Being the audiophile that you are or you want to be, you probably have encountered some setbacks when it comes to buying your very own sound system, especially when you’re aiming to assemble a home entertainment system. Who can blame you? Choosing the right speaker to fulfill your listening requirements is not an easy feat. With plenty of audio speakers in the market nowadays, you would be spending ages upon ages searching for that specific system that would meet your criteria.
Of course, it’s hard to just depend on the specifications that are stamped on the box of the products themselves, especially if you’re not an experienced techie fan. So most of the time, you would just have to depend on your friends who claim to already have some experience to guide you in buying your first audio system. Or, you might actually just depend on the good ‘ol internet and its endless resources. Just type in “best sound speakers” on the search box on Google, press enter, and hope for a miracle. However, just like what everyone says, you need to start from the bottom before you make your way to the top. So, let’s start with the basics.
How do know which system is the most suitable for you?
Well, before I answer that question, let’s delve a bit into the terminologies that would ultimately help you understand most of the sound systems, or more specifically the bookshelf speakers. First and foremost, what is a bookshelf speaker? Since speaker systems usually come in varying degrees of sizes, bookshelf speakers are small, compact audio systems that can easily fit on bookshelves (hence, the name), tables tops, desktops or any other small spaces in your home. Most of the time these audio systems come in pairs, but there are times that you’d come across a solitary bookshelf speaker. I’m not going to talk that much about the techy specifications, but there are several terms you must be aware of, to know if you’re really getting the full benefits of owning a bookshelf speaker system.
Units of Measurement
There are 3 units of measurement that you must remember when trying to figure out which speaker to buy: Watts, Hertz, and Decibels. Watts (W) would be the unit of measurement referring to the electrical power itself or the conversion of energy. Hertz (Hz) is the unit used to measure the frequency of sound waves. In simple terms, frequency of sound waves is what we call as the pitch. An infant’s ear can perceive sound frequencies ranging from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz, whereas an average adult ear can perceive sounds between 20 Hz to 16,000 Hz. The preciseness of the delivery of these waves is dependent on the speaker drivers, which we will be talking about in a little while. Decibels (dB), on the other hand, would refer to the loudness of the sound. Simply put, the higher the decibel, the louder the sound. It typically ranges from 0dB (zip, none, zero) to 194dB (as loud as possible). Just to give you a perception on how loud a sound is in relation to its decibel measurement, a normal conversation would typically range from 60-65 dB, and a heavy rock concert would reach 115 db.
Drivers: Tweeters, Squawkers, Woofers, Subwoofers
Drivers are basically the gadgets that provide the output delivery within a limited range. They would include subwoofers, woofers, mid-range drivers, and tweeters, and all of them have specific sound frequencies that they are capable of. There are also what we call the Full-Range drivers that, if alone, can effectively reproduce a whole audio channel. Being alone, they must be carefully designed to cover the entire sound frequency range. Coaxial drivers, on the other hand, combine two or several of the basic types. So, let’s talk about them. The drivers that are responsible for the delivery of the highest frequencies in the speaker system are what we call tweeters. They usually reproduce those high frequencies, typically around 2,000Hz to 20,000Hz. Those that take care of the middle frequencies of 300-5000 Hz are called mid-range drivers. They are also known as squawkers. Going down lower on the sound spectrum are the woofers. They are responsible for reproducing the low frequencies, such as those between the 40-1000 Hertz range. Anything lower than that, for example 20-200Hz, is going to be under the jurisdiction of the subwoofer.
Buying Bookshelf Speakers 101:
So, like we mentioned a while ago, buying a pair that would suit your needs is somewhat like a quest which involves weeding out the unworthy speakers until one audio system comes out victorious. It’s a hard quest, I tell you. Before you go off rushing to buy your first ever bookshelf speakers, there are several things you have to consider. Of course, each of us has our own perception of what a perfect pair would be like. We have also formulated our own criteria, each of them tailor-made to fit our demands. In this part of the discussion, we will talk about what considerations we would need to look at which would ultimately play a huge role in our choice.
When buying a desktop speaker (or any loudspeaker for that matter), one of the first questions to ask yourself is the main purpose of it or why are you buying yourself a nifty new audio gadget. This is a very important step to guide you in choosing the right system. After all, you’re buying a pair for your own listening pleasure, not for your neighbors (though, if you want them to listen too, that’s a whole other story). Are you going to buy these bookshelf speakers mainly for music? If so, then you want a high-quality pair that can offer a full-range of sounds. Are you going to use them to watch movies? Then you might want to use bookshelf systems that have good bass sounds, or at least those that give you the option of connecting a subwoofer for that extra punch. Are you going to buy them for your gamer boyfriend/girlfriend? You could also use the same system such as those for movies, but you have to make sure that they would be able to handle high and low-frequency sounds without breaking.
