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Tips for Selecting Home Audio Speakers

Setting up a home audio system is exciting, but it can also be overwhelming if you're not sure where to begin. Choosing the right speakers for the job is essential for getting the best sound quality. Follow these tips to select the right home audio speakers for your listening needs.

Compare Speaker Types

Floor Speakers: When it comes to filling a big room with sound, floor speakers can't be beat. They're the largest type of speakers and stand on their own. With a pair of left and right speakers, you can immerse yourself in a realistic sound experience while watching movies.

Bookshelf Speakers: In small- and medium-sized rooms, bookshelf speakers take up less space and are often small enough to fit inside a cabinet or on a shelf. Elevating the height rather than placing these speakers on the floor helps to aim the sound right at your ears. Use them on their own or as part of a surround sound system.

Center Channel Speakers: Center channel speakers often sit horizontally and operate on mid-range frequencies to deliver clear dialog from movies and TV shows over sound effects and background music. Center channel speakers provide the best performance when you pair them with other speakers in your home audio system.

Powered computer speakers: If your computer or laptop is the primary source for watching movies, playing video games or listening to music, then powered computer speakers are a smart choice. These space-saving speakers plug directly into your computer to amplify the sound and improve its quality.

Evaluate Speaker Drivers

  • Tweeters: High-frequency drivers that deliver sounds in the frequency spectrum of 2,000Hz to 20,000 Hz.
  • Midrange: These drivers produce sounds in the range that falls between tweeters and woofers, usually between 500Hz and 2,000Hz.
  • Woofers: Woofers produce sounds in a variety of frequencies. In three-way systems, woofers produce sounds at frequencies below the midrange drivers. In two-way systems, woofers produce sounds at frequencies below the tweeters.
  • Subwoofers: These drivers produce sounds on the lowest frequencies, or bass, which are typically between 20Hz and 125Hz.
  • Full Range: These drivers operate on the largest frequency range, eliminating the need to pair them with other types of drivers to produce the full range of sound.

Define Speaker Specifications

If you're new to buying speakers, then you might not be familiar with some of the terms used to describe the speaker specifications. Once you determine what type of speakers you need, compare these specs to make a decision.

  • Frequency response — refers to the frequency range that the speaker can produce. Frequency response is measured in Hertz (Hz). Human ears can detect sounds between 20Hz and 20,000Hz, and ideal speaker systems cover this range.
  • Impedance refers to the amount of electrical resistance that an amplifier will encounter when sending audio signals to the speaker. Impedance is measured in Ohms. Your speakers' impedance should match the impedance of your home audio equipment.
  • Sensitivity refers to how loud a speaker can get per watt of power. Sensitivity is measured in decibels per watt. The higher the sensitivity, the less amount of power the speaker needs to achieve high volumes.
  • Power handling refers to the maximum sound signal that a speaker can handle without causing sound distortion or damage to the speaker. Power handling is measured in watts. Speakers should be able to handle the maximum output power of your audio receiver for best results.

Consider Speaker Placement and Acoustics

The placement of the speakers, size of the room, type of flooring and furniture or other objects in the room can affect the acoustics. Hard surfaces, such as wood paneling, hardwood floors and windows, tend to reverberate sound, which creates audio distortion. In contrast, soft surfaces, such as carpeting, rugs and drapes, absorb the sound. Other irregularly shaped surfaces diffuse the sound or cast it in various directions rather than focusing it right on you. Carefully consider the placement of speakers and other furniture in the room to create the best sound.

Choose Speakers for Your Home Audio System

When shopping for speakers, consider the type of audio that you'll be listening to primarily. If you're an audiophile who loves to listen to your music collection, the focus on left and right stereo speakers. If you're setting up a home theater system to enjoy family movie night, then you want to set up surround sound. Connect several speakers to an audio receiver for a completely immersive sound experience.

Don't Forget the Speaker Cables

To connect your speakers to your home audio system, you need speaker cables and wires. Be sure to choose high-quality cables for speakers positioned far away from the receiver. The longer the cable, the more the sound quality degrades. Many speakers use spring-clip terminals, which connect to bare speaker wire. High-end speakers often have binding post terminals, which have threaded jacks that create a secure connection for better sound quality. Make sure the type of cables and wires you choose are compatible with your speakers and receiver.

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