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An Introductory Guide to Floor Speakers

Aug. 26, 2016
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With a seemingly endless list of speakers out there, you can find one for just about any purpose or place imaginable. There are portable Bluetooth speakers, computer speakers, outdoor speakers and car speakers, just to name a few. Here we’ll take a closer look at floor speakers, a type that has a less obvious role.

If you’re a novice in the electronics world, you might be wondering what floor speakers are. Well, they don’t rise up out of the floor like gadgets in a superhero’s secret lair, if that’s what you were picturing, but they can make the sound effects in a superhero movie more explosive.

Let’s learn a bit more.

What are floor speakers?

Floor speakers, also known as floor-standing or tower speakers, are intended to function as part of your home theater system. They’re big compared with most speakers, usually standing a few feet tall, and are placed directly on the floor like pieces of furniture.

These stationary speakers work best in pairs and are designed to flank the TV. They’re ideal for medium- to large-size rooms.

They can be used as stand-alone units or as part of a surround sound system, but you’ll need to connect them to a receiver either way.

How they compare with other speakers

Floor speakers are designed to enhance your movie, music or TV audio. They provide more realistic surround sound than a sound bar system but aren’t as feature-rich. These tower speakers play virtually the same role as bookshelf speakers, but because of their size, they tend to supply more volume and bass.

Some smaller speakers, like sound bars and satellites, lack bass without the addition of a subwoofer. Your floor speakers probably won’t need a subwoofer because they’re loud and capable of emitting deep tones on their own.

But floor speakers aren’t perfect. They’re generally more powerful than other types, but they’ll also take up more surface space in your room. And some weigh upward of 50 pounds, which is worth noting in case you need to move them around. They can get pretty pricey, too, usually somewhere between a few hundred dollars and $1,000 per speaker.

» MORE: The best Bluetooth speakers

What to look for

Just as there are many different speaker types overall, there are many different floor speaker options to choose from, even within the same brand. To help make it easier to find the one that meets your needs, here’s what their basic descriptions mean:

  • Two-way speakers: This is the simplest type of floor speaker. It has a tweeter, which handles high frequencies, and a woofer for low, bassy frequencies. There’s no designated driver to tackle the midrange.
  • Three-way speakers: These contain a tweeter, a midrange driver and a woofer to cover each of the three ranges. The midrange driver is helpful for improving sounds like dialogue.
  • Four-way speakers: These speakers are equipped to provide the fullest sound. They have two tweeters, a midrange driver and a woofer.

More drivers means better sound quality and clarity, although the more advanced models will typically be more expensive. If you want to dive deeper into a model’s technical information, check the manufacturer’s website for a spec sheet. Be sure to take a look at the dimensions as well to make sure it’ll fit in your space.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin, we have a couple of suggestions for you. The Klipsch R-28F and the Infinity Primus 363 are two popular midlevel models that produce clear sound and are on the lower end of the typical price range.

Are floor speakers a good fit for you?

Floor speakers are well-suited for audiophiles and movie buffs who have room to spare in their homes. They’ll complement a big-screen TV with the sound to match. If you’re looking for loud, bass-heavy audio that disperses throughout the room, they’ll get the job done — especially if you pair them with a center speaker and rear speakers to form a complete home theater system.

But if you’re on a budget, have less space or don’t need as much power, consider using a system with smaller satellite speakers or bookshelf speakers, or opt for a sound bar like the Sonos Playbar instead.

Before you buy, compare prices from the manufacturers and third-party retailers like Best Buy and Amazon to make sure you get the best possible deal.

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Lauren Schwahn is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: lschwahn@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @lauren_schwahn.