How to Choose Speakers?

 

How to Choose Loudspeakers ?

Loudspeakers are in some form an integral part of the technical equipment of many households. Whether you have them with a computer, TV or even a Hi-Fi tower, their task is to bring you the best possible sound experience.

When buying speakers, you need to take into account many factors, which we will discuss in the article. You should think about where you will place the speakers, how big your room is, and last but not least, what you actually expect from them. We will introduce you to a wide range of speaker designs. You can distinguish them by size, shape and other characteristics. The technical ones mainly include power and impedance.

Come with us to see what functions modern speakers on the current market can boast of and how much such devices actually cost. We bring you a complete set of information, from which you will find out, among other things, where and how to place the speakers to achieve the best listening experience.

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How to choose a speaker in brief:

Type of speakers - depending on what you plan to use the speakers for, choose the right type - bookshelf, column or wireless speakers, speaker systems or soundbars.

Number of speakers – except for soundbars and wireless variants, there are always at least two speakers. But the system can contain up to 7 speakers and a subwoofer.

Power - choose the power of the speakers according to the way of use and the size of the sounding area, focusing especially on the RMS power.

Inputs and Outputs - Speakers need to be connected to the audio source using a cable or wireless technology. Check if the selected speakers have the same connectors as the TV, Hifi tower and others.


Speaker design

Before we get to the technical parameters of the individual devices, let's talk about their different designs. This is not only a matter of design, but also an important selection factor. The first thing you need to do is figure out what kind of speakers you're actually looking for, what you want to use them for, and how much space you can allocate for them. Accordingly, you will decide between individual types of design.

Each of the designs has its indisputable advantages and disadvantages. Although 7.1 speakers certainly provide the best spatial perception of sound, on the other hand they take up a lot of space and disrupt the design of the space. A small wireless speaker, on the other hand, may not meet the needs of the household with its performance. We will look at the advantages and disadvantages in more detail in the table below.

Speaker design

Bookshelf speakers

From a design point of view, these are smaller speakers. Thanks to this, they can often be placed on a table, stand or other piece of furniture, for example right next to the TV, Hi-Fi tower or computer. Sufficient power can be incorporated into a relatively small structure.

The advantage of bookshelf speakers is their smaller dimensions, which you will appreciate when the space of the given room does not allow you to use column speakers, or they are unnecessary for the given purpose. On the other hand, the disadvantage can be a more limited sound expression of low bass. But this can be solved with the help of an additional subwoofer. It usually has the shape of a larger block and is usually placed on the floor.

Column speakers

These products are also often referred to as tower products . This speaks to some extent about their external appearance and dimensions. These are higher models, which are also able to cover a wide range of frequencies with their sound , including the aforementioned bass.

You have to expect more space for their placement. On the other hand, they are able to sound relatively large rooms with their performance. Column speakers with their larger construction are more suitable for listening from a greater distance - i.e. for a TV, Hi-Fi tower or as part of a home cinema. But you probably won't get them for your computer.

Wireless speakers

The third group consists of wireless speakers . These are not connected to a specific audio player using cables, but wirelessly via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi technology . The largest group of these representatives are portable speakers intended as a complement to mobile phones for travel, parties or the garden. They are specific for their compact dimensions and battery power. The dominant technology for connectivity is Bluetooth.

Speaker design

However, home wireless speakers that are powered by the network are also appearing more and more often . In addition to Bluetooth, they connect to a phone or other device using Wi-Fi, which enables the creation of smart sound systems throughout the apartment. For example, you can choose music and volume for individual rooms, or connect the entire apartment with a single song playing from several speakers.

Smart speakers

Wireless speakers encourage use in a smart home. On the market, you can come across a whole range of central units that, in addition to connecting devices in a smart home, also enable music playback. Read more in the article How to choose a central unit .


Sound bars

Soundbars are a chapter in themselves , which often compete with classic speakers and entire speakers. It is a single oblong speaker that is usually placed under or in front of the TV. The soundbar is able to replace several speakers with its range, and its performance is at least partially close to surround sound. It often works with a subwoofer to provide bass.

Sound Bars

As a rule, a soundbar offers several ways of transmitting sound. On the one hand, it can be connected via an HDMI (ARC) cable, via a 3.5 mm jack, an optical audio cable or via LAN. A wireless Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection can also be used. Connecting external drives via USB is no exception. In addition to the TV, you can connect, for example, a mobile phone or a flash drive.

