Speakers should sound good. Another important consideration is how they match the size and decor of your room. With this in mind, loudspeakers come in two main external physical types: floor and bookshelves . However, within these two categories, there are differences in terms of size and shape. We’ve compared both to help you decide if floor standing or book speakers will work best in your home.

floor standing speakers vs speakers

General conclusions

  • More flexible placement.

  • Takes up less space.

  • Fits well in home theater.

  • Keep them anywhere.

  • More power for louder output.

  • Better for quality music listening.

  • Large acoustic range.

When it comes to stereo speakers, bookshelf and floor standing speakers are two popular speaker formats. It may seem that they are the same, but there are differences between them.

The bookshelf speakers are smaller and designed to be integrated into a complete sound system. It can be as simple as adding a subwoofer or as complex as a full 7.1 surround sound system.

Floorstanding speakers are large columned speakers that provide full stereo sound with just two speakers. They are designed for serious music listening.

Stereo Sound: floorstanders built for stereo

  • Usually built-in stereo pairs.

  • Excellent mid-level sound coverage.

  • Weaker or nonexistent upper and lower range.

  • Better as part of a larger system.

  • Usually built-in stereo pairs.

  • Powerful full spectrum sound.

  • Ideal for situations where only stereo (2 speakers) is required.

Bookshelf and floorstanding speakers usually come in pairs. This is because one speaker handles the left channel of sound and the other handles the right channel. So in a sense, both bookshelf and floorstanding speakers are made for stereo sound, but that’s not the whole picture.

A lot of it comes down to range. Most bookshelf speakers are built as part of a larger sound system, providing midrange and bi-directional sound. In this sense, bookshelf speakers are great for stereo, but not strong enough to provide a full music listening experience.

Floor standing speakers are built for full stereo output. These speakers cover the stereo sound range covering low and high frequencies in addition to the mid range. If you want a complete stereo system with just a couple of speakers, floorstanding speakers are the best choice.

Range: Larger speakers offer a wider range

  • Less complete range.

  • Designed to connect to larger systems.

  • Usually strongest in the mid range.

  • Physically larger with more components.

  • Designed primarily for offline playback of stereo sound.

  • Fewer accommodation options.

When designing a sound system, you ideally want to cover the widest possible range of sound. The wider and fuller the range that a sound system can reproduce, the more accurately it can reproduce sound.

Bookshelf speakers are not usually designed to cover such a wide range. Unless you’re looking at a pair of speakers specifically designed to output audiophile quality from a turntable or digital source, these shelf speakers were probably meant to be part of a larger system. This system will then add and expand the range of these speakers. There is also a physical limitation. Shelf speakers are not as big and cannot fit as many components as larger speakers.

Floorstanding speakers are usually designed for a complete system. These speakers are larger and contain more components to cover a wider range of sounds. Floor standing speakers are usually designed for stereo listening without additional speakers in the system. The result is a fuller and well-designed range of two speakers.

However, floorstanding speakers can and are often used as part of a surround speaker setup, usually serving as the front left and right main speakers, complemented by bookshelf speakers for the center and surround channels.

Size: speakers on the shelf are easy to place

  • Fit in a smaller space.

  • Designed to sit on a media center or on a table.

  • Lighter and more compact.

  • Large and freestanding.

  • Take up a decent amount of space.

  • Heavy and bulky.

Floorstanding speakers are much larger than bookshelf speakers. If space is an issue, bookshelf speakers are a good choice. However, there are some interesting trade-offs you can make, depending on your budget.

Floorstanding speakers are at least three feet high and take up a significant amount of floor space. You cannot place these speakers on a stand or furniture due to the size and weight.

Bookshelf speakers may not fit on a bookshelf, but are more compact than floor standing speakers It is not difficult to install some speakers on a media center or on a table. Bookshelf speakers can often be placed on stands or mounted on a wall.

There are more powerful audiophiles for bookshelf speakers that do the job of floorstanding speakers. They may not be as good as high-end floorstanding speakers, but you can get some serious quality in a small package. These extra large bookshelf speakers won’t fit on a bookshelf and can take up desk space, but you can put them in a media center and go great with a turntable.

