Small Speakers - Title.jpgEveryone in the market for speakers is looking for the same thing: great sound at a price within their budget. Having an understanding of the physics of audio and how loud you can expect your speakers to be are important steps in ensuring you have a system that performs well. Finding speakers you love and will provide you with years of enjoyment should be fun; let’s dig into how to do it if buying for a small room.

Given we are looking at the best options for small rooms, I am making the assumption that you are purchasing speakers that are going to be used with a separate amplifier, not a built-in amp like what exists in wireless speakers, or even compact stereo systems. We are jumping into the next level, the only level, when talking about the best.

The good news when buying for a small space is that you can eliminate an entire market segment right out of the gate. Floor standing speakers should be off the table, period. They will take up valuable real estate, and you just don’t need to go that big in a small room. For small rooms, the single best option is a great pair of bookshelf speakers.

Polk RTiA1Polk RTiA1

Bookshelf Speakers

Bookshelf speakers are compact, can be placed on a variety of surfaces, and by using them in a smaller space works in your favour as the room dynamics will allow these speakers to be played at lower volumes and benefit from “room gain.” They are the little siblings of their floorstanding counterparts, using the same tweeters, drivers, and electronics, producing much of the same sounds across a wide array of the audio spectrum. While they may not able to reach down to the same bass levels as a floor standing speaker, they are engineered to be as sonically pleasing as their big brothers.

Conveniently, some bookshelf speakers are being designed to be either placed on a shelf or mounted to a wall. You may need to purchase additional brackets to make that happen, but the speaker cabinet will have pre-drilled holes in the back to allow you to attach them to your walls, saving even more space!

Perhaps the greatest benefit to going with bookshelf speakers is that your money will go further. Rather than buying a lower quality floor standing speaker, you can look at higher end bookshelf speakers.

JBL Studio 220JBL Studio 220

Two Way vs Three Way Speaker

If you have been looking at speakers you will have seen some advertised as “two way,” or perhaps even “three way.” This refers to the number of drivers in the speaker. A two way speaker will have a tweeter, used for the high frequencies, and a woofer, or bass driver, used for everything else. A three way speaker adds a mid-range driver. As it’s name suggests, a mid-range driver reproduces the frequencies in the middle of the spectrum, taking some of the burden off the woofer and allowing it to focus only on the low end, or bass.

How To Audition Speakers

Auditioning speakers is just like test-driving cars, especially when you know the end result will be you owning the winner. It just feels great. It’s important to have a budget in mind at this point, because the last thing you want to do is fall in love with a speaker you can’t afford. If you need to purchase an amplifier in addition to the new speakers you’ll want to set some dollars aside for that as well.

Def Tech Mythos GemDef Tech Mythos Gem

My strategy for auditioning speakers is simple. Find some music you know really well, pick three or four songs tops, and get ready to listen to them over and over again on different speakers.

Most manufacturers will produce multiple models within the same line, so their overall tone and clarity will be very consistent throughout. It is safe to assume that as speakers in the same line get more expensive it is due to an increased ability to reproduce a greater range of bass. The specs of the speakers should lay this out for you, under the frequency response section, the lower that first number, the greater the low end response the speaker has.

Infinity Reference R162Infinity Reference R162

Once you have found a couple lines of speakers that do the best job of reproducing music the way you want to hear it, its time to find your top choice in each line. Pick one song from your list, and start by listening to the least expensive speaker in each line, never the most expensive (or anything over your budget) because everything else you hear won’t sound as good. Slowly move up in price until you can no longer hear a difference in the last two speakers you’ve heard, at which point you can eliminate the more expensive option, or until you have reached your maximum budget.

Decision Time

Assuming that you have narrowed down your options to 2 or 3 speakers from different manufacturers or lines, listen to those three or four songs on each speaker again and one pair will undoubtedly stand out as your favourite. Then comes the best part: taking them home!

My Shortlist

Best Buy is a great place to start your search for speakers. They carry a wide range of lines from different manufacturers that should fit any budget. Some of the speakers I would suggest auditioning on your journey are pictured throughout this post, and a breif introduction of each is below.

Definitive Technology

I’ve yet to hear to a speaker manufactured by this company that I didn’t like; they are consistently fantastic. Known for producing sexy speakers that are always leveraging new technology, I would definitely recommend checking out their StudioMonitor and Mythos lines.


JBL has a long-standing reputation in the speaker biz for producing a quality product and great sounding speakers. The JBL Studio 2 series bookshelf speaker is also wall mountable, offering additional flexibility for your small space.

Polk Audio

Polk has been making respectable speakers at price points that appeal to the masses for decades. They also offer different cabinet colours above and beyond black, which is always a nice feature, particularly if you want to enjoy the look of your speaker as much as the sound. The RTi line continues the tradition of Polk speakers, and should impress even the most discerning listeners.


Another company with rich history, Infinity speakers are known for their great sound and quality craftsmanship. It is hard to go wrong with an Infinity speaker, and their new refernece line is well worth a listen.

Remember, when shopping for speakers the single biggest decision point should always be around how they sound to you. Don’t let yourself be convinced by anyone else which speakers to buy; follow the steps above and confidently move forward knowing you have made a decision that is going to bring you joy for years to come.

Jeff Wilson
Falling asleep as a toddler to Dark Side of the Moon on a quadrophonic sound system my father built from scratch sparked a lifelong passion for high-quality audio and home theatre. My journey has taken me through broadcasting school, into a decade of large-scale, live audio and video production—I even had a stint in provincial politics as an MLA. Join me as I translate my enthusiasm and experience into insights you can use to enhance your understanding of the world of audio and home theatre.