Customers choose a soundbar primarily because of lower purchase prices compared to a multi-channel speaker system. Smaller demands on space can also speak for its use.

Where to place the soundbar

Its installation is also simple, the most common location is next to the TV. If you have it set up on a table or cabinet, just place the soundbar in front of it, your view will not be obstructed thanks to the low construction. If your TV is mounted on a wall, you will need a set of brackets to hang the speaker below the screen. But you will only need a few screws and a few minutes of work.

Loudspeaker assemblies

Apart from soundbars and wireless speakers, you will not come across separate speakers. It is always a set of two or more crates. A really rich set can also contain seven connectable devices. The number of speakers in the set is indicated by a double number, for example 2.1.

The first digit indicates how many classic mid- and high-tone speakers are in the set. The number after the dot indicates how many bass speakers, i.e. subwoofers, are in the set. If this number is 0, there is no such speaker in the assembly. However, this does not mean that you will have to completely do without strong bass tones. Some classic loudspeakers also handle them to a limited extent.

Number of speakers

On the market, you can find variants 2.0 to 9.2, i.e. from basic computer cases to really sophisticated systems. For regular listening by an undemanding user, variants 2.0 and 2.1 are sufficient. 

The 3.1, 4.1 and 5.1 sets are already suitable for more demanding listeners. Such a solution ensures high-quality surround sound. For the maximum impression of surround sound, choose the 6.1, 7.0 and 7.1 variants. These systems are particularly worthwhile for movie or music lovers. But prepare for a bigger investment.

Number of speakers

In assemblies, individual speakers are pre-determined for a specific location, i.e. front, rear and center speakers, for example. It's a good idea to make sure you have enough space for all the components before you buy. Don't forget to run the necessary cabling . Larger systems are usually placed on the walls in the corners of the room.

Performance

It is one of the basic characteristics that define how loud a speaker will be able to play. Most often, you can meet these forms:

Peak performance – Often referred to as peak performance. However, this is not a completely telling characteristic, because only the highest permissible value at which the speakers are able to function for only a few seconds. In real operation, it is short-term performance.

RMS – You should stick to this value when reading speaker parameters. In other words, nominal or sinusoidal power. It does not damage the loudspeaker during long-term operation. RMS is usually half of the highest possible performance of the given device (Source: Diploma thesis ).

Speaker power is generally stated in watts , denoted by the abbreviation "W". Average speakers range between 20 W and 200 W. Of course, more demanding people interested in quality sound can treat themselves to even higher values. They are more suitable for larger rooms. Subwoofers should have power in the order of hundreds of watts, because playing bass positions requires more energy.

TIP: Wireless speakers with a battery indicate only one power value. In their case, it really is the maximum long-term operating performance.

Sensitivity

In addition to performance, another very important parameter is the sensitivity of the speakers, you can often find it under the abbreviation SPL (Sound Pressure Level) in the parameters. This is proportionally reflected primarily in their overall volume. When choosing the right loudspeaker, you can stick to the following rule - with increasing sensitivity, there is an increase in efficiency and also an increase in the overall volume of the speakers.

From a professional point of view, sensitivity could be defined as follows: the measured pressure of a sound wave coming from a speaker at a distance of one meter at a power of one watt. Sensitivity is given in decibels . These are denoted by the abbreviation "dB". To give you a better idea, we will outline the ranges for normal listening to sound as well as for better quality.

Sensitivity 87 – 93 dB – values ​​associated with commonly available speakers.

Sensitivity above 93 dB - every increase is reflected in sound quality.

TIP: For both performance and sensitivity, keep in mind that speakers play better when not set to 100% volume (power).

Impedance

If you delve a little more into the parameters of the speakers, you will come across one more important piece of information. It is the impedance, or electrical resistance of the device (Source: Wikipedia ).

Watch the impedance especially when you connect the speakers to the amplifier, when the value of both devices should ideally match . The impedance of the speaker should never be lower than the manufacturer of the amplifier indicates, you will probably destroy the speakers. Impedance is given in ohms denoted by the symbol "Ω". It normally ranges from 2 to 15 Ω.

