Why "bookshelf" sspeakers?

This is not a rhetorical question. I’m asking because I don’t know.

The question is this: What is the point of "bookshelf" style speakers if they are not going on a bookshelf or table? In other words they are on speaker stands.

Here is the reason I’m asking. For a short time I had a pair of Aerial Acoustics 5T speakers along with a pair of Aerial Acoustics 6T towers (which I still have).

I listened to each set of speakers through a Bryston AV amp. I felt like the 6Ts sounded much better. More bass. Fuller sound. (I think a subwoofer would have resolved that easily for the 5Ts.)

The 5Ts are not exactly small and would barely fit on most bookshelves (although they are front ported and recommended for bookshelves by AE). The ones I listened to were on heavy metal stands which made them almost as big and heavy as the 6Ts.

So why buy smaller speakers which need to go on large heavy stands that make them as big as a floor standing speaker and not sound as good? Space saving does not seem to be the answer and I see some ’bookshelf’ speakers that are a good bit bigger than the AE 5ts.

I’m sure there must be a good reason since I see many people with them. And of course my assumption that a floor stander sounds better than a bookshelf might be wrong.

I guess cost comes into play somewhere in the equation as well.

Interested in people’s thoughts on this.


When bookshelf speakers are placed on stands instead of a bookshelf or table there is more room for adjustment. The stands can be manipulated and placed away from the wall and the soundstage, depth etc. can be adjusted more accurately to one's liking, but the same can also be said for tower speakers. There is some truth in that the stand can help isolate the speaker from the floor (good for apartments and improved sound). Some stands resonate and can make things worse. Some put sand or lead inside the speaker stands.  It's really difficult generalize and say that bookshelves are better than towers or vice versa.  All things being equal, towers generally extend the low end more when compared to a bookshelf.  There are too many variables involved. 

The bookshelf speaker "thing" is fairly recent. They were not as common when I started this hobby in the 80’s as they are today. Budget, location, room size, neighbors or no neighbors, apartment or house, space, aesthetics, convenience, "the wife"/ (or husband) listening styles, music genres, playback volume, occasion and many other resons I’m sure.

Personally, I have a couple of each type in 6 different rooms. I like the bookshelves with 2 subs for background music and towers or the PA speakers for when I want to rock and get my fix!  

Obviously, my comment is brief and only scratches the surface.  If you can do it, why not have every combination and get the full experience? Life's short!

Back in the day we were happy to listen to the sound coming from a grammaphone and feel we had wonderful music.  Things got better from there.  When I was in college is was very common to put bookshelf speakers in bookshelfs.  Many still do.  Many spouses (the one more concerned about how things look than how the music sounds) insist on it.

In the mean time, those of use concerned with sound figured out that they sound better on stands.  But we also figured out they don't sound as good as a floorstander.  Thus, if the spousal unit will allow it, don't even go with a bookshelf at all.


Smaller speakers with drivers in closer proximity or even concentric have a better chance of sounding more coherent in many rooms where listening position is closer to speakers. Standmounts also tend to cost less for a certain level of overall build quality.  Larger resonant  resistant cabinets cost more.  

Lower costs, pointsource preference, nearfield listening vs less bass extension and energy.  Footprint is difference so small it’s usually immaterial 

The bookshelf speaker "thing" is fairly recent.


I remember there were lots of small factor loudspeakers in the 80's, actually more than floorstanders. Though no subs were available then.

gdnrbob: I never had a bookshelf speaker until computers became mainstream. Bought my first pair of bookshelves when I got my first computer at a Radio Shack.

Personally, I don’t remember seeing many bookshelves back then. Everybody (at least in my circle) wanted 15" floor standing speakers on a short stand, or a pair of the now legendary Acoustic Research AR9 towers (still have mine)!


One disadvantage of tower speakers is that, depending on your room, the placement that is ideal for the mids and highs may not be ideal for the bass. 

Bookshelf speakers are typically smaller, simpler, and less expensive for a given quality level. At a given price point, less money has to go toward a larger cabinet, and can go toward better drivers and crossover parts. A well designed two-way can have pretty incredible clarity and coherency...there's no high pass capacitor in series with the midbass driver.

