Floorstanding (or "tower") speakers have been typically reserved for serious audio and home theater enthusiasts. Compared to bookshelf speakers, they're more expensive and take up more space, but they also deliver bigger and fuller sound.
The thing is, while bookshelf-sized speakers have become more and more versatile over the last several-odd years, with manufacturers have integrated them with amps, preamps and a host of wireless connectivities for streaming, floorstanding speakers have largely been left behind. Most are still passive, dependent on an external receiver or amplifier for power and playback.
But that seems to be slowly starting to change.
Take Fluance's new Ai81 Floorstanding Speakers ($500), for example. Each speaker stands a little over three-feet and is essentially higher-end versions of the company's powered Ai61 bookshelf-sized music system. The Ai81 is a powered speaker system with an integrated 150-watt amp, DAC and several wired and wireless connectivity options. You can stream music right to the speakers via Bluetooth — no receiver required. You can connect an integrated turntable (has to have a built-in preamp) directly to the speakers via its analog inputs. And it has an optical connection so you can connect the speakers directly to your TV.
Fluance is a company known for affordable hi-fi. And the Ai81 floorstanding speakers definitely fall into that realm. At $500, they are very affordable for a set of floorstanding speakers with these capabilities — but they also have some key tradeoffs.
The Ai81 floorstanding speakers are made of up one active and one passive speaker, so you're not going to get quite the same sound quality as if each speaker was individually amplified (like the KEF LSX II or Bowers & Wilkins Formation Duo). They don't support any Wi-Fi connectivity, so you can't group them with an existing multi-room system. And they don't have an HDMI eARC connection — there's only optical — meaning they're not probably going to be good-not-great TV speakers (as they won't support many immersive sound technologies like Dolby Atmos).
If you're interested in a significantly more capable and expensive option, check out KEF's recently released LS60 Wireless. They are the company's first floorstanding active speaker speakers that support Wi-Fi streaming and multiple analog connection options. They catch? A pair costs $7,000.
The Fluance Ai81 Floorstanding Speakers are available now. You can buy them in four different finishes: black ash, white walnut, natural walnut, and lucky bamboo.