Top 5 Features to Look For In Floorstanding Speakers
Why Floorstanding Speakers Instead of Something Smaller?
Floorstanding speakers offer the best performance for your dollar, full stop. If you end up purchasing stands for your bookshelf speakers, they’ll end up occupying as much space as tower speakers would. Not bad for something that will sound better and is less likely to be tipped over by large pets or small children.
What Features Should You Consider When Choosing Your Floorstanding Speakers?
We've simplified the decision process for you by breaking down our top 5 features to consider when choosing floorstanding speakers based on our experience: size, bass response, build quality, finish and aesthetics, and midrange sound. Audio is where it all began for us, starting out as a mom and pop stereo shop in 1979. If you're in the Philadelphia area, visit our retail showrooms to experience our selection of floorstanding speakers first-hand. It's like speed dating with the world's finest speakers.
Size of the Speaker
Yes, size matters when it comes to tower speakers! Larger drivers will allow a speaker to create better detail and clarity. Look for larger cones if you want to maximize performance. Bigger speaker cabinets allow the speaker to move more air, creating better bass response. When a speaker has both larger drivers and a larger cabinet, it can better handle a full range of frequencies.
Of course, size is also important in terms of making sure a tower speaker compliments your room. Measure your space and pay attention to the manufacturer’s suggestions for the amount of room behind the speaker. Don’t wedge something in that you would find imposing, visually! Tradeoffs in audio performance can be well worth it if they tie your room together. Check out our guide on achieving the ideal placement for tower speakers in your room.
If you do invest in larger tower speakers, you can enjoy increased bass output. While bass often goes hand in hand with size, that’s not always the case. Factors like the bass drivers, ports, and placement of the ports can make a huge difference. Quality bass drivers are a hallmark of brands like Dynaudio and Bowers and Wilkins.
Good bass from your tower speakers can allow you to go without a subwoofer. Be honest with yourself: Do you need explosions in a movie to rumble your couch and rattle the loose change? If the answer is ‘no,’ you could be happier with floorstanding speakers and no sub.
Ports allow a speaker to output more bass, but your room can play a role in the outcome you’ll get. Front-ported speakers will output more bass with their backs up against the wall, while rear-ported speakers need to be pulled away from the wall to achieve more low end. Bottom-ported speakers are less impacted by this distinction. When you’re shopping for the perfect floorstander, consider where you’ll place it in your room.
Because your room has the final say in how your speakers will perform, manufacturer specs about frequency response won’t line up to what you will experience in practice. Your best bet is to A / B speakers in one of our showrooms. If that’s not possible, you can still enjoy the peace of mind that comes with a 60-day return/exchange period on your purchase.
Build Quality of the Speaker
The old “knock test” is still a good way to measure a speaker: knock on a speaker cabinet and listen to the sound. If it sounds hollow, that might be a sign to move on. If you don’t hear much, that’s a good thing – the speaker cabinet is getting rid of excess reverberations in the cabinet. When a driver moves back and forth, sound waves are also moving back into the cabinet, and a good speaker will prevent those waves from impacting the sound. Even within the same brand, you’ll often notice an appreciable difference doing a knock test on an entry level tower, when compared to a higher end model.
On the high end, cabinets such as the Focal Kanta, Sopra, and Utopia or the Bowers and Wilkins 800 series become less box-y, to address resonating frequencies. In an age where the latest gear is often manufactured by the lowest bidder, premium speakers from these brands are made by hand in France (Focal) and the United Kingdom (Bowers & Wilkins.) A multi-step process, ending with a test for every pair, ensures great performance.
Finish and Aesthetics
Tower speakers are part of the décor in your room, so choose something you enjoy looking at. Almost every brand offers speakers in black (a wood veneer “ash” black or a high gloss), but many also offer walnut or wood finishes, and some offer satin or gloss white.
Almost all speakers will come with a black grille, or gray for some white speakers. The black mesh can allow the speaker to disappear in a dark room or a theater setup, but you may prefer to show off what makes your speaker unique, such as the copper color of Klipsch bass drivers.
Consider the way the color of the tower speakers will complement your furniture, walls, and trim. It’s also worth considering how they might match any existing speakers in the room, or how easily you might find matching components for future upgrades.
Avoid gloss finishes for dedicated theater setups. Light from your TV or projector will reflect off the sides of your speakers.
The single most important audio feature to look for in a tower speaker is the midrange sound. Most music is reproduced in the midrange, as are most voices. It’s where we’re listening most critically for details. Each brand has its own unique flavor, and indeed most have pioneered in-house technologies to create the best possible midrange.
Bowers and Wilkins developed a silvery material called Continuum, after searching for something that could out-perform Kevlar. Years later, Continuum can be found in the entire line, from the 800 Series Diamonds to the 600 Anniversary Series.
Klipsch is renowned for their horns, which control dispersion of the midrange. Founder Paul W. Klipsch has four patents for horn speakers to his name, and all Klipsch towers feature some type of horn.
Focal Audio continues to invest in acoustic research as well, looking for materials that are lightweight but rigid and easily controlled. For the midrange, that means materials like Flax (Kanta series), while the Sopra and top-end Utopia gain proprietary technologies like NIC (Neutral Inductance Circuit) and TMD (Tuned Mass Dampening).
No one approach or technology is necessarily “right” – you’ll have to decide which sound you prefer.
These five features are important when it comes to shopping for tower speakers, but each one may mean something different to you. You owe it to yourself to pay close attention to the size, bass response, build quality, finish, and midrange sound of the floorstanding speakers you’re considering. Once you’ve evaluated those characteristics, you’ll be in an excellent position to weigh any tradeoffs and pick the perfect fit for your system. Listen to the music you love and choose what makes you happy. Another tell of a great pair of speakers? Play something you think you may not love (polka anyone?) on a fabulous pair of speakers and you may find yourself listening and actually enjoying tracks and types of music you never even imagined. It's fun.
See our best home theater systems list to find the right home theater setup for you.
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