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  Loudspeakers Buying Guide. Date Posted 27/08/2001.

Speakers are the interface between the hi-fi and the listener. There are two types of speaker. One is passive speaker. This needs to be plugged into an amplifier using speaker cabling, which carries a large current. Other speakers are active speakers. They have a built in amplifier and need to be plugged into the mains. All they need is a normal signal, usually from an ordinary phono cable. Active speakers are usually found bundled with computers. Most hi-fi speakers are passive units. When a signal comes into a speaker, it is split by a crossover. High frequencies are sent to a tweeter in the speaker, whilst low frequencies are sent to a woofer. Sometimes, you can have a dedicated subwoofer in your setup, which produces only low frequency sounds. Depending on your setup, you'll want a minimum of two speakers, one for the left channel and another for the right.

If you want to play DVDs (Video or Audio), you'll need five speakers, front left and right, rear left and right, centre and also you might want a subwoofer (which tend to be active). The Bose speakers to the left have a passive subwoofer.

When setting up your speakers, try moving them about and see which setup sounds best. Having an empty room, without any furniture or curtains, can also affect sound. Cabling can also play a part in reaching the true potential of your speaker setup.

Buying Speakers. Speakers have a rating usually in watts. However, this might be quoted at low resistances such as 2 ohms. Such figures are misleading! When quoted at higher resistances they are more representitive. When buying a speaker check that it's rating range is larger than it's amplifier range. For example for speakers of 20W to 200W, a 20W to 100W amp is appropriate, not a 20W to 250W amp! Also make sure the rating is ideal for your enviroment. Having five 300 watt speakers coupled with a similar powered amp in a small room, would be a waste of money, since you'd never go near the 300 watt range! However, in a nightclub, such a setup would seem fine, however, in such a situation you might want to ask for advice from your reseller as to whether you'll make your customers deaf using such powerful sound systems! Getting a weedy amp and turning it up, can easily damage powerful speakers as well. Also look for the size of speakers. Bookshelf sized speakers are good for bookshelves, but perhaps a bit low on bass elsewhere. Floorstanding speakers on the other hand need alot of space. Perhaps you want small speakers like Bose or speakers in the shapes of picture frames (like Wharfsdale) if you don't want your speakers to be seen.

Also watch out for speaker sensitivity. The more sensitively the easier it will be for your amp. The average is around 88 db/W/m. If you're looking for some real power sound, you'll want speakers with biwiring (take two outputs from an amplifier, one for the woofer and the other for the tweeter). When you buy speakers, listen to them in a demonstration. Good speakers should be able to spread sound around the room, just like if a live band were playing.