Seeing what it takes to create the best home theater system is an adrenaline-rushing challenge. For example, finding the best front speakers for your sound system can feel like a dream. Is it possible to use bookshelf speakers as front speakers?
Bookshelf speakers can be used as front speakers, but work best in a home theater sound system when paired with a subwoofer (bass source). Unlike tower speakers, bookshelf speakers only have two drivers, so their bass range is limited. Proper placement and setup are key for optimum use.
With so many different speaker options available, it can be tough to know where to start and why one type of speaker would be better for you and your media room (and budget).
Choosing to invest in high-quality speakers will forever change the way you view media and listen to audio. Maximizing the benefits of bookshelf speakers is no different.
Also read: Can I Use Surround Speakers As Front Speakers?
What are Bookshelf Speakers?
Before we begin to tell you about all of the many advantages of bookshelf speakers, you might be curious about what these speakers even are, anyway.
How do they differ from other types of speakers, and what is the difference between using these as front speakers vs. any other type of speakers?
Bookshelf speakers use an A/V receiver connection to stream audio through two drivers- a woofer (for low-frequency audio signals) and a tweeter (for high-frequency audio signals)- in their standard form.
Sitting on a bookshelf or another platform, these speakers are great in small to mid-sized spaces.
While you might want to invest in a larger type of speaker- or one that can hit bigger height differentials- when working in a large home theater room, using bookshelf speakers in a small to mid-sized home theater room can be a relatively inexpensive and aesthetically pleasing way to stream audio from your favorite movies or music.
There are many advantages with bookshelf speakers, especially when using identical bookshelf speakers in a sound system setup.
Particularly, in using identical bookshelf speakers, you will know that your sound system has the same established connections and power levels for each device. This will make the connection and setup process significantly easier rather than having to attempt audio signal conversions, etc.
And, since you will have to connect your bookshelf speakers to an audio/video receiver/amplifier, it will be important to know the wattage ratings that your speakers are capable of handling.
Of course, this can go unsaid for those who are familiar with sound systems considering the range of audio is imperative to the overall functioning and connections established in a home theater sound system.
Regardless, bookshelf speakers can make great front speakers, especially when used as a trio for a left, center, and right speaker trifecta. Since their limitation in this setup would be a strong bass, it is highly suggested that you pair bookshelf speakers with a subwoofer when connecting them in your sound system.
In this way, you get all of the benefits of aesthetically pleasing bookshelf speakers (as opposed to larger tower speakers that take up quite a bit more visual space) while still capturing the full scope of audio that floorstanding speakers might offer in comparison.
Of course, you will need to make sure that your bookshelf speakers are placed just about anywhere but the floor- although this might be obvious when you consider their name.
You do not have to have an actual bookshelf to place bookshelf speakers on, although this is a great option. Any elevated and acoustically-pleasing setup option can likely work.
Can I Use Bookshelf Speakers as Front Speakers in Home Theater?
If you are wanting to use bookshelf speakers as front speakers, it is likely that you are attempting to use these for your home theater sound system. And, even if not, they can be a great option for front speakers considering their power capabilities and overall sound quality.
But, you still might be wondering about their capabilities in your home theater. After all, the audio equipment that you choose to use is critical in determining the quality of your space.
Bookshelf speakers used as front speakers can make a great option for small to mid-sized home theaters. Floorstanding speakers might be a better option for large home theater rooms, but bookshelf speakers have a lot to offer even in their more compact size.
There are so many different ways to configure your home theater sound system.
With many different types of equipment including speakers, amplifiers, A/V receivers, and any video streaming options like projectors, you are in for a treat once you have paired all of your devices well. However, this is not an easy feat- especially if you are new and overcoming a major learning curve.
One of the biggest things to pay attention to when creating your home theater sound system is the natural acoustics in your space. While many different online forums can provide you with good information, none will be directly targeted to your unique home theater space, budget, and audio experience preferences.
