Bookshelf or Tower

I am in the hunt for new noise makers.
I have budget of about 5K.

I love good 2 channel imaging and play a variety of music at low to medium volumes as wife hate loud music.

I currently own Paradigm Studio 20 v.5 but want something with a bigger sound.

I am considering: Paradigm S2's, BW 805d but then I think at those price levels I could get floorstanders but I don't see why the floorstanders cost so much more. So confused.

My set up is Bryton 4B SST amp, Bryston BP 20 preamp and a modwrighted Sony DVP9000ES.

Just a thought, since you don't listen to loud music, and if you have a big enough room for them, have you considered a Maggie 1.7 or 3.6r or 3.7?


There is a pair of Tyler Acoustic Woodmere II's for sale here.
What's your room size?
Big speakers equate to big sound...however it can be difficult to get a balanced sound from large towers...this is where a sub can be can contour the bass to ones likening...although it seems counterintuitive to...I wasn't really a sub guy until I moved to towers...and hi pass the system...this works well if you have room modes and overhang...
Floor standers inherently don't cost a lot more - but to do them well does. The reason is resonances - to make a standmount or bookshelf non resonant (at least reasonably so anyway - to really attack it is very costly) is not too hard but a floor stander is a lot more costly. Then you have higher transport and delivery costs.

That said there are many excellent floorstanders at or below $5k. In fact I would suggest looking at some speakers a bit under that such as some of the Salk Audio models:

Martin Logan:


Go out and have a listen. You should be able to find dealers for Martin Logan and Magnepan and some posts on Salks forum at Audiocircles should dig up some people in your area with Salk speakers to listen to.

Its not a race - take your time and listen to gear to get just what you want.

If you have the room for it, a pair of Vandersteen Model 2's and a pair of Vandersteen subs.

"I am considering: Paradigm S2's, BW 805d but then I think at those price levels I could get floorstanders but I don't see why the floorstanders cost so much more. So confused."

I think model 2's, without the subs will easily outclass the Paradigm and the B&W. But that is just my opinion. You really need to listen to them first.
I hope you are near a dealer where you can audition a pair of B&W PM1 monitors with their PV1D subwoofer. I really wasn't much of a B&W fan until I heard these. The monitors are gorgeous and your wife should love their appearance. The sub can blend seamlessly.

The total price is right around your target price. If you don't go too loud, this is a really musically satisfying rig, which gives up all the musical detail while never drawing attention to it. I heard this setup right after auditioning ARC tube gear driving the Wilson Alexandria XLF, and this B&W setup basically gave you the same thing minus that last half octave of bass slam and sense of limitless dynamics. Within its dynamic limitations the B&W PM1/PV1D combo comes surprisingly close.

Call me crazy if you want; just try it out before you do.
My room is about 15' by 30' with lots of wood furniture in it and tile floors. It is a combo dining/living room and has vaulted ceilings to an 11' peak.

I plan on auditioning speakers this Friday and the shop is a big B&W and Paradigm dealer so I should be able to listen to PM1's and 800 series and all the Signature Paradigm's too.

I like the idea of book shelves just because 70 lb towers are a beast to move around and from what I have been reading the smaller bookshelf cabinets give better imaging which I love.
What do you like and dislike about the speakers that you now have? You mention wanting a bigger sound but that can mean different things. Are you talking about something image size, or something similar?
Good floorstanding speakers cost so much more because of the cost of the cabinet. I've read that Richard Vandersteen has stated that cabinets can consume 70% of a speaker's budget. Look at his Model 1, 2 and 3 for his response.

John Marks has stated in Stereophile that $3K is the point where floorstanding speakers can begin to out perform stand mount speakers. Below that there just isn't enough dollars to fix the cabinet.

My suggestion is to keep your current speakers and add a good sealed subwoofer to your system. Quality bass improves everything. When adding a sub, I also suggest high-passing the main speakers.
What do you like and dislike about the current sound you have? What are you after? More bass might bother the wife more. I went from studio 10's, to 20's, to 60's, back to 20's, to vandersteen 2ce, to my current kef qx5's. if I could do it all over again, I would have stopped at the firdt pair of 20's, or the 60's and at that point, I would have spent me money in absorption panels, diffusors, bas traps, power cords, different interconnects, isolation footers for my equipment, (my lightspeed attenuator, which I did buy and love), etc.

My point is, in a room with that much reflectivity (hardwood, tile), you'll get more results treating your room first. When I started changing speakers like crazy, they all sounded unfulfilling because my room was so awful, and I didn't like my preamp.

The Paradigm studio series are actually really nice speakers and are really wrll built. Your' 20's sound great with a sub also. I've pulled those speakers apartand they are quality cabinents and drivers. Another thought is to spend $200-$300 paying someone who is qialified, to upgrade your crossovers. Think long and hard about ditching the digms because they are good speakers. Knock on the side of the cabinent and listen to how solid the cabinent is.

With all of this in mind, if you do upgrade look at a used pair of Tyler acoustics. I think you would be happy with the system II's for sale here. Take your time, think about some room treatments and take your time. Oh, did I say, take your time?

