Buying the perfect H-Fi Speakers: According to Your Room, Music and Budget
Buying speakers can be complicated, especially at times when you can’t easily go out and listen to them in person. Plus, you have to choose between big and small, towers and bookshelf speakers, expensive, cheap and everything in between. That’s why we wanted to break down the process so that you can get as close as possible to the right choice for you.
Step 1: Decide the Budget
This is where it all starts. Figure out how much you’re willing to spend on a pair of speakers so you can get the best possible value for your money.
Also, if you’re setting up a whole system from scratch, or planning to upgrade the whole thing, keep in mind that you’ll need to invest in a good amplifier at the very least, and maybe even a CD player or record player that could set you back a few grand more. And let’s not forget a decent set of cables to make sure everything is hooked up properly. If that’s the case, it can get a bit more complicated but we would advise you to stick to spending at least around 50% of your budget on speakers.
One more thing you should keep in mind when deciding your budget is that this is an investment. Hi-fi music systems aren’t like mobile phones that you want to swap out every year or two. This is something you would want to stick to for a good few years, maybe even decades. Some even hand them down like family heirlooms. So future-proofing is important, and spending a bit more to get equipment that is durable and enduring in quality is worth it.
Step 2: Measure your room
When it comes to room sizes, there are some broad rules you should be aware of. You shouldn’t choose massive floorstanding speakers for tiny rooms like say 100 sq feet, for example. For these, smaller bookshelf speakers would be more suitable. On the other extreme, a pair of tiny bookshelf speakers will struggle to fill a large room with sound. Bigger tower speakers would be much more suitable for bigger rooms.
You should also consider how much space you have for the speakers. Some speakers only sound good when placed a couple of feet, or even a couple of meters, away from the wall to have the clearest bass. This is needed especially with many speakers that have bass ports in the back.
So if you have a smallish room or one that’s a bit crowded, you may have to keep your speakers close to the wall. For that, bottom ported speakers. For instance, the Wharfedale Diamond 11 series or their Evo range have their bass ports in the base so you can push them pretty close to a wall.
Ideally, however, you should look up product descriptions from the manufacturer or the dealer to understand if your speaker will do well near a wall or if it needs more breathing room.
Step 3: Towers or Standmounters?
Assuming your room is somewhere between the extremes mentioned earlier, you can choose from one of these two families of speakers. If you prefer your system to be a big, loud wall of sound, you should probably go for a pair of big floorstanding (tower) speakers. Having narrowed down your choices, you need to also choose the right ones in this range. If your room is on the smaller side, the bass could get boomy and you’ll lose out on clarity. Even if you’re not the wall-of-sound kind of listener, tower speakers can provide a big soundstage with a well-rounded response.
On the other hand, if you prefer lower volumes and bass isn’t essential, there are some bookshelf (standmount) speakers that can be incredibly charming and clear. These can be even paired with a subwoofer to round out the sound while not compromising on the space you have available.
Step 4: Passive or active?
Passive speakers don’t have a power source of their own and need an amplifier to complete the setup. However, active speakers include their own in-built amplifiers.
At first sight, active speakers are certainly more convenient and require less setup as you just need to plug them into the wall and you’re good to go. These speakers usually tend to be more expensive than their passive counterparts, but not always. The KEF LS50 are probably the best money can buy.
However, active speakers have one problem. It’s all or nothing – you can’t upgrade any one component. Passive speaker setups can be cobbled together with a variety of components like DACs, amps and cables, making it much more versatile. You can upgrade anything along the signal chain or even add an AV receiver or more speakers, which may be handy on the long run.
Don’t get us wrong – active speakers have a strong following of people who know exactly what they want out of their system. However, this is another important consideration to keep in mind. Especially if you’re just starting your audiophile journey, we would recommend starting with passive speakers.
Step 5: Power, Impedance and Sensitivity
In essence, this aspect is to make sure you’re matching your speakers to the amplifier you already have or the amp you’re planning to get. If you don’t want to get into the technicalities, you should simply consult your dealer and ask him or her about which amplifier would be best to power most of the speakers in your shortlist so far.
However, if you want to go deeper into the rabbit hole, follow us:
Ideally, your amplifier should be able to deliver 50% to 100% more power to each channel (speaker) than the continuous power a speaker can handle. For example, if your amplifier can deliver 800 watts per channel, and even 1000 watts and your speakers can handle 500 watts of power continuously, that should be fine. That leaves plenty of headroom for your amplifier to drive the speakers.
Look for the Continuous Power rating on the speakers you’re looking at and make sure they are half or ⅔ the wattage your amplifier can handle per channel.
Impedance is a measure of the resistance the circuitry in your speakers poses to the signal that comes through it. On most speakers you’ll see it as an omega symbol, standing for Ohms, and is usually next to a number like 4𝛀 or 8𝛀. Amplifiers usually can handle a range, like 4 ohms to 12 ohms, for example.
Long story short, you should be okay if you connect speakers with a higher impedance (say 8 ohms) to an amplifier capable of operating with a lower impedance (like 4 ohms). However, you shouldn’t connect speakers with a lower impedance (say, 4 ohms) to an amplifier with a higher minimum impendence (10 ohms, for example).
This is all about how loud your speaker can get. You might see a sensitivity on the technical specifications of your speakers as something like 88 dB (2.83V @ 1m). This means, in a controlled environment, if you pump 2.83 volts of power into these speakers, they will generate 88 decibels of sound when measured from 1 meter away. The number of 88dB given in this example is a decent number, even as it goes into the mid-90s. It just shouldn’t be very low, since it’ll take 10 times the amount of power to drive a speaker that is 10 dB less sensitive. And sound quality could be affected if it gets too high, since bass response may suffer. Staying in the late 80s to the mid-90s should be a safe place to be for most speakers.
Step 6: Looks
While the beauty of a speaker is certainly more than skin deep, you should also consider speakers that appeal to you and the decor you have in your room. Do you want a wood finish? Dark or light? Or more of a minimalist black or white, or something in-between? After all, these speakers, ideally, should be a prominent fixture in your home for many years to come, so you should look at them with the same perspective as you would a sofa set or a coffee table. Aesthetics, though not of utmost importance, should certainly be seriously considered.
Step 7: Listen, if you can
This isn’t a luxury most of us have these days, but if you’re reading this in a place or a time where you have access to a friend or a retail outlet with a good listening room that has the speakers you’re interested in, go and check them out. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is that the speakers sound good to you.
We hope these steps have helped you figure out the best hi-fi speakers for you according to your budget, room size, electronics, and everything else. Choosing speakers isn’t easy, that is for sure, so take your time and don’t make any rushed decisions.
At HiFi Mart, we are always ready to help you with whatever information you would need. You are welcome to call us or send us a message on Whatsapp. We can also advise you on pairing amplifiers, DACs, CD players, subwoofers, cables, and everything else you might need to complete your system.
All the best on your journey to find the perfect speakers. If you have any questions or even your own tips and tricks that you learned when looking for your speakers, let us know in the comments.