>> 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
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
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:
Sound Quality and Acoustic Properties
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
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.
Bass and Dynamic Range
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.
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
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 email@example.com.