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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Basic Speaker FAQ

This speaker FAQ is intended to answer some of the basic questions about speakers and putting together a home audio setup.

See post #2 for rules before posting in this thread. This is NOT a recommendations or technical assistance thread. If you need help, you will want to start your own thread in the AVS Speaker forum, providing the information in item #1 below.

1) I need help with picking out an HT or stereo setup. What kind of information should I provide?

When creating a new thread in the Speaker forum for help with recommendations for an audio setup, be sure to include

1) Your budget.
2) Your listening interests: movies/gaming/music--and whether or not any of those are your primary concern.
3) Your existing audio equipment (make/models) if any. Include comments about what you hope to improve upon.
4) The size of your room. Please also mention if there are adjacent open areas and how big they are (important for subwoofer choice).
5) Any placement restrictions.
6) Any aesthetic or size concerns.
7) Any equipment you are already considering (or would not consider).
8) Any particular audio sonic signatures you know you prefer (e.g., you are a basshead, you have a preference for bright treble, etc.)

If you are seeking help with configuring or troubleshooting an existing setup, be sure to give the make/model for your entire setup and try to describe the problem with good detail.

Once you have given good, detailed information for what you need help with, provide a title for your post that helps people to understand what you are looking for.

2) I have speaker make/model X. What center channel goes with my speakers?

For best SQ, it is important for your front soundstage to timbre match, which gives you a smooth transition as sound pans from left to right (and vice versa) and may help with dialogue clarity.

Because of this, the optimum choice is the exact same speaker as your front left and right. The center channel designed by manufacturers is the next best option, but it is a slight compromise over using the exact same speaker. The reason that many people go with manufacturer designed center channels is that they cannot accommodate a vertically placed speaker as a center channel, and many speakers cannot be turned on their side (they are not designed to disperse sound properly that way).

It is possible that other speakers in the same speaker model line will work well, too, because the tweeter is often the same/similar and the tonal signature of the drivers are as well.

Using a mismatched center channel from a different manufacturer--or a different speaker model line by the same manufacturer--may work worse than no center at all, and it is next to impossible to predict what speaker from another manufacturer would work well.

To find out if other center channels from the same manufacturer might work well with your front left and right, look for an owners thread on AVS for that manufacturer and ask for recommendations.

3) How do I place my speakers in my room?

Placement can have a significant impact on both speaker and subwoofer performance. The following links are a good place to start for learning more:
http://www.audioholics.com/home-the...-setup-tips-for-upgraded-home-theater-systems
http://www.audioholics.com/home-theater-connection/home-theater-speaker-layout-an-essential-guide
http://www.audioholics.com/subwoofer-setup/easy-subwoofer-placement

4) Why are people telling me to go with larger bookshelves instead of satellite speakers?

Small satellites have tiny drivers (e.g. 3”) that lack the dynamics for filling a large room with sound in comparison to larger driver bookshelves (e.g. 5.5” or 6”). The tweeters may also be smaller as well or more limited in overall sound output, also limiting dynamics.

Small satellites also need a higher crossover with a sub. Consequently the bass may become more localizable--you can tell the bass is coming from the sub. And you may need a more resolving subwoofer since the sub has to handle more midbass; the lower quality of a budget entry level sub that sounds OK with a lower crossover when used with bookshelves or towers may call attention to its flaws more with small satellites.

5) What is the advantage of towers/floorstanding speakers over bookshelf/monitor size?

Towers can typically provide deeper bass extension over bookshelves. However, if you are buying a good subwoofer (and you should), this advantage is often negated because you can crossover your speakers at around 80hz.

Towers will typically offer better dynamics and overall power handling than bookshelves in the same speaker manufacturer model line. However, for the difference in price, you may be able to find a better quality speaker from another speaker model line which offers similar benefits to the tower in terms of dynamics and power handling.

6) I have speaker make/model X. What surround speakers should I get?

