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How to buy speakers like a boss: A beginner’s guide to home audio

“My speakers cost more than my car.” We actually heard someone say that recently at an audio convention, and we’re inclined to believe him, too, because speakers can get outrageously expensive. After we got done stifling our chuckles, though, the statement got us thinking about how speakers really are an important investment, and why it is that more people don’t treat their speaker purchases more like their car purchases.

Both are important investments, both serve practical and frivolous needs, and both vary greatly in terms of size, aesthetics, quality, performance and price. Yet, most people we know will spend weeks, if not months, researching, test-driving, haggling and, ultimately, purchasing a car, whereas those same shoppers are known to simply walk into a big-box electronics store, hear a demonstration and walk out with a set of speakers.

The truth is, the right set of speakers, if properly taken care of, will last longer than your car. Heck, they last a lot longer than most marriages these days — and will serve up decades of enjoyment without criticizing your taste in clothes or music. The key to sonic bliss is to empower yourself with knowledge, do a little research, and spend some time test driving before pulling the trigger.

We’re here to help. Below is our guide to the ultimate speaker buying process from beginning to end. Armed with the knowledge contained within, your next speaker purchase can be easy, fun and downright gratifying.

Updated 1/26/15 by Joe Donovan. Added images and updated copy to reflect the current speaker market.

Speakers 101: A primer

If you’ve already started reading audio or home theater magazines, then you may have run into some terminology that you aren’t familiar with. If you already know the difference between a satellite and a monitor or a surround and a rear surround, then please feel free to skip ahead. For those who need to do a little catching up, make sure to check out our home audio glossary for a brief overview of what is happening in speaker-land these days.

Related: Our editors pick the 10 best speakers for every budget

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