Budget-friendly bookshelf speakers have gone from selling like hot cakes to becoming a shadow of themselves. This is despite the fact that they have possibly never produced better sound for the money than right now. Instead, people want to have them wireless, with their mobile phone as the audio source.
For this same reason, one-box solutions have become popular. Both affordable Bluetooth speakers, but also multi-room speakers where Sonos dominates with steep competition from Heos, Bluesound etc.
But if you want the best sound, one speaker is not enough. Two is much more than double that of one in this context, because the sound is suddenly unfolded in the space between the speakers. And a proper stereo perspective is invaluable when immersing oneself in the music.
Stereo speakers with Bluetooth
A good solution is to connect a pair of good bookshelf speakers to an amplifier that receives the sound wirelessly from a mobile phone. But it is even more convenient to build the wireless receiver and the amplification into the actual speakers. And it is such speakers we are looking at this time around. All have remote control, so you can control them right from the couch.
All the speakers in this test have additional analogue audio input, many have turntable input, and all have optical digital input. If you connect the TV, you will be amazed at how much better sound is from the flat screen! For many, this could be a better solution than a sound board, because it gives you rich noise without the need of a subwoofer. The best also have an outrageously better conveyance of music, than any sound board we have heard so far.
Five hundred euro
We’ve been looking at speakers around the magical 5,000 kroner mark, and in this price range, a compromise has usually been made so that all electronics are placed in one speaker, which is further connected to the other with a perfectly ordinary speaker cable. This applies to all the speakers in this test.
We’ve found five exciting candidates. Klipsch have expanded their active speaker series, and one of our all-time favourites R-15PM has gotten a little brother. R-14PM is very compact and fits most bookshelves. We also have System Audio Saxo 3 Active, which has succeeded Saxo 1 Active – a former favourite within the class as well. Triangle is a renowned French speaker manufacturer, and we are excited to see how Elara LN01A performs.
The outsiders this time are Argon Alto 5 Active and Ruark MR1 MK2. Argon because it cost half as much as the most expensive and thus it is by far the cheapest speaker pair. Ruark because it is the absolute smallest speaker pair. I wonder if the physical dimensions may raise some challenges for the sound?
This is how we tested
All the speakers have several different inputs, both with and without cable. We’ve put focus on the performance of wireless speakers, and we’ve used Bluetooth. This is because we reckon this is what the majority will spend most of the time doing. The audio source was iPhone X with the music app Tidal, which offers music of CD quality.
A total bargain of a price
The cheapest speakers of the test are certainly nothing to scorn at. Argon Active 5 actually plays impressively well!
Lively and practical
Triangle’s wireless speaker is a well constructed and a viable option in this price range.
Small powder keg
It does not depend on the size: These dynamic toddlers from Klipsch knockout in the biggest challenges!
Sounds fine, but...
SA has fine-tuned its Saxo series, and Saxo 3 Active has received a turntable input.
The Ruark speakers are both small and versatile, but will come to the most important things shortly.