With that said, there are still many great pieces of information that you can acquire by learning from those who have tried out similar scenarios that you would like to try out. One of these can include using bookshelf speakers in a home theater sound system.
And, by and large, the resounding consensus is that yes, bookshelf speakers can be good for a home theater sound system.
The best two ways to make bookshelf speakers work for your home theater sound system is to use identical bookshelf speakers and to pair them with a subwoofer for the full surround sound effects.
Using identical speakers will help you to establish connections with the receiver/amp much more efficiently, and pairing them with a subwoofer will give a wider range of audio.
In this way, using them for your home theater should work well. If you are setting up a larger home theater room, you might want to find larger speakers or speakers with a bit more power capabilities.
Otherwise, using bookshelf speakers in conjunction with your other audio equipment in a small to mid-sized home theater room can work amazingly.
How Should I Position Bookshelf Speakers?
Ok, so you are sold on the idea of bookshelf speakers working as the front speakers in the sound system setup within your home. Now that you select the right set of bookshelf speakers for you, your media-streaming room, and your budget, you are likely wondering what the best setup for these glorious pieces of sound equipment is.
Bookshelf speakers require elevation for their best acoustic performance- whether on an actual bookshelf or another type of platform. They should be placed at the “10” and “2” if imagining the face of a clock, ideally with the tweeters (used for high-frequency audio signals) at ear-level.
Along with this, you will also want to make sure that the bookshelf speakers are angled towards the center of the room. This will help with the emission of audio signals in their conjunction with the other speakers placed throughout the room.
As the audio waves are cast outwards, they are sure to hit any obstructions, so be sure to remove any physical obstruction that could disrupt the flow of the audio waves.
With that said, you will also want to make sure that your bookshelf speakers have a few (ideally at least 3-inches) of space between their back and the wall or any other object that is placed behind them.
Not only will this help to protect the equipment if/when it moves during its use, but it will help the acoustics of the speaker to carry out well throughout your home theater.
Are Bookshelf Speakers as Good as Tower Speakers?
If you are still on the fence about using bookshelf speakers for your front speakers, it is possible that you are comparing them with tower or floorstanding speakers- and for good reason.
Both types of speakers offer great advantages and can be a wonderful piece of equipment to incorporate into your home theater space. But, is one better than the other?
Each type of speaker has its unique advantages. Tower speakers have more drivers and thus a wider range of audio, but they take up more visual space and can be a bit cumbersome. Bookshelf speakers are more sleek and aesthetically pleasing, but they require pairing with a subwoofer to capture the bass.
A lot of this has to do with personal preference and what you are using the two types of speakers for, though. If you are setting up a small to mid-sized home theater room compared to a larger space, for example, then bookshelf speakers can work just fine without taking up as much visual space.
However, the height differential offered by the larger tower speakers is appealing for many different reasons- especially when casting out audio signals in a larger home theater room.
So, you can see how these differences do not make one type of speaker inherently better than the other, but the various speaker types can offer unique advantages for particular situations.
With this in mind, it is important that you choose the right type of speaker for your sound system. To do this, consider the wattage ratings, hertz, and the number of drivers that will be involved in your sound system once you total them up.
If pairing with a subwoofer is realistic for you in a small to mid-sized home theater, then bookshelf speakers are the way to go. But, if you prefer to keep with one type of speaker instead of having to pair with a subwoofer, then you can choose tower speakers instead.
Either make a good choice for your front speakers; you just have to find the right piece(s) of sound equipment to work for you and your space.
Also read: Should Surround Speakers Be Louder Than Front Speakers?
Jason is a home theater expert with over 10 years of experience in setting up home cinema rooms and systems. What started out as a hobby soon transformed him into an authority in the audio-visual field. He is passionate about providing readers with accurate and up-to-date information on the latest audiovisual technologies and their applications for home theaters. Read more about Jason.