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I want the right sound for my home cinema and I've heard that I need at least six speakers. Is this true?
Yes, this is true. The smallest surround system available has two front speakers, two surround speakers, one central speaker and one bass speaker, the subwoofer. This is known as a 5.1 surround system.
What exactly is the difference between a 6.1 and a 6.2 surround system?
The 6.1 surround system operates with one subwoofer, while the 6.2 surround system uses two subwoofers. The number behind the decimal point always represents the number of subwoofers.
I love listening to music and a high-quality sound is very important to me. But I also want to create a perfect home cinema experience. Are there speakers that can do both?
No. You always have to make a compromise, either on stereo sound or on surround sound. If you want the best of both, you would need two separate loudspeaker systems.
I like my music to be loud. Should I buy large speakers?
No, since the size of the speaker has nothing to do with how loudly it plays music. If you want loud music, you should pay attention to the efficiency, which is measured in decibels (dB). The general rule is that the higher this value is, the louder you can listen to the music. But when choosing a loudspeaker, you should also make sure that there is the right relationship between the speakers and the size of your room.
Can I connect an MP3 player to an AV receiver?
Yes. An MP3 player can be connected to an AV receiver using an RCA cable or a USB port. iPod users can use a dock for sending music and videos to the receiver.
Do I need the remote controls for my television and DVD player in addition to the remote control for the AV receiver?
Some AV receivers have programmable remote controls that can "remember" your preferences, allowing them to be used with other devices. This means that you no longer need to use your old remote controls. If you use a universal remote control, you can check whether it works with your AV receiver.
Amazon Buying Guide Speakers & Home Cinema
Do you want a home cinema system that puts you right at the heart of the action? Or are you looking for new speakers to enjoy music to its fullest? Our online buying guide helps you choose the right system for you and answers important questions, such as: How many speakers do I need? How do I set them up? What different kinds of speakers are available? When do I need an AV receiver?
1. What Should I Buy: Surround Sound or Stereo Speaker System?
When you're looking for new speakers, you first need to ask yourself an important question: Am I after an optimal home cinema experience or do I just want the best speaker system for listening to music?
Surround sound is the standard for home cinema. You feel as if you are right there in the film: cars race past behind your couch, an agent creeps up from the right-hand side and the bad guys whisper to the left... It is usually necessary to set up several speakers, spread around the room, so the multichannel sound is rendered accurately.
Music, on the other hand, is set up for stereo speakers. If high-quality, clean sound is important to you when listening to music, you shouldn't opt for home cinema speakers. If you can't live without both surround sound and high-quality stereo sound, you should set up two separate speaker systems or a surround system with high-quality speakers.
Perfect for enjoying music
Perfect for your home cinema
2. Home Cinema Systems
Your home cinema is optimised only if it has the right setup. Surround sound emanates from several speakers that are located around the area where you sit. You could opt for a complete system, into which the receiver--and often also a DVD or Blu-ray player--are integrated, or you could make up your system from several individual components. An AV receiver is necessary for a subwoofer satellite system and for a speaker set. The receiver distributes the sound correctly to the different speakers. AV stands for "audio/video", and it means that the receiver processes the sound and image signals and controls them centrally. AV receivers and speakers should be synchronised with each other; in other words, the performance rendered by one of them should be in line with the performance of the other. And if you have seven or more speakers set up, the receiver must support them.
There is bound to be the right system for you among our range of home cinema solutions. A speaker set with an AV receiver--sometimes with a DVD or Blu-ray player included--makes up a unit, and all of the components are perfectly synchronised with each other. A complete system is easy and convenient to set up without any technical expertise. The system also sorts out the perfect sound settings for you.
Subwoofer Satellite Systems
A cinema in your living room
A 5.1 subwoofer satellite system consists of six speakers: five for the high and medium frequency ranges, and one bass speaker--the subwoofer. This system mixes the sound for films with the Dolby Digital 5.1 designation and plays it back cleanly on 5.1 AV receivers. If you have more than six speakers you also have back surrounds, allowing you to enjoy even more authentic sound effects. These sound effects are created by the AV receiver, but it is important to know that not all devices are capable of reproducing them. This is why you need to make sure that your speakers and AV receiver are compatible with each other. Because the additional sound effects are mixed with surround channels on the side they are not lost with a 5.1 system but they are sometimes not as clear.
Frequently Bought Home Cinema Systems
A small speaker that gives you a cinema sensation
A soundbar is an elegant, space-saving alternative to a subwoofer satellite system. It is easy to install, perfect for TV and generates surround sound. Inside the soundbar are four small speakers that radiate sound in different directions, sometimes with a time delay. They often use the walls of a room for bouncing sound waves before they are heard by the listener. Ideally, your sitting position should be the same distance from the walls of your room on each side.
