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Tower vs Bookshelf


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31 replies to this topic

#1 of 32 OFFLINE   PaulDA

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Posted February 24 2004 - 01:34 AM

I've been auditioning speakers lately, with an eye to purchasing them in 4-6 months. We'll be moving into a house in fall/winter coming up and the home cinema will be in a semi-dedicated room, perhaps purpose-built in basement. I expect the room to be "about" 16x12x7 feet. I say semi-dedicated because I may not be able to keep an extra sofa-bed out of the room when all is said and done.

Sorry about the long preamble but it goes to my topic. I've lately been auditioning towers as front mains because I have an affinity for 2-channel listening.

My components are/will be:
Sony 32" WEGA (not hi-def, but with 16x9 "cheat")
Arcam AVR200
one of the following: Denon DVD2900/2200 or Yamaha S2300/1500 universal players
JVC S-VHS VCR

Should I be considering an all bookshelf array? The room won't be that big but I find the various towers that I've heard fairly compelling. (When I say bookshelf, though, I don't mean tiny sats like I have now) I guess I'd like to know if I'm forced to add more furniture than I'd ideally like, does the increased flexibility of a bookshelf outweigh the greater sound range of the floorstanders?

Has anyone had to cope with this?
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#2 of 32 OFFLINE   greg baker

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Posted February 24 2004 - 04:26 AM

If you are looking at primarly music then my suggestion would be towers. If you are not planning on having a sub then I would definitley go with towers. I have nice bookshelfs and a sub which do great for HT but I just don't care for them as much for music. If you five a price range I am sure people would be glad to suggest some good speakers to audition within the price range.

Greg

#3 of 32 OFFLINE   JamesCB

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Posted February 24 2004 - 05:00 AM

I also suggest towers if you intend to do alot of two-channel listening. You will (usually) get a fuller sound without the need of a subwoofer (there really isn't much info in music that requires a sub, there are exceptions though). IMO, the integration of a sub and bookshelves is tough to get right, especially for music.

One thing that always intigued me was the fact that floorstanders will occupy the same floorspace as stand mounted bookshelves. IMO, bookshelf type speakers need to be stand mounted. So, why buy small speakers that take up the same amount of space as a "full range" floorstander? It makes no sense to me. Good luck and happy hunting.

James

#4 of 32 OFFLINE   Troy R

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Posted February 24 2004 - 05:48 AM

Quote:
One thing that always intigued me was the fact that floorstanders will occupy the same floorspace as stand mounted bookshelves. IMO, bookshelf type speakers need to be stand mounted. So, why buy small speakers that take up the same amount of space as a "full range" floorstander? It makes no sense to me. Good luck and happy hunting.


Because for the same price range you can get a higher quality speaker if you buy a bookshelf design. A $1000 bookshelf will most likely be made with higher quality components than a $1000 floor standing speaker.

With floorstanders you're also paying for the extra materials to build the cabinet. The bigger cabinet also produces resonance which can color the sound.

I personally prefer a high quality bookshelf properly paired with a good sub over floor standing speakers.

#5 of 32 OFFLINE   ScottCHI

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Posted February 24 2004 - 06:16 AM

i agree with troy.

and generally, floorstanding speakers are fuller, but of course, ALL floorstanding speakers aren't necessarily "fuller" than ALL bookshelf speakers.

one consideration would be that if you're using bookshelf speakers for surrounds, then you may want to use the same bookshelf speakers for fronts, if you want them to all be identical. (or all towers, for that matter.) some prefer this sort of setup; all identical speakers. and some don't.

otherwise, it's going to be your personal preference. from what i can gather from the AVR200's manual, you will NOT have the ability to alter the bass management crossover frequency, which may have some (but not much) bearing upon your speaker decision. and troy's right, sometimes a floorstanding cabinet's resonance can be interpretted as "fuller" low end on first listen, but is actually undesirable, especially when a subwoofer is used to cover the low-end. often times, (but not always) a bookshelf speaker, due to it's smaller cabinet, will give you a "tighter" sound than a floorstanding speaker, which can be very desirable, especially when used in conjunction with a subwoofer that will cover the low-end.

incidentally, i recently purchased some KEF Q5 towers as my front speakers, and due to some bare walls and hardwood floors, i am using the foam "port-stuffer", that they come with, on the lower woofer's ported section to reduce the "resonance". my rear speakers are "matching" KEF Q1 bookshelf speakers and i find myself often wondering if, in light of having a quite capable subwoofer, i shouldn't have purchased the same for the front.
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#6 of 32 OFFLINE   PaulDA

