These days, many residences contain a well-designed, quality home audio system. Whether a sound aficionado wishes to listen to compact discs, DVDs, or vinyl, the home audio system is a necessary upgrade. Many also choose to integrate their high-definition television or home theatre system into their audio system, thereby providing a professional movie viewing experience, both visually and aurally.
Recommended components may vary based on audio or video playback, as may the size of the area in which the system is implemented. If more than one room is integrated, a home audio controller allows the user to manage the sound throughout the house. Another essential buy, the preamplifier, delivers more precise and preferable sound.
As building a home audio system can grow very expensive, very quickly, it is essential for prospective buyers to do their homework. Before purchasing, one should become familiar with home audio systems in general and controllers and preamplifiers in particular, and then assess their needs as well as their budget. Components are available from electronics and music stores, but when one is ready to buy, Internet sites such as eBay often provide the greatest inventory and the best prices.
Home Audio System: Audio Controller vs. Preamplifier
A home audio controller is essential when implementing sound throughout the entire house. The preamplifier, on the other hand, not only amplifies audio but also protects against distortion and noise. Preserving the ratio between volume and signal is another benefit of the preamplifier.
Home Audio Controller
A home audio controller spreads the sound to each room, utilising speakers, digital music centres, and controllers. In order to manage house sound, homeowners should purchase a wireless LCD controller.
There are many audio controllers on the market, each with different features and varying price tags. Amongst the controllers’ common characteristics are composite video switching and multiple sources and zones. Network-serial adapters are additional necessary accessories. Sometimes, one can operate home audio controllers via a simple iPhone app such as Llama Panel Pro.
A preamplifier processes and amplifies an electrical signal. Placing the preamplifier near the audio signal minimises distortion and feedback. While boosting the audio signal and delivering it to the system’s speakers, the preamplifier also maintains the sound’s signal-to-noise ratio. With some home audio systems, sometimes what is referred to as a preamplifier is actually a device that applies a volume control to various line level sources, with no amplification taking place. These systems generally utilise a second amplifier to deliver voltage gain without current gain. Three types of preamplifiers are available: charge-sensitive, current-sensitive, and parasitic-capacitance.
Home Audio System: Audio vs. Video
Prior to selecting home audio components, buyers should first take stock of their needs and wants, determining if they use the system primarily for video or for audio. This is an important question, as the best selection for audio is frequently not the same as that for video.
With their dynamic compression, music recordings relay far fewer deep bass effects than do their video counterparts. Here, the subwoofer’s job is to deliver pitch-perfect and well-controlled bass sounds. Audio recordings are primarily available in stereo, although a few of the newer offerings may deliver multi-channel sound. If music is the audio system’s primary delivery, the front speakers should be the bigger investment.
Whether viewed through a cable connection, DVR, or DVD, video delivers a vast soft-to-loud dynamic range, with different aspects of the sound mixed and distributed to different channels. Due to their wide dynamic range, film soundtracks also take advantage of the sound system’s high-volume capacity. With video playback, the most important speaker is the one in the centre, which should be matched, timbre-wise, with the others.
How to Build a Home Audio System
The easiest way to build a home audio system quickly is to buy a prepackaged kit. Depending on the brand and the quality, this may be a good first step. However, home audio enthusiasts should be prepared to build upon this basic system as funds allow. A good rule of thumb is to buy the best equipment one can afford.
Know the Technology
If there is one constant in life, it is change. This applies to everything from the turning of the seasons to advancements in technology. Before making a home audio shopping list, buyers should first familiarise themselves with their options. There are a number of outlets available for investigation and learning, including manufacturer websites, technology know-how sites, and friends and family. Following a thorough review of both necessary and desirable features, prospective buyers are able to make a shortlist of three or four systems that can satisfy their needs.
The size of the room must also be a factor in the buying decision. For an optimal sound experience, room in excess of 200 square metres require full-size speakers that deliver a full range of sound. In lieu of a receiver, the large-room home audio system is best served by a powerful amplifier. It is also preferable, when one is able, to build a home audio system with components and not a kit.
Unless the home audio buff wants to literally feel the room shake with movie playback, a small satellite/subwoofer system should be sufficient for a room under 200 square metres in size.
