Getting your speakers right is one of the most important things you will ever do when it comes to your music listening pleasure. And there are so many fine speakers on the market today, you could be forgiven for not seeing the wood for the cabinets. That's where we come in: sit back and relax while we walk you through the basics of choosing the right pair of speakers for you and your living room.
The main choice you need to make is this: do you go for standmounted loudspeakers? Or will you want a big, bold pair of floorstanders?
Floorstanding speakers are designed to stand on the floor - obviously, hence the name. Those tall cabinets bring the drivers up to eye/ear level, so the sound is received efficiently. They also produce more bass weight and depth than a standmounter can achieve – it's a simple rule of physics that the the bigger the cabinet is, the lower frequencies can it produce – and you're likely to get a general sense of bigger scale and more sonic power.
So, that's a pretty good write-up we're giving floorstanders: surely that makes them win out over standmounters? Not so, we're afraid. It's about achieving a balance of priorities, and just how you balance these different factors is what you need to decide for yourself. While floorstanding speakers offer deeper bass and greater scale, standmounters also have particular areas in which they excel.
A standmount speaker ought to produce a more agile, articulate sound. Instrumental and vocal realism is likely to be superior in a standmounter, compared to a similarly priced floorstander. Integration is also usually better, largely due to the fact that floostanders tend to have more drivers, and hence more integration problems.
So, comparably priced standmount speakers often sound better, but you have to factor in the cost of stands, too – they need to be placed on top of a dedicated speaker stand. This binds the speaker to the floor and bring the drivers up to the ideal height. Decent examples start from as little as £60 (like Soundstyle's Z2s), and they are an essential purchase.
Each type of speaker has its own merits and shortcomings. Certainly, there are more compromises where floorstanders are concerned: their physically larger dimensions can mean a loss of cabinet integrity (due to their larger panels), and the higher driver count can mean compromises where integration is concerned.
A floorstanding loudspeaker's larger cabinet does allow for bigger drivers, which is a large cause of their gains in scope, scale and authority. But only go for this type if your room is big enough to warrant it. Conversely, a standmount speaker's sound can be swallowed up by a larger listening environment.
So, think hard about what you want, and what your living room demands. Be sure to place standmounters on high quality stands, and with floorstanders use the provided spikes to cut out floor resonances. Then all you have to do is select the exact model you desire – and that's where a What Hi-Fi Sound & Vision Group test comes in – and you'll have the perfect pair of speakers for what you need.