Loudspeakers are the most visible of components in our hifi separates and home cinema systems, so it is not surprising that there is often a dilemma in choosing the best speakers for your home - on one hand you want the best sound for your budget, on the other often the loudspeakers have to fit in with your home environment with minimum disruption.
Loudspeakers are the one component within an audio system which can alter the sound of your system the most, so choosing the right speakers for you and your system is critical in maximising your long-term enjoyment, whether it be a music or movie system.
For good bass performance, any loudspeaker must be capable of moving large amounts of air, which usually means having bass drive units with a large surface area, tending to make the speaker cabinets larger than most - in this case floorstanding loudspeakers are often the best choice. Conversely, for pin-point stereo imaging, a narrow, small bookshelf speaker is best, so there are conflicting design aspects at play. Fear not, these complicated design dilemmas have been overcome by the manufacturers, so you can have slim speakers with great bass and superb sound staging.
For those customers on a budget below £250, often the best choice will be to choose a stand mount or bookshelf loudspeaker, ideally with a sturdy pair of speaker stands for best sound quality. Bookshelf and satellite speakers have limited bass depth, but work well in smaller rooms, where an extended bass can give rise to unpleasant bass boom. Move up to £500 to £1000 per pair and stand mount stereo speakers deliver increasing detail, transparency and better imaging. Good floorstanding speakers really start at about £500 and extend to £3000 for those seeking the ultimate in audio quality. You will need at larger room as they have an extended bass response, however you can often 'tune' the bass to your room by using bass port bungs supplied. The scale of the sound from a good floorstander is also much larger, with better dynamics and bass impact.
To get the best out of any loudspeaker, always use an amplifier or hifi receiver with sufficient power so it never clips or distorts the music signal - you are more likely to damage loudspeakers by playing them a 'party' sound levels from a low powered amplifier, than by using too highly powered an amplifier.
The price of a decent set of speaker cables should always be factored into your budget, preferably terminated with quality 4mm banana plugs - expect to pay 15% of your speaker budget on speaker cable. For home cinema systems, a minimum of 5 surround sound speakers plus an active subwoofer are required, often referred to as a 5.1 surround sound av package, the front satellite speakers comprise the centre speaker, left and right panning speakers, and subwoofer to produce deep bass. At the rear of the room are located the left and right rear channel surround speakers, to give an all enveloping sound field at the listening position. Often in-ceiling speakers or in-wall speakers are also used for surround sound speakers.
If you don't have room for a full blown surround speakers, why not consider a Yamaha sound bar, which creates a virtual surround experience from a single TV speaker?
Finally, if you enjoy outdoor living, outdoor speakers are weather proof and good sounding, so do not worry about them in our UK climate!