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Buying Guides in Home Speakers

When we're buying a set of speakers for our home, it is important to know that we are making the right decision, we should be absolutely sure that what we're buying is value for money and will provide years of aural satisfaction.

Step One

We should look at is what kind of speakers we want, and there are several - right from the towering floor standing designs to book shelf speakers and the massively powered outdoor options and of course we can't forget the home theatre systems. Think carefully about how and where we're going to use these speakers. However if we're looking at something for our home there are 3 standard speaker sets we should consider:
  • 5.1 - Buy these if we have no space constraints (five speakers + subwoofer). A nice big flat screen coupled with a good 5.1 system will give us a great movie-viewing experience, as the system will give us a just a slightly scaled down experience of surround sound in a theatre.

  • 2.1 - This option (2 speakers + subwoofer) will definitely take up a lot less space than even a Sound bar, or a full blown 5.1 home theatre audio system.

  • Sound bar - If we have very little room for speakers, or don't want to worry about wall mounting etc. a sound bar would be the ideal choice. It's just a single horizontal unit that comes with a subwoofer. An added advantage of the sound bar is that it usually comes with a built in DVD or Blu-Ray player and USB support as well.

Step Two

Decide whether we want active or passive speakers. The difference between the two is that we will need external power from an amplifier to use passive speakers, whereas active speakers are self-powered and run without an amplifier. For an all in one package, active speakers are the way to go, as we can eliminate the extra cost of an amplifier. When it comes to matching amps and passive speakers however, there are limitless possibilities. Make sure that the amp and speakers have matching power ratings as failing to notice this could prove to be catastrophic for our precious hardware. Even if we don't blow up our system, the sound quality will definitely suffer. For example, if we drive a set of 100 watt speakers with a 20 watt amp, the output is bound to be weak. On the other hand, if we switch those values, we will almost certainly damage the speakers if we raise the volume.

A common misconception that a lot of people have is that more power (higher wattage) is better. This indeed is not true. We can have a seriously powerful music system that sounds quite terrible. What matters most is a mix of clarity and power, so we should make sure that the frequency range is optimal. Look for ratings to the effect of - 20 to 20,000 Hz, that's the human ear's hearing range. Anything around these figures is good. We should not fall for fancy jargon like 1000 watts PMPO. PMPO is just a unit created by retailers to entice customers, as the figures indicated are a lot higher than the actual value. And this actual value is measured in RMS, which shows the actual output of the music system. Look for this information depending on where we want to place our speakers. For our bedroom, even 20 watts RMS will be more than enough, but for our home theatre system, we will definitely need something more powerful. Although, there's no real limit to how powerful our speakers get, but ideally 100 watts RMS is good enough for an average sized home.

Last Step

We should make sure that our speakers are placed in good enclosures i.e. speaker boxes. We might have the best components, but if the materials used to enclose the speakers are bad, it can create a problem. Most speaker enclosures are made of wood, although a lot of modern day manufacturers prefer to use MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard). The latter is a lot better, as it is tougher and will last longer. If our speaker enclosures are not good and solid enough, it could lead to complications such as excess vibrations and overheating.

There are plenty of other methods we can use to get better sound from our speakers, right from changing our amplifier to actually redoing the acoustics of our room. When we hear a good set of speakers, we will know it but we should not forget to keep the look and feel of our home in mind while buying the speakers.