Audio formats for today’s home greatly vary from a simple 2 channel stereo setup all the way to an elaborate 11.2 channel surround sound system and even beyond. To get a better understanding on what it is your looking for some general guidance from a professional is key.

When trying to deliver the best sound, speaker placement is very important and this is where the judgment and knowledge of a professional installer comes in. Not all rooms are created equal and various sizes and features within a room can have drastically different effects on sound acoustics. There are two key points to know when choosing the proper system: “What type of speakers should I get?” and “Will my receiver meet all my functionalities I demand from it?”

Below I have listed some basic key features regarding speakers and receivers. To read through you will have a better understanding of the different types of speakers available as well as the right choice in choosing an audio/video receiver.

  • Monitor Audio Gold Series SpeakersSpeakers come in a wide variety from very small and mountable satellite styles to large multiple driver floor standing units. With the innovation of flat panel televisions, speakers have begun a transformation into multiple varieties including, in-wall, low profile on wall, and soundbars.

  • Speaker DriversThere are three different types of drivers that are found in the common speaker, Tweeter, Mid-range and Woofer. All three perform a different function which results in different percussions to be heard by the listener.  The harmonics produced by each driver within the speaker round out the sound frequency levels that range from your high pitch whistle sounds all the way down to the low rumbling sounds and everything in-between. Below are brief descriptions for each type of driver found within the speaker.

    The tweeter driver, the smallest of all the drivers found in a speaker and is responsible for the higher limit sound frequency for the listener. Think of this driver when you hear a whistle being blown or a bird chirping. The design and style of this speaker vary greatly and includes such designs including dome, horn and ribbon to name a few. Positioning of this driver for all purposes is the most important of all the drivers as the dispersion of sound is very narrow and straight. Think of a shot of sound that needs to aim for your ears.

    Probably the most important driver within a speaker, the Mid-range driver is responsible for the vast majority of the sound heard from a speaker. The driver itself is typically round in shape with a diameter between 3” and 8” and come in a variety of materials such as paper, plastics, and Kevlar and light metals. The mid-range driver is responsible for the majority of the sound from a speaker and produces the sound field in which talking and singing are found. When remembering this driver, think music and voices.

    The woofer is usually the largest driver found within a box speaker or can also be a completely separate speaker. With a diameter size ranging from 6.5” to 15” and even larger, is responsible for lower frequencies heard. This driver gives you the rumblings, booms and bass while listening. Materials for this driver include Kevlar, paper and polymers.

  • Satellite speakers are the smallest manufactured speaker for any company, and typically come in manufactured sets of five (Left, Center, Right, Surround Left, and Surround Right). These compact speakers will range anywhere in size from 3” to 8” inches in height. Being a two way speaker they will typically have a tweeter and a small mid-range driver anywhere from 2” to 4”. With such a small drivers the speakers will produce the upper end of the sound frequency spectrum (Think the smaller the speaker, the higher the pitch in sound), and will require a subwoofer to round out the complete frequency spectrum. These speakers can be ideal for smaller rooms and secondary locations most can support hardware for wall and ceiling mounting, making them great to keep out of the way.

  • As their name derives, bookshelf speakers are a midsized compact speaker capable of being placed or positioned on a raised surface (i.e. bookshelf) or on a stand. Also a two way speaker, these particular speakers will have a midrange driver between 4” to 8” which makes these speakers slightly larger than satellite. With their larger size the speaker is able to produce a much wider frequency range giving this speaker much better capability of producing much more natural sounds than a satellite speaker. This style of speaker will be ideal for mid and large rooms, and are perfect for the avid music and movie buff. To round out these speakers, a subwoofer would also be recommended.

