A great set of surround sound speakers can make any home theater system come to life with rich and vibrant sound that fills the space you have them set up in. However, there’s more to a great set of speakers than just the speakers themselves—setup & room calibration, amplification, interconnects, speaker wire, & related electronics—that all play a role. Here we’ll discuss the process of picking out speakers.
When selecting the best home theater speakers for your system the most important thing you can do is listen. Grab some of your favorite movies or music and your spouse or a trusted friend (if you’re married definitely bring your spouse) and head down to your local home theater store for some listening. And by local home theater store I mean Soundings – Seriously, don’t go anywhere else, it’s too risky and you’ll end up with bad sound.
How does the speaker sound to you? How does the speaker sound when compared to something more expensive or less expensive? Though not always, performance is often tied to price. Would you expect a home theater speaker costing twice as much to sound the same as one costing less?
It’s important during this step that you use one piece of music to audition all the different home theater speakers with, preferably something you’re familiar with. Listen in stereo only, without video, surround sound, or subwoofers that can distract you.
Listen to home theater speakers in your price range. Listen also to home theater speakers outside of your price range, this will help orient you to high quality sound and make you a better judge on the more modest speakers. Great speaker manufacturers will have a consistent sound in all their models with a strong family resemblance. So if you hear a speaker you really like, try moving up or down in that line to find something even better. Generally speaking, larger or floor standing speakers will give you more bottom end, better dynamics, and a wider sound stage than their smaller siblings.
This is probably the most significant factor in narrowing down the list of available home theater speakers for you. What is your budget? What are you comfortable spending? When I ask this question I usually get a blank stare. Most shoppers aren’t familiar enough with home theater speakers to know how much they’re supposed to spend to get the sound they sound they want. If that’s you, then you definitely need to come down to Soundings. We do a great job educating our clients and helping them to evaluate different home theater systems at different price ranges.
At Soundings we’re tireless when it comes to finding the very best products to offer our clients at any price range. Each of our individually set up rooms includes a price sheet showing you everything that went into the sound you just experienced. You’ll definitely hear the differences between the different home theater systems and you’ll know how much they cost too, and from there you’ll start to form your budget.
While aesthetics have little to do with how a home theater speaker sounds, you do have to live with it in your house every day so it might as well be pretty and fit in with your decor. Unfortunately this is the point where most people quickly pick out a home theater speaker that is round, white, and fits in the ceiling, with little regard to how the speaker sounds or proper speaker placement. The results of this approach are that your home theater system is often annoyingly loud, detail and dialogue are hard to understand, and at its’ very best it’s completely emotionally uninvolving—but at least you don’t have to look at them.
Gone are the days where people are so embarrassed about the sound of their home theater speakers that they want to hide it any way they can, and with manufacturer’s paying more and more attention to aesthetics and the end user there are plenty of attractive home theater speakers to match most any décor, from traditional American cherry to cool modern speakers made from walnut or aluminum. There are, however a few important decisions to make to help you narrow your choices down. For this, see the next FAQ: Floorstanding, bookshelf, wall-mounted, or in-wall or in-ceiling recessed – which speakers do I choose?
At Soundings we have several listening rooms set up with different home theater systems in different price ranges. After we demonstrate Master Set™ – our speaker setup method – you can then start playing the same movie scene or piece of music on these different home theater systems. As you listen, you’ll notice 2 things. 1: The consistent attention to detail and speaker setup given to each one of these home theater systems is remarkable, and 2: You’ll realize that you can actually hear the dramatic differences in sound between the different home theater speakers you listen to.
When it comes to comparing and deciding on home theater speakers, there is no shortage of options to choose from. While nobody can give you a perfect answer to the question “Which are the best home theater speakers for me?” here are a few guidelines that can help you greatly to narrow down the choices.
Performance, Price, and Aesthetics. These are the 3 traits that come with every home theater or home audio speaker decision. Though not mutually exclusive, each of these traits must be carefully considered.