I’ve always been a fan of bookshelf/standmount speakers. I heard the comment in the past that a good big ‘un beats a good little ‘un and generally I agree with that, though I still like standmounts for a few reasons. I agree that standmounts with stands taking up pretty much the same amount of floor space, but I find the standmounts can have a smaller visual impact. 

I tend to build my own speakers, so I find that smaller speakers are easier to build in my shop. Materials cost is less as well. 

As mentioned above, for a given budget it may be possible to go higher up a manufactures line for a smaller speaker, though in some cases the cost of the stands can even out that difference. 

Good thing is that there are plenty of options no matter your preference. 

I have stand mount speakers mostly due to the constraints of my listening space.  I have a smallish room and am not far off from near field listening.  The stand mounts made more sense to me than a floor standing speaker.  I thought the floor stander might be too much for my room.  The stand mounts have the ability to disappear as well which may or may not be the case with a larger floor stander, at least in my room.  That said I just purchased a pair of REL subs to fill out the bottom end so maybe it’s all a wash.  The speakers with stands and the subs certainly take up as much room as a floor stander would.

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My “bookshelf” speakers are made by Aerial also, but they weigh 105 pounds each and have dual 9- inch woofers in a sealed box. Sitting on 70-pound Sound Anchor stands and paired with two Aerial SW-12 subs, the system offers flexibility of placement that allows optimal SQ in a variety of rooms and purposeful placement of the two subs provides impactful bass without the boominess I have previously experienced from certain full-range speakers.  The only change I would make would be to add one or two more subs.

Agree with comments so far. Also bookshelves are easier to sell/ship. 
I was a convert since a friend brought me back a pair of LS3/5a in 1975 - wish I still had them! Had some towers in between but back to stand mount now.  Availability of good/inexpensive subs now also helps. 

Bookshelf speakers is a term that was used 50 years ago. Many large speakers of that era including JBL , Advent, KLH, ADS, AR, etc. used that label for any speaker that could be placed on a shelf. Your 5Ts are called stand mount not bookshelf speakers.  Using the word bookshelf speaker a misnomer!

The term bookshelf speaker is now an anachronism in a hi-fi context. Even back in the day there were plenty of "bookshelf" speakers that were never designed to be used close to a wall  -e.g. LS 3/5a's etc.

Because of place...

Small room now...

But i need one with a porthole because when they are modified they sound nearer to bigger speakers ... So much i dont need subs...

The soundscape encompass my listening position with imaging more than good and a soundstage outside of the speakers plane encompassing my listening position ...

So much even it it is not as good as in my past listening dedicated room with big speakers i dont miss them too much ...I appreciate their qualities and anyway my circonstances had changed and i enjoy headphone at their top level also in my listening post ...

Better to have headphone and speakers than just one choice...For sure bigger speakers in an acoustic room will beat all headphones ... But my K340 are not far from top speakers even for bass...

I will never own a bigger room after 72 years old ...I must had decrease my house size...

It is better to own small bookshelves acoustically optimized than big speakers not optimized... I say it by experience ...Then it is not so much about the size as about how you use them ...

For sure they differ optimized or not but small optimized one may be  way better than many big speakers right out of the box...Choose them well ...

"Bookshelves" were a compromise at one time. They were cheaper and easier to position for people living in small spaces, easier to move, and were compared to standard speakers themselves which were wide baffle boxes with either three-way or hybrid horn designs. College students could afford a pair of Bose 301s, but big JBLs, Klipschorns or Cornwalls were out of the question. Bookshelf speakers were compared to "monitors" which were understood at that time as meant for professional installations  and had industrial finishes. "Tower" speaker designs did not really come into common popularity until the late1980s with high-end companies like Boothroyd Stuart Meridian. The design leaders of the time included Bang & Olufsen whose small cabinet models combined fine design and materials with excellent sound. Popularity of sat-sub arrangements came even later once passive subwoofers were replaced by reliable and affordable powered subs that were available. So "bookshelves" weren't really displacing tower speakers or floorstanders as they are known now.

Lower cost at the expense of dynamics. Monitors/book shelves are not for me. I value big dynamics above all things in audio. Dynamics is what make music sound real. 

