Home Audio | Choosing Between Bookshelf and Tower Speakers
5 Benefits of Running Dual Subwoofers
Subwoofer Calibration: Getting the Bass Just Right
4 Things to Listen for When Choosing Speakers for Home Audio
5 Things to Listen for When Choosing the Best Home Theater Subwoofer
How to Choose the Best Speaker for Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro-3D
4 Reasons to go with Dual (or more) Subwoofers
Home Audio: Choosing Between Bookshelf and Tower Speakers
Ported vs. Sealed Subwoofers: 4 Things to Consider
• Number 1: Sound Quality
• Number 2: Playback Levels
• Number 3: Visual Impact
• Number 4: Room Size
Dolby Atmos and DTSX Take Immersive Audio to New Heights
Why High-Quality Speaker Wire and Audio Cables Matter
Why Home Theater Surround Sound is Better Than a Soundbar

>> Tips and advice for comparing bookshelf vs. towers speakers in a stereo or home theater surround sound system.

Home Audio Guide to Comparing Bookshelf and Tower Speakers
Bookshelf and Towers speakers, also known as desktop and floorstanding speakers, are the most common choices to play the role of left and right mains in a home audio system. Whether it's a two-channel stereo speaker system or an immersive 5.1, 7.1 or larger home theater surround sound system, tower and bookshelf loudspeakers can be great options because they are generally full range and able to present a larger and more cohesive soundstage compared to more compact speakers like satellites.

Choosing between bookshelf and tower speakers for your home is a matter of assessing several factors and weighing the distinct advantages of each speaker design to determine what works best for your individual audio set-up.

With that in mind, here are some of the key factors you should consider when choosing between bookshelf and tower speakers.

Room Dimensions and Speaker Placement Flexibility
Floor space is an obvious factor when choosing between tower and bookshelf speakers, but it's not just a matter of where you want to put your speakers and having enough room. An equally important consideration is the dimensions of the room and how the loudspeaker output will fill the space.


If you have a small-medium sized room, the best bookshelf speakers can generally provide enough output, especially if most of the listening happens in the nearfield, or close to the speakers. If you have a larger room, especially one with multiple seating areas, floorstanding speakers are best due to the additional output/volume capabilities and deeper, fuller bass, without requiring a subwoofer

If you don't have the floor space for tower speakers, but you do have a shelf or piece of furniture available, your choice is obvious since bookshelf speakers are made to sit on furniture at ear level. However, there are certain things to keep in mind:

  • Bookshelf speakers can be mounted to speaker stands if no furniture is available and if it fits the desired set-up.
  • The verticality of tower speakers and the fact they they don't need a stand can sometimes make them more space-friendly than bookshelf speakers with stands.
  • If you're planning on adding a powered subwoofer to improve bass with your desktop speakers (or tower speakers), make sure to account for the additional floor space required and the ideal placement location since subwoofers have a larger footprint than loudspeakers.

Sound Quality and Acoustic Properties
The best bookshelf and tower speakers share a similar set of characteristics that allow them both to deliver an immersive and convincing experience. This includes pinpoint accuracy in frequency response and the ability to remain true to the content – to deftly present subtle details and to make an emphatic but believable sonic statement when called upon. Any great bookshelf or tower speaker must also possess room-energizing output capabilities and excellent dynamic range with sparkling highs, a commanding and potent mid-range and deep, effortless low frequency extension (awesome bass!).


On a more subjective level, the best reviewed bookshelf and tower speakers are praised for truthfully conveying the emotional and sensory experience a director or musician intended us to feel, never getting in the way or adding a sonic signature to the music, movie or other content. You should find yourself so immersed in the listening experience that you forget you're listening to home audio speakers – that's the magic of listening to best-in-class loudspeakers.

In terms of the acoustic properties when comparing desktop and floorstanding speakers, here are a couple key factors to consider:

Volume and Sensitivity
A speaker's volume (also called "output" and "loudness") is a function of the speaker's "sensitivity", or how effectively it converts power (watts) from the amplifier into volume (decibels).

The more sensitive the speaker, the less power it needs from the amplifier to play at higher volumes. Tower speakers are generally more sensitive and hence able to play at higher volumes than bookshelf speakers without distortion. If you really enjoy cranking it up to reference volume when watching action movies on a home theater surround sound system or listening to music on a stereo system, you're likely better off with tower speakers.

bookshelf6-300.jpgBass and Dynamic Range
For audiophiles and serious hifi enthusiasts, low frequency extension and output are possibly the most debated aspect when comparing tower speakers vs. desktop speakers.

Many home audio fans steadfastly stand by the acoustic properties and sound quality of bookshelf speakers supplemented with subwoofers to handle the bass, while others will tell you tower speakers are the way to go to get full-range sound without the need of a subwoofer. In reality, it depends on the speakers output capabilities, your room and your personal listening preferences.

To take a step back, one of the most important criteria when judging speaker performance is their ability – or lack thereof – to handle bass, and it's one of the trickiest things to get right in a speaker. Many loudspeakers, towers included, simply aren't equipped to play much below 40Hz, so you're missing out on information from movies and music that can set the mood and add a level of immersion that you wouldn't perceive otherwise. That's why so many subwoofers are sold, even with full-range tower speakers.


The bigger size of tower speakers allows them to move more air through the drivers than desktop or bookshelf speakers can, which generally allows them to produce deeper and fuller bass than standalone desktop speakers. They usually have additional woofer drivers as well, which creates even more bass. So, if room-filling, chest-thumping bass is important to you and you don't want to invest in subwoofers, towers are probably the way to go.

Keep in mind, there are many full range bookshelf speakers that don't require a subwoofer, so it's not a necessity. But if you do want the extra low frequency muscle that only a subwoofer can provide, subwoofers are a great idea and you can check out our resource on setting the proper crossover frequency for your subwoofer, to get the best performance possible.

Loudspeakers can range anywhere from $50 to more than $100,000 for high end speakers, which has to do with the various structural and mechanical elements that comprise a loudspeaker system and the wide range in the quality of materials that can be used for each of those elements.


Top performing floor standing speakers usually start around $500 a piece, so if you're on a really tight budget you're probably better offer with desktop speakers, which start around $150 for mini bookshelf speakers (also known as satellite speakers) and $250 for full range bookshelf speakers.

When in Doubt, Trust your Ears
Choosing between tower speakers and desktop speakers comes down to finding the best sound quality and form factor for your budget, your listening preferences, and the size and type of room you will be using the speakers in.


Only you know what sounds good to you, so the best way to choose between desktop and tower speakers is to judge them in the room you plan to install them in. For this reason, SVS offers a risk free 45-day risk-free in-home trial with fast and free shipping and returns, for all tower and bookshelf speakers.

If you're in the process of building out a complete home theater system with a center channel, surround sound speakers and even height effect speakers, SVS has the Jeeves speaker and subwoofer system builder, which lets you customize the best 5.1 speaker system, or any other configuration up to 9.4.4.

If you have any additional questions about choosing between bookshelf and tower speakers, please contact the SVS Sound Experts at


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