Not all speakers are made equal, which is also true of listeners. Some people are content with something cheap for their audio — as long as they can hear it, it’s a success. But audiophiles fall into a very different category. The speaker needs to sound amazing and nuanced.
Thankfully, we understand the demands and expectations at either end of the speaker spectrum. Which is helpful for you guys, because shopping for a speaker isn’t easy. In fact, if you’ve never bought a speaker before, it requires some research. There are a lot of different speakers on offer, with lots of features and specifications to consider.
We’re assuming you’re here because you don’t have time for all of that. So here’s what you need to know before you buy a new speaker or speaker set.
What type of media will you consume with your speakers?
Will you be using your speakers solely for music? Only for TV and films? Maybe a bit of both? You should decide on that now, because it will factor into what kind of speaker you end up getting. For instance, if you’re only looking for something to pair with your TV, a soundbar will be a good choice, but if you want something more music-focused, you might want to check out a pair of bookshelf speakers or a portable Bluetooth option.
In addition, you’ll want to note the kind of sound quality you’re looking for — whether that’s surround sound, Dolby Atmos, or just plain old stereo (which is also great, don’t feel pressured to get something super fancy and expensive if you don’t really need it). Not all speakers produce the same kind of sound quality, so it’s important to know exactly the kind of listening experience you’re looking to get out of it.
How much space do you have?
Speakers can get pretty big, so take stock of how much useable space you want to dedicate to your audio setup both horizontally and vertically. Not everyone has the room for multiple floor standing speakers, so don’t overwhelm yourself with something gigantic if it’s constantly going to be getting in your way or end up scraping the ceiling. There are plenty of speakers that can be easily stored or concealed, some that can be affixed to your walls, and some that are so small that they can rest on a tabletop or shelf. Small speakers can be powerful, too.
What are passive and active speakers?
The difference between passive and active (sometimes called “powered”) is pretty simple, yet important to note. Passive speakers don’t have any sort of built-in amplification, which means that they need to be connected to a stereo receiver to work. Active speakers have everything built-in from the start, including preamp, volume controls, and inputs. If convenience is one of your top priorities, go for active speakers, as they’ll require a lot less setup and additional equipment to get them working.
How many speakers do you need?
Having two amazing speakers is always going to get you better results than having five average speakers. Plus, having too many speakers around is just going to take up an unnecessary amount of space.
If you have the room, two speakers is the perfect number. It’s especially ideal if you listen to a lot of music, which is normally recorded for a stereo setting — so having a left and right channel will do you wonders. If you have a smaller space, even one really good speaker should do you just fine.
Do you need a subwoofer?
The short answer is no, you don’t actually need one. Should you get one, though? Well, that’s a different question, to which we would answer “probably yes.” Adding a sub to pretty much any audio setup is going to make it better (not all of them are compatible, though, so make sure you check before buying one first).
One common misconception about subwoofers is that many think they just add more bass, when that’s not necessarily true. Subs actually help improve the dynamics of said bass, not only boosting its quality overall, but also adding more depth and space to your output. Honestly, sometimes adding a high-quality subwoofer to your speaker setup is more helpful than upgrading the speakers themselves.
What is a smart speaker?
These are speakers that double up as smart devices, which may connect to Alexa or sync with other smart home devices. They’re great in their own right, but they aren’t always the best way to listen to music (sorry, Alexa). If you really can’t live without having some sort of smart assistant within your speaker setup, we recommend getting something that is Bluetooth-enabled and connecting it to your smartphone. That way, you get the perks of your phone’s built-in smart assistant without having to downgrade the speaker itself.
What are the best speakers?
We’re glad you asked. We have picked out a favourite from each of the most popular speaker categories — from bookshelf to Bluetooth speakers and everything in between — and lined up the very best options for your consideration.
These are the best speakers in 2022.