Ask the Editors: What Tower Speakers Do You Recommend?

tower speakers

Q: I have up to $2000 to spend on a pair of tower speakers for my home theater. I’m pretty confused about what I should get. I have a Denon AVR-X1000 AV receiver with a Definitive Technology CS8040HD center-channel speaker, Polk surrounds, and a Velodyne 10″ 250W subwoofer. My focus is on movies.

– John Joyce (Airunh23)

A: I normally recommend using the same make and model line for the front LCR speakers so the tonal profiles match. This is especially important when something moves across the screen. As the object moves, say, from the left side of the screen to the right, the sound it makes should remain consistent from the left speaker to the center speaker to the right speaker. If the tonal profiles of the front speakers do not match, the timbre can change as the object moves, which sounds quite unnatural and can take you out of the movie.

If you’re going to keep the CS8040HD in the system, the obvious choice for front LR towers is the Definitive Technology BP8040ST. However, this older model has been supplanted by the BP9040, which should work fine with the CS8040HD as well. The BP8040ST is still available on Amazon and elsewhere, and it’s less expensive than the current BP9040, which lists for $899 each. That’s still within your budget, so I think either way is fine.

If you decide to get the BP9040 or BP8040ST, the next question is how to set them up with your AV receiver. Both models have integrated, powered subwoofers that can be connected directly to the AVR’s subwoofer output. (The AVR-X1000 has only one sub out, so you would need to use a “Y” splitter to feed both.) However, you already have a sub that I presume is connected to the AVR’s sub out. So, you would simply connect the front LR speaker outputs to the main inputs on the speakers. The integrated subs will still play frequencies below the speakers’ internal crossover point.

Next, you need to decide whether to designate the front LR speakers as “Large” or “Small” in the AVR. Designating them as “Large” means that the low frequencies in the front left and right channels are sent to the speakers, while “Small” means that the low frequencies in those channels are diverted to the subwoofer output. Of course, if you run the Audyssey room-compensation algorithm in the AVR, that setting is made automatically. I can’t say for sure, but I suspect that Audyssey would identify those speakers as “Large,” since they have built-in subs and can go pretty low.

Is that really the best setting? I would try it both ways. Designate the towers as “Large” and listen to something familiar, then designate them as “Small” and listen to the same content. Which do you prefer?

Another important consideration is placement. The BP8040ST and BP9040 have active drivers and a tuning vent in the rear, so it’s not a good idea to place them up against the front wall. Also, the built-in subs fire to the sides, so it’s not a good idea to place them right next to a wall or other solid surface. (Even if you designate the speakers as “Small,” the subs might well be active at the top of their frequency range.) Ideally, they should be placed somewhat out in the room with nothing blocking the rear drivers and vent or the side-firing subs.

What do other AVS Forum members think about John’s question? Leave a comment and share your experience!

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