Surround Speakers vs Bookshelf: Which one Should You Choose?

Are you stuck in the confusion of choosing between surround speakers vs bookshelf speakers for your home theater surround system?.

surround speakers vs bookshelf

This is a common confusion most movie and music lovers face. Deciding on which one they should use for the surround back of their home theater setup. Well, it is an important decision to make for your home entertainment setup. So, in general, does a pair of bookshelf speakers replace surround speakers?.

Surround speakers are generally designed to be dipole or bipole and to create a diffuse, ambient environment that makes it difficult to localize where the sounds are coming from except for few manufacturers that make dipole surround speakers capable of functioning in either dipole or monopole. Bookshelf speakers on the other hand are monopole by design and that makes them versatile. Bookshelves are capable of functioning as surrounds provided they are discrete enough to mount. But surround speakers can’t be used as front channel speakers as they will produce awful sound.

Bookshelf Speakers

Bookshelf speakers are incredibly popular. They are a little more compact than floorstanding speakers. They can sit anywhere on the stand, bookshelf, cupboard, desk, or any elevated surface but not on the floor.

Bookshelves are normally designed in a rectangular box shape and because of their small size, they might have better low-frequency response and are monopole in nature. You will typically find bookshelf speakers integrated into a home theater surround sound setup which already has a subwoofer to take care of the bass and sub-bass.

bookshelf speakers

For small to medium space, they are more compact than your usual floorstanding speakers and can be used as fronts and can also be used as surround speakers or rears.

Additionally, even some bookshelf speakers have built-in amplifiers that allow them to be stand-alone music systems. This eliminates the need for a separate amplifier or receiver.

This makes them convenient speaker system. Good for s simple turntable setup or if you want to enhance your TV audio with a simple pair of stereo speakers.

Bookshelf speakers are often used as surrounds or if space is a limitation, both passive and powered bookshelf speakers can make great front speakers.

The optimal places you can place bookshelf loudspeakers include on speakers stands, on an open media stand, mounted to the wall on proper mounts. Placing them on actual bookshelf may cause the sound to resonate within the enclosed space.

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Surround Sound Speakers

Surround left and right speakers’ main function is to reproduce the surround music and effects. Although they need to reproduce the same frequency range to that of the right and left front speakers, they are not as important compared to the front speakers.

Their quality may or may not match that of the front speakers. Therefore, it is common for them to affordable or less expensive.

surround speakers

There are different types of surround sound speakers that you will find in the market. Surround speakers are often direct-radiating or monopole speakers.

These two special types of speakers that are commonly used as surround speakers. They are called bipole and dipole speakers.

Bipole speakers are bi-directional in nature and they consist of two speakers which fire sound in the opposite direction at the same time.

They are positioned in such a way that the sound is pushed around the seating area but not necessarily directed at the people listening. This makes creates the perfect sound effects without you been able to pinpoint which speaker the effects are coming from.

Bipolar speakers are ideal as surround speakers in a 5.1/7.1 system as they spread the audio better than normal direct-firing speakers. They create a less directional sound.

Sounds reproduced from these speakers are also in-phase.

Dipole surround speakers are designed to have a pair of speaker drivers inside the same cabinet and unlike bipole surround speakers whose signals are in-phase, dipole speakers are out of phase.

Because of the pulling and pushing from the speakers, they create a very diffuse sound that is difficult to pinpoint.

With regards to the positioning of these two types of surround speakers, bipole surround speakers are more flexible when it comes to positioning. But it is important to get the correct positioning for dipole surround speakers to get the right effect.

Are They Interchangeable?

Bookshelf speakers can act as rear or surround speakers depending on the orientation of the room. If you want surround speakers that are versatile and can be used either in the front or rear and still create quality sound, then can get bookshelf speakers for your surround speakers.

This makes it possible to use them even if you decide to upgrade your home theater system or simply donate them to someone.

Surround sound speakers are great to create that sound effect that you might want. But that is it. You cant easily use surround speakers as front speakers. They are best used to create surround sounds at the back.

Therefore, you can use bookshelf speakers as surround speakers or front speakers as well and still get good sound but you cant do the same easily with surround sound speakers.

Final Verdict on Bookshelf Speakers vs Surround Speakers

If you are more concerned about sound effects and all that stuff, then I would say go for surround speakers as that is the reason they are designed to reproduce the front speakers and create surround sound that is diffused, and you can’t pinpoint which speaker the effect is coming from.

However, if you want speakers that are versatile in use, then you can choose a pair of bookshelf speakers that you can install as surround speakers. There are instances where bookshelf speakers are going to be almost impossible to install. In that case, you need the first option or a different alternative.

It is also worth pointing out that many of the new movies released on Blu-ray now have discreet audio effects that have been specifically mixed for the surround channels. Bookshelf speakers acting as surrounds will enable you to get the best of those mixes as opposed to a dipole surround speaker.

In recent times, most manufacturers who used to make dipole speakers have discontinued them and now produce monopole/ bookshelf speakers for their multichannel setups.


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