  • Def Tech TowersThe largest/tallest of the bunch, tower speakers or floor standing speakers consist of both 2 way and 3 way varieties. Again in a two way variety the speaker will contain a tweeter and midrange driver while a three way will add an additional subwoofer driver to the mix. The mid-range drivers also range anywhere from 4” to 8”, while the woofer driver can vary in size anywhere from 6” to 15”. Tower speakers can also contain multiple subwoofers within the speaker itself effectively eliminating the need for a separate subwoofer. Three way Towers come in two varieties, passive models (speaker uses amp/receiver power to run all 3 drivers) and powered models (speakers with built in amplifiers to separately power subwoofers). Tower speakers are the ultimate speaker for the music and movie buff and are recommended for large rooms. Pairing a separate

  • Velodyne SubwooferLike the woofer driver in the speaker, the subwoofer is responsible for lowest frequencies. The subwoofer is a standalone piece that accommodates the other speakers in the system. A subwoofer can be both passive (non-powered) or powered (built in amp). A subwoofers placement is the least important as far as placement as sound from the woofer box travels in all directions but can get the best performance in a corner where sound can be reflected off the walls and back to listening position.

  • Sonos SoundbarsWith the advent of flat panel televisions, a new type of speaker was invented to accommodate the sleek look of a television on the wall. A soundbar is a sleek single speaker with multiple drivers that can be placed on a stand or mounted on the wall to help provide better sound for the television.

    The soundbar can be the easiest fix for any home theater room as the speaker does not require any additional equipment to run it (i.e. receiver). Most soundbar systems include a subwoofer which are now coming as a wireless unit. The sound quality can vary depending on type and style of room. Long rectangular with lots of wall space will work best, as this speaker needs walls to bounce the sound off of to replicate the surround sound effects.

  • In-wall speakers have been designed and engineered for the consumer who does not want to see a speaker of any sort within the home. With the ability to paint the grills, these speakers can blend in with the house and disappear. There are many different styles and selections when it comes in to in-wall and ceiling speakers and can also come in a 2 way or 3 way design. Some manufactures also offer directional variety in which the drivers within the speaker can move for more accurate positioning and a better listening experience. In-wall and in ceiling speakers are great speakers for home theater setups and for whole house audio distribution.

  • Marantz ReceiverThe brain of your entire home theater system, the receiver is the key piece of equipment for any home theater as the receiver connects all components together and distributes the sound to the speakers and picture to the television. Containing multiple sound fields for listening such as Dolby Digital and DTS, the receiver is able to process a wide variety of different sound fields to give the speakers the best level of sound  possible for any listening occasion. When looking for a receiver having enough input connections along with enough power are going to be the two main factors to look for when purchasing. Inputs connections for other components are vital (Blu-ray, Cd player, video game console etc) and making sure your receiver can handle all components you intend to hook up will need to be taken into account. The ability to handle speaker power consumption is also a key when looking for a receiver. A good receiver will have the ability to produce enough power to drive all the speakers that are hookup to the unit without the equipment running out of juice during large action scenes. In this case a high current receiver is recommended. The easiest rule of thumb is checking the weight of the receiver itself. The heavier the receiver the more current it has available.

  • 5.1 SystemA 5.1 system is arguably the most common system installed.  The system will consist of 5 speakers a front left, front right, center, surround left and surround right. The point one or (.1) will always be reserved for a subwoofer.  The effects from the speakers and type of sound that comes out of them will depend on sound field selected. For movie selection Dolby Digital and DTS will be the most commonly used sound field. In these fields the center speaker will become essential as the majority (70%-80%) of sound will be coming directly in front of you from the sequences taking place on screen. The other four speakers will become effect speakers and will mainly be heard during action sequences in the movie (a car going left to right on the screen or driving toward the camera). When choosing speakers, pairing your front left, center, and front right are key as lots of sound that passes between these three speakers can be quite noticeable if the speakers do not match. Matching the speakers with same brand and similar product models is key to keeping speaker balance between the three speakers.

  • 7.1 SystemJust like the numbers say, a 7.1 system is similar to a 5.1 system with the addition of two more speakers (surround back left and surround back right). The addition of two more speakers behind the listener encompasses the a fuller sound field with four total speakers surrounding the listener rather than with just two speakers. Ideal setup for a 7.1 system would be for very large rooms or a dedicated home theater space.