Tag Archives: home theater

Surround Sound System Buying Guide

Not all surround sound systems are the same. For your optimal listening experience—the kind that makes you forget about that whole “outside world” thing—you want the best surround sound system for your price range, arranged with precision and set up with enough knowhow to push its capabilities to the max.

If you’re hungry for steak, you don’t order a cheap, tough cut of beef and force yourself to enjoy it. When you really want to dress up and hit the town, you avoid black sweatpants and a T-shirt with a tuxedo print. And if you want surround sound, you don’t simply grab any old speakers, scatter them around, run some wires and hit play.

You want flowing, detailed, risk-a-noise-complaint-from-the-neighbors surround sound. You want crisp dialog, stirring musical scores, whispers you can hear and understand, and explosions that shake you to the core. You want to believe that helicopter is hovering above your roof, a dinosaur is stomping down your hallway, and that—for a couple of hours anyway—you are the center of the cinematic universe playing out around you.

You want high definition, high-performance surround sound.

Home theater systems that make excellent use of surround sound via quality equipment can elevate a typical move night to an event. All this transformation takes is a little background knowledge on how a movie’s audio makes its way from the disc through your speakers.

What is Surround Sound?

The definition of surround sound is sound that literally surrounds you, coming at you from the front, rear, and either side for a 360-degree listening experience. Surround sound puts you in the heart of the audio action, transforming the simple act watching of a movie at home into a rich and complex entertainment experience.

TV speakers alone send all of the sound at you from a single source. Rockets firing into the stratosphere, buildings collapsing all around, and heroes leaping toward the screen and beyond all sound like they’re happening in a box—because they are. Life doesn’t come at you from only one direction, so a single source for sound can reinforce the fact that what you’re watching is contained.

Soundbars can improve the experience by giving the audio more room to move, simulating surround sound without actually surrounding you.

Despite a soundbar’s impressive output, which is plenty for some people and room applications, true surround sound is the only way to re-create the movie theater experience at home, allowing you to hear what and the director intended. This immersion can boost your enjoyment of the experience by plunging you into the story. Watching becomes something more than just watching.

How Does Surround Sound Work?

When creating a production that makes use of surround sound, audio engineers will split all of the noises in a given scene into separate channels. Sounds that correspond to action happening to the left go left. Effects accompanying visuals on the right go right.

A surround sound receiver acts as a sort of traffic cop, directing all of the sound to be sure it gets to where it’s been ordered to go. The center channel does the heavy lifting in terms of handling dialog and whatever’s happening right in front of your face. The rest of the speakers take what’s been assigned to them. The system can be broad or specific. A setup with five speakers will transmit the sound accordingly, even if there are more channels encoded into the disc. Many movies are released on disc or broadcast in six channels, though an increasing number are coming to home viewers in an eight-channel format.

When connected and arranged properly, the speakers in a surround sound setup work together to properly fill the room based on its size and direct the sound toward the optimal viewing and listening area.

RP Atmos Lifestyle Social 1

Surround Sound Formats

You may notice that surround sound systems are referred to in numbers, such as 7.1 surround sound. This lets you know how many speaker components the system has. A 7.1 setup boasts eight channels: seven discrete main audio channels, divvied up among seven speakers, and one channel fed to the subwoofer for the low notes.

A 5.1 surround sound system includes the left and right speakers to sit in the front near the screen, one center channel for vocals, the left and right speakers for either side of your seating area and the subwoofer. The speakers flanking you while you enjoy your audio attack are known as the surround speakers.

A 7.1 surround sound system has the same basic setup as the 5.1, but also includes a right and left back speaker positioned behind the viewer.

The 9.1 setup adds another pair speakers to the 7.1 mix. While the speakers in a smaller setup (in front of, to the side of, and behind you) allow sound effects to freely travel left and right, forward and backward, it takes two more speakers, each mounted a few feet above a corresponding left or right front speaker, to give the noise some opportunity for altitude. Height gives music and audio effects another axis, creating a more immersive experience.

Any of these systems can also incorporate multiple subwoofers, upping the number on the right side of the decimal point. Got a pair of subwoofers? Put them on opposite walls so you receive bass from two directions. Four subwoofers should take up one point each on a diamond surrounding the listener, creating a web of thumping and rattling that will catch anything in the middle and ensure it gets a good shaking. What good do all of these subwoofers do? They even out the bass response and make your movies and music thump a little harder and crisper. One of the first recommendations you will hear from home theater buffs is to add at least one subwoofer if you are rocking a 5.1, 7.1, 9.1, etc setup. It makes a massive difference.

Like a doctoral student collecting new skills, prestige and a series of letters to add to the end of a signature, your sound system can continue to advance into the future. Dolby Atmos, a leap forward in audio technology that breaks from the traditional channel-based system to free the various audio objects in a soundtrack and allow them to move about and come at you in three dimensions—including from above your head—can prompt you to turn your 5.2 system (one center channel, four speakers, and two subwoofers) into a 5.2.4 by adding four speakers to ceiling mounts or four speakers that direct sound up to bounce back down toward the viewing area. No longer tethered to a pre-assigned output, these sounds can move to come from the direction that best serves your movie-enjoying experience.

Too much? Your ears (and friends) may disagree, but that’s OK. Keep it simple with a 9.2 system, creating an encircling perimeter of speakers anchored by two subwoofers.

THX Ultra2 Theater Exposed 1 social

Must-Have Surround Sound Features

There are several essential components necessary for anyone looking to showcase what a home theater system can do. The cinema-experience-level technology available to everyone these days should get you excited about letting your speakers off the leash to really run wild.

THX-certified standards ensure that the sound being created on the movie-makers’ end is getting its due with the audience on the other end. A production company can pull out all the stops in crafting a scene where a shot ricochets off of a dozen metal objects scattered around the room before hitting the target, but if the system meant to broadcast that intricate series of sound effects is incapable of properly handling the load, nobody’s going to be ducking to avoid taking a bullet to the skull. Be sure to invest in THX-certified speakers—such as the THX Ultra2 Series from Klipsch, which earned the highest possible certification rating. Boom.

Consider a setup that can best deliver the free-range, real-world-emulating, three-dimensional sound experience of the gotta-have-it-if-you-care-about-movies Dolby Atmos experience mentioned above, including a speaker that bounces everything off of the ceiling, raining down noises and music to soak you with sound effects. We tapped out at a nine-speaker system in our initial explanation of this audio gift to humanity, but the technology can work with up to 34—repeat: 34!—so we’re sorry/not sorry to say that you don’t stand a chance against that level of audio power (but why would you want it any other way?). The Klipsch Reference Premeire Dolby Atmos enabled RP-280FA speaker has a built-in elevation channel that does nothing but blast away at the plaster over your head. Actually, it does do one other thing: win awards.

Klipsch emphasizes Wide Dispersion Surround Technology for all of its surround sound speakers, which ensures the best sound, no matter the home theater system setup. Can’t get fit the speakers exactly where you want them? Don’t worry. You’re still going to feel like you’re in the middle of the action.

Reference Premiere HD Wireless 5.1

Wireless vs. Wired Surround Sound

Wireless surround sound is ideal for people who prize both performance and simplicity. You can place the speakers anywhere without worrying about connecting them to the amplifier or hiding the evidence of those connections.

