1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.

    Dismiss Notice

Budget Home Theater Speakers: Floorstanding/Tower vs Bookshelf

  1. JFraser
    Hi folks,
    I'm going to be buying a new TV because my current one is one the way out. I've heard that a lot of people go with soundbars these days because the newer TVs have really crappy speaker - so bad that even people who aren't audiophiles will notice how bad they sound. But I don't know if a sound bar is really the greatest option for sound.

    Back at my parents' place, my dad had these old Polk audio bookshelf speakers (probably from the 80's) and an equally old Onkyo receiver. With the exception of the right side of the receiver being blown out (don't look at me), I thought they sounded pretty good.

    I've noticed that bookshelf speakers are around 2/3 the price of floorstanding/tower speakers, but then I'd still have to buy stands, which kind of negates the savings. I want nice, room-filling sound, but I don't want to break the bank on this one. I don't have a receiver, so I'll have to buy one of those too. For the receiver, I've decided I'll either go with the Sony STRDH190 or the Insignia (Best Buy brand) NS-STR514 because I don't really want to spend more than $150 on a receiver. With the speakers, I really don't want to spend more than $300 on the pair of speakers. And even then, that's kinda pushing it. I really don't want this to cost too much more than the $300 speaker bar that I'm trying to avoid. I realize this is a tall order.

    What should I do here? Should I get the floorstanding speakers? Or should I go with the bookshelf speakers? Which would be the better value? If I go with the bookshelf speakers, should I spring for the stands?
  2. Zenvota

    Polk i use this line of monitors and like them.

    Dayton cheapest, one of the best budget options, very moddable if you want to tinker too.

    Pioneer a common good choice

    These BICs are sealed and will go right against a wall better.

    If you dont have a huge room bookshelves can get you some nicer drivers. In either case I feel subwoofers are beneficial to get solid response down to 20-30hz




    Hmm, what else, RBH, RSL, ascend Acoustics. You can watch used markets as well for something special.
  3. PurpleAngel Contributor
    I would say to check your local Craigslist for a deal on a used speaker amplifer or receiver and maybe used speakers.
    Check the websites Techbargins or Slickdeals for stuff on sale.

    The Polk, Dayton Audio, Pioneer, BIC are the brands i would look at for good bang for the buck speaker value.
  4. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    They don't all suck. It's just that people will look for the biggest and clearest flat panel for the money, which also means it's not going to get the best Class D amp and drivers in that thin chassis, so more people will have that sort of TV.

    That said, buying a Vizio for example and a Polk Audio soundbar will still cost less and sound better than an equivalent Sony or such anyway, so this option does make sense to some.

    That depends on you. If space is a premium or you have kids or pets, a soundbar more flush against the wall or placed on a table is something safer than two heavy but still easy to knock over speakers. Or if they don't get knocked over, still get damaged (ex a very expensive scratching post).

    If imaging is very important then having two separate speakers (if not 5 for surround) is the way to go.

    There are other considerations depending on the speaker range you're looking at. Most people opt for the standmounts because:

    1. In some cases the 2-way tower has a too large enclosure for the midwoofer used and ends up with less nimble bass for not much more extension into the lower freqs.
    2. Two drivers have less potential for time alignment issues, especially if they can't sit back far enough, compared to a speaker that has three or more drivers.
    3. It's easier to move speakers and stands that you can separate and if needed, box separately, than two large towers.

    Dayton Audio B652 AIR

    Do you really need all those inputs and other features? Because you might as well get a Class D amp fro Topping or SMSL. If your HDTV has optical output you can hook up digital sources to it via HDMI and have the audio go down to a DAC feeding the amp.

    In terms of value I'd be inclined to just get 3-way towers but again it depends. Can you sit at least 2m away?
  5. JFraser
    Yeah, I'd like to have separate right and left channels. Though, I guess if it turns out that the new TV's speakers are good enough, I guess I won't buy the extra speakers. But I figure that if I'm going to spend $300 on a speaker bar, I might as well spend around $100-$200 more to get a better speaker setup with separate left and right channels.

    I'll take your advice about stands into consideration. The Zero Fidelity guy on YouTube definitely agrees with you about stands.

    Thanks for the info about the TVs. I didn't realize that bigger TVs were made thinner.

    Regarding the amp, I don't really need all of the inputs and features of the $150 receiver at Best Buy, though I have seem it on sale for $100 at times. I'm just concerned about the fact that the Polk speakers I'm looking at right now (T50) might not be able to get enough power from those Class D amps. I knew about small inexpensive amps like that, thought I wasn't aware of the Class D ones. I took a look at amps from Topping SMSL and others. They're all around 80 watts per channel. The Polk T50 speakers go up to 150 watts, so I'm curious if that's going to be an issue with a 80-watt amp. I'm kinda new to the world of speakers, so I might have some incorrect assumptions. One of my assumptions is that the amplifier should be able to provide as much power as the speakers can use because I don't know how much power the speakers need to sound good. Though, the receiver I'm checking out at Best Buy only provides an extra 20 watts per channel compared to those class D amps and I know if that's going to make a big difference. I could very well be wrong in my assumption about required power. On the other hand, I noticed that the RMS is around 60 watts. So would an 80-watt amp really be enough?

    About the distance, yeah, I'm generally at least 2.5 away.
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2018
  6. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Good Class D amps nowadays will probably kick out more clean power than a cheap receiver where you're paying for other features.

    That just means it won't blow up if you fed it 150watts at full tilt.

    A speaker rated at 150watts with a sensitivity of 92dB/1W at 1m will still go waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay louder than a speaker rated at 100watts with a sensitivity of 86dB/1W at 1m, more so if you used a 10watt tube amp.