Audio Controller or Preamplifier
Arguably, the most important part of any home audio system is its speakers. After that, home audio enthusiasts want to turn their attention to the amplifier. This piece of equipment acts as a decoder of signals, which it then amplifies and sends to the speakers. In essence, the amplifier is the go-between that connects input and output. As such, one should avoid a low-cost, low-quality amplifier; when budget is a concern, buying a pre-owned model from a reputable brand is the way to go.
A preamplifier is highly desirable with high-end systems. Beyond boosting the sound, the preamplifier also improves sound quality.
One must-have receiver feature is the THX Select standard, which brings the THX Ultra standard from the movie theatre to the smaller home space. With THX select, the system facilitates the highly desirable DTS and Dolby formats. Digital and preamplifier outs are essential if the home audio devotee plans to expand the system in the future. Below is a detailed discussion of components.
As any audiophile knows, the speakers are the most important part of the stereo system. Home audio designers should be prepared to devote a significant portion of their budget to the speakers, so important are they to the overall system. Ideally, quality speakers should convey a sense of ‘being there’, in that the listener can visualise the players, pinpointing and appreciating each instrument. While a set of speakers can range in cost from the triple digits to the quadruple, a lot of it comes down to personal preference. What sounds good to one pair of ears may seem tinny or overly amplified to another. In addition, the ‘right’ speakers may vary based on the genre of music.
When supplementing systems, the first speaker consideration should be the main front speakers, as these deliver the bulk of the sound. Front speakers should be able to fully utilise the receiver’s power, and a centre channel speaker should complement the front speakers.
The next choice is between upgrading the surround speakers or subwoofer, the former being most often recommended. With either product, though, one may mix and match manufacturers within the system as long as they are compatible.
Three things to look for in a CD player or other playback device are a superior digital-to-audio converter, reputable brand, and sturdy construction. The goal here is to deliver an even, natural sound, not one that seems manufactured and unnatural. Other playback considerations are digital video players or recorders, or even turntables, which have come back into fashion. Bear in mind, however, that if a turntable is part of the picture, it is important to select one that includes a quality cartridge and tone arm, from a reputable manufacturer.
Of course, cables and interconnects are an important part of a home audio system; however, it is important not to overthink this purchase. Instead of overspending on connections, buyers should first research which cables are recommended for the system they are acquiring. While it is true that cheap cables lessen the home audio system’s sound, top-of-the-line models may simply be overkill. The best action is to buy quality cables that do not break the bank.
Whereas banana plugs are recommended for audio, video tends to transmit better with the use of composite cables. When possible, one should avoid RCA cables.
How to Buy a Home Audio System Audio Controller or Preamplifier on eBay
Once you have identified your present home audio needs, eBay is a great place to take your shopping list. In addition to its vast inventory of products, the digital marketplace offers some of the best bargains on both new and pre-owned sound equipment. Pages of products return with a search for audio controllers and preamplifiers, each replete with photographs, titles and detailed descriptions, price or current bid as well as postage, shipping terms and estimated delivery, and return policy when applicable.
Amongst eBay’s other desirable features is your ability to easily read buyer feedback left for each of the sellers, or to choose only from eBay’s Top Sellers. You also have the option of asking the seller a question directly or reading through any prior questions from fellow shoppers. eBay Local is another option, especially if you would like to hear the equipment before you buy. Through eBay’s messaging system, you can reach out to a seller to arrange for a viewing.
With the advancements in sound and audio delivery, building a home audio system is a popular residential upgrade for many people. While the number of available components and high prices often work to provide the highest-quality viewing and listening experience, many home audio enthusiasts have neither the budget nor the space to accommodate advanced, comprehensive systems. For this reason, it is essential to analyse available options, including those recommended for the given space and intended use. While buyers generally look to buy the best equipment their budget allows, sometimes the most expensive model is not the best for one’s particular situation.
Once buyers have done their research and identified which components they wish to acquire, they do well to take their shopping list to eBay. Here, a vast inventory awaits, with both new and pre-owned options as well as many available bargains. Tying the entire system together with a home audio controller or preamplifier puts the final touches on the home audio experience, enabling quality sound and whole-house control.