Here at Probably Interactive, we get countless questions from concerned shoppers unsure of the right sound system setup for their specific needs. That's why we've produced this handy series of guides spelling out the pros and cons of each setup in each situation so that you can make the most informed purchase possible.
This guide will discuss the differences between bookshelf speakers and floorstanding speakers when it comes to both home music listening and use in home theater systems.
There is, of course, no simple 'best' option across all of the possible categories. Instead, you'll need to pick the features that you value the most.
What Exactly Are Bookshelf Speakers?
Bookshelf speakers are named after their ability to slot neatly and out of sight into your average bookshelf. They can also be happily placed on other shelves or elevated surfaces or fitted separately on the floor or wall-based speaker stands or mounts.
These speakers usually come in two-way or three-way systems and consist of tweeters connected to small inbuilt mid-bass drivers. Unfortunately, this gives them a somewhat limited ability to faithfully reproduce those all-important deep bass and low-frequency tones that help us feel our music or movies in our bones.
Bookshelf units are perfect for those smaller spaces like dens, bedrooms, and home offices - or just less spacious apartments.
What We Like
What We Don’t Like
What Exactly Are Floorstanding Speakers?
Floorstanding speakers, often also referred to as tower speakers, are typically large enough to be freestanding. This means they can be placed anywhere in your room if you have enough floor space.
Floorstanding speakers generally feature more complicated multi-driver designs than bookshelf speakers, usually including a tweeter, midrange, and a dedicated bass driver. This gives them greater audio output capabilities, including those all-important low-frequency bass notes.
However, it should be noted that most floorstanding speakers aren't full-range speakers and will still benefit from adding a subwoofer.
Before we get right into the in-depth, nitty-gritty comparisons between these two different systems, we thought we'd provide a quick and easy bullet point list of their respective pros and cons.
This way, if you don't have much time left to make your decision, or if you've already done your own research, you can check at a glance to see which system best suits your needs.
What We Like
What We Don’t Like
It’s time to dig deep into the details and tell you exactly which type of speakers performs best in each individual category.
Size, Space & Power
If you're looking to fill a small room with sound, you really can't beat the design of bookshelf speaker units. Their snug and compact form factor allows them to be tucked flush into your bookshelf or simply put atop your other shelving units.
They also offer much more flexibility in terms of being able to be mounted on stands to turn them into freestanding speakers or even placed on brackets on your walls.
However, if you have a larger space, you start to feel the limitations of bookshelf speakers' volume and power output. In a larger area, you will also usually have more room on the floor to accommodate larger floorstanding units.
Floorstanding speakers have the additional power and range of sound to properly fill a big space. In addition, their ability to be placed at intervals around the room makes them perfect for providing surround sound for your home theater set up or truly immersing you in your music listening experience.
Winner: If you are dealing with a smaller space, then go with bookshelf speakers. However, if you are looking to fill a larger room with sound, you can't beat floorstanding speakers.
Bookshelf speakers will give you adequate sound quality, simply without the low-end performance you'd be able to get straight away with a floorstanding setup.
This is because, although bookshelf speakers are well-designed to give a balanced range of audio, their self-contained mid-bass drivers are not generally powerful enough to capture those low frequencies. This means their capacity to provide the performance needed for bass-heavy music or an immersive home theater system is somewhat limited.
However, this can be remedied quite simply if you choose to pair your bookshelf speakers with a sub. This will allow you to play those bass-driven songs and feel those theater-style explosions of sound the way they were meant to be experienced.
If you're looking to get the very best sound quality out of the bookshelf speakers you purchase, take a look at our comprehensive guide to the best bookshelf speakers.
With all that said, you will be getting better audio performance with floorstanding towers. Their combination of a tweeter, midrange, and bass driver in each unit will allow you to feel low frequencies without the need to incorporate a separate sub unit.
But of course, there's nothing stopping you from adding a sub to a floorstanding setup either. This is truly the way to go if you want to capture that full-range sound.
Winner: Floorstanding speakers
When it comes to dealing with towers vs. bookshelf speakers in terms of budget, the general rule of thumb of 'the bigger the speaker, the bigger the price tag' comes into play.
