speaker systems vs. bookshelf speakers

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Michael X, Jun 6, 2002.

  1. Michael X

    Michael X Stunt Coordinator

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    Okay, I'm trying to ask this in a general way, although I do have particular brands and speakers in mind.

    I'm not referring to the Home Theather in-a-box setup with the receiver and/or dvd player plus 5 speakers and a dinky subwoofer- I mean like the Polk RM6200, 6600, or Infinity HTS20 (which I am thinking about) speaker systems which include four satellites, a center, and even a powered sub.

    I'm wondering how these kinds of systems stack up when compared to a bookshelf speaker, say something like a Polk RT10 or models in the same size (4"-6.5" drivers) and price range to keep the total price around the $500-1000 mark of the boxed speaker systems.

    Do bookshelfs have the advantage outright with the larger cabinet or even a rectangular design compared to the smaller systems that stuff a tweeter and 3-4" driver in a space smaller than a kleenex box? I wonder things like do the dinky speakers start to roll off around 200Hz or even higher, leaving a frequency gap I'd rather not have, and don't want to make a sub do. I'm sure most good small speakers sound better than most bad big speakers, but I'm wondering about good systems vs. good bookshelfs.

    The other consideration in comparing these was that so far, I've yet to find a packaged speaker system with anything other than 5 speakers. The Infinity HTS20 was the only odd one out, since additional speakers could be purchased in pairs for going to a 6.1/7.1 channel setup.

    thoughts, opinions, facts?
     
  2. EricHaas

    EricHaas Supporting Actor

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    As a *gross* generalization, bookshelf speakers offer the best bang for the buck in the entire loudspeaker arena. They tend to be better values than towers, because towers offer few sonic advantages other than superior bass response (which could be irrelevant in a sub/sat system), and cost twice as much for the same driver and cross-overs in a larger cabinet.

    Micro sized speakers may be cheaper because they have smaller enclosures and fewer drivers, but there are inevitably sonic tradeoffs for the size and price advantage. For example, those kinds of speakers often use only one driver from the entire frequency spectrum - everything from the highest treble to the lowest base. Although there are theoretical advantages to a design without cross-overs, it is a fact that one size does not fit all frequency ranges. Certain sizes and material types are more suited for treble vs. midrange vs. bass, so using one driver for the entire spectrum is problematic. Second, because of the size, bass response is inevitably poor, and in some cases micro speakers only go down to about 200 hz, many down to maybe 120. Since you don't want to set your sub cross-over above 80 hz to avoid localization, this can create a hole in the upper base region. Third, the price constraint based on the segment that micro speakers are marketed to often (but not always) means cheaping out on all the components.

    There are exceptions of course. Some micro sized sound great, and some bookselves sound terrible. Energy makes decent speakers in the "very small" range, e.g. their Take 5.2 and Encore systems. Also, if size is a serious constraint due to esthetic or ergonomic considerations, then it is totally legitimate to consider the packages with smaller speakers. Provided you get one of the better packages, it will at least sound decent for HT.

    However, on the whole I would recommend bookself speakers over *either* towers or micro sized to at least 4 out of 5 people.
     
  3. Robert_Gaither

    Robert_Gaither Screenwriter

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    I'd say it would depend on the budget and matching electronics (some AVR's have a higher x-over points than 80hz). I agree with Eric for the most part that bookshelves give the best bang for the buck for the most part but the stands for them might put you closer to tower prices than you might expect.
     

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