Bookshelves with subs vs floorstanders with subs

I’ve seen several posts and write up on the internet over the last few years on how a bookshelf would usually yield better sonics or bang for the bucks compared to a similarly priced floorstanding speaker. The other that I have come across is that a bookshelf costing less then the floorstanding speakers paired with a sub that end up to value closer to the floorstanders will end up the better choice due to being closer to full range and possibly offer better mid and high frequencies, imaging and so on.

My experience have been that the bookshelves tend to image better, but lack a sense of realism in the mid bass area compared to a floorstander that reaches down a little deeper even with subs crossed over higher to make up the deficiencies of the bookshelf.

So to sum up my question,
If both setups would incorporate stereo subwoofers,
And money was no object. Would you rather go with the bookshelf or floorstander of the same series?
Ex. Bowers & Wilkins 805d3 bookshelf vs 800d3 floorstanders

Larger speaker will provide more “ease” than small book shelf speakers; on the other hand, they could be more demanding for amplification and room conditions; When I compared Devore 3XL and 93 at dealer powered by the same Line Magnetic tube amp, 93 presented with more pronounced mid-range than 3XL (3XL was thinner in comparison); On the other hand, 3XL had noticeably better spacial imaging, air and clarity; In the end I picked the book shelf (3XL) considering my budget including amplification (Firstwatt J2); Adding two REL S3s to 3XL made up the lack of mid and low; Though I tuned Sub’s cross over fairly low as Paul suggested, the subs does add the heft and weight in the mid range, counter intuitive indeed.

There are far too many variables in this picture to generate a definitive answer. Oddly enough I own both 803n and 805n loudspeakers. I use the larger in my home theater with dual subs. (I do not believe the single sub theory, I believe two are required)
I use the 805n speakers in my desktop computer system. As far is imaging goes I tend to favor the smaller is better theory, although the Wilson floorstanders I am listening to at this moment do a nice job as well.
Whatever you end up doing, add a pair of subs to it. REL if you can swing it.

Massive overgeneralisation. The Harbeth M40.1 and M40.2 is a reference monitor used by many reviewers, weighs 38kg, sits on a stand, is rated down to 35Hz and certainly does not need a subwoofer. I use the stand mounted SHL5plus 40th Anniversary, they do not have a woofer, I have a single sub and mute it depending on the type of music I’m listening to (no high pass filter is applied to the main speakers).

I heard the M40.2 in Munich and really liked them…but I‘d never say it doesn’t need a sub in terms of a full range performance.

However an individual preference and perception might be that it’s not necessary, just as some say a speaker needs just one chassis (broadband) to reproduce what’s essential for music.

The fact that it’s used as professional monitor by reviewers doesn’t prove anything in regard to missing full range performance without sub imo.

But as I said, if you personally say for you no sub is necessary with this speaker, that’s just fine. In some rooms even smaller speakers deliver enough deep bass by making use of room resonances.

Who said “need”? “Need” is not the question.

They are also used in a Pro studio monitor version and most studio monitors are designed as boxes so they can be wall mounted, which rather puts paid to the issue of floor standing or bookshelf. There are some B&W 800’s in use at Abbey Road. I heard the M40.2 at their UK launch in London.
The answer to the question is fairly obvious. A full range unit, whether it sits on the floor or is suspend in mid air, will be more expensive because they need larger cabinets, complex crossovers, are very difficult to get right and some are also active. PSA have found this out as the AN3 price has trebled from the initial estimate. My sub cost £550, about $750, but SHL5Plus + sub does not equal M40.2. Far from it.
The M40.2 was only referred to as it is not a floorstander but is still full range and costs $15,000.
I think Pinky needs to get to a dealer and listen to some speakers rather than read generalisations on the internet.

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If budget not an issue I personally would consider Wilson speakers; Years ago I auditioned Watt / Puppy 8 driven by Krell electronics; It had excellent mids and highs but a bit more low to my taste; It could be the room; Recent year I listened to Sacha matched with Ayre 5 series electronics with vinyl playback system, the result was outstanding, there is no shortcoming in terms of sound stage comparing to the book shelf; super transparent, lively and punchy; Really nice speakers!


If money was no object, would go for the full-range + subs.
If biggest bang for the buck was the deciding factor, the bookshelf + subs might get the nod, depending on the speaker (or get different full-range speakers, lol). Yes, you are correct in that the upper bass can be a little lightweight (even with a subwoofer in the system) if the smaller speakers are too small. At the other side of the coin, if the upper bass is already overly-pronounced on the full-range speaker, that can easily result in the sound being too muddy once a sub (or 2) is added. It will take some work to find that right balance, whether with smaller speakers + sub(s) or full-range + sub(s).

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I have full range plus subs and I am very pleased with the results. I have the subs only doing the real low stuff, and it works really well. REL makes excellent subs for decent prices. You can get a nice pair of subs for less than half what a really good bicycle costs.

(I measure all costs in bicycle equivalents, i.e. my speakers cost four really good bicycles)

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There is an alternative to separate SubWoofers:

  1. semi active speakers like the AN3, or
  2. full active amping (cross over between pre and power amplifiers)

The direct control and feeding of the sub woofer driver allows for more bandwidth and precision than passive speakers.

I prefer speakers that provide full range with satisfactory bass fundament where possible. Buy only speakers from companies who pay attention to alignment of drivers, as that improves the sound stage.

Where the above doesn’t work, is when there is a conflict with optical esthetics, real estate and the WAF. Jaw dropping gorgeous and good sounding Sonus Faber Bookshelves come to my mind. But slim/sleek looking floor-standing speakers like Canton Vento, Canton Reference, Rowen Symphony go so deep down that extra cost for bulky SubWoofers and the lost living space are not worth it. Rowen Symphony speakers are designed for close to the wall placement too, so even less waste if living space.

Same seems to apply to the active DSP controlled Dutch&Dutch “bookshelf’s” according to many reviews. But as described above they are active.

It simply boils down to personal preferences.

In my home office I have no space for floor-standing speakers, so I have active bookshelves there.