Why do Audiophiles Prefer Bookshelf Speakers?



The following article is a guest post by Jamie K. Martin of Audio Curious. Jamie holds a degree in Audio engineering from Husson University, Bangor. His site provides technology content about different audio devices for millions of users across the globe, incl. comprehensive buying guides, product reviews, and informational articles.

Why do Audiophiles Prefer Bookshelf Speakers?

Big speakers play louder, but they don’t necessarily deliver the best sound quality. This is especially true for audiophiles who consider the size of the speaker secondary to sound input. And with the advancement of technology, it is not uncommon to come across bookshelf speakers that sound incredible despite their small size.

Decently placed bookshelf speakers are probably a better choice provided that you pair them with a good subwoofer and nice metal stands. Besides, there are quite a good number of high-end bookshelf models with a larger sound presentation than some cheap floor standers.


Although their compact size is not for every person and environment, their audio experience is pretty amazing, and you get to enjoy the best sound possible.  When this is coupled with the increasing demand for compact speakers it is easy to see why most audiophiles prefer bookshelf speakers.

Are floor standing speakers better than bookshelf?

Considering that floor standing speakers are bigger than their bookshelf counterparts, it is obvious to assume that the former sounds better. It is also a no-brainer that using full-range speakers will provide better sound quality, but that’s not always the case.

For instance, some high-end bookshelf speakers feature high-quality crossovers that are also well configured. Crossover is an extremely useful feature that allows drivers to reproduce their constituent frequencies more efficiently. For that reason, the quality of crossover plays a critical when choosing your speaker system and it is not uncommon to find bookshelf speakers with better crossovers than cheaply made floor standers.

TRIAD SYSTEM ONE, a vintage system of stereo bookshelf speakers and a powered subwoofer

And although bookshelf speakers tend to lack the deep low end of their tower counterparts, pairing them with a good subwoofer allows them to put out a convincing sound stage, similar to that of tower speakers. It is however important to emphasize that bookshelf sound much better when placed on speaker stands as opposed to when you place them on a shelf.

The combination of bookshelf speakers and a subwoofer is often a great option for audiophiles on the move, plus they are more flexible in terms of placement options. This is the exact opposite of floor standers which are relatively bulky and tends to take considerable floor space than a bookshelf set with the same footprint.


From a décor point of view, bookshelf speakers tend to be more aesthetically pleasing, especially when you decide to have them rest on stands. For home theater applications, you can also opt to build the speakers into cabinets on either side to maximize on the floor space. Furthermore, you can also place your elevation speakers on top of them for a Dolby Atmos surround sound experience.

For many audiophiles living in condos or apartments, using bookshelf speakers keeps them from disturbing other dwellers. With bookshelf speakers, bass tones rarely travel through the walls, and if you’re using a subwoofer, you can always turn the sub’s volume level independently whenever needed.


Bookshelf speakers are also a great choice for audiophiles who love slow music genres, such as the jazz quartet that does not require deep bass tones.  In addition, if you’re one of those audiophiles whose earth-shaking bass isn’t the most important consideration, bookshelf speakers are the way to go.


Advantages of bookshelf speakers over floor standers

  • They fits easily on a bookshelf/tabletop or  speaker stands
  • Some bookshelf speakers can accommodate Dolby Atmos elevation speakers
  • Bookshelf speakers with up to three drivers (full-range speakers ) deliver a wide sound stage without taking up much space in your room
  • Most come in eye-catching designs – you wouldn’t want your speakers to look odd in your living room


  • They rely heavily on a subwoofer to reproduce good bass – this is especially true for speakers that are not full-range
  • Incorporating a subwoofer generally adds to the complexity of your setup
  • Bookshelf speakers, especially the rear-ported ones, need to be taken away from walls to perform optimally

Parting Shot!

As their name implies, bookshelf speakers are often designed to fit inside a typical bookshelf, since most are small. However, some come with substantially big large cabinets, which some audiophiles associate with a better and more accurate performance.

The debate of floor standing vs. bookshelf is no easy one, and they are quite a number of audiophiles who would swear on bookshelf speakers while some still insist that floor standers are the best. While it is tricky to talk either out of their opinion, we believe that it is quite possible to find high-efficiency bookshelf speakers that are pretty good too.

My recommendation is to go with a brand that is the high-efficiency type to experience high-quality sound for years to come. The good thing is that the market is flooded with high-performance bookshelf speakers that are also reasonably priced. However, it is always important to keep in mind that good quality sound comes at a price.


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