If you want to upgrade your home theatre audio but you wonder, “how do I pick the right speakers for my home?” then this is for you. Choosing speakers is a very personal decision. What sounds great to one ear might not be as sweet sounding to someone else. Choosing speakers also comes down at least in part to how much space you have and how much power you want.
Table of Contents:
- How to choose the right speaker
- Speaker types
- Key technical specs to look for
- Other features to watch for
How do I choose the right speaker for my space?
You can almost hear it; the rumble of the wave as it rolls across the screen, thundering overhead and shaking the room as it sweeps through your speakers. Great quality sound isn’t just about ohms and watts; it’s about creating a feeling that runs deep through your body and creates a dynamic sensory experience that leaves you wanting more.
Before starting to shop, you need to take a look at your room, since its size will help you determine how much power and how many speakers you might need. A big room will need more power and potentially more channels, while a smaller room may only allow for the placement of two speakers and a subwoofer.
Condos or small apartments
If you live in a very small space, something like a smaller bookshelf style speaker, perhaps mounted on a stand, on-wall/wall mounted, or in-wall speaker would be well suited for your small space. Often in rental units you don’t have as much flexibility for placement of speakers, especially if you are not permitted to put a hole in the wall or ceiling to install speakers. Additionally, you may not want or need a ton of power, given the small space and the close proximity of neighbours.
Dedicated home theatres or bigger spaces
If your home is large enough for a dedicated home theatre space, or placement of speakers in a large living room, then you will want to explore the number of speakers, how to distribute sound adequately and evenly, and similar considerations. This is where you get to have some fun. You can select something like tower speakers, which are kind of sculptural, and sometimes showpieces, and are ideal for large, open spaces. You may want to consider adding speakers above and to the sides, for a totally immersive audio experience.
Should I get an All-in-One speaker system or À-la-Carte?
If you’ve been dreaming about a new system for your home theatre room, or you have your eyes on specific components like the a receiver, or a new subwoofer, you’re likely keen on building your own custom home theatre system.
However, if you want a simple solution that already works together, you might be more interested in an all-in-one home audio solution. One very convenient way to get great audio easily is to choose an all-in-one home theatre audio kit, which is also known as a home theatre in a box (HTIB). This is reduces the hassle of choosing all the components. An HTIB is a complete system where the receiver and speakers, and possibly a subwoofer, are all specifically designed to work together—meaning no guesswork for you! You can also opt for a speaker package where all the speakers are designed to work together in harmony.
By comparison, an à-la-carte has the advantage of allowing you to get exactly the features and components you want; but you’d need to do all the research and ensure your components can work properly together.
There are some excellent receivers that are loaded with features that you might not easily find with an HTIB solution. In addition, speakers can be somewhat personal. Don’t be afraid to ask your Best Buy home theatre expert in a store for advice.
There are an enormous number of speaker choices out there. If you’re new to this world, you can expect to see offerings from many manufacturers, and many of them have a long history of delivering high fidelity audio. We’re thinking of master makers like Polk Audio, Sonos, Bose, Samsung, Sony, Klipsch, Definitive Technology, Marantz, Onkyo, and Pioneer.
But before we get to the fun part—shopping—we need to take a look at some of the considerations when choosing a speaker.
What do all the numbers mean? All about channels
One of the first choices you should look at making when choosing speakers is how many channels you want. “Channels” is just a fancy way of describing the number of speakers in your system.
How many channels?
The number of channels depends on how many speakers you would like to connect, which may be a function of what your room will accommodate. There are a variety of configurations: 2.1, 5.1, 6.1, 7.1 … even 7.1.2 and many others.
The first number is the number of speakers and the second number is the number of subwoofers. If there is a third number, that would refer to the speakers providing sound from the ceiling.
A common surround sound systems would have 5.1 channels, with five speakers (two in the front and two in the rear, plus a centre channel) and a subwoofer. A 9.2 system has nine speakers and two subwoofers. Placement of the nine speakers generally has 5 in the front around the TV (2 left, 2 right, 1 centre), 2 on the side of the room and 2 in the rear.
Read more about what all those numbers mean in our blog.
Bookshelf and rear speakers
Bookshelf speakers tend to be much more compact and are great for smaller spaces where you stillwant to pack in some audio punch. They also make ideal rear speakers.
These speakers are significantly larger and are freestanding, hence the name ‘tower’ speakers. They are usually built to sit right on the floor.
Centre channel speakers
Centre channel speakers are made to provide some balance to your system. The volume level of the centre channel speaker can often be adjusted independently of the other speakers in your home theatre system, giving you more flexibility in balancing the overall sound. Plus, a centre channel speaker is usually the spot the dialogue and voices will emanate from so having it below your TV creates a natural match between the audio and the video.
Whether it’s a rumbling volcano in a 4K nature show or a staccato gunfight scene, the deep rumble is supplied by the subwoofer.
