Speakers- big better than little

I remembered today whilst thinking on speakers that I came across an article in a hifi magazine, many years ago, the comment that for the same money “a good big speaker would always be better than a good little speaker”. So here we have I guess is the question - are floor standing speakers better than stand mounted speakers at particular price points.
What do contributors think as I haven’t a clue.

Each has their own merits. Small speakers like the Proac Tablette 10 I use now perform better in some aspects than the S400 Ovator I had before. The room plays such an important role.

For the same money, more will be spent on drivers than cabinetry on a small speaker. I find they ‘disappear’ more easily too.


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As a basic principle, with identical components etc., a larger speaker is made from more material and has a larger external finished area, and will weigh more and take up more shipping and storage space. As a consequence the larger speaker will be more expensive - therefore it follows that at the same price the smaller speaker is likely to be of better quality because to be the same price something will have to be skimped in the larger speaker.

From a different angle, the basics of physics dictates that all else being equal, a larger speaker can achieve deeper bass than a smaller speaker, so from that point of view, a larger speaker is better.

And from another angle, whilst mid and high frequencies are easy to reproduce at high quality, the lower the frequency a speaker tries to reproduce the greater the hurdles to doing so while maintaining accuracy (e.g. fast attack and no overhang), greater design hurdles translate to greater cost.

Putting these all together, if you want full range bass (and a surprising number of people don’t seem to, even rejecting it as too much when they hear it), then big expensive speakers are necessary. If you don’t want low bass, then smaller cheaper speakers can give the same sound quality over the range that they can reproduce uncurtailed.

A variation of this is splitting off the low bass to a subwoofer, which if coming in low enough is omnidirectional so neither a stereo pair, nor such prominent positioning are needed However the main speakers still need to reproduce upper bass accurately, though that is relatively easy, while the sub must be one capable of behaving as well as one would want of main speakers at the low bass end, and care is needed with with setup, including crossover point, positioning and phase accuracy. But a sub it is still adding speaker volume in the room, and cost, akin to having larger speakers, albeit that a single sub is normally adequate.

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In the case of speakers, size does matter.
Imo, the largest speaker which your room can accommodate both sonically and esthetically usually yields the most satisfying results.

Hey Charles, what is your system and size room?
There is no absolute response to your question and i don’t really agree with hifi magazine, specially if the room is less than 12/15 m2.
In that case, stand mount speakers may better suit .

If a speaker is large, with more and/or bigger drivers, and a larger frequency range, it is going to need better amplification. So perhaps a good big speaker with an inadequate amp (and source) might sound worse than a good small speaker that the lesser amp is better able to control.
Of course, there are other factors that make a speaker more or less easy for an amp to control, but all else being equal, the size will, I think, be a significant factor.

There are functional limits imposed by size and driver types used. So in a regular living room scenario, to me large speakers have a sort of solidity to the sound smaller ones never manage to pull off. And to me that can be more important than absolute precision that comes from some smaller speakers.

But the crux of the issue is really use case. Near field (desktop, tiny room) doesn’t really lend itself well to large speakers (unless elecrostatics) because near field can lead to awareness of what frequency ranges come from which drive unit.

It also depends on the amp. Often more compact speakers (including compact floor standers) need decent current to drive. But larger speakers often have higher efficiency which is useful if you have a 25w valve amp. This is why you often see very large speakers with large shallow throw bass units paired with valve amps.

So it really depends where you are using them, your relative listening position, and the amps used.

My Kudos 808’s have an efficiency of 91 db with a very benign loading of 8 ohms- a SN will drive them with ease…
Many small speakers have a much more demanding impedance curve and lower sensitivity, just to drive a 4.5 or 6 inch woofer.
Its all in the design of the speaker imo. Passive designs with larger drivers will move more air. Things change a bit with an active speaker design with built in amp but generally speaking I prefer how a larger speaker sounds. Of course it has to integrate into your room but small speakers have similar problems as well.

Sensitivity is unrelated to how easy a load a speaker is, other than that with a lower sensitivity speaker more power is needec for the same spond level.

