Monoprice is best known for selling affordable, high-quality cables, but the company also has a history of selling surprisingly good home audio speakers that are more-than-inspired by other models on the market.
The Monoprice MBS-650 falls right into that tradition, with a design that's similar to Dayton Audio's cult favorite B652 speakers and sound quality that trumps its ultrabudget speaker rivals. The price can't be beat, either. They're just $32 for the pair, plus shipping, or you can get them straight from Amazon for $50. The only major faults come on the design side, as they're not particularly stylish and the speaker connectors on the back don't grip wires as tightly as they should. And sure, these speakers don't measure up to more expensive bookshelf speakers like Pioneer's SP-BS22-LR ($130), but we didn't expect them to at a fraction of the cost.
The main takeaway is the Monoprice MBS-650's remarkable performance boosts it to the top of the less-than-$60 bookshelf speaker class. If you're looking for cheap speakers where style doesn't count, go for the Monoprice MBS-650.
Design: Generic black speaker box
While some speakers strive to be beautiful, the Monoprice MBS-650 makes almost no effort in the looks department. It's about as generic as black box speakers get, with a matte vinyl finish and a removable cloth grille. It's somewhat sizeable as a bookshelf speaker, coming in a 11.9 inches high, 8.1 inches wide, and 6.4 inches deep, and each speaker weighs 7.2 pounds. That might not seem like much, but it towers over the similarly-priced Micca MB42.
Around back, you'll find there are more compromises than just looks. Specifically, the weak spring clip wire connectors, which don't grip bare wire-ends very strongly. It means they're more susceptible to the speaker wire slipping out, especially if you find yourself moving the speakers regularly. The rear panel has a small keyhole wall mount and a bass port.
Behind the speaker grille, you'll find a 6.5-inch polypropylene woofer and a 0.5-inch dome tweeter. Power handling is specified at 80 watts, but you can safely use the MBS-650 with 100+ watt per channel receivers.
Sound quality: The budget speaker champ
We auditioned the MBS-650s placed on metal floor stands, with the speakers well out into the room, four feet from the wall behind them. The speaker's rear bass port means they'll sound best with at least 6 inches of clearance from the rear wall. We used two different integrated stereo amplifiers, a Dayton Audio DTA-120, and Peachtree Decco65 for all of our listening tests.