How to Choose Between Bookshelf and Tower Speakers

difference between bookshelf and tower speakers

When deciding on better audio for your home, there are several factors to consider. Sound quality is paramount but also keep in mind things like space, aesthetic appeal, and budget. Here we break down the details to help you choose between bookshelf vs tower speakers and enjoy that blockbuster action flick or new rock album to its fullest.


Floor or Shelf: Which One Wins?

Though there’s more than one perspective to consider, if your priority is audio, tower speakers win by a long shot. But bookshelf speakers have their advantages, especially for apartment dwellers.


Floor or Shelf Speaker Space

Of course, the primary concern should be sound quality. But there are other things to consider when making the decision of which speaker works best for your home.

By nature, tower speakers are larger, both in the unit’s overall size and the speaker’s surface area. So be sure you have the space in your living room to set them up. A pair of good tower speakers can match the height and sometimes the width of another piece of furniture.

There will be a limited space (such as on either side of your couch) where you can set them up and get good results. Once they rest somewhere, it will be inconvenient to move later and detrimental to the output if you try.

That said, the advantage of having a speaker with ear-level sound is critical. When you’re lounging on the couch watching a movie, it’s nice to have the audio on the same horizontal plane to experience total depth and range.


Sound Quality

Most audiophiles are aware that a tower speaker, i.e. a sizeable box-shaped device that sits on the floor, provides better bass volume than its shelved counterpart. For that thumping rap beat, it can be fun to hear dishes rattle and feel furniture tingle.

But due to the larger size of a speaker on the floor – as well as the space inside to include more drivers – the treble and mid-range tones are fuller, too. With a floor speaker (sometimes called a “tower” speaker for its height), you can better experience a 3D sound as if you’re attending a live show or standing right in the middle of the movie’s action.

Another effect is a more comprehensive dynamic range. Someone who appreciates every nuance of a jazz tune, or wants to identify each instrumental solo, will enjoy a floor speaker that allows it.

That said, the bookshelf speaker option is less disturbing to neighbors. The bass might rattle loose items on the shelf, but it’s still less impact than the wall-shaking force of a tower speaker.

Decided you want bookshelf speakers but still want deeper tones? Add a subwoofer to get a more similar effect to a freestanding model.



Pros of Shelf Speaker Over Floor Speaker

The term “bookshelf speaker” is a bit of a misnomer, as these smaller speakers can also be set on stands like floorstanding speakers, placed on a table, or mounted on the ceiling or wall. The point is, when you compare bookshelf vs tower speakers, the shelf option doesn’t take up quite as much room as its freestanding counterpart.

Suppose you are in-between living situations or anticipate moving in the next couple of years after your purchase. In that case, bookshelf speakers will give you the option of accessible transportation and setup in another space. They’re also more flexible in their initial location when you bring them home.

You can always experiment with manipulating the direction of bookshelf speakers. Even a ten- or twenty-degree rotation one way or the other can redirect the sound waves’ path, dramatically changing the way your ear interprets it. Much of the result has to do with the furnishings, wall decor, and other textures in the room.


Price Range

A good-quality speaker system isn’t cheap, so it’s good to know what you want before you buy. Though the range of possibilities extends into the thousands of dollars, there are budget options available too. Just know that with electronics, you’ll most likely get what you pay for.

Bookshelf speakers may have an advantage in look, mobility, and size. But because floorstanding speakers are just plain larger, they’ll give you the better bang for your buck. Compare similar products put out by different reliable brands to get an idea of your price range.

Like most technology, there are “extras” available that influence price. For example, you might save with cheaper speakers, but make up the difference when you add a subwoofer.



Floor or Shelf Speaker Style

Since tower speakers will be front and center of your TV or living space, they should look like they belong. Consider the furniture surrounding each type of speaker, and whether modern electronic appliances might upset the room’s aesthetic.

For example, if your space has a minimalist or cottage-inspired look, two substantial black devices sitting on the floor won’t look great. If the tone of the space is softer, you can more easily set bookshelf speakers out of the way to preserve the room’s appeal.

Keep in mind, any cords or cables attached to a non-Bluetooth speaker will also need to be cleverly disguised or hidden.


Where Should I Purchase?

Many electronics stores will have listening rooms where you can witness the dynamic range of the speakers live. Ask a store employee to give you a demonstration so you can compare and contrast the bookshelf vs floorstanding speakers before you buy.

Shopping online is always an option, but you’ll be limited to relying on internet reviews, rather than experiencing the audio for yourself. Remember, a nice speaker system is an investment of time, energy, and money, which is good to consider when you are tempted to buy used or secondhand.


Your Final Decision

With various factors going into the choice of speakers, it’s worth taking the time to research what’s available. Ultimately, it will depend on your preferences and budget, so make a list of your priorities and then seek out the top one or two first. You can trust that the electronics market will have a speaker – whether a bookshelf or tower model – that suits your home.