Bookshelf Speakers <= 500$ [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums


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04-11-2009, 08:55 PM
Hello Everyone,

I am looking to graduate from a run-down pair of computer speakers to a nice pair of bookshelf speakers. I mostly listen to classical, but also listen to an assortment of acoustical, rock, and most anything else that pleases my ears. I also watch movies and occasionally play games.

What would you suggest for speakers at or under 500$? At the moment, I'm considering B&W dm602, wharfdale 9.2, and a DIY by gr-research called neo-2x (total cost ~ 500). If you can, please include links to supporting expert reviews, any anecdotal personal experiences, etc...anything that helps me learn about the speaker you're suggesting.


04-11-2009, 09:04 PM
What sort of amp will you be using?

04-11-2009, 09:13 PM
For now, I'd being using an old B&O beomaster 2000 that has only 25w output. My next step after getting the speakers, however, would be to upgrade my amp. Thus, I wouldn't want the current state of my amp to necessarily decide what kind of speaker I would get.

audio amateur
04-12-2009, 01:56 AM
If you can get B&W 685 they are a good bet. They are the update to the DM602.
Others will give you more options. Have you considered some stands for them?

04-12-2009, 05:58 AM
From the OP, it looks like these are for nearfield use on a desktop so stands are unnecessary. The DM602 looks a bit big for desktop. You can use a smaller set of speaker and add a subwoofer and be very happy.

04-12-2009, 06:10 AM
My desk is ~ 3.3 feet across and the distance to the wall it's against is 2.5 feet. Would these constraints still allow floorstand speakers to work? I'm reading that the 685 might have a deeper bass range, which would be a plus. But the cheapest price I see for them is 650$, which is quite a bit over budget.

audio amateur
04-12-2009, 06:20 AM
It really depends how you are going to be listening. Are these going to be on your desk?
in that case the 685 are too big and the 686 would do nicely.

04-12-2009, 06:20 AM
Oh, and another thought. I have a 24" monitor that takes up quite a bit of room on my desk. Even if I got some relatively small bookshelf speakers, it might be a squeeze to get them on my desk, or I'd have to put them partially behind the monitor. So consideration of floorstand speakers are still on the table..or off the table rather (sorry, couldn't resist..).

04-12-2009, 06:23 AM
I guess I'm saying as long as the 3.5ft separation and 2.5ft max listening distance won't put me at a major listening disadvantage, I'm ok with keeping floorstand an option. The extra desk space would be a plus. Otherwise, I might be able to manage with something more like the 686 if nothing else makes sense.

04-12-2009, 06:32 AM
In my computer setup, I wall-mounted the speakers to free up desk space. Another alternative is powered audio monitors, like this:

These aren 't likely a good candidate for wall-mounting, so that's a different topic. This eliminates the Beomaster. You could even upgrade to an M-Audio sound card.

audio amateur
04-12-2009, 06:55 AM
This is where you have to draw the line between powered studio monitors & hifi separates. In your situation a suggestion such as audionoobs would be more viable. It also negates the need for an amp, so you won't be using the B&O and you won't have to get another one down the line. I know Dynaudio makes some powered monitors aswell, but they may be a little more than 500.

04-12-2009, 07:07 AM
That's an interesting idea getting powered studio monitors. That would also save me from having to get a DAC for plugging into an optical input sound card, right? I'm guessing these monitors can interface with a soundcard out-of-the-box, which would be excellent.

My only question is, given a 2-speaker setup, how much quality am I compromising going with a powered studio monitor solution compared to something like the dm685s, or even the wharfedale 9.2's which are a bit cheaper? I like the simplicity of the studio monitor solution, but how would you honestly compare this with the hifi separates I could be getting within my budget range?

04-12-2009, 07:19 AM
Here's something interesting. The BX8A deluxe is only 350$ with free shipping on This is a very tempting possibility. I'm still just interested in a quality comparison to other possibilities in my budget. I also recognize that these are studio monitors, so they're specifically designed for people that are mixing music and such. Would this make them any less enjoyable or less geared-for listening?

04-12-2009, 07:23 AM
It seems to me you could say monitors tend toward high sonic accuracy and maybe a little less musicality than hifi speakers. That's a subjective listening thing, obviously. I suspect you'll get clarity, quality midrange, maybe less warmth than hifi speakers. These cards could be interesting, too...

