The best powered speakers. Listening habits today tend to gravitate towards headphones, wireless speakers, and mobile devices, but good, old-fashioned bookshelf speakers still have their place.
Larger and more powerful than mobile speakers, but much smaller than full-size surround speakers, bookshelf speakers offer a balance between size and price, but without sacrificing their premium sound quality.
There are a variety of space-saving speakers on the market, speakers that not only look good and blend into their surroundings but deliver excellent, clear audio quality.
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Finding a pair for your room and your budget shouldn’t be too hard.
Therefore, we wanted to round up some of the best powered speakers on the market that can give a budding audiophile a great listening experience.
- 8 Best Powered Speakers Reviews in 2021 – Best Powered Speaker Brands
- Best Powered Speakers Buying Guide
8 Best Powered Speakers Reviews in 2021 – Best Powered Speaker Brands
1. Presonus Ceres E4.5
Ideal for PC’s, gaming, and home theater use, the Presonus’ Ceres is based on studio monitors but designed to fit anywhere in your home.
They feature 4.5” Kevlar low-frequency transducers, as well as a 1” ultra-low mass silk-dome, high-frequency transducer.
Each side delivers 25-watts of Class AB amplification, and the final product is balanced and crisp studio-quality sound, accurate enough for home recording and luxurious listening.
Connectivity options include RCA and ¼” balanced rear inputs and a front-panel 1/8” Aux input, as well as a front headphone jack.
The Ceres also has a sub-output, giving you the option of an external subwoofer if you need more bass.
The back panel has Bass and Treble Acoustic tuning controls, for finely tuning to your liking.
2. Edifier R1280T
First up are the Edifier R1280T Powered Bookshelf Speakers, an affordable pair of bookshelf speakers with modern, studio-quality sound in a retro package.
The perfect size for bookshelf speakers (6”x9”x5”), their classic wood sides and grey grills look fantastic with any décor and paired with a vintage vinyl player.
The R1280T has input ports for RCA, and two different 3.5mm AUX inputs. You can connect two devices at once, seamlessly switching between inputs (or playing both, if you so desire). One speaker also has a built-in tone control on the side, allowing you to control the treble and bass from -6 to +6 dB.
The sound quality is solid.
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Reproduction and fidelity are high, with low bass and crystal-clear highs – especially for their very affordable price.
A cool feature of the Edifiers is their digital volume control, which automatically sets the volume to a comfortable level during power on and avoids any sudden, ear-splitting accidents.
3. Audioengine HD3
Audioengine HD3 Wireless Speaker | Desktop Monitor…
Widely regarded as some of the best sounding speakers in their price range, Audioengine HD3’s are a premium set of classy and elegant bookshelf speakers, available in polished black, cherry, or walnut finish cabinets.
They are compact and portable, measuring 11”x11” and designed to fit anywhere from your bookshelf to your coffee table.
Bluetooth connectivity and USB input allows for compatibility with all kinds of devices and a range of up to 100 feet, with the option for AUX-cable and RCA input; a Digital Analog Converter (DAC) converts digital signals to analog, bypassing your PC’s built-in DAC, for the most premium sound.
The HD3 features built-in amplifiers capable of putting out 60 watts of power, and when coupled with large Kevlar woofers and silk tweeters, produces brilliant, faithful sound.
There is a port for connecting an additional subwoofer for top-of-the-line bass, though the built-in woofer is more than capable of daily listening.
4. Kanto YU4
The Kanto YU4’s are meant to bridge the gap between a bookshelf and desktop speaker, providing 140W of power from a built-in Class D amplifier, in each speaker.
When coupled with 4” Kevlar drivers and 1” tweeters on each side, the YU4’s put out crystal clear and distortion-free sound.
A variety of inputs – two optical TOSLINK ports for lossless digital audio, RCA port, 3.5mm AUX jack, and integrated Bluetooth 4.0 with Qualcomm APT-x audio – mean the YU4’s are ready to accept any device.
They also feature a sub-out port for easy subwoofer hook-up and a USB port for conveniently charging your phone or tablet while playing music.
The YU4’s are compact, measuring only 5.5” by 8.7”, and fit easily on your shelf, desktop, or coffee table.
They come in 8 different colors – one of the widest color selections we came across.
The YU4’s sound quality is brilliant and regarded by many audiophiles as nearly indistinguishable from much more expensive speaker systems.
If you’re looking for something with serious sound without shelling out the big bucks, the YU4’s are an excellent bet.
5. Audioengine A2+
Audioengine A2 Plus 60W Powered Desktop Speakers,…
The Audioengine A2’s are another pair of excellent speakers, designed to fit on your desktop and for use with your PC.
In addition to their sleek, hand-finished wooden cabinets and premium sound quality, they also feature a digital to analog converter (DAC), which allows you to send digital audio directly from your PC via USB cable.
There is also a sub-out port for connecting an external subwoofer. Should you wish to go wireless, you can purchase Audioengine’s A3 wireless adapter.
The left speaker of the A2 has built-in amplification. Simply plug the right speaker into the left for a full audio experience.
Input options include RCA, 3.5mm AUX, and USB; you can hook it up to your PC, phone, or TV. At 4”x5”x6”, the A2’s are only about 1/3 of the size of Audioengine’s flagship A5’s, and the perfect size for your desktop.
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They receive rave marks, even from audiophiles, on their sound.
Audioengine’s optional DS1 speaker stands allow you to stand them up on flat surfaces.
