Regardless of the presence of sub-woofers and secondary speakers, it will always be the main speakers that need to be perfect. Your entire music listening experience will depend on the kind of output they give. I've put down the factors you need to look out for before you buy either a bookshelf or a floor standing speaker.
What Sets them Apart?
Budget and Value For Money
Always the first round of the battle for us mere mortals. We need to buy something that pleases us without having to sell the fridge off. High quality and low priced; the dream buy for all. This will also be a major decider between the two speakers. The thing is, floor standing speakers are costlier. Their price range starts out from $500 to $700 and keeps increasing towards larger four-digit numbers. The bookshelf speakers, on the other hand, start out at much lower brackets. A typical bookshelf speaker pricing starts out at $100.
To be honest, there are cheaper bookshelf speakers, but I think you would only be wasting your time with them. Now if you think about it, if bookshelf speakers start out at $100, you will see that the ones that cost around $500 and $700 will be much more capable of giving the right quality range. Which means bookshelf speaker quality gets better at the same price tag at which floor standing speakers start out.
Space and Aesthetics
Floor standing speakers are much larger. If you have a small room, I suggest you stick to bookshelf speakers, they will give you a good quality sound and take up lesser space. It may be an opinionated answer, to whether better quality bookshelf speakers can give a better imaging than bookshelf speakers. I think it depends on many other things too, like where you put them and what height the sound output comes out at. If space and money are not your problems, get better quality floor standing speakers.
It is pure logic; larger speakers displace larger amounts of air, giving a stronger sound output. But this only applies to similar quality range between the two types. If you get better quality bookshelf speakers and fit them well in your room, acoustics and aesthetics will do the rest. Another point here is your floor standing speakers (if you end up buying them) need to be placed such that they cause less noise outside the room, very important if you want to keep rocking without having the cops at your door.
In a word; bass. Like I mentioned before, larger speakers displace more air at one go and so produce a bigger 'Thump', giving a richer low frequency response to bookshelf speakers of similar quality. The kind of frequency response almost depends on your equalizer settings and the kind of music you play (discussed later), but eventually does depend on the general output of your main speakers. A bookshelf speaker needs to go a long way to create the same mellow low notes or that punch in the sound output that a floor standing speaker can.
On the other hand, higher frequency sounds are better reproduced by a bookshelf speaker, as they concentrate on an overall richness of sounds. Both parties, however, do fall under the same conditions, as the total output depends on the quality of your system and the sensitivity of output from the system towards the speakers.
The kind of sound output you want also decides the kind of speakers you want. If you're looking for a sound system for a home theater, bookshelf speakers with a good placing would be better. If you intend to listen to something like heavy metal all the time, go for a stable enough floor standing speaker. An opera recording or a classical concert can be best recreated in your room with good bookshelf speakers. Bookshelf speakers are meant to be used without plugging a sub-woofer and so are built to give a richer sound as the pitch of the sound goes higher. Floor standing speakers, with the right specifications and some equalizer adjustments, may not even need a sub-woofer to back them up.
Ideas for a Test Run
Here are some of the popular speaker brands that you can check out first before buying.
- B & W
As far as buying is concerned, the decision can be made using pricing and the kind of sound you intend to get. After that, it all depends on your sense of placements and distances to get the best out of your speaker.