The fact that wireless systems can hold their own against their wired counterparts is evidence of how far technology has come since sound first electronically made its way from a source to a speaker.

If you’re considering a wireless setup, know that time is of the essence. That means the more modern your speakers, the better. Older wireless systems operated on technology that could interfere with or be disrupted by other wireless signals in the home. They also tended to be more expensive and not as reliable.

Today, wireless technology has advanced to the point that it can deliver the goods. Just know that you will need a special control center. If that sounds intimidating, don’t worry: It’s smart enough to start pumping out the sound you want within minutes of leaving the box.

What is the best wireless surround sound system?

Honestly, the best wireless system is one that works for you now, and will continue working for you in the future. This means it should be able to handle expansion as you add more speakers to the set, as well as advancements in technology.

Consider the Reference Premiere HD Wireless system from Klipsch, which delivers high-definition, high performance cinema-quality sound and welcomes new additions by recognizing them and adding them into the system without any need for physical connections. Klipsch offers lifetime upgrades on their Control Center’s firmware so you are sure to always have the most advanced and reliable technology.

Basically, the speakers talk to each other via a WiSA (Wireless Speaker and Audio) network that ensures each high-fidelity member of your surround sound system does what it’s supposed to be doing when it’s supposed to be doing it. WiSA coordinates every audio detail to ensure speakers are in sync, timing is precise, delivery is impeccable, and you are beyond impressed—all without interfering with other wireless devices around your home.

Palladium Surround social

What are the best surround sound speakers?

The cop-out answer: Whatever speakers work best for your wallet and room. While this is true (and, actually, really good advice), the you-know-you’d-rather-hear-this answer is more fun.

The best surround sound speakers are those that apply the most cutting-edge technology to the highest-quality materials with the most discerning audiophile in mind. Seek out well-crafted components from a reputable company with a tradition of creating speakers that continue to define the industry. Look for home theater systems built by people who understand cinema-quality sound because they also build for cinemas.

If you need to start small, there’s nothing wrong with that. The best surround sound speakers will make the system—not the other way around. Investing in a 34.7.15 surround sound system won’t deliver amazing sound if the speakers themselves aren’t high quality. Instead, get a small number of top-of-the-line speakers and build the system out as time and money allows. Great sound doesn’t go out of fashion.

Your ears will thank you (once they get over the initial thrill of their first dose of true surround sound).

What is your advice for someone looking to buy a surround sound system? Post it in the comments below!

How to Hook Up Your Surround Sound System

If you want to cement your home’s status as the best place to watch a movie—even taking the nearest cinema into account—you’re going to need more than your standard TV sound system. But even a shiny set of surround sound speakers might not be enough to earn you the title. Want that crown? You have to know how to precisely position those speakers and master the ins and outs of how to hook up surround sound to your TV.

Plenty of people find themselves practically paralyzed when it comes to the prospect of running wires and angling speakers. Countless more have given it their best shot but found they could still use some pointers on maximizing their surround sound systems. Allow Klipsch give you everything you need to know about hooking up your surround sound system. At the end of the day, you’ll stop calling your friends and family by their names and start referring to them as “the audience.”

How to set up a 7.1 System - Fig. A - The Klipsch Joint

Fig A. – The full 7.1 system setup.

Surround Sound Speaker Placement

Before you begin any surround sound setup, you have to believe one crucial truth: You are the center of the universe. The focal point. The Reason with a capital R. This also goes for anyone else you welcome into the heart of your soon-to-be marvel of audio engineering. Every speaker will be pointed at you to create a direct line of sound. These speakers and their carefully calibrated positions exist to please your ears. Focusing the surround sound speakers on a single, central point will best allow them to do what they were made to do.

Also important: the surround sound system itself. The number of speakers you get will help you to determine how to position them, which, in turn, factors into how you hook them up.

The most common surround sound systems are 5.1 and

, with the “5” or “7” indicating the number of speakers in the setup and the “1” indicating a solitary subwoofer. Either of these is a good-sized sound system for TV viewing, movies, game playing and more. Of course, you will never hear any complaining if you add an extra subwoofer, as that will even out the room’s bass response.

It should be noted that the arrival of Dolby Atmos sound has created an additional dimension to this traditional sound formula. Dolby Atmos sound calls for the addition of elevation speakers, allowing sound to come not only from all around you, but also from directly overhead. An example of a Dolby Atmos setup would be 5.2.4, which represents five speakers, two subwoofers and four elevation channels.

The Klipsch team has gone into great detail about 7.1 speaker placement elsewhere, but a quick explanation here can’t hurt: You’ll want a center channel front and, well, center, just above or below your screen. Set up the two front speakers to either side of the center channel, at least six feet apart and angled toward where you’ll be sitting. The general rule of thumb is to place the front speakers at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock to your listening positions. Two surround sound speakers should go to either side of—and just a bit behind—your viewing position, while the final two (ignore this step for a 5.1 setup) should settle three feet behind the sitting area, about three feet above the viewers’ heads and angled inward like the front pair.

You have some flexibility with the subwoofer, which can be tucked into a corner on the same wall as the screen or sit next to one of the front speakers. As we discussed in a previous blog post, there is no true formula for finding out where to place your subwoofer. It’s up to your ears to decide! Experimenting is key.

One final, but crucial, element of surround sound setup: the room itself. A lot of hard, flat surfaces can make for a less-than-ideal listening experience, since sounds will bounce around and grow muddy, ruining the effect. If you are blessed to have a dedicated home-theater room, you can get specifically designed acoustic material to go on your walls, ceilings and corners. Consider softening surfaces wherever you can, whether that means laying some carpet on a hardwood floor (or at least finding a nice rug that really ties the room together) or installing shelves on otherwise bare walls and stocking them with books. Don’t forget windows. Cover them with curtains and close them. This is best for stopping an unwanted muddying effect, as well as for preventing any neighbors from spying on you while you snuggle up with your special someone. Yes, romance movies come in surround sound, too.

As you arrange the room, be sure to keep anything from intruding into the space between your speakers and your viewing area. Direct access is a must for surround sound.

Quintet Receiver

How to Hook Up Surround Sound to TV

With the speakers positioned right where you want them, it’s time to connect them. Typically, they need to be wired to a surround sound receiver, which acts as the brain of the entire system, receiving input from your Blu-ray player, cable TV box or gaming console and sending the sound through the wires to its designated speaker. Of course, new speakers utilizing WiSA technology, like the Klipsch Reference Premiere HD Wireless sound, substitute the AV-Receiver for the HD Control Center.

Having your setup positioned before you begin this step will allow you to determine the length of the wires necessary to connect the various pieces, assuming you’re not using cables with connectors, which are often called banana plugs. If you are, plug everything into the designated ports and move on. If you’ve got a wireless surround sound system, your speakers will coordinate through a specialized control center.

For any wiring endeavor, start by shutting it all down. Avoid the chance of an electrical shock by unplugging every component in the entertainment and surround sound system that can be plugged into the wall.

Next, run the appropriate length of wire from each speaker to the receiver and, if necessary, strip the ends to ensure enough bare wire is available to be secured in the clips. The back of your receiver should feature a bank of these clips, arranged in pairs: one for positive, one for negative. Red typically indicates where the positive wire should go, and black or blue indicates the negative.

Like jumpstarting your car, wires should run from the positive clip on the speaker to the positive clip on the receiver. Same with the negative clips.

Before actually securing any ends in place, be sure that all wires and cords are hidden and out of the way as possible. You’re not going to stretch them tight across a frequently walked-through area at ankle height, of course, but go the extra mile to tuck them beneath rugs and run them behind furniture and other features of the room.

Be sure that every speaker and subwoofer is connected. Subwoofers have a slightly different setup on the back, likely going from a port labeled with some variation of “sub” on the receiver end and “LFE” on the subwoofer end.

At this point, the receiver is ready to welcome inputs from your devices: your TV, disc player, gaming system, etc. This step will likely be as simple as plugging in both ends of an HDMI cable. For equipment that still uses an optical digital-audio out, follow the color coding to connect the cables, video to video, audio to audio. Component video and audio can’t travel through the same cables, which is why there will be cables for each. Same with composite, if you have them.

Consider developing your own labeling system for identifying at a glance which wires and cables go where, whether that means affixing your own color-coded stickers to the various cords or simply attaching tags that read “left rear speaker” or “Blu-ray.”

Surround Sound Test

Once everything is arranged and connected, run a surround sound test to ensure each speaker is getting the proper signal from the receiver and blaring it accordingly.

A surround sound test will involve more than popping in the latest superhero blockbuster—though you will want to use something of that caliber for your first showing. To start, follow the audio setup instructions on screen when you plug everything back in and turn it all on. These will walk you through any necessary steps to get your system running based on pre-set standards. Once a baseline is established, begin tweaking the system to deliver your customized surround sound experience.

Surround sound system tests are available on disc and for download, and will send sounds to each separate channel to ensure everything is working as it should. A test may also include sounds to check the interplay between two speakers, revealing whether they are in or out of phase with each other.

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How to Configure Surround Sound System for Optimal Sound

Modern technology has advanced to the point that some home system setups allow you to position a microphone where you plan to sit in the heart of your personal media temple, then fire up an automatic program, step out of the room, and let your surrogate ear and its attached gear do all of the work.

Not yet ready to welcome your robotic overlords—or at least their helpful, pristine-audio-delivering helpers? You can still assert your humanity by settling yourself in and fiddling with the surround sound system yourself. And by “settle in,” we truly mean it, since our guess is that you don’t watch your movies in a perpetual state of rigid-spined alert. Get comfy, like you’re going to watch a movie. You want your ears in the spot your ears will be the next time you hit play.

From that comfortable vantage point, do your best to accurately determine the distance from you to the front of each speaker. Your setup menu’s speaker settings should have a speaker distance/delay menu that allows you to enter these distances. The numbers will tell your sound system the precise point in the room where the different tracks need to arrive to form a harmonious whole.

The other main element of your configuration efforts involves setting each speaker’s level to ensure it’s at a volume Goldilocks would love: not too loud, not too quiet. This is different for everyone so you should determine your personal preference (generally aim for the 75- to 80-decibel sound pressure level range) and adjusts accordingly. Handheld devices with built-in microphone and decibel-reading sensors give you accurate readings as you navigate the system, moving from speaker to test-noise-emitting speaker.

Surround Sound for Gaming Consoles (Optional)

If you know games, you know that titles today are closer to cinematic experiences than the first-person shooters of years past. Graphics are stunning and the sound effects and scores tend to come in 5.1 or even 7.1 format. Plus, certain gaming systems, such as the PS4 and Xbox One, can also play movies.

The variety of input and output ports on various TV, receiver and game console combinations mean you may have to experiment to get the best surround sound between HDMI and optical cables. Keep in mind, though, that optical cable can only support 5.1 formats.

Great debates have been waged as to whether it is best, ports allowing, to connect an Xbox One or PS4 to the receiver, then the receiver to the TV, all with HDMI, or to route the game console audio to the receiver, but send the video directly to the TV, with the idea that a direct path for the visuals is best. The keep-the-audio-and-video-separate option is most often suggested by people who have no HDMI output connections on their receiver, meaning they use HDMI cable to transmit stunning graphics straight to the screen, while they pump 5.1-format sounds and music through optical cable to the central system that will farm it out to the speakers.

You may need to experiment with this on your own to get the most out of your own surround sound setup, but that should be no problem, given your gaming experience. Think of it as leveling up.

Just remember that no matter what you choose for games, movies or listening to music, any surround sound speaker setup—and heck, even a sound bar—is going to be better than the speakers built into your TV.

Do you have any questions on how to setup your system for surround sound? Post in the comments below!

How to Get Home Theater Sound for Less Than $1,000

A quality home theater setup must include two things to create a truly amazing private venue: the right screen and the right sound system. A perfect pairing of the two will transform the act of simply watching a Blu-Ray disc into a fully immersive experience that may be smaller in scope than what your local cinema has to offer, but is no less capable of serving up Hollywood’s best for you, your family and your friends.

This article will explore the home sound system side of the equation. Of course, you’ll still have to select your home theater’s visual focal point from a sea of options that currently includes curved screens and 3D capability, but for now, let’s close our eyes and focus on music, dialog, sound effects and all of the rest of that unique sensory movie magic.

And let’s do it for less than $1,000.

While you can spend far more than that on what you determine to be the best sound system for home use, you can also spend less while achieving quite admirable results. After all, the best home sound system is the one that makes you happy and works for you—including your wallet.

Quintet Facebook

Home Theater Sound System Basics

Before you decide on a particular set, you need to determine what you’re looking for. Some people are happy with the noise that comes out of the TV itself, but if you’re reading this article on home sound systems, it’s probably because that single-direction source isn’t cutting it for you anymore. You want something more.

To create the best home sound system for you, start by identifying your needs. Do you want full surround sound? Bass you can really feel? Unobtrusive speakers that still manage to blast crystal-clear audio? All of that is available in a budget-friendly price range.

First, let’s identify some components key to an ear-pleasing sound system:

Speakers: These are the workhorses of the best home sound systems. They can be arranged to focus sound on specific parts of the room, and can be placed in front of, behind and to the sides of the viewer. Proper placement of quality speakers is at the heart of the endeavor, since it puts you at the heart of the auditory action. Speakers can be small enough to fit on a bookshelf or can be larger, floorstanding models. The variation in size also highlights the reality that these speakers physically take up space, so you’ll need to make sure you have room for them where you’ll be watching and listening.

Subwoofer: This item can add another dimension to your sound system, as well as to your sensory experience. With a solid subwoofer in place, you’ll introduce your bones to the good times your ears have been having all this time. Be sure to read the specifications of any speakers you’re buying, ask questions, and plan to get only the components that will give you the results you’re looking for.

The speakers and subwoofer can create a dramatic soundscape on their own. Many people find that they’re happy with a simple setup that brings them the closest to cinema-quality sound without having to buy a ticket and endure sticky, popcorn-littered floors.

Keep in mind that after you’ve built your less-than-$1,000 sound system, you need to consider these items.

Receiver: This device coordinates your sound sources and audio speakers, making sure everything is connected and synched. It can also protect your speakers from blowing out by driving them just right. That being said, thanks to the emergence of WiSA technology, not all systems need a receiver. The Klipsch Reference Premiere HD Wireless speakers, for example, use an HD Control Center, which coordinates the audio and creates its own distinct wireless network.

