April 20th, 2009
Have you experienced amazing sound today? Most humans are capable of discerning a vast range of tones, from 20Hz to 20,000Hz - the deepest bass to the most deafening highs. But most speakers and audio systems reproduce a narrow and imprecise frequency range, meaning you're missing valuable portions of your audio experience. Imagine watching your favorite movie on your new HDTV but with half the picture missing; having an inferior sound system is much the same, never letting the artist's musical feel or the director's soundtrack impact you as intended. The recent boom in HDTV sales was not matched with audio investments, meaning many people are not experiencing their audio and video media - just listening to mangled noise from built-in speakers, underpowered receivers, and inferior cabling and connections. Invest in an audio system that complements the music and sound effects and enriches your listening experience. The digital revolution has produced incredible audio/visual devices but the audio experience is lacking. It's really unfortunate that you're not getting the most from your expensive gadgets, but we can help you. Below I discuss why it's more important than ever to have high-quality audio components, why built-ins are inferior, the difference between old and new technology, why "one size fits all" is not true for you're A/V setup, and how to realize and maximize the emotional relationship with your music and sound.
New Sources of AudioYou might be wondering why you need to upgrade your audio components when it's the "same" music as always. Not so. There are many new devices that support high-quality or HD (high-definition) audio and many sources of audio that stream better audio.
- Digital music players: devices such as the iPod, Zune, and other personal media players (check out our accessories for PMPs) allow the user to carry their music with them but the speakers used to play the audio don't do the tracks justice, and the included earbuds are uncomfortable and tinny (check out our high-quality headphones and earbuds)
- Digital TV transition: the picture isn't the only thing getting better - the audio is digital now, too, and sounds better than ever
- Gaming: PS3, Xbox, and computers offer gamers the chance to immerse themselves in an audio and visual experience, but without the right audio components they won't hear their enemy sneaking up behind them or hear ambient effects that increase the level of reality
- Satellite: with more customers dumping cable for satellite those same customers have access to superior audio from their favorite programs and awesome sound from the dozens of music channels, but TVs cannot reproduce the frequency range or true surround sound to make it worth the while (check out our surround sound systems)
Built-ins are InferiorDid you notice a pattern above? The "free" earbuds or included speakers that come with TVs and other digital devices are low-quality giveaways. They are inferior by design so companies don't go broke including them in the package! The speakers and processing components use cheaper, less durable materials, and rely on software to create "simulated" surround sound; they're intended to provide a basic listening experience - hence the various ports for external audio components! Do yourself a favor and listen to your music and watch your music on a system that is durable enough to last for many years and is capable of reproducing the frequency range of modern audio tracks.
New Tech vs. Old TechThe devices and sources have changed but what about the speakers themselves? They've changed, too. Remember those dusty cones that were dry and cracked, or the plastic housings and pot-metal connectors? Choosing better components means you'll get the best materials, including such things as silk domes, titanium tweeters, exotic rubber and composite compounds for voice coils and cones, and neodymium magnets, pure copper wiring, and gold contacts. New tech components have a wider range of connection options and allow the user to precisely adjust the output to match the source, listening environment, and user preference. Ultimately, the better the product the better the listening experience - which includes setup, use, maintenance, and performance.
One size does NOT fit allSo you've got a new HDTV, game system, movie player, radio, or receiver. You go out and buy a boxed system on sale, hook it up, and turn it on. Much to your dismay the impact is...lacking. That's because the listening environment, intended use, and listener expectations must be considered in addition to cost; the overall value is more important than getting a bargain. Compromise on dish towels, not speakers!
- Large rooms: tower/floor-standing speakers, larger components, surround systems, heavier gauge wiring, amps/receivers with more power
- Small rooms: smaller components, medium/small speakers including satellites and bookshelf speakers, simpler 2-channel stereos, and in-wall or in-ceiling speakers and hidden components with lower-gauge wiring
- Outside: only outdoor speakers can withstand the punishing temperature fluctuations and exposure to moisture, and will have to handle a higher load so music and sound is loud enough to carry over ambient noise and longer distances
- Multi-room: instead of turning up the volume to uncomfortable levels add additional zones and speakers; match the speaker and source to the room to deliver a seamless and enjoyable listening experience (use our design tool to create a multiroom or whole-house A/V system)
- Fancy/Specialty rooms: choose in-wall or in-ceiling speakers to reduce visually distracting speakers and wiring