Motion 60XT towers Tower speakers

When Should You Buy Tower Speakers over Bookshelves


For most people, buying tower speakers over bookshelves is more an aesthetic or FOMO choice than one of actual need. Most of us only need a bookshelf speaker for our home theaters. Tower speakers would be overkill and we could get better bookshelf speakers for the same money. But, say you, the disappointed reader that really, REALLY wanted to buy tower speakers, surely they must serve a purpose? Surely someone needs tower speakers? Could it be you? Well…

Where Do You Sit?

If you are sitting 12 feet or more away from the place your speakers will live, you might be justified in buying tower speakers over bookshelves. The farther away you sit, the more likely that a tower speaker will make sense. Tower speakers tend to be more efficient than bookshelf speakers so get louder with the same amount of power.

That said, you could add an amp to a bookshelf speaker and get a similar effect (up to a point). Also, you could look into speakers that are more efficient (any horn-loaded speaker would qualify) and their bookshelf models will get plenty loud outside of 12 feet. But if you love the sound of a particular speaker, and are sitting far enough away, you might need a tower speaker. And an amp.

Do You Plan on Buying a Subwoofer?

Pictured: The subwoofer you don’t plan on buying

If you are on a budget, you may think that you can buy “full range” tower speakers and add a subwoofer later. That may be technically true but you need to realize that astonishingly few tower speakers are actually full range. Full range means that the speaker can play every note between 20kHz to 20Hz. The 20kHz isn’t a problem for most speakers. The 20Hz? Not many can do it.

The cost for a truly full-range speaker is usually very high. So high that buying bookshelves and a couple of subs would be cheaper than the full-range tower speakers. Or even regular tower speakers and a couple of subs. Full-range speakers are usually really, really expensive.

Author’s Note: When you inevitably do a search for “full-range speakers,” you’ll find many that claim full-range. They are not technically lying. When every note is sent to the drivers, they move. But the question that they aren’t answering is, “At what volume?” Sure, their speakers physically do something at 20Hz, but you’ll never hear it. A full-range speaker can hit reference volume at all frequencies. I’d be surprised if you could find a tower speaker that could honestly do it for under five figures. These RBH speakers are actually full-range. At $12,819.95 a pair, they are actually quite a deal. And no, I’m not joking.

But, you might have money for speakers but not subs. Fine. The additional bass you get from tower speakers can benefit you. That said, don’t be lulled into thinking that you don’t need subwoofers. The tower speakers won’t hit down to 20Hz (much less into the subsonic frequencies like a subwoofer can) and they aren’t placed in the correct place for even bass. We’d still suggest living with bookshelf speakers and saving the extra money you would spend on towers so that you can get your dual subwoofers sooner.

Do you have Pets or Unruly Kids?

One common reason people give us for wanting tower speakers is that they have small children or animals. They are afraid that their child or fur baby will knock it off the stand and be crushed or hurt by the falling speaker. Seems like an unlikely event (and we can’t find any stats that suggest this is a regular occurrence) but we guess it could happen.

We would say to pick up some cheap museum putty. This stuff connects your speaker to your stand strong enough that the two become as one. Don’t believe us? Check out the images on the Amazon reviews. People buy this stuff to lock down vases and stuff that they are afraid their cats will knock over. The cats, because they are cats, still try. More often than not, the vase breaks with the base still attached to the shelf. The stuff not only makes a great connection, but it also stays soft enough to acoustically isolate your speaker from the stand.

Plus, maybe just tell your kids to stay away from your speakers?

Did You Find A Deal?

“I know I don’t really NEED tower speakers, but I found this great deal on…”

We’ve heard it before. You’ve got a friend or you found a listing on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace or wherever. No matter how you came across it, you’ve found pair of tower speakers that would cost less to buy than the bookshelves in the same line.

Great. We have a lot of reasons that you still shouldn’t buy them but if you really found such a great deal, you should probably jump on it. You have our blessing.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *