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Things to Remember When Buying a Home Speaker System

Speaker System

Shopping for a speaker system? Then you’re no doubt wondering which features are worth the money, and which are pure marketing hype. We put the question to Dennis Erskine of The Erskine Group, an expert in audio and architectural acoustics to get the scoop. Here is his advice:


Q: Lots of features are promoted by speaker companies as important items to consider making your purchase – which ones are valuable, and which should be discounted entirely?

A: In general there is not a lot of worthwhile information being provided by speaker manufacturers within the consumer marketplace. While physical dimensions and weight have some value, the real information that matters is not or will not be provided. A perusal of speaker websites will find such terms as “unprecedented accuracy,” “pristine reproduction of the most complex musical passages,” and similar glittering generalities. Among the specifications, I find that most consumers are confused by statements such as “capable of 500 watts.” While I doubt the veracity in some cases, the consumer is often mislead (not intentionally) into thinking the speaker requires 500 watts. In the speaker world, the two biggest BS statements to watch out for are:

• That you can mix and match any speaker from within a broad product group and they will blend perfectly.

• The horizontally oriented center channel speaker will exactly timbre match with vertically oriented left and right speakers.

In both cases, there are a few laws of physics that would need to be set aside for this to be true.

Another problem I have is with the term “Reference Quality” or “Reference Speakers.” What does it mean? Referenced to what? Whose reference? Is Brand X’s “reference” the same as Brand Y’s “reference?” What’s the minimum performance level required to achieve “reference?” The only outfit I know of measuring speakers to determine if they really meet some level of performance is THX.


Q: Two subwoofers are better than one: True or False?

A: True. Two subs are always better than one and, in many cases, four are preferred. The use of multiple subwoofers is not to ramp up the boom of low-frequency effects, but rather to provide a consistent bass response in the seating area.