Since the surround channels are usually only used for effects sounds and ambient noise, it is generally thought to be less important that they have tonal match to the front stage speakers. To put it another way, it is important to keep all the front stage speakers matching for a good sound, but one can have somewhat different surround speakers without nearly as much penalty. However, this is not a completely universally accepted idea, and there is some debate on the importance of matching surrounds. With the expansion from five to seven channel surround sound in lossless codecs and the recent announcement of Dolby Atmos for home systems, the surround channels do seem to be gaining greater importance, so it may be more beneficial to use matching speakers in future surround sound setups, especially if one is using direct-radiating (monopole) speakers for surround speakers.

If one intends to eventually upgrade to Dolby Atmos, then direct radiating is the appropriate choice since it is required for Dolby Atmos implementation. Otherwise, to learn more about whether bipole, dipole, or direct radiating (monopole) speakers are best for your needs, consult this lengthy discussion on AVS and read A Guide to Bipolar, Dipolar, & Direct-Radiating Monopole Surround Speakers Part I & Part II. If all that reading seems overwhelming, then going with a direct radiating speaker certainly works well as a default choice.

7) Will biwiring my speakers to my AVR improve the sound quality?

Many people confuse biamping with biwiring. Biamping can certainly improve sound quality, but it requires active crossovers which passive speakers typically are not setup to use.

Biwiring offers no sound quality advantage. Speaker manufacturers provide biwire terminals on passive speakers and AVR manufacturers offer biwiring capability because some audiophiles believe the myth that it does.

8) What kind of speaker wire and what gauge speaker wire do I need?

The gauge speaker wire you need is based upon the impedance of your speakers and the length of the wire runs. Consult the table on this page (scroll down). You could certainly go with a lower # gauge (thicker copper wire) than what the table suggests.

Any oxygen free 100% copper speaker wire will work well. You do not need to buy expensive speaker cables. Banana plugs can be convenient for hooking up your speakers if they work with your speaker terminals and receiver, but they are not necessary for good sound quality.

Search the forum, and you’ll find recommended speaker wire and banana plugs. Generally there is no need to create a new thread just to find that out.

9) Should I buy expensive cables?

No. Scientific evidence does not support the benefit of expensive cables. For example, there are $10 audio interconnects that should perform as well as $100 ones.

Search the forum, and you’ll find recommended cables. Generally there is no need to create a new thread just to find that out.

10) How do I choose a subwoofer to match my speakers?

Subwoofer choice is at first dependent on the volume area of your room--including any open areas--and your listening volume. Too little sub and your sub will struggle (or be unable) to keep up with your speakers, and you might overdrive it. As subwoofers get closer to their maximum volume, they also tend to have more distortion. Now if you are using it nearfield for a computer setup (approximately 3 ft away), then subwoofer performance based on the room size is not a concern.

You need to consider the low end frequency extension capability of the sub. For music, a good general guide is that you want extension down to 30hz. However, movies have deeper bass extension where a lot of special effects content is. Many AVS members feel that solid low 20hz (or lower) extension is a big plus for a good subwoofer for HT usage

A sub is a big driver, in a big, heavy enclosure (box), and it has an amp. It is expensive to ship. So most AVS members feel there are significant price/performance benefits on spending more on a sub than most people new to home audio realize: quality and performance does improve quite a bit with a higher budget. When choosing a subwoofer, there are also Internet direct vendors that offer much better price/performance values than traditional speaker company subs that you can buy at a store.

There are still other considerations regarding subwoofer choice. Subwoofer recommendations and questions are best addressed in the AVS subwoofer forum, and you can learn about the different Internet direct vendors, as well as current online deals for entry levels subs. Be sure to read this post instructing you on what information to provide before seeking advice: http://www.avsforum.com/t/989316/want-advice-on-what-sub-to-purchase-please-read-this-before-posting

11) I have questions about different characteristics of speaker design and their specifications.

See this AVS Forum feature article written by Mark Henniger, aka user imagic: 12 Things to Consider when Shopping for Speakers . It will answer a lot of additional questions you might come up with in trying to choose speakers.

My question has not been answered here. What do I do?

If your question pertains to some particular aspect of how to select audio equipment or what to buy, try googling what you are looking for with "AVS" as a keyword. That's the easiest way to find things on the website.

Otherwise, start your own thread :)
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
Goal

My hope is that we could build a Speaker FAQ that could be referenced instead of having to answer some of the same questions over and over again. Maybe it could end up a sticky.

