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Best Speaker Systems 2018 – [Buyer’s Guide]Last Updated February 1, 2019
Best Speaker Systems of 2018
You can make a choice based on the my list as you shop. There’s a product for every kind of user on the list of affordable options below. I review the three best speaker systems on the market at the moment. Not all speaker systems are created equal though.
Test Results and Ratings
Why did this speaker systems win the first place?
I really enjoy the design. It is compact, comfortable and reliable. And it looks amazing! I also liked the delivery service that was fast and quick to react. It was delivered on the third day. I am very happy with the purchase. It is definitely worth its money. The product is top-notch! The product is very strong. Its material is stable and doesn’t crack.
Why did this speaker systems come in second place?
This is a pretty decent product that perfectly fitted the interior of our office. Managers explained me all the details about the product range, price, and delivery. I recommend you to consider buying this model, it definitely worth its money. The material is pretty strong and easy to wash if needed.
Why did this speaker systems take third place?
This price is appropriate since the product is very well built. It is inconvenient to use due to the size. I am going to get something different next time. The material is incredibly nice to the touch. It has a great color, which will suit any wallpapers. I liked the design. We’ve been using it for 2 months and it still looks like brand new.
Speaker Systems Buyer’s Guide
Fed up with the terrible warbling noise your flat-screen TV makes? You’ve come to the right place.
Upgrading your TV sound can be as easy as plugging in a sound bar, but first you’ll need to buy the right one. In this guide we’ll look at the different types of home audio systems available, from sound bars to stereo speakers to full-blown, amped-up, surround-sound speaker packages. Here’s what you should be looking for to best suit your needs.
Step up to a surround-sound system
If you’re looking for something that sounds better than a sound bar, the best option is to put together your own system with an AV receiver and surround-sound speakers.
The Sony STR-DN1070 is a talented all-arounder offering excellent home-theater and music performance
Bluetooth and wireless streaming
Features and inputs are overrated on sound bars, with one big exception: built-in music streaming.
Bluetooth is the easiest way to wirelessly stream audio from your smartphone or tablet. It works with the music stored on your phone and any music app (think Pandora), plus it’s platform-agnostic — nearly all iOS, Android and Windows phones and tablets have built-in Bluetooth. If your music experience these days revolves around your phone, you really want built-in Bluetooth in your sound bar.
While it’s possible to add Bluetooth later with an adapter, it’s not an ideal solution.
Sarah Tew/CNET ‘s or Logitech’s), but that’s not a great solution since inputs are typically limited on sound bars, and you also need to make sure your sound bar is already turned on and set to the correct input.
Despite its ubiquity, Bluetooth does have its issues: namely you get message alerts interrupting your music and the music cuts out if you leave the room with your phone. The way around this is to get Wi-Fi streaming. There are several competing “open” standards, including Play-Fi, AirPlay and Chromecast — not to mention proprietary manufacturer ones such as Sonos — so it’s worth investigating these options before you buy. The most cost-effective right now is Google’s Chromecast — and even if your sound bar doesn’t have wireless, you can add it with the purchase of a
Do I need to use the remote that comes with the sound bar?
While most sound bars include a remote, they’re pretty crummy quality, and most manufacturers instead rely on you to program the sound bar to respond to commands from your TV’s remote.
In theory, it’s not a bad idea: nobody wants another remote to deal with. In practice, it’s sometimes more problematic. After you disable your TV’s internal speakers, some televisions display an annoying status message whenever they receive volume remote commands, which will happen if you’re using your TV remote to control your sound bar.
Battery life isn’t improved over original
This sequel to the UE Boom nails everything a Bluetooth speaker should be. It’s loud, yet detailed. Portable, but still incredibly durable. Plus, even better, the addition of waterproofing turns what used to be the best Bluetooth speaker around for most occasions into the best one for every occasion.
If you’re deep in the search for your next –, or first – Bluetooth speaker, you can stop looking now. (But if you’re looking for a little more power, the Megaboom – also from UE – is a great choice, too.)
No flaws to note
Meet one of the Bluetooth speaker market’s best-kept secrets. The Fugoo comes in your choice of jacket style (Style, Tough, or Sport), but no matter which one you choose, this speaker is just as suited for the elements as it is your coffee table.
Despite its small size, this option offers surprisingly good sound performance and, get this, up to 40 hours of battery life when listening at medium volume. We were able to get nearly 20 hours out of it at a high volume.
Surround Sound Formats
You may notice that surround sound systems are referred to in numbers, such as 7.surround sound. This lets you know how many speaker components the system has. A 7.setup boasts eight channels: seven discrete main audio channels, divvied up among seven speakers, and one channel fed to the subwoofer for the low notes.
A 5.surround sound system includes the left and right speakers to sit in the front near the screen, one center channel for vocals, the left and right speakers for either side of your seating area and the subwoofer. The speakers flanking you while you enjoy your audio attack are known as the surround speakers.
A 7.surround sound system has the same basic setup as the 5.1, but also includes a right and left back speaker positioned behind the viewer.
The 9.setup adds another pair speakers to the 7.mix. While the speakers in a smaller setup (in front of, to the side of, and behind you) allow sound effects to freely travel left and right, forward and backward, it takes two more speakers, each mounted a few feet above a corresponding left or right front speaker, to give the noise some opportunity for altitude. Height gives music and audio effects another axis, creating a more immersive experience.
Any of these systems can also incorporate multiple subwoofers, upping the number on the right side of the decimal point. Got a pair of subwoofers? Put them on opposite walls so you receive bass from two directions. Four subwoofers should take up one point each on a diamond surrounding the listener, creating a web of thumping and rattling that will catch anything in the middle and ensure it gets a good shaking. What good do all of these subwoofers do? They even out the bass response and make your movies and music thump a little harder and crisper. One of the first recommendations you will hear from home theater buffs is to add at least one subwoofer if you are rocking a 5.1, 7.1, 9.1, etc setup. It makes a massive difference.
Like a doctoral student collecting new skills, prestige and a series of letters to add to the end of a signature, your sound system can continue to advance into the future. Dolby Atmos, a leap forward in audio technology that breaks from the traditional channel-based system to free the various audio objects in a soundtrack and allow them to move about and come at you in three dimensions—including from above your head—can prompt you to turn your 5.system (one center channel, four speakers, and two subwoofers) into a 5.2.by adding four speakers to ceiling mounts or four speakers that direct sound up to bounce back down toward the viewing area. No longer tethered to a pre-assigned output, these sounds can move to come from the direction that best serves your movie-enjoying experience.
