Nearfield/desktop bookshelves

I thought I’d start up a topic on nearfield/desktop bookshelves speakers since it seems to be a topic that’s difficult to research.

I wanted to ask for any experiences with bookshelf speakers that did well in a nearfield/desktop environment. So far I’ve tested my old Dynaudio Focus 110’s, my current SB Acoustic ARAs and my friend’s Buchardt A500. I was thinking most bookshelves should do well nearfield but most reviews don’t touch on this point. Also, does anyone have a sub with their desktop setup? If so, how is it integrated?

Looking forward to your experiences. Thanks!


I have the the iLoud Micro Monitors and I’m quite happy with them except for the relatively short proprietary cable that connects the two. The MTM version has a longer cable.

Understanding budget and purpose would help. Looking headphone quality for critical listening hifi or background sound?

It’s a bit more open ended since there isn’t really a repository or knowledge base of whether or not a bookshelf speaker will sound good nearfield.

I think there can be an assumption that monitoring speakers for pro audio should generally be good for nearfield since that’s what they are used for. There are probably exceptions but I think the example provided by InvisibleInk is probably one of many studio monitors that people use. However, I think in the world of audiophile bookshelves, the use case varies more.

I’ve read that for buchardt speakers for example, the S400 mkii isn’t as good for nearfield vs something like the A500 that has a nearfield tuning. It’s probably also related to their waveguide design and the tweeter being on the bottom for the S400 vs the top for A500.

Personally, I’m looking at bookshelves that would be an upgrade from my SB Acoustics ARA so $2k+. It’s tough to audition bookshelves at a store since none of them are really set up for nearfield/desktop use. They’re generally on stands in a small to medium-sized room.

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Might have a look at KEF. LS50 Meta

If possible to pull out the desk from the wall a bit, these are well reviewed on stands. I know people have placed them directly on surfaces, but not sure how they might couple to a piece of furniture. Might check the inter-webs as these are quite popular. Least a place to start?

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Yeah KEF LS50 metas seem to be a good candidate for nearfield. I think it might be a side grade for me personally but I believe that’s one of the speakers that have been used nearfield with some degree of success.

Another reasonably priced brand that has some well reviewed stuff is

I’m sure many of you know of them, but still worth mentioning. I have a pair of the HD6 speakers that are pretty impressive for their price and size. Sure they’re not KEF, but they’re 1/3rd the cost. Some of the smaller speakers they have are supposed to be very good as well.

I have the AE2 as my office desktop set up - very happy with the sound - driven by Topping A50s and D50s via MacBook Pro.

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I’ve actually seen pictures of both the excellent bookshelf’s that I have in my office in a standard arrangement used as nearfield speakers. I have briefly moved into range for them to be nearfield and think they’d be good. My guess is that a two-way design with the rear-port is suitable, especially as there is not a great distance between the tweeter and the midwoofer. Not sure what kind of price range you’re looking for, the EgglestonWorks Nico Evo list at $5g in basic black, custom colors extra. They are not powered so you need decent amplification for them.

If you want to move upscale, I’ve also seen some people using these:

but I’d really, personally, if I wanted to do desktop audio look for the Magnepan Mini which does have a bass panel.

But I’m an old-fashioned guy. Not always. In my office, I have a pair of Sonos Play 3’s on the dresser just behind the computer monitor. Not close enough to be nearfield. Oh, and the Sonos Sub to fill in the bottom register.

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There definitely is specific types of speaker which are designed for this, but to be honest you can get away with those JBL 130’s no problem.

Unless it’s specific to actually needing powered speakers. Generally I would avoid that as you can add some direction to sound characteristics.

Second to that, I personally think class D amps sound pretty stale. But that’s just my opinion and that’s what comes inside all these powered monitors.

Other than that it should be real easy to work your way into the hobby with those JBL’s, just to see if it gives you what you need. Rather than dive in you can dip your toes

Class D can be manufactured for almost no money, and will play loud even when cheap and jagged. Powered monitors use Class D to keep both price and heat down. So yeah, I’d avoid garden variety integrated products for anything premium.