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Posted February 24 2004 - 06:32 AM

The Arcam's crossover is fixed at 100hz. Should I therefore seek out speakers (towers or bookshelf) that extend significantly lower (at least low 50s or high 40s) and set everything at large all around or would I be better off looking for a sub that works well to 120hz or so to ensure a smooth transition between sub and bookshelves (or towers)? This is becoming more confusing than I thought it would. I've never had towers but have found those I have recently auditioned fairly compelling. However, in all cases, the rooms were at least double (and sometimes triple) the size of the room I will be using at home. Are floorstanders overkill for a smallish room? I favour musicality and neutrality over in your face audio experiences.
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#7 of 32 OFFLINE   ScottCHI

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Posted February 24 2004 - 06:47 AM

are you sure the crossover is at 100Hz, paul? see my post over in your thread over in the "receivers" section regarding this.
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#8 of 32 OFFLINE   Luis Gabriel Gerena

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Posted February 24 2004 - 06:50 AM

I will go with towers without a doubt. Just as someone said, the footprint when you add the stand will make the bookshelf as big as a tower not to mentioned the added price of the stand. Also, a bookshelf on a stand is always in danger of being damaged by a fall. Since your room will be semi dedicated HT room then it may not be a problem for you but then again...I will buy towers any day since for music they cant be beat. I used to have AR 318PS towers and now are working on getting a full HTD level 3 tower setup. One reason there are so many bookshelves out there is mainly because of shipping issues. Sound quality wise provided that both have competen drivers, a tower should beat a bookshelf most of the time.

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#9 of 32 OFFLINE   ScottCHI

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Posted February 24 2004 - 06:56 AM

Quote:
Sound quality wise provided that both have competent drivers, a tower should beat a bookshelf most of the time.
i don't want to "argue", but that really is a bad generalization
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#10 of 32 OFFLINE   Luis Gabriel Gerena

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Posted February 24 2004 - 07:01 AM

I mean is kind of the old analogy a good heavyweight will KO a great walterweight. Let me give you an example when I was auditioning speakers I was able to compare many brands and types. On of those was HTD. I noticed that I like their Level 3 towers more than their Level 4 bookshelves even though they level 4 is more expensive not even including the stand price. I heard a wider soundstage and of course better bass (i mean better not only more). Of course thats only my opinion.
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#11 of 32 OFFLINE   ScottCHI

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Posted February 24 2004 - 07:11 AM

of course, generally, i know what you're saying, luis.

but i would definitely NOT choose speakers based upon that extremely broad generalization, especially if you're not particularly dedicated to one or the other design, bookshelf or tower, for any particular cosmetic or utilitarian reason.

let your ears objectively decide, paul, if you're able to try the speakers out. otherwise, it sounds like you're already, unfortunately, but understandably, i suppose, biased toward tower speakers.
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#12 of 32 OFFLINE   PaulDA

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Posted February 24 2004 - 07:34 AM

I don't think that I am biased towards towers, per se, it's just that I've auditioned a number of them recently, without,to be fair, comparing them to bookshelves. (One exception, a pair of 1000$ Boston Acoustics--too bright for me, or at least too clinical, if that makes any sense). My favourite speakers are my old Celestion DL6s, a pair of largish bookshelf speakers from the mid 80s that I've loaned to a very good friend because I could not use them over the last 24 months (don't fit my current HT setup and have nothing else to drive them). If I could find three more of them, I would snap them up in a heartbeat and add a sub. Not an option. I must say that I've enjoyed every kind of music I've thrown at them over the years, from classical to jazz to prog rock to folk (just to mention a few) and never felt I was missing any low end (not a pipe organ fan). However, my current sat/sub system (Harman Kardon HKTS 6), while quite acceptable for movies at its price point, just does not cut it with music. The highs are too bright and the mids are almost non-existent. The sub is decent, I suppose, though it's my first and I'm sure my next one will be better. My wife attaches little importance to hifi sound (she's quite happy with her clock radio as background sound) but she's fairly indulgent with my "obsession", so long as it doesn't require a second mortgage. All of this rambling to say that I'm looking for speakers that will satisfy my desire to enjoy good 2 channel (including SACD) music and also enjoy multichannel music. I'm perfectly willing to consider bookshelves all around, if the two channel performance, with or without a sub, is satisfactory. Whew.

