The Ultimate Differences between Satellite Speakers and Bookshelf Speakers

Bookshelf and satellite speakers are among the most common choices of speakers for a home audio system. Each speaker type shines in a specific sound reproduction aspect. Are you building a customized home stereo? Knowing the differences between these two home speaker types helps you to select the speakers that work best for your audio set-up.

What is a satellite speaker?

Satellite speakers are any speakers that you place on the side or behind the listening area. They belong to the small speaker category. Satellites are reputed with redefining the performance of the audio system with incredible refinement. Although these speakers generally need to be used with a separate woofer/subwoofer, this does not imply that they give low-quality sound.

In your research, you might have come across different types of satellite speaker systems, such as the “2.1” and the “5.1” types.

A 2.1 satellite speaker configuration means that there are two satellites using one sub. This type is suitable for playing stereo audio. Correspondingly, the 5.1 type comprises of five satellite speakers using one subwoofer. The 5.1 satellite speaker system does well in enhancing audio tracking, so it is more suitable for playing multi-channel tracks.

Are satellite speakers wireless?

You desire to have a cool theater system and think that wireless speakers are the kind of cool you like. One question that fans of home theater systems ask frequently is whether satellites are all wireless. Our most accurate answer to this important question is that satellites can look as if they are wireless but they are wired. You can link satellite speakers to a wireless sub and put them wherever you want in your room. Therefore, using satellites means an opportunity to use fewer wires.

What is a bookshelf speaker?

Bookshelf speakers are among the big boys in a home audio system. As the name suggests, they rest on elevated surfaces, including shelves and tables. Anywhere but the floor is suitable for a bookshelf speaker.

These speakers maximize sound in small and mid-sized spaces. If you live in a small apartment that doesn’t leave plenty of space for the living room, bookshelf speakers are the best option compared to other home audio speakers.

Music fans with large living spaces also love bookshelf speakers. The fact that these speakers are full range rests well with a wide variety of users. The speakers have the potential to present a larger and more harmonized soundstage compared to satellites.

We have summarized the main differences between these two speaker types below.

Size: Size is the most prominent aspect that distinguishes satellite and bookshelf speakers. Satellites are considerably smaller in size; you can find satellite speakers as small as 6 inches or less.

Frequency range: Satellite speakers focus on mid-bass and mid-range frequencies. The designers of satellites know that a separate bass driver will be required to augment the speaker. Therefore, the designers relieve satellites of the task of producing frequencies below 100Hz. Satellite speakers concentrate on higher frequencies, allowing the entire system to achieve lower sound distortion.

Bookshelf speakers handle a broader range of frequencies. Being full range, these speakers come in enclosures that contain both high- and low-frequency drivers. Thus, the speakers do not need additional woofers or subwoofers to deliver high-quality sound. Most bookshelf speakers produce frequencies between 50Hz and 20kHz.

Placement: Satellites are small and lightweight; you can wall-mount them or place them wherever you wish. Bookshelf speakers sit on furniture (if there are any in the room) or on speaker stands if the room doesn’t have any tables or other elevated pieces of furniture.

Musical capabilities: Satellite speakers excel in producing surround sound effects, an ability that makes them more suitable for movies than bookshelf speakers. On the other hand, bookshelf speakers are better for music purposes, mainly due to their more extensive acoustic range.

So, why would you choose satellite speakers over bookshelf speakers?
  • Satellites are easy to integrate to any audio system.
  • There are smaller/more compact, so you can install them easily on the wall or even in the ceiling.
  • Satellites are generally cheaper than bookshelf speakers.
  • The speakers fit in any interior and look natural with a wide range of audio systems.
And why choose bookshelf speakers over satellites?
  • Bookshelf home speakers provide a more meaningful upgrade for a home theater system. You can use them as surround, front and height sound drivers.
  • The built-in subwoofer in bookshelf speaker systems takes charge of the lows. It allows the main speakers to handle mids and highs exclusively, thus creating a naturally optimized system.
  • If you want a 2-way, single crossover design with a woofer and tweeter, bookshelf speakers are a better option compared to satellites.
  • While satellites are built as a complement of other bigger speakers in a home sound system, bookshelf speakers can make up a complete system on their own. You can achieve louder sound volume with bookshelf speakers than with satellites.

With the above differences in mind, it’s easy to see that the choice between these two speaker types depends on several critical factors. The size of your room comes in among the top considerations. If there is no space in your room for bigger speaker types, such as tower speakers, but you have a piece of furniture, bookshelf speakers are the obvious choice. You can have them sit on the furniture piece at ear level. If space limits make the use of bookshelf speakers impossible, satellites are the next good option.

Another thing to consider is the presence or absence of other speaker types in your home audio system. If you already have woofers and subwoofers installed, satellite speakers will add some remarkable refinement in the overall sound. If you don't have a dedicated subwoofer, you’d better go for bookshelf speakers as opposed to satellites as bookshelf speakers come with their own sub. 

David M Foster
 

David M Foster is an award-winning sound engineer with over 13 years in the sound industry. He now works as a freelance sound engineer. He uses his insider knowledge and vast experience of the industry to shed more light on sound systems. He is a family man and the head content at Speakerchampion. Learn more about us.

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