I currently have 4 sets of stand mount speakers that I rotate in my system. Storage of the ones I am not using is a breeze and I just could not have floor standers taking up all my living space, if I had that many sets. A small house problem. Book shelf speakers are generally cheaper, so I can collect more! I do run 2 REL subs with them and simply enjoy the swapping of the speakers on a regular basis. 

viridian: How are big speakers = big problem? I’ve had big speakers all my life and they have traveled with me all over the world during my numerous moves. Big speakers= big sound if you ask me, and there is just no substitute for what they can do.  If you don't have to why compromise? It's the equivalent of buying a mini refrigerator versus a full size one.

I think purely for space saving (small apartments, Dorms).  There are some that sound really good (Dahli)

For smaller spaces and near-field listening, I usually prefer a good bookshelf speaker. With a pair of stereo subs dialed in properly, you may wind up with a better experience than the tower equivalent in the same line.

I have some 11 pair on-hand currently. Much easier to rotate and store than towers!

@james633 Wrote:

Lower cost at the expense of dynamics. Monitors/book shelves are not for me. I value big dynamics above all things in audio. Dynamics is what make music sound real. 

I agree!


Interesting thread. I moved from standmounts to towers, but there are standmounts that I still thought were uniquely special -- Fritz Heiler's Carbon 7 Mk 2 SE, to be precise.

That leads me to one reason to prefer a standmount -- it’s made with special talent and attention and there is no equivalently good tower in the line or perhaps just none at all.

It’s like that one particular menu item at a restaurant that is exceptional -- but not a main course.

Or that short song that is just a "gem." (Think: "Blue, Red, and Grey" by the Who. Short, perfect, unique.)

Question for anyone interested in commenting: Name a standmount speaker which was special even though a tower from that same maker/line was not. I’ll start:

Dynaudio Evoke 10 and 20 sounded special to me. Dynaudio 30, the Tower, was "meh."

I have bookshelf with ribbons and like it.sometimes I put them on top of my 8 feet tall speakers and the feel better almost like it's there safe space.i put some on my usher d2 and made it into a d3 saved alot of cash there.i stack speakers all the time with antivibrational material between them.i hope they have babies and I can get more speakers.i have delivered a few babies in this life but never a baby speaker yet. Enjoy the music stay healthy, relax,humor and the literature medical is full on how humor helps the immune system. Dr. Carson who separated the first conjoined twins said music helped him study and focus. Great documentary watch it.as surgens low music in the background help in the operating room.it relaxes the staff.

Reminds me of the study a few years ago that concluded: "DUCT TAPE NOT GOOD ON DUCTS!"



So lets call them standmount speakers instead.  Hardly anyone puts them on a bookshelf.

OP, for many reasons stated above: easier to move around, easier to store when not in use, less expensive, easier to place as they are usually "two way" speakers, seem to pair well with subwoofers.

I'd also add they are better at imaging and soundstage, and maybe that is because of their flexibility at placement.....because I didn't have to worry about one box providing deep bass, vocals, and highs

Thanks for all the replies. A couple of thoughts:

I know the term "bookshelf" my be antiquated or inaccurate but looking around I do see several high end makers that call their own "small" speakers "bookshelf speakers" and some claim they will work against a wall.

Aerial Acoustics calls their 5Ts "small" speakers. "Small" being relative of course. With their sand filled stands they were no smaller or lighter than the 6T floor standers and with the stands not a bit more flexible in terms of positioning.

As for adding subs to bookshelf speakers on stands, I personally don’t see how that is any better than medium towers with subs. Same size, same space, same flexibility.

I do understand that cost can be a factor with small vs floorstanding speakers but when you add the cost of high end stands and the necessity of subwoofers then the savings aren’t as big as they seem.

So for me, unless a small speaker will perform well on a shelf or a table and not absolutely require subs, I don’t see a great appeal.

But some of that can be chalked up to my inexperience. If you have bookshelf speakers on stands with subs and you are happy with how they sound then the form factor is irrelevant.


Bigger floor-mounted boxes may have coloration from cabinet vibrations and resonance which can impact the coherence and detail of the midband.

I think you have to go back in history, at least in the U.S., hi-fi was larger speakers, often adapted from large high efficiency speakers--think of JBL or Altec, Bozak, EV, or kits of drivers/crossovers that required the end-user to build a cabinet. Ed Villchur developed the acoustic suspension speaker, which was meant to deliver bass in a smaller cabinet (with the drawback of lower efficiency), but the design allowed for ease of placement in the "living room" without dominating the space.