If you are shopping around for the best value for money unit while having somewhat limited funds in your budget, bookshelf speakers will almost always be the way to go. There are many models available for around $200 that can give you an excellent listening experience.
With floorstanding speakers of a similar price range, you will, unfortunately, be getting what you pay for. The audio quality and performance simply will not rival the value of bookshelf units in the same price range.
If you want to get true value for your money when shopping for floorstanding speakers, you will need to be willing to spend more money.
However, if you are going to attempt to buy quality floorstanding speakers on a budget, it would help to go armed with our handy guide to the best floorstanding speakers.
Winner: Bookshelf speakers
People Also Ask (FAQs)
Which set of speakers is better for a small home theater room?
With small rooms, you may really find yourself scratching your head when it comes to the placement of several large floorstanding units.
Our advice would be to use cleverly positioned bookshelf speakers to achieve stereo surround sound - if you've got it in your budget, you could even add a few more pairs for maximum immersion.
Of course, no home theater setup is complete with rumbling bass. But you'd be surprised at how cheaply you can snag a great subwoofer to connect to your home theater rig so that your family and friends can experience those low frequencies theater-style.
For a small room, we would say that you could easily turn bookshelf speakers into a custom setup for a similar price as floorstanding speakers of the same quality - with a bit of crafty shopping around, of course.
Which set of speakers is better for a large home theater room?
Floorstanding speakers typically lend themselves perfectly to home theater setups housed in larger rooms.
This is because a larger room size ensures the floor space needed for towers. With a big enough room, you should be able to position them at strategic points to create some excellent stereo surround sound.
Floorstanding speakers will also have the volume, power, and bass output needed to match the increased amount of space. However, if you're using the speakers and find yourself still wanting more - you can always pair your existing setup with a subwoofer for even more oomph.
Are bookshelf speakers as good as tower speakers?
While floorstanding speakers do have a few qualities that bookshelf speakers lack, it is not a question of one setup being as good as the other.
Instead, it really depends on what you're looking for. If you've got a small space and a tight budget, bookshelf speakers will be the better choice.
Plus, bookshelf speakers are excellent pieces of kit in their own right, and if you find yourself needing more in the future, they can make an excellent addition to a larger sound system rig.
Are tower speakers good for home theater?
We would go as far as saying that tower speakers are one of the best choices for home theater if you've got enough space.
Their tall, horizontal form factor makes them perfect for dispersing around the room to create an immersive stereo surround sound output. They also certainly look the part for a home theater experience.
Not only this, but you'll be able to get a good range of low frequencies and mid-range details thanks to the various components contained within your standard tower speaker.
A great place to start is the dedicated r/Hometheater Reddit page. The community there is always helpful, and you may find questions answered that you did not know to ask.
Are floorstanding speakers good for music?
Not only are floorstanding speakers an excellent choice for a home theater system, but they're also great for immersive at-home music listening.
Thanks to their clever combination of self-contained tweeters, mid-ranges, and bass drivers, you can be sure that you hear all of the details of your music just as the artist intended it.
It should be noted, however, that floorstanding speakers can still be upgraded to give you the perfect full range of sound. For this, you would want to add at least a subwoofer to your setup.
This helpful YouTube video will show you how to optimally set up and place your subwoofer for use in a home theater system or your home music listening pleasure.
We're sure you've figured out by now that there is no easy answer to the question of bookshelf vs. floorstanding speakers. It all depends on what you want out of your system, how much you've got to spend, and where your speakers will be placed.
If you have only a small space in which to set up your sound system or only have a limited amount of money to spend, bookshelf speakers will be your wisest choice. Remember, you can always upgrade them with additional pieces of equipment in the future!
However, if you've got a large enough space and enough money to invest in a high-quality floorstanding system, this will be the wisest choice instead. You'll be benefitting from a fuller range of sound and enough power to cause a complicated relationship with your neighbors. Plus, nothing is stopping you from upgrading this setup further in the future either.
No matter which setup you finally opt for, we hope the in-depth analysis provided in this article was able to help you make a more informed purchase! So enjoy, and listen responsibly.
Finally, we've mentioned adding a subwoofer to your array a number of times in this article. You really can't beat the depth of sound they add to a listening experience.