Cables/Wire: The debates that rage on about which cables best carry the finest sound will not be settled anytime soon, and certainly not here. Just know that you’ll need wire to connect everything in your sound system. We recommend only using as much wire as necessary to get from one point to another. You can ignore this if you’re going with a wireless system, which only requires you to plug the speakers into power outlets.

Surge Protector: Any financial investment is worth protecting. Consider buying a surge protector and plugging everything from your sound system into it. As with your speakers, don’t skimp on this if you decide to go this route. A quality purchase can protect your home theater system from frying, which is a great thing once you tally up the TV cost, too.

Klipsch pile of horns 2001x1125

What to Look for in Home Theater Sound System Components

When it comes to sound systems for home theaters, you get what you pay for. Lower-quality materials in a $50 product won’t have the capacity for dishing out thumping bass or floating the delicate nuances in your favorite music or movies. You want your teeth—not your speaker housing—to rattle.

A $1,000 system, on the other hand, is going to deliver more because it can handle more. Klipsch speakers are based on four primary principles that deliver the best home sound system possible.

  • High efficiency delivers accurate transmission of sounds both loud and soft.
  • Low distortion preserves detail and clarity at any volume and frequency.
  • Controlled directivity ensures the sound goes exactly where you want it to go.
  • Flat frequency response gives you only what was recorded as it was recorded.

These principles come from Klipsch founder Paul W. Klipsch, who developed his horn technology for speakers in the 1940s with a goal of replicating the thrill of a live orchestral concert at home. His design has only improved in the decades since, continuing a legacy of transporting listeners out of their everyday lives.

Klipsch Reference Premiere Speakers Father's Day

What Sound Systems Are Available for Less Than $1,000?

Klipsch offers a sound system for just about every level of music or movie enthusiast, price point and living space. Since this is a guide to options that cost less than a grand, the following choices reflect the goal of designing a worthy sound system while sticking to triple digits after the dollar sign.

Two Klipsch Reference Premiere floorstanding speakers at $499 each can make a large room sound like a theater, filling the space with high highs, low bass and everything in between. This isn’t technically surround sound in the traditional five-speaker sense, but an excellent pair of floorstanding speakers can achieve a similar surround sound effect with just two speakers. Don’t believe us? Just ask the Wall Street Journal who tested the Klipsch Heresy speakers versus a lesser-grade surround system.

A true five-speaker set, such as the Klipsch Quintet for $549.99, can be strategically arranged to create a web of sound that catches you in the middle. This package includes four small speakers and a center channel, which is designed for sound intended to come straight at you—like much of the dialog in a movie. Balancing five speakers can be a challenge if they’re put piecemealed together, so getting a perfectly matched unit from the get-go will likely prevent a tech-based headache and provide the desired sound with minimal fuss. Add the Reference R-10SW subwoofer ($349 each) for a complete 5.1 surround sound system.

For a smaller space, consider a pair of R-15PM powered monitor speakers ($499 per pair), coupled with a Reference R-12SW subwoofer ($449 each). This audio system will give you the basic left and right that makes such a difference in audio tracks, rounding it all out with plenty of bass.

Similarly, a pair of powerful R-14S surround speakers ($279 for two) can serve as the first building blocks of an epic sound system, because despite talk above about the potential stress of assembling a full sound system out of distinct pieces, remember that you really don’t have to do everything all at once. If your budget will allow for a small investment now, followed by a small upgrade at some point in the future, you can plan out a strategy to work your way up to the home theater of your dreams. This might mean starting with two speakers at first, then adding two more, then bringing in something to deliver solid bass. Then adding two more speakers.

On the other hand, if you decide that you want to turn up the volume on your budget from the outset, you can certainly find an in-home sound system that will give you your money’s worth of audio amazement. The Palladium® system is a luxury speaker system that comes in at just under $32,000, proving that there’s a speaker set for every budget.

Choose whichever setup you want. They’re your ears. Just remember that the best sound systems for home theaters reflect their owners’ preferences and tastes. If you prefer Westerns that send bullets ricocheting around the room or sci-fi epics powered by deeply thrumming rocket engines, your system should reflect that.

One final tip: build a little bit of wiggle room into your $1,000 sound system budget so you can buy a copy of a film that really shows off your speakers. Maybe a little popcorn, too.

Then, all that will be left is to dim the lights, settle back and press play.

Have you constructed a quality home theater system for under $1000? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Ready to Buy a Subwoofer? Read This First.

Let’s face it. You could be getting much better sound out of your stereo system. You’ve got a receiver and a nice set of speakers—maybe even some satellite speakers. But there’s still something missing. Maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it. Could it be that there’s a bass-shaped hole in your sonic life? If so, a sound investment (pun intended) in a subwoofer may just satisfy your need for a complete sound spectrum.

Once considered an optional accessory, subwoofers have fast become an essential facet of home audio systems. Today’s home theaters that feature as many as 11 speakers still require a subwoofer to fill out the bottom end of their sound as well as to provide the impressive, bone-rattling rumble we’ve come to expect from our experiences in movie theaters. Watching a movie that has, say, an earthquake in it, and actually feeling the shake of the low end sound, really makes for a complete movie watching experience.

Subwoofers may be the next step in home audio for you, but their unique properties in relation to other types of loudspeakers means you will want to gather a little more background information before beginning your search.

Quick Jump

Wireless versus Wired Subwoofers

Subwoofer Construction

Down Firing and Side Firing Subwoofers

Subwoofer Placement

Subwoofer Drivers & Wattage

How many subwoofers do you need?

Traditional stereo systems featured a pair of floorstanding or bookshelf speakers and no subwoofer. While that setup can deliver a respectable amount of bass response, in recent years, subwoofers have become increasingly common in home stereos and theaters. While some listeners may associate bass sound with popular contemporary musical genres like hip-hop, it’s just as much a part of listening to, say, a classical symphony orchestra. In either case, while bass may be clearly audible with a traditional pair of speakers, an additional subwoofer adds that extra whoomph to your listening experience to make it truly immersive.

Whether you’re a gamer or cinephile seeking an as-real-as-it-gets experience, or an audiophile looking for a full and thick low end of the sound spectrum, the need for a good subwoofer (or subwoofers) is practically a given. But what exactly is a subwoofer? What is the difference between a wired and wireless subwoofer? And how do you go about choosing the perfect subwoofer for your home?

First, it helps to understand how a subwoofer fits into your overall sonic setup. Subwoofers add a very specific and valuable quality to your home theater sound experience – you can feel the sound. Although the human ear is most sensitive between 300 and 3,000 Hz, which is the range that includes the human voice, it can perceive sounds ranging from approximately 20 to 20,000 Hz. Subwoofers produce sounds on the low end of that spectrum, between about 20 and 200 Hz for home systems. The low frequencies produced by a subwoofer are typically made by musical instruments like bass drums, pipe organs, string bass and bass guitar, and movie sound effects like the rumble of a rocket launch.