I have not researched the first use of the term "bookshelf" for speakers but suspect it coincides with this development. Obviously, there are also ported speakers that are smaller, but the acoustic suspension speaker, originated by AR, followed by KLH and then Advent (Henry Kloss being part of all this) set the pattern in the U.S. Most people did not want the intrusiveness of big hi-fi in their home. I base this on my experience slinging hi-fi back in the era, circa 1969-72.

Once the "high end" took hold, which was really a small segment-- KLH 9, Infinity Servo-Statik, the Wilson Wamm (original), the early Magneplanar,  all concerns about size seemed to be irrelevant. AR even got into the act with the LST, which was a pretty cool speaker, but a beast--and notoriously inefficient.

My perspective. What was going on in the UK may be a different story. I bought my first pair of Quads in 1974. Sort of British industrial-- not exactly something that blended into the decor of the "lounge" but there it is. The BBC monitors have a different origin, don’t they?

fun fact: here is a list of speakers that are too tall to be bookshelf and too short to be floorstanding:

brand model height mm
MoFi SourcePoint 10 560
Wharfedale Linton 565
Klipsch Heritage Heresy IV 630
Wilson TuneTot 635
Harbeth Super HL5 XD 635
PSB Passif 50 660
Wharfedale Dovedale 660
Wharfedale Elysian 2 701
Revival Atalante 5 710
Harbeth M40.3 XD 750

I have in the past switched it up from floorstanders to bookshelves due problems with the room.  It was easy to get really good performance with a pair of stand mounts and a sub

I now have floorstanders in a different setting and would never go back.    Most small speakers can't really deliver in that region where the sub should roll off , 50- 60Hz leaving out a lot of info

I just picked up a pair of Omega Super Alnico Monitors, a  rear ported single driver speaker for my bedroom.   Perfect with a 10" REL sub.    

There are no rules....  trial and error

You will pay a lot of money for that bottom octave done right with a pair of large floorstanders.  It is easier, and typically less noticed, for designers to cut corners with how the lowest frequencies are handled (i.e., driver size and quality, cabinet size and bracing, and design, e.g., bass reflex vs. acoustic suspension) to achieve a predetermined speaker price point.

As others have pointed out, “stand-mounted” is probably a more accurate description of most of today’s non-floor standing speakers.  If you can find a pair that righteously extends down to about 50Hz, or a little lower, then you can roll in a pair (or four) subs that have been purpose-built to handle the lowest two octaves with speed and power.  Other benefits of using subs include placement flexibility and relieving your main amplifier from the duty of driving the lowest frequencies.

For sure there is acoustic differences between bookshelf and Stand-mounted and Tower speakers ...

As there is difference between different speakers types too and not only about their sizes...

Acoustics taught us that there is a trade-off for each size and each types in relation to each room geometry and size and in relation to specific needs ...

Then debating what is the best does not means much ...

Acoustics taught us that we can use any types or speakers sizes optimally or not ...

The soundscape perception can be created by acoustic knowledge from any speakers...There is a trade off for sure between the acoustics factors in relation between types and size... But the good news is that we can create a relatively good High Fi soundfield with any speakers well embedded ...

My personal ultimate criteria is not size or types, more S.Q. levels/ price ratio...Because i dont have a big room now nor a unlimited budget ,...

But i dont mind, i use acoustics knowledge to shorten the distance between the best S.Q. possible and the optimal one for a price level ...

And it is not only enough to be acoustically happy, it is enough to smile at the astronomical prices paid by some compared to my own speakers value ... But for sure without modifications my active speakers are not good at all for me...Acoustics knowledge is way more than buying panels ...

We are all different in goal and tastes and needs... This is why i am very proud of my 150 bucks active speakers which modified gave me 50 hertz from their 4 inches woofer and a soundscape that made me smile with pride not envious at all but in the opposite almost taking pity of those who had invest way more for sometimes way less ...😁

FWIW I would never consider even a small HEA speaker a "bookshelf" speaker. A stand mount speaker is often more advantageous to the manufacturer than consumer. Why? Shipping/manufacturing costs/stands and even pushing subwoofer(s) are all additional profit makers. Is a Tower speaker more difficult with room placement? Probably, but most of the Audiophile community accept room acoustic treatments are a necessity thus eliminating most(all?) advantages that a stand mount speaker might possess.