Please make suggestions for improving the existing FAQ by posting below.

Please suggest additional Q&A answer pairings. Provide the text you would like to see. If I think a new FAQ seems too controversial, I'll invite comment from others. Otherwise, I'll add it to the list of FAQs in the first post.

Rules for Posting

This is not a recommendation thread. If you need recommendations for speakers and or audio equipment, start your own thread.

This thread is not for arguing about whether or not you agree with the answers to these FAQs if you have opinions that are not supported by science and that are not commonly shared by AVS members (e.g., buying expensive cables).

If you need clarification of something described above, feel free to ask. Maybe someone will help. If you have questions about other things regarding speakers and audio setups, you should research the forum and maybe start your own thread. In other words, don't see this as a general catch all thread for asking any question.
 

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Along the lines of questions regarding the best center channel, here is something I see a lot:

I have speaker make/model X. What surround speakers should I get?

Since the surround channels are usually only used for effects sounds and ambient noise, it is generally thought to be less important that they have tonal match to the front stage speakers. To put it another way, it is important to keep all the front stage speakers matching for a good sound, but one can have somewhat different surround speakers without nearly as much penalty. However, this is not a completely universally accepted idea, and there is some debate on the importance of matching surrounds. With the expansion from five to seven channel surround sound in lossless codecs and the recent announcement of Dolby Atmos for home systems, the surround channels do seem to be gaining greater importance, so it may be more beneficial to use matching speakers in future surround sound setups, especially if one is using direct-radiating (monopole) speakers for surround speakers.

That brings us to the question, "what type of surround speaker is the best?", which is a lengthy discussion in itself, so we will not try to answer that here. Professional Cinema Atmos systems require monopole surrounds, and since Atmos allows for much more discrete sound imaging, direct-radiating monopole speakers would seem to be the most appropriate surround speaker type for home Atmos systems much like their commercial cinema counterparts.
 

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I was wondering what to do about a same manufacture centre speaker as the one they make been given bad reviews and am using a cube centre. Should I try a different manufacturer centre speaker or should I use a same manufacturers bookshelf speaker?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I was wondering what to do about a same manufacture centre speaker as the one they make been given bad reviews and am using a cube centre. Should I try a different manufacturer centre speaker or should I use a same manufacturers bookshelf speaker?
The best practice is to pick out the speakers for your front soundstage based upon all three being a good choice and a good match. If you are trying to find a work around for that having already bought the left/right, the best you can do is see if there is an owners thread here for the brand and see if anyone has found a work around for your particular speakers. Otherwise, the only solution for a good soundstage would seem to be to get different speakers.
 

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Fantastic post, this needs to be a sticky!
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Along the lines of questions regarding the best center channel, here is something I see a lot:

I have speaker make/model X. What surround speakers should I get?

Since the surround channels are usually only used for effects sounds and ambient noise, it is generally thought to be less important that they have tonal match to the front stage speakers. To put it another way, it is important to keep all the front stage speakers matching for a good sound, but one can have somewhat different surround speakers without nearly as much penalty. However, this is not a completely universally accepted idea, and there is some debate on the importance of matching surrounds. With the expansion from five to seven channel surround sound in lossless codecs and the recent announcement of Dolby Atmos for home systems, the surround channels do seem to be gaining greater importance, so it may be more beneficial to use matching speakers in future surround sound setups, especially if one is using direct-radiating (monopole) speakers for surround speakers.

That brings us to the question, "what type of surround speaker is the best?", which is a lengthy discussion in itself, so we will not try to answer that here. Professional Cinema Atmos systems require monopole surrounds, and since Atmos allows for much more discrete sound imaging, direct-radiating monopole speakers would seem to be the most appropriate surround speaker type for home systems as well as professional cinemas.
This is great!

But I'm wondering if it's good to imply just because Atmos uses monopole that monopole is necessarily better? Maybe instead of the last paragraph it's better just to leave it at something like "If one intends to eventually upgrade to Dolby Atmos, then direct radiating is the appropriate choice since it is required for Dolby Atmos implementation. Otherwise, to learn more about whether bipole, dipole, or direct radiating is best for your needs, consult this lengthy discussion on AVS and read A Guide to Bipolar, Dipolar, & Direct-Radiating Monopole Surround Speakers Part I & Part II"

What do you think?




