Home » Speakers » Floorstanding vs. Bookshelf Speakers – Which ones to buy?

Floorstanding vs. Bookshelf Speakers – Which ones to buy?

Speakers for sound systems may be something you don’t buy too often. Therefore, they are potentially a long-term investment, a decision you want to get right. And one of the biggest decisions may be the choice of Floorstanding vs. Bookshelf Speakers. Which should it be and which are the best for me?

Sometimes decisions are made thinking about size. Floorstanding speakers are big and can take up too much space. Bookshelf speakers are smaller. But if you are planning for bookshelf speakers on stands, then the space taken up will be about the same as Floorstanding speakers.

One thing you will need to consider is the size of the room you will use them in, so…

Does room size affect acoustics?

All rooms are different, which means the acoustics will be different. Smaller rooms might only need a pair of bookshelf speakers. A larger room may need Floorstanding speakers with the extra spread of sound.

It is an interesting choice. Unless you want to change speakers often, as we said, it is one you need to get right. We consider both options and look at the plus and minus points. So, let’s see what the differences are in our Floorstanding vs. Bookshelf Speakers guide.

Floorstanding Speakers

Floorstanding Speakers

Floorstanding speakers are also known as tower speakers. They tend to be about the same size with just a few variations. They will usually be about 3-4 feet in height and about seven inches in width.

The depth can vary a little depending on the internal design of the cabinet. This can be anything from about eight inches to 18 inches. Although some speakers have a greater depth, these are the average sizes.

The number of drivers…

Given their size, floorstanding speakers can accommodate more drivers. Speakers are sometimes described as two-way, three-way, or four-way. This refers to the number of drivers that are handling the sound.

It is incorrect to say that a 4-way system is better than a 2-way system. However, if the speaker is designed well, the cabinet with more drivers has the advantage. It means that each speaker can be dedicated to handle a smaller range of frequencies. The speaker designer will then be able to produce a more accurate sound performance.

Does size matter?

Music in all its forms will cover a very wide range of frequencies. Some genres are wider than others. For reproducing sound, the main problems come at the bottom-end. Producing bass notes accurately can be difficult. And in that area, there can be no substitute for size. The larger the cabinet, the better the reproduction of lower frequencies.

Are there are other benefits of a large speaker cabinet?

They tend to be more efficient. Efficiency is shown in how much power it takes for them to reach the correct sound pressure level or SPL.

The more efficient the speaker is, the greater the contrast in the dynamics of the music. And it is the dynamics of the sound that makes the difference. Makes the music feel real. Also, a larger size means there is a better chance the speaker will be efficient.

Have you ever been to a concert and experienced the enormity of the dynamics of the sound?

That “wall of noise” coming at you. Everything sounds so big. That is what most speaker designers try to achieve.

Of course, it is not possible on the same scale as what you hear at the concert. But they can come close to reproducing that with large floorstanding speakers.

Positioning

Positioning

As with all speakers, positioning is important. But it can have a noticeable impact with Floorstanding speakers. If you can find great positions for them, they will give you a wide soundstage. You will almost be able to identify where musicians might be when they are playing.

Another issue when considering where to position them is that you may not be able to place them against a wall if they have a rear-firing port. But even if there’s no rear-firing port, being placed away from the wall would be better. So,…

How far from the wall should you position floorstanding speakers?

Consider placing them about 12-16 inches away to get the best audio results.

What about home theaters?

So far, all we have done is talk about music systems. Floorstanding speakers can play a big part in home cinema. Standing on either side of your TV, they can push out the sound. But they also create a great platform for the upward-firing speakers required by Dolby Atmos.

Using Dolby Atmos can enhance your home cinema experience. But for this discussion, we will stick with talking about floor standing speakers.

Aesthetics…

Floorstanding speakers are quite large and bulky. Therefore, we have to say they’re not the most attractive thing to look at sometimes. In recent years, as they have become more popular, manufacturers have attempted to improve the visual designs. However, their sheer size means it is likely they will dominate the room they are in.

Looking for an excellent pair of floor standing speakers? Then check out the Jamo Studio Series S 807-WL Walnut Floorstanding Speakers – Pair.

What are the Pros and Cons of Flooratanding Speakers?

Pros

  • They give you a ‘big’ sound.
  • When positioned well, they can immerse you in the music.
  • They can have better dynamics and, therefore, better performance.

Cons

  •  They may need to be positioned 12-16 inches away from the wall behind them.

