Bookshelf vs Floor Standing Tower/Speakers

When deciding on what’s right for you, ask yourself the following questions: ·What is my budget? ·Am I using the speakers in a home theatre system with a sub or a dedicated two-channel system without a sub? ·Am I looking for the best quality sound in the mids/highs or just want something that plays loud with a lot of bass? ·Will I be bass managing these speakers? ·Spacing considerations: can I fit a tower in my room?  Will my wife allow it?

Just looking at these questions, one may come to the natural conclusion that it’s all about the bass.  Well, they would be partially right but there are other considerations such as how loudly they can play.  Below is a Scorecard, tabulated point system to help you decide. 

How to find your Total Score?

Add up the points from each column of the above table to find your Total Score.  Your Total Score can be as low as 0 points or up to +7 points depending on your conditions. ·If Total Score is 0-4, you can probably get away with using a bookshelf speaker even for two-channel listening only. ·If Total Score is > 4-above, then it is time to consider a tower speaker or a larger more capable bookshelf option mated with a sub

Budget ·Most speaker manufacturers offer a good, better, best series of products.  It’s rare to find a company that will use the same drivers in their $800/pr bookshelf vs their $8k/pair towers.  If they do, you may have to ask yourself the question if you’re really getting high quality drivers in their expensive tower offerings?

A tower crossed over at 80Hz will still give you bass advantages over its bookshelf counterpart. ·Let’s assume a manufacturer has two series of products, Silver and Gold series with the Gold series being their premium line of loudspeakers.  Spending $500/pr on a Silver series bookshelf speaker vs $8k/pair on a pair of Gold series towers from the same manufacturer usually means that more budget must go towards the cabinets and perhaps more drivers to fill up a bigger box volume for the latter.  In this case, the drivers typically aren’t up to the same calibre of performance. 

So, if you want to hear the subtle nuances in a recording with excellent separation of instruments, and overall pristine fidelity, chances are you will have a higher likelihood of hearing these attributes in the company’s Gold series bookshelf than their Silver series towers.  The only downside may be in bass extension and overall output.  This can however be remedied. ·Applying bass management to a bookshelf speaker will take the strain off its small mid-bass drivers from producing the difficult bass frequencies.  Instead, these will be routed more appropriately to a dedicated powered subwoofer.

Applying bass management to a bookshelf speaker will take the strain off its small mid-bass drivers from producing the difficult bass frequencies.  Instead, these will be routed more appropriately to a dedicated powered subwoofer.

 But what if I want to run towers and a sub?

That’s OK.  You can do that too.  The advantage of a tower is not only in bass extension but in overall output even above the crossover frequency.  The reason why some small subwoofer/satellite systems don’t sound “full’ or “well blended” is two-fold: ·

1.     Lack of low enough extension to blend in with the sub at the crossover frequency.

2.     Lack of enough output at and above the crossover frequency.

I’ve seen so many people mate tiny 5” two-way bookshelf speakers with a refrigerator sized subwoofer wondering why it just doesn’t sound as integrated as a full range tower speaker.  When selecting a sub/sat system it’s important to choose a satellite module with similar output capabilities as the subwoofer your mating it with or else you may notice such a disparity. 

Research shows bass accounts for 30% of the listening experience.

Tower speakers on the other hand tend to offer increased sensitivity (meaning they play louder with the same applied wattage than their bookshelf counterpart).  The tower speaker will usually also have more output capability above the range where the subwoofer stops producing bass. 

Remember just because you select a tower speaker doesn’t mean you have to run it full range.  A tower crossed over at 80Hz will still give you bass advantages over its bookshelf counterpart.  You may also decide to run the tower speakers’ full range in concert with your sub(s). 

If you can get the bass properly integrated, this may help smooth out the bass in the room by increasing the modal density and increase the overall output for bassaholics that like to really feel the bass. 

Do I have the space for a tower speaker? ·Well, that depends on my room accommodations, spousal considerations and the footprint of the speakers in question.  Many folks don’t realize that a bookshelf speaker on a stand often has the same footprint as a slimline freestanding tower.  In addition, a floor standing tower with an outrigger system can offer greater stability for those with kids living in fear that little Johnny may explore the wonders of gravity by tipping over one of your bookshelf speakers.

But which is better?  I can’t decide! ·Ok both and neither.  Come to our store, try and listen to a pair of bookshelf speakers and towers of your liking side by side to determine that for yourself.  However, just realize the floor stander will have the advantage of having more bass which research has shown accounts for 30% of the listening experience.  If you can bass manage and level match both speakers while doing the comparison, you will get a more accurate picture on which speaker you will prefer.

Conclusion ·Before writing off either a bookshelf or a tower to be used in your audio system, it’s imperative that you honestly assess how you will be using the speakers and if you plan on upgrading down the road by either adding a powered subwoofer or moving from two-channel to home theatre. 

A high-quality bookshelf speaker today can later be repurposed as a surround speaker. It is most important that you choose a speaker that you feel sounds accurate and pleasing to you in your listening environment.  If you need more bass down the road, adding a subwoofer can bring new life to your system. 

There is absolutely NO reason why a properly set up sub/sat system can’t be every bit as good as a full range tower if you chose products that have similar output capabilities and you get the crossover frequency right.

Abtec stocks a full range of high-quality Book Shelf, Floor standing Speakers and subwoofers to help with your decision.  Visit our store for a sitting in our Audio Lounge.

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