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How to Shop for Speaker Stands - A Buying Guide

by July 13, 2015
Argosy Classic Speaker Stands

Argosy Classic Speaker Stands

Just like with any component in your AV system, deciding what speaker stands to purchase should be carefully researched. The weight rating, construction materials, top plate construction, base and feat, height, and cable management capabilities should all be considered. Ignoring these aspects may affect more than just aesthetics – often the primary concern when shopping for stands – it could result in a busted speaker or other equipment when the speaker tumbles off the stand or the stand falls over. Read on to learn what we feel are the top six considerations when shopping for speaker stands.

Weight Rating

The most basic consideration when shopping for speaker stands is the weight rating. Are the stands rated to handle the weight of your speakers? If not, that means the stands will likely be unstable when your speakers are placed on top. However, just because a manufacturer rates a pair of stands for the weight of your speakers, that doesn’t mean they will be as stable as you want.  If you have kids or pets, you need to think about more than just weight rating. Other factors, such as the weight and height of the stand, and the size of the bottom plate, will give you a more complete picture of the stand’s stability.

Top Plate

Top plates tend to vary in three ways. First, they may have rubber feet or speaker studs that your speakers set on. Rubber feet are most common and what the vast majority of people should use. The rubber provides a solid grip on the speakers and protects them from any damage. Speaker studs, on the other hand, can damage the bottom of your speakers and don’t grip as well; however, they do look cool and some people believe they will improve sound quality by reducing vibrations – that claim is questionable.  Personally, we'd rather not risk scratching a cabinet finish for alleged better vibration isolation of metal spikes over rubber feet.  If you're that concerned about reducing vibrations, either buy a stand that has solid posts or fill the hallow one with sand to make it more inert.

Sanus SF26 Steel Foundations Speaker Stands top plate

Sanus SF26 Top Plate with brass studs installed

Second, the top plate may have a hole through the middle that can be used to bolt the speaker to the stand. I’ve never seen a bookshelf speaker with a threaded insert at the bottom for such a purpose, but one could be added without too much difficulty if you’re an avid DIYer. Alternatively, a small wood screw into the bottom of a speaker wouldn’t cause any real damage as long as the hole is pre-drilled (I supposed here is where I should include a disclaimer that we don’t recommend drilling holes through your speakers... We don't recommend drilling holes in your speakers). Finally, the size of the top plate will dramatically affect the stability of the speaker on the stand. Before purchasing stands, check the size of the top plate and compare it to the size of your speakers to ensure there’s good coverage.

Construction material

Speaker stands are generally made of two materials, wood or steel. Both have their own merits. Wood stands tend to be less expensive as long as they use MDF with some sort of wrap; however, these stands don’t hold up well over time as the wrap is often times easily damaged. Solid wood stands are more durable, but are also much more expensive and hard to come by.

Status Acoustics Voce Fina Speakers and speaker stands

If money isn’t a concern, Status Acoustics makes $3k custom granite and steel stands to go with their $12k Voce Fina bookshelf speakers.

It’s probably fair to say that most stands on the market are constructed of steel. Usually steel stands utilize a hollow main support, which means they can be filled with sand. Filling speaker stands with sand, or some other material, is a common practice to improve stability and even sound quality. Additionally, steel stands tend to hold up better than wood because, well, they’re steel.

Cable management

Speaker wire can either be hidden or exposed; those are your two options. Both wooden and steel stands can offer hidden cable channels, but you need to pay careful attention to what size of cable can fit through the channels. This is especially important with small steel stands, like the Sanus HF1. We’ve encountered stands where the largest gauge wire we could get through the channel was 18 gauge – that’s pretty small.  

Height

It’s important that the tweeters on the front left/right and center speakers in your system are at ear level. Thus, the height of your speaker stands is dependent on the design of your speakers and the height of your seating. Some speaker stands offer height adjustments, but that’s rarely found in anything but the lightest weight stands. 26 inches is a pretty standard speaker stand height for people with medium to large speakers and non-tiered seating though you may need slightly taller ones if your speakers are really small.

Base & Feet

Obviously, the wider and heavier the base, the more stable the stands will be. The base on the Sanus SF26 Speaker Stands is 11”x14”, and they were quite stable during my review of the nearly 30lb Polk Audio LSiM703s. I’m not sure how heavy the base is, but the entire stand weighs about 16lbs. You will be hard pressed to find stands with a base much larger than 11"x14".

Omnimount Gemini Speaker Stands

The OmiMount Gemini 2 stands feature interchangable base inserts

Stands usually come with two options for feet, rubber pads or spikes. Rubber pads should be use on solid floors, while spikes should be used on carpet. The spikes punch through the carpet and pad to secure speaker directly to the subfloor underneath. If you are particularly concerned about stability, try to find stands that work with 3rd party outriggers, such as those from Soundocity.

Conclusion

Think about these six topics before buying new speaker stands, and you should be able to avoid buyers remorse, or worse yet, damaged speakers. Spending a little extra money now on a pair of stands can not only ensure you maximize the performance of your speakers, but also their stability to minimize risk of accidental damage.  It's also worth mentioning a really nice stand can spruce up the looks of your speakers too.  Do you have any other suggestions? Share them by commenting in the Audioholics Forums.

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About the author:

Cliff, like many of us, has always loved home theater equipment. In high school he landed a job at Best Buy that started his path towards actual high quality audio. His first surround sound was a Klipsch 5.1 system. After that he was hooked, moving from Klipsch to Polk to Definitive Technology, and so on. Eventually, Cliff ended up doing custom installation work for Best Buy and then for a "Ma & Pa" shop in Mankato, MN.

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Recent Forum Posts:

Alexandre posts on July 15, 2015 13:58
Nice write up, thanks Cliff.

I've bought (and sold) speaker stands twice over the years and both times have found it difficult to find short (~24") stands that I found pleasing to the eye. My speakers are now sitting on top of rubber feet on a piece of furniture, quite low to the ground but the couch is really low to it works out to ear level.

The last set of stands I bought were B&W STAV24 which worked out great for me: super simple design, heavy steel construction and they can be filled even though I never found the need for it.

One thing that's always bothered me with bookshelf speakers on stands is that it always seems like they're way too easy to tip over. I have not tried rubber feet which might alleviate most of the problem but I have found stick tack to be a miracle worker: put a little tiny ball of sticky tack near each corner of the top plate, position the speakers and press lightly, the weight of the speakers will do the rest and they will be very firmly attached to the stand. Sticky tack also does not leave marks on the speakers (or at least it hasn't yet).

Cheers!
Alex.
gene posts on July 13, 2015 16:41
Weight rating, construction materials, top plate construction, base and feat, height, and cable management capabilities should all be considered when shopping for speaker stands. Ignoring these aspects may affect more than just aesthetics, it could result in compromised performance or worse a busted speaker and other equipment if a speaker tumbles off the stand.

Read on to learn why the six topics listed above should be considered when buying speaker stands.



Read: Speaker Stand Shopping Guide
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