Too much? Your ears (and friends) may disagree, but that’s OK. Keep it simple with a 9.system, creating an encircling perimeter of speakers anchored by two subwoofers.
Must-Have Surround Sound Features
There are several essential components necessary for anyone looking to showcase what a home theater system can do. The cinema-experience-level technology available to everyone these days should get you excited about letting your speakers off the leash to really run wild.
THX-certified standards ensure that the sound being created on the movie-makers’ end is getting its due with the audience on the other end. A production company can pull out all the stops in crafting a scene where a shot ricochets off of a dozen metal objects scattered around the room before hitting the target, but if the system meant to broadcast that intricate series of sound effects is incapable of properly handling the load, nobody’s going to be ducking to avoid taking a bullet to the skull. Be sure to invest in THX-certified speakers—such as the THX UltraSeries from Klipsch, which earned the highest possible certification rating. Boom.
Consider a setup that can best deliver the free-range, real-world-emulating, three-dimensional sound experience of the gotta-have-it-if-you-care-about-movies Dolby Atmos experience mentioned above, including a speaker that bounces everything off of the ceiling, raining down noises and music to soak you with sound effects. We tapped out at a nine-speaker system in our initial explanation of this audio gift to humanity, but the technology can work with up to 34—repeat: 34!—so we’re sorry/not sorry to say that you don’t stand a chance against that level of audio power (but why would you want it any other way?). The Klipsch Reference Premeire Dolby Atmos enabled RP-280FA speaker has a built-in elevation channel that does nothing but blast away at the plaster over your head. Actually, it does do one other thing: win awards.
Klipsch emphasizes Wide Dispersion Surround Technology for all of its surround sound speakers, which ensures the best sound, no matter the home theater system setup. Can’t get fit the speakers exactly where you want them? Don’t worry. You’re still going to feel like you’re in the middle of the action.
Wireless vs. Wired Surround Sound
Wireless surround sound is ideal for people who prize both performance and simplicity. You can place the speakers anywhere without worrying about connecting them to the amplifier or hiding the evidence of those connections.
The fact that wireless systems can hold their own against their wired counterparts is evidence of how far technology has come since sound first electronically made its way from a source to a speaker.
If you’re considering a wireless setup, know that time is of the essence. That means the more modern your speakers, the better. Older wireless systems operated on technology that could interfere with or be disrupted by other wireless signals in the home. They also tended to be more expensive and not as reliable.
Today, wireless technology has advanced to the point that it can deliver the goods. Just know that you will need a special control center. If that sounds intimidating, don’t worry: It’s smart enough to start pumping out the sound you want within minutes of leaving the box.
Sound bars are a simple way to provide richer, sharper sound quality and clearer voices from your flatscreen TV.
Entry-level sound bars offer standard stereo sound, but next level models create simulated surround sound using clever acoustics. This creates an immersive sound experience, with the best models creating surround sound that’s almost indistinguishable from the real thing.
Sound bars feature either an inbuilt or separate subwoofer. Subwoofers create deeper, low-frequency bass sounds. An inbuilt system won’t offer the same levels of depth, although high-end models come close. An inbuilt subwoofer may be beneficial if you’re worried about being too loud.
Home cinema system
A home cinema system uses multiple speakers placed around the room to fully immerse you in sound. Each speaker functions as a channel that produces sound. Some may also come with a DVD or Blu-ray player built-in. The most popular systems are:
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TV sound is usually channel (stereo left/right). Home cinema systems expand this sound to go across multiple channels. For the most perfect, dimensional sound experience, you need a 5.(or above) soundtrack specially created for surround sound. You can find this on selected DVDs, most Blu-rays, and subscription or cable services like Sky or Netflix.
Multiple speakers take up space, but are available in many sizes, and smaller does not have to mean quieter. Unless you invest in a wireless system (which tends to cost more) you will have wires extending around the room. Some systems are part wireless – these connect the front and back of the room wirelessly, so only speakers near each other require a cable.
All sound systems come with a subwoofer, either built-in or as a separate unit. It creates deep, low frequency bass sounds and can be placed anywhere, as it doesn’t project sound in a direction the way a normal speaker will.
A separate subwoofer will produce deeper sound than an inbuilt subwoofer, although some premium designs come very close.
Active or passive speakers
This is largely academic unless you intend to customise your system. Most speakers are passive, because they don’t need to be connected to the mains. Subwoofers and amplifier/receivers will sometime require mains power, making them active speakers.
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The Oontz and its stylish sibling the Oontz Angle are a few reliable options here. Among the lesser-known entrants, I’ve had good luck with the Phoenix from Beacon Audio and I’m also quite partial to the nice-looking, compact and durable speakers from Bem Wireless that are marketed to university students.
Ultra-rugged or compact
Some of the smallest Bluetooth speakers out there are looking to carve out that niche to become the go-to way to enjoy and share sound on the trail, the road or anywhere else where extreme durability and compactness are required.
Outdoor Technology is a standout here, with a speaker, the Buckshot, that can likely survive being dropped off a cliff or into a creek and is about the size of a candy bar. The Philips Shoqbox also gets rave reviews from active outdoor audiophiles.
For road trips, I came to depend on the tiny Bluetune Bean from Divoom, one of the few super-simple ultra-budget options that defies the “you get what you pay for” rule. The HMDX Jam Plus and JBL Micro Wireless speaker also get similar reviews at this end of the spectrum.
Speaker Mount Location
One of the first things to consider when choosing a stereo system for your motorcycle is the speaker mount location. While standard cars and trucks have areas specifically designed for speakers, most motorcycles do not. With that said, certain stereo systems come with speakers that can be mounted directly onto the handlebars or highway bars of a motorcycle. This is an ideal location as it offers high-quality sound, and it doesn’t get in the way of operating the motorcycle.
There are several different types of motorcycle stereos available on the market, each of which has its own specific features. So, which features should you look for in a stereo? 3.5mm auxiliary hookup is an excellent feature, as it allows operators to connect their smartphone or MPplayer to the motorcycle’s stereo. Another noteworthy feature that’s found in some motorcycle stereo systems is Bluetooth connectivity. With Bluetooth connectivity, you won’t ever need to worry about connection cables for your phone or device. Assuming your device has Bluetooth, you can connect and/or control it wirelessly.
