In the realm of home hi-fi, the selection of speakers comes down to two primary types: Bookshelf and tower. Essentially, bookshelf speakers, as their namesake suggests, sit on a table or stand and generally boast a square/rectangular shape; tower speakers (sometimes referred to as floor standing speakers) include special feet that allow them to sit safely and comfortably on different types of floor material such as wood and carpet. Of course, tower speakers are larger than bookshelf models, and bookshelf types usually require the additional expense of quality stands to place them on.

In this post, we’re going to get into the specifics regarding the advantages and disadvantages when comparing bookshelf and tower speakers so you can choose the best type for your needs.

Bookshelf Speaker Advantages

  • Typically come in a compact form factor that can be stand-mounted or placed on an open shelf.
  • For apartment and condo dwellers, their lack of deep bass keeps them from disturbing neighbors.
  • If space or budget is low, they can be coupled with a subwoofer for great full-range sound.
  • When used on stands, they can support up-firing Dolby Atmos speakers (for home theater applications).

Bookshelf Speaker Disadvantages

  • Best performance is usually achieved by getting them out in the room or on stands.
  • Compared to floorstanding models, their sound is somewhat less full-range in impact without a subwoofer.

Tower Speaker Advantages

  • They provide big, full-range sound.
  • They typically boast better dynamics compared to bookshelves.
  • They can be easy to drive if they have high-efficiency ratings (though not all are, especially more expensive, exotic types).
  • When properly placed in a room, there is a sense that performers are playing right there in your space – providing that “you are there” moment.
  • They make a great platform for up-firing Dolby Atmos speaker modules (for home theater applications).
  • Tower Speaker Disadvantages

Tower Speaker Disadvantages

  • Difficult to make disappear in a room due to their size.
  • Most need to be away from the back wall of a room to sound their best, usually 12 to 16-inches out into space.

For a good idea of just how different these approaches to loudspeakers are, check out this video by industry veteran Paul McGowan of PS Audio.

We hope this has given you some more insight with regard to the advantages and disadvantages of bookshelf and tower speakers. In summary, if your space is tight and you can’t really take advantage of what a power-hungry full-range floorstanding speaker can offer, a pair of bookshelves on stands is a good choice…even without a subwoofer.

On the other hand, if you have the room and crave a “wall of sound” effect when sitting in front of your hi-fi rig, nothing beats tower speakers.