Subwoofers, or subs, are dedicated to reproducing low-pitched audio frequencies, and they’re necessary to round out the range of speakers that cover the higher frequency bands.
With some systems, and in some larger spaces, you might want more than one subwoofer. Adding a second sub can improve the overall quality of bass throughout the entire room and help distribute the sound more evenly through the area.
Wall & Ceiling Speakers
Depending on the look and the soundscape you want to create, you can opt for wall or ceiling speakers.
Wall speakers keep things tidy and out of the way while ceiling speakers will contribute to your home theatre’s Dolby Atmos ecosystem, supplying the additional overhead channels to create 3D sound.
Opting for Dolby Atmos
Taking things up a notch is the Dolby Atmos surround system, which you might see noted as a 5.1.2 or 7.1.4 system. The extra digit represents ceiling speakers, so a 7.1.4 has seven-floor level speakers, one subwoofer, and 4 ceiling speakers.
Dolby Atmos will provide the most immersive sound you can imagine, as the sound comes from every direction with incredible clarity and depth. It handles motion exceptionally well giving a three-dimensional feel to sound.
As you would expect the more speakers you have the more immersive the sound will be.
What are the key technical specs to look for when buying speakers?
If you want the best sound quality from your speakers, you’ll want ones that are designed to deliver High-Resolution Audio. This refers to sound with a higher than 44.1 kHz sample rate and/or higher than 16-bit linear bit depth.
Frequency response is all about the range of audible frequencies the speaker can reproduce that humans can hear, usually between 20 Hz (that’s the deep bass) and 20 kHz (a screechingly high-frequency sound). You’ll want something that can cover a good range.
When shopping for speakers, you’ll find a specification for impedance measured in ohms. This measures how much power the speakers can handle. You want to make sure your speakers’ ohms are matched by the receiver you choose; you’ll need a balance of power, so do your research to make sure your components play nicely together, or talk to one of the experts at Best Buy.
Speaker power is measured in watts, and the power specification on speakers denotes how much power the speaker is designed to safely receive from a receiver before it starts to distort. Again, you’ll need to check the watts per channel that your chosen receiver can put out.
Other features to watch for
Your new speakers may have a variety of special sound features including Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro-3D.
They may also be enabled to work with various smart home components, like Apple HomeKit and Siri, Airplay, Google Assistant, Chromecast, and Amazon Alexa. This kind of compatibility will let you control the speakers with your voice in some cases.
Wireless vs. wired speakers
Using a wired vs. wireless solution is a relatively simple decision. It will depend on how difficult is it to place the wiring for all the speakers in your home theatre room and how much flexibility you want with your system. The nice thing about wireless systems is that the installation is very simple and clean. In addition, it allows you to easily move the speakers into different rooms.
When referring to wireless systems, it’s important to note the term “wireless” refers to the fact that they don’t require speaker wires to connect to your receiver. They do typically require a power plug.
The advantages of a wired solution is generally better sound quality and is a wider variety of different speakers to choose from. Wired speakers generally have better sound quality because the speaker is not limited to bandwidth, and they have better power handling.
Multi-room audio capability allows you to use the A/V receiver to provide independent sound in another room. This can maximize the usefulness of your receiver by using it to deliver music elsewhere in the home, giving you a bigger bang for the buck.
If you don’t want to fuss around with components and just need better audio for your TV, you can opt for a sound bar. Sound bars are an ultimate all-in-one solution that keeps things tidy and compact. Some sound bars also act as a receiver, meaning you can route other components through it, eliminating the need for a separate receiver.
Many will play streaming music, and some manufacturer’s systems can also work with multi-room audio components around your house.
Want to enhance your backyard or cottage to create the ultimate chill pad? Outdoor speakers can set just the right tone by the lake, hot tub or just on the cool green grass outside. Look for wired or wireless versions, and since most of them are waterproof and durable, they’re meant to withstand all kinds of weather.
Portable wireless speakers
Sometimes the simplest solution is the best one. If you’re heading out on a trip, going mountain biking, camping, need to occupy the kids in the yard, or you’re doing Marie Kondo organization tricks in a room without a speaker or plug, a portable wireless Bluetooth speaker can be a great solution.
These speakers are battery-powered or rechargeable, and wireless making them a great solution for gatherings or temporary audio solutions. Many brands can also see several of these wireless speakers linked together for a wider sound stage, and they connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth.
If you’re serious about your audio and are ready to take your listening experience to the next level, you might want to consider high-end or premium speakers like those offered by Marantz or Bowers & Wilkins. Premium speakers are often made of more durable materials with better finishes that deliver better sound. High-end speakers usually reproduce sounds more accurately, without overpowering bass or high frequency noises. When it comes to premium audio, balance is key!
Take the next step
Armed with all this knowledge, you can now make the right choices when it comes to purchasing your home theatre speakers. Whether you want a simple and inexpensive sound bar to work with your 4K TV, or you want a big a la carte, multi-room audio system, find everything you need from Best Buy.