Stereo and Surround Sound Speakers
for Home Audio Systems
In this article we will discuss stereo and surround sound speakers, and give an overview of the role that they play in home audio systems.
In the introduction to surround sound systems, we said there were two main components that you needed to improve the sound in your room - an amplifier and some speakers.
If you want to find out more about amplifiers, then go to the page about the stereo receiver and amplifier for information on 2-channel systems, or the article about the surround sound receiver if you are interested in multichannel sound.
Regarding home theater speakers, there are a number of issues that need to be addressed. In many cases it may be the budget you have - or the size or shape of your room - which will determine which speaker setup is best for you.
The following areas summarise the important things to think about when you are buying home theater speaker systems. Follow the links in each section for more information.
The Role of Your Speakers
Yamaha NS B310
Let's get the basics straight first.
Before we think about how to hook up surround sound speakers, let's have a look at the speakers you will get in your system and think about what they do.
If we understand what each speaker is doing in a surround sound system, then it can make it easier to choose the right speaker system for your home.
So, in the first article, we look at the speakers that you get in home theatre surround sound systems - and discuss what they do.
Speaker Location and Layout
Now we have the basics straight, we can think about the right speaker configuration for the room that we will be using - and if we want surround sound or are happy with a stereo setup.
Klipsch HD Theater 300
Home Theater Speaker System
Even though it may be natural to think that we have to have a surround sound system as part of our home theater setup (and I would certainly recommend surround sound speakers if it works for your budget and for your room), it may be that a good stereo system will still give you a fantastic sound that is perfect for you.
You'll need to consider all the speaker configurations available to you - 2.0, 2.1, 3.1, 5.1, 7.1 or 7.2 - and choose which is the best fit.
Speaker location and layouts are an important part of setting up surround sound systems - follow the link for more information.
Speaker Types and Sizes
Next, we need to think about the type of speaker that will fit into the room - and into the configuration that you decide that you want.
Mission M60i Bookshelf Speakers
You will have to make a choice between different speaker types based on your budget and your room size.
Soundbar, satellite, bookshelf, floor standing, in-ceiling, in-wall - there are a range of speaker options available to you.
There is a wide choice available on the market - and some will suit you better than others.
Discover which speaker types and sizes to choose when you are looking for the best home theatre speakers for your room.
Speaker Power Rating, Sensitivity and Impedance Matching
It's easy to lose interest when people start talking about the technical stuff.
However, it's not as complicated as it might seem, and it is useful to understand the basics of speaker specifications so you know what you are buying.
Kef KHT 1005.2
Home Theatre Speakers
There are three main areas that concern us when we start getting all technical about surround sound speakers - impedance, power ratings and sensitivity.
One of the most important issues is speaker impedance matching. If your amplifier doesn't support the impedance of your speakers, then you might be heading for a problem.
Speaker power rating and speaker sensitivity are also important specifications to be aware of.
While not as crucial as impedance, it is useful to have an understanding about these terms when you are looking at possible speakers to buy - it can make the difference between buying the right speakers and the wrong ones for your system.
Paradigm Studio 60
Home Theater Speaker Package or Separates?
This is a common issue for most people, and one that needs some thought.
Do you want to buy a speaker package for your system, or would you rather build your speaker system piece by piece?
There are some good reasons to go either way, so we need to think about this before buying our speakers.
Go here for more information on choosing between a home theater speaker package or speaker separates.
Matching Amps and Speakers
It is a question many people struggle with when they are buying amplifiers and speakers - how do I match my amplifier and speakers?
We hear stories of people blowing their new speakers as soon as they are connected to their amplifier - and we don't want to be doing that do we?
The easiest way is to buy the amplifier and speakers as part of a complete package. If you buy a home theater in a box system, then the amplifier and speakers will complement each other without you having to worry about this.
Infinity Primus Theater PackII
Home Theater Speaker System
However, if you want to buy you amplifier and speakers separately to get the best quality for your money, then it is something to be aware of.
The good news is, it's not as big an issue as you might believe, but it is useful to think about this before you start buying your equipment.
Follow the link for more information about matching amps and speakers.
Home Theater Speaker Placement
Once you have chosen your speakers for your room, there are a few things to think about when you are installing them.
Polk Audio LSiC Center Speaker
Most rooms don't allow for the optimum speaker position, but you can still get a good sound if you give this area some thought.
If you think about this when you install your speakers then you will get the best sound possible from your equipment.
There are three guides about speaker placement:
1. Home Theater Speaker Placement: General Guidelines
2. Surround Sound Speaker Placement: Center and Front Speakers
3. Surround Speaker Placement: Surrounds, Rears and the Subwoofer
Who Makes the Best Speakers?
Once you have decided which type of speaker is best for you, then you can think about the best speaker brand.
As already discussed, you can buy speakers separately or in a package, but whichever way you go there are a number of excellent speaker manufacturers who provide a good quality product at a range of prices.
The good news is, there are plenty of manufacturers making high quality speakers to suit a range of price levels.
The bad news is, you can only choose one!
If you are looking for speakers by specialised manufacturers at the higher-end, either as separates or in a package, then some good manufacturers to look at are:
- Acoustic Energy
- Boston Acoustics
- MK Sound
- Monitor Audio
- Polk Audio
- Q Acoustics
Some of these speaker manufacturers only supply to certain parts of the world, but most of them are global companies. This is by no means an exhaustive list of quality speaker manufacturers, but useful as a guide if you don't know where to start.
If you are looking at a slightly lower price point (and which are more likely to come as part of a package), then you can still find good quality speakers by:
Buying Guide - What To Look For
The main things to look (listen!) for when buying speakers are:
- What do they sound like!
- Which type of sound is most important to you - music, movies or both? Some speakers are better at one or the other.
- Which speaker configuration do you want? 2.0, 5.1, 7.1?
- Are they compatible with your amplifier?
- Will they fit into your room? This means size and looks!
Surround Sound Speakers Summary
There are plenty of things to think about if you are looking to buy some speakers.
However, many of these things don't actually cost you any money - but a bit of thought can make sure you buy the right surround sound speakers and get them sounding the best they can.
Another thing to consider is all the applications you may use the speakers for. Movies, hi-fi, video games, video conferencing equipment, personal computer - there are a whole range of things you might use your speakers for. You should think about this before you buy as this can make a difference.
The more you understand about the issues related to home theater speakers then the easier it will be for you to choose the right setup for you - and ensure that you don't waste your money on equipment that isn't right for you.
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