I appreciate all the input. One last thing about towers is that I have an active 2 year old who will not be barred from the HT room and I thought that towers would be less likely to tip over--not a sound issue but a practical one all the same. However, I've noted in my research a number of solid, if expensive, stands with sturdy mounts. I guess I should factor something for that expense.
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#13 of 32 OFFLINE   Troy R

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Posted February 24 2004 - 07:42 AM

Quote:
I thought that towers would be less likely to tip over


I don't agree when people say this either. In my experience tower speakers are more easily knocked over than stand mounts (provided you have them securely attached to the stands). With floor standers most of the weight is at the top with the drivers. with stand mounts the weight can be lower in the stand (sand or shot filled).

I have my Dynaudio bookshelves on stands that I made myself (for about $80) attached with blu-tak, and no two year old I know could ever knock them over. I probably couldn't even knock them over if I bumped into them. I'd really have to bump (push) them hard for them to fall. Also my stands would fall over before my speakers would fall off, that blu-tak has an iron grip on my speakers...

#14 of 32 OFFLINE   Rob.melone

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Posted February 24 2004 - 07:44 AM

Setting up and configuring a sat/sub system for both HT and music can be problematic and quite frustrating. What might provide good dynamics and bass blend for HT may not for music, especially for instruments like a bass guitar. My vote is for full range (tower) fronts. This way you have the option to listen to music in stereo with the sub disengaged, if you prefer. If you go with this approach, try and find a speaker company that makes towers as well as a center and bookshelf that incorporate the same tweeter. This combination may provide the best possible solution for what you are trying to achieve.

Good luck!

#15 of 32 OFFLINE   Greg_R

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Posted February 24 2004 - 09:57 AM

I would suggest you go listen to a sub/sat combo and compare it to a similar floor standing speaker. For example, the Paradigm Studio 40s + quality sub vs. the 100s. IMO, the bookshelf system has better imaging, tighter bass, greater extention (due to the sub), & better dynamics (the sub amp is driving the bass and frees up more power for the mains).

Most sub / sat complaints I read are from people who are using a low quality subwoofer (note I did not say inexpensive sub) or who have not set up and calibrated their system properly.

#16 of 32 OFFLINE   Robert_Dufresne

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Posted February 24 2004 - 01:37 PM

You have to understand that high and mid frequencies don't need the air volume of towers to be produced accurately. Only the low end requires a big enclosure. That being said, bookshelf speakers are as good as towers when it comes to reproducing high and mid frequencies.

As for the low end, a very good sub will provide better low end than most towers. The only problem is to get the sub to blend seamlessly with the bookshelfs. A low frequency driver needs to move a lot of air to do a good job and therefore requires a lot of power. Powered subs with built in high power amps are designed for this.

So for music or HT high and low frequencies don't have the same requirements. It does make cense to handle them separately.

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#17 of 32 OFFLINE   MikeLi

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Posted February 24 2004 - 08:50 PM

Taking into consideration if you have the room, there is nothing more pleasing than looking at those big floor standers against a bookshelf. Alot of it can have to do with decor. I think with proper shopping you can get the sound you want from either so I am only talking about the cosmetics. I have people tell me all the time what great looking speakers I have. Then of course they want to have a listen. I am a floorstander guy but again I know if you do your shopping and have the money you can get a bookshelf with a decent sub set up that will sound equally as well.

#18 of 32 OFFLINE   Joris van W.

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Posted February 24 2004 - 11:16 PM

I also own an Arcam AVR200. My speakers are all bookshelf models. All Dynaudio Audience (52 front, 42 surround, 122C center). I must say it performs alright in my situation. I also own a Rel Quake II sub, but I only use this with DVD not in stereo. The Dynaudio 52 / Arcam combination is perfectly capable of playing (at high volumes) without losing 'body'. Fronts and surrounds are on sandfilled Linn Katan Stands.

I don't know what your price range is, but generally spoken you can say Dynaudio combines quit good with Arcam (if you like 'warm' sound).

My room is about the same size as yours, that's te reason I choose bookshelfs.

Another suggestion: why not towers in the front and bookshelfs (from the same brand and series) in the back?

PS I hope I didn't make to many faults, English is not my native language.

#19 of 32 OFFLINE   JamesCB

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Posted February 25 2004 - 12:30 AM

Well, it certainly seems the bookshelf/floorstander choice is another subjective argument with no real answer. Personal preference reigns. It's been stated over and over: "Let your ears (and/or budget) be the judge, only you can decide what sounds good to you".

#20 of 32 OFFLINE   Joris van W.

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Posted February 25 2004 - 12:57 AM

Quote:
Well, it certainly seems the bookshelf/floorstander choice is another subjective argument with no real answer. Personal preference reigns. It's been stated over and over: "Let your ears (and/or budget) be the judge, only you can decide what sounds good to you".


Yep


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