Whether you’re playing video games or chamber music, nothing completes a top-end audio setup more than the best floor standing speakers you can find. Whether monsters are attacking you in a castle on your gaming system or you’re watching "Tora, Tora, Tora" on a DVD, you want those growls and explosions to have as much impact and depth as possible. In a home stereo system or gaming system, nothing immerses you in the experience quite like a quality set of towers.
Bookshelf (or monitor) speakers are adequate for some music or soundtracks, but by their very nature, they have two inherent problems. First, they're restricted to your shelves, meaning the sound is only coming from one side of the room. Secondly, their limited internal cabinet area can’t produce the same chest-pounding bass of floor standing speakers.
Best Floor Standing Speakers Under $500 / Pair
Even if you're on a budget when equipping your media room, you shouldn't have to compromise when it comes to quality. We've taken a look at some of the best floor standing speakers available at a modest price point and have discovered two contenders worth your time and attention.
The Pioneer SP-FS52s are the number-one, best-selling floor speakers, and it's no surprise considering that there are no other speakers in this price range that sound remotely as good as these do.
They are not just "under $500,” they are way under $500. The Amazon price at the time of this review was $129.99 each. That’s only $260 for a pair, and they're comparable in sound quality to loudspeakers costing two or three times as much. Not to mention that they are made by Pioneer, one of the industry giants. The FS52 is a three-way floor speaker with drivers and crossover networks designed by Andrew Jones.
Setting up these Pioneer speakers is easy and straightforward. All you do is attach the included pedestal to the tower speakers and remove the plastic covers from the line connectors.
The pushpin grills cover a single 1-inch soft tweeter along with three 5.25-inch woofers at the rear. There are also two bass reflex ports, as well as a pair of binding posts that will accept either bare wires or banana terminated speaker cables.
The sound quality
Once you connect them, you'll experience their superior sound quality. All types of music and genres are beautifully balanced and very coherent. From the lows to the highs, the Pioneer FS52s have excellent tone and clarity compared to any other floor speakers in this price range. The first thing you notice is how smooth and captivating your listening experience is.
The bass is full and well developed, and you can feel the deep, resonant bass in your chest as well as your ears. Don't worry if you're unable to add a sub-woofer. You’ll still have that more than enough satisfying bass with the SF52s by themselves.
The mid-range sounds exceptionally beautiful.
The vocal presence has exceptional weight and dimension that you would expect from speakers costing much more. Both male and female vocals will sound authentic and natural. Overall, the mid-range is appealing and a joy to listen to as these speakers have a surprisingly clean and clear sound in the middle frequencies.
Difficult to reproduce instruments, such as symbols and bells, are clear and crisp due to the excellent three-way Andrew Jones crossover circuitry. You will also get brighter and a crispier sound if you take off the speaker grills, which makes strings and hi-frequency sound a bit more prominent.
Naturally, you can’t rationally expect these to match the sound of speakers costing $1,000 or more note-for-note, but they do stand toe-to-toe with any loudspeakers in the $500 and under price range.
The bottom line
The Pioneer FS52 is an incredibly well-balanced speaker, and it performs surprisingly well considering its price. Even though you'd expect to pay the same price for an entry-level speaker, it never sounds like one. And the more power you give it, the better it responds.
Music of all types, as well as movies and games, sound better balanced and more alive. From the low lows to the high highs, these are more responsive and accurate than every other speaker anywhere near its price point. They will allow anyone to experience true Hi-Fi sound, whether it's a simple two-channel setup or part of a complete home theater experience.
Best Floor Standing Speakers Under $750 / Pair
If you have a little more money to spend on your home stereo or media room, you may want to consider a model that looks a bit more stylish.
Cerwin Vega SL12
The Cerwin Vega XLS 28 floor speakers are not big and tall and intimidating. They don’t have the multiple mid-ranges or multiple tweeters that most of the others reviewed here. What they do have is a historical pedigree and the exceptional sound quality that demands our attention and respect.
The VSX 28 boasts a three-way speaker design with two 8-inch woofers, a 6.5-inch mid-range driver, and a 1-inch tweeter. And each woofer proudly displays the Cerwin Vega iconic red ring.
As expected, the Cerwin Vega produces remarkably accurate sound with punchy and powerful bass without distorting the rest of the frequency spectrum. Note, however, that this speaker carries a 6-ohm load (nominal impedance) rather than the more-traditional 8 ohms. This results in less resistance to your amp power than most speakers. Check your amp specs to avoid any potential overload damage.
