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.


Yamaha describes my NS-5000 speakers as bookshelf speakers although with 12" woofers and their size and weight they are of course floorstanders.  I think Yamaha, and others, are just describing a traditional style of speaker, mostly 3-way, that are boxy and originally were sealed so could be used on home or apartment bookshelves, unlike ported speakers.  Standmounts, for the most part, are smaller speakers often not reaching lower bass, thus often use subwoofers, while floorstanders tend to be taller and narrower, which fit better into most rooms, but also can get heavier and larger up to massive sizes.  Of course, the descriptions here can get blurred.  So unless someone is offering a vintage looking sealed speaker actually meant for a bookshelf, it's probably more appropriate to describe today's bookshelf speaker as "bookshelf style" or "traditional bookshelf style".

I agree with Wharf, as I also "slung" hi-fi gear in the late 60's/early 70's: if was great an "SAF" problem - "Spousal Acceptance Factor." Lots of homes back then had built-in bookshelves in the living room and the wife liked the idea that the speakers could be shoved into a bookshelf and pretty much ignored visually. Of course, some of the "bookshelf" speakers were ginormous: a few years ago at a thrift store, I found a pair of Wharfedale W60E's, which are roughly 24" by 14" by 13" and weigh about 45 lbs. apiece. Never saw a free-standing bookshelf that would fit or support a pair of those!

I have a house cat with his front claws trimmed but intact.  Who knows what he’s doing when I’m not home, but I know he’s not stretching his claws on the grill or woofers.  My Buchardt S300’s sound great. I put a square and slightly crumpled sheet of aluminum foil on top of each one to mitigate any tendency to jump up on them.  WAF is not applicable in my home.  

@tweak1 - I don't know about 'all' - indeed, most sound better with space around them, but there are some speakers that are designed to be set close to the wall.

If you want and value "scale", then as they say, "there is no replacement for displacement." But not everyone has large living rooms that can do justice to big floor standers. I found it slightly amusing that Paul McGowan of PS Audio just recently did a video on why they had to supplement the FR-30 with subwoofers: Imaging. In their demo room they have placed the speakers for the best imaging, however, their room has a bass mode that kills lower bass from the FR-30, so yep, as relatively expensive as the FR-30 are, they still required some subs to get bass to the listeners in the sweet spot. Ah, every room is different. We do what we have to do.