Surround sound systems envelop you with your favorite movies, television shows and music. These speakers are found nearly everywhere, from specialty electronics stores to larger retail stores. That makes choosing the right system for your environment that much harder. Sound quality, warranty and power handling are a few of the many items you need to consider when making a potentially large audio investment. Speakers make the greatest overall impact in your audio system, so taking your time to decide is important.
Read reviews on various electronics websites and forums. Look for those brands that consistently find favor with reviewers and owners alike. Use this information to narrow your choices.
Examine the specifications of the speaker models within the brands under consideration. Select speakers with maximum power ratings near the output of your receiver or amplifier. This prevents overdriving the speaker with too much power while providing adequate volume under normal use.
Measure your intended space for the speakers, whether a portion of the room, bookshelves or within an entertainment center. Examine the dimensions of your target speakers to ensure they will comfortably fit in your designated location.
Plan for needed accessories. Speaker stands, speaker wire, RCA subwoofer cabling, wall mounts and other accessories must be budgeted for.
Examine warranty coverage provided by the manufacturer. Typically, speaker companies offer five-year warranties, with shorter one- or two-year terms for subwoofer amplifiers or other electronics.
Bring familiar music and movie content with you to audition the speakers. If possible, select an auditioning room or space similar in size to yours. Listen for known cues and effects. Try to discern new information previously unheard in your existing system, if applicable.
Listen carefully for timbre matching. This is the ability of the five or seven speakers in the package to produce a similar sound. Better systems have their mains, center and surrounds blend into a single sonic "bubble." Don't mix and match brands. Quality manufacturers strive for timbre matching throughout their lines.
Start your listening session at lower volumes. Gradually increase the volume until your reach your maximum comfortable listening level. Good speaker packages offer clarity and dialogue intelligibility throughout the volume range.
Examine the speakers for additional installation flexibility. Look for wall mounting slots, brackets or threaded inserts for stand mounting. Many satellite speakers rotate on a stand for horizontal or vertical orientation, allowing additional installation options.
Tap on the cabinets. Look for a solid feel, accompanied by a "dead" sound. These are hallmarks of solidly built speakers. Hollow-sounding speakers probably do not have much internal bracing, or are made from flimsy materials. Listen for a bloated or boxy-sounding response when auditioning.
- Take a pair of your existing speakers with you to compare against your prospective speakers. Have the shop switch between the two to make sure you think there is a real improvement.
- Internet access
- Tape measure
- Movie and music software
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