Separates can almost always be better if and only if the components are carefully matched. The KEF LS50 is notorious for being finicky (I returned mine), so the powered edition may well be the best for most people.

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What about JBL 130’s make them good for nearfield?

I’m not specifically looking for powered since I do have an amp but I’m not opposed to them either. I’m open to suggestions since it doesn’t seem like nearfield/desktop is something that’s commonly advertised as a capability for bookshelves. As you move up with higher end bookshelves, they become bigger and are probably more properly described as stand mount speakers.

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For anybody looking for a desktop system under $200, skip the presonus and mackie stuff. Check out neumi bs5p and edifier mr4. When you plug the neumi bs5p ports, they can be amazingly neutral and easy to place near a wall. The neumi can also actually be played loud enough for far field 2-4m with little compression. Check out erin’s audio corner’s review for details.

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I have a set of these and they’re incredible:

I use the balanced XLR output to subwoofer in as a method for wiring my sub in when speakers don’t have an option to support them.

When I want to use my headphones, I simply turn my sub off.

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Wow those look interesting. What made you pick those? How does your desk look with those on top of them? Do they need to be far away from the wall?

Bookshelf speakers can do the job, they just need to be power by external amplifiers and might be more finicky about placement. I think people gravitate to “nearfield monitors” for close-range listening or when placing atop their desks simply due to convenience. Some features include:

  • Waveguides to help focus the treble response and prevent reflections

  • Smaller drivers to avoid activating room modes in the nether regions

  • Already include amplifiers (powered/active)

  • Designed with near-field listening in mind (taking the room out of the equation)

  • Many are front ported so you can place them closer to the rear boundary

I don’t think most “bookshelf” speakers aren’t truly designed to be used on “bookshelves,” but rather placed out into the room and on stands so the tweeter is at ear-level. The name is truly misleading, at least by today’s standards.

Fully agree with you on those points, just pointing out you can remove the heat altogether just by going separates. I know this is on a side note, but definitely until you get really high up in powered monitors do they start employing hype x modules

I think stereo amp wattage is a bit hyped. I got a monoprice tube hybrid amp which is 25 watts and it works fine. It definitely gets considerably loud. I have my NAD 326BEE and it’s only 50 watts but has a good power reserve. It was only 300 dollars. I’ve never once maxed the volume on it.

Indeed, I’ve never been fond of the kef house sound or not even sure if it’s that or the amp pairing situation. But that’s my opinion not going to tell drift not to purchase


The JBL 130 is basically a really good measuring speaker. It’s generally getting positive reviews and is not hot air. Since the data backs it.

All that matters is you get those tweeters lined up to your ears and have them spread out a decent distance. Just play with toe in for treble adjustment and with a nice responding speaker I feel your amp/dac can have more direction towards the sound.

There’s a lot of factors.

@Nuance pointed some of these things out. But I feel like you can work around most those points except room modes with free physical adjustments. And depends on your room situation and desk location those will help or hurt the sound.

I mean you can always buy a speaker, one that has measurements. Get your set up going and just measure what the speakers are doing and compare it to other data and EQ the sucker. Not sure if that will or won’t change room modes, someone can clarify that, but I assume it should

So have you tried other speakers or did you buy it just for the measurements? Does the speaker respond well to EQ? I’m not a huge fan of EQ because it generally doesn’t fix things like timbre, imaging, phantom center, etc.

To address your other post, I also had a NAD 355bee at one point in time. I think most amps will be “loud enough” considering bookshelves are 85+ db 1w/m which means 1w will give you 85 db. I generally listen in the 70 db range so 1w or less is plenty. What I don’t agree with is that “loud enough” is all you need to consider. There are big differences between amps and how the amps deliver the power. If you really wanted an amp that gets loud enough and sounds good, take a look at the smsl vmv a1.


Amazing info on speaker placement. Long and techie in places so, like the author says, hang on to your butts.

Speaker placement info