Ps, sorry about the spelling, I'm in a rush this morning. You can private message me also if you'd like to get some more input about your 20's :-)
what got me on the speaker path is that I was all ready to spend 2k on a CD transport but then I came to the realization that it was more then I spent on my speakers, and if anything speakers would make the biggest difference to sound so now I am thinking I underspent on the very important speaker component of my system. I like the studio 20's very much but I am thinking that I can get even more sound by putting that 2k towards more expensive speakers. I will have these for 10 years min so I might as well get something good now.

The subwoofer arrangement is enticing, but that means another box to put somewhere and I just do not have the floor space to hide it.
If you can't do a sub, then consider the largest 3-way stand mount speaker or 3-way towers. Just realize that with floor standing speakers much of your money is going into compensating for the box.

Take a look at the Wharfedale Jade series for example. The Jade 7 reviewed recently in Stereophile would be a good choice. Depending on the size of your room the Jade 5 might work well or even the Jade 3.

A problem with every floor standing speaker is getting good bass response. Since you can't decouple the woofers from the mid/treble drivers, the woofers won't be placed in an optimal location.
I love the detail and imaging of my studio 20's, it was surprising to hear instruments here and over there in the room. what I don't like is thinking that I have left some more of that good stuff on the table by not spending more as I will have these speakers for a while and this is the first pair of speakers I have bought as I have been using my parents hand-me-down snell e-III's for almost 18 years until the drivers finally fell apart.

B Limo, I private messaged you (I think) not sure if I had technical difficulty or if that is just the way this site works.

some good stuff in the buying forum I see too

thanks all!
I agree that a 3-way is the only way :) Gosh,did not know what I was missing.

So went to audition speakers yesterday and today. Ended up at the Paradigm, B&W, Aerial and Wilson dealer.

To mimic my setup we used an Anthem P2 amp, Ayre pre, Naim CDP with transparent cables all around. First we listened to my Studio 20's and they were good. then the Signature S2's and they were really good and then the 805D and they were really really good and detailed but then at that price point, I was curious about towers. Listened to Paradigm S6 and Tributes. I have to say I am biased to the looks of the Paradigm stuff, especially the signature cabinets are very sexy.

once I heard the towers it was clear to me the shortcomings of a bookshelf and the sound I am seeking came from the towers. So after two days of audition sessions, I ended up putting a deposit down on the signature S6's. They are very sleek and will look great in my room.

They gave me full paid value for my 3 month old studio 20 trade-in plus 10% off retail of the S6's. Not bad considering I did not purchase the studio 20's from them.

Funny though each day I came home and listened to my system and I thought the studio 20's sounded great and better on my system than on the store's setup. hmmmm...
Photonman, congrats on the s6's!! I'm jealous...
And, your studio 20's probably do sound better in your home, just as I suspect the s6's will too. Same thing happens to me also, people here will argue that it's mostly about the room differences but I think it's more than that.
I am also a fan of floorstanding speakers but I will always have a place in my heart for bookshelf speakers also, as they were my first love.
Anyways, good to know that you are a fan of berrylium also, just don't lick the tweeters ;-)
Interesting sidenote...Studio 20 was Class C in stereophile...believe Studio 60 was Class B...granted this is all relative and highly subjective...but outside of the bass reproduction...these models are quite similiar...add a decent sub to the 20s...and who knows...probably a dead heat...and yes the inflated cost of towers is primarily the cabinet...and depending upon the manufacturer... much of that is in veneers,custom options, etc...however they dont require stands...which is the hidden cost of smaller speakers...Enjoy your new speakers!
my neophyte understanding behind the purpose of the larger cabinet is more air volume to move through the drivers which translates to range and sound etc.

the killer part is that these cabinets are composed of el cheapo MDF or particle board.
Tower sound fuller and thicker.
Bob Reynolds, wouldn't a bookshelf speaker lose a bit of that 'fullness' that tower speakers provide? Or would monitors + sub pretty much create the same sound a floorstander would?
"06-05-13: Mkash3
Bob Reynolds, wouldn't a bookshelf speaker lose a bit of that 'fullness' that tower speakers provide? Or would monitors + sub pretty much create the same sound a floorstander would?"

You're being way too general. There are so many differences in how speakers are designed, you really have to look at things like this on a case by case basis. For example you could compare 2 different 3 way towers in about the same size cabinet that sell for the same price. Depending on how the speaker was designed, there is a very good chance that they will sound completely different from each other. Listening to them is the only way to be sure.
Mkash3, all floor standing speakers are fundamentally flawed regarding bass due to the woofer being coupled to the mid/tweeter. We position speakers so that we get good imaging and soundstaging effects. It's highly unlikely that that position will yield good bass.

This is the key advantage of a subwoofer -- it's decoupled from the main speaker and can be positioned for optimal bass. Besides, the majority of floor standing speakers are not close to full range.