    Add to that how speaker output is limited by your neighbours' propensity to call the cops or the landlord, speaker output can be severely limited anyway, and a really clean 35watts will go a long way. My NAD 304 with 35wpc can drive my 89dB/1W at 1m Wharfedales loud enough I can hear it from outside the house, and it's not yet badly distorting by that point. Then again, it's a NAD, which stays clean and doesn't clip long past when cheap receivers already are. Some of those cheap Class D amps won't have the same composure but I'd sooner trust those than cheap big name receivers.

    Dayton T652 towers are bundled with a Dayton Class D amp for $150 on Parts Express.
  7. JFraser
    That's a lot of great information! Alright, so 35 watts is really all I need, so I guess a 40 watt amp would be fine for those speakers, let alone an 80-watt amp. That makes my wallet feel a little better, both in terms of the amplifier cost and the electric bill.

    I'll check out those Dayton speakers. Since they're $200 cheaper than the Polk speakers, I might just go with them instead of the $300 pair of Polk T50s. Or at least, I might go with a $200 pair of Daytons to keep the price the same as the soundbar and maybe get a better pair of speakers. I don't really know anything about these speaker companies. I know you don't test out different speakers from every company, but at least in your experience, how do Dayton speakers compare to ones from Polk? Are they about the same for the price? Or are they a little better or worse than ones a little more expensive from Polk (i.e. Dayton T652 vs Polk T50). Or should I go with a less expensive set from Polk (if they have one)?

    Something else I'm worried about is that since I'd be using these with the TV every day, I don't really want to have to turn on the amp every time I use the TV. Would I be dealing with a constant 35-watt draw by leaving it on or would it be much lower? Do these amps go into a low-power mode when they're not getting any input? Or should I worry about extra wear and tear on the amp if I leave it on all the time?
  8. Zenvota
    The Dayton B652 airs are better than the Polk T50, but not as good as the polk Monitor tsi100($130) or the older monitor30, but at best you'll find those used for $80-90, but similarly priced speakers from Polk, Pioneer, BIC, etc will outperform the budget speakers. Ag this price point you're paying for better cabinets and a crossover, which helps alot. I have the b652 airs and monitor 30s and the polks are better by a wide margin. The daytons are by no means bad sounding, but the polks have a smoother frequency response, better extension, and image better.

    Heh, no, audio power draw is an on demand sort of thing, a stand alone amplifier is going to use less power when idle than a reciever that has to power several other circuits.
  9. PurpleAngel Contributor
    I looked at Parts-Express and could not find the combo (T652 tower/Class D amp) you listed?
  10. JFraser
    I found it on Amazon, but it was with a Lepai Class D amp and it was $130.
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2018
  11. JFraser
    Something I'm curious about though, is RMS power. I keep seeing that, and I've looked around for an answer, but I haven't found anything that really tells me what it is. Is it how much power the speaker can actually use? Or the average amount of power it'll use or something like that?
  12. Zenvota
    Rms is the max power it can handle before frying. Best to look at sensitivity ratings. 85-95db is loud and most speakers can play that with 1 watt. Where you start seeing more power usage is in sub bass. It takes more energy flow to the magnet to move the driver a larger distance.
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2018
  13. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Quantity isn't the only key there though, you need clean power. My NAD 304 can mop the floor with some HT receivers rated for more power but have some caveats that are hidden but technically they weren't lying in the fine print, like "*8ohm load, one channel driven" (ie when all channels are loaded chances are they make a lot less than 165watts, and with high THD+N).

    Sensitivity matters too so don't get speakers that have lower than 86dB/1w at 1m.

    Unless you're running a 100w per channel Class A amp, which means the circuit is fully open the whole time even with nothing playing, there's really no need to worry about power consumption. Phase change cooling (fridge, AC, etc) or whatever the warming equivalent is (if you're not on gas) is still going to cost you a lot more than an audio system.

    Unless it's a Class A that will cook components when not running a signal through them (or even with prolonged running because there's still going to be some waste heat), it's not really a problem.

    In terms of your power costs, it will cost a bit more, but really it's hard to account for the trade offs in terms of the stress on the components when constantly switching them on and off vs leaving them running.

    In practical terms, if you now you won't be using it for a while, like when you go to sleep or leave for work or any other reason, switch them off. Otherwise if you're just going out to grab drive through or a slurpee or take a dump, might as well just leave it running.

    I'd hazard a guess that Polk will be better still but not necessarily proportionate to the higher price, more so if you're just going to end up skimping on the amp anyway.

    In any case there's a T652 pair with a Dayton amp on Parts Express for around $150. Might as well get that.
  14. ZMG885
    Also, check out Accessories4less for refurbed and clearance buys on receivers (and speakers). I've seen some really good buys there. And also, US Audio Mart. You can narrow down the selections by price and state, and while folks tend to put higher-end gear there, I've seen some budget buys, though for your budget, especially speakers I've seen some really good stuff come up on craigslist.

    I'll mention this as well, If you can use your HDTV to switch your HDMI and route out audio to the receiver, you can go for an older receiver with juicy power amps where the HDMI is out of spec. These show up on Craigslist for pennies on the dollar. For example, I have a Denon 4306 receiver circa 2006 I paid nearly $2K for that can drive 2 speakers at 110 W/ch class a/b without breaking a sweat, but only switches HDMI spec 1.1 (sigh....). I've seen this and similar amps on craigslist for less than $200. What I do is route the HDMI feed from my OPPO player direct to my TV and audio to the receiver via optical coax. Works just fine. The downer is the newer apple TVs only output HDMI so I'm using an older apple TV.

    The caveat is this: don't go down this path unless your newer TV can handle the switching, otherwise you make an "AV headache" for yourself. If your TV can do the switching, there are some really great old receivers out there with awesome sound only 10 or less years old.

Share This Page