04-12-2009, 08:02 AM
I'm trying to understand whether that soundcard would be required, or if I could plug it into my existing audigy zs card. There's TRS inputs in each monitor, so would I be supplied a cable that would go into one so I could put into into a standard soundcard "green wire" input, or would I need some converter, or would I actually need to get another soundcard? Sorry for the silly question, but I just couldn't find a clear explanation on the type of interface being used. Thanks for all the help audionoob.

04-12-2009, 08:10 AM
Not a silly question at all. I was thinking in "upgrade" mode, not "required" mode. I can't see why you wouldn't be able to run the green output on the Audigy to the TRS input with an ordinary mini (3.5 mm plug) wire. Of course, you'd need an adapter from mini to 1/4", but those are super cheap.

I'm no expert on this product, but now that you've asked the question, I think I'm finding they will not supply these wires or adapters with the monitors.

audio amateur
04-12-2009, 08:36 AM
Those BX8A seem to be a good deal for 350$. You should be able to hook them up to your soundcard with a 3.5mm to RCA cable. Get a decent one.

04-12-2009, 08:56 AM
So, can we delve in a little deeper and say this would be my "best option" for a sub-500$ setup for computer audio, or is there any other ones I should consider before making a buy? Also, is there any big SQ boost I can get out of a soundcard upgrade above my audigy zs? I'm guessing that one would be more tailored to gaming compared to the m-audio card.

I guess I should also think about what kind of cables to get. I've heard a lot that the quality of cable matters a lot...but I have no experience in testing the differences.

04-12-2009, 09:15 AM
I know I'm not sure it's the best option, and also not sure it isn't. One option I'd consder if in your postion would be the NHT Classic Three on closeout prices and a simple amp like the AudioSource AMP 100:

Edit: Oops...too expensive. I'll look for something else. we go...NHT Absolute Zero:

04-12-2009, 10:04 AM
I'm seeing some nice reviews on NHT speakers, but my concern on the zeroes would be that they are said to have 'little to know bass'. If possible, I'm trying to make it without a subwoofer for awhile, which is why I was thinking of some 'big' bookshelf speakers like the bx8a that have decent bass. I'm still a bit conflicted over passive vs. active speaker options... if I was faced with an active solution and passive solution that were equal in SQ and price, I'd probably choose the active one just for space efficiency.

04-12-2009, 11:42 AM
Consider the NHT Classic twos. You should be able to find them for about $450pr. They have a warmer sound with good bass for their size. The Wharfedale diamond 9.2's and B&W 686's are a good choice as well.

Also consider the Energy C-300 floor standers at

or these Boston floorstanders

04-12-2009, 11:50 AM
The bass issue with the Absolute Zero would be an issue, now that you mention it. Gaming sound effects could get lost. The M-Audio monitors you found on Amazon go down to 40 Hz and the Zero speakers go to only 68 Hz, according to the Audiogon ad.

04-12-2009, 12:43 PM biggest challenge is having too many options...I become extremely indecisive. If anyone could help me narrow down my choices, or perhaps help develop criteria for narrowing them down, that would be really appreciated.

I'm kind of leaning toward the m-audio BX8a delux paired with a 2496 soundcard. This full solution is only ~ 450$, and doesn't require an amp since its an active monitor. But I'd definitely be open to other setups that can get close to this price range, even if an amp is separate.

04-12-2009, 12:56 PM
I would suggest assigning some simple levels of importance to the differences and see how they balance out. With the solution you currently favor...the M-Audio card and get the claimed sonic accuracy of studio monitors, the simplicity of fewer pieces in that there's no separate amp, the bass extension and punch of the monitors without the sub, the simplicity of the connections - straight from the card to the monitors. With the bookshelf option, you get the wide range of speaker choices, the wide range of amp choices and the usually more musical sound of hifi speakers.

04-12-2009, 01:11 PM
Ultimately, my goal is to get the best sounded setup that's as close to 500$ as possible (if an amp was needed, I might push that up a bit). I want it to sound as "musically appealing" as possible, which I realize is a very subjective term. With all else equal, I would of course prefer simplicity -- but I certainly wouldn't want simplicity to sacrifice musicality at all.

If it's possible for me to get a reasonably priced amp, that might be a good start when considering bookshelf speaker options. Anyone have any suggestions there? But if I end up getting some really nice bookshelf speakers and there's only 100-200$ left for an amp, would I be getting something so poor that it makes the end product not worth it?

I sometimes tend to overcomplicate/overanalyze things so thanks for bearing with me. Maybe if I was given what people think was the 'top choice' for a bookshelf/amp solution within my price range that would be really helpful instead of seeing 4 or 5 possibilities since I can get overwhelmed with indecisiveness.

