Nothing beats the convenience of powered speakers. When it comes to plug-and-play, you don’t want to mess with amplifiers, receivers, and cables. Especially when it comes to compact bookshelf speakers. You want something that’s got everything you need, built-in, and ready to go straight out of the box. In this article, we look at the best-powered speakers available.
Among our recommendations, you’ll find speakers for general listening, PC applications, and studio monitors. While we cover studio monitor options, these recommendations are not just for studio professionals. These speakers can also be used for your PC or as a quality bookshelf speaker in your living room.
Our Top Picks
Cheapest Powered Speaker
If you’re looking for the cheapest powered speakers, then the Cerwin Vega XD5 will be the best option we reviewed at just under $80. As this is primarily a near-field PC speaker, the cheapest powered bookshelf speaker we’d recommend is the Micca PB42X. The PB42X will also make an excellent PC speaker, so it’s a pretty versatile, affordable option!
Loudest Powered Speaker
If power is what you’re after in your powered speakers, then the Audioengine A5+ will blow you away! Not only is the Audioengine A5+ loud, but it sounds good, too. The A5+ features an active speaker that produces 50W RMS and 75W Peak per channel to deliver an impressive 150W Peak overall. These speakers are powerful and, even at 60% volume, will easily fill a medium-to-large living area.
Best Sounding Powered Speaker
When it comes to audio quality, nothing beats the Klipsch R-15PM. The speaker is so well-balanced and detailed it’s just a pleasure to listen to. The bass is rich and warm, with exceptional clarity in the mids and highs.
While the R-15PM is great for most applications, it wouldn’t be my first choice for the studio. If you’re looking for excellent powered speakers with studio-quality sound, then it would be the JBL Professional 305P MKII.
Best Powered Speaker for PC
If you’re looking for powered speakers solely for PC use, then the Edifier R1280T would be my first choice from this list. At under $100, the Edifier R1280T is affordable while still delivering excellent sound quality.
Best All-Round Powered Speaker
If you need powered speakers that tick all the boxes, then the Klipsch R-15PM is the best choice. This incredibly versatile speaker allows a connection for almost every audio device in your house, including Bluetooth, digital, analog, and even phono inputs. The best thing about the R-15PM is you can have all your devices plugged in at once and select the input you want at the touch of a single button on the remote control.
The Best Powered Speakers
1. JBL Professional 305P MKII Powered Studio Monitor
Why we picked it:
The JBL 3-series has been popular among audio professionals and general consumers for years. The MKII is the latest release of the 3-series, which has seen considerable technical and aesthetic changes. For this review, we chose the 305P MKII, the smallest of the three models in this range of powered speakers from JBL Professional. The 305P MKII is a powered two-way studio monitor that features a 5” low-frequency driver with a 1” tweeter with a 1725Hz 4th order acoustic Linkwitz-Riley crossover point.
- Dual-integrated, custom Class-D amplifiers
- 108dB Peak Volume
- Sleek, modern design
- Can be used near magnetically sensitive equipment
At under $130 for a single powered speaker, the JBL Professional 305P MKII is extremely competitively priced, offering exceptional value for the consumer. The design aesthetic is minimal with a trendy gloss finish which will look good in both the studio and living room. The full sound and detail produced by the 305P MKII 5” is truly impressive and worth the price tag. For more kick, consider the larger 306P MKII or 308P MKII as options for the studio.
2. Yamaha HS5 Powered Studio Monitor
Why we picked it:
The HS series from Yamaha features three different speaker options and a subwoofer. The Yamaha HS5 is a 5” powered studio monitor and the smallest speaker option in the HS Series. The HS Series looks strikingly similar to the NS10 with its low-frequency driver and black enclosure. The Yamaha NS10 is a passive speaker that is widely considered the industry standard when it comes to studio monitors. While the HS Series looks similar to the NS10, they sound very different. For professional studio use, consider the Yamaha HS7 or HS8, which deliver a bigger sound with improved clarity and performance.
- Transducers for a wide frequency response
- Separate amps for the woofer and tweeter
- Connect mixers, keyboards, and audio interfaces.
- Dense enclosure design enhances audio accuracy.