6. Bose Companion 2
Bose Companion 2 Series III Multimedia Speakers -…
Bose is known for its premium quality speakers and crisp, clear sound, and its Companion 2 PC speakers deliver just that.
Designed to be used for PCs, gaming, and movies, the Companion 2’s are sleek, attractive, and relatively small, (only 5.9”x7”), blending neatly into your desk or shelf with minimal wires or footprint.
The Companion 2’s come with two AUX inputs, so you can hook up both your computer and phone or tablet simultaneously.
Volume and headphone jack are right on the speaker. They also feature Bose’s TrueSpace digital processing, which creates spacious, rich, and pure sound with deep bass and a high level of detail.
If you’re looking for a way to mount the speakers, however, the Companion 2’s do not feature any hardware, as they are intended to keep as minimal a profile as possible.
For the price you’re paying, however, they’re a fantastic value.
The Klipsch R-15PM’s are premium, elegant speakers, designed to fill a room with beautiful sound.
Each speaker includes a 1″ aluminum diaphragm compression driver, paired with a 90° x 90° square Tractrix Horn and a 5.25″ copper IMG woofer.
They also come with an integrated phono pre-amp.
Put all these together, and the result is a pair of high-performance monitors capable of producing reference-quality sound.
While the R-15PM’s sound and look great, they are far from small and compact. They can be mounted on the wall with brackets.
A sub-port allows for connecting a subwoofer for enhanced deep bass.
Connectivity options include Bluetooth, digital optical TOSLINK, analog RCA, and even USB, meaning these speakers are suitable for everything from TV to PCs and tablets.
If you’re a fan of vinyl and aren’t on a budget, you can also grab Klipsch’s matching turntable to complete the set.
An included IR remote features controls for dedicated source selection, track controls, play/pause, and volume.
8. Swans – M200MKII
The Swans M200KII’s are a high-end, high-quality pair of speakers, meant to bridge the gap between classic Hi-Fi speakers and modern devices.
Originally designed as a compact monitor for studio use, the latest incarnation of the M200 is intended for use with phones, PCs, and entertainment devices.
Their rich brown wood finish and knit grilles evoke a timeless and retro style, while the wooden panels provide substance and support to the cabinets and lead to a deeper, more balanced sound.
With 5” woofers, MK200II’s are capable of serious quality sound, reproducing anywhere in the range of 56hz to 20hz. Harmonic distortion is equal to or less than 1%.
The front panel includes controls for volume, bass, and treble.
The back panel has only RCA input, but the speakers come with an AUX-to-RCA adapter for phones, PCs, and tablets.
They are not Bluetooth-compatible and lack any kind of wireless connectivity; the plus side of being wired, however, is that they are capable of only the highest quality sound.
For their price, they are a luxurious, high-end speaker that will add some classic cool to your listening room.
Best Powered Speakers Buying Guide
Powered Speakers Vs Unpowered
When looking at speaker systems, you’re going to come across two main types – Powered and Unpowered.
Powered speakers have their own amplifiers built into the speaker, therefore, they don’t need a separate receiver/amplifier to play audio.
All you need to do is plug them into the closest power outlet, connect the music source, and you’re ready to go!
For this reason, they are especially great for those looking to just dip their toes into a quality audio experience without needing to know all the nuances to set up a perfect sound system.
They are also fantastic for budding vinyl collectors, who want the full experience and rich audio from their records but are not quite ready to pay for all the bells and whistles.
But here’s the catch with powered speakers (kinda):
Powered speakers will come at a higher price point than unpowered speakers (with some high-end options starting around $250, as reviewed above).
Once you add the additional required components for a barebones unpowered speaker to work, such as receiver/amplifier, cabinet, speaker wire, etc. the cost of the two will end up being quite comparable (if not more for the unpowered speakers).
Naturally, unpowered speakers with all their required accessories will take up substantially more room.
What’s Your Use Case For The Powered Speakers?
When it comes to powered speakers, you will find that many of them come with a varying degree of audio input options.
As you can see above, all of the powered speakers listed in this article have at a minimum, a standard headphone jack (aka AUX input).
Therefore, if you are using a smartphone with the legacy headphone jack (or thunderbolt to headphone jack dongle), you can simply plug your phone directly into the speakers and begin playing your favorite tunes immediately.
This connection port will naturally be the least power-consuming on your phone and will provide the best in uninterrupted quality audio.
Contrary, if you like to live in a wireless world, many of the powered speakers do come with Bluetooth integration as indicated in our chart above.
Most will have a range of about 50′, which will allow you to easily walk around the house with your phone without ever dropping the signal.
Now there is a catch to Bluetooth enabled speakers:
Many of the manufacturers have decided not to include a remote if the speakers are Bluetooth capable.
While this may make sense from the onset, especially if you are playing music from your phone, if you are using an alternate audio source (such as a turntable), you will still have to get up every time to adjust the sound level.
Desktop, Bookshelf, or Mounting?
The beauty of powered speakers is that they are incredibly compact and to some extent, portable.
Therefore if you are currently living in a dorm or small apartment, any one of the above speakers will be more than enough to completely fill the room.
But long after the late-night studying sessions are over and you find yourself upgrading (one day) to a house in the ‘burbs, the powered speakers will likely be getting replaced by a much richer sound system.
When they do, these will be perfect for a sweet basement set up or even a compliment to your PC gaming rig.
For the most versatility years from now, be sure to check out the mounting brackets on the powered speakers. This will allow you to affix them to a stand or wall for extended use several years down the road.