Tips and advice

Bookshelf Speakers: What You Need to Know

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A monitor speaker owes its full name ‘studio monitor’ to the fact that the type of display in recording studios is used when recording and mixing audio. An at least as usual name for  the compact brother of the floorstander  is the bookshelf speaker. But actually that is a wrong term. Because a bookshelf speaker does not belong at all on a bookshelf. 

Before we go any further, it still deserves the attention that there is sometimes a confusing use of terms in hi-fi countries. For several audiophiles, a monitor will be just a small speaker for a studio with certain very specific characteristics, such as extremely neutral, near-field and perhaps active. A bookshelf model is for them just more for home, so there is a difference. A third term that we also see is standard speaker: explicitly mentioned by the manufacturer because those big guys really only work on loudspeaker stands. Consider, for example, the new Monitor Audio Studio , in which the communication devotes a great deal of attention to the standard to be delivered, the Monitor Audio Stand.

Bookshelf speaker

Of course, the name bookshelf speaker in the first place gives you an idea of ​​the format: a speaker that fits perfectly on a bookshelf. We can recall enough setups with such a solution keeping the speakers of a streaming kit at more or less the correct height above the ground. And if there were a window sill beneath the window behind my workstation, my Ruark desktop speakers might also be a bit higher instead of on the desktop. Just for variation.

Also an option: this bookshelf is a speaker

A standard is the standard

However, anyone who has serious (er) intentions with a stereo set in which two monitors serve the viewers, does well to look at a serious standard. Because we also need to avoid all other alternatives of a dedicated standard as much as possible. This therefore applies to sideboards, bedside tables, TV furniture and desktops. And for the following reason: loudspeaker stands are specially designed to get the best out of the speakers, especially when it comes to the standard that you can optionally order from the speaker itself.

That is what a loudspeaker standard does by controlling vibrations, reducing early reflections and ensuring the right amount of high tones. Let’s take a closer look at those points.

Vibrations and reflections

A direct visible plus of a monitor on a solid standard is the fact that you can easily influence the distance between the speakers and the various surfaces in the room. On a cabinet and surely on a bookshelf it is very difficult to remove the speaker from the wall, unless you have to deal with a really deep shelf. Type Encyclopedia Britannica, say. Early reflections of a back wall can be avoided with a standard, an important aspect to get the best results from your speakers.


Many bookshelf speakers also have a bass port at the back. If you place them on a shelf and close to a wall, they become more woolly, even though they sound more bass. The solution to that problem is often a type of prop supplied by the manufacturer, such as rubber or foam and usually the same padding that you can remove from the bass port when you unpack your speakers.

Conversely, when you are placing on standards, you may have a skinny bass, because standards are often very far removed from the wall. That applies, of course, especially to speakers that are designed to be on a piece of furniture. Sometimes manufacturers want to proactively offer a solution for something that is ‘wrong’ to the customer, and your bookshelf models are precisely developed for a bookshelf or furniture: not the first time an audio manufacturer makes adjustments to meet the customer’s needs. With some manufacturers you can also opt for a tilting wall bracket instead of a movable stand.

In addition, all these alternatives have something in common besides the proximity of, for example, a back wall, namely the size of the own surface, the resting place of your monitor. With a stand that is custom-made for the speaker, it is often much larger with a cabinet or other furniture. This also creates reflections and distortions that affect the sound image. Especially the performance in the layer is sensitive to surfaces that touch the display itself.

High tones for low ears

Another visible aspect of a speaker with a dedicated standard is the listening height. After all, we are looking for the sweet spot, but that domain for the desired treble and directionality has several dimensions. You do not just want to sit nicely in the middle of the two stereo viewers, but ideally the speakers are also at the same height as your ears. Or at least the tweeter, which radiates the most horizontally.

All this is a little short, but for the purpose of this explanation we can state that for the averagely the bookshelf is soon that they are nailed a bit higher to the wall than the desired height.

Insulation in relation to the floor

It is not only the vibrations and reflections that a brave standard struggles with. A good standard also ensures the right ‘decoupling’ between your speakers and the floor, or the mechanical isolation. Compare a standard loudspeaker stand with a sideboard or TV cabinet. And do not look at the size or the surface at the top, but at the bottom. A standard will have no architecturally responsible feet nine times out of ten, or interior technical high-profile finishes, but will either have spikes for solid floors or rubber feet for wooden floors. As we are used to from a full-fledged floorstander, actually.

Moreover, and this is perhaps the most important part, the inside of a loudspeaker stand is acoustically better filled than a TV cabinet or wooden cabinet. They come in types and sizes, but the models that are sold with the better monitors are usually equipped with several functionalities.

No loose sand

The top plate, for example, ensures the correct disconnection of the speaker and stand, as the feet have their role in relation to the floor. But there is also the inside work: various compartments serve, for example, for the elimination of the cables, but also for the reinforcement of the foot.

After all, you do not want you to have opted for decoupling and the right feet, and your stand will then still play along with the music. That is why the inner compartments are often provided with sand or other damping material: the mass provides stability, while the material absorbs further sound waves and music-driven reactions. Well compressed and in the right proportion, of course. So your investment in a better music experience is not on loose sand.

Long story short: it certainly pays to add the price of a loudspeaker stand, which is usually optional and separate from the price tag of the speakers, to the total picture and to include in your considerations. That dedicated loudspeaker foot serves more than an aesthetic purpose!