- Very good noise reduction
The Yamaha HS5 is an exceptional powered speaker with stylish design features. This classic-looking speaker will look fantastic in any room but, more importantly, sound amazing. The HS5 is seriously loud and punchy, so if you want something to play music in your office or living space, you will love the audio quality and sound it produces. The HS5 is also a good reference speaker for compiling audio for YouTube videos or amateur movies.
3. Edifier R1280T Powered Bookshelf Speakers
Why we picked it:
Edifier has become one of the most popular consumer audio brands recently. The most popular product in their range of bookshelf speakers, the R1280T, is one of Edifier’s more compact, classic-looking powered bookshelf speakers. The R1280T is sold as a pair. It features a single 4” driver with ½” tweeter, with each speaker producing 42W of power. There is also a baffle or bass port above the 4” driver for improved bass response and performance. While the Edifier R1280T isn’t the loudest powered bookshelf speaker on the market, it does deliver a significant amount of power and volume for its size.
- Classic wood finish
- 2 Sets of RCA inputs
- Built-in tone control
- Remote Control
If you’re looking for a pair of powered speakers for PC and music playback, then the Edifier R1280T is a great choice. These powered speakers will work particularly well in a home office. With their warm, full sound, the R1280T will be great for playing vinyl records. At under $100 for a pair of powered speakers, the Edifier R1280T offers excellent quality at an affordable price.
4. Behringer MS40 Powered Speakers
Why we picked it:
BEHRINGER is well known for its quality professional audio equipment, designed and manufactured to cater to the budget end of the market. The BEHRINGER MS40 is a pair of digitally powered speakers designed specifically for multimedia reference. So, referencing audio for YouTube videos or other amateur movies, recording voiceovers, and general playback.
The MS40 features a 4¾” low-frequency driver with a 2½” tweeter producing 20W per speaker. While the MS40 might not be as powerful as many powered bookshelf speakers of a similar size, these speakers get surprisingly loud.
- Woofers and high-resolution tweeters
- 24-bit/192 kHz D/A converters
- Optical and coaxial inputs
- Magnetically shielded
The BEHRINGER MS40 is designed specifically for multimedia applications. So playback of audio from your YouTube videos, recording voice-overs, sampling audio, etc. The speakers would also make excellent PC speakers for your office. While the MS40 produces good sound quality, it’s not what I would consider studio-quality audio. For a professional studio, the MS40 doesn’t achieve the audio quality you want from a pair of powered studio monitors. For beginners, amateur studio enthusiasts, and multimedia professionals, the MS40 is an excellent choice. The speakers are certainly good enough for these applications and are affordable.
5. Audioengine A5+ Powered Speakers
Why we picked it:
Audioengine is best known for its range of stylish, contemporary-looking speakers. The Audioengine A5+ powered speakers are no different in this regard. The Kevlar speaker driver and minimal features give the Audioengine A5+ a trendy aesthetic, designed to look good with just about any decor. The A5+ comes in black, white, and bamboo, so I’m sure you’ll find a pair to match your room. The Audioengine A5+ has some serious headroom. These are not the type of speakers you want to use as PC monitors unless you can mount them a few feet away, as they are just too powerful.
- Built-in amplifier for powerful audio.
- Versatile connectivity options: RCA, 3.5mm inputs.
- Stylish solid wood cabinet design.
- Included remote control for convenience.
- Custom Kevlar woofers and silk tweeters.
If you want a pair of powered speakers with some serious power, then the Audioengine A5+ is an excellent choice. The audio quality is incredible, with a generous amount of bass and good clarity across the frequency spectrum. The listening experience can be best described as “fun.” The Audioengine A5+ does have some EQ and processing to make them sound the way they do and, therefore, are not suitable for studio use.
In my opinion, the Audioengine A5+ is best for music applications or even as your TV speaker for movies and gaming. If you plan to use the Audioengine speakers in your office for your PC, consider the smaller Audioengine A1-MR instead.
6. Micca PB42X Powered Bookshelf Speakers
Why we picked it:
The Micca PB42X is the powered version of the award-winning and hugely popular passive MB42X. The Micca PB42X is better suited as a multimedia or PC speaker than a bookshelf speaker for the living room. For their size and power output, the PB42X sounds great. It doesn’t have the best bass response, but there’s enough bottom end for use on the PC. The mid-range offers a decent amount of clarity, while the highs add a nice brilliance to the PB42X sound. It’s not audiophile quality, but it’s a pleasant sound nonetheless.
