14 years ago if you had asked me what a woofer is, I probably would have answered along the lines of a basset hound. Now that I’m a seasoned pro, I can speak titanium compression drivers and Tractrix Horns with the best of them…except my female friends and family members look at me like I’m speaking Vulcan. This tells me I was not alone in my original naivety. It’s no surprise, however, since the corporate as well as hobbyist world of audio has been male-dominated since, well, ever.
Unfortunately, most women seem to be happy with this status quo. “Boys and their toys,” and all that. Which is too bad because what they are actually doing is depriving themselves of the way music and movies should sound. And that’s simply not acceptable.
Do not typecast audio as a man-thing.
Whether you’re single or hooked up with the rare male species who doesn’t care about audio, don’t be intimidated when you set out to purchase. Follow these tips to dazzle any salesperson you run across.
Know your environment and survey the room. How well your system performs depends on your room’s setup. For example, too many bare surfaces can cause reflections that add harshness to the sound or muddy the dialog. Furniture placement also plays a major role in your room’s acoustics, so be prepared to do some testing and rearranging.
Determine what you want this system to do. Music, movies and TV, play video games, all of the above? If music-only is your thing, a 2.1 system (two speakers and a subwoofer) will suffice. Adding movies and TV into the mix, consider a 5.1 home theater surround sound system (3 speakers positioned in front, 2 surround speakers at the sides and 1 subwoofer placed in the front corner for the low sounds). If limited space is a factor, a soundbar may be a good solution.
Tip: if 5.1 is your thing, don’t skimp on the center channel. This speaker, placed front and center, is the most important and often overlooked component of a surround system. If it doesn’t keep up, you’ll find yourself constantly turning up the volume to hear what people are saying and down when the special effects kick in. I hate that.
Figure a price range. To get an idea of cost, read audio pubs like Sound and Vision and Stereophile, or simply hit up Google. Be sure you are browsing established, authoritative websites. These should give you plenty of fair brand information, pricing expectations and product reviews.
When you’re ready to buy, decide where. Options include mass retail, specialty audio/video store or a custom installer. Disclaimer: No matter which you choose, be sure they are authorized by the manufacturer to carry the products. Here’s why.
- At mass retail, you will find good products that target the average consumer. Because these stores operate on a large scale, you typically receive limited consultation services and have to set the system up yourself. The bonus is that the prices are generally lower.
- A specialty retailer is a boutique-style setting catering to the audio enthusiast. They tend to be more knowledgeable and willing to spend the time with you, and are experienced in the art of the demo. Prices may be higher, but the products are usually a step above the mass retailers, and they often deliver and set up for you.
- The more expensive custom installer route takes you further down the primrose path. The contractor comes to your house and designs your home theater system for you – not much different than hiring an interior designer. A good way to find a reputable custom installer is by contacting the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (CEDIA).
Take your favorite movie and CD with you if a demo is an option, and a diagram and the dimensions of the room to allow the salesperson to determine what speakers will work for your area. Be detailed with your needs and present your budget up front, but be willing to understand you may have unrealistic expectations.
After weeding out the speakers that are too expensive or don’t complement your décor, start actively listening. You don’t need a trained ear, it’s simply whatever sounds good to you. However, pay attention to things like:
- Can you understand what is going on?
- Is the dialogue crystal clear?
- Are the speakers dynamic (going from a quiet passage to a loud passage quickly without sounding muddy or strained)?
Tip: If you are building a home theater system, it is NOT a good idea to mix and match between the brands because speaker companies typically design their products to work together to produce sounds at the same levels and tones.
Once you have fallen in love, determine what external equipment is needed to drive it all. This part can get tricky, but don’t panic.
- If the speakers are passive (no amplifier built-in), a receiver is necessary. This is the box with a tuner, preamplifier and amplifier all packed into one. Check the power rating of the speakers to match up with the power of the amplifier. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help – a lot of guys are clueless in this area.
- Most speakers do not come with speaker wire – don’t forget to buy enough to position the speakers where you want them in your room.
- Do you need stands? Mounting brackets? Double check what’s included to make sure you have everything you need.
You see? Nothing to it. If you’re nervous about installing, and of course have chosen Klipsch, feel free to call our helpful support team for assistance. We can’t wait for you to start enjoying your music and movies how they were meant to be enjoyed.
Have additional buying tips? Questions? Ask in the comments section.