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I believe a more compelling reason is that bookshelves can be arranged in space for improved imaging and soundstage. Additionally, the option to add subwoofers allows for flexible placement to avoid peaks and valleys, ensuring more uniform bass.

@grannyring    Yes, exceptions always exist. The Seawave Acoustic AM 23($20K) might exceed the Totem Element Metal V2($18.5k) but I have not heard a better allrounder for < $20k regardless of speaker size or type. In general the consumer is getting more value/sound for his money with a tower speaker.

There are several points I don't understand:

1. "Bigger floor-mounted boxes may have coloration from cabinet vibrations and resonance which can impact the coherence and detail of the midband."

It seems to me that any poorly designed cabinet can have issues, small or large. For a comparison to matter I think we'd have to compare well designed towers vs well designed bookshelfs.

2. The point keeps getting made that stand mounted speakers and subs are easier to position in a room to optimize room acoustics. Why would this be any different from floorstanders. The Aerial Acoustics 5Ts on heavy stands were no easier to move  or position than the 6T towers. And subs aren't exclusive to stand mount systems so they can be used with towers too.

I'm just playing devil's advocate here. I'm not in the market for speakers and this was just something that puzzled me.


You can only make a small speaker so big, which is to say that a stand-mounted speaker is usually just that: small.

However some larger speakers, albeit mostly pro segment, aren’t shaped like towers - like ATC’s pro, active monitors SCM150 and 300 models - and so need stands. The Meyer Sound X-10’s (big speakers) needed short stands, if not flush mounted in the wall, to be at proper ear level. The S.P. Technology Timepiece speakers I owned +10 years ago were fairly bulky, weighed over 60 pounds per cab and needed taller stands to be lifted to ear level.

Obviously such speakers don’t qualify to be placed in the typical category of stand-mounted speakers, but being there are a range speakers that defy that category as stand-mounted items, why not just call their typical segment for what they are, i.e.: smaller speakers? So, why smaller speakers vs. bigger dittos?

I would say that if you’re high-passing your main speakers - be they small, medium or larger sized - then adding subs makes very good sense to find the better placement both for what the mains are supposed to do best, as well as the subs for their range of reproduction (I mean, you’re hovering on either side of the Schroeder frequency). Not to mention that you’re freeing up the mains from LF-signals, with all that entails of advantages. Ideally you need what’s essentially the same amps top to bottom, including subs, but that’s for another thread..

EDIT: actually, if your mains reach down into the 40Hz range you could experiment with running them full-range, and thus placing subs at a proper, minimum distance would add to the number of bass sources (mains + subs) for an effective DBA and smoother acoustical response. That’s two scenarios (vs. high-passed mains) that could be looked into and compared, and depending on the circumstances I guess could go either way with regard to preference here.

I prefer 2 way stand mounts period. Sonner, Sf, RF, Martin Oscars, F&R....


“actually, if your mains reach down into the 40Hz range you could experiment with running them full-range, and thus placing subs at a proper, minimum distance would add to the number of bass sources (mains + subs) for an effective DBA and smoother acoustical response.”

That is exactly what I do, upon the recommendation of the manufacturer, and the result sounds great. I also tried a fairly high-end, balanced high-pass filter, but I like the sound better with the mains run full out. I cross over to the subs at 45Hz. The trick is to go easy on power to the subs.  A little bit is probably just enough in many cases. My main amps provide a lot of juice, which probably helps reduce any negative effects of having the amps driving the main speakers through the full frequency range.

I have speakers that are designed to be soffit mounted or flush mounted. In the speaker world there are a lot of ways to mount a speaker. Whatever size speaker you prefer, Hofmann’s Iron Law will always be...Article 😎



“High” end audio is a niche for sure. Bookshelves are more feasible to ship and move on from. Other than that, yeah they take up just as much space as a floorstander. I will say when it comes down to a really good monitor vs a mid grade tower I’ll take the monitor every time. A lot of times they are even more coherent but IME monitors even with subs won’t do certain types of music the greatest. Passable but not quite there. 

Seems the main advantage in a mid to small room is the ability to own multiple monitors that can be rotated and stored much easier than floor standers.