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Your Guide to Buying High-Quality Floor-Standing Speakers

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Your Guide to Buying High-Quality Floor-Standing Speakers

Floor-standing speakers are perhaps the most important type of speaker to change when improving a home theatre setup. This is because they are the biggest, and because they come from the manufacturer fine-tuned to match their cabinet. This means one does not have to be an expert in audio quality to make floor-standing speakers sound great. However, since there are so many brands and designs of floor-standing speakers, it is a good idea to know a little about different speaker specifications so that one can be sure of the quality.

Gold-plated binding posts and low crossover points, are just two of the indications of high quality in floor-standing speakers. The design of the speakers is another factor that should be taken into account. By learning about basic features of speakers, types of drivers found in floor-standing speakers, and other aspects like cabinet design, shoppers can make sure they know a high-quality speaker when they see one. Floor-standing speakers can be found at department stores as well as specialised audio equipment stores, but knowing how to find floor-standing speakers online helps shoppers find extraordinary deals.

Features of High-Quality Floor-Standing Speakers

The full range of sound heard by most people is from 20 Hz to 20 kHz. Naturally, the best speakers cover as much of that range as possible. This is called the frequency response, and is a major indication of speaker quality. Other speaker specifications include sensitivity, and the characteristics of the binding posts.

Frequency Response

The frequency response in many speakers, is given as a range of frequencies that the speaker can emit. For example, 30 Hz to 22 kHz  shows that the speaker can reproduce bass sounds. However, the frequency response of a speaker is one of the most misleading specifications because the range alone does not tell how loud a particular frequency can be reproduced.

A speaker may be able to emit an extremely low frequency sound, at 28 Hz, for example, but the sound may be so soft that it is practically inaudible. For this reason, many high-quality speaker manufacturers will give the frequency response as a range of frequencies along with a tolerance range in decibels, for example, '34 Hz to 22 kHz, +/- 3dB'. This indicates that any frequency in the range can be produced by the speaker at roughly the same volume (within 3 dBs) as any other frequency. Even within this tolerance, different speakers with the same frequency response, will have a different sound and feel depending on the relative volume of the high, middle, and low frequencies.

Sensitivity

The sensitivity of a speaker depends on its volume at a given power input. Highly sensitive speakers can produce up to 104 dB with 1 watt of power, as measured 1 metre away. Less sensitive speakers may only produce 80 dB under the same conditions. Unlike frequency response, this measurement is standardised across all manufacturers. Since it is assumed that the measurement is taken at a distance of 1 metre from the speaker, and with 1 watt of power input, the sensitivity of a speaker is given in dB. Every 3 dB of difference between two speakers means that the less sensitive speaker will need twice as much power to produce the same volume. This means a speaker with a sensitivity of 104 dBs, needs 256 times the power in order to produce the same volume as a speaker with a sensitivity of 80. For this reason, high-quality speakers have high sensitivity and are therefore much more efficient with their power consumption.

Binding Posts

The connections where wires connect to a speaker are called binding posts. These connectors are extremely important because they ensure that all the power and audio information from the receiver and amplifier arrive at the speaker. When the connection is not good, power is lost and the speaker is less efficient.

The most common type of binding post is the 5-way binding post. This type of connector allows cables to be connected in any one of five different ways. The five ways are:

  1. Banana plugs
  2. Pin connectors
  3. Bare wire inserted and clamped
  4. Wire wrapped around and clamped
  5. Lug terminal inserted and clamped

Some speakers only offer 3-way binding posts. These will accept banana plugs, pin connectors, and bare wire. High-end speakers often have gold-plated binding posts. These improve the conductivity to ensure the least loss in power possible.         

Drivers

The drivers in a speaker are the heart of the speaker. They are the most important part of any speaker. Floor-standing speakers can have up to six drivers inside, with each one responsible for a different part of the frequency range. The frequencies where they overlap is called the crossover. This is an important specification in high-quality speakers along with the number, range, and size of the drivers.

Crossover Points

The crossover point is the frequency at which sounds are sent to a different driver. For example, at 500 Hz, the sound may switch from the woofer to the midrange driver. Since low frequencies are the hardest for a speaker to produce, a low crossover point is ideal because it allows the woofer to specialise in a smaller range of low frequencies. A crossover point of 500 Hz between the woofer and midrange or tweeter would be ideal. However, having just one driver to cover the range from 500 Hz to 20 kHz is difficult and therefore expensive. The most common solution is to have two or more drivers that cover the midrange and the higher frequencies.

