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Bookshelf Speakers | What To Look For

Choosing the Best Bookshelf Bookshelf Speaker

There are several things to know about bookshelf speakers before you make a decision to buy. Frequency range, efficiency, power handling – these are just a few things. Knowing the basics about bookshelf speakers will give you the knowledge to find the best ones for your home. 

Drivers:

Drivers are the individual speakers that make up your bookshelf speaker. It’s important to know what they are made of and the individual performance for each. It’s the combination of these drivers, and how they complement each other, that makes up the overall performance of your bookshelf speakers. Here are a few terms that will help you understand the makeup of your drivers.

  • Woofer: The speaker woofer can determine the responsiveness, and quality of the speaker. The stiffer and more lightweight the material used, the more effective the speaker is. Polypropylene is a very common material used for the cone, as well as woven fabrics such as kevlar. Aluminum and titanium are also used in higher end speakers.
  • Woofer Surrounding: The woofer surround also is an important aspect of the speaker system and effect the sound as well. Durable, lightweight, and free moving materials are used to allow the woofer to move with as little energy possible. The material is essential for a long lasting and performing speaker too. As speakers get older and used, humidity levels and wear-and-tear can crack and  even break the surrounding of the woofer. Rubber surrounding is typically the most long lasting an high performing material. Foam an cloth surroundings are found on less expensive component speakers, with lower performance and shorter life spans.
  • Crossovers: When you purchase a component car speaker system, a crossover is almost always a part of the package. External crossovers are typically used to lessen the amount of distortion a speaker might have by separating the frequency inputs. Signals can cross through coated wiring and cause distortion, so an external crossover system will limit this.

Performance:

Hands down the most important thing to consider when researching bookshelf speakers is the sound quality. Here are a few terms that will help you understand performance, and how to choose the best.

  • Power Handling: Power handling is the measurement a manufacture gives to rate how much power a speaker can handle and operate at. It is given by two measurements, RMS and Peak (or MAX).
    • RMS Power rating is the amount of power the speaker handles continuously, while the Peak Power rating is the amount of power a speaker can handle in short bursts. When comparing speakers, RMS Power is the more relevant and important rating to look at.
  • Sensitivity: The speaker sensitivity rating is a measurement of the amount of sound the speaker will emit from the power it’s given. The higher the sensitivity, the more efficient the speaker is with the power it’s given. For lower powered systems, you want a higher sensitivity rating. For a higher powered system, you want a lower sensitivity rating. Lower sensitivity rated speakers are meant to handle higher power.
  • Frequency Range: Frequency range is the frequencies that the speaker emits sound at, measure in Hz. Normally they are given from a low frequency to high, for example: 20 – 22,000 (22k) Hz. This measure how low and high the speaker can actually emit sound at.

Design:

Another major component to consider when choosing the best bookshelf speakers is its design. Size, enclosure, enclosure material, color – all are important! Smaller and lighter speakers are great for fitting in small areas, but might sacrifice frequency range and sound quality because of it. The type of enclosure and/or posts are important as well – you can choose between binding posts or box enclosures, depending on your preference and limitations of the space you’re placing the speakers. Binding posts typically give you more options for space and wiring, while box enclosures sometimes give you a fuller, better sound quality. Then of course there’s color. Some speaker models are limited by color, and might not match the style of your home.
Choosing the best bookshelf speaker to put in your home can be difficult, and expensive. Before you choose, make sure you know what you’re comparing and what you’re looking at!

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