Vinyl has been making a comeback and has gotten many people looking to build out their first HiFi system. Among the most critical components of building a decent stereo are the speakers. It’s important to choose between active or passive speakers. Active speakers are more expensive than passive ones but tend to take up less space. On the other hand, passive speakers offer greater flexibility and the ability to connect with different amplifiers. Typically, $600 is an ideal cap on spending for bookshelf speakers.
To determine the best bookshelf speakers under $600, Engadget tested a number of speakers using new and vintage vinyl and streaming songs from Spotify. The tests were done by connecting all the speakers to a Pyle PSS6 switcher using the same wire to enable quick side-by-side comparisons. Multiple people were enlisted to listen blindly and then rank the speakers based on their preference.
The best bookshelf speakers for most people are the $399 Audioengine HDP6, which deliver a bright sound and increased clarity. They have strong mids and are balanced across the entire frequency spectrum. Although they don’t deliver room-shaking thump like floorstanding speakers, the bass-heavy songs still sound punchy and clear.
For those who want the best sound quality, the KEF Q150 is a great choice. The KEF has a bright sound with more volume at the lower and higher ends of the spectrum, adding a unique sparkle to tracks. The difference can be subtle depending on what you’re listening to, but it’s undeniable in side-by-side testing. The Audio profile of the KEF is similar to that of the Audioengines.
For the bargain hunter, the JBL A130 is a great option. These speakers consistently rank in the middle of listener preferences, making them a decent set of speakers without the characteristic muddy low end of other speakers in this roundup.
For those in need of more bass, the ELAC Debut 2.0 DB6.2 speakers break the $600 rule, but the slightly larger 6.5-inch DB6.2s provide a lot more thump at the bottom end compared to the DB5.2s.
In conclusion, the best bookshelf speakers under $600 are dependent on individual preferences. However, the Audioengine HDP6, KEF Q150, JBL A130, and ELAC Debut 2.0 DB6.2 are great options based on testing and research.