The #1 Reason I Recommend Bookshelf Speakers Over Towers
I think that most people would be surprised at the #1 reason I recommend bookshelf speakers over towers. I’ve been an AV enthusiast for 30 years, and one of the most divisive debates continues to be tower speakers vs. bookshelf speakers. Tower speaker proponents will say that a capable tower speaker that can run full range is the ONLY way to listen to music or movie. Bookshelf speaker supporters will claim that a bookshelf supported by a capable subwoofer will match or outdo any tower speaker on the market? So who is right?
If you had asked me a few years ago, I would have been Team Tower. But writing for an AV website, plus auditioning more bookshelf speakers than I care to admit, has changed my mind. Why? Let me explain my reasoning on the #1 reason I recommend bookshelf speakers over towers and debunk some myths on the way.
Myth 1 – Tower Speakers Have Better Performance
Ok, so this one is what I hung my hat on for years. There is NO WAY that a single driver and tweeter can compete with a full range, multi-drive tower speaker! Bookshelf speakers can only dip so low, and you need the extra oomph from a tower speaker. How wrong I was!
So maybe this was true in the ’70s-’90s when subwoofers were not as capable as today’s models. In the ’90s, I had a choice of a bookshelf/subwoofer combo that maybe hit 40hz. Or a set of giant towers that hit 28hz. Guess what I chose?
But today? My Paradigm Premier 200B’s can hit 50hz, and my Monolith by Monoprice M-10 V2 THX subwoofer and SVS SB1000 can hit 20hz flat! There is NO full-range tower at a similar price point that can match that. And guess what? Even when I had tower speakers, I would use a subwoofer. Why? Because subwoofers are about all that bass (no treble!)
And output? Unless you are sitting a significant distance from your speakers, or you need to fill a massive space with sound, the output is not an issue. I can reach deafening levels with my bookshelf speakers, and I rarely turn them up to reference volume.
But that is not the #1 reason I recommend bookshelf speakers over towers.
Myth 2 – Tower Speakers Are Cheaper Than Stands
I am barely going to dignify this with a response. Unless you buy wildly overpriced stands with some magical audiophile properties, stands and bookshelf speakers are cheaper.
Case in point. My Paradigm 200B’s are $1000/pair or $1450(ish) WITH the overpriced Paradigm stands. A couple of 700F tower speakers are $1650, and a pair of 800F’s are $2100. But guess what? I am not buying the overpriced Paradigm stands for $450, so the 200B’s and a decent set of stands will be $1200!
But even that kind of savings is not the #1 reason I recommend bookshelf speakers over towers.
Myth 3 – It’s Easier To Knock Over Bookshelf Speakers
Ok, so this one is always one I laugh over. I have owned three sets of towers and three sets of bookshelf speakers. I have had cats, dogs, toddlers/tweens/teens, and adult kids during this time. And do you know how many times my speakers got knocked over? ZERO.
If you are scared about getting your bookshelf speakers knocked over, we have an excellent article here. But the reality is that most people won’t have an issue with damage to their speakers, mainly if you use a bit of museum putty to hold them down.
But even this is not the #1 reason I recommend bookshelf speakers over towers. What is it, you ask?
Price To Performance Ratio
Right here is the #1 reason I recommend bookshelf speakers over towers! You can get more performance for your dollar with bookshelf speakers over tower speakers. I don’t care how capable your full-range towers claim to be; you will still need a subwoofer. So unless you have an unlimited budget, you will have to step down a tier for your tower speakers to get a capable sub. Or you will have to skimp on your subwoofer to get tower speakers. Lose-lose.
OR…you get a capable subwoofer and bookshelf speakers, combine them like Voltron, and make a super system capable of all the bass! You will probably have money left in your pocket for other fun stuff like a turntable!
You heard me right. You might be able to step up a tier in quality if you decide to go for bookshelf speakers. That means better extension on the top end, a cleaner midrange, and no problems reaching down low enough to crossover into your subwoofers. That same money with towers gives you bass you won’t use and less audio fidelity. Doesn’t seem like a great tradeoff to me? No matter what price point you are at, spending as much of it on audio fidelity is money well spent!
There are some legitimate reasons that tower speakers could be better for your space. But in most cases, with most rooms, bookshelf speakers and a subwoofer are a far better pairing and offer more bang-for-your-buck.
And I am not going to bookshelf-shame you if you prefer towers over bookshelf speakers for aesthetics. I purchased a massive center channel based on looks only! But understand that you are not getting ANY additional benefit from the tower speakers.
I would much rather see you spend your money on a fantastic subwoofer, a great set of bookshelf speakers and stands, and spend all that saved money on acoustic treatments.
What about you? Have you moved from towers to bookshelf speakers or vice versa? What was your experience? Tell us in the comments below.