Should I Get Bookshelf or Floorstanding Speakers? Ask the Editors

bookshelf or floorstanding

Q: I’m about to pull the trigger on a set of ELAC Uni-Fi speakers, and I’m torn between the bookshelf or floorstanding models. My living room is 4 x 4.5 x 2.5 meters (13.1 x 14.8 x 8.2 feet)), and I’m afraid I’d be doing myself a disservice if I get the floorstanders. Based on some things I’ve read, the room might be too small for floorstanders, resulting in bad sound and a waste of money.

What is the minimum room size for floorstanding speakers?

– Mikkel Winther (Vinterbird)


A: I asked Andrew Jones, ELAC’s chief speaker designer, for his comments on your question. “There isn’t a minimum room size for floorstanding speakers; the speaker simply pressurizes the room below the lowest modal frequency of the room, unless it’s a dipole speaker.

“The difference between a floorstander and a bookshelf is that the multiple drivers of the floorstander will couple better with the room and help minimize the typical floor-bounce dip in frequency response that you get with a simple bookshelf speaker on a stand. There’s also the matter of dynamic capability; the three bass drivers in the UF5 floorstander will have better low-frequency output than the UB5 bookshelf.

“In the case of the Uni-Fi speakers, the low-frequency extension of the floorstander is almost identical to the bookshelf, so there should be no difference in matching one or the other to the room. You will have to be just as careful with positioning the bookshelf as with the tower.

“The main issue with your room is that it is almost square as well as being small, so it will take a lot of experimentation to optimize the speaker placement. I would encourage a non-symmetrical layout, perhaps on a partial diagonal, in order to get smoother bass response.”

What does Andrew mean by “partial diagonal”? “I mean that the speaker system is rotated slightly so the listening axis is not parallel to the walls, but rather is at an angle. Not quite so rotated that it lines up with the true diagonal of the room, but definitely skewed. That way, neither the speakers nor the listener are symmetrical with any room boundaries. This will reduce the severity of some of the room modes.”

I would add that it’s normally better to place the speakers somewhat away from the walls, which applies to both bookshelf and floorstanding speakers. Of course, this is more difficult in a small room. Another thing to consider is acoustic treatments, which could improve the sound, though it would require some expertise to determine the best types of treatments and where to place them.


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