My opinion is that a proper monitor + sub should be able to yield better sonics than typical floor standing speakers. At least that's been my experience.
There are a couple of generalizations that can be made when comparing monitor + sub to floor standing speakers.

One I cited above regarding optimal placement for smooth bass. Let me add to that by saying that Richard Vandersteen seems to understand this, because he includes parameteric equalizers in his top end designs.

The other is distortion. I seem to harp on this all the time. Speakers generate large amounts of distortion; really it's the woofer, because there's no high pass filter on it. We're not concerned about it, because so few manufacturers publish those specs (B&W and many pro manufacturers do). The vast majority of floor standing speakers can't compare to decent subwoofers regarding distortion and that's not surprising. It's comparing a special purpose design to a general purpose design.

I will likely never own a floor standing speaker again and if I do I'll make sure to high pass them and let a good subwoofer handle the bass.
Very interesting Bob. The one advantage I've read about in regards to floorstanders is the dedicated midrange driver. I was always under the impression that it was better to have separate drivers handle the musical information, rather than one driver for do everything (as in the case with a monitor). But your points do make sense!
Dumb question of the day...
What exactly do you mean to 'high pass'?
Does that mean to run the small speakers off of the sub rather than straight from the amplifier ? Or are you letting the preamp do the signal dividing ?

Sorry for my ignorance .
Quality is sometimes better than quantity. There is a pair of Dynaudio 1.3 se's for sale right now you may consider.
OP reporting back to say I ended up getting the Paradigm Signature S6's.

The deciding factor was seeing the limit of the particular monitor I was interested in, the Paradigm Signature S2.

In a certain song, a pop rock mellow acoustical, with violin in background and acoustic guitar up front and Ryan Adams vocals, the whining violin distorted at a med-high volume with the S2's but with the S6's were clear and defined and there was room to go higher. So I extrapolated out and said that is just an indication of the overall precision and truth to the sound. Is that because the towers have more power handling?

After hearing that, as much as I love the idea of a monitor, I knew the towers were the right choice for me.
Tower all the way. Bigger soundstage and the bass is deeper
Mkash3, I agree with your comment regarding a dedicated midrange driver, but that's not only nor always a feature of floor standing speakers.

I've never seen a single driver monitor. The majority are 2-way designs, but many floor standing speakers are 2-way designs, too.

There are several very good 3-way stand mount speakers on the market today.
Saki70, by the term high pass, I mean to employ a high-pass filter before the main speakers so that they do not have to handle the bass load.

This filter can be passive or active and can be placed at several places, but typically it'a a line level device placed in between the preamp and amp. Some subs provide bass management so that could be taken advantage of instead of a separate component, but it's still placed between the preamp and amp.

This provides true bi-amping with the subwoofer (which could be an advantage if the main amp is underpowered) and reduces the distortion of the speaker system.

Does that answer your question?
Photonman, I certainly can't fault your decision, but a possible explanation is that bass distortion in the fundamental in the S2 was smearing the harmonics.

It's not really power handling, per se, but the fact that the S6 provides cleaner bass. You should have experienced the same effect with a properly integrated sub with the S2.

Enjoy the Paradigms -- very good speakers.
Bob Reynolds ;
I think so . I have a Velodyne CHT-10 subwoofer that I have only used with my pre-pro sub out for HT use . I am not sure of how to hook it up for 2 channel use . It does have a variable low pass crossover , internal crossover , 80 hz high-pass output/input and speaker level input/output . Does this make any sense to you ?
All things being equal (which they never are), I would go with a high efficiency floor stander. Consider one with a widebander for a midrange and minimum to no crossover and you'll find it come alive early on with the ability to flesh things out and do it all with great coherence.

I'm not even going to begin recommending a brand as I believe when it comes to speakers, you have to personally audition them. So take a good, hard look at all the high end dealers in your area or, if not too far a distance, take the time and make the trip to listen to one. For 5 grand, I would. If there is a speaker that tickles your fancy and not within a reasonable distance from you, ask the maker if there is anyone in your area that would let you audition it. That's how I bought my Legacy Classics many years ago. I've since moved on and tried a couple of speakers, hearing unheard, and regretted it. My last speaker was done the right way, by listening to it.

All the best,
Saki70, It sounds like your sub provides bass management on both line level and speaker level connections.

I'm not a fan of speaker level connections, so unless you have no other choice use the line level connections.

If you have separates (preamp and amp) or an integrated amp with both preamp out and main amp in jacks, then you can use the line level connections in the sub to utilize bass management. But, you should realize that the high pass filter built into the sub will not be as well done as a stand alone unit.

That being said, run left & right interconnects from your preamp to the line level inputs on the sub. Then run left & right interconnects from the high-pass line level outputs on the sub to your amp. Set the low pass crossover to 80 Hz.

It would be simpler to just use the pre/pro for 2-channel use as well as HT. The bass management will likely be better in the pre/pro than in the sub and speaker setup (distance and level matching) doesn't even exist in the sub. But, I understand that some people can't bring themselves to do this.

Good luck,
Ok , thank you Bob .