by Staff Writer
Assembling your own stereo system or home theater system piece by piece can save you money on a speaker system with exceptional audio quality. Follow these steps to start assembling speakers for a sound system that will add dimension and clarity to your entertainment.
Choose your audio system. Stereo systems typically don't need more than two speaker enclosures, even if they have multiple drivers. Of course, your music can benefit from the surround sound, multi-channel abilities of a home theater system as well.
Stereo: Stereo speakers provide two-channel audio, which is one audio stream for each speaker or speaker group. Most music is still recorded in stereo, and a pair of good tower speakers can really bring the best sound quality out of your music collection.
Surround sound: Multi-channel speaker systems are used primarily in home theaters. The 5.1-, 6.1- or 7.1-channel speaker systems give you the surround sound effect. Each channel has a different audio signal, allowing sound engineers to blend volume, pitch and other factors to produce realistic three-dimensional effects with speakers placed around the room.
Select the appropriate speakers. You can select a pre-assembled speaker system or custom match some of these speaker types with your audio receiver:
Floor speakers tend to have tall cabinets containing multiple speaker drivers. With subwoofers, tweeters and mid-range speakers in the same enclosure, floor speakers can handle multiple audio channels from your home theater receiver.
Bookshelf speakers are small, unobtrusive units that sit on shelves, mantles or tables. Wireless bookshelf speakers make for easy installation, with no speaker wire to worry about.
Outdoor speakers are weather-resistant for use in the garden or on the deck. Multiple outdoor speakers, distributed around your garden patio, can spread multiple audio channels evenly throughout the space.
Wireless speakers use radio transmission instead of wires, giving your audio set up an uncluttered look. You may need adapters to work with non-wireless audio receivers.
Wall-mount speakers and ceiling-mount speakers are designed to be mounted in recessed boxes or on brackets in the wall or ceiling.
Match your audio receiver to your speakers. The amplifier takes the audio data from your CD player, turntable or MP3 player. It then translates the audio data into an analog signal the speaker can reproduce.
Amps also provide electrical power to speakers. Powered speakers have a built-in amplifier, which means they plug directly into the source and to an electrical outlet.
If a source has a very low signal or a lot of distortion, a pre-amp can clean up the signal; then the amplifier will boost the signal power to speaker level.
Match the amp power rating to the peak power rating of your speakers. That way, your speakers won't be damaged by too much power, and your amplifier won't get overheated by working with speakers that draw more power than it can handle.
Calculate your speaker placement. Set your speakers around the listening area, keeping in mind the shape of the room and the surfaces that sound will be bouncing off of. Hardwood floors will reflect sound from your speakers better than upholstery and curtains.
Center channel speakers usually work for foreground sounds and dialogue. You can place this in front of or above the TV screen.
Left and right speakers are generally placed in front of listeners, on either side of the screen.
Left and right surround speakers work well when placed just behind listeners. These are best placed at ear-level.
Rear surround speakers are placed behind the listeners, completing the surround sound environment.
Subwoofers produce low, non-directional sounds. They can be placed nearly anywhere. The closer the subwoofer speaker is to the wall, the more bass will be reflected into the room.