The Dos and Don'ts of Buying Speakers

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The Do's and Don'ts of Buying Speakers

A speaker is an essential component of many electronic devices, enabling a listener to hear the sound that is produced. The quality of the sound will depend on the speaker that is being used, and there is a wide variety of speakers available, each designed to be connected to a specific device. Consider how a speaker will be used to determine which will be most suitable.

About Speakers

A speaker, or loudspeaker, transmits electrical impulses into audible sounds. Numerous speakers have been designed to facilitate a wide range of uses. Electronic devices such as televisions and radios have integral speakers which, owing to their small size, can sometimes produce poor quality sounds. These devices can be complemented by connecting external speakers to enhance sound quality. External speakers have a range of connectivity options to enable connection to a variety of electronic devices.

There are also assorted driver options - a driver is the sound producing component of a speaker - to allow a buyer to shop for a particular range of sounds. Furthermore, speakers vary by size and style, and can also be purchased as a set, for example, as with surround sound systems. Selecting the right speaker can enhance audio experience, and a good quality speaker will produce high quality sounds for several years.

Choosing Speakers

While the visual qualities and other aspects of a speaker are largely down to personal taste, there are many practical factors that can make it easier to select the right speaker to purchase. With such a wide range of different speakers for sale, it can help to consider four separate features of a speaker to determine whether it is suitable: connectivity, drivers, placement, and power.

Speaker Connectivity

The audio input options that are available on a speaker will determine which electronic devices can be connected. It is fairly common for external speakers to have more than one input option, enabling greater flexibility of use. Read speaker specifications to find out which connections are possible. The following table outlines some of the more common speaker connection options.


Wireless speaker is a stylish alternative to traditional wired speakers, as there are no visible cables, which enables greater freedom when deciding on a location for the speaker. Wireless units can sometimes be operated from another room, or via a number of input devices, for great sound quality throughout the home.

Banana Jacks

The most common connection for external speakers is via banana jacks , which are colour-coded (usually red and black, but can be any colour) to assist buyers in correctly connecting speakers to an input device.


Available on many smaller speaker units, USB ports enable connectivity to digitally stored media, as well as devices such as computers, mp3 players, and modern televisions.


A dock facilitates direct connectivity of a device to a speaker. Docking stations are often brand-specific, for example, an iPod dock will only support an Apple brand product. Docks can be single speaker units or part of a larger system.

Other wired

Several other wiring alternatives are available; check connectivity of the input device and read speaker specifications to ensure they are compatible.

Don't just buy speakers with the highest number of input options as there is a good chance most of them will never be used. Do decide which device(s) will be connected to the speaker, and choose an item that meets connectivity requirements.


A driver is the part of a speaker that produces sound. There are several different types of drivers, each one relating to the range of frequencies, or sound pitches, it is capable of reproducing.

Full range

Often found in integral speakers, full-range drivers are designed to play the full range of audible frequencies. This can compromise the sound quality of the extreme frequencies, but enables very small speakers.


A tweeter manages the highest range of frequencies, including high pitched notes and children's voices.


A mid-range speaker plays sounds from the middle of the audible frequency range. A good pairing of a good quality tweeter and woofer may remove the need for a mid-range speaker.


The lower frequencies are heard through a woofer, including many audio sound effects such as drums, cars, and explosions. A high quality woofer reduces the need for a subwoofer.


Designed for very low frequencies, a subwoofer provides the rumbling bass component of a soundtrack, adding extra depth to music and other audio. Audio enthusiasts will usually require a subwoofer, but it is by no means an essential component of a speaker package.

A speaker is sometimes described in terms of the number of drivers it contains. For example, a speaker with a tweeter and a woofer is called a two-way driver. Don't purchase more speakers than is necessary; for example, a subwoofer is not an essential requirement for a small living room audio system. Do consider what space is available and what type of sound is anticipated, and research speakers to find a unit or system that meets personal requirements.

Speaker Placement

The space available for speaker placement is a determining factor in what size or type of speaker to purchase. In a home, a number of speaker variations are on offer to complement a range of lifestyles and living spaces. Some of the more common form factors are described in the table below.

Surround sound

For total audio immersion in music, film, or television, surround sound speakers are strategically placed around a room to emit sound from all angles, literally surrounding a listener. These speakers are available individually or as a complete package or system.

Floor standing

Speakers placed either directly on the floor, or on a floor stand, have the advantages of tweeters placed at optimum height, while bass notes cause rumbling vibrations across the floor, adding an extra dimension to the listening experience. However, floor speakers require sufficient vacant floor space.


As their name indicates, bookshelf speakers sit on a shelf or other flat surface. It is possible for bookshelf speakers to cause unwanted vibrations against the shelf. Secure any hanging wires and cables to minimise hazards and maintain a neat appearance.


Placing speakers in walls or ceilings is a way to install speakers without compromising on space. In-wall or in-ceiling speakers can look sleek and stylish, but are a fairly permanent addition to a room.


Great for outdoor events, some speakers are designed to be weather-resistant. Read instructions carefully to ensure safe and correct use of outdoor speakers..


Many other form factors and speaker styles are available, including flat panel and sound bar speakers. Read item descriptions and view pictures to gain further information.

Don't buy speakers that will not suit the environment. For example, a 10.2 surround sound configuration - a system featuring ten speakers plus two subwoofers - is entirely unnecessary in a regularly sized living area, where a 5.1 system would be sufficient. Do consider the space that is available and the optimum placement for best sound quality, and then select a speaker or system that meets these requirements.

Speaker Power

The power rating of a speaker is the maximum input of power a speaker can withstand, not its expected output. It should also be noting that a higher powered speaker does not necessarily produce a higher volume or a better quality of sound. While an audio enthusiast might take power ratings into consideration when purchasing a new speaker, qualities such as sound quality and connectivity options should be more important factors to consider. Don't be tempted to purchase a speaker based on its power rating alone; this does not provide any information about the sound it will produce. Do research brands and product specifications to determine whether power rating is an important factor in selecting the right speaker.

Find Speakers on eBay

To buy speakers on eBay, begin by highlighting the Electronics tab on the eBay homepage, and then click the link for Sound & Vision. From the new menu, select Home Audio & Hifi Separates, followed by Speakers & Subwoofers. Browse listings or refine the search by selecting subcategories from the menu on the left side of the page. Another option is to enter specific words or phrases into the search bar located at the top of any eBay page. For example, to search for a surround sound speaker system with wireless connectivity, type "surround sound wireless" into the search bar.


External speakers are designed to enhance the sound quality of any electronic audio device. A range of speakers are available to facilitate use with a variety of input devices. When purchasing a speaker or speaker system, consider numerous factors, including connectivity, drivers, placement and power to identify a suitable item to meet individual requirements. Read item descriptions to be certain of speaker specifications, and use speakers in accordance with instructions to maximise sound quality and longevity. Research all sellers to be confident in making a good purchase and compare similar items to find a high-quality product at a competitive price.

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