Frequency

Another technical data is frequency, or frequency range . It is given in hertz (Hz) or kilohertz (kHz). It determines the range of sound wave lengths that the speaker is capable of producing. The ideal range is 20 Hz to 20 kHz (20,000 Hz), which corresponds to the range that the human ear can perceive. 

The real frequency range is affected by attenuation, which tells how many dB the given sound is quieter. Unfortunately, some manufacturers do not specify attenuation, which significantly impairs the possibility of comparing individual models.


Speaker bands

In technical specifications, you may encounter the term number of belts. This is a feature that fundamentally affects the quality of the resulting sound. A speaker that would cover the entire frequency range from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz would be really expensive to produce and even then the result would not be optimal. Often, several speakers are combined in one device, each taking care of different frequencies in which they excel. In this direction, you can choose from two categories:

  • Two-way speakers
  • Three-way speakers

For both solutions, it is a rather complex alchemy from the point of view of production, and everything often depends on the quality and design of the enclosure . The quality of the sound output is often proportional to the price of the speaker.

Two-way speakers

The name already reveals that two-way speakers can handle only two bands without any problems. They are mainly deprived of lower octaves, or bass. On the other hand, they perform well in terms of presentation in the midrange . 

Since they can handle the lower octaves, here are the subwoofers - You can read how to choose a subwoofer in our article. If the subwoofer is in a set with two-way speakers, you have less to worry about.

Three-way speakers

These products cover completely all bands , including low octaves. The price of three-way loudspeakers is of course higher, because relatively high demands are placed on the sophistication of the entire structure.


Inputs and outputs

In order for pleasant sounds to flow from the speakers, it is necessary to connect them to a sound source. This can be several types of devices from a smartphone to a TV to a Hifi tower. Wireless audio technology aside, devices need to be connected with appropriate cables with different ports. In this chapter, we will introduce you to the basic inputs and outputs that you may encounter with speakers.

The ports allow the audio source to be connected to the speakers. In order to connect the devices, both must have the appropriate port . If they don't have it, reduction is a certain solution . However, this can lead to a reduction in the transmission quality, so it is often more of a temporary or emergency solution. But don't rely on them when buying new household appliances.


HDMI – this is a port that transmits audio-visual data. It is often found in soundbars, home theaters and television speakers.

Line 3.5 mm input (AUX) - with this cable it is possible to connect an external source such as a computer, game console, telephone, MP3 or CD player to the speaker. In case of output, headphones can be connected.

Cinch – a pair of cables marked in red and white. Each connector is designed for a right or left channel. However, it is an analog port, so it may not be separately compatible with modern audio sources.

Optical – a digital audio port that uses a laser to transmit sound. With this solution, there is practically no signal interference and the sound is transmitted in maximum quality.

Coaxial - digital audio port.

USB – option to connect a flash drive with files for playback, or charging of external devices (e.g. phone).

Terminals - mainly passive speakers are connected using this input. It is used to connect the loudspeaker itself to the amplifier using a copper cable, the so-called double line. The cable is used to transmit sound and power the speaker.


Active and passive speakers

The last technical parameter that we will deal with is the activity of the speakers. This is a parameter that affects the use of the speaker room, or the necessary accessories.

Active speakers

These are the models that have a built-in amplifier in the body . So just connect the audio source, with or without a cable, and you can listen. You can then control the volume and possibly other sound properties either directly on the body of the device or on the sound source - a phone, computer or television.

Passive speakers

On the contrary, the speakers are passive. They are not equipped with an amplifier and are needed, but they were connected to an amplifier. These are usually larger loudspeakers that are intended for dynamic listening of quality sound and require a lot of energy to operate. Classically, these are sets for home cinema, Hifi tower and other similar types.


Structural design

Some of you may bet on the selection method based on appearance. That this is not the best way is probably obvious, but it does not hurt to pay at least a little attention to the design, especially if you choose larger and more expressive boxes. Ideally, they should complement your interior and not disrupt it.

Construction material

It is important to monitor the material from which the speakers are made. The cheapest ones are usually plastic . These are different colored versions of more or less quality plastics. But you can't expect dizzying sound quality from them.

You can meet various plywoods and chipboards . MDF boards are a better option . It is a wood fiber material that is used as a substitute for solid wood. This is a guarantee of good isolation, which is a must when you need quality sound, but also a higher price. You can also come across other modifications of these production materials. 

