Floor-Standing Speakers Buying Guide

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Floor-Standing Speakers Buying Guide

Speakers are the most important sound system component for quality sound reproduction. Floor-standing, or tower, speakers are a popular choice due to their ability to play louder and clearer sound, and to produce more bass than smaller speaker types. Their wide dynamic range and frequency response means better performance and these units are often built with high quality components to live up to their performance reputations. This means that quality floor-standing speakers can be fairly expensive, but buyers who are serious about music reproduction see this as a small disadvantage in comparison to the sound quality of these speakers.

When shopping for floor-standing speakers, learn about the different features and characteristics to understand what is meant by product specifications. The materials and methods used in the construction of floor-standing speakers affect the sound produced, and these factors should be taken into account along with the size and positioning of the speakers. Floor-standing speakers are widely available from electronics and audio shops, and online from sources such as eBay.

Features to Consider When Buying Floor-Standing Speakers

The terminology used in floor-standing speaker specifications may need some clarification for the typical buyer. The table below lists and describes the most common speaker features and characteristics.

Feature

Description

Power

Measured in watts (W) and ranges from 40 W to 200 W

Describes amount of power speakers can use before being damaged

More power means more volume

Match power to room size

Nominal power

Displayed as root mean square (RMS)

Level at which speakers can work continuously without distortion or risk of damage

Peak power

Highest power level that can be used before damaging the speaker

Driver

Converts electrical energy to sound

Driver configuration

Number and arrangement of drivers in speaker

Two are usually best, but speaker sound should be the deciding factor

Impedance

Electrical property related to the resistance of the component, measured in Ohms

Usually rated 4, 8, or 16 Ohms

Low impedance draws high current and vice versa

Low impedance more difficult for amplifier to drive, so match to amplifier

Frequency response

Range of sounds a speaker can reproduce

Measured in Hertz (Hz)

Humans can hear 20 to 20,000 Hz

High quality speakers reproduce all sound in human range

Sensitivity

Measures sound pressure level (SPL) in decibels (dB)

Describes loudness of speaker per 2.83 volts input

Higher sensitivity can be driven by a weaker amplifier

Signal-to-noise ratio (SNR or S/N)

Measured in dB and relates to sound quality

Higher SNR means a clearer sound

Total harmonic distortion (THD)

Measured as a percentage and related to SNR

High quality speakers should have THD of less than 1 percent

In addition to the technical specification, the colour of the floor-standing speakers and the desired finish should be taken into account before buying. Floor-standing speakers are available in a wide range of colours and finishes, with black and wood veneer being the most popular.

Cables for Floor-Standing Speakers

The type of cables used to connect floor-standing speakers to the amplifier also affects the sound quality. Cables allow the speakers and amplifier to interact by sending electrical signals to the drivers so that they can convert these to sound waves. Ideally, speaker cables should have low inductance, but cables usually have high capacitance that is not suited to most amplifiers. Choose cables with low resistance ratings as this allows more power to travel from the amplifier to the speaker. Match the resistance rating of the cables to the impedance rating of the speakers. Where the resistance rating of the audio cables is more than five percent of the impedance rating of the speakers, audio quality starts to degrade. Cables should be kept as short as possible and buyers should invest in the highest quality cable that their budget allows.

Floor-Standing Speaker Cabinets and Construction

The way a floor-standing speaker's cabinet is constructed affects how it sounds. The cabinet should not move or vibrate while the speakers are in use, and a number of materials are used to ensure that the cabinet remains inert. These include MDF, various types of wood, metal, and fibreglass or carbon fibre designs. Cabinets often have one or more internal braces to make them more rigid and may contain wadding to dampen resonance. If possible, knock on the cabinet: if it produces a hollow sound the cabinet may not be made from high quality materials.

Positioning Floor-Standing Speakers

Where space is limited floor-standing speakers may not be the best choice, but they are available in smaller designs, with slender cabinets creating smaller footprints. The speakers should be placed 90 to 120 centimetres from walls to sound their best. They do not work well when placed in the corner of a room. The shape of the room the speakers are standing in, construction materials used, and even furniture can affect the sound of speakers as some surfaces and materials absorb and dampen sounds, while others reflect and amplify sound. Sound is more inclined to reverberate in smaller spaces, causing either speaker amplification, or introducing noise and interference. The type of flooring used in a room can similarly affect sound quality. Carpets tend to absorb sound, while hardwood or laminate flooring can increase reverberation.

As speaker drivers feature magnets in their construction, magnetic fields may interfere with television displays if placed too close to the screen. This is usually seen as discolouration or lines on the display. If the speakers need to stand close to a television or computer screen, look for speakers with integrated magnetic shielding.

Most floor-standing speakers feature spikes on the bottom to help to stabilise the speaker cabinet by grounding the speakers through thick floor coverings like carpet. However, these spikes damage hardwood or laminate flooring, leaving pin marks and holes in their wake. Most speakers allow the buyer to choose between spikes and feet, and feet are perfectly adequate for wooden or hard flooring. If the floor-standing speakers chosen feature only spikes, simply place a small square of wood underneath each speaker to protect the floor. In addition, the closer the speaker is to the floor, the more bass reinforcement is created, so consider a small stand to control this. It is best to experiment with the positioning of floor-standing speakers to find the perfect position.

Buying Floor-Standing Speakers on eBay

Buying floor standing speakers on eBay is simple when you know how to find what you are looking for, and how to evaluate the item and seller. To find floor-standing speakers, type a search phrase, such as "Wharfedale floor-standing speakers", into the search field, which is located conveniently on every page, to see the items available from eBay sellers. Narrow your selection by choosing the most appropriate category and the desired item characteristics. Alternatively, use the advanced search function to control your search results.

Evaluate the Item and the Seller

Once you have found the floor-standing speakers that you want, click on the listing to see details about the bidding and buying options, accepted payment methods, postage and packaging costs, and the seller's feedback information. Remember that local sellers often allow you to collect your purchases, provided you are both comfortable with this arrangement. Click on the "Ask a question" link to contact the seller with any questions you may have.

eBay's seller feedback feature allows you to make up your own mind about a seller before buying an item. Buyers are encouraged to leave feedback about sellers' products and customer service at the conclusion of each transaction. Click on the number next to the seller's username to view this information, and do not forget to add your own comments and rating once you have received your floor-standing speakers.

Conclusion

Good quality floor-standing speakers offer the best sound reproduction due to wider frequency response and dynamic range. This translates to clearer and more accurate sound. Understanding the terminology used in speaker specifications allows the shopper to make an informed buying choice. Factors like power, the number and arrangement of drivers, the impedance rating and frequency response, sensitivity, signal-to-noise ratio, and total harmonic distortion can be used to gauge the performance and suitability of the floor-standing speakers for a current music system. As speakers and sound reproduction work with electrical currents it is important to match the speakers to the amplifier to avoid damage to either component and to ensure that the highest sound quality is achieved.

The cables used to connect the floor-standing speakers to the amplifier should be suitable for the speakers and should be of such a quality that they do not degrade the sound. Match the resistance rating of the cables to the impedance rating of the speakers for the best results. High quality cabinets are built to decrease vibration and movement. Knocking on the cabinet should not produce a hollow sound.

The positioning of floor-standing speakers is important as this further affects the sound quality produced. Where space is at a premium, consider buying a combination of smaller speakers. Floor-standing speakers should be placed at least 90 to 120 centimetres from walls and not in corners. Experiment to find the best position. A range of floor-standing speakers are available from eBay sellers.

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