What about battery life? While not too long ago the standard battery life for a Bluetooth speaker was around five hours, we’ve reached a golden age in Bluetooth accessory battery life and with many budget speakers offering upwards of 7-hours per charge, we wouldn’t recommend buying a speaker that offers anything less.
Also, it’s worth keeping an eye out for speakers that double up as portable battery chargers, as it’ll probably come in handy when using your smartphone to play music.
Every now and again, you’ll come across a Bluetooth speaker that offers a remote. While a remote can be useful in certain environments, especially if the volume of the speaker is controlled independently instead of mirroring the input volume, it’s not essential.
This is especially true if you intend to play music from your smartphone via Bluetooth, as you’ll already have the media controls you need in your hand.
Water and dust resistance
If you plan to take your Bluetooth speaker to the park or beach with you, it’s probably a good idea to find a speaker that has some kind of water/dust/shock resistance. While it doesn’t need an IPXrating to be used outside, it’s always a good idea to have some kind of protection against spills, rain, and general damage or you’ll quickly find yourself buying another!
If the Psyc Monic’s styling is a bit too in-your-face then Aukey’s Eclipse is an excellent alternative. It’s roughly the same size but has a nice woven black fabric covering most of the body, with an attractive metal base.
There are more buttons on top than the Monic, so you get volume and separate track skip buttons. Plus, there’s a microphone so you can use it for hands-free phone calls.
At the back is a micro USB charging port and a 3.5mm minijack aux input so you can play music from an old MPplayer or anything else that doesn’t have Bluetooth.
It’s simple to pair your phone with the speaker and we found that the Bluetooth range was larger than Aukey claims, streaming music reliably at a distance of around 15m.
There are two 10W drivers and passive “subwoofers” at either end of the speaker. And they sound amazing. Considering how small it is, the Eclipse delivers much more volume than you’d expect – easily enough to fill a room.
And even at top volume, there’s no noticeable distortion. Bass is surprisingly powerful, but it doesn’t crowd out everything else, so no matter what style of music you play, you’ll be pleased with the quality.
We tested it by watching three films back to back at around 7percent of max. volume and it was perfectly loud enough and still had battery power left.
This is because there’s a 4000mAh battery inside which Aukey says lasts at least 1hours. It’s a few pounds more than the Monic, but we think it’s worth it.
Who this is for
At some point, every TV watcher and movie lover realizes television speakers are terrible. They’re almost always tiny, and oftentimes they don’t even aim their tinny sound out into the room (instead, they face down or backward into the wall).
So what to do? You have a number of options, actually. Even the most affordable soundbar offers a substantial audio upgrade, improving dialogue clarity and giving more weight to music and sound effects. The best soundbars deliver a level of performance approaching that of dedicated home theater systems.
Notice, though, that I said “approaching.” If you really want to re-create the true cinema experience at home, and you have the space for it, your best option is a 5.surround-sound speaker system paired with a good AV receiver. This includes separate speakers for on-screen action, music, and sound effects to the left and right of the screen; dedicated speakers at the rear of the room for surround sound effects; and a subwoofer to deliver deep bass. You could opt for a so-called “home theater in a box,” which includes the AV receiver and speakers all in one package, but you probably shouldn’t. You could also buy a larger speaker system with additional rear speakers and, these days, even overhead speakers (or top-mounted speaker modules that bounce sound off the ceiling). But for most people, 5.channels is plenty.
For now, we’re also limiting our consideration to 5.1-channel speaker systems, which may seem strange. After all, the surround-sound home theater market is currently going through one of its awkward growth spurts thanks to the arrival of the home versions of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, which add overhead speakers to the traditional surround-sound speaker layout of three in the front and two in the back (or on the sides). This creates a truly three-dimensional element to the home movie-watching experience. That said, these technologies are still not nearly as ubiquitous as traditional surround sound. So for now, we’re sticking with 5.because you can add height speakers to a system down the road if you decide to upgrade to an Atmos-capable AV receiver.
And what do we mean by 5.1? The “5” stands for two main speakers positioned to the left and right of the TV, a center speaker between them, and two speakers in the rear of the room for surround-sound effects. The “.1” is the subwoofer, which creates all the low-frequency bass sounds.
It’s becoming increasingly common these days for home theater enthusiasts to add a second (or even third or fourth) subwoofer to their surround-sound setups. There are many reasons why this is a good idea, but considering that most of the systems we tested come as complete packages, we kept the playing field even with a single sub. Check out the A big upgrade section for more on why you’d want more subs, and some options.
How we picked
Because the goal was to find the speaker system(s) that would appeal to the widest possible audience, such love-it-or-hate-it packages were taken out of the mix. Using these methods I narrowed the list down to the best-reviewed and/or most-discussed systems. Because no reviewer (or perhaps anyone) had heard all of these systems back-to-back, I got them in for direct testing and comparison.
More recently, we added ELAC’s Debut series system to the mix, due to incredible critical success. We also added a surround-sound system built from KEF’s Q Series speakers, primarily due to how well they performed in our review of bookshelf speakers.
The rest of the systems in our roundup consist of smaller satellite speakers and subwoofers, a category most often referred to as “compact home theater.” The GoldenEar Technology SuperCinema System was my first pick here, not only due to extremely positive professional reviews, but also due to the fact that it served as the reference speaker system for my own bedroom home theater for years. I added the Cambridge Audio Minx S32vsystem to the mix because Mark Fleishman of Sound & Vision proclaimed it “one of the best I’ve heard. Let me be more specific: As far as the Min 2satellite is concerned, I’ve never heard a better one.”
How we tested
For setup, calibration, and testing, I relied on Anthem’s MRX 7AV receiver. Why that receiver in particular? Two reasons, actually. First, its Anthem Room Correction software allowed me to store the distance, level, bass management, and room-correction information for each system in a file on my hard drive. This meant I could quickly upload those parameters during our blind listening panels, reducing the downtime between face-offs.
Secondly, the Anthem Room Correction software gives me more control over how I set up and EQ the speakers. For example, it enables very fine control over the crossover between the subwoofer and main speakers, which allowed every speaker system in our roundup to perform at its best.