Also, I’m not sure I understand your statement: “Passive designs with larger drivers will move more air”. The amount of air a driver moves is nothing to do with whether actively or passively driven. As for moving air, it is a combination of cone diameter and distance moved, and that with interrelationships of factors such as cone weight affect how ‘fast the speaker is. But without going into that, it is easier to make larger drivers response extend to lower frequencies than smaller ones, and larger ones potentially can indeed be made to move more air and so be capable of being driven to higher sound levels (depending on their design).

Big speakers that are floorstanders always connect to a room boundary (the floor) which affect their balance in the real world.

Bigger speakers have larger mass. I’ve always found floorstanders a bit boring in the long run. My favourites during the years have been speakers like Linn Kan/Sara and Epos ES-11. And the SBL which is a floorstander but it is an exception and really a hybrid in this area due to its construction. My longest run was LP12, 32.5, HC, 250 with LS3/5a.

I have owned some big speakers like IMF transmission lines, JBL L100, not to speak of the big Klipsch horns, all impressive but I never got along with them.

It is simply your preference. A bigger speaker can play louder and go deeper in bass. A floorstander may look nicer without those fugly stands. And speaker rare just speakers - other parts of a system is more important.

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Not everyone subscribes to this view. More than any other component peakers affect the character of the sound you hear - which is precisely you prefer the more coloured and bass limited sound of, say, Linn Kans to the more neutral and extended bass sound of IMF Reference, and other people the other way round. In my view getting the speakers that sound right to the individual is the most important part of system building, though the amp has to be good enough to control the speakers at least adequately, and of course the source will affect the quality of the sound one hears through them.

But indeed, this illustrates that the answer to “which is better?” Depends on the listener, and how they want the music to sound played through them.

Most pundits will agree that it’s more about quality than quantity.
Although there is better and more better. Big and more Bigger. For most of us who don’t want huge monsters, they are usually more efficient than standmounts. You don’t always need a lot of watts to drive a large speaker - whereas you often will with standmounts. But you will always need quality of watts to have success with either.

there can be something quite satisfying about getting a good big sound out of a small speaker if you can manage it

Room size a big factor- in my previous home my listening room was 12 ft x14 ft-I used Linn Sara’s driven by a 250. Sounded fantastic with powerful bass.
In my current house my listening room is 30 ft x20 ft with 16 ft cathedral ceiling. My Sara’s even driven by 135s struggled to fill the room. Now I have Kudos Titans T88s which are fantastic and easily drive this very large room.
So room size is big factor in speaker choice - large vs small


Reference GraemeH - I also use Proac Tablette 10 but with an Xs2.
There are some interesting and varied comments to my question. In the end in a smaller room I find stand mounted speakers better. The only floor standing speaker that worked in my room, 19ft by 9ft, listening across it were Neat Motive XS2. The best stand mounted where ATC SCM11 but they had to be discounted on colour or finish grounds and after more listening I settled on the Tablettes.
When I had a much larger room I had floor standing speakers, the best pre a house move where Spendor S5e which just did not work in a smaller room with Naim amplification, but then nor did PMC GB1i.
My only criticism of the Tablettes is that they don’t quite have the depth of sound of a floor standing speaker for me, perhaps I should pursue the idea of a sub woofer.
Thanks to all for the views expressed.

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It’s possible a FCXS may help you get more from them instead. Or you could do both.

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A 250DR & 555PS on the 272 brings more out of the Tablette 10 than seems feasible for their size.



There is a significant amount of low frequency informations missing in small speakers and this somewhat alter the tonality of male vocals and musical instruments.

However, the ear easily get accustomed to that and when listening to high quality small speakers they just seem to disappear and leave you with the illusion of a real performance taking place in your own space.

Some very expensive large loudspeakers can also do this trick but they usually need a lot of room and powerful electronics. This is probably why many people who have tried small and large speakers do make a compromise and use medium size speakers. :wink:

Thing is, after a few years we often regret having sold a pair of LS3/5As or ProAc Tablettes, etc etc…


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