The second most important criteria you have to consider would be the design of the system itself. And no, I’m not talking about the actual appearance of the bookshelf speaker (though, if you think about it, nobody would want to be stuck with an audio system that looks like it just got run over by a train.) When we talk about the design, it is not only directed towards the sound system itself, but also to the design of your living space, since it would be where the speaker will be operating for most of the time. Most of the loudspeakers are usually compact, but some of them are larger than the average. So, if you have a large, spacious room, don’t go for the teeny-sized audio pairs that would sound like a mouse in comparison to the large room. In the same aspect, don’t buy large bookshelf audio systems with big powerfull drivers that are more than capable of blowing a hole through the wall of your small-sized living space. If you plan to use your sound system on a desktop for your laptop or computer, you don’t want to go for a pair that could easily limit the space on your desk.
Loudspeakers nowadays range from super affordable ones (such as those that cost less than a hundred dollars) to those that cost thousands of dollars. With plenty of speaker systems in the market, and all of them competing for your attention, it can be safe to say that a lot of them will have the features that you are looking for and will also be in the price range that you are targeting. In this case, it is very important to know your budget limitations because, from there on, you can easily oust the audio systems that are not within your preferred price range.
Now, that is not to say that if you’re an audiophile wanna-be with a rather limited budget, you’d end up with some no-name, mediocre bookshelf speakers. Well-known electronic companies like Sony and Panasonic often have catered to the needs of financially-strapped music and movie enthusiasts by offering a good variety of bookshelf audio systems that don’t cost a lot. These pairs are also equipped with the latest sound innovations that are not that much different from their more expensive counterparts. However, it also stands to reason that high-quality audio systems with a substantial number of excellent specifications don’t come cheap. Whether you are financially unstable or have been blessed by the high heavens with a good financial background, there’s always a speaker designed just for you.
Since our main goal when buying bookshelf sound systems is the sound itself, it is of utmost importance to know what a speaker system can do for you. I’m not saying that you should go out there and try everything you could find, because this is where a proper research would could come in handy. Remember the terminologies we talked about a while ago? This is where you can use them. Know the specifications that are being offered by the system. If still unsure, ask your ever-friendly salesperson in the shop or mall. You can also do your research by asking around. If all else fails, the internet is always here so is AudioRumble.
Direct Buying or Online Shopping?
With internet being used for plenty of purposes, purchasing your speaker system can be done by looking it up on online shops and paying for it. You might be asking yourself, which is better—directly buying from the shops or buying from the internet.
Let’s do a comparison, shall we?
There are pros when purchasing systems online. For one, you can easily search for the system you want and do your research at the same time. Buying online can essentially save you time and effort and last but not least money. All you need to do would be to click on the product that you want, pay for it via credit card, paypal or whatever, and wait for it to arrive on your doorstep.
Downsides must also be considered. One disadvantage is that you have to wait for it to arrive, which would take days or weeks, depending on where you live. You also do not get to test the system yourself during the purchase processes, which means there is a chance that you might get a defective sound system delivered to your front porch. Another thing to consider is the possibility where you might not like the product and decide to return it. You actually have to mail it back to retailer, and sometimes the cost will be shouldered by yourself.
When it comes to directly buying an audio system from a retail store, there are several pros and cons as well. One benefit is that you get to test out the system itself, ensuring you get a working bookshelf speaker every time. Another perk is that you instantly have somebody there to help you choose, unlike in online stores where you have to wait for them to answer your e-mails. When you actually do get a defective device, you can easily bring it back to them and can get a new system almost immediately or you have the option of having your money returned to you. The downside is the effort in actually going to town and if you don’t own a vehicle, purchasing large bookshelf speakers can be a bit of a hassle. Each of these methods have their own pros and cons. It’s up to you to decide which one is more suitable for you.
In summary, being able to buy your very own bookshelf speakers is a great opportunity where you have to learn and be aware of different ways and methods in knowing which system is most suitable for you. Knowing the different terminologies is only a part of the process. When buying an audio system, several things must be put into consideration: purpose of use, the design, the price range, and of course, the sound delivery. You can easily order your sound systems online or directly through a retail shop, and each of these methods have their corresponding benefits and disadvantages. All in all, the decision is up to you.