The bottom line
Cerwin Vega has traditionally offered superior customer service and a solid reputation as manufacturers of some of the best floor standing speakers on the market. And as expected, the Cerwin Vega XLS 28 speakers reach down deep and punch you in the chest, no matter what the source. For listening to complex music on your home stereo, you may want something with a bit more of a strong top end. But for punching up your movie night, you can’t go wrong with these. You can expect to feel like part of the action on the screen.
Best Floor Standing Speakers Under $1,000 / Pair
When you expand your sound-system budget, naturally you'll find a few extra features unavailable on lower-end models. What elevates the best floor standing speakers at this price point involves how they're built. Along with their durability, careful design and construction, as well as using the right materials, improves the sound quality exponentially. Let's take a look at two models at a higher price point.
Elac Debut F6
To quote the Elac home page, “With a sound that rivals speakers costing many times more, the F6 shows that quality components and superior engineering are a winning combination every time.”
No hype here, it’s all true! These Elac F6 speakers will bring your movies and music alive in your living room. Once again, we find a quality speaker on the list that was custom designed by the legendary audio expert, Andrew Jones. And as always, manufacturers don't skimp on any loudspeaker bearing his name.
The Debut F6 speakers boast woven aramid fiber construction that provides a reliable stiffness-to-weight ratio and damping compared to the typical paper or polypropylene cones. Most significantly, this added strength and stability permits far more flexibility to produce a more consistent and accurate extended frequency response.
Elac incorporates a custom-designed “Deep-Spheroid Waveguide” tweeter into the F6 to improve the directional control and block the tweeter wavefront from any annoying cabinet diffraction. This feature produces excellent high-frequency precision, allowing excellent and accurate high-end reproduction from some of the best floor standing speakers for your money.
Two horizontal braces both reinforce and strengthen the speaker cabinet, reducing any unwanted vibration that can result in rattling and ambient noise when reaching for those deep bass tones. Also, the tweeter and mid-range speakers are isolated within the enclosure, which minimizes any distortion caused by speaker vibration resonance.
As with any speaker sporting the Andrew Jones name, the crossover network is a thing of beauty and perfection. Elac incorporates the seven-element crossover into this model to ensure maximum independence from all the drivers. The speaker combines with other Debut-line Elac speakers components for perfect tonal harmony. Outstanding as either stereo speakers or as part of a home cinema configuration, the Debut F6 will make your system shine.
JBL Studio 580
Now that we are in the rarified air of the high-end of speaker design, it is no surprise to see the name JBL on the list. JBL loudspeakers have a long and storied history of providing excellent and reliable service in the most inhospitable of conditions. They're accustomed to serving duty in such varied venues as smoke-filled country bars and elegant restaurants. Relied on for their toughness and dependability, JBL loudspeakers are renowned as some of the best floor standing speakers because of their durability.
The JBL Studio 580 is armed with a pair of 6.5-inch “PolyPlas” ribbed 6.5-inch speakers that produce clean, highly focused low-frequency sounds. These ribbed speakers both reduce distortion and improve the unit’s strength.
The high-frequency compression driver delivers a wide dynamic range with lower distortion due to the SGF (Symmetrical Field Geometry) assembly of their large magnets.
JBL constructed the 580 tweeter as a one-piece “Teonex” diaphragm attached to a 1-inch voice coil to produce much cleaner vocals and high-end sharpness. Another bonus feature is a glass-filled ABS Bi-Radial high-frequency horn designed to deliver professional quality sound at home.
Complete the arrangement with a low loss, two-way crossover network, and you are ready to listen to the full spectrum of sound with minimum distortion.
The wiring options
The 580 still shows a bit of its concert hall pedigree, as you can configure it for either single or bi-wire connection. This feature increases the ways you can connect your speakers to your system. A bi-wire connection means having four terminals rather than two: one pair exclusively for the high-frequency network and one pair for solely for the low frequency. You’ll use two cables to connect the high-frequency terminals and the low-frequency terminals to the same pair of terminals on your amplifier.
The Studio 580 also boasts of typical JBL construction toughness professionals have come to rely on and expect. Heavy reinforcement with internal bracing and non-parallel surfaces drastically reduces resonance and interference.