Using EQ in speaker reviews is a somewhat controversial topic. If you’d like to dig deeper into why, you can read my article “Automated Room Correction Explained” on Home Theater Review’s website. In a nutshell: Pretty much any room is going to negatively impact the performance of your subwoofer and the low frequencies coming from your main speakers. The right amount of equalization can help ameliorate that. Applying EQ to the midrange and treble frequencies can drastically change the sound of a speaker, though, which would defeat the point of this guide. So I applied equalization only to bass frequencies below 300 hertz in an attempt to minimize any booming or unevenness in the bass caused by my room, but in a way that wouldn’t change the distinctive voice of each speaker system.
After I measured and calibrated all the speakers, I borrowed a second Anthem MRX 710, placed the receivers side by side, and connected the HDMI outputs from my Oppo BDP-9Blu-ray player to both. I wired the speakers with Wirecutter’s top pick for the best speaker cable, Monoprice’s 27412-gauge wire, then invited my lifelong friend Dave Calhoun over for numerous blind listening panels. Dave is a guitarist with more than 20 years of recording experience, and he was instrumental in sparking my interest in high-end audio back in the 1990s. He and I also tend to have quite different taste in speakers, which I thought might lead to welcome argument and discussion. The goal, after all, wasn’t to find the speaker system that I liked best, but the one that would work best for the widest possible audience.
My wife, Bethany, who works in video production, audio editing, and communications, kindly volunteered to operate the two receivers, switching between them at regular intervals so that neither Dave nor I knew which of two speaker systems we were listening to at any given time. We selected two speaker systems at random, uploaded their configuration files to the MRX 710s, checked their levels and matched them with my handheld sound meter, and the winner of each round went on to face another competitor. We also swapped the positions of speakers during testing to make sure that placement wasn’t giving one system an unfair advantage over the other.
For listening material, we relied primarily on four clips from the 201DTS Demo Disc Blu-ray. For movies, we focused on a clip from Oblivion, because its mix is so dense that dialogue tends to be muddy through anything less than an impeccably designed speaker system; and a clip from Pacific Rim, because Dave and I are little boys. (Also because the clip features some ferociously deep and hard-hitting bass, which makes it an excellent test for subwoofers—which tend to be one of the weak spots in surround-sound systems in this price range.) In additional testing, we’ve added the Star Wars: The Force Awakens Blu-ray, as well as selections from the new 201DTS Demo Disc Blu-ray to the mix.
For music, we mostly listened to the surround mixes of Silversun Pickups’s “Dots and Dashes (Enough Already)” due to its strong emphasis on guitars, vocals, and other midrange sounds, as well as Dave Stewart’s “Every Single Night,” which boasts tons of bass, plenty of high-end sparkle, and a very busy sound mix that has a habit of getting particularly crowded when played through lesser speaker systems.
During the course of our testing, we all noticed three common trends. The first is that larger speaker systems almost always won against compact speaker systems, even with their volumes matched. They were, with only a few exceptions, always more dynamic (meaning that they could play more quietly without sounding dull and lifeless and more loudly without sounding strained and distorted). And in most cases the larger systems sounded more cohesive, with less of an audible disconnect between the subwoofer and the main speakers.
Another important factor is reasonably wide, even dispersion, which means that the quality of sound should be similar whether you’re sitting directly in front of a speaker (on axis) or off to the left or right (off axis) and that the transition between on-axis and off-axis performance should be smooth. Many center speakers, in particular, struggle with this.
The research also demonstrated that speakers with lower levels of distortion consistently ranked better than speakers with higher levels of distortion in blind listening tests, which speaks for itself. Of course, designing a good speaker involves a lot more than these considerations, but it’s a safe bet that most speaker manufacturers aiming to appeal to the broadest audience are going to aim for these three targets.
Another important aspect affecting overall system performance is the crossover between the subwoofer and main speakers. In your typical surround-sound system, the subwoofer is responsible for delivering deep bass frequencies (e.g., kick drums, bass guitars, the engine rumble of J-type 32Nubian royal starships), whereas the main speakers deliver the midrange sounds (e.g., human voices, guitars, horns) and high-frequency sounds (e.g., glass shattering, steam escaping from a teakettle).
But there isn’t simply one frequency at which the subwoofer drops out and the main speakers drop in. The subwoofer gradually drops off in volume at higher frequencies, while the main speakers gradually increase their volume to compensate.
So in any system that includes a subwoofer, there is a small range of sounds reproduced by both the sub and the main speakers. Simply put, the frequency at which both sub and main speakers generate the same amount of sound is the crossover frequency, which can be higher or lower depending on how much bass the main speakers are capable of generating. Ideally, this point shouldn’t make itself known. The speakers and sub should work seamlessly together, as they do in the ELAC system.
All three of our top picks were capable of handling a crossover point of 80 hertz, which is roughly the same tone generated by the fattest string (the low E) on a six-string guitar, and THX’s recommended crossover frequency. The Pioneer SP-PK52FS system did sound better with a slightly higher crossover point of 100 hertz, though, which is down around the lowest tones of a typical male voice.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
If there’s one significant knock against the ELAC Debut system, it’s that its subwoofer, for all its technological innovations, lacks a bit in the way of very deep bass output. This doesn’t keep the sub from delivering a healthy kick, mind you. Explosions and slamming doors and gunfire and exploding bombs all hit with appreciable oomph. But in The Force Awakens, for example, when Poe Dameron is first captured by Kylo Ren, you don’t hear the ultra-deep, resonant rumble of the blaster-bolt hovering in midair that you can hear with more powerful subs. It’s simply inaudible here.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Throughout the game, there are times when non-player characters join you on your adventures, and their sidekicking dialogue always comes from the positionally appropriate speakers. If they move behind you (or you walk in front of them) while they’re speaking, their voices move from front to back. In such cases, there’s a tonal shift in the sound of the voices. Not so much that they sound like different people, but more like they developed a slight head cold on their trip from the front of the room to the back.
Simply moving the surround speakers down to ear level went a long way toward correcting this.
