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
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.
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.
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.
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.