Note that 'crossover' also refers to the part inside the speaker that switches the sound signal between drivers. Crossovers can be active or passive. Active crossovers are more expensive and more likely to be found in high-end speakers. Crossovers in high-quality speakers have 12 dB per octave slope while low-end crossovers have a 3 or 6 dB per octave slope. This measurement refers to how gradually the sound is moved from one driver to another at the crossover point.

Number and Range of Drivers

The number of drivers is one specification in which more is generally not better. Splitting up the frequency range between four or more drivers (for example, a woofer, a midrange driver, a tweeter, and a 'supertweeter') results in more crossover points, which is not ideal for sound quality. Drivers can interfere with each other at the points where they overlap. Also, the more drivers a speaker has, the less capable and lower quality each one is, in general. High-end drivers can cover a larger range of frequencies than low quality drivers, but it is best if low frequency drivers in floor-standing speakers are dedicated to a small range of low frequencies.

Driver Size

Driver size is important because drivers need to have high surface area in order to move air at different frequencies. In particular, big low-range drivers (woofers) sound best. Even a small change in driver diameter causes a big difference in surface area. For example, two 6-inch drivers have just a little more surface area than a single 8-inch driver. Using two drivers to produce sounds of the same frequency can cause problems, so in general, one large driver is better than two smaller ones. However, many floor-standing tower speakers have multiple smaller drivers because of the space restrictions of a tall, thin speaker. Floor-standing speakers with wider bigger cabinets, will naturally be able to move more air and produce better low range frequencies.

Sealed or Ported Speaker Design

There are two main kinds of enclosures in floor-standing speakers: the sealed enclosure and the ported enclosure. One should know about these two types of speaker cabinets because they have very different effects on sound quality and power consumption.

Sealed Speakers

Sealed speakers are completely airtight cabinets. As the driver moves back and forth, the pressure inside the speaker cabinet changes. On one hand, it takes more power to move the driver despite the changes in pressure. On the other hand, the pressure helps the diaphragm of the driver to snap back and forth, giving a more crisp sound quality.

Ported Speakers

Ported speakers have an opening in the cabinet that allows the air pressure to adjust itself as the driver moves. This means that the driver does not have to fight the pressure change in order to move. For this reason, ported speakers use significantly less power than sealed speakers. The downside is that the bass notes sound more open and 'boomy', which may or may not accurately reproduce the bass intended in the music. While high-end speakers in the past were generally sealed, advances in technology have made the quality of ported speakers comparable to that of sealed speakers.

How to Buy High-Quality Floor-Standing Speakers on eBay

Finding high-quality floor-standing speakers on eBay is easy and secure with eBay's search options and feedback system. The first step is the search itself. Secondly, one should know what to check before entering into any type of transaction. Once these steps have been taken, you can buy, or bid, for the floor-standing speaker of your choice with full confidence.

Searching for Floor-Standing Speakers

Searching for high-quality floor-standing speakers is as simple as entering a search term like 'floor-standing speakers' in the search box on any eBay page. You can narrow down the listings by defining search criteria like price and condition, and by choosing the appropriate subcategory. Once within the correct subcategory, you can change the search term to be more specific. To widen the search, click on the box that says 'Include Description'. This is a good way to search for features like gold-plated binding posts that may not show up in the title.

Points to Check Before Buying on eBay

Once you find a listing you are interested in, the next step is to check the seller's feedback score. By choosing a seller marked with an award icon that says 'Top-rated seller', you can skip the process of checking out the seller's history and rest assured that the seller has a history of excellent customer service and fast shipping times. The other things to check include the full details of the listing, the pictures, the return policy, and shipping rates. As with any electronic equipment, the warranty is also very important. High-quality speakers can be expected to last for decades, and often come with a 5-year warranty.

Conclusion

Floor-standing speakers are arguably the most important part of a home audio system. They have the biggest drivers, and determine the sound quality of all the music that will be played. While floor-standing speaker drivers are fine-tuned by the manufacturer to match the cabinet they come in, it is still important to understand some speaker specifications in order to choose high-quality speakers that will last for years. Manufacturers of high-quality speakers give the decibel tolerance of the frequency response, and include gold plating in the binding posts. High-quality speakers also have a high sensitivity. The frequency range should be covered by as few drivers as possible, with a low crossover between the woofer and the midrange. Also, a single large driver is generally better than several smaller ones, for any given range. High-quality speakers can be sealed or ported as well. The choice will depend on the user's preference between lower power consumption in ported speakers, and extra-crisp sound reproduction in sealed speakers. By knowing how to search for floor-standing speakers on eBay, an audiophile can take advantage of a larger selection and lower prices than anywhere else.

 
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