When you're buying a set of speakers for your home, how do you know that you are making the right decision? How can you be absolutely sure that what you're buying is value for money and will provide years of aural satisfaction? Read more to find out if you're making the right choice.
The first thing you should look at is what kind of speakers you 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 you're going to use these speakers. However if you're looking at something for your home there are 3 standard speaker sets you should consider:
- 5.1 – Buy these if you have no space constraints (five speakers + subwoofer). A nice big flat screen coupled with a good 5.1 system will give you a great movie-viewing experience, as the system will give you a just a slightly scaled down experience of surround sound in a theatre. The LG HT 855PC Home Theatre System is a great choice at Rs. 16,500.
- 2.1 – This option (2 speakers + subwoofer) will definitely take up a lost less space than even a Soundbar, or a full blown 5.1 home theatre audio system. The Wharfedale PPS1-F 2.1 Speakers are one example.
- Soundbar – If you 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. If this is what you want, check out the Samsung HT-X810 .
Step two is to decide whether you want active or passive speakers. The difference between the two is that you 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 you can eliminate the extra cost of an amplifier. One great example is the Audioengine 5 Bamboo series active speakers if you don't mind a little bulk.
When it comes to matching amps and passive speakers however, there are limitless possibilities. If you get the right combination, it's like a match made in heaven. Make sure that the amp and speakers have matching power ratings as failing to notice this could prove to be catastrophic for your precious hardware. Even if you don't blow up your system, the sound quality will definitely suffer. For example, if you drive a set of 100 watt speakers with a 20 watt amp, the output is bound to be weak. On the other hand, if you switch those values, you will almost certainly damage the speakers if you raise the volume.
A common misconception that a lot of people have is that more power (higher wattage) is better. This is so wrong! You can have a seriously powerful music system that sounds quite terrible. What matters most is a mix of clarity and power, so 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. Don't let pushy sales guys and signs mess with your head with big numbers and fancy jargon like 1000 watts PMPO and such, they're just trying to impress you with, so do not fall for it. 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 you want to place you speakers. For your bedroom, even 20 watts RMS will be more than enough, but for your home theatre system, you will definitely need something more powerful. Well, there's no real limit to how powerful your speakers get, but I'd say that 100 watts RMS is good enough for an average sized home.
Last but not least, make sure that your speakers are placed in good enclosures i.e. speaker boxes in laymen's terms. You might have the best components, but if the materials used to enclose the speakers are bad, you can kiss that long lasting great sound goodbye! Most speaker enclosures are made of wood, although a lot of modern day manufacturers prefer to use MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard). The latter is a lot better, as it is tougher and will last longer. If your speaker enclosures are not good and solid enough, it could lead to complications such as excess vibrations and overheating. Always check to see the kind of material that's used in construction.
There are plenty of other methods you can use to get better sound from your speakers, right from changing your amplifier to actually redoing the acoustics of your room. How fanatical you are and how far you want to go is up to you. When you hear a good set of speakers, you will know it but don't forget to keep the look and feel of your home in mind while buying your speakers. You don't want them looking like oddballs in your home do you? Also trust your instincts to a certain level and don't let the sales guys push you around with jargon big deals and long numbers. Stick to what you know and hopefully this article should make it clearer what to look for and how to look for it.