Klipsch Reference R-4B Wireless Subwoofer

Wireless versus Wired Subwoofers

Subwoofers have some inherent flexibility in terms of where they can be placed.. Given their relatively loose position in the greater sound system, know that you can connect a subwoofer to your amplifier without a physical wire running between the two, if you’d like that sort of setup. But there is one thing to keep in mind: Wireless subwoofers aren’t completely without wires. They do need a power cord. “Wireless” refers to the subwoofer’s relationship with your receiver, as there is no need for a direct, physical connection between the two. That’s pretty much the only difference between wireless models and traditional, wired connections—aside from the fact that wireless models tend to be a bit more expensive. Klipsch sound bars come with wireless subwoofers, and Klipsch also makes an adapter you can use to convert many of our standalone subwoofers into a wireless unit. Which to choose? Appraise the layout you have in mind for the space you have, count your dollars, be honest about your bass needs (in other words: admit you really want a subwoofer), and get the model that works best for you.

Placement Flexibility

The quality of the sound produced by a subwoofer can vary greatly depending on where it is in a given room (more on that later). And while some configurations may settle the sub toward the front of the room (assuming the AV receiver is in the “front”), in many cases the sub may be at the side or back corner of a room, or even in the middle of the room or hidden under furniture. Believe or not, some couches even feature the built-in capability to hold one or more subwoofers beneath their cushions.

Some people may even want to have the subwoofer in a different room than the AV receiver. Assuming it’s not too far away to discretely run some wire or remain in wireless range (depending on your model), you may find that this delivers the bass sound you’re looking for.

Multiple Subwoofers

Having multiple subwoofers will make the low end sound more full and consistent throughout the room. In that case, a wireless connection can greatly simplify the process of linking your receiver to multiple subwoofers. With a wired connection, you may run into difficulties if you have more subwoofers than outputs on your receiver. In that case, you might have to “daisy chain” your subs, which is certainly not a bad thing, but it is a situation that would be avoided with wireless connections.

Power Source

Since wireless subwoofers don’t have a hardwired connection to the receiver, they won’t receive any power from it. That means they need to provide their own power in the form of an amp installed within the subwoofer. And while that can limit their location somewhat, there are typically several power outlets throughout any given room, sometimes even in the floor.

Not all subwoofers have amps, though. Those without amps are known as passive subwoofers because they receive power from an exterior amp or an AV receiver. Those with their own amps are known as powered subwoofers which are the most common type of subwoofers.

 

Summary

Whether they’re easily wired into the system from their far-flung location or sit snugly and connected via wireless magic, subwoofers tend to be relatively mobile, and where they are located makes a big difference in terms of the bass response you’ll get in the room.

Reference Subwoofer John Varvatos

Subwoofer Construction: Sealed vs Ported

The two most common subwoofers, in terms of how they are constructed, are bass reflex and acoustic suspension. Acoustic suspension subwoofers are contained within a sealed enclosure. They tend to be more compact and have a more linear rolloff at the bottom octave, but they require more power to operate. Bass reflex subwoofers, also known as ported subwoofers, have a tuned port or passive radiator their enclosure that increases their bass response and efficiency considerably. This approach can also result in reduced bass distortion at higher output levels.

Debates rage about which setup is better – sealed or ported, but a few simple rules of thumb can steer you in the right direction. If efficiency or overall power is most important, chances are you’re better off with a ported model. Room size can factor here as well and it is rather logical: smaller subs for smaller rooms and larger subs for larger rooms.

Down Firing and Side Firing Subwoofers

Two subwoofer design types are down firing and side firing subwoofers. As their names would suggest, in down firing subs the driver is pointed downward, and in a side firing model it is pointed to the front or to the sides.

Sounds at bass frequencies are known as being nondirectional. That is, the ear cannot perceive from which direction they are coming from. As a result, the discernible difference between front firing and side firing models is next to none. Other types of speakers – say, typical floorstanding speakers – are usually placed very deliberately depending on where the listener is apt to be positioned. That is not exactly the case with subwoofers. In fact, it may be difficult to tell where exactly the bass is coming from. That’s not to say that where a sub is going to be positioned doesn’t make a difference.

Klipsch and Jamo subwoofers both offer deep response, high high output and low distortion – attributes that make them a very desirable, high performance lines.

Subwoofer Placement

In many ways, the key to choosing the right subwoofer is the same as choosing the right piece of real estate: location, location, location. First, you’ll want to determine what room you’ll be using it in. A more powerful subwoofer that may be appropriate for a home theater setup may be different than one that suits a bedroom or study. If you have an idea of where you want to place it, you’ll want to measure the space and make sure that any you are considering will have enclosures that fit within your desired space.

The effect any subwoofer will have upon a room depends greatly upon where it is placed. A high powered but poorly placed subwoofer may be outperformed by a weaker but better placed one. Room acoustics vary, but fortunately bass effects in rectangular rooms are fairly predictable. Subwoofers do well against walls and in corners. Finding the best location for your subwoofer would ideally involve the use of acoustic measuring equipment. Failing that, it’s possible to achieve good results subjectively by trying out the sub in various places in the room. You can also use the crawl method: Place the subwoofer in what will be the listener’s position, then get on your hands and knees and move around the room until you find the place with the best bass response. There. You’ve found your subwoofer’s new home.

More information on speaker setups can be found here.

Subwoofer Drivers & Wattage

Subwoofer drivers typically come in a range of sizes between 8 and 15 inches. What size you should choose is a matter of location and preference. Larger rooms should take at least a 10- to 15-inch driver. And generally the bigger the driver, the deeper the bass you’ll get. So while an 8-inch driver may be appropriate in smaller spaces and places where lower volumes are called for, it’s probably not going to give you a very intense bass experience.

Power is an important consideration, as well. There is a great deal of variety in terms of wattage when it comes to subwoofers. Anywhere from 100 to 1,000 watts or more is common. Because bass sound waves are long, the drivers have to work hard to vibrate enough to create those sound frequencies. As a result, subwoofers are power-hungry.

But a subwoofer is like any speaker in the sense that its output can be controlled by volume. In other words, it’s best to think of wattage in terms of its maximum output capability. It doesn’t really make sense to choose a less capable and lower-quality model over a given subwoofer based solely on its maximum wattage output. Acoustic output in dB is more indicative and all Klipsch powered subwoofers have this specification.

RP Atmos Dual Subwoofers social

How many subwoofers do you need?

In some cases, it may also be desirable to buy more than one subwoofer – common configurations are two and four. Obviously, part of the reason for this has to do with the amount of bass produced. But it also has to do with position and some of the problems one often faces with subwoofers. For example, since bass soundwaves are very long, after leaving the subwoofer, they may bounce off the opposite wall and overlap with the original soundwave. This can make the two sound waves cancel each other out, resulting in dead spots. Adding another subwoofer can help even out the sound throughout the room. The approach of having multiple subwoofers yields better results than “room correction” equalization.

When shopping for subwoofers or any other type of speaker, hearing is believing. Don’t be afraid to take a favorite CD or DVD along with you to the store and ask the salesperson to let you hear them from your music options. In the case of subwoofers, you should pick songs with deep and resonant bass – hip-hop, dub reggae, jazz fusion and classic music with a pipe organ are several good musical choices. If the store carries the same model of speakers you have at home (or are buying), ask if you can hear the subwoofer integrated with the speakers. How the whole system works together is crucial to enjoying a true audio experience – the subwoofer being the essential component.

