How to Buy the Right Speakers for Your Needs

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How to Buy the Right Speakers for Your Needs

Speakers determine the overall quality of any audio or music system, but choosing the right set for the given requirements will require a little planning and consideration for the circumstances of use.

Considerations of Location

Whether the speakers are needed for a simple home audio system, for a gig, for a home theatre system or for a DJ club night, it is important to consider the amount of space available to actually house them.

Freestanding
 

Generally, freestanding speakers need to be placed at least a few feet from the walls, otherwise there will be a 'boomy' sound. Freestanding speakers are suitable for home entertainment systems and can be put into cabinets where they are concealed by fabric grilles. Some freestanding speakers use technologies other than tweeters, midrange drivers, or traditional round speaker woofers. Instead, these electrostatic and planar speakers produce sound from electrical charges created along thin films or ribbons.

 

Bookshelf
 

As the name suggests, these speakers are small enough to sit on a bookshelf – although they can be attached to the wall by brackets or screws. Small bookshelf speakers can be very effective when placed on shelves, on top of home entertainment cabinets, or, as has been mentioned, affixed to a wall. Thanks to technological advancement, many such speakers can produce sound on a par with larger freestanding models, despite their diminutive size.

 

Internally fitted in-wall or in-ceiling
 

A good choice when the speakers need to be invisible or when there simply isn't the space for freestanding or bookshelf models, in-wall and in-ceiling models are thin units designed to be inset into a wall or ceiling with the grilles flush to the surface. In-wall speakers are often rectangular, whereas in-ceiling speakers are round so that they will visually blend with light fittings and other ceiling fixtures, and both can often be painted to match.

 

Subwoofer
 

Subwoofers produce the low-bass sounds that can be heard in music and movie soundtracks and are responsible for the effective amplification of explosions and loud noises. There are active subwoofers available, which include built-in amplifiers to power the woofers, and passive subwoofers, which draw power from an outside source, such as a power amplifier or audio/video receiver.

 

Audio transducers
 

Audio transducers, also known as 'shakers', will take specific audio signals and turn them into vibrations. They can be placed beneath seats or under the floor of a home theatre to physically provide explosive special effects or – with a games room – to add to the special effects. The vibrations from these units can also add to the enjoyment of a powerful bass in a music venue.

 

Audio Transmission Style

Depending on the size and style of the performance planned, there are two main sources of power to consider - mains and battery. Irrespective of the source of power, however, the main consideration before purchasing speakers should be the most effective transmission of audio.

Bluetooth
 

Bluetooth is the most common format for streaming music wirelessly, and connection is as simple as 'pairing' them to create a one-to-one joining between the two devices. The main limitation is that a Bluetooth connection only reaches roughly 30 feet and requires a line of sight between the two devices. Not only that, but many things can interfere with the purity of the signal and, therefore, the clarity of the audio. Although very effective for a home audio system, Bluetooth transmission would be less suitable for a DJ club night.

 

Wired
 

The gauge of the wire used to transmit the music from amplifier to speaker is critical. It is recommended for runs of 50 feet or less that 14-16 gauge wire is used; larger distances should use a thicker gauge. Wired audio transmission would be more effective for retail unit music provision, club gigs, and music performances as well as larger and more complicated home theatre set ups.

 

Components of Amplification

When using an amplifier, a speaker should always be matched with the right amount of power for the best performance. Manufacturers will usually specify the amplifier power necessary to properly power the speaker.
Amplifier power is measured in watts although wattage has no direct correlation to loudness or volume, but is only relevant to speaker efficiency, the dynamic range, and sound quality.

Speaker efficiency

Speaker efficiency, also known as speaker sensitivity, is a measure of the speaker's output, measured in decibels, with a specified amount of amplifier power. One watt of power is delivered to the speaker, and the level meter measures the volume in decibels. This output level results in a measurement of efficiency. Speakers range in sensitivity from about 85dB (very inefficient) up to 105dB (very efficient). As an example, a speaker with 85 dB efficiency rating will take twice the amplifier power to reach to same volume as a speaker with 88 dB efficiency.

 

Dynamic range

Music is dynamic in nature and constantly changes in volume level and frequency, and an audio system should be chosen to best depict this range. The fluctuation in volume level and frequency is, therefore, known as the dynamic range. The nuances of volume and frequency must be taken into consideration when picking a speaker package.

 

Sound quality

Sound quality is a subjective issue, but in terms of effectiveness in a commercial setting, the speakers should be evenly spaced and be plentiful enough to allow a full audio effect without straining the volume level.

 

Checklist of Considerations


The best way to choose speakers for repeated use in a specific arena is to create a checklist of requirements. When considering the audio needs for DJ performances or other musical reproduction, be aware that the effect can be expanded or decreased by adding or subtracting the number of speakers or components used.

Size of venue
 

Recognising the different requirements of differing sizes of room is paramount. For example, a small coffee shop will be unlikely to need more than a minimal speaker set up to adequately fill the room with sound. In comparison, a larger venue will need the power that only multiple pairs of speakers, subwoofers, and transducers can provide.
 

Optimum sets

Speakers are often bought in sets of two, and each set will have an optimum sound provision per space. Although there is no standard space versus speaker ratio to be applied, in general, a set every 100 feet – with subwoofers and transducers added to substantiate the sound provision – will effectively cover a larger space with a full dynamic range. In short, the bigger the venue, the more sets needed.
 

Power sources

Mains powered speakers require access to electrical outlets – battery powered speakers will only have a time limited usage. It is wise to find out how many sockets are available, the logistics of using extension cables, and the length of play time planned.
 

Subwoofer or transducer requirement

A subwoofer can significantly increase the low-frequency capability of the system and can clean up the sound provision by taking on some of the low-frequency load. It can also take the distortion, which often accompanies low frequency loads, away from the other speakers, which can actually allow the system to be run at lower volume levels while still maintaining the 'punch' of the performance. A transducer may also be required to elevate the performance by adding physical vibration to audio output.
 

How to Buy Speakers on eBay

To buy speakers, first go to the eBay homepage, opening the All Categories tab, then scroll down the page to reach Sound & Vision. Here, click the Performance & DJ Equipment tab, and then select Speakers & Monitors. Further filters will then appear in the left hand column. Alternatively, use the bar at the top of any eBay page and key in "subwoofer speaker".

Conclusion

Speakers will determine the overall effectiveness of any audio or music system, and choosing the right set will take a little forethought.
The needs for a home audio system, gig, home theatre system, or a club night will all differ, but should be taken into consideration before purchasing any speaker set.
Often space will be a primary consideration, but speakers are available in a variety of configurations and fixings, such as freestanding, in-wall or in-ceiling flush fixtures, bookshelf models, subwoofers, and transducers.
Audio can be transmitted by either Bluetooth or wire, but wireless speakers still require power and can either be plugged into an electrical socket or powered by batteries.
An amplifier should always be matched with the right amount of speaker power for the best performance, and manufacturers will usually specify the optimum power frequency required.
Before choosing a set of speakers, it is helpful to write a checklist of needs, covering venue size, correlating speaker sets, power sources, and the potential increase of efficient performance by the addition of subwoofers and transducers.

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