The one thing I couldn’t correct for with speaker placement is the fact that the sound of the ELAC Debut Ccenter speaker also gets a good bit softer if you’re seated too far off-center. Seated two people side by side, about 7.feet from the center channel, we didn’t notice this. In fact, I moved my head from side to side quite a bit from my seating position to check for any major inconsistencies in the sound. (With many center speakers, any significant head movement makes it sound like you’re listening through a picket fence). That definitely isn’t an issue. But I did notice that if I moved closer to the edge of the room (not where I would normally sit, but certainly within the bounds of normal seating positions in some living rooms), the center speaker became less consistent, softer, and less detailed, which did make dialogue a little harder to understand in shows like Netflix’s Daredevil.
Other ELAC configurations
If your budget has a little extra room up top, but you don’t want to move up to our upgrade system, our recommendation would be to add a second ELAC S10EQ subwoofer (or even upgrade to a pair of the larger S12EQ subs) for enhanced bass performance and more even coverage throughout the room. You might also choose to forego the ELAC subwoofer altogether and upgrade to an even more powerful offering, like the Hsu Research VTF-15H MKBrent recommends as a potential upgrade in his subwoofer buying guide.
Before installing your sound system like speakers, you need to be sure that you will not blame the system when the problem is on your part. For the attainment of quality sound, you need to be aware of the necessary considerations. The following are the must-do basics:
Even though a computer speaker is meant for computers, sometimes you can be in a situation that requires you to use other input media such as the tablet, smartphone, and other players. In this case, opting for a speaker that has multiple inputs enhancement is ideal in having the flexibility. In this category, the Wi-Fi enabled, and the Bluetooth speakers are the most recommended for purchase. Besides just having the additional inputs, you must ensure that the placement of the inputs is accessible.
Most of the computer speaker systems lack the on-speaker controls. The speakers that have this option are easily operated on their own, whereas those that do not have are operated from the attached computer. It is, therefore, good to go for the speakers with the on-speaker controls.
GOgroove BassPULSE 2MX USB Computer Speakers
Bose Companion Series II Multimedia Speaker System
Satechi Dual Sonic Speaker 2.0 Channel Computer Speakers
Harman Kardon Soundsticks III 2.Channel Multimedia Speaker System with Subwoofer
Klipsch ProMedia 2.THX Certified Computer Speaker System (Black)
Creative GigaWorks T40 Series II 2.0 Multimedia Speaker System with BasXPort Technology
While it’s easy to get caught up in the other features, the first thing you should look at when shopping for a Bluetooth speaker is the physical dimensions of the speaker.
There’s no faster way to be disappointed in your purchase than to spend a bunch of money buying a new Bluetooth speaker only to find that it’s way bigger (or smaller) than you anticipated leaving you with a speaker that’s really inconvenient to bring the places you want to bring it (or so small it lacks the space for the physical speakers to deliver the sound you crave).
Bluetooth speakers generally fall into two primary size categories. On the one side you have the ultra-portables that aren’t exactly pocket size but could easily be stuffed in a coat pocket, small bag, or purse. The Braven BRV-falls soundly into that category with a volume roughly that of can of soda (albeit a bit boxier). You won’t be sticking it in the back pocket of your jeans but at such a small size and weighing only 1ounces, it’s easy enough to toss it in a bag and take it with you.
The NYNE Bass, on the other hand, represents the semi-portable/table-top end of the Bluetooth speaker market. It is most certainly not coat pocket friendly nor even suitable for a small bag or purse. It’s roughly the size of a breadbox, large enough to merit a carry handle molded into the upper portion of the unit, and weighs 6.pounds (nearly times heavier than the Braven).
Now, before you fall under the spell of miniaturization and small form-factor consumer electronics let’s take a look at the other features to see where the trade-offs arise when opting for one speaker weight class over another.
If you’re looking for a big speaker to place out on the patio, ruggedized construction might not be a high priority. If you’re looking for a speaker to take to the beach, however, a speaker that can survive a splash or two becomes more important.
There’s not specific definition of “ruggedized” as far as the Bluetooth speaker market is concerned, so you’ll need to read the fine print for each speaker you consider.
The Nyne, for example, is a very sturdily constructed unit (the edges of the unit are rubberized, and we’re fairly confident it could survive a tumble to the patio surface just fine), but the manufacturer makes no claim that it is a ruggedized unit.
The Braven, on the other hand, is specifically advertised as a waterproof ruggedized Bluetooth speaker that can withstand full submersion for up to 30 minutes in one meter of water. We’ve dunked it in buckets, stuck it in the corner of a shower (and, by the way, it sounds absolutely fantastic when combined with the acoustics of a tiled bathroom), and kicked it around (metaphorically that is) at the beach. The speaker is designed for the moderate abuse that a beach goer/camper would throw at it and includes features such as sealed speaker membranes, a waterproof case, and a rubber-sealed cap that fits over the ports when they aren’t in use.
Bringing It All Together
When it’s time to actually do some shopping, prepare to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of speakers on the market. To brace yourself for the tidal wave of units even a simple search yields, read over the feature list above and prioritize your needs.
If you need a unit that doesn’t need a duffle bag of its own, focus on small form factor. If you need a speaker that can cut through the noise of the beach and provide tunes all afternoon, focus on large form factors with hefty batteries. If you need something can survive rain storms and your camping buddies dropping it, start with ruggedized models and narrow it down from there.
Know your components
Cruise down to your local stereo shop, or surf around on the web, and you are bound to find a plethora of options. They come in all shapes and sizes, and if your last system was put together when 5.was cutting edge, you are going to find a lot more options now as well.
Be familiar with the names given to parts of each setup. A 7.setup adds back surrounds to the usual center, fronts, surrounds and a subwoofer. Cutting-edge Dolby Atmos seeks to create a 3-dimensional soundscape, incorporating ceiling or floor speakers.
The Sonos Speaker Family
As of right now, Sonos makes five styles of smart speaker: a trio of smart speakers (PLAY:1, PLAY:and PLAY:5), a soundbar (PLAYBAR) and a subwoofer (SUB). ———————————————————–
UPDATE: SONOS PlayBase Official: A Mega, Uber-Powerful Under-TV Speaker
Sonos kicked off 201with the launch of the new Sonos PlayBase speaker, a large, under-TV-speaker that is designed to replace the existing PLAYBAR.
The new speaker is stunningly designed, as you’d expect, but is something of a departure from SONOS’ usual design language. It’s a lot more utilitarian-looking for starters with its grill frontage and angular chassis.
