Speakers (Buyer's Guide)

Published Date
01 - Dec - 2007
| Last Updated
01 - Dec - 2007
Speakers (Buyer's Guide)

Throw away ear-bleed inducing speakers and get hooked to true audiophilia!

If you don’t want to spend a whole lot on speakers, you’d be better off getting a very good pair of audiophile-level hardware—headphones and a headphone amplifier to power them. But speakers have their raison d’être. Before you actually go and buy them, do your homework and insist on a demo of the speakers when you’re there. Carry a few audio CDs and movies along to help in the decision making.

What You Should Be Looking At

RMS: We continue to emphasise this as much as we can—do not be fooled by fancy thousands of PMPO watt advertisements. RMS is the right way to measure the power of a speaker set. Anything around 50 to 60 W RMS is a decent amount of power for a fairly small room. So a woofer of, say, 30 to 40 W and satellites of 5 to 10 W each should be enough. 100 W RMS for the entire system should do for larger rooms.

Dolby/THX certification: Generally, speakers with a well-acknowledged certification such as Dolby or THX would mean you would get a really decent level of audio. It doesn’t mean that speakers that aren’t Dolby or THX are bad, but it’s just a safer way of choosing a good set if you’re lost on what to get. You’re bound to find the prices a bit on the higher side with such speakers.

Cable quality and length: The cables should be strong, thick, and well-sheathed. Thin cables might pick up interference from the surroundings and will be prone to breaking as well.

Surround Sound: If you’re going with a 5.1 surround sound setup for example, you must be sure you have sufficient space to place all the speakers. You would need to use stands to position your speakers or place them on walls. The optimum setup would be to have the satellites evenly spread out and the audience in the centre. If that isn’t going to be the case, you might as well invest in a good 2.1 setup instead.

Frequency range: The standard range is around 20 Hz to 20 kHz. Anything higher than 20 Hz and lower than 20 kHz might mean a compromise.

Quality over fancy form factors: Subwoofers made of wood—and generally heavy ones—would mean bigger drivers and should help you steer wide of the cheaper, lower-quality woofers. Avoid fancy, slim satellite speakers if you value quality more than looks.

The other things: There are some minor things that aren’t a must but would help in choosing the best sound system for you. A remote control is welcome. It’s pretty rare, but if you get an equaliser on a sound system, nothing like it—although good speaker sets won’t require you to touch the equaliser. Wall-mounting provision will probably be there, but make sure. If you get stands along with the speakers, you won’t have to worry about mounting speakers on walls or creating stands for them.

While you’re out there hunting for the speaker set for you, try pumping the volume on the speaker set beyond the half mark. Bad speakers will immediately start cracking up and the sound tearing.

Current Trends

Pseudo surround sound: For those who don’t want to wire their rooms for a surround sound system, many brands have models that emulate surround sound. Audiophiles might swear by true surround sound, but for the average music listener, this might be a sensible option.

Optic fibre cables are not limited to just high speed network bandwidth; they’re also used by a lot of sound system companies. The advantage optic fibre cables give is that there is no problem of electromagnetic interference. They do have a limit on how long you can keep the cables. Optic fibre connectors can be found on lot of the newer PC hardware as well.

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