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How to Choose the right Speakers

Speaker and System Selection:

Speakers come in many different shapes, styles, and sizes, in order to accommodate various acoustical and aesthetic needs. When selecting a speaker/system, it is important to remember that you must keep in mind your needs and wants; don't let the advertisements pull you in. Pay attention to the amount of actual information that is available for different systems. Credible manufacturers will provide lots of information including schematics, specification lists, and frequency-response charts. Be wary of products that have little actual information available. These products may rely on gimmicks to promote sales. To achieve the greatest results, and satisfaction, clearly identify your needs and research what best suits you. For instance, a speaker designed to sound great in a Night Club system might not be well suited for use in your bedroom.

There are three main factors to consider when selecting a speaker system: The quality of the system; the size room you are putting the system in; your acoustical needs (how loud and clear you need the system to be). The first two factors are fairly easy for an individual to figure out but the third is more complicated; let's make it simple.

 

We'll begin with the specifications that you should look at, or find out, about a system before making a purchase.

The first specification is the power rating.

The more power a system has the greater volume potential it will have. Although high volumes are not always wanted or needed, head room is always a good thing to have. I for instance have an amplifier and speaker set up in my living room that has far more volume potential than I will ever use.  However, even though I never turn my system up all the way, I know that I am not maxing out the system at my loudest listening volume; this ensures I won't break anything.  Volume potential is good but extremes are not necessarily a good thing. 

The power of a system is measured in watts for both amplifier output and speaker power handling. Keeping a good balance between these numbers will give you the best results. I recommend having your speaker's power handling equal to, or slightly over, the RMS/continuous power output of your amplifier. For instance, if you have an amplifier with a power output of 50watts RMS/channel, your speakers should be rated for 50watts RMS or higher. If you were to connect speakers with a power rating lower than that of the amplifier output, you will have to potential to break the speakers; that's not a good thing.

Note:  Higher quality manufactures will list the RMS/continuous power output, or handling, on their products. Lower quality manufacturers advertise the maximum output of their products. When purchasing a system, look for the RMS/continuous power rating. The maximum power output level only lets you know the maximum "Thump" the system can perform. The RMS/continuous rating let's you know the maximum, continuous power the system can run at. To help you visualize this concept, think of a car's Tachometer (RPM indicator). The engine in your car has a maximum RPM that it can reach. Although you can reach the maximum RPM, if you ran the engine at that speed for too long, you will damage the engine; this concept applies to the maximum power output/handling of a speaker system.

Try to maintain balance with you system if you are collecting the components individually. Note: Most "Complete Systems" available for purchase are balanced; at least in regards to power. By maintaining balance, you will get the most out of a system without running the risk of damaging components. Furthermore, you will achieve the greatest acoustical potential that the system can offer by keeping the specification of the amplifier and speakers close. The next question is: How much power do you need?

More power doesn't always mean better. Certain manufacture's can achieve greater acoustical power and accuracy with less power than others but these systems can be very expensive. I recommend that you research reviews and articles about companies/products to determine who you feel makes a good quality product at a price you are willing pay. Through our research over the years, we have found that two systems with virtually the exact same specifications, for the same application but made by different manufactures, can have completely different results; the more expensive system is not always the winner! For this reason, we strongly urge you to research reviews and articles for a system that you are interested in. Many people like to compare systems and they do all the long, hard work for you and write reviews; isn't that nice?

Back to power: How large is your listening room, i.e. your living room, computer room, etc? The larger the room, the bigger your speakers will have to be and you will need more amplifier power. Modern, compact systems have become quite popular and effective at feeling a standard size living room with adequate sound; however as discussed in "Speakers in a Nutshell", larger speakers move more air thus creating louder sounds. If you have a large room, shy away from compact systems if you want to effectively fill the room with full sound. If you have a small room, don't waste space and money on large systems. A smaller system, with both smaller speakers and lower power, can effectively fill a room with full sound.

In conclusion, how something sounds is all a matter of perception. If you find something you like, no one can tell you that you don't. If you establish what you want and need clearly, you will find a system that is right for you. Reading reviews and articles can be very useful in selecting a system that fulfills your needs. Once again, don't let advertisements convince you to buy a certain system; let your ears be the judge.

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