The PlayBase is designed with TV in mind, however, it can also be used as a standard SONOS speaker for when the TV is switched off. This is a must have setup for hardcore console gamers and film buffs. “When we think about what product we’ll invent next, we think first about the home, and the role each of our products play in the home. What we realised is that PLAYBAR only met the need of the small percentage of homes where people mount their televisions on the wall,” Sonos CEO Patrick Spence said. “We saw a tremendous opportunity to deliver great sound in great style for the majority of homes where the TV sits on a piece of furniture. It was a huge challenge where we pushed the boundaries of design, acoustics, materials, wireless and software, and we can’t wait for people to bring it home.” ———————————————————–
The smart speakers are where most people, including myself, start their Sonos journey, so let’s begin there.
Key Features Include
The Sonos PLAY: exact dimensions are 161.4x 119.x 119.mm and it weighs just 1.85KG.
If you’re looking at dipping your toe into the world of Sonos speakers, the Sonos PLAY: 1, in my opinion, is the best place to start, as it offers excellent sound, doesn’t cost too much and will get you fully acquainted with how the Sonos ecosystem works.
Like the Sonos PLAY: 1, the Sonos PLAY:is again designed to fit inside any room. It is larger and it does look different to the Sonos PLAY:1, but if you’re after a slightly bigger sound, say, for a big kitchen or an extension, then this is potentially a better, though pricier, option.
You can mount this speaker to a wall, hide it behind a sofa or chair, or simply leave it on a shelf. As I said earlier, Sonos speakers are designed to blend in with the design and aesthetics of your home.
The Sonos PLAY:speaker is Sonos’ flagship smart-speaker, the one you go for if you want the best of the best. It is significantly bigger than the PLAY:and PLAY:and when you switch it on and start listening you will notice the difference.
The PLAY:has exceptional sound quality with huge, deep bass response and crystal clear mids. Everything sounds great through these speakers from The Pussy Cat Dolls to Mastodon.
If you want the biggest sound possible, the PLAY:is the one to go for. I’m thinking about adding one of these into my current mix of Sonos speakers, as I just moved house and have a much bigger kitchen that I think would benefit from the PLAY:5’s bigger specs.
If you’re TV is lacking in the sound department, as a lot of models do, then the Sonos PLAYBAR could be just what the doctor ordered, as it saves you getting a new TV and doubles as a brilliant speaker for when you’re entertaining guests, gaming or just want to listen to tunes in the living room.
The bar, which sits in front of your TV, is styled beautifully and, when paired with Sonos’ sub-woofer, creates a HUGE sound that makes any film or gaming experience infinitely more engaging.
My old flatmate had one of these and I was so impressed by it I ended up buying one when I moved out. Turns out I couldn’t live without it; gaming and movies just weren’t the same.
As the name suggests, the Sonos SUB is a sub-woofer and is designed to add A LOT more bass grunt to any Sonos system. Paired with the PLAYBAR, you get some seriously epic sounds when gaming or watching movies.
But it can also be paired with any of Sonos’ PLAY:1, PLAY:or PLAY:speakers for bigger and better bass response around the home.
I’m not a HUGE bass man, myself, so I don’t think this is a speaker I would ever purchase – the PlayBar does more than enough for my needs. You might be different; you might love the bass. And if you do the Sonos SUB is one of the best looking and well engineered options on the planet.
For starters it looks stunning. Second, there’s zero cabinet buzz or rattle. Third, it sounds enormous, adding in masses of depth to music and other media. Fourth, it is super simple to setup.
Sections of Car Stereo System
The car speaker was first introduced in the 1930s. And since its inception, the styles have evolved, as has the technology. There are multiple options now available and various specific features offered. It can easily become confusing to know where to start.
Today, people use their car speakers for several usage other than just listening to music. GPS directions, podcasts, audio books and even phone calls may also use your car’s stereo system to provide sound. But where should you start looking for a new stereo? And how do you know when to replace your factory system?
These questions are easily answered, but novice speaker shoppers will need to study first. Some of the terminology will be useless unless you understand it. This guide was developed to help you understand every detail. It provides a basic education in vocabulary and strategy and is organized in parts: types of speakers, speaker system sections, financing considerations and FAQs. Review the list to ensure you purchase the best speakers for your specific needs.
This is measured in Watts (W), and indicates the speaker’s ability to handle power with no damage caused. When a speaker is subjected to more power than mentioned, it will get damaged. Speakers have two power ratings – Peak and continuous or RMS.
The RMS rating is the speaker’s continuous output without getting damaged while the Peak power rating is the speaker’s maximum power amount it can handle instantly. To compare different speaker powers, ensure that the power is indicated in RMS.
Speaker configuration and Size
Prior to shopping for new speakers, get information on the ones you already have in your car. If you really need to replace them, then you can take out the old ones and measure them. Most stores are capable of giving you specifications for your car speakers based on the car model.
If your vehicle has full range speakers from the factory, and you desire to replace with another full range, you will need to know the configuration and sizes of the current speakers. However, most often than not, you can easily purchase speakers that will fit into the current speaker receptacles
Consider your financial situation and a reasonable amount to spend. New speakers can greatly enhance your driving experience, but do not have to cost and arm and a leg. There is a wide range of price options and something feasible for everyone. So determine your budget and stick to it. This will help weed out the impractical choices.
Understand that no matter how much you invest, your speakers will not necessarily raise the value of your vehicle. They do not enhance the lifespan of your engine or add to any specific beneficial function, other than driver and passenger enjoyment. So don’t factor overall car value into any financial decision. The good news is that plenty of systems are easily removed and capable of being installed in new vehicles.
Vintage or New
Vintage and used gear can be a great option for buyers on a budget, as most high-quality home-audio equipment was built like a tank and designed to last for decades, says Geoffrey Bennett, sales manager at Decibel Audio in Chicago. “In lower price brackets, vintage will usually give you better quality,” Bennett says. But buyers should consider the cost and viability of getting their vintage gear serviced and cleaned. “A receiver that’s been sitting in someone’s garage for 30 years is going to need some sprucing up,” he adds. Other considerations include the availability of parts and the cost and effort of having the gear serviced in the future.
In lower price brackets, vintage will usually give you better quality, but buyers should consider the cost and viability of getting their vintage gear serviced and cleaned.”
