Your 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 type for your home - on one hand, you want the best sound for your budget, on the other often the speakers have to fit in with your home environment with minimum disruption and budget.
Speakers are the one component within an audio system which can alter the sound of your system the most, so choosing the right ones 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 speaker 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 foorstanding types are often the best choice. Conversely, for pin-point stereo imaging, a narrow, small bookshelf model 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 lower budget, 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 a 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 speaker, 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 high 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 sound bar, which creates a virtual surround experience from a single TV speaker?
Finally, if you enjoy outdoor living, outdoor speakers are weatherproof and good sounding, so do not worry about them in our UK climate!