Best Floor Standing Speakers of 2018

Billy Bommer ·
Audio & Travel Writer
Updated
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We spent 40 hours testing the audio quality of 10 pairs of floor standing speakers by watching movies and listening to a wide variety of musical genres. We combined tech data and subjective listening tests to rank each product. Based on our research, we recommend the Q Acoustics 3050 as the best floor standing speaker pair for less than $1,000. They produced accurate dialogue and balanced low-frequency rumbling effects in our listening tests. The cabinet design is the perfect size and looks as good as it sounds.  

Best Overall
Q Acoustics 3050
Q Acoustics packed a plethora of smart design features into a well-designed enclosure that is available in four attractive finish options. These speakers performed incredibly well in our listening tests and are the best floor speakers we reviewed.
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Best Value
Polk Audio T50
These aren’t the best-sounding speakers we tested, but you can pair them with an entry-level AV receiver to get a wider, more detailed sound stage than a similarly priced sound bar package.
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Best for Watching Movies
Emotiva Airmotiv T1
The Emotiva T1’s woven fiber woofers and ribbon tweeter are housed in an innovative cabinet design that produced the best results in our movie-watching tests.
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Product
Price
OVERALL RATING
Price
Audio Performance
Speaker Design
Listening Test: Movie
Listening Test: Music
Lowest Frequency Response (Hz)
Highest Frequency Response (kHz)
Continuous Power Handling (RMS watts)
Sensitivity (dB)
Total Number of Drivers
Available Finish Options
$699.99 Amazon Marketplace
3.9 4.8 5
A-
A+
44
22
100
92
3
Black, White, Walnut, Graphite
$349.5 Amazon Warehouse
3.9 2.5 2.4
A+
A
37
28
150
88
4
Black
$299 Wal-Mart
3.3 5 4.4
A
A+
35
24
150
98
3
Black
$399.98 Amazon Marketplace
3.9 4.5 4.7
B+
B+
39
35
140
87
4
Black
$329 Amazon Marketplace
4 4.4 4.7
B+
A-
32
40
200
90
3
Black, Walnut
$74.95 Polkaudio
5 3.8 4.7
C+
B-
38
24
100
90
4
Black
$699.99 Wal-Mart
3.9 4.3 5
B-
B+
35
20
200
89
4
Black, Walnut
$225 Amazon Marketplace
4.4 4.2 4.4
B-
B
25
23
250
98
3
Black
$399.95 JBL
2.9 4.8 4.7
A-
A-
38
22
225
91
4
Black
$279.99 Amazon Marketplace
4.8 3.8 4.3
B
B-
55
35
130
86
3
Black
Best Overall
The Q Acoustics 3050 produced detailed and accurate audio in our movie and music listening tests. The dialogue and vocals are placed perfectly in front of the startling low frequency effects.
The dual 6.5-inch woofers held their composure even when we pushed the volume limits well past commercial theater volumes. We listened to a variety of musical genres through each speaker we reviewed, and the 3050 could compete with floor speakers that cost hundreds of dollars more. This is the best tower speaker for music enthusiasts. The silky-smooth sound that emanates from these speakers is coupled with a stylish and smart cabinet design. There are four finish options available: gloss black, gloss white, American walnut and graphite. You should have no problem integrating these speakers into your current home furnishings. The cabinet is supported by a sturdy steel outrigger plinth that has mounts for floor spikes to keep the speakers upright, even on thick carpeting. The rear-ported design sounds best if you give it some room to breathe, but they’re slim enough to seamlessly integrate into small and medium-size entertainment rooms. The 3050 comes with a black mesh speaker grille that attaches to the cabinet magnetically, but we suggest removing it to reveal the Aramid fiber cone woofers and concentric dome tweeter. Keep the grille in place, however, if you have young children or pets that are prone to poking shiny objects.
Pros
  • Detailed and accurate sound
  • Multiple finish options
  • Smart cabinet design
Cons
  • Low power handling
  • No dedicated midrange driver
$699.99Amazon
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Best Value
It’s an amazing feat of engineering that Polk Audio can produce a floor standing speaker of this quality for an astonishingly low price. While they don't have theater-quality sound like the best speakers we reviewed, they are significantly better than many sound bars and bookshelf speakers in this price range.
