Loudspeakers are the core of any audiophile system and represent the heart and soul of the system itself. To understand speakers is the most important part of building a high performance music playback system. There is a lot to understand about speakers but we can explain it all to you which is our stated goal here at Speakers101.com. You ready?
Why Audiophile Speakers Are Important
No one component effects the sound of your stereo system more than audiophile speakers. Some think that you should spend more money on your source components like CD players or your audiophile turntable. Others think that you budget should go into your audiophile electronics such as your stereo preamp or your two-channel stereo power amplifier. All of them are wrong. The best investment in the audiophile world is into audiophile loudspeakers and possibly an audiophile grade subwoofer. Simply put, you are going to get more sound, more bass, more volume and more quality from investing more from the start into your audiophile speakers. Save money on cables. Get non-equalized cables that aren’t crazy expensive and invest more money into better, nicer and awesome sounding speakers over audiophile accessories and prepare to be amazed.
Form Factors of Audiophile Speakers
Bookshelf Speakers cover a lot of territory mainly for smaller speakers. Often these speakers go on stands versus going into bookshelves. These smaller speakers don’t have as much bass and often need a supporting subwoofer but they can be a better value in that the smaller speakers allow for more manufacturing budget to spend money on tweeters, woofers, cabinet bracing, acoustical design, fancy finishes and slickly designed crossover networks.
Floorstanding Speakers are speakers that don’t need stands. They stand alone on the floor and are designed to do so. They have more bass, play more loudly and often are more expensive. The look and feel of these speakers vary from traditional designs to uber-modern industrial design. Some speakers look like a cabin in Maine. Others look like the loudspeaker version of Teletubbie.
Subwoofers these boxy speakers provide ONLY the lowest of frequencies. They tend to have big drivers, specific crossover networks and internal amplifiers. They can produce sound that goes below 20 Hz, which is the level where people can’t hear but can FEEL the sound. A subwoofer or two is always a good idea in an audiophile system. Many of today’s subwoofers come with App-controlled equalization and/or room correction that perfectly merge the new low performance audio performance with your bookshelf or floorstanding speakers with ease and in minutes. Audiophiles traditionally have fought the use of a subwoofer but that is absurd. Every recording and mastering system that plays back music in a studio uses subwoofers. So should you.
Headphones are one of the most overlooked forms of speakers is audiophile headphones. They come wired and now in Bluetooth controlled wireless options. These on-ear speaker allow for you to take your audiophile system with you on the road, to the gym, to the office or basically anywhere. Today’s headphones often come with ANC which is sophisticated noise cancelation which can be stunningly effective on an airplane with a crying baby or in a work environment. Don’t discount headphones as a key form factor of audiophile loudspeakers.
Styles of Audiophile Speakers
There are all sorts of designs for loudspeakers. None of which are new. Most are 100 year old technologies. Today’s best audiophile speakers are simply more and more refined versions of older, tried-and-true designs.
Dynamic Speakers – This the the traditional form factor of speaker with a normal tweeter, mid-range and possibly a bass driver depending on if the speaker is a two-way or three-way design.
Ported Speakers – Speakers that are ported have a hole that allows air (aka: sound) to escape as part of their design. They more “more air” and are excellent for home theater applications
Powered Speakers – Powered speakers have amps that power some or all of the speakers inside the actual speaker. A good example of powered speaker is something like the MartinLogan ESL which has a powered subwoofer to handle the bass on the bottom and a curved, electrostatic driver on top. Other examples in this space include: Definitive Technology tower speakers as well as GoldenEar designs.
Electrostatic Speakers – These speakers are paper thin and can be as large as a door in your home. They often are visually transparent (think: the example from above from MartinLogan) but not always. They aren’t very accurate speakers in that they present a very dramatic but often not realistic soundstage. Many audiophiles simply love the sound of electrostatic speakers. They can be hard to match with a subwoofer traditionally. Today’s room correction can fix that however
Planar Speakers – Much like the form factor of an electrostatic speaker, planar speakers are also huge, thin and tall speakers that present a huge soundstage. Some planar speakers use a ribbon tweeter for the high end. These speakers don’t tend to play loudly or be very accurate but there are audiophiles who simply cannot live without them. Magenpans, made in Great Bear Lake Minnesota, are a good example of planar speakers.
We hope that you have a much better feel for the importance of the types and designs of today’s audiophile speakers. Knowing these technologies and configurations are a great foundation for you to build a killer audiophile system.