How to choose a home sound system? Selection guide from Dr.Head
What parameters should be considered when choosing home acoustics?
Choosing acoustics is not an easy task, as there are many models on the market in different price categories. Today we will help to solve this problem using the models of the Finnish brand Amphion, which produces the entire range of home and studio acoustic systems. In the Dr.Head flagship store in Moscow, the Finnish manufacturer has a brand zone and a separate listening room where everything can be tested before purchase.
Shelf or floor acoustics?
When choosing, it is worth starting not even from the models, but from the space in which they will sound. There is a temptation to buy large floorstanding speakers, even if the room is only 12 meters. However, in a small space, floor acoustics will not reveal their capabilities in transmitting low frequencies: instead of a deep and dynamic bass, a shapeless rumble will reach the listener. The sound wave will simply have nowhere to turn around.
For a small space, we recommend bookshelf speakers such as the Amphion Argon3S, which will fill the room with detailed and rich sound with precise and tight bass, natural mids and detailed highs. Floor acoustics is appropriate in rooms from 15 meters - here we note the Amphion Argon7LS model. The model has a closed case with a passive radiator - this design allows you to get accurate and linear bass.
Listening to music or watching movies?
For listening, we recommend using classic stereo, consisting of two speakers (right and left channels), since most of the music is recorded specifically for this format. If necessary, a subwoofer can be added to a pair of acoustics to enhance low frequencies. As a full-fledged stereo set, we recommend a bunch of Amphion Helium520 floor acoustics and a Rotel A12 MKII amplifier. This is Hi-Fi audio, which allows you to listen to music from a variety of sources - from Bluetooth and PC to vinyl and CD.
As for watching a movie, here you need multi-channel sound, in which, in addition to two front speakers, there will be rear and center channels. There are many home theater configurations, the most popular is 5.1 (five speakers and one subwoofer). Amphion acoustics will also help here, namely the Argon line: front acoustics Argon3LS, center channel Argon5C and a pair of rear acoustics Argon1. We will borrow an active subwoofer from the British brand KEF, for example, the Kube 10b model.
Consider whether movies or music will be a priority for home audio. After that, make a choice between stereo and multi-channel audio.
What parameters should be considered when choosing?
When choosing acoustics, the future user is faced with many technical characteristics and unfamiliar concepts. We have highlighted the most important of them:
- Price. It is very important to choose a speaker system and other audio components so that there is no sharp imbalance in their cost. Budget acoustics will not be able to convey the sound capabilities of a premium amplifier and player, and vice versa, so a similar class of equipment is very important. Speakers are a serious element in the system, on which the initial sound quality depends, so you should not skimp on acoustics.
- Frequency range. A parameter that shows what frequencies the speaker system is capable of reproducing. It is believed that the human ear perceives the range from 20 Hz to 20 kHz, but in practice it is narrower. Why do manufacturers create acoustics with a range wider than our hearing? For example, Amphion Helium520 plays up to 25 kHz. This is justified, since we perceive sound waves not only with the inner ear, but with the whole body. A wide frequency range allows acoustics to create a fuller sound image that we will feel even on our skin. It evokes more emotion from listening. As a rule, acoustics play in the range from 45 Hz to 25 kHz - this is enough for it to reproduce all the necessary sound information.
- Sensitivity. This parameter is measured in decibels and shows how efficiently the speaker system converts the power of the amplifier into an audio signal. With equal gain, speakers with higher sensitivity will sound louder. This characteristic is practically independent of the size of the speakers. For home audio, we recommend using a speaker system with a sensitivity of 86 dB or more.
- Recommended input power. Acoustics in itself does not have power, it is transmitted by an amplifier. Therefore, manufacturers often give recommendations on how much amplification can be given to the speaker system without harm to it (too much amplification will disable the speakers). For example, even the most compact Amphion Argon0 shelf supports can be powered up to 125 W - this is high power that a transistor or digital amplifier can provide. There is also a lower limit (25 W) - this is the minimum power at which the Argon0 will play with good frequency elaboration. On the issue of power, pay attention to the manufacturer's recommendations.
- Impedance (resistance). It depends on the impedance of the acoustics how easy or difficult it is for the amplifier to transfer power to it. Most often, the impedance of home models is between 4 and 8 ohms. As a rule, amplifier manufacturers indicate what speaker impedance will be optimal. Consider these recommendations carefully.
- Number of terminals. The speaker system is connected with two or four terminals. Four terminals are needed to connect the speakers to two amplifiers (Bi-Amping) or one amplifier using two pairs of cables (Bi-Wiring). It is believed that with Bi-Wiring, the amplifier controls the acoustics better. However, for novice hi-fi users, we recommend using one pair of terminals, as this is the most reliable and easiest option. By the way, Amphion speaker systems use the classic two-terminal connection option.
- The location of the phase inverter. Behind the complex name is a special hole in the speaker system, which is necessary to transmit the lowest frequencies. If the bass reflex port is on the back of the speaker, leave approximately 30-40 cm from the back wall to keep the bass clear. This setting is approximate, we recommend experimenting with the setting to find the best speaker placement.
The sound quality will greatly depend on the installation of speakers in space. This topic is very extensive, but we will give some universal tips.
- Do not place shelf speakers on shelves. Despite the name, shelves and cabinets are not the best places for acoustics, as during playback, the speakers transmit vibrations to the surrounding space. Along with the music, you will hear the sound of a bookcase with all the contents. For bookshelf acoustics, there are special stands that dampen vibration so that only music reaches the listener without unnecessary overtones.
- Do not place acoustics in the corners of the room. With this arrangement, the corner turns into a mouthpiece and plays along with the speaker, but you will not like it, as the sound detail is lost. It is advisable to leave approximately a meter or more from the side walls.
- Find the right listening position. It is best when an equilateral triangle is formed between you and the speakers, where two vertices are acoustics, and the third is you. This will create an ideal stereo field in which vocals and musical instruments will be well readable.
- The tweeters should be at ear level. In order for the listener to receive all the musical information from the tweeter, the latter must be located at the level of the listener's ear. High frequencies dissipate in space much faster than bass, so it is important to direct them to the listener.
- Do not press the acoustics close to the wall. With this arrangement, the bass will turn out to be hypertrophied and too “bloated”, and the sound will seem muddy and slow. This rule is especially true for speakers that have a bass reflex at the back.
Specifications will not replace your audio experience
We strongly recommend that you always listen to acoustics before buying, as dry numbers cannot replace the listening experience. Models from different manufacturers sound different, although in their data sheets everything is like a blueprint. Dr.Head stores in Moscow and St. Petersburg have special listening rooms where guests can test audio equipment.
For Amphion acoustic systems, the flagship store on Novy Arbat, 15 has a separate room where almost the entire Hi-Fi line of the brand is displayed. It remains only to sit in a comfortable chair and enjoy the sound.