review and learn what components we’d pair with it in our Audiophile System Builder series.
Where to buy: $899/pair at Sky by Gramophone
ELAC Debut B6
We know they’re discontinued. We know there is another model that came after them. We think this one was better and you find them for under $300 USD. They can be driven by a wide range of amplifiers and AVRs and a subwoofer can be added to create a full-range system that sounds excellent for a modest amount of money.
Where to buy: $299/pair at Amazon (Unavailable)
Acoustic Energy AE100 MK2
The revised AE100 MK2 (also referred to as MKII or AE1002) from Acoustic Energy are a very balanced sounding bookshelf loudspeaker with fantastic build quality and excellent punch. They might not be the last word in the lower registers but they can still deliver the goods for only $400 USD.
For more information: Read our AE100 MK2 Review.
Where to buy: $399/pair at Essence | £259/pair at Audio Affair
DALI Spektor 2
The Danish manufacturer is now distributed by Lenbrook in N. America and that situation makes them much easier to find. DALI makes excellent loudspeakers across the board but their affordable Spektor 2 is a fantastic value and wonderful platform for a wide range of amplifiers.
Where to buy: $399/pair at Amazon | £228/pair at Amazon.co.uk
In part 2, Tarun and Ian continue the conversation, naming three more winners in the best affordable bookshelf speaker category under £1,000 (well almost). However, since filming the KEF LS50 Meta has increased in priced to £1,100 ($1,599 USD).
Q Acoustics 3030i
Very much like Jason Statham’s character in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, the Q Acoustics 3030i are a tad unleashed. They communicate music like an effortless weapon, and with some serious punch in the lower registers with the right amplifier. They borrow a lot of their driver technology from their much larger sibling; the Q Acoustics 3050i floor-standing loudspeaker that retails for almost twice the price.
Q Acoustics have tweaked something in the cabinet design and crossover of the 3030i because they dig just as deep as the larger 3050i, and sound significantly more robust than the 3020i; their presentation takes a firm step forward. Just like Bacon.
The 3030i is not a very difficult loudspeaker to drive (88 dB, 6 ohms) but it definitely benefits from an amplifier with some grip and midrange punch. Stay away from amps that veer dark because the 1-inch soft-dome tweeter needs some illumination.
Where to buy: $499 at Amazon | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
KEF LS50 Meta
Continuing the work started with the KEF R Series, the LS50 Meta features a specially designed 12th generation Uni-Q with MAT, with new and enhanced features. These improvements include a new cone neck decoupler and motor system, which further reduce coloration and distortion.
Other enhancements from the original LS50 include an off-set flexible bass port, a low diffraction curved baffle, and rigid cross bracing with constrained layer damping, all of which achieve exceptional depth, detail and the lowest sound distortion of any speaker in its class.
From the optimized cabinet size, the elegantly curved front and improved back panel with recessed port and speaker terminals, to the versatile matte colorways that match the bespoke KEF S2 Floor Stand, every detail is designed with performance in mind.
Where to buy: $1,599 at Amazon | Amazon.ca | £1,100 at Amazon.co.uk
Wharfedale Denton 85
The Denton 85th Anniversary Loudspeakers deliver a very modern sound from a rather “vintage” looking pair of cabinets.
The two-way speaker is the ideal bookshelf loudspeaker, beautifully hand veneered in Mahogany by Wharfedale cabinet makers with an inset front baffle and traditional Tungsten cloth grille.
Underneath the traditional exterior, however, the Denton 85th Anniversary is very modern and utilizes a mixture of traditional and advanced technology. The bass unit features Wharfedale’s innovative woven Kevlar cone mounted on a rigid die-cast chassis, delivering a rich, detailed bass/midrange output with excellent dynamic performance. The treble is handled by a woven textile soft dome treble unit with high flux ferrite magnet, engineered for smooth, detailed HF extension.
The 88 dB sensitivity rating (4 ohms) makes it relatively easy to drive but it definitely excels with more power than less; it can sound slightly reserved with too little power when you want to raise the volume to conversation levels or higher.
It is also relatively friendly to both solid state and tube amplifiers; the midrange is the real star of the show here and it is a wonderful speaker for those who want to really engage with their favorite vocalists.
Where to buy: $999 at Amazon | Crutchfield
Watch Part 1 or Part 2 on YouTube or jump to any part of the video:
- 2:19 Sonus Faber Lumina 1
- 7:31 Elac Debut B6
- 11:57 Acoustic Energy AE 100 Mk2
- 17:39 Dali Spektor 2
- 0:09 Q Acoustics 3030i
- 3:51 Kef LS50 Meta
- 8:36 Wharfedale Denton 85
Related reading: Best Affordable Wireless Bookshelf Speakers
For our expanded list of recommended bookshelf speakers, click here.
August 16, 2022 at 4:55 am
I really enjoyed this series of videos and it brought me to your website. Are you planning on doing a similar video for more expensive speakers? I know Tarun likes the ATC SCM-19 speakers, I have been thinking about the cheaper SCM-11s and was wondering what amp would work. Maybe the Michi X3?
August 16, 2022 at 10:02 am
We just recorded a two-part series with Tarun on this very topic. We plan on posting within a week.
August 18, 2022 at 4:56 am
Thanks Ian, I am looking forward to it. I have really enjoyed the series.