Speakers
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Sub-Woofers
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 Home Theater Speakers

You do not need a speaker system that looks like the touring setup for the Rolling Stones to enjoy theater quality sound. Modern speakers are far more efficient than their predecessors.  I own modest JBL speakers that blow away much larger speakers so remember, good things can come in little packages. Also, pick speakers appropriate for your receiver or amp. If you have a 100 watt amp, you do not have to get speakers rated for 200 watts or more. A good rule of thumb is multiply your amp's power by 1.5. So for a receiver rated 100 watts a 150 watt speaker set will do. This gives you a little head room to make sure if you accidentally push your receiver to full volume your speakers can handle it without damage. Also, you will probably want speakers that fit in with the decor of your room. Many speakers come in different wood grains or colors.   In any case, to set up your system correctly invest in a calibration DVD.

Left and Right Front Speakers

Since these speakers carry the primary channels, most of the music and sound effects will come from them. They must have a wide frequency range and a smooth response. These are the same characteristics found in most mid to high range stereo speakers. If the speaker is to be placed next to the TV, VCR or your tape collection be sure they are magnetically shielded. There will usually be at least three speakers in a cabinet for your front speakers, the Woofer for low end, Tweeter for the highs and the Mid-Range. These speakers are also commonly ported. This means there is a channel or hole from the back of the speaker to the front. This prevents pressure from building up in the speaker cabinet which would distort the sound.

Center Speaker

The center speaker is responsible for much of the dialog as well as some music and sound effects.  As such, the optimum center speaker should be about the same as the right and left front speaker. If you are selecting such a speaker for the center you can use the WIDE ProLogic mode. If the center speaker is much smaller choose the NORMAL  ProLogic mode. In this mode the mid range frequenies are sent to the center while the lower range that would be sent to the center speaker are divided between the front pair. If you do not have a center speaker yet choose the Phantom ProLogic mode and save up for a center speaker as soon as possible. This mode diverts the audio information that would be sent to the center speaker and distributes it between the two front speakers. This creates the illusion of a center speaker. Since this speaker is typically kept on top of your TV make sure it is magnetically shielded. Almost all speakers designed for center speaker use are shielded.

Surround Speakers

Since ProLogic surround sound technology utilizes a monophonic rear system the surround sound speakers do not have to be as full range as their front seated brothers.  Surround speakers are not responsible for bass frequency reproduction so they can be small and inconspicuous. Still, their sound characteristics a best when they are as close as possible to the front speakers. When I was able to get a set of four full range, matched speakers the difference in the sound was amazing. If you upgrade your front speakers consider using the older front speakers as the surround speakers. One thing to remember when placing your rear speakers is the type of speakers. If you are using smaller satellite speakers place them closer to the ceiling. The angle formed by the ceiling and wall will enhance the bass response of the speaker. If the rear speakers are close in configuration to the front, that is they have a tweeter, mid range and woofer, place them lower, about ear level if possible.

For Dolby 5.1 (AC-3) and DTS the surround field is comprised of two separate channels. As such, each of the two surround speakers will have it's own information. If you have a system capable of these formats make sure each speaker is placed about the same distance from the primary listening area. Since they play a more important role in the over all sound field in these systems you may wish to consider a larger speaker set than with Dolby Prologic. When I moved up to matched, full frequency front and rear speakers I noticed the improvement immediately and with almost everything I played on them.

Sub Woofers

Because the care and feeding of a sub woofer is more complicated than the other types of speakers, I now have a separate section for them. Look at left button towards the top of this page.

 

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