Do you have any more questions regarding subwoofers? Post in the comments below!

3 Video Games That Have Killer Sound

What sets video games apart from listening to recorded music and movies is the organic, three-dimensional experience – and no two gaming experiences are identical. Everything from the echo of the character’s footsteps in a hall to a grenade detonating off in the distance make the listening experience of video games unique and engaging.

A resounding problem that we have encountered and continue to hear from our customers is that the default speakers in computers, TVs and cheap gaming headsets are not capable of capturing the wide range of ear tingling sounds that today’s game developers are spending time and money to deliver. Gaming soundtracks have become (and are continuing to become) a transformative part of the addictive gaming experience.

We asked our biggest gamers at Klipsch HQ to outline three games that have the range, detail and quality of sound that are known to capture their audiences. If you know of others you like please let us know in the comments section.

So crank up your Reference home theater system, sound bar or KG-300 gaming headset and double tap into these games with kickass sound:

Mass Effect

By David Wilkes – Klipsch Acoustics & Electronics Engineer

The sound quality of Mass Effect evolved with each game making it one of the best video game soundscapes ever.

 

For most games, every single aspect plays an equal role in the game’s enjoyment factor. The sound quality of a video game is, in my opinion, the most important by far. Environmental sounds, weapon feedback, even nuances in voices can make or break a game experience.

With that criteria in mind, I feel only one game series has far surpassed the status quo in every regard: Mass Effect. Mass Effect 1 (ME1) started the trend with unbelievable environmental effects: you can sense that you’re in an enormous open courtyard, clinging for life in a blizzard, on a spaceship hurling through space or that you’re on an uncharted world with minimal atmosphere, which normally would give you very little feedback. In ME1, they’ve been able to create the sound of…absence.

However, ME2 and ME3 took a great thing and made it extraordinary. Both games use an updated sound engine compared to ME1, so the aural experience is now off the charts. The ambient effects in both games give every single “space” a distinct feel.  Each alien race in the game, particularly English speaking ones, has a specific trait which only high resolution systems can reproduce. Said nuances quickly become indicative of that race’s signature demeanor. One in particular sounds very soft with a pleasant reverb so you associate them with kindness. Another has a low frequency metallic undertone so immediately you learn they are business first, kindness never.

For the ultimate experience of what video game audio can be, the first chapter of the final mission of ME3 is your ticket. It’s worth playing through the entire series (yes, you read that right) just to see how far gaming has come.

Final Fantasy

By Greg “Doom” Niehaus – Klipsch Quality Analyst

Final Fantasy has one of the best cinematic soundtracks of any video game series.

 

When I think about game audio that has had an impact on me, I tend to lean heavily toward the Final Fantasy series. While it is difficult to compare the overall game audio of the series to some of the more recent games we have seen, one element outshines even the most meticulously polished audio in any series: the music. Final Fantasy has long had a tradition of using its fantastic music to set the tone of the story. Even the magnitude of individual encounters will often be greatly enhanced by the background music used during battle.

The first memory I have of a truly cinematic experience in a video game was in Final Fantasy VII. Not because of the three dimensional graphics that were new to the series, but because of the score. Going back and listening to the original game music, I can still feel the same energy and emotions that I encountered when first playing through the game. Even now when I play the most recent Final Fantasy MMO (FFXIV), I have moments where the music immediately triggers a change in mood. Where in one instant I was calmly traversing the world, the music generated by an encounter ensures that I am prepared to either fight or flee in the next instant.

While some may view this as a fan being a fan, or perhaps simple nostalgia, a lot of the world seems to agree that it is not. Even disregarding critical praise, it is possible to find elements of the series influence in the physical world. Most gamers can instantly recognize the Final Fantasy “Victory Fanfare” (I also happen to use it as my ringtone). In a more surprising example, the 2004 Olympic Women’s Synchronized Duo Alison Bartosik and Anna Kozlova used music from Final Fantasy VIII for their routine (they won bronze).

The name Final Fantasy was chosen for the first in the series because the studio making it feared that it may be their last game. A couple decades later it is rightfully still one of the biggest franchises in existence. I would like to think that this is due at least in part, to the impact of its music on the players.

Bioshock

By Andrew Doerr – Klipsch Acoustics Engineer

Bioshock’s ability to give an immersive soundstage through it’s environment and charters is top-notch.

 

Of all the forms of entertainment available to the modern consumer, video games have a distinct advantage in one particular aspect: immersion. However, just because the gaming medium has this capability to immerse the player doesn’t mean all games excel at it.  Occasionally you will find a series of games that have mastered this ability – and Bioshock is one of those series.

Fully immersing a player in an artificial world demands perfection in all facets of video game design. The obvious elements are graphics, gameplay, storyline, level design and so on.  However, the one aspect that is occasionally overlooked is audio. And interestingly enough, it is the audio that can make or break that coveted immersive feeling. Bioshock’s sound design has been carefully crafted so that you are never pulled out of the experience. There are two key elements of immersive sound that Bioshock does well and each has an underlying theme.

First, the environment. The first two Bioshock games in the series are set in an underwater city – making for a difficult soundstage for the gaming developers to design. The creaking of buildings being strained by ocean currents, the dripping of water leaking in and somehow they even portrayed the immense weight of all that water above you in the eerie soundtracks and ambience. It’s not just cheesy water effects, it’s a well thought out sonic environment that never lets you forget you are underwater. And even though no such place exists, you believe that it does through the creative and accurate sounds.

Bioshock Infinite (the third Bioshock game) takes place in a city floating up in the sky and the same theory applies – constant wind and strange, open echoes of gunshots and slamming doors.  The game never lets you forget you are not on solid ground.  Again, no such place exists, but for a few hours you believe it and that’s the power of immersion.

Second, the characters. Many of Bioshock’s characters have magical powers and unrealistic feats of strength. And with a good sound design you believe that these creatures are real – and not only real but terrifying too.

The best example is Big Daddy from the first Bioshock game. Even though this beast resembles nothing human, the essence that this creature once were human is hidden in the sounds it makes. It’s chilling but effective, drawing from what we can relate to.

That’s not all, these enemies are extremely tough and the sound they make when moving and attacking is so haunting that you dread the moment you realize you have to fight one.

Big Daddy from Bioshock - another reason why it's in our top games with killer sound - The Klipsch Joint

Big Daddy from Bioshock – just another reason why it’s in our top video games with killer sound

So how does this make a difference? To me, with a detailed sound design, Bioshock has made the imaginary a reality because for the duration of the game you believe that an underwater city does exist, that these monsters are real and the world you are in is spiraling out of control.  And that is successful immersion.

Therapy Through Klipsch Speakers

Shaun Ivy is a passionate audiophile and a member of Klipsch forums, known there as “wakejunkie”. He is part of a close-knit group of audio enthusiasts who are both the company’s biggest supporters and biggest critics of Klipsch speakers.

He has actually been mentioned on this blog before for receiving the spoils from Michael Stevens’ divorce sale coup, which included Reference RF-7 II floorstanding speakers. As Michael’s best friend, Shaun received them at a “yard sale price.”

Unfortunately, Shaun has had three strokes recently. The doctors gave him a ten percent chance of surviving the first one. Surviving the second one put him at one percent.

