Home Theater Speakers Buying Guide

By TopTenReviews Contributor
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There is quite an array of home theater speakers available to the consumer. Everything from a whole surround sound package for less than $100 to speakers that costs thousands each. It can be quite a daunting task to determine what will best fit one’s needs. When making a decision, consider your budget first. It all starts with how much you can afford, or rather, how much you are willing to afford. Just because you can afford the most expensive home theater speakers doesn’t mean you should.

Placement

Consider the space where you will place your speakers. For true surround sound applications, you will need a minimum of 5 speakers. 3 will be placed in front of the listening position, while the others will be placed around the room. Depending on how many channels your amplifier supports will determine how many speakers you will need and also where the best placement is. Some systems have speakers to the sides of the listening position as well as behind.

Once you have determined how many speakers you will need, you should decide whether you can actually place them there. Many times it just isn’t possible to place a speaker where it needs to be. There may be a hallway, window, or door where the speaker needs to be placed. It is also important to decide whether or not you will be able to get speaker wires to the speakers. There are some manufacturers that make wireless surround speakers for systems. If this solution sounds ideal to you, then you should consider purchasing a Home Theater in a Box. Nothing will sound as good as a speaker that is hard wired to an amplifier.

Ideally, once you get your speakers home, you will want to place them all at the same height. Typically you want to place the tweeter at ear level on all your speakers. Understandably, this isn’t always possible in real world applications, but try your best to adhere to this rule of thumb. You should also keep the distance between speakers equal, meaning that if your front speakers are 10 feet from your listening position, your rear speakers should also be 10 feet away. There are some amplifiers on the market that will let you specify the distance between you and your speakers. It is still wise to try and keep your spacing equal.

Types of Speakers

Bookshelf – Bookshelf speakers are small speakers that are designed to sit on a shelf or on a stand. Bookshelf speakers provide relatively good sound (especially if compared to plastic speakers that come with home theaters in a box). They share many of the same components that are used in their floor standing brothers, and as such are usually timbre matched to their larger counterparts. This makes them ideal to use as rear speakers or even as main speakers with a subwoofer.

Floor standing – For the best possible sound, it is recommended that you get a set of floor standing speakers. To produce big sound, a speaker must be built big. Although smaller speakers sound good, they can’t compare to the sound you get from a good set of floor standing speakers.

Center channel – These speakers are usually designed to sit horizontally rather than vertically. Acoustically speaking, there is little difference between these and a matching set of bookshelf speakers. The center channel speaker is responsible for reproducing the dialog and anything else that is happening on the screen. It is important to get a center channel speaker that matches the other speakers in your setup.

Rear/Surround – Surround speakers are used to provide ambiance and other noises that happen off the screen. These speakers can also vary in shape and function from normal speakers. It is common to see speakers that are dipole/bipole, that is, using the reflections off walls to enhance the surround effect.

Once you have decided on your budget and how many speakers you will need, it’s time to go shopping. When purchasing a set of speakers, it is ideal to get the set of speakers made by the same manufacturer and even within the same line of speakers. While all speakers arguably sound good, they don’t reproduce the same sound the same way. This is what is referred to as timbre matching. You want the Bat mobile to sound like the same Bat mobile as it travels throughout your speakers.

There is nothing quite like watching a movie in the comfort of your own home on your brand new home theater system. By following these guidelines, you are sure to have a system that will provide you with many years of enjoyment.

 

 
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