Do you want to buy a home theater speaker package, or speaker separates?
This is one of the decisions you need to make when you are looking to buy some new speakers for your home theater system.
There are a number of reasons why you may prefer to go one way or the other, so let's look at why you may want speaker separates or a full speaker system.
In the following discussion we will assume we are looking to put together a 5.1 surround sound system - but the points raised are valid for all types of speaker configurations.
For more information on the different speaker configurations, go to the article on setting up surround sound.
Buying a speaker package has many advantages.
Firstly, you will ensure that your speaker system will have a consistent sound all around the room.
All makes of speakers will sound slightly different to each other. They will have contrasting tones and will reproduce high and low frequencies differently.
Therefore, in a surround sound system where the soundtrack is spread around the speakers in the room, it is beneficial to have speakers with a similar sound working together.
If not, you may be distracted by the sound changing slightly as a sound effect or dialogue is panned between speakers.
For instance, the sound of someone speaking may start in the center speaker, but then move to the front right speaker as the camera angle changes.
If your center and front left/right speakers sound slightly different to each other, then it may sound strange when the same voice switches to another speaker.
The consistency of a speaker package is also important when you think of other variables in speaker design.
When choosing speakers there are a number of technical things to consider such as speaker power rating, speaker impedance matching and speaker sensitivity - as well as the design or look of the speakers.
In a speaker system package, you can be confident that all these factors will be consistent, and therefore it saves you the problem of matching all these things speaker by speaker.
This is the main advantage of a speaker package, you get a consistent look and sound - as you can see with the Klipsch HDT-600 Home Theater Speaker System pictured above - and get a good match for your amplifier with the minimum effort on your part.
Just to be clear, we are mainly talking here about speaker packages which include the speakers only - and you would connect them to a separate av receiver or amplifier.
However, the principles are still the same if you buy a home theater in a box system which includes the amplifier and speakers.
So, if getting a speaker package has these advantages, why might we still prefer to buy separate speakers for our home theater system?
Well, some people prefer to buy separate speakers for their system as they feel they can get better value for money overall.
For instance, you may already have a great pair of stereo speakers that you use for your hi-fi system and listening to music.
If so, there's a good argument for keeping these speakers as your front left/right pair, and just adding a center, two surrounds and a subwoofer to make up your 5.1 surround sound system.
Also, some people start off with a speaker package, and then gradually replace the most important speakers (front left/right and center speakers - maybe subwoofer) as they can afford to improve their system.
A speaker package can provide a good basic system - but later on you can spend more money on a higher quality center speaker - and then later add better quality front speakers.
You may eventually replace all the original speakers, but this way you can gradually build a top quality sound system without spending too much money all in one go.
Even if you are starting from scratch with no existing speakers, buying separate surround sound speakers allows you to initially spend more of your budget on the most important speakers like the center and fronts, and less money on the less important speakers like the surrounds.
For example, for one of the most important speakers like the center, you might want to initially spend big on something like the Klipsch RP-450C reference premiere center channel speaker shown above, and less on the surrounds.
Over time, you can upgrade the surrounds to match the quality of the center and front speakers.
So as you can see, buying separate speakers allows you more flexibility as to where you spend you money - and you will probably end up with a higher quality speaker system than you could afford in one go.
The downside to buying separate speakers?
Well, it will take a bit more work on your part to source and match the speakers to fit into your existing system.
However, many speaker manufacturers now offer a range of quality speakers as separates, so you may just be able to upgrade to a better quality model from the same line offered by that manufacturer - which should ensure a consistency in design, specifications and sound.
So we can now see why there is a choice to be made between buying a speaker package and buying separates.
The advantage of a package is that it is easier to put together a speaker system that will work well with your amplifier/receiver, but will also have a consistent look and sound.
However, you may get better value for money if you decide to put together you own speaker system by buying the speakers separately - but this will require a bit more effort on your part as you will need to try and match the speakers so they work well together as part of your surround sound system.
Whichever way you choose, there are plenty of good options for packages and separates provided by the speaker manufacturers, so you should be able to find the right choice for your room quite easily.
Paul started the Home Cinema Guide to help less-experienced users get the most out of today's audio-visual technology. He has worked as a sound, lighting and audio-visual engineer for around 20 years. At home, he has spent more time than is probably healthy installing, configuring, testing, de-rigging, fixing, tweaking, re-installing again (and sometimes using) various pieces of hi-fi and home cinema equipment.