New gear will offer fewer choices, especially if you’re shopping at local big box stores, which tend to feature surround-sound home theater systems that aren’t optimal for two-channel audio playback. It does, however, offer some distinct advantages, Marra says.
New equipment likely will come with a warranty and user support, Marra says. It also is likely to be more compact and offer more contemporary features, such as remote control and more inputs for computers, iPhones and other digital devices.
The beauty of home stereo equipment is that you can mix and match vintage and new components. So if Grandpa gives you a sweet vintage turntable, you can connect it to a modern amplifier. Both vintage and new equipment are cool in their own right, Marra says.
You agree with me when I say that a car speaker is the essence of your car sound system.
If you bought good speakers you will enjoy your sound system but when you buy a bad speaker you can’t enjoy your system whatever you brought to it.
We reviewed so many brands and speakers but we felt that we should guide you with most important things you need to consider when you buy a new car speaker.
Component speakers are an awesome choice for you if you care about the ultimate listening experience.
Component speakers come with great build quality, better listening experience, and overall better value so we definitely recommend you go with component speakers.
As a performing musician you want a PA system that can deliver your sound with clarity and definition. But with so many different pieces of equipment designed for different live performance needs, it can be difficult to know just what it is you should be looking for.
Certainly, there are a lot of variables to consider when choosing a PA. For instance, you’ll need to think about the size of your audience, where your performances will be, how portable you need your system to be and how much money you can invest.
This guide will help walk you through these and other important considerations to help you find the gear that’s right for you, whether you’re buying your first PA system or looking to add equipment to your existing system.
PA Systems in a Nutshell
In short, a PA system—more formally, public address system, and also known as a sound reinforcement system—is an electronic amplification system used to get sound from the performer(s) to the audience. It’s made up of several components, and while one system can vary greatly from the next, each one handles these same basic functions:
Different PA equipment will have different capabilities, features, and designs associated with each of these functions. Your specific needs will determine what you want out of each.
Prepackaged PA Systems
If you don’t want to get too deeply into the nuts and bolts of PA equipment, you might want to consider one of our complete, live sound PA system packages that include everything you need to get up and running. If you’re new to PA gear, these systems can help you avoid the problems that can arise from mismatched PA components. And by purchasing bundled gear, you can save a lot of money.
Musician’s Friend carries prepackaged systems from great brands like Yamaha, Fender, Behringer, JBL, Peavey, Mackie, Kustom, and many more—all at the best prices you’ll find anywhere—guaranteed.
The Yamaha EMX5016CF / S115V PA Package with Monitors offers a complete live-sound performance solution with carefully matched components for plug ‘n’ play simplicity.
Musician’s Friend offers hundreds of live sound packages to match a wide range of performance needs and budgets.
All-in-one Modular PA Systems
For solo acts, duos and other smaller groups that play in venues lacking a built-in PA, a modular tower system can be a clean, simple way to get heard with a minimum of fuss. These systems typically house a speaker array, mixer and power amp in a single, column-like structure that breaks down for easy transport. Because the components have been optimized to work with each other and the speaker arrays are designed to generate high-quality, room-filling sound, these systems offer an affordable, portable option to standard PAs.
The JBL EON ONE Linear-Array PA System is an excellent example, delivering robust sound that’s highly intelligible. JBL engineers have created an array that serves up pro-quality sound to every corner of the room. A 10” bass-reflex subwoofer adds the kind of bottom end that can sometimes be a weak spot in similar systems. With its Bluetooth streaming capability, you have the option of going wireless—a great feature for active musicians, instructors, and other presenters who roam the stage or room. The 6-band mixer is simple to use and lets you easily connect all your gear. A parametric EQ section helps you dial in your sound with independent channel volume controls, a master volume and an onboard reverb.
The JBL EON ONE is so portable you can carry the entire PA with a single hand, then set it up in seconds.
With its great sound dispersion. the JBL EON ONE is at home in all kinds of settings.
Other modular PAs to consider include the Bose LCompact System with its two inputs, it’s a solid choice for singer-songwriters. The 800-watt Harbinger MuV MLS800 Line Array PA System houses a 3-channel mixer plus HF drivers and an 8” LF driver for convincing sound in smaller venues. For bigger gigs, multiple units can be daisy-chained.
PA Power Amplifiers
One of the most important questions when it comes to PA systems is “How much power do I need?” This is a consideration when purchasing a power amp for the system.The power amp’s job is to boost the low-level signals coming from the mixer and broadcast them through the speakers. How much power it produces is measured in watts. And you want to make sure you’ve got enough wattage to fill the venue without compromising the sound quality.
Exactly how many watts you need hinges on a number of variables. The most obvious of these is the performance location (room size, indoor/outdoor, acoustics). However, there are additional factors that complicate the issue. For instance, there is the efficiency of the speakers (i.e., how much sound the speakers produce per watt of power). There also is the concept of headroom (how much power it takes to handle peaks without distorting) and the desired volume level of the music.
Using speakers with average sensitivity, a rock band playing in a medium-sized club will need around 1,500 watts total power at a minimum, whereas a pop or jazz group might need between 250-750 watts. For simple folk music in the same venue, that requirement can come down to as little as 60 watts. Keep in mind though that these power estimates are generalizations; difficult performance spaces and music with a lot of dynamics can require considerably more power. As we note below, factoring in plenty of headroom will help ensure great sound when you’re performing in a challenging environment.
The very portable Crown XLS100Power Amplifier delivers 350 watts of clean power at ohms and offers extensive user controls including onboard DSP.
It’s important to buy an amp with plenty of power to drive your speakers plus enough headroom to prevent distortion. When shopping for speakers, you’ll see that they have a power rating, measured in watts. As a general rule, you will probably want an amp with twice the wattage of your speaker’s rated power handling to ensure a clean, undistorted signal gets to them. We will discuss this further when we cover PA speakers and their power requirements.
Keep in mind that a stereo power amp provides two channels, each able to drive its own speaker load. So if your amp provides 500 watts per channel, a pair of speakers rated for 250 watts would be a good fit. Note that the rated output for stereo power amps is usually given on a per-channel basis. A rating of “2x450W” indicates that the amp generates up to 450 watts into each of its stereo channels.
