Speakers buyer’s guide
You can spend all you like on a hi-fi, TV and home entertainment system but you’re only really going to get the best out of them if you invest in a good set of speakers. Don’t know where to start? Let Crowdstorm guide you through the speaker comparison process.
At Crowdstorm we help you compare the best speaker deals from the world’s best manufacturers, and then buy from the UK’s leading retailers. But it’s worth pointing out here that while we have all kinds of speakers on the site they’re not all on this page. For example, we have a dedicated page for PC speakers and for car speakers.
Where to start?
There are two key considerations here: what will the speakers be primarily used for (audio or visual); and how big is the space?
If you’re wanting speakers that will get the best out of your music collection, a simple stereo set up (2.0) is all you’ll need. However, for the best multimedia experience you’ll be wanting a surround sound set up (likely 5.1 – meaning five small speakers to the sides and behind you, and a bass subwoofer in the middle).
In terms of speaker size, you really don’t need huge speakers for your average room. A normal speaking voice is measured at around 70 decibels (dB) while an orchestral climax is about 105dB. Of course you don’t want to be pumping out volume near a unit’s top end, as you’ll lose performance – but do you really need orchestra-sized sound on your front room?
A good measure is ‘sensitivity rating’; which is essentially the dB volume you’ll get from one watt (1W) of power. The amount of extra wattage required to go up just a few decibels is huge; in fact it doubles every 3dB. So for example speakers with a sensitivity rating of ‘80’ would only need 1W of power for chatting volume – but would need a staggering 400W for that orchestra. Speakers with a sensitivity rating just a little higher – say 88 – could hit that same volume with just 40W of power.
In real terms, look for a sensitivity rating in the high 80s or better to get an undistorted sound at average volumes. And finally, as is so often the case, you get what you pay for. Very small speakers are unlikely to pack any kind of bass punch, while the more you pay the better quality your speakers are likely to be.
Types of speaker
If you’re looking to refine your search, this is a great place to start:
- Bluetooth speakers: These connect wirelessly to any compatible hi-fi, television, iPod etc, which can be super convenient and mess-free.
- Bookshelf speakers: These are great for small/medium sized spaces (standard house rooms) and are particularly good for audio, although smaller units may lack bass.
- Ceiling/wall speakers: Want something built into a surface so it’s practically invisible? This is the choice for you.
- Centre speakers: A centre speaker attempts to offer stereo sound from a single unit – great if you’re stuck for space or hate clutter and wires.
- Monitors: Professional level speakers for serious amplification such as studio or event use – and lovers of all things loud.
- Subwoofers: As tech grows smaller and thinner, the one thing it can’t make up for is the loss of bass – which is why people buy a subwoofer: a single bass unit that brings it back.
- Surround sound: While stereo tends to be perfect for music, you’ll want a surround sound system (three to seven speakers) for the true home cinema experience.
- Floor/tower speakers: These are floor-standing speakers that offer a great frequency range, adding clarity to your music or high performance to a home cinema setup.
Multi-room speaker systems
Thanks to the advances in wireless technology, multi-room speaker systems are far more affordable – and easier to set up – than they’ve ever been.
Lead by Sonos, which has been in the industry for more than a decade, wireless speaker set-ups are becoming commonplace. They give you the freedom to play music around the house from a single source, while phone apps make it possible to control it more easily and stream music digitally with the touch of a button.
Most systems combine wireless speakers with your home’s Wi-Fi set up, meaning you can also access you multi-room speakers from a PC. And while serious audiophiles may turn their noses up, high-end multi-room systems are starting to reach some pretty enviable sound quality levels.
Apple has, of course, got in on the act with its AirPlay system, which allows you to mirror what’s on your i-device to any AirPlay-enabled speakers.
What are active and passive speakers?
The vast majority of speakers are passive – meaning they need to be plugged into a device with an amplifier to work, but not the mains. Active speakers have an amplifier built in and therefore tend to need a power source. A classic modern example of active speakers are subwoofer bass units for televisions.
How do I purchase my speakers through Crowdstorm?
Now here comes the easy part! Once you’ve compared all our speakers and chosen the best offer, all you need is click through to the retailer that’s offering it. You’ll be taken directly to their official site to seal the deal with them.
At Crowdstorm we make our money through advertising, not from you, so the price you see here is the price you’ll get from them. This means we can bring you the best deals from all your favourite high street and online retailers and offer you an unbiased place to compare them all.