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source | klipsch.com & rapalloav.co.nz

If you are like me, when I first started looking at HiFi, it was confusing. All these different names, for different applications… geez I needed a degree to decipher it. So, what is the difference between floorstanding, a subwoofer, surround and Dolby Atmos speakers?

Putting together the building blocks of a top-quality audio system is easy, but you’ve got to know the lingo and what to look for. Just jumping into the shop and asking for some big speakers isn’t going to cut it. If anything, it will only enhance the opportunity to be disappointed when you get those “big” speakers home and hook them up.

As a Klipsch Reference Dealer, we thought we’d share The ABCs of Speakers from our friends @ Klipsch. This is something you cannot pass up because, and once you’ve learned ‘em, you can build an awe-inspiring setup for the home, the bach or perhaps the garage.

To help you out, we have shared the most popular speaker types on the market, the ones you are likely to be talking about when going into a store like Rapallo. Whether you’re searching for the best floorstanding speaker or a high-quality subwoofer, it helps to learn a bit of background before making a purchase.

But, don’t take our word for it. Have a look at these different speaker types yourself, do a little comparison shopping, and choose the right speakers for your needs.

HINT – the best idea is to ensure you have the ability to do a demo of the products you are purchasing, so as to ensure you know what they sound like. At Rapallo, we can even arrange for you to bring in some of your gear and hook it up to ensure the match is made in “sound heaven“.

FLOORSTANDING SPEAKERS

Yeas, those big tall speakers… often called “tower speakers” or “floorstanders”. Floorstanding speakers are typically a few feet tall and fairly skinny. They tend to employ multiple drivers and are designed with a lot of internal air space, so they produce a deep and full sound.

When comparing floorstanding vs. bookshelf speakers, this is the primary difference. Bookshelf speakers are smaller and have less air space, so the sound is generally not as full. Here’s what to look for when purchasing a floorstanding speaker so you achieve the best possible sound.

SHOULD I CHOOSE FLOORSTANDING OR BOOKSHELF SPEAKERS
Before going forward with a set of floorstanding speakers, it’s a good idea to make sure that they are the right type of speaker for your needs. The main alternative to tower speakers is bookshelf speakers. As their name suggests, bookshelf speakers are smaller than their floorstanding counterparts. However, an actual bookshelf may not be the best place for a pair; this is because the shelves will absorb a great deal of the sound produced, lessening their efficiency. The recommended setup for bookshelf speakers is to put them on specialized stands.

Bookshelf speakers are more favorable for stereos in places like a bedroom or study, where they take up less space and the sound is more likely to be played at lower volumes. They also tend to suffer less from cabinet resonance, which is what happens when the drivers vibrate the speakers’ cabinets and distort the sound—though well-designed floorstanders, such as the Klipsch models, don’t have this problem. For some people, the decision comes down to cost, since speakers of the bookshelf variety can be less expensive than floorstanding speakers, though they under-perform in terms of bass response, and their size limits the number and size of drivers they can contain, resulting in limited loudness and fullness of sound.

In cases where budget, space, or noise restrictions limit options, bookshelf speakers may suffice. But if you’re looking for a loud, full sound with plenty of bass response (which is what most cinephiles and music aficionados prefer), then a good set of floorstanding speakers should be your go-to choice.

 

SUBWOOFERS

When shopping for a sub, rattling the floor and enhancing your listening experience are key.

HINT:But also think of the application and where you live. Remember if it is rattling the walls and the floors in your place, there is a high chance it is doing the same at Mikes place next door, and he’s not going to love you for it. So environment and use is as important as is the actual unit.

They typically connect to your receiver and require a power source (hence the term “powered subwoofers”). However, some subwoofers are wireless and don’t need to be connected to a receiver or amplifier. Instead, they rely on a cutting-edge wireless transmitter for sending high-res bass content.

Either way, you want something to rumble the room.

Subwoofers have some inherent flexibility in terms of where they can be placed. Given their relatively loose position in the greater sound system, know that you can connect a subwoofer to your amplifier without a physical wire running between the two, if you’d like that sort of setup. But there is one thing to keep in mind: Wireless subwoofers aren’t completely without wires. They do need a power cord. “Wireless” refers to the subwoofer’s relationship with your receiver, as there is no need for a direct, physical connection between the two. That’s pretty much the only difference between wireless models and traditional, wired connections—aside from the fact that wireless models tend to be a bit more expensive.

SURROUND SOUND

Surround sound gives you that chill, the fright when a noise comes from behind you and makes the home theatre experience larger in the sound-scape than if it were just a front channel system.

A real home theater experience means you feel as though you’re in the middle of the action. At Rapallo highly recommend buying a pair of surround speakers, so you’re fully immersed in sound whether your system is in the lounge, or a dedicated home theatre room.

HINT:If you havent already, try a full 7.1 system to see what we mean by the sound-scape, its quite amazing – we have one setup @ Rapallo (subtle plug there).

These speakers can be placed behind or near your couch so that you hear audio from different directions. They use a technology called “wide dispersion surround” to create a lifelike, cinematic experience. For placement, we’d recommend you should place a surround speaker on the left and right sides of your seating area to make it really work for you.

 

POWERED SPEAKERS

If you’re creating a home theater system on a budget, a powered bookshelf speaker setup doesn’t require a receiver. Their amplification is built into the speaker housing.

HINT:If you have a quality Digital Audio Player then try connecting it to some powered speakers.

Often, powered speakers include inputs for various music sources, such as a CD/MP3 player or turntable. They may have support for Bluetooth and WiFi as well and are truly quite flexible. But don’t expect the performance of a floorstander out of these, they are smaller and therefore the sound is made for smaller spaces.

SOUND BARS

Designed as a center speaker channel for your TV and most allow an aspect of “surround sound”, sound bars improve the volume and clarity of dialogue, while also filling out the frequency spectrum.

If you’ve ever watched a movie with your TV’s built-in speakers and wondered why the quiet moments were barely audible, it’s because the movie is tailored for a full home theater system or a soundbar. Some sound bars will even include a wireless subwoofer that you can place anywhere in the room .

DOLBY ATMOS

Atmos… it is what creates the tingle down your back when watching a Dolby Atmos enabled movie. It brings a new dimension and adds a surreal reality to the movie experience. With sounds originating from around the room, you will feel the action as it happens all round you!

Dolby is a legendary audio brand, and its Atmos audio format is designed to take surround sound into 3D space. Typically, surround sound envelops a user on a single plane, but Dolby Atmos movies produce the magical effect of hearing sound above and below you. By investing in 2, 4, or more Dolby Atmos-capable speakers for your home theatre setup, you can experience three-dimensional sound for yourself.

OUTDOOR SPEAKERS

We touched on these a few weeks back in our blog about “Creating An Outdoor Soundscape“.

Outdoor speakers allow you to enjoy rich, high-resolution audio on your back porch or patio? Outdoor speakers are designed to withstand the elements while also delivering acoustic clarity.

HINT:So, when thinking of the outdoor space, it’s just as important as the internal spaces to really understand what you want from it and then work backwards to a technical solution with the support of an AV partner like Rapallo.

Some of them mount securely onto a wall, while others look like rocks that blend into the natural landscape. Working the speakers into the landscape means maximum sound with the minimum speaker visibility.

Yes, you CAN literally rock out in the back yard to your favourite rock band.

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