Hints on purchasing new speakers.

So, it really is time for new speakers for your music system. If the last time that you purchased speakers was some 15+ years ago, you will see some huge changes in the marketplace.

Before we look at changes and what is available, your current system where the speakers will be used is pretty important to take a look at – not necessarily to consider buying a new amplifier  but to make sure the new speakers compliment your system now and hopefully in the future should you decide to upgrade.

Some scribes feel  that up to 80% of your budget should go towards your speaker purchase. From my own perspective this is a pretty high figure unless you have unlimited funds. To me what is important is how capable your amplifier is,  what it can easily power and how good does it sound with your new product.  You don’t want to merge a new component into a system which will show the flaws of your existing system.

There are a couple of areas to check before you consider a new speaker. Most amplifiers of yesteryear, were designed to operate at an impedance of 8 ohms as were most speakers. In most cases the impedance would vary a touch, but in reality stayed pretty much in that area. Some speakers however did operate anywhere down to 2 or 3 ohms which some amplifiers simply cannot handle.  What causes these shifts in impedance is a device in the speaker called a cross-over which actually works like a tap on your water system – if more power is demanded by the speaker, the faucet is opened to let more power through. When impedance drops from 8 ohms to 6, 4 or two ohms huge demands in increased power are requested. If the amplifier can’t deliver, your bass drivers can turn into solid masses – they won’t thrust out.  A rough example is if impedance drops from 8 ohms to 4 ohms, the amplifier will need to deliver almost double its’ rated 8 ohm power. This can run form being a major task to achieve to simply impossible. The best way is to check with a dealer to see how your amplifier performs, then consider a speaker that operates within those parameters.

OK, so we’ve checked the amplifier, it’s time to look for that “holy grail” of speakers that fits within your budget and system requirements. Where do we go next?  Well, you could check the Internet for brands. Usually this will give all the specs of the speaker but from my perspective, I only used the Internet to check what speakers were available within my price range from the dealers in my area.

When I purchased my last set of speakers, I checked speaker reviews in hi-fi magazines, got an idea of the performance of the speaker and how it matched to different amplifiers. The store that I went to wouldn’t allow me to bring in my own amplifier – instead they used their own. This was not my favourite scenario, as now with my own store I encourage buyers to bring in their own amplifier and favourite CDs (yes please, do use a CD – or vinyl if you use it) . Check and see if they have a pair that is “burned in” which means it has a few hours on it. Drivers need some time to loosen up so if the speaker sound really tight right out of the box and this is what you like,  the sound will change,  maybe for the better but maybe not – and quite dramatically within 72 hours. The danger that presented itself to me as it can to you, often stores will use an amplifier that exceeds the performance of your own – in my case however, my amplifier could work with most impedance’s and was very robust from a power perspective. The only concern that I had was the CD player & Amp combination was closer to $12.000 which was more than my system… however I let the games begin.

I listened to 2 or 3 pairs of which none had the SOUND that I was looking for. Remember, you are going to live with these for many years so focus on sound! Out  of desparation I asked about “those speakers in the corner” and low and behold I was entranced .  It is important to recognise that it may take many weeks of consideration before you get a “bulls-eye”.  I encourage you to take your time and chose what you or you and your partner like. Make sure there is a return policy of some kind in case they don’t work in your home and with your existing product.

 Quick Tips;

  1. Know your current amplifier and CD player – power is important
  2. Visit hi-fi shops to see what is available within your region
  3. Try to get reviews on line
  4. Visit hi-fi shops again and give detailed info re: your current system, room size and system placement, music you listen to plus a few that your consultant will recommend and what you are looking for. The last one is rather abstract, but it will give some ideas.
  5. Don’t listen to your friend unless he has the speakers that you want – unless he is paying for the system. You want a speaker to work with your system, in your home with your music. When it comes right down to it – no one can tell you what sounds good or bad – that is a subjective choice for you to make.
  6. Consider speaker size carefully, just because it has multiple drivers or large woofers doesn’t mean it will sound right with your products.
  7. If  book shelf or small monitor speakers are purchased get a recommendatio on a proper stand for them in order to get your real moneys worth.

Speakers today really follow a different philosophy when it comes to driver size, quantity of drivers (2-way etc.), materials used to ensure driver linearity, material used in cabinet build, speaker stands etc. It would be almost be beneficial to listen to speakers in a blind listening test as this is the only true way to evaluate for sound. Most of us however, do have other needs from the speaker such as “how the speakerlooks, how large or small it is, will it it in our home environment  and then there is the “W Factor” (wifey dear)”. If she doesn’t like it, you may both be gone!

Your goal in buying a new speaker should be Sound (how does it sound on your muisc in your room), Cosmetics (does it blend in or “stick out like a sore thumb”), Placement (is it easy to place in your room), Compatibility ( does it work well with your existing music system) and size ( large room and small speaker may not work and vice-versa.

Be patient, take your time, enjoy this journey. Your purchase today may service you for a lifetime!