Thanks again for help.

04-12-2009, 01:22 PM
I can simplify the amp/bookshelf solution in my own mind, but others will see it differently. Here it is:

My own opinion is that $100 to $200 is reasonable for an amp in this application.

audio amateur
04-12-2009, 02:47 PM
If you are going t0 get another soundcard, you might as well go with an outboard DAC. Such as this:

I own one and am very happy with it. The problem with computer sound cards is all the interference you get from the computer power supply etc...
I would see little point in changing your Creative soundcard unless you go with something like this.

04-12-2009, 03:05 PM
Here's another option I've been advised to through into the mix, the mackie MR8:

Only 400$ for a pair, I'm curious how they stack up against the m-audio bx8a deluxe. Anyone have any experience with both of these?

04-12-2009, 06:38 PM
I can't make specific recommendations on speakers because my experience is somewhat limited. I'll try to offer some advice that will help narrow things down for you.

The powered monitors will generally give you a bit more bass for the same sized speaker. Because they're designed for people doing audio recording, they will strive to give you a more accurate reproduction than bookshelf speakers. For me that generally equates to higher quality sound but some people find a more accurate system is less "musical" and less enjoyable.

Either the Mackie or M-Audio monitors will be an enormous improvement over the PC speakers you're using. If you want to find people who have heard both, I'd search for internet forms for people doing home recording.

Don't assume that the sound card will be a limiting factor for your system. The way I see it, at least you have a sound card. Wire your system up and see how it sounds. The limiting factor in my PC system at this point is the acoustical noise from the fans and hard disk in the computer.

04-15-2009, 09:57 AM
Greetings all.

I had a similar requirement, budgetwise. Got one pair of Cambridge Soundworks Model Six for 150 clams. I don't know what kind of music you listen to but these do well enough with Bach to Bluegrass to Wagner. They seem quite kind to the voice. Sinatra is crisp, hip and intimate. John Anderson swallows the mike and Jan Peerce singning "Sound the Alarm!" from Handel's "Judas Maccabaeus" got me up off the couch and digging out the Kalashnikov. This is Henry Kloss doing his hi-fi for everyman thing.

04-15-2009, 03:17 PM
You might also want to check out the Hsu monitors. A little bass-shy, but for $300, that will leave you some cash for a better amp. And they're not slouches either:

04-18-2009, 04:17 PM
Hey all,

I dont mean to hijack this thread, but I'm in a similar position - looking for some nice (but fairly cheap) bookshelves mostly for use with my pc. I've got a decent sound card and up to now I've mainly been using headphones (AD700), and just using whatever dodgy pc speakers I have lying around when I need speakers. So its time to upgrade! :biggrin5:

I'll mainly be using them for music (of basically all types, I have a huge collection and I listen to everything from classical piano to heavy rock :P) and some movies. I'm not concerned about high volume performance as they'll only be used in a fairly small room and I'll never be turning them up too high. What I am really concerned with is clarity, I really want a nice crisp, distinct sound.

I've been looking around and doing a fair bit of research on whats good over the last few days, but I am by no means any sort of expert so any advice at all would be great.
Unfortunately I'm quite limited by whats available to me, trying to find a decent hifi shop near me has been a bit of challenge, but I've found a few used sets that I could get my hands on. This is basically the shortlist I've come up with from what I've got available to me, I've also added a little note of the basic impression of them that I've got from what I've read, if I'm wrong about any of them please let me know:

- Mission M70: apparently quite good all rounder, smaller size than the others which is a plus as I dont have too much space for them (although I'm happy to go with a larger speaker if its better)

- Mission 771: quite old now, although apparently a classic and still very good

- Wharfedale Diamond 9.1 or 9.2: I think this is in a slightly higher price bracket if I'm not mistaken, although probably worth the extra cost

- Wharfedale XR-1000: As I understand these aren't really in the same league as the Diamonds. They seem to be more associated with 'nightclub' style music - i'm guessing that means more 'boomier' bass?

- B&W DM110: I don't know too much about these - although B&W seem to have quite a good reputation.

If you have any information/experience/comparisons regarding the above speakers I would love to hear it, also if anyone has an idea of what sort of price I should expect to pay for the above then that would be great too - I don't want to get ripped off :)
If you have any advice/tips/recommendations on other speakers similar to these or that you think would be appropriate then I'd love to hear that as well, although as I said I am fairly limited by what I can actually get.

Sorry about the epic post length :P Thanks for having a read and I hope you have some interesting thoughts on the matter :)