Building a Home Audio System with Wall or Bookshelf Speakers

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Building a Great Home Audio System with Wall or Bookshelf Speakers

Some people think the only way to build a great home audio system is to start with speakers a metre tall and build the entire system around them. While it may look impressive to fill a room with massive speakers, speaker size alone is no measure of a great home audio system. A great home audio system is one that produces consistently excellent sound throughout the listening area, not one that draws all eyes to the speakers. After all, speakers are supposed to work their magic through the sound they produce, not their appearance. Great sound can come from small speakers as well as large ones. Another thing to consider is that a home audio system is a system, not just a collection of parts. All the components have to work well together in order to ensure the best reproduction, as no one component can do everything, and that includes the speakers. A good set of wall or bookshelf speakers are perfectly capable of anchoring a great home audio system.

How a Speaker Works

The speakers are what set the ultimate ceiling on the quality of sound any audio system can produce. Everything feeds through them before reaching the listener's ears, and the first step to understanding how to get great sound is understanding the basics of how a speaker works. At base, a speaker is essentially a pump. It is a high-frequency electro-magnetically driven air pump that is used to generate atmospheric pressure waves which is what the human ear perceives as sound. As a general rule, larger speakers can move more air and generate deeper sounds, while smaller speakers are more responsive and can generate higher sounds more easily as there is less mass to move. Still, while very small speakers, earphone-size, may have difficulty with bass, most speakers more than a few centimetres across are more than able to generate all the sounds the human ear can hear.

Response and clarity are far more important than simple size because creating great sound is about more than moving air. It is about moving the right amount of air at the right time, and reacting with the music. A huge speaker that produces too much bass, and a mushy-sounding mid-range is not going to impress any listener.

Plan the Home Audio System

Before anyone goes out and buys a new home audio system, they should take the time to determine exactly what they are looking for. Buying a good home audio system is rarely difficult, but buying a great home audio system does take a little more thought and work. There are several factors that need to be considered before building the system.

Consider the Listening Environment for the Home Audio System

Sound, or music, does not exist in a vacuum. That is not just a matter of physics, but also a reminder of the fact that the room in which the system is placed is also a factor. It is not just the physical space, but the entire living environment. A great home audio system for a bedroom or small flat is not going to be the same as a great home audio system for a dedicated home theatre room in a large house. In the first case, while crisp, clear sound is important, there is not going to be much need for high volume, out of concern for the neighbours. Someone wanting to use their home audio system as a home theatre centrepiece is going to need more volume, especially when playing movies where higher volumes create a greater sense of immersion. Hence, knowing the intended use and environment makes it that much easier to plan for a great home audio system.

Using Bookshelf Speakers for a Great Home Audio System

One of the reasons why bookshelf or wall speakers can be such an important part of a great home audio system is that speaker quality is more important than overall size, and so good quality speakers that produce excellent sound can be found at any size. However, there are some specific advantages to bookshelf speakers that can make them a great choice in many cases. One important factor is that bookshelf speakers are not only easily portable, but that they can be placed at a wide variety of heights.

The Importance of Height When Setting up Speakers

In all likelihood, most buyers already understands the importance of stereo separation: Because the ears are on the sides of the head, the best way to reproduce natural sounding audio is by using at least two sound sources, separated so they can easily be distinguished by the listener. What is often forgotten, is the benefit of putting the speakers as close as possible to the same height as the listener's ears. This is important because the higher the frequency, the more directional the sound. Placing speakers at or near the height of the listener's ears helps ensure these frequencies are heard more clearly. Listeners do not need to use the same volume when the vocals are not aimed at their kneecaps, and the placement of bookshelves helps to ensure that.

Take Advantage of the Walls to Boost Bass Response

Another thing to consider is that smaller speakers can often get a boost to their bass response from being placed close to walls. The non-directional lower frequencies bounce off the wall and back towards the listener, boosting the effective bass output. Good quality bookshelf and wall speakers are both designed to take advantage of this natural performance boost, and do so without it interfering with the rest of its frequency response. This is one way to gain the benefits of both large and small speakers.

Building a Great Home Audio System

The key to building a great home audio system with either wall or bookshelf speakers begins with understanding the system's intended use. Once the prospective purchaser knows and understands exactly what they want to do with their home audio system, the next step is to find the right components for that audio system. One advantage of digital audio is that it is relatively easy to build a good to great system with most components, as long as the builder starts with quality speakers. Speakers are the very last place a stereo builder should skimp on their budget, since everything reaches the listener through the speakers. Good quality speakers properly connected to the home audio unit are what separates the great from the merely good.

Buying Wall or Bookshelf Speakers for a Great Home Audio System on eBay

One of the best places to buy bookshelf speakers, or even an entire home audio system, is eBay. All you have to do is enter the terms in the search box, there is one on every eBay page, and watch as the results appear before your eyes. Once you have your raw results, you can use the filters in the sidebar to narrow them down to just the ones that meet your need. You can filter by everything from brand and price range, to seller location. Once you have the filters in place, you can sort the results to focus on the ones that best match your requirements. Sort by price, best match, or even shipping distance.

After you have found the right speakers, the next step is to find your best match amongst eBay's many reputable sellers. The best way to do this is by starting at the seller's profile page, where you can see everything from their location, to their feedback score, and even if they have any special shipping policies. Some sellers may let you bundle multiple sets of speakers together to save on shipping, while others may allow local buyers to pick up their speakers in person and save on shipping that way.


Building a great home audio system is not about putting the largest speakers one can find in a small room and turning the volume to eleven. A great home audio system is based around putting high quality speakers in the right place and driving them at an appropriate volume. Bookshelf and wall speakers have several advantages for use with a great home audio system. Their relatively small size makes it easy to put them exactly where the listener wants them for best effect. It is not just their horizontal location that matters. Bookshelf and wall speakers are easily mounted at the same height as the listener's head, helping create a more natural sound as well as helping ensure that the higher, more directional frequencies are aimed where the listener can best hear them. Another benefit of these speakers is that they can use the walls behind or next to them to boost the effective bass response, just as if the speakers were larger than they actually are. A high-quality set of bookshelf or wall speakers makes an excellent foundation from which to build a great home audio system.

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