The sealed enclosure design is lightweight, compact and perfect for small entertainment rooms. If you pair these speakers with an entry-level AV receiver and low-cost subwoofer, you'll have a sound system that outperforms sound bars and smaller home theater speaker packages. The T50 has a pair of 6.5-inch woofers, a 1-inch silk dome tweeter and a dedicated 6.5-inch midrange driver. The tweeter and midrange driver produced surprisingly accurate dialogue and vocals in our tests, but when we tried to push this system past 80 dB to simulate a commercial theater, we noticed signs of distortion. The 90 dB sensitivity rating is average for our test group, but the low frequency drivers had a hard time projecting loud and impactful bass compared to the best speakers we tested. The semi-gloss speaker cabinets hide dust and finger prints well, and the wide base is sturdy and permanently attached. The T50 has five-way binding posts on the back panel that make attaching speaker cables very easy. This pair of floor standing speakers is a great value, and if you upgrade your audio system in the future, they can be re-purposed as surround speakers to add depth and texture to your entertainment room.
Pros
  • Extremely inexpensive
  • Quality cabinet design
  • Dedicated midrange driver
Cons
  • Lacking bass response
  • Distortion at theater-level volumes
  • Only one finish option
$149.95Amazon
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Best for Watching Movies
To test the Emotiva T1’s ability to project theater-quality sound, we played a clip from “Mad Max: Fury Road” for a panel of evaluators, then surveyed them about what they heard.
In our sound tests, these towers produced the best thundering low-frequency sounds during the chase scenes, which is surprising considering they were competing with speakers that have 8-inch woofers and a wider frequency response. The 6-inch woven fiber woofers are complemented nicely by a 5.25-inch midrange driver that pushed dialogue out in front of the loud and rumbling effects in our movie-listening test. Being able to hear dialogue over loud effects is an important trait for floor standing speakers, especially if you don’t have a center channel speaker. These are the only speakers we tested that have a 4 ohm impedance rating. That makes them tricky to pair with entry-level receivers because most receivers that cost less than $500 are compatible only with 6 and 8 ohm speakers. The T1 can handle up to 300 watts of peak power and 150 watts continuous at 4 ohms. Make sure to pair these speakers with the proper amplification to ensure you don’t damage your speakers or the amp.
Pros
  • Affordable
  • Accurate dialogue and vocal reproduction
  • Surprisingly good bass response
Cons
  • Require an amplifier capable of handling 4 ohm impedance
  • Plain-looking design, especially the grille cloth
  • Screws on the binding posts made of plastic
$699.00Emotiva
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Best for Music
The Klipsch R-28F speakers project a natural and clear sound that yielded consistently good results in our music listening tests.
The 98 dB sensitivity rating means they are extremely efficient at converting amplification to sound and can project music and movie content at high volumes without distortion. We had no problem playing music at over 110 dB, which is about as loud as a rock concert, without any signs of distortion. The high sensitivity rating also gives this pair the potential to last longer than others because of their efficient power conversion. These speakers are easily powered by most entry- and mid-level AV receivers due to the 150 watt continuous power rating. The all-black enclosure looks chic and modern, especially when you remove the grille cloth to reveal the striking gold woofers. The matte black finish on the cabinets is also good at hiding dust and fingerprints.
Pros
  • Accurate and natural vocal reproduction
Cons
  • Bulky
Amazon
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Best for Small Rooms
The ELAC Debut F6.2 is a three-way floor standing speaker with two 6.5-inch woofers, a 6.5-inch midrange driver and a 1-inch cloth dome tweeter. The dedicated midrange driver did a great job of projecting clear and concise dialogue and vocals in our movie- and music-listening tests.
Renowned speaker designer Andrew Jones did a great job engineering a good-sounding speaker at a low price point that makes you reconsider purchasing smaller bookshelf speakers or a less powerful sound bar if you have a small entertainment room. The lightweight and compact cabinet design has three ports on the back panel. The matte black finish hides fingerprints and dust and pairs well with your home décor.
Pros
  • Pleasant midrange content
Cons
  • Bass is accurate, but lacking
Amazon
Read the full review


Why Trust Us 

My 15 years of experience as a musician and sound engineer gives me a unique perspective on the need for a speaker to accurately project the source material. But our comparison isn't based on my experience alone. It’s important to make floor standing speaker recommendations based on both my professional impressions and the impressions of a diverse panel of reviewers to ensure the recommendations are helpful for audiophiles and novice listeners alike.

