Originally Posted by PlexMulti
1: Room size and listening volumes matter in this question. In terms of sound quality, when selected properly based on these criteria a tower and a bookshelf from the same speaker line (KEF R series, for example) will sound virtually the same(ish) when it comes to multi-channel movies. Where you will notice quality differences will be in instances where the bookshelves are being asked to play loudly in a room that is too big for them. Putting a tower in a room too small isn't usually a problem as long as you can respect the boundary lines of the room and your receiver/processor can EQ them properly. It's a waste, IMO to put towers with 8" drivers in smaller areas. Will they work? Absolutely. But so could different compliments of 6 1/2" or 5 1/4" drivers in either towers or bookshelves.
2: Traditionally doesn't really exist any more. Phantom Centers, in-wall speakers, multiple subs, etc. etc. means that multi-channel audio comes in as many flavors and looks as you can dream up!
3: In practical terms. the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc. subwoofer is not there to add more bass or compliment towers or bookshelves in any way shape or form (as long as the speaker system can play down to 80hz cleanly for the given room size). This is according to Dolby AC3 decoding white papers in the sections regarding the .1 channel, in-room real-world bass results, and placement of the mains vs. room interaction of low frequencies below 80hz. Your processor should be cutting the speaker system off at 80hz and putting all of the bass under that to the subwoofer(s). REMEMBER THIS when thinking FULL RANGE tower vs. bookshelf.... the tower should NEVER see full range in multi-channel if you have a sub(s). If it does, then you're doing it wrong according to the people who invented the format.
4th: What the additional subs ARE there to do is fix what is the most common demon in "bad" rooms and that is low level bass response. In fact, even in really great rooms low level bass can be an issue without either serious physical acoustical treatments and/or multiple subwoofers. A 20hz bass signal is (basically) 56 FEET long. That is substantial. The 2nd subwoofer is there to work in tandem with it's mate to provide even bass throughout a room while counteracting the long, violent wavelengths of deep bass. If you could have 10 subs in a room, even better - NOT just for sheer force or loudness, but for bass quality. The more the merrier. However, most people are not able/willing to have a room designed like this (understandably so) and get by with 2 to 4.
Think in terms of practicality.
- What size drivers does your room need for it's size and how loud you are going to get your system?
- Where is there room to put the correct size speakers where they will look and perform their best? Is this positioning possible?
- Tonally, what type of sound or speaker do you prefer? What is the cost difference between monitors on stands and floor standing speakers? Is it worth it to get the same monitor in tower form if it just comes down to aesthetics? (My personal opinion is typically YES.)
- Where will the subwoofer go? Can you afford two after buying the correct mains?
- Can you afford the proper amplification for your speakers of choice? Makes no sense to buy killer speakers if you're going to not give them enough headroom to perform.
Hope this helps you in your research!
Thanks alot for your serious reply. I get more confused each day that I research this stuff!
Here are my constraints
1) First of all, this will be for a living room, not a dedicated theater room. The room is approximately 20 feet long, 15 feet wide, and has 10 foot ceilings. The left wall (20 footer) is mostly open to a kitchen area.
2) I would like to setup at least a 5.1 system for this room..... L/C/R up front, a sub, and at least 2 surrounds in the rear. I could possibly do a 6.1 or 6.2, if anyone does those anymore!
3) I own 2 cats... so anything I buy needs to be "relatively" cat-resistant. I don't want any speakers that cats will easily shred or knock over. This is kind of a big concern of mine, since I've never owned cats and stereo gear together before!
4) This system will be used for about 75% movies and 25% music. However, most of the music that I prefer is 5.1 concerts... I'm not too keen on straight 2.1 music, unless it is in a high-res format.
5) Financially, I'd like to be able to sell my used equipment at some point down the road, and not take a massive loss on it! So to prevent this, I need to buy used gear to start with, or find a great deal on new gear, or just buy brands that hold their value well.
I'm not a speaker guru, although I think I have a decent ear. To me, whenever I've listened to bookshelf speakers in stores, they don't quite impress me very much compared to tower speakers of the same line. As such, I've always ruled out bookshelf speakers. I simply know that I've always preferred the sound of tower speakers. I like the "big" sound that they create.... for lack of a better word. I like their spacious sound that seems to envelope the room. In contrast, bookshelf speakers always sound very small and constrained... not producing enough of a soundstage, or full sound.
3 things have recently possibly swayed my opinion on this:
1) Some educated forum members have suggested that I do not like the sound, because the bookshelfs I have heard were not appropriately paired a good subwoofer, and I was hearing only 2 small speakers. Apparently a good sub opens up the soundstage. I don't know.... I guess it is possible.
2) I could look at better quality bookshelf speakers than I've auditioned. Perhaps I would enjoy a higher-level bookshelf speaker equally or more than a lower-level tower. Previously, I was mostly comparing towers and bookshelfs of the same lines together.
3) I've realized that quality bookshelf speakers can be bought for WAY cheaper than quality tower speakers... so this would allow me to buy everything alot sooner...considering I need at least 5 of them!
So what do you think?
Speakers I have heard, and liked so far in my budget:
NHT 2.5s/2.9s/3.3s ( many years ago)
Speakers that currently intrigue me (but I haven't heard yet)
Aperion Audio Verus Grand Towers -- these get such stellar reviews, it almost seems hard to believe. For $2000, you'd think these towers were the best speakers ever made. They get glowing reviews from pros and Joes alike. I was considering buying a 5.1 setup, using their towers as mains, their center for center, and their bookshelfs as rears. It's an affordable system, but about as much as I'd want to spend.
KEF R-series: I have not heard these, but I like the looks of them, and I think they'd fit my needs for a mix of good quality home theater and music. The towers are out of my budget though, unless I bought used towers. So I'd have to use R300s all around.
KEF LS50: I'm very intrigued that Stereophile rated these tiny, "cheap" bookshelf speakers as Class A speakers, rivaling other speakers costing tens of thousands of dollars. If that's accurate, these seem like a tremendous value! I'm wondering if it would be wise to simply buy 5.1 of these speakers, and use it for my home theater + music needs. My concern is that their looks are odd, and that they may be too small for my room of 20x15.