If you've ever wondered why speakers always come in pairs, it's time to get a good audio education before investing in a purchase for your home sound system. The reason they come in pairs is that each speaker is designed to replicate one audio channel. Having a set of two stereo speakers (left and right) is essential for playing back two-channel stereo recordings.
Home Theater Surround Sound Speaker Placement
Additional sets of speakers are necessary for surround sound. These recordings consist of at least four audio channels. Each of these channels is relayed by a different speaker. Surround sound systems use subwoofers for low frequency audio and sound effects. Different types and positions of speakers are available, depending on the user's preference.
For example, front speakers are located on the left and right sides of the television. Most people prefer the sound produced by full-sized floor-standing speakers. Depending on the home size, though, some people may require bookshelf speakers. These units can even be attached to the wall with a wall-mounting kit, which is a handy, space-saving option for people living in rental units or apartments.
The second set of speakers is usually referred to as center-channel speakers. The bigger the better, especially if the front speakers are full-sized. The sound from these speakers will seem appear to be coming straight from the TV.
Each room has an ideal viewing or listening point for television. The set of surround speakers should be positioned on the left and right sides of this location. Any size of speakers, even satellite speakers that will set neatly on a stand, can be used as surround speakers.
A stand-alone rear speaker should be set directly behind the listening point to create 6.1 surround sound. If the goal is 7.1 surround sound, place two rear speakers at the back of the room on either side. For those using 5.1 surround sound speakers featuring Dolby Digital or DTS playback, rear speakers are not required.
The final basic part of a surround system is the subwoofer. These will fit in a corner of the room. Larger subwoofers with bigger cabinets and drivers will offer a deeper bass sound than a smaller subwoofer will.
Media buffs will want to go one step further and explore the requirements of THX speaker placement. Often recognized by their aurally and visually vivid logos in movie intros, THX sets strict standards for what makes both public and home theaters the best in movie-watching experiences. THX standards will ensure that you get the maximum quality in your home theater.
Specialty Speaker Placement
Need to save space or hide speakers? Choose in-ceiling or in-wall speakers that lie within the walls or ceilings. The only visible part of the system is a small grille that can be painted to blend into the room. The wires will run through the walls, so this isn't a good option for renters. Those up to the challenge of installing these speakers themselves should be sure to consult a speaker wiring guide to ensure proper functionality of their ceiling speaker placement.
For those who are planning to relay sound or stair outside, outdoor speakers are ideal. These are designed to be weatherproof. They are usually small as well, so they will fit beneath an awning or deck cover.
Extend the music into other rooms by purchasing wireless speakers that can be placed on shelves or bookstands throughout the house. RCA, Sharper Image, Sony, JBL wireless speaker systems feature integrated receivers as well as transmitters that run on battery power or electrical power, depending on the user's requirement. Choose water-resistant speakers for use outside, or in rooms like the kitchen or bathroom.
One of the drawbacks of wireless speakers is that they have a limited range - usually between 150 and 300 feet. In addition, they typically operating on the same frequency band as many other home electronics, like microwaves, home computer networks, and cordless phones. As a result, electrical interference is sometimes a problem, so consider this before making a purchase.
Multi-Speaker Sets or Speaker Separates
Beginners will usually find that multi-speaker sets are much easier to set up and position than speaker separates, but a true sound expert will probably want to design his or her own system. For those planning to design their own system, a quick review of these basic reminders will help.
First, buy matching speaker brands. Don't buy RCA front speakers and a Sony center-channel speaker. Next, choose a subwoofer that is similar in size to the surround speakers. Don't buy a small subwoofer for a large surround speaker. Additionally, choose a powered subwoofer. These subwoofers won't need to be powered by an amplifier, so the amplifier power can be concentrated on driving the speakers instead.
Choose speakers that are well matched and feature the same impedance ratio; otherwise, the sound will be distorted. Front speakers should be matched in size, as should the surround speakers. Don't buy mismatched speakers.
Finally, establish a budget. If music is more important than movie quality, invest the bulk of the budget into top-quality front and center-channel speakers with a balanced base, midrange, and treble balance. If movies with top-quality surround sound are most important, spend the money evenly on the entire speaker system instead.
One of the biggest factors in choosing a speaker system is the quality. Other factors include the way the system handles power, necessary connecting devices, sound direction, drivers, and frequency. Speakers can be monopole or dipole. Monopole speakers direct the sound directly toward the listener. These are superb for multichannel audio systems. They are a basic part of both budget and high-end systems.
In comparison, dipole speakers or bipole speakers are shaped like a V. Sound is directed to each side of the speaker. These speakers are good for reproducing sound in DVD videos.
Drivers are also an important consideration. Speakers are driven by woofers and tweeters. If debating between bookshelf speakers or floor-standing speakers, consider woofer size. Smaller woofers, including most 5" models, will produce a small amount of bass. Contrastingly, larger woofers (at least 8" woofers) will deliver a significantly larger amount of bass. As the number of drivers increases, so will the system's performance - and its price.
Typically, budget-priced full-range speakers will use a single driver for the system's audio signal. Lower-end one-way speakers will use a woofer, while two-way speakers use both a woofer and a tweeter, and offer better performance than one-way speakers do. The best systems are three-way speakers that use woofers, tweeters, and midrange. Speakers that have more than one woofer or midrange are also called three-way speakers.
For connectors, most budget-priced speakers will usually have spring clips rather than binding posts. (Binding posts are best.) Often, the better speaker systems feature a dual female connector. One is used to connect to a tweeter, while the other one will connect to a woofer. Audio experts can use this specialty biwiring to create superior sound quality, but this isn't usually useful for beginners or experienced amateurs.
Power handling specs are also very important. To determine which speaker offers better power handling, compare ratings for speakers made by the same company. Comparing ratings between different manufacturers is not helpful. Several terms are important in understanding a system's power handling capacity.
Peak speaker power is a phrase that describes the amount of power managed by a speaker for short sound bursts. In contrast, RMS capacity is used to describe the level of constant power a speaker can manage for long time frames. Minimum recommended power determines the speaker system's minimum power requirements. Connecting an amplifier with insufficient power to a speaker system can result in severe sound distortion and can harm the speaker.
Sensitivity describes a speaker's efficiency. Speaker sensitivity ratings with higher decibels require much less power. Systems with sensitivities greater than 90 decibels are considered to be good, while those featuring between 88 and 90 decibels are average. Buying a system with a sensitivity rating less than 85 decibels can result in a damaged amplifier.
Frequency response is also important. While a speaker system low-frequency limit that is less than 30 Hertz will provide a strong bass sound, 40 Hertz is more than adequate for the majority of systems. Additionally, the more a sound differs from what is known as perfect, flat response (between 30 Hertz and 20 kilohertz, within a deviation of three decibels), the more distorted the sound. Most people can't even hear sounds produced by frequencies lower than 20 Hertz!
Knowing what you're buying will help you to buy the best sound system for your budget. Don't just guess at what you think a good sound will be. Take your time so that you get it right with the first set of purchases, you'll be much more satisfied, and will spend much less money in the long run.