The #1 Tip for Choosing Good Speakers
July 2019 – by Per Christensson
Looking for new speakers? There are hundreds of options, which means you can purchase the perfect pair for your purpose and preference. It can also make the speaker shopping experience overwhelming.
To simplify things, here is my number one tip for choosing the right speakers:
▶ Listen to the speakers at the volume you will listen to them in your space.
This tip implies you listen to a few options in person, which is necessary to narrow down what speakers suit your style. When you visit the local Best Buy or audio store to listen to speakers, DO NOT crank them up really loud and listen to them at close-to-ear-damaging levels. This is what most people do.
The problem with cranking speakers up when testing them is twofold: 1) Speakers almost sound better when they are loud, and 2) The sound quality of speakers changes as you increase the volume.
Speakers that are meant to be loud often sound worse than less expensive speakers at low levels. When speakers are designed to handle high amplitudes, they may require thicker, more durable materials that can sacrifice clarity at lower amplitudes. While high-quality speakers will sound relatively consistent from low to high volumes, the sonic characteristics will still change.
If you're buying speakers for your office and can only turn them up to 20% of their peak volume when other people are working around you, then test them out at 20% volume. If you're buying home theater speakers, compare the options at 50-60% peak volume. If you're a DJ and need to crank your speakers up, OK, you can try them out at 90% to 100%. But your ears are probably already damaged anyway.