- Built-in amplifier for crisp audio.
- RCA and 3.5mm inputs.
- Compact and sleek design.
- Silk dome tweeters for precise highs.
- Balanced carbon fiber woofers.
If you’re looking for a pair of quality-sounding powered speakers for PC, especially for a small room or workspace, then the Micca PB42X will be more than suitable for this application. Even though they are small, they pack enough of a punch for playing games or watching movies on your PC. There is a reason why the Micca PB42X is so popular. They sound good, they’re ultra-compact, and most importantly, at just under $110, they’re affordable.
7. PreSonus Eris E4.5 Powered Studio Monitors
Why we picked it:
PreSonus is a popular brand for a wide range of studio and live audio equipment. Their Eris or E Series is an affordable range of powered studio monitors that have become extremely popular. The PreSonus E4.5 is the second of four upright monitors in the Eris range. When it comes to quality, the Eris E4.5 sounds exceptional. This is a professional studio monitor, so the sound is somewhat flat compared to the Audioengine 5+ or Micca PB42X, which are tuned for pleasurable listening. The bass response is truer sounding rather than accentuated and exciting. The mids and highs are exceptionally clear with excellent detail. The sound the Eris E4.5 produces is most definitely studio quality.
- Features 4½” low-frequency driver.
- 1” tweeter with 25W per speaker.
- Woven Kevlar driver for durability.
- Active and passive speaker combo.
The PreSonus Eris E4.5 is an excellent-sounding affordable studio monitor. The E4.5 could also be used as a PC speaker. However, you must remember that this is a studio speaker first, so the audio is not as exciting as a speaker specifically tuned for music and games. The E4.5 is very flat and true. If you like a true-sounding speaker, listening to music the way it was recorded, then the PreSonus Eris E4.5 is an excellent choice.
If you’re after a little more power, look at the E5, which is a 5¼” speaker, or the E8, which is an 8” powered speaker and the largest in the Eris range.
8. Klipsch R-15PM Powered Speakers
Why we picked it:
Usually, when a speaker has so many input options, I get suspicious. It’s usually a cheap, no-name brand speaker trying to compensate with an overload of inputs to compensate for poor sound. Klipsch is undoubtedly not a no-name brand, and the R-15PM isn’t compensating for anything. The speaker is one of the best-sounding powered bookshelf speakers on the market. The R-15PM is more than just a bookshelf speaker. It’s essentially a HiFi without an external amplifier or receiver. The R-15PM has the signature Klipsch sound, which is exceptional. The bass is rich with a nice punch and good definition. The mid-range is clear with excellent detail, and the highs have the familiar Klipsch sparkle, which brings any audio to life. The sound is exciting while remaining somewhat flat.
- Built-in amplifier for clear and dynamic audio.
- Multiple connectivity options, including Bluetooth.
- Phono preamp for turntable compatibility.
- Compact and stylish design.
- Included remote control for convenience.
- Versatile for desktop or room use.
If you’re after powered speakers with all the bells and whistles, then the Klipsch R-15PM is precisely what you’re looking for. This versatile speaker can be combined with your TV, PC, turntable, CD player, MP3 player, and Bluetooth device. The R-15PM is a replacement HiFi. The sound quality is exceptional, exactly what you want from a powered bookshelf speaker. At around $270, you get a pair of powered speakers that deliver exceptional sound and value. You will not regret investing in R-15PM powered speakers.
What are Powered Speakers?
Speakers are divided into two categories: active (also known as powered) and passive. Powered speakers have a built-in amplifier, eliminating the need for an external receiver or amplifier. You’ll often have one speaker powered with the second speaker passive for bookshelf speakers. The passive speaker connects to the active speaker via a speaker cable to receive signal and power.
Difference Between Studio Monitors and Bookshelf Speakers
Powered bookshelf speakers and proper studio monitors are very different in their design, both sonically and aesthetically. Typically, a studio monitor will have the volume control, buttons, and inputs on the rear. You usually have a desktop sound card that allows you to access the volume control, so there is no need for this to be on the front. It keeps the speaker’s face looking clean and uncluttered.