Music Quality: For music, floor standing is generally better

  • Strong midrange.

  • Can produce good sound quality.

  • Bass is usually missing.

  • Much wider range.

  • Designed to play stereo music.

  • Stronger bass and greater sound depth.

If you’re interested in serious stereo listening, consider floorstanding speakers. They usually provide a full range of sound that is well suited for listening to music.

If you’re interested in serious music listening but don’t have room for floorstanding speakers, consider a set of bookshelf speakers for left and right channels and a subwoofer for bass.

Home cinema: bookshelf speakers integrate into theater systems

  • Integrate well into theater systems.

  • It’s easy to add additional speakers.

  • It is convenient to fit into the theater rooms.

  • More suitable for stereo settings.

  • Take up more space.

  • The overlap in range with other speakers can be confusing.

For a home theater setup, you can use floorstanding or bookshelf speakers for the front left and right channels, but use bookshelf speakers for the surround channels. Also, consider a compact center channel speaker that can be placed above or below your TV or video screen.

However, even if you use floorstanding speakers for the left and right front channels, add a subwoofer for the extremely low frequencies often found in movies. The only exception to this rule is if you have floorstanding left and right channels that have built-in active subwoofers.

More factors to consider

When you decide which speakers are best for you, there are a few more technologies and features to consider. It doesn’t matter to everyone, but if you’re designing a new sound system, you should be aware of other types of speakers as they can influence you in one direction or another.

Center channel speakers

There is a variant with a bookshelf speaker called center channel speaker . This type of speaker is used in home theater speaker settings.

The center channel speaker usually has a horizontal design. Floorstanding and standard bookshelf speakers place the speakers in a vertical arrangement (typically with the tweeter on top and the mid/bass driver below the tweeter). A center channel speaker often has two mid/bass speakers on the left and right sides, as well as a tweeter in the middle.

This horizontal design allows the speaker to be placed above or below a TV or projection screen, either on a shelf or on a wall.

LCR speakers

Another type of speaker form factor designed for home theater use is the LCR speaker. LCR refers to left, center, right. This means that in a single horizontal enclosure, the LCR speaker houses the speakers for the left, center and right channels for a home theater setup.

Due to their wide, horizontal design, LCR speakers have the appearance of a soundbar and are sometimes referred to as passive soundbars. The reason for designating a passive soundbar is that, unlike real soundbars the LCR speaker needs to be connected to external amplifiers or a home theater receiver to play sound.

However, despite the way it’s connected, its physical design has some of the benefits of a soundbar. You don’t need separate left and right bookshelf and center channel speakers. Functions are enclosed in a single compact cabinet.

Two examples of freestanding LCR speakers are − Paradigm Millenia 20 and KEF HTF7003 .

Dolby Atmos Factor

Thanks to implementations of Dolby Atmos, which allows publish sounds from above, there were additional speaker designs for bookshelf and floorstanding speakers.

The best solution for Dolby Atmos is to install ceiling speakers . However, most people don’t want to cut holes in the ceiling and run wires through the walls and ceiling. For convenience, two additional solutions are available to allow sound to be directed vertically and bounce off a flat ceiling.

Final verdict

How do you plan to use your sound system? What type receiver you have? There is no clear answer, but you must consider the strengths and weaknesses of each type of speaker.

Are you looking for something to integrate or start building a home theater system? Chances are bookshelf speakers are a better fit.

Are you planning to listen to music and want the highest possible quality? You should probably buy a great pair of floor standing speakers.

You can’t go completely wrong here. Good speakers generally improve sound quality no matter how you use them. To get the most out of your new speakers, choose the ones that work best for you.

No matter what type of speaker (or speakers) you find necessary or desirable, take advantage of any listening options before making a final purchase decision. Start with friends and neighbors who have stereo or home theater setups. Also, check with your dealer who has a dedicated sound room that showcases different types of speakers.

When you decide to listen to the tests, take your CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray discs and music to your smartphone. So you can hear how the speakers sound with your favorite music and movies.

The final test begins when you get your new speakers home and hear them in your room. While you should be satisfied with the results, make sure you ask for any product return privileges if you are not satisfied with what you hear.

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