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August 5, 2011

Speakers for Home Theater: The Facts and Fallacies

See what speakers for home theater made it into this customer's getaway!

Looking for the best speakers for home theater? First, ignore the myth often perpetuated on the internet that there are speakers that are “best for music” and others that are “best for home theater.” The best speakers for home theater are the ones that are great with music; that is, they’re transparent and natural-sounding.

Movie soundtracks are comprised of lots of music, male and female voices, and many sound “effects,” whether it’s the sound of a car door closing, rain on a roof, or a dog barking in the distance. These are all familiar sounds to our ears, as are most musical instruments, so speakers that are true and natural with music will do equally well with voices and commonplace sounds from everyday life.

That said, you should know what’s required of speakers for home theater. The front left and right speakers present the stereo left-to-right “soundstage” – the sonic panorama pictured on-screen.

The center speaker, located above or below the video display between the front left and right speakers, carries most of the actors’ voices and dialogue.

The center as well as the front left and right speakers must be natural sounding and from the same manufacturer so the tonal blend across the front soundstage is seamless and natural. Mixing different brands of speakers is not advisable.

The surround speakers are usually smaller and go to each side of the room. They’re largely for ambience and effects—the sound of rain, wind or ricocheting bullets in thrillers as well as off-screen sounds. Two more surround speakers may also be placed on the rear wall in addition to the surrounds on each side wall.

Finally, a subwoofer is a speaker with a large “woofer” for deep bass, and an internal amplifier to power it. It can be located in a corner or at the side of a room, as deep bass tones are not directional.

As with hi-fi speakers, the best speakers for home theater are from companies that make only speakers, not a variety of electronics such as TV sets, receivers, and DVD/Blu-ray players.

Looking for inspiration for your room?  Check out our Wall’O’Fame with lots of home theater pictures like the one above, or call our toll-free number to get free expert advice you can trust – 1-866-244-8796. We’re always happy to help!

Alan Lofft was, for 13 years, Editor in Chief of Sound & Vision, Canada’s largest and most respected audio/video magazine. He edited Sound & Vision (Canada) until 1996, when he moved from Toronto to New York to become Senior Editor at Audio magazine.
Lofft has been writing about hi-fi and video professionally for over 20 years, ever since his first syndicated newspaper column, “Sound Advice”, began appearing weekly in The Toronto Star, Canada’s largest-circulation daily newspaper. In the late 1970s, he became a contributing editor, columnist, and equipment reviewer at AudioScene Canada, the leading national consumer electronics magazine at the time. Find out more about Alan in his bio.

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