Surviving three strokes? Well, it’s a miracle that Shaun is still here.

Prior to suffering his first stroke, Shaun reached out to Klipsch to talk about a different set of speakers he received through a special garage sale find. (Yes, he has two different kick-ass Klipsch speaker setups and, yes, you should be jealous.)

Where Shaun is from, vintage Klipsch speakers are a rare find, but he is always on the lookout for a deal. One day, he just happened to be scouring the yard sales and came across a pair of Klipsch Heresy II speakers. He was excited to say the least.

The owner’s wife was running the yard sale and ran inside the house to ask her husband the price for the Heresy speakers. Shaun was expecting $200-$300 for the pair…

“When she said $25 I about fell out. It was hard to keep my composure. I quickly and quite happily paid her for the speakers and a 50 cent blanket to wrap them in.”

That’s not a typo – $25. He got them in excellent condition with only a couple minor surface imperfections on the cabinets. Everything else, including the cones and grilles, was in perfect shape. They even have sequential serial numbers, dating them to be crafted in 1988.

These speakers replaced a pair of Klipsch Synergy B-2s in Shaun’s living room. They serve as the perfect complement to his separate home theater room, which boasts the aforementioned RF-7 II speakers, a custom-built RF-7 II center channel and four RS-35 speakers to go along with a 130” transparent screen.

Shaun Ivy's Heresy II Speakers

Both these speaker setups have been a welcome retreat for Shaun during his recovery from a multitude of strokes with the speakers in constant use.

“Klipsch therapy has top notch healing abilities.”

The point of this blog post isn’t to pat our backs and scream “KLIPSCH SPEAKERS SAVE LIVES!” Not at all. The point is that the audiophile community is a special one, full of people that care about each other.

Michael posted a topic regarding Shaun’s medical issues and the thread is flooded with people offering their thoughts and prayers. Some of these people Shaun knows very well and some of them he doesn’t. Either way, their comments go a long way towards helping him on his road to recovery.

Shaun Ivy Forum Post

Some people are claiming that great audio doesn’t matter anymore. Well, we call “bullshit.”

When people like Shaun get so much joy out of their systems, it matters. It matters just about as much as anything.

Rock on, Shaun.

 

Do you have a unique story about your Klipsch speakers? Did you get them in an unbelievable deal? Post a comment below and/or email alex.leopold@klipsch.com

Best Home Theater Speaker Systems: 4 Things to Know

If you’re wanting better sound quality from your entertainment system, chances are you need to add a home theater system. The truth is that even the best high-def TVs are seriously lacking when it comes to speaker capability since they’ve become so slim over time. At the end of the day, they simply can’t deliver the clarity of voice in the softest whisper, or those deep, explosive lows that’ll bring your favorite action movies to life. The same goes for the full-range sound effects that only surround sound speakers can deliver.

Before deciding on which home theater speaker system is right for you, here are four things to consider:

1. The Perks of All-In-One Setups

Some of the best home theater speaker systems are considered “in the box” setups. All this means is that the manufacturer has taken the time to pre-package the essential equipment you really need. A good system will include a pair of floorstanding speakers or bookshelf speakers, a center channel speaker, two rear surround sound speakers and a subwoofer. This system set up is also known as a 5.1 system (five speakers and one subwoofer). As you’d expect, higher quality systems typically include two additional speakers for superior surround effects (making it a 7.1 system). Perhaps the biggest benefit of an all-in-one setup is convenience – simply make one purchase and you’re done. Going the pre-packaged route is also easier to install and usually more cost effective than buying pieces individually. The good news is that many of the best in the box setups are crafted with furniture aesthetics in mind, so your system won’t be an eyesore. If you need help choosing speakers, check out the Klipsch Reference Speaker Selector.

2. Building Your Own System

While a pre-packaged setup is ideal for some, others may prefer to build their own system from the ground up. (We’re looking at you, audiophiles.) It may be a bit more involved, but taking a do-it-yourself approach comes with some perks. For starters, you can tailor your system to meet your individual needs. One hardcore movie buff may be more choosy about their center channel speaker, for example. But another music lover might just be looking to customize their entertainment center with a pair of killer floorstanding speakers. Building your own system a la carte gives you the freedom to mix and match products as you see fit.

3. Understand the System Layout

Klipsch Home Theater Systems

Center speaker should be place directly under the TV screen and facing listeners. However, you can get creative with your subwoofer placement.

Before choosing your home theater speaker system, take a minute to assess your living room. In order to optimize your new system’s sound quality, it’s important to understand how to physically lay it all out. The center channel speaker should be placed right below or above your TV screen and positioned to face listeners. If you choose to position it on a stand, rest the speaker’s edge on the end of the stand. This will help prevent dialogue from sounding wonky. The floorstanding/bookshelf speakers should then be positioned on either side of the TV (at least six feet apart). Just be sure to keep them at an equal distance from the screen for the best sound delivery. As for the surround speakers, place these guys slightly above and behind the viewing position – about three feet above the listeners’ heads should do it. They should also be placed equally on each side. Things are a little more flexible when it comes to the subwoofer. While corners make for a good location, feel free to give it a try along a wall or next to a front speaker. If you haven’t already, check out our Klipsch WA-2 Kit that makes your subwoofer wireless, allowing more flexibility to find the perfect spot for your subwoofer.

4. A Killer Sound Bar Might Be All You Need

A sound bar, while not as powerful as a full-out surround sound system, still represents a step up from your TV’s default speakers. For the electronically challenged, a sound bar’s super simple installation is enough of a draw. What’s more is that they actually do produce pretty killer sound in a compact, single-speaker device (which is perfect for small spaces, by the way). For one thing, the right sound bar can deliver strong virtual sound. What’s that, you ask? It basically simulates surround sound. A benefit to this system is that it’s sleek, not bulky and comes with minimal wires. If you snag one with Bluetooth connectivity, it’ll also seamlessly play your favorite music right from your smartphone, tablet or computer. Despite it’s crowd-pleasing features, some may prefer to add a subwoofer to their soundbar to add low bass frequencies. Plus, a sound bar’s easy plug and play function does not limit the system to your living room’s home theater setup. You can easily move it to the bedroom, kitchen or covered porch. Check out our Klipsch R-10B and R-20B models.

Tell us how you plan to or have set up your home theater speaker system in the comments section below. We’d love to see some pics too!

Sound Bar vs Surround Sound

Trying to decide between using a sound bar or a home theater system for your home? We’ve listened to your requests and put together this overview to ease your mind and open your ears to the difference in set up and sound quality.

As you know, sound bars are all the rage with their sleek design, easy installation process, wireless set up, and ability to produce a form of surround sound. Does this mean you’ve found a replacement for a separate-piece surround sound system with front, rear, and center speakers? No, of course not. Nothing can replace a full-blown Klipsch home theater setup…BUT a sound bar can be the ideal solution for those seeking an upgrade to their wimpy TV speakers.

Let’s break down the pros and cons of each so you can decide what’s best for you.

