When it comes to Home Theatre speakers, there are options for every level of performance, configuration, and lifestyle. Indeed the way these fit into your décor are as important as the way they sound.In this installment, we explore the different home theatre speaker types that are available, and how the various options can be used to solve specific room challenges. Read on….
There are a number of factors that need to be considered when choosing surround sound speaker options. For example, is the theatre room going to be a dedicated space, or is it a part of your primary living space? Is the room an enclosed space or an open floor plan room? What size is the room? What are the room acoustics like? Is the ceiling normal, low, or vaulted? Is there young children using the space when where speakers could be easily damaged or child safety may be an issue? Are there pets using the space that could potentially knock over floor-mounted speaker solutions? Are the speakers to be prominently displayed as part of the décor or discretely installed? Is the speaker wiring to be surface run or in-wall? Are there wiring obstacles (Doorways, baseboard heaters, fireplaces)?
Having a clear understanding of the environment where the speakers are to be installed in before you start shopping will greatly assist your product specialist in recommending speaker solutions best suited your needs.
A Few Golden Rules
There are a few best practices for achieving a good sounding home theatre system.
First, do not mix and match speaker brands & series. Re-purposing your old speakers will most likely result in timbre mismatches that even the room correction software in your AVR will not be able to overcome. Ideally stick to speakers from the same brand and same series for the very best results. The exception to this is rule the powered subwoofer.
Secondly, wired when you can, wireless when you have to. This rule applies to just about everything attached to your home network. It is especially true for speakers.
Third, all the speaker wire used should also be same, just as with timbre matching speakers. It is also important to use speaker wire appropriate for the quality of the speakers and of sufficient gauge or use on the longest wiring runs. Opting for cheaper/thinner wire for the longest runs can be hard on the AVR and compromise system performance.
Home Theatre Speaker Types
Traditional box speakers offer the widest range of possibilities in terms of performance and build quality, & budget. It is important to match the brand & series for the best results.
When space is limited, or the speakers need to be discrete, a sub/sat system is a good choice. These are typically offered in sets, though some can be purchased a la carte. A sub woofer is always required as the satellite speakers usually produce little bass.
Some of the latest models offer Atmos front speakers with extra upward-firing drivers
Trio Front Speakers
A Trio combines a left/center/right into a single cabinet with independent speaker connections. Trios are used with rear surround speakers plus a sub woofer.
Some models are available in custom lengths to match the TV width.
On-wall speakers are slim profile box speakers that are installed on the surface of the wall. The are often configure in L/C/R layout for the front. These speakers can also be used for rear channels. A
Sub Woofer is used to complete the system. On-wall solutions are great when floor space is limited.
In-wall speakers are fixed to the drywall and use the stud cavity as an enclosure. Back boxes are usually available for improved performance or to minimize sound transmission to adjacent rooms. More advanced models integrate the back box into the design. Most are 2-way rectangular designs, however longer units with more drivers are available for use in L/C/R configurations. The grills can usually be painted to match the wall.
In-ceiling speakers while typically round coaxial designs are also available in multi driver angled cabinets. These speakers are used for rear-channel surround speakers and in Atmos/DTS:X theatre installations. Basic models use the stud wall cavity for the enclosure. Back boxes are usually available to minimize noise transfer to the floor above. Better units integrate the back-box.
As an alternative to in-ceiling Atmos speakers, some manufacturer produce special main speakers that integrate extra top-firing Atmos drivers into the main L/R speakers.
Other manufacturers have Atmos “toppers” that are designed to be placed on top of existing speakers.
These Atmos drivers reflect sound off the ceiling to create the Atmos effects.
Mono-pole/Bi-pole/Di-pole On-wall Surround Speakers
Di-pole/Bi-pole speakers are usually configurable for surround use. They have at least two sets of drivers firing forward and backwards. Di-pole mode is best for side speakers that line up with seating as a null is created in front of the speaker so you don’t get direct sound. Bi-pole diffuse sound in all directions which is particular useful in smaller rooms. Mono-pole speakers only have 1 set of drivers that fire forward away from the wall; perfect in Atmos/DTS:X theatres.
Sub Woofers are an essential part of surround sound as they carry discrete bass information from a separate output on the AVR. These provide the deep bass content. Larger subs are great for movies as they move a lot of air. Smaller drivers are best for systems also used for music. Some subs use passive radiators offering extended bass in a smaller cabinet size.
Center Channel Speakers
Center channel speakers carry the dialog information in a surround system. It is very important it be the same brand and series to your other speakers for correct timber matching.
Sometimes getting wiring runs to the rear of the room is difficult or impossible. A wireless solution may be the only practical choice to complete a surround system.
Some brands offer wireless surround speakers that work with their AVR products. Others offer universal wireless rear amplifiers kits so you can use the correct timber matched speakers for the rear channels.