A powered bookshelf speaker, on the other hand, will have volume control and, in some circumstances, even a headphone and ⅛-inch AUX input on the front. This is because it’s designed more for the consumer than for professional use, so ease of access is essential.
When mixing, a studio engineer is looking for a speaker with flat frequency response. If, for example, the engineer mixes on a speaker with a bass boost, he or she will compensate for this in the mix by cutting the bass. When you listen to the final mix on a normal pair of speakers, the bass will be very low or non-existent due to the engineer cutting or reducing bass frequencies. For this reason, a speaker with as flat a frequency response as possible is required to get a balanced mix.
The problem with a flat studio monitor is that it’s not always an exciting listening experience. Nowadays, speaker and headphone manufacturers perform all sorts of EQ adjustments and manipulations to make their products sound more exciting to listen to. If you’re used to a nice fat bass sound, you might not get that from a studio monitor, but a powered bookshelf speaker will be tuned for user experience over flat frequency response.
Which is Better?
Ultimately, sound quality is a subjective thing. So what I might like, you might not find as exciting and vice versa. If you like to listen to a wide range of music – especially acoustic, rock, classic, and instrumental-type genres, then a studio monitor might be a better choice. If you like more urban and dance genres, a bookshelf speaker with a 5” low-frequency driver might be more of what you’re after.
What is a Near-Field Monitor?
A near-field monitor is sonically designed to be listened to at proximity. So essentially, you need to be sitting in front of the speakers in close proximity to get the experience of the speaker. Often, sitting too far away will result in a loss of frequencies, especially bass. If you’re looking for a speaker for your living area, do not choose a near-field monitor. A near-field monitor is best suited for use in the studio or at your PC where you’re sitting close to the speakers, and they’re firing at head height to get the best audio experience.
The Technical Stuff
Throughout this article, you’ll encounter some words that may be unfamiliar to you. This section briefly explains each of these technical terms.
|LF Driver||The frequency response of a speaker is the frequency range a speaker is capable of producing. This can be misleading as a speaker’s frequency response is never linear. In the case of a bookshelf speaker, the bass response is far lower than the mid-range and treble response. You can only truly gauge a speaker’s frequency range by listening to it.|
|HF Driver||The HF driver is also referred to as a tweeter.|
|Crossover Point||The frequency response of a speaker is the frequency range a speaker can produce. This can be misleading as a speaker’s frequency response is never linear. In the case of a bookshelf speaker, the bass response is far lower than the mid-range and treble response. You can only truly gauge a speaker’s frequency range by listening to it.|
(RMS vs Peak)
|Power output is measured in watts expressed as W. Without going into too much detail, RMS is the nominal output a speaker operates at whereas Peak is the maximum wattage a speaker is designed to handle.|
|Frequency Response||The frequency response of a speaker is the frequency range a speaker can produce. This can be misleading as a speaker’s frequency response is never linear. In the case of a bookshelf speaker, the bass response is far lower than the mid-range and treble response. You can only truly gauge a speaker’s frequency range by listening to it.|
Frequently Asked Questions
What are powered speakers, and how do they differ from passive speakers?
Powered speakers, also known as active speakers, have built-in amplifiers, eliminating the need for external amplifiers. Passive speakers require external amplification. Powered speakers simplify setup and can offer better integration of amplifier and speaker components for optimized sound quality.
Are powered speakers suitable for home use or just for professional applications?
Powered speakers are versatile and can be used for home audio systems and professional applications. They come in various sizes and power ratings, making them suitable for various settings, from home theaters to live performances.
Can I connect multiple devices to powered speakers simultaneously?
Yes, many powered speakers offer multiple input options, such as XLR, RCA, and Bluetooth, allowing you to connect devices like smartphones, laptops, instruments, and mixers simultaneously. This flexibility makes them great for different audio sources.
Do I need an external mixer with powered speakers for live sound setups?
It depends on your specific requirements. Some powered speakers have built-in mixers, making them ideal for smaller setups. For big events, an external mixer may be necessary to manage multiple audio sources and achieve more precise control over your sound.
How do I choose the right powered speakers for my needs?
Consider your intended use (home, studio, live events), room size, power requirements, and budget. Pay attention to speaker size, wattage, input options, and additional features like EQ controls. Reading reviews and seeking expert advice can also help you make an informed decision.