Our AV testing lab is set up like a typical family room. The room was untreated, without any sound-dampening materials on the walls. This setup most closely mirrors a small entertainment room as speakers in this price point aren’t designed for sound-optimized theater rooms.

I spoke to Alex Murno, the Brand Director at Q Acoustics, about the advantages of using floor standing speakers as the primary component of an audio system rather than sound bars and smaller bookshelf-sized speakers. Alex told me the primary advantage is the ability to create a well-defined stereo image in more than one sweet spot. He also pointed out that “floor standing speakers have the benefit that the designer can determine the height of the drivers and generally optimize this for a seated listener.” This is important because bookshelf speakers and sound bars are often placed on home theater furniture, which means the furniture designer determines where the speakers are placed, rather than a speaker designer.

We also talked about the potential pitfalls of mixing and matching brands in an audio system. Murno suggests that subwoofers are the safest component to mix and match because they “play a very narrow band, so low in frequency that the brain can barely tell where the sound is coming from.” If you aren’t happy with low frequency reproduction of the floor standing speakers in your system, feel free to shop different subwoofer manufacturers' offerings. He did caution against mixing brands with the left, center and right channels though, because of “differences in the tonality or dispersion characteristics.”

How We Tested 

We connected an Apple TV and ultra-high-definition Blu-ray player to an AV receiver, then sent the amplified output to a speaker switcher. The switcher allowed us to keep all 10 pairs of speakers connected, even though we still had to move them into position to keep the stereo image consistent. The speaker switcher may have degraded the signal a bit, but the degradation was consistent for each speaker.


Once we had the room set up to quickly switch between speakers, we completed a side-by-side comparison with a panel of reviewers recording their impressions while watching a two-minute clip from the movie “Mad Max: Fury Road.” We then repeated that process with a two-minute music selection that included four different genres of music.

How Much Do Floor Standing Speakers Cost? 

The hub of a passive speaker system is an AV receiver. Start with a receiver that has the features and output selection that fits your room, then select the main attraction – a pair of floor standing speakers that match the amplification rating of your receiver. We focused our comparison on speakers that cost less than $1,000 per pair because that’s a good entry price point for casual home audio enthusiasts. You can spend well over $10,000 for a pair of towers, but keep in mind that your room’s acoustic characteristics and amplification components need to be equally cost prohibitive and complimentary.

Important Specs to Consider When Buying Floor Standing Speakers 

Frequency Response
This is the range of tones a speaker can play, from the highest high to the lowest low. A typical frequency response for floor standing speakers in this price range is 40Hz on the low end to 20kHz in the treble range. A speaker with a lower frequency floor may not need to be paired with a subwoofer, especially if you have a small or medium-size entertainment room.


Sensitivity
Sensitivity is how efficiently a speaker converts amplification to sound. It is measured by placing a microphone 1 meter from the speaker and measuring how much volume the speaker produces when supplied with 1 watt of amplification. Speakers that have a high sensitivity rating are capable of higher volumes before distortion and are more durable. A rating of 90 dB or more is best.



Impedance
Impedance is an important factor when you pair your floor standing speakers with an AV receiver or amplifier. It is best defined as the speaker’s resistance to power. All the speakers we reviewed are rated at either 4, 6 or 8 ohms. You can safely power a 6 ohm or 8 ohm speaker with just about any AV receiver on the market, but a 4 ohm speaker requires a more specialized AV receiver or amplifier. Speakers with a 6 ohm impedance have less resistance to power than those rated at 8 ohm. As such, the power output per channel needs to be greater if you choose a 6 ohm tower speaker.