In other words, leave it open for considering bipole and dipole since not everyone agrees that direct radiating works better.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Fantastic post, this needs to be a sticky!
Thanks! I hope you'll come up with some new ones if you think of anything and help on developing the content. Seems a better use of our time than writing the same things over and over again.

Also, it could work well to centralize some more particular questions about the items covered in the FAQ, like Steve119's question already in the thread. I notice you see a lot of that in the Audyssey FAQ on AVS and some other types of guides.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
What about something regarding sensitivity ratings when comparing speakers from different manufacturers?
If you want to write it up. I am happy to maintain the main FAQ, provide feedback on suggestions, and even do copy editing (if necessary). But I'm not volunteering to write them all :)

Could be good to have a Q&A like that. What about a more general, "How do I compare wattage, sensitivity, and impedance ratings between speakers?" That way the whole issue of the difficulty of doing so could be addressed at once?
 

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This is great!

But I'm wondering if it's good to imply just because Atmos uses monopole that monopole is necessarily better? Maybe instead of the last paragraph it's better just to leave it at something like "If one intends to eventually upgrade to Dolby Atmos, then direct radiating is the appropriate choice since it is required for Dolby Atmos implementation. Otherwise, to learn more about whether bipole, dipole, or direct radiating is best for your needs, consult this lengthy discussion on AVS and read A Guide to Bipolar, Dipolar, & Direct-Radiating Monopole Surround Speakers Part I & Part II"

What do you think?




In other words, leave it open for considering bipole and dipole since not everyone agrees that direct radiating works better.
I was trying to stay away from the implication that monopole is better, as, after all, better is a matter of subjective preference. I think it's fair to say it is better for Atmos, given what is known about Atmos at the moment. Maybe I can reword it with a short description of the pros and cons of each design.
 

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What about something regarding sensitivity ratings when comparing speakers from different manufacturers?
I for one, do not put my primary focus on the sensitivity ratings - the key for me, is the speaker as
a whole. The sonic-signature, realistic sound with good resolution for detail, definition and depth, are
key factors for me.

Something that can/may play louder - is not a sign that it is really a better speaker.
 

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If you want to write it up. I am happy to maintain the main FAQ, provide feedback on suggestions, and even do copy editing (if necessary). But I'm not volunteering to write them all :)

Could be good to have a Q&A like that. What about a more general, "How do I compare wattage, sensitivity, and impedance ratings between speakers?" That way the whole issue of the difficulty of doing so could be addressed at once?
I would if I knew what the "correct" answers were. I simply suggested it thinking it might be beneficial for others like myself who were wondering how to make sense of the different specs.
 

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I'd be careful comparing sensitivity specs without independent measurements and/or SPL charts. It seems to be fairly common for manufacturers to optimistically interpret their sensitivity.
 

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It might be worthwhile to explain what the impedance and sensitivity are in a general sense, and how that relates to speaker performance. But yes a lot of measurements are inflated or presented in an advantageous manner.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
I would if I knew what the "correct" answers were. I simply suggested it thinking it might be beneficial for others like myself who were wondering how to make sense of the different specs.
OK. There are certainly other things that can be added to the FAQ. But we need people to write things up more than suggestions for what to add. :)
 

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I for one, do not put my primary focus on the sensitivity ratings - the key for me, is the speaker as
a whole. The sonic-signature, realistic sound with good resolution for detail, definition and depth, are
key factors for me.

Something that can/may play louder - is not a sign that it is really a better speaker.
I agree. My main speakers are around 85 dB sensitivity rating, not what you'd call efficient. But that's not why I purchased them.

However, efficient and less efficient speakers can throw just about anyone off when comparing competing speakers in a store environment. A speaker that is more efficient may sound a dB or two louder, and that is noticeable. And if it's noticeable, it's human nature to think they might be better. Add that fact to the sales person telling you how more "open" and "dynamic" speaker A is from speaker B, and you get the point. I always recommend taking a dB meter with you to auditions where you can level match the speakers, thus putting them on a level playing field.
 
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Bump. This is too important not to keep it on the first page :).
 
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