Home theater speakers come in many shapes and many sizes. There are many things to consider when looking to purchase speakers. We will go over a few of the different types and what the differences are them.
- How are you going to be using the speakers?
This may sound like a silly question but in actuality its not. You can play the same song through 5 different types of speakers and every the music track will sound different between every speaker. Do you know how its supposed to sound? Does the person auditioning the speakers know how they are supposed to sound? There is more setup involved to speaker installation them simply putting a microphone in the middle of the room and praying it calibrates it correctly. At Elite AV we have been setting up high end speaker systems for close to a decade, we have built countless Sound Quality vehicles that have competed all over the world. This is our specialty and we are very good at it.
If you are like the majority of Home Theater Users, your system will be used mostly for movies and some sporting events. If this is the case you will want to focus your attention on your center channel. How many times have you heard your wife say to you “Can you turn it up, I cannot understand what they are saying”.
In a properly tuned home theater system, most of the dialogue comes from the center channel. This is most of the movie and how can you enjoy that movie if you cannot understand what they are saying. Also when listening the sound should not sound like it is coming from the center channel. If you have bought a quality speaker and everything is calibrated correctly, you should be able to close your eyes and the sound should sound like it is coming from the middle of the screen. When you open your eyes it should sound like it is acutally coming from the people on the screen. This can be accomplished by purchasing the proper center channel, and by making sure all your time alignment is setup correctly.
Your front left and right speakers
Your front speakers pull double duty: along with handling movie soundtracks, they’re responsible for reproducing all of the sound when you listen to stereo music. This makes their position relative to your listening position especially important. That being said you will want a speaker that can handle
low bass frequencies. THX likes speakers to have a cutoff point at 80hz, but we like a little more full range so we try to extend the speakers down to 50-60 hz if the speaker can handle it. This gives the action more feel because the bass is no longer localized. This is not something we recommend for in-wall or smaller bookshelf speakers.
- Position your front left and right speakers in front, and at equidistant points to the left and right, of your primary listening spot. Together with your center channel speaker, they should form a slight arc, so that all three speakers are exactly the same distance from where you sit, with the tweeters from all three front speakers aimed at your ears. We recommend measuring the distances — just an inch or two can actually make a noticeable difference in the way your system sounds.
- If you’d like a more precise guideline to follow, your front speakers should be at a 22°-30° angle with respect to your television. In other words, imagine you were to draw two lines — one from your listening position to your television, and one from your listening position to your right speaker. The two lines should create an angle somewhere between 22 and 30 degrees. The same holds true for the left speaker. (See illustration above.)
- For the best possible sound, the tweeters should be at ear level when you’re seated. Most floor-standing speakers are designed with this in mind; smaller speakers can be positioned on stands or mounted on the wall to achieve the proper height.
- Make sure there are no solid objects (like furniture) blocking the pathway of the sound traveling to your listening location.
Your surround speakers
Your home theater’s surround speakers are there to envelop you in a cloud of atmospheric sound and special effects, so you feel like you’re actually in the middle of the action. We’ve offered some recommendations to help you achieve this effect, but it’s important to note that surround speaker placement is one area where positioning may vary widely. An approach that works well for a friend or neighbor may not even be possible for you, given the shape and layout of your home theater room. In a true home theater you will want to use a on-wall Dipole speaker that will evenly spread the sound in front of you and behind you so you feel like your in the action.
- Ideally, your primary pair of surround speakers should be placed to the left and right of your listening position — either in line with it, or just behind it. They should form a 90°-110° angle with respect to your television. (If you were to draw two lines — one from your listening position to your TV, and one from your listening position to one of your surround speakers — the lines should cut out an angle somewhere between 90 and 110 degrees.)
- Surround speakers should be placed high enough so that the drivers do not fire directly at your ears when you’re sitting down — one rule of thumb is to place them at ear level while standing. (If your surround speakers fire directly at your ears, they can overpower your front speakers.)
Floor Standing Speakers
If you are looking to purchase quality speakers that can reproduce good sound from 20hz to 20khz then you will want floor standing speakers. Normal floor standing speakers incorporate many different sized speakers into the design. This is done because different sized speakers actually reproduce sound differently. In the sound spectrum you have bass mid and trebile. There is no one speaker that can produce all these sounds accurately. This is why you will see a speaker with a tweeter, a mid range, a mid-bass and sometimes a small subwoofer built in. Tweeters are the speakers that handle the high end sound. Typically its the tweeter that handles womens voices and any higher range frequencies. Mid ranger and Mid bass drivers are usually a 5.25 speaker or 6.5 inch speaker that handle all the frequencies in the middle, from a Harley driving by or even just a man talking. These are the speakers that handle most of the audio track in home theater and music.
- Typically the best sounding speakers are floor standing speakers. This is because they utilize many drivers to recreate the sound correctly.
-The cabinet in a floorstanding speaker actually tunes the speaker itself for better bass response.
-If used with a quality amplifier they typically have more volume because a larger number of drivers are present and higher quality materials are used.
-Floor standing speakers can be a eye sore. They are large and they take up real estate space either in your living room or home theater. Is the quality of sound worth the look you are trying to achieve? These are questions you need to ask yourself when buying speakers.
-Another thing to think about is children and pets around your speakers. A floor standing speaker is exposed to children so if they have access to them they may be able to push drivers in and even knock them over.
Overall this is the best type of speaker to use if maximum sound quality is trying to be achieved.
Book Shelf Speakers
Do you have a custom cabinet that is going to be used to hold your speakers? If you do most of the time these are the type of speakers that are going to be used. They are the little brother to the floor standing speaker. They typically come in one design, that is a 2 way, that means there are two speakers built into it. A mid “6.5 inch” and a Tweeter. Typically I advise my customers to spend extra money on their Book shelf speakers. To make up for the lack of speakers built in I think higher quality materials can be used to recreate a better sound.
- Best speakers to use when you have custom cabinetry
- Can achieve very rich detailed sound like a floor standing speaker
- Have a cheaper cost than floor standing speakers
- Cannot be used in every application, there must be something present for these speakers to sit on
- Although they use a cabinet, they typically do not have a range of sound comparable to a floor standing speaker
In-Wall / In-Ceiling Speakers
This option is the must attractive option. There is nothing like going into a living room or home theater and having that clean custom look of not seeing anything. I personally feel sound should be heard and not seen, but because normal in-wall speakers do not use cabinets it is hard to get quality sound out of these types of speakers. In a typical home theater if these speakers are used they will have a muddy sound. Dialouge will not be as crisp and you may have a hard time understand what people are saying. Although they produce the same level of sound, the quality of the sound is greatly compromised when no cabinet is used.
Kef and Episode both make higher quality in-wall and in-ceiling speakers that utilize a back box and very high quality drivers. This puts them on the same level as book shelf speakers when installed correctly. For the best looking and custom home theater systems these are the types of speakers I recommend.
- With no cabinet they look very nice installed.
- This is the type of speaker builders typically pre wire for.
- Quality sound can be achieved with quality installation and speakers with a optional back box.
- Sound is very directional. When installed in a ceiling and pointed down they are not focused at your ear they can be very hard to hear.
- The majority of these speakers do not use cabinets. This leaves the sound very muddy and also leaves the speaker almost bass less
There are a lot of factors to think about when choosing speakers. Elite AV can make the process easy for you though. With our extensive knowledge it can be very easy for us to know what type will work best for your room and budget.