Looking at the JBL 580 belies its rugged construction. Not only is it one of the most reliable from this list of the best floor standing speakers, but it is also one of the most striking speakers on this list. The 580 comes in black with a cherry finish and is designed to enhance any home or studio décor. With or without the grill, it will not only enhance your listening area sonically but aesthetically as well.
Best Floor Standing Speakers When Money Is No Object
You may be old enough to remember the Maxell cassette commercial where the guy in the chair is literally blown across the room by his stereo speakers. That was the first thing that came to mind while we were reviewing the MartinLogan electrostatic standing floor speakers.
MartinLogan ElectroMotion ESL
Almost all speakers are “dynamic.” That means that they produce sound using a vibrating diaphragm set in motion by magnets. These magnets surround a wire wrapped around a cylinder, which produces sound utilizing a fluctuation in electrical current. The diaphragm vibrates the air at different frequencies, producing the sound.
The MartinLogan speakers have a traditional dynamic speaker that reproduces frequencies from the 42-hertz bass load to the 500 hertz lower mid-range level. It produces frequencies above 500 hertz employing an electrostatic panel. This electrostatic panel consists of a curved sheet of thin transparent material stretched between two perforated metal panels. Rather than being driven by an electromagnet, it uses electrostatic force instead.
A transformer increases the signal from the amplifier to thousands of volts, which are then carried to the metal panel. The electrostatic voltage then vibrates the thin sheet between them. The sheet vibrates in relation to that voltage, which in turn produces the appropriate sounds.
This works just fine for higher frequencies. However, because the area in which the sheet can vibrate is limited, bass can’t be reproduced as accurately this way. Because of this, these speakers have to employ the traditional bass driver.
Each loudspeaker has its own independent power supply to generate the high-voltage static charge. These units only generate .7 watts until called upon by the speaker. At that time, they produce a mere 1.4 watts.
The sound is understandably beautiful. There is virtually no distortion through the entire listening ranges. And the tone simply has to be heard to be appreciated. The bass, even produced by more conventional means, blends perfectly with the mid-ranges and highs of the electrostatic panel. The output levels are consistent, despite the difference in the production methods used.
However, the lower bass tones are not very prominent, and a sub-woofer may be necessary if you desire the heavy thump of the lower frequencies between 20 and 40 hertz. With this in mind, the hybrid nature of this speaker doesn’t diminish the overall sound.
In spite of the eccentricities associated with the mechanics of these speakers, the MartinLogan ELS speakers produce a vibrant and accurate sound that most traditional speakers can’t deliver. When money isn't a factor, these are undoubtedly the best floor standing speakers you can buy.
Understanding What Goes into Your Speakers
Knowing what goes into a speaker design is half the battle when choosing your next set. Understanding how the component parts work together and the impact they have on sound quality goes a long way in making an educated buying decision. Both the construction of the speaker and the internal circuitry define what makes a quality speaker.
For example, The speaker crossover is the electronic circuitry in your speaker that takes the single audio input from the source, such as your amp or media player, and separates it into high, mid, and low frequencies. These signals are sent to the correct speaker drivers for that range. These are the vibrating parts of the speakers that generate sound from the electrical impulse.
The separation of these frequencies and the power behind these drivers impact the sound quality of your speakers. Manufacturers design and build drivers to optimize each of those frequency ranges, using sizes and materials best suited for that range. Tweeters handle high-frequency sound, mid-range drivers deliver, of course, midrange frequencies, and the woofer reproduces the bass. Although many speakers feature two drivers -- one tweeter and one midrange/woofer combination -- the best speakers feature three-way configuration, which results in the highest separation and the most accurate reproduction from the source.
The construction of your speaker also has an impact on the quality of sound. Beyond making choices for aesthetics, you'll discover that the materials used for the cabinet make a big difference. For example, although an interior decorator might look down their nose at plywood, solid wood can result in a muddy sound because of its density. Size is an issue as well, and larger speakers allow for better bass development. That's one of the reasons that large, floor standing speakers are so popular.
With that in mind, remember that you don’t have to break the bank to get a quality set of responsive floor speaks. You can, of course, but you don’t have to. Case in point:
Choosing the Best Floor Standing Speakers for You
The fact is that floor speakers allow you to fit much more sound into a small footprint while significantly increasing the dynamic range when compared to bookshelf speakers. The best floor standing speakers can give your living room the depth and rumble of a movie theater while reproducing music from your stereo system with clean and accurate range.
Your budget may be a consideration when choosing a pair of tower speakers, but each of these speakers will provide value for the money at any price point.