Getting to know the mixer
Learning to use a mixer might initially look like a daunting task, with all the buttons, knobs, and faders. But keep in mind that every channel has the same controls. Once you learn how to control one channel, you’ll know how to control every channel.
Every channel on a mixer is either mono or stereo with an XLR, 1/4” or RCA connection. (Some inputs are designed to handle both XLR plugs from microphones as well as 1/4” inputs.)
A channel strip is a group of circuits and controls that function together on a given mixer channel to affect the audio signals that pass through it. These usually include:
Compression and limiting
A compressor as the name suggests compresses the overall dynamics of the audio signal limiting the amount of variation between the loudest and softest sounds.It smooths your sound and protects gear by helping to avoid damage caused by clipping—a speaker-destroying phenomenon resulting from overdriving the amplifier into distortion. Well designed compressors not only prevent signal distortion, but add pleasing sustain to your sound.
The dbx 166xs has both compressor and limiter functions to smooth out live sound by producing tighter mixes and fattening up drum sounds.
A similar tool, the limiter keeps your speakers and ears from getting blown out by limiting the peaks in the music. A limiter allows compression to occur only above a set threshold, and the compression ratio can be very high. This prevents clipping, distortion, and other related problems.
Other common processors
Sonic enhancers such as the BBE Sonic Maximizer give your sound more presence by delaying the low frequencies relative to the higher ones, removing subtle inaccuracies in timing to preserve the sonic characteristics of live instruments.
The BBE 382i Stereo Sonic Maximizer enhances high- and low-frequency to help clarify and add punch to your sound.
There are many other processors that offer a huge selection of sound-shaping options to meet all your effects needs. Browse the huge selection of signal processors at Musician’s Friend.
Once your mixer, signal processing gear, and power amp have shaped your audio signals, it’s your speakers’ job to turn those signals back into physical sound waves. Speakers reinterpret the signal by using the voltage from the amplifier to move their cones back and forth, producing the sound waves that reach the audience’s ears.
Maybe it goes without saying, but speakers play a critical role in delivering quality sound to an audience, and it’s an area where quality gear can make a real difference.
As is true for the power amp, the size of the venue you play will help you decide on the power handling (wattage) and size of the speakers needed. For example, smaller gigs, conferences, and lectures may require about 350-500 watts, while club bands, garage bands, and mobile DJs may need 500-1,000 watts, or even more, depending on the venues they perform in.
Weighing in at a hefty 10lb. each, this pair of Yamaha C215V speaker cabinets have dual 15” woofers and compression drivers mounted on horns to handle high frequencies. Best used in permanent installations, they handle up to 1,000 watts of continuous power.
PA Monitor Speakers
Musicians need to be able to hear themselves and other performers clearly to sound their best, which is why stage monitors are essential. While floor monitors can cause feedback and increase the risk of hearing damage, they are preferred over in-ear monitors by many performers because they are easier to use. These usually wedge-shaped speakers allow performers to hear themselves and play better because of it.
The popular Yamaha A12M Floor Monitor has a a 12” woofer, 1” high-frequency horn, and handles 300 watts of continuous power.
Almost every PA system will need mics. With so many types to choose from, you may want to consult the Musician’s Friend Microphone Buying Guide to get familiar with the basics.
There are two major microphone types: dynamic and condenser. Dynamic mics are durable, reliable, and made for onstage use. For vocals you will likely want one similar to the legendary Shure SM58.
The Shure SM5is among the most popular onstage dynamic mics thanks to its bulletproof construction, excellent audio performance, and its versatility in capturing everything from vocals to guitar cabinets.
Condenser mics are made to capture more subtleties, handle high sound pressure levels (SPLs) and capture fast transients. They are usually used for recording, but can also be perfect for live sound. They’re often positioned above drum kits to capture the sound of cymbals. Condenser mics require phantom power, so you will need to ensure that your mixer includes sufficient phantom-powered inputs.
The Blue enCORE 300 Condenser Vocal Mic is designed for highly detailed reproduction of the voice and is built to withstand hand-held use onstage.
To minimize feedback, you also will want a mic that is unidirectional (as opposed to omnidirectional) for vocals and instruments. Unidirectional mics are available with cardioid, supercardioid, and hypercardioid pickup patterns. Cardioid mics are ideal for live sound situations because of their wide, forgiving pattern.
If you decide to use condenser mics in your system, they usually require phantom power, which means the power needed to run the mic must be delivered from another source, usually the mixer or a mic preamp, through the mic cable, or from a separate standalone phantom power device. If you buy a phantom-powered mic, make sure you have a power source available.
Other PA essentials
We highly recommend getting a cable tester. If your system isn’t working correctly, a cable tester can save you hours of troubleshooting. We also recommend that once you find the defective cable, you immediately throw it away rather than putting it in a box to be accidentally used again someday, only to find that it (still) doesn’t work.
You may also want a dB meter; many venues require that you don’t exceed a certain volume level, and a dB meter will let you accurately monitor your volume.
Browse the complete selection of cable testers and dB meters at Musician’s Friend.
If your PA system is not being installed, you’ll need some heavy-duty cases or bags to transport your gear. Well built, durable cases are essential to protect your valuable equipment.
Speaker stands and brackets are another must-have accessory. Make sure to get sturdy, reliable nonskid stands that are strong enough to hold your gear securely. Check out the individual adjustability of each stand and make sure it will get your gear into an optimal position. Read specs to ensure the stands are rated to handle the weight of your speaker cabinets.
Microphone stands are also an essential accessory for most PA rigs. You’ll find a broad range of mic stands designed to position mics for vocalists, instruments, and speaker cabinets. Choose designs with stable bases/tripods that will resist being easily knocked over during performance. Mic stands with adjustable booms allow more flexible placement.
First of all thanks for reading my article to the end! I hope you find my reviews listed here useful and that it allows you to make a proper comparison of what is best to fit your needs and budget. Don’t be afraid to try more than one product if your first pick doesn’t do the trick.
Most important, have fun and choose your Speaker Systems wisely! Good luck!
So, TOP3 of Speaker Systems
- №1 — Multiroom Audio System – 3 Speaker Package – Includes 1 Master Speaker + 2 Satellite Speakers
- №2 — Brilliant Soul Wireless Bluetooth Speaker System and Radio by Soultech
- №3 — Logitech Z313 Speaker System