The standmount (or bookshelf) speaker has long been a staple of audiophile systems. Although the bigger floorstander is often viewed as a mandatory requirement for full-range high-end installations, in many cases a well-judged two-way or three-way loudspeaker on the right stand can often sound more 'integrated' than a large, multi-way floorstanding loudspeaker.
In many modern listening spaces, the high-performance standmount loudspeaker also benefits from not being large floorstanders. With ever smaller buildings at ever-increasing prices, a large tower loudspeaker can be both physically intimidating and prone to overdriving the room itself. Smaller loudspeakers are increasingly at or approaching full-range replay, but tend not to have the same 'earth-moving' bass of an equivalent floorstander, and this has its advantages in the big city.
There are, however, two intellectual obstacles to get past with standmounts. The first is the notion of a price ceiling, beyond which floorstanders beckon. This doesn't hold today – someone who wants good music in a modern home might never consider a floorstander, despite having a very healthy budget set aside for their loudspeakers. Second is that term 'bookshelf' – very few of the loudspeakers tested in this issue would fit on a bookshelf: some demand free-space installation, while others are heavy enough that they would rip down any bookshelf you can think of, unless it was made out of cast iron or concrete!
I've used standmount and floorstanding loudspeakers for decades. As with most listeners, my first loudspeakers were standmounts. I moved to floorstanders and back again several times, and am currently using standmounts (Raidho and Wilson) predominantly as reference points. I'm not alone in this, although braggadocio in the audio industry prevents some from admitting such things.
I think it's time to end the notion that big audio comes with bragging rights. While I wouldn't want to see the inverse of this (where big systems were criticised as dinosaurs), good audio doesn't need to come in large portions. Small really can be beautiful.
Our congratulations go out to all the winners of our latest competition, in association with AudioQuest. Jørn Normand in Norway, Juan Dominguez in Spain, and Michael Coupar, Kevin Hubbard and Liz Woolley in the UK will each receive a pair of the excellent and innovative AudioQuest Nighthawk headphones worth £499.