Sound Bar Overview

Pros:

  • Easy installation and connectivity
  • Minimal wires
  • Modern design
  • Great for small-medium living spaces
  • Excellent virtual sound, which simulates the surround sound experience

Cons:

  • May need to buy separate subwoofer (although many Klipsch systems include a sub, such as our HD Theater SB 3, R-10B Sound Bar and R-20B Sound Bar)
  • The placement of the sound bar creates specific “sweet spots” in your listening experience
  • Does not produce complete surround sound, especially in larger living environments

Surround Sound System Overview

Pros:

  • Full range surround sound
  • Able to place speakers in multiple stations for optimal acoustics
  • Maximum bass
  • Audiophile theater system presentation

Cons:

  • Most quality systems require running wires from the receiver to each individual speaker
  • Takes up more space
  • More involved installation process
  • More expensive

Q: Does Bigger = Better?

Big speakers may provide the look of a major sound producing machine, but remember, looks can be deceiving. While it is true large speakers have the ability to produce eardrum pounding sound and are an excellent choice for a large room, sound bars and smaller speaker systems are more than capable of producing quality sound. Make an informed decision and learn how to ensure a quality set up by reviewing the following section.

How Do I Compare a Sound Bar to a Surround Sound System?

As with any audio product, there are varying levels of quality and associated performance depending on the device. The best sound bars will overpower and outperform the run-of-the-mill surround sound system. So, the question is, what performance standards do you look for? We’ll make this part easy on you. Just refer to the below list on how to understand the specs to find the quality speaker system you desire.

  • Sensitivity

The speakers’ effectiveness of converting power (watts) into volume (decibels). The higher the sensitivity, the less power the speaker needs to deliver the effective sound. To put it quite simply – a higher sensitivity rating = loud, clear, high quality sound.

Speaker

Sensitivity Rating

Power Needed To Produce High Volume

Speaker A

85 dB

100 Watts

Speaker B

89 dB

50 Watts

Speaker C

92 dB

25 Watts

*less power to produce higher volume is key for speaker longevity

  • Frequency Response

The range of frequencies that are audible to humans lies between 20 and 20,000 Hert (Hz). Some of the lowest frequencies (below 35 Hz) are more felt than heard (like an earthquake in an action movie), and are produced by the subwoofer. Review the frequency response range to understand what kind of listening experience you will gain with the associated highs and lows that the speaker produces.

  • Power Handling

How much power, in watts, a speaker can handle before it is damaged. Simply put, the higher the power handling, the more likely you are to piss off the neighbors.

  • Impedance

How much electrical resistance is presented against the current flowing from your outputs. Impedance will fluctuate since the speaker will produce sounds at varying frequencies, but all manufacturers will publish a nominal impedance figure. 8 ohms is the norm, though some speakers can handle a 4ohm load (just make sure your receiver matches this load).

SUMMARY

Hopefully this helps to answer some of your questions on how to choose the right speaker system. Remember, much of it comes down to personal preference, but be sure to do your homework when it comes to reviewing the specs and associated performance standards of each sound system. We’re sure that either choice will amplify your current set up and make PWK proud.

5 Movies With Kickass Surround Sound

Whether you’re a hardcore audiophile looking for the ultimate sound experience or a casual movie watcher out to make movie-watching at home more immersive, it’s tough to find the perfect soundtrack to show off your surround sound home theater system.

Sure, you’ll probably want to hear a few big explosions, but to truly get the best out of your home theater, you need a film with a wide and nuanced aural range, not to mention one that takes advantage of the directional effects made possible by a surround speakers.

The good news is we’ve already spent a ton of time searching for that perfect soundtrack for you. From trade shows to dealer events, customer demos to new product testing, this is what we like.

The Dark Knight

If you buy one movie for your surround sound system, let this be it. From the bank heist opener all the way to the end credits, the sounds of The Dark Knight envelop the viewer and integrate seamlessly with the films visuals to create an impeccable home theater experience.

Hans Zimmer’s almost oppressively dark score sets the perfect backdrop for Christopher Nolan’s Gotham, and the film’s dialogue is crystal clear throughout. If it’s pyrotechnics you’re looking for, well, The Dark Knight’s got that too. Particularly impressive is the film’s truck flip scene during one of the Batman’s epic battles with the Joker.

The Dark Knight – Batman vs. Joker Scene (truck flip)

This movie is the real deal. With audio engineering that never draws attention to itself, The Dark Knight is ideal to show off your home theater and have a great movie-watching experience in the process.

Wall-E

Pixar has long had a reputation for producing not only great-looking children’s films, but great sounding ones as well. Wall-E hits the mark in both regards. For those who have followed the company, it should come as no surprise that Pixar, originally part of Lucasfilm, puts a high premium on the quality of sound in its films.

The world of the lonely robot is unbelievably immersive and nuanced, and uses the directional possibilities of the surround sound system to their full potential. In addition to the sound effects in film, the soundtrack and score are top-notch both in terms of suitability for the film and recording quality. The film’s opening song creates a truly beautiful moment.

Wall-E Opening Scene

This is the perfect movie for kids and their audiophile parents to watch together. While it may be the unbelievably detailed CGI visuals many viewers notice first when viewing Wall-E–and they do look great–any true audiophile will immediately struck by the enormous attention to aural detail evidenced by the soundtrack of Wall-E.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Russell Crowe’s nautical adventure as Jack Aubrey is one of the best-sounding movies out there, truly taking advantage of the possibilities of surround sound to create an enveloping maritime atmosphere.

From the creaking of the boat’s planks to the subtle sound of the sea’s water against its hull, the level of detail represented in the soundtrack’s quieter moments is only eclipsed by the intensity of its battles, with floor-shaking cannon fire and roaring explosions.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World – Final epic battle

Master and Commander’s soundtrack is arguably one of the most enveloping you’ll find.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Regardless how you feel about Shia LaBeouf and the Transformers franchise, there’s no denying this movie sounds great. The action scenes in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen are made unbelievably intense by the impeccable sound engineering.

And, despite the power and intensity put forth by the film’s soundtrack as the giant robots smash each other to bits, the films’s soundscape is also impressively nuanced.

While your ears are being bombarded by the sounds of the on-screen destruction, you’ll still be able to pick out individual helicopters, explosions, and firearms within the cacophony.

Transformers Revenge of the Fallen – Shanghai Scene

While it may not go down in history as a cinematic landmark, it’s clear that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen sounds great. If you’re in the mood to see some great-looking and great-sounding computer-generated action scenes, this movie is where it’s at.

The Hurt Locker

A departure from the rest of the films on the list, Kathryn Bigelow’s Academy Award-winning The Hurt Locker’s more serious and contemporary subject matter is enhanced immeasurably by the film’s startlingly realistic soundtrack.

While the film’s expected wartime sounds are both extremely powerful and extremely detailed–each weapon fired and specific type of explosion has its own unique sonic signature–it’s some of the film’s quieter moments which truly stand out in terms of sound design. The characters’ breathing as they deal with the extreme stresses of the Iraq War is a constant barometer of their internal state, and the chime-like sound of shell casings hitting the rocky ground provides one of the film’s most powerful moments.

"The Hurt Locker" – Official Trailer [HD]

The soundtrack of The Hurt Locker is truly enveloping, and only serves to intensify the impact of an already impactful film. If you’re looking for a surround sound experience with emotional weight, The Hurt Locker is the perfect choice.


If you’re like us, you’ve put a lot of time, sweat and money into your set up. Show it off with any of these films. Agree or disagree? Have suggestions of your own? Leave us a comment.