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Speakers

You’ll need a decent pair of speakers. It’s not worth scrimping too much on these. The technology in HiFi speakers is very slow moving and there are huge differences in performance as you go in up in price. A good pair of speakers should provide many years of enjoyment, providing they are not routinely abused at high volumes.

The main components which make up the speaker are; the cabinet, the drivers and the cross-over. A lot of research and development is conducted by the best speaker manufactures to ensure that all of the components deliver top performance and work well together.

The cabinet is usually constructed from a low resonance material such as MDF, then covered in a nicer looking wood veneer, or on cheaper speakers a vinyl laminate. Inside the cabinet there is often a series of wooden dividers or baffles, which are designed to divert the airflow in a very specific way, to work with the type of drivers used. The cabinet usually has an opening known as a bass port, on the front, rear or underside of the cabinet, to allow for the flow of air and lower frequency sounds. Some speakers are designed without this and are known as infinite baffle.

The drivers are the speaker units themselves. There is always a minimum of two. The tweeter, which reproduces the higher sound frequencies and the woofer or bass driver, which deals with the lower end of the frequency range. On what are called three-way speakers, a third driver handles the mid-range frequencies. On speakers with just two drivers, the mid-range is usually split between the tweeter and the woofer.

The different sound frequencies are diverted to the relevant drivers by a small simple circuit in the speaker called a cross-over.

As we mentioned in the home cinema section, choose a manufacturer which specialises in just making speakers. Many of the larger electronics manufactures make speakers too, but they are usually way below the standard of what you’d get for the same price from a specialist manufacturer.

Even with all of the research and development in the HiFi industry, size still matters with speakers. For the best performance it’s worth considering floor standing speakers. It’s not so much about loudness. These are able to provide a much broader range of tones than is possible with smaller bookshelf or stand-mount speakers. Yes, they are quite big. Having a pair of large monolithic speakers is not for everyone or every room. You might need an understanding partner! However, the aesthetic design of speakers has come on a long way recently. Personally, I think having a pair of nice floor-standers looks pretty cool.

There are some very decent bookshelf/stand-mount speakers available. Usually as smaller versions of floor-standing speakers. You need to be careful of the positioning. They can go on shelves or wall brackets, but for the best performance use floor-stands so that the speakers tweeter is a ear height for when you are seated. The irony of having a pair of larger stand-mount speakers on stands, is that this is likely to take up the same amount of space as a pair of floor-standing speakers.

There are plenty of reviews available, but the best way to choose a pair of speakers is to look up your local specialised HiFi retailer for some advice, and to arrange a time to go along and listen to a couple of different speakers.

Next, We’ll look at how we’re going to power those speakers: Amplification…