TIP: There is one more practical tool that comes in handy when buying a loudspeaker. There shouldn't be too much of a booming sound when you tap the outer casing of the speaker.

Speaker/Transducer Design

As we said above, a loudspeaker consists of one or more sound elements, i.e. transducers, or popularly also "speakers". These converters are an assembly of electronic components. The magnet and the coil create oscillations according to the flowing current, which then reaches the membrane and it sends sound waves towards our ear. We will not deal with the construction in more detail, because the manufacturers do not mention it with their speakers (complete devices).

Loudspeaker

It forms the supporting structure of the device, into which separate converters are inserted. The enclosure has two meanings, the basic one of course being to hold all the necessary components together. The second, no less important, is also (as the name suggests) the sound system.

Transducers embedded in the baffle create sound waves and these are reflected from the structure. In order to avoid any echo and sound distortion, chipboard (MDF) is recommended as the optimal material. High-quality plastic is also good, on the other hand, the metal structure could resonate and damage the resulting experience.

Due to its design, the construction can be distinguished into dozens of types, for example, we can mention the relatively common bass reflex, band-pass or closed design. It is not possible to say unequivocally which design is the best, because the resulting sound quality also depends on the quality of the converters, the material design of the unit, the sound source, the space in which the music is played and much more.


Features and accessories

You won't come across dozens of specific functions with regular speakers. After all, these are devices that you connect to a TV or other source and you expect high-quality sound reproduction. Active speakers, most often wireless ones, are equipped with functions. So we will mention more about their functions.

NFC - Wireless technology that allows the speaker to be connected to a mobile device such as a smartphone. Appears with wireless speakers.

Bluetooth - A wireless technology that allows speakers to be connected to a Bluetooth-enabled audio transmitter.

Wi-Fi - Wireless technology for connecting to another device.

Card reader – Allows you to insert a memory card into the active speaker and play stored music.

USB port - option to connect a flash drive with files for playback.

Multiroom - allows you to wirelessly synchronize multiple speakers of the same model series throughout the apartment.

Voice assistant - some speakers are classified as "smart" and can replace the central units of a smart home.

You can buy accessories for the speakers, which are mainly used for mounting on the wall or placing them on the ground. You will most often come across these add-ons:

Stands – Fixed or telescopic stands placed on the ground, with which you can position the speakers to the appropriate height above the ground. They often also fulfill an aesthetic role.

Brackets – These are wall brackets designed to be fixed to the wall. They also offer the possibility of practical turning left/right and up/down.

Interconnecting Cables – Adequate cabling is needed to conduct quality audio. You can find the basic cables in the package with the speakers. If you need new cables, beware of buying the cheap ones. As a rule, they are responsible for reducing the sound quality, because they do not shade the signal enough.


Price

When buying speakers, not only your sound output requirements are decisive, but also the acquisition costs. These may be limiting for some interested parties, but not for others. If you decide to buy a quality device, whether for placement next to your computer or for surround sound, always focus on proven brands. This ensures first-class processing and perfect sound performance.

We can name, for example, manufacturers Bose, Sony, LG, Panasonic, Samsung, Marshall, JBL, Bang&Olufsen, Harman&Kardon, Genius, Logitech, Omnitronic, Eminence, Creative, Dynavoice, Monacor and many others.


Frequently asked questions about speakers

How to choose speakers?

Choose the appropriate type of speakers according to your intended use - column, wireless, soundbar, desktop and others. Choose the size of the system and the presence of a subwoofer, orient yourself according to the designation, for example, 5.1. Aim for RMS power, but consider room size and future use. Make sure the model you choose has the necessary connectors to connect to your existing device. You can find the best speakers in our comparison .

What is the difference between active and passive speakers?

Active speakers have their own amplifier. So just connect them to the audio source. It is possible to regulate the volume on them. Passive speakers do not have their own amplifier, it is necessary to connect them to one. It can be an amplifier in a CD player or other devices. The volume is then controlled directly on this device, on the amplifier.

What is RMS power?

This is an essential parameter by which the performance of the speakers is assessed. Unlike power consumption or performance, it has a telling value when evaluating individual models. It is given in watts.

What is a safe volume?

When listening to music from home speakers, the maximum value is 85 dB. Max. 95 dB for social entertainment, and 100 dB for concerts. However, exposure to these values ​​is only safe for a short period of time.

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