Buying Speakers Online

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It may seem like a crazy idea to purchase speakers online but in reality it is not. The key to determining what
a good pair of speakers sounds like is using your ears in the room you’ll be listening music in.

Buying speakers in a retail store
Most retail stores these days (not all mind you) have a limited selection of speakers. They also might have a listening room (or not) that allows for thoughtful consideration of the speakers you are considering purchasing. There may or may not be other folks in the room at the same time talking or worse yet listening to other music! This is a long way of saying that the best way to judge how good a speaker sounds is in your own home.
If the retailer has a return policy (you’d want around 30 days) then it’s a good idea to purchase the speakers you want and take them home for a listen. Just be sure there are no restocking fees involved.

Why do I want to listen to speakers in my home?
Speakers will sound different in every environment. The size of the room, the floor and ceiling material and the furniture all affect how a speaker will sound. It is unlikely any showroom will even be remotely close to your room acoustics.
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Buying Speakers Online
There are lots of good speakers online that you can purchase. Not being able to touch and listen to the speakers is a minor disadvantage but reviews should give you a good indication of how well the speakers might sound. Look for a site that offers user reviews and an Open Forum where users discuss the product. Also look for the following features when purchasing speakers online
  • Free shipping
  • 30 day in home trial
  • Free return shipping

So why would you buy speakers online if all else is equal?
  • Better Selection
  • Online support forum
  • Cheaper prices (not always but remember online retailers usually have less overhead and might offer lower prices)
  • You don’t have to lug the speakers from the store to your house. With floor standing speakers this is no small advantage.
Things to remember…
  • Keep ALL the packing material as most stores, online or not will want it all back to issue a full credit.
  • Make sure there is no restocking fee

Rear Ported vs Front Ported Speakers

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Why do some bass-reflex speakers have a port on the rear panel while others have a port on the front baffle where the drivers are? And is the port location important?

Many smaller speakers use a rear port simply because there isn’t room on the front baffle. A designer might specify a woofer that’s comparatively large in relationship to the baffle dimensions. Other speakers use a tweeter with a large mounting plate for rigidity so even if the tweeter itself is small, the physical package it comes in isn’t. Still another reason for not having a front port may be bracing inside the enclosure that mounts exactly where the port would otherwise go.

A rear port solves these problems. There’s generally a lot more room to place the port as the only other element on most rear panels is the speaker wire terminals and they’re comparatively small.


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From a performance perspective, there’s virtually no difference whatsoever between a front port and a rear port.

The only thing you have to be careful about with a rear-ported speaker is placement. Don’t mount it flush against a wall or other solid surface. That will restrict the air flow in and out of the port and thus restrict bass response. (Without going into details, the woofer cone and port work together to bring you the bass you want.)

The solution is to leave enough room (about 6” will do nicely) between the rear panel of the speaker and the solid object behind it. That’ll allow free air movement through the port so you’ll get all the performance you’ve paid for.


This is the simple explanation, there is much more to come on this subject so why not subscribe to our FEED in the right navigation bar.


How to buy a Center Channel Speaker

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What does a center channel speaker do?
The primary purpose of a center channel speaker is to produce movie or music video sound that the director positioned in the center channel. This can be dialog, singing, sound effects of all types including explosions. Since a great deal of the action takes place directly in front of you in a movie, choosing a natural sounding center channel speaker will greatly enhance your listening and viewing pleasure.

Can I purchase a center channel speaker that does not perfectly match my left and right speakers?
Most experts recommend getting 5 perfectly matched speakers for surround sound including the center channel. This does not mean you cannot add a center channel speaker to your existing stereo system for a basic Left Center Right surround system. Many of today’s receivers will allow you to adjust the volume of each of the speakers separately (and sometimes the crossover point of the center channel) making it easier to integrate a non matching center channel speaker. And let’s face it, sometimes we just don’t have the money to replace an entire system just to add one speaker.


What is the benefit of a center channel speaker?
As mentioned earlier a lot happens in the center, especially in movie sound tracks. You’ll be absolutely amazed at how much clearer the dialog will sound and how many other sounds you’ve been missing without one. It also gives your surround sound receiver an additional point of reference to create a larger expanse of sound. 


What to look for when buying a center channel speaker
If your speaker brand makes a matching center channel speaker for your left and right channels you should consider this. If not, then consider the following before making a purchase.

What makes a center channel speaker easier to buy is we all instinctively know what a human voice should sound like. We hear them all day long. Choose one that has the most natural sound to your ears. Then consider the following. 
  • What space limitations do I have? Sometimes center channel speakers can be deep. 
  • Do I have a shelf or do I have to mount it.
  • Will it match my other speakers appearance if that is an important consideration.
  • What is my budget.

Examples of good center channel speakers in two affordable budget categories are

Speaker Soundbars

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What are speaker soundbars?

With the advent of flat panel TV’s; plasma & LCD, a new type of home theater loudspeaker has emerged. Speaker Soundbars can deliver 2,3 or 5 channel surround sound. Typically they position all three front channels, left center and right into one box. Speaker soundbars can be made of metal, molded plastic or even wood. They are usually flatter in depth then conventional speakers and almost always come with a way to attach the speaker to a wall. The advantage of the speaker soundbar is that it takes up less space and can usually blend into the d├ęcor.

Types of speaker soundbars

Passive speaker soundbars.
This type of soundbar includes 1 or several speakers for each of the front channels, left, center and right. There is a speaker connection for each channel on the back of the speaker. A passive soundbar speaker needs an amplifier or receiver since it has no built in power amps. The passive soundbar usually needs a surround receiver to produce the center channel results.

Picture of Boston Acoustics 2.1 Soundbar with subwoofer...no surround but a very neat wireless subwoofer at an attractive price.

Active speaker soundbars
Active speaker soundbars will have the same configuration as the passive soundbars but will include a built in amplifier and surround sound processer to separate the center channel sound. The advantage of an “active” soundbar is that it does not require a bulky amplifier to produce the basic front channels of surround sound. This can give you an incredibly clean Flat Panel (LCD) TV installation with the minimum of wires. Even though these speakers have surround amplifiers built into them they usually will not have outputs for rear channel surround.

Active speaker soundbars with DSP (Digital Signal Processing)
This is the most sophisticated type of soundbar speaker. Besides having 3 speakers and a 3 channel amplifier it includes a Digital Signal Processor. The DSP enables the soundbar to take the surround sound signal and create the illusion of rear and side surround sound WITHOUT the need for additional speakers! Some of these speaker do an incredible job of reproducing surround material.

Buying a speaker soundbar for a flat panel TV
Given that they are relatively new, prices for sound bars are all over the place. In general the passive soundbars are the cheapest, the active soundbars cost more and adding DSP will bring the price up even more.

All types of speaker soundbars could increase your enjoyment of watching TV with the addition of a center channel and the convenience of not having to fiddle with costly and often hard to use surround sound receivers.

Some resources for the newest soundbars
On-Wall Soundbars in TWICE Magizine
More on Soundbars

For Quality speakers at Half the Price visit The Speaker Company at http://www.thespeakercompany.com

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