Bookshelf Speakers

Bookshelf Speakers

The Bookshelf speaker is a name given to speakers that will often fit on a bookshelf. Not rocket science to understand that one. But some would not get close to fitting on the average size bookshelf because they are so large.

The number of drivers?

Most will have just a driver and a tweeter, making them a 2-way design. They are not what might be described as high-efficiency. But if you set them up properly, they can give you many of the sonic aspects a floorstanding speaker offers.

Better on a stand?

The answer, ironically, is probably yes. We say ironically because they are built for and used on bookshelves. But quite often, they will sound better if elevated and are out in the room.

They cannot provide the depth of bass a floorstanding speaker can. We have already been through the size aspect. But if you add a subwoofer, the soundstage can be very impressive.

We’ll stick our necks out here. Bookshelf speakers on stands with a good subwoofer come close to sounding as good as Floorstanding speakers.

Spatial awareness…

As we said at the beginning, a bookshelf speaker and stand might take up a similar space to most floor standing speakers. Most of the time, it’s just that floorstanding speakers, being solid, look much larger.

On a bookshelf, it can almost disappear. But once again, you can’t place a rear-firing speaker close to a wall. If you have to, try and find a front-firing speaker.

The Sound…

We have already touched on it. Bookshelf speakers cannot compete with floorstanding speakers for bass response. You could indeed test the best bookshelf against the worst floorstanding, and the bookshelf might win. But, like for like, it is usually no contest.

You will, therefore, almost certainly need a subwoofer. Adding the sub will not only give you a better bottom end but will also give you a better midrange. It will also cost you, of course.

There is an advantage to this poor bass response, strange as it sounds. Bass frequencies can hammer into the walls and wake the neighbors up. Using bookshelf speakers, even with a subwoofer, that’s unlikely to happen. Subs usually have an independent volume you can adjust. However, floorstanding speakers are likely to shake the walls and floors.

Do bookshelf speakers work with home theater systems?

Yes, they can. Furthermore, bookshelf speakers can excel in home cinema situations. They will work well on stands but also placed on either side of your TV. On stands, they can also accommodate the Dolby Atmos top-firing speakers. Although, if you have no subwoofer, you are going to need one.

From a pair of bookshelf speakers with a center channel that excels at everything, check out the KEF Q350 Bookshelf Speakers (Pair, Black) & Q650c Center Channel Speaker.

What are the Pros and Cons of Flooratanding Speakers?

Pros

  • Smaller in size for those with space problems.
  • Can be used on the shelf or a stand.
  • Can be set up to provide a decent sound stage
  • On a stand, they can be used to support up-firing Atmos speakers.

Cons

  • To get the best performance, you may need to put them on stands.
  • They may need bass support from a subwoofer.

Looking for Great Speakers?

If so, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Bookshelf Speakers Under $1000, the Best Bookshelf Speakers Under $500, the Best Bookshelf Speakers Under $200, the Best Bookshelf Speakers, and the Best Floorstanding Speakers you can buy in 2021.

You may also like our comprehensive reviews of the Best In-Ceiling Speakers, the Best In-Wall Speakers, the Best Powered Speakers, the Best Ceiling Speakers For Dolby Atmos, and the Best 7.1 Home Theater System currently on the market.

Floorstanding vs. Bookshelf Speakers – Final Thoughts

It will come down to personal preference, and of course, and the space you have available. There are great speakers for both designs.

Price

Floorstanding speakers will generally be more expensive, which is something to consider. However, if you add a subwoofer to bookshelf speakers, there may not be much of a difference.

Brand

That would be the last decision after you have decided which you prefer. Go for brands that make good high-end speakers. That usually means they care about sound and have a reputation they want to maintain. Therefore, even their more cost-effective speakers will be good.

Until next time, happy listening.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

About Joseph L. Hollen

Joseph is a session musician, writer, and filmmaker from south Florida. He has recorded a number of albums and made numerous short films, as well as contributing music to shorts and commercials. 

He doesn't get as much time to practice and play as he used to, but still manages (just about!) to fulfill all his session requests. According to Joseph, it just gets harder as you get older; you rely on what you learned decades ago and can play without thinking. Thankfully that's what is what most producers still want from him.

He is a devout gear hear and has been collecting musical instruments all his life. As his wife, Jill, keeps on saying, "You're very good at buying nice instruments, but terrible at selling them!".

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top