Frequently Bought Soundbars
The all-important control centre
The AV receiver connects to speakers, televisions and all other devices--it is effectively the control centre. You should therefore make sure that you use the right connections--for example, an HDMI connection where necessary. An HDMI connection is used for transmitting video and audio data to the AV receiver and out to the flatscreen TV. A good AV receiver can also do much more: some devices have a calibration system for perfect synchronisation. They use a microphone to gather sounds played, analyse them and adapt them precisely to each speaker so the right sound comes to you in the right direction, at the right time. You don't need to do anything else and the positioning of the speakers is almost irrelevant. Some AV receivers also allow you to watch DVDs in your bedroom while listening to music in your living room using separate speakers. It is always possible to save your preferred settings. Sometimes two devices are combined, such as in a DVD receiver.
Surround Sound Technology: Some things you should know
DVD sound formats can be transmitted by any type of HDMI
PCM stands for pulse-code modulation. It converts an analogue signal into a digital signal without incurring signal loss.
All Dolby Digital formats
Dolby Digital is a multichannel sound system from Dolby, incorporating up to six channels. Dolby Digital is the digital successor to Dolby Surround and Dolby Pro Logic in the home entertainment sector.
All DTS formats
DTS is a multichannel sound system from the Californian company of the same name – Digital Theater Systems Inc.--and is an alternative to Dolby Digital.
New Blu-ray and HD DVD sound formats can be transmitted via HDMI 1.3, 1.3a or newer versions
Dolby Digital Plus
Dolby Digital Plus (DD+) is the latest format of Dolby Digital, which is a household name in the DVD market.
Dolby TrueHD was developed especially for use with HD DVDs and Blu-ray discs. It is a loss-free surround sound format.
DTS-HD High Resolution Audio
DTS-HD High Resolution Audio supports data transfer rates of up to 64 Mbit/s.
DTS-HD Master Audio
DTS-HD Master Audio is used as a loss-free compression method as it renders an exact reproduction of the sound master of a film shown at a cinema. It corresponds to Dolby True HD.
It is not necessary for a receiver to support all these formats, since:
- Many Blu-ray discs contain linear PCM signals
- Dolby Digital Plus and DTS-HD High Resolution Audio can be over the top for day-to-day needs
- Most Blu-ray players have a built-in decoder
- DTS Core makes all DTS formats downwards-compatible
- Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD are compatible with Dolby Digital
THX is the commercial seal of quality originally conceived for cinemas. It has now come into use in the home cinema sector, principally in the form of THX Select. It is used to give certification to all types of hardware, from amplifiers, AV receivers, head amplifiers, DVD players and speakers to PC sound cards and PC loudspeakers. THX-certified amplifiers and head amplifiers, for example, contain various electronic circuits and equaliser programs that have a mandatory requirement to obtain certification to improve sound quality.
Our AV-Receiver Bestsellers
If you want to sit back, relax and enjoy music to its fullest, you should have the right speakers. Good speakers should offer a balanced, natural sound, playing clean, rich and dynamic music. If your speakers are small, you may wish to buy an additional subwoofer to benefit fully from deep bass tones. The listening experience also depends on combining your speakers with a suitable amplifier, as well as positioning the speakers correctly around the room. You should spend time testing this out so you have the best experience possible.
Start with the following setup, which you can then refine to optimise sound quality: from the perspective of your listening position, imagine a line extending from both the left- and right-hand sides of your seat. This line should be equal length on both sides. Imagine a square forming from the centre and place the speakers opposite each other in two different corners. Turn the speakers inwards until their axes intersect right in the centre of the square. This will produce an optimised listening experience.
4. Speaker Types
Small and portable
Mini speakers are mainly used with portable music devices, laptops or computers, games consoles or other external sound sources. Despite their small size, there are systems in this sector that produce outstandingly good sound quality. The fact that there is a large choice means that you get your money's worth if you want a trendy design.
Discover our selection of mini speakers
Docking Speakers / Docking Stations
Perfect for MP3 players and smartphones
These are small, compact and available in different modern or elegant designs. These speakers are built directly into docking stations and some models can hold their own against small stereo systems in terms of sound quality. The connections are usually designed for certain MP3 players and smartphones, which can also be recharged using the docking station--but they can also be used for other music players with an adapter. Some models also have a transmitter for sending music wirelessly to a hi-fi system.
Discover our selection of speaker docks
Connected to your home network
If your music is saved in a central network storage location, you don't need to start your PC every time you want to access your music. For this purpose, there are streaming clients that connect to your home network via LAN or WLAN, which also have amplifiers and boxes. You can use a streaming client to receive thousands of Internet radio stations.
Discover our selection of streaming devices
Easy to integrate in smaller rooms
Compact speakers fit easily into a small room. They blend relatively unnoticed into the room and the small membranes usually give a precise, vivid sound. If powerful bass is important to you it's worth getting a subwoofer as well.
Discover our selection of compact speakers
High performance for larger rooms
Floor-standing speakers should be placed at least 50 cm from the wall. They can operate at a high volume without compromising sound quality. They are often very large so they also have a volume that is great enough to render deep bass sounds precisely. It is not rare for them to have an additional woofer, so an external subwoofer is not absolutely necessary.
Discover our selection of floor-standing speakers
Powerful Bass Speakers
A subwoofer is a special bass speaker that you can set up in addition to your standard speakers. There are two types. Firstly, there is the direct radiator--also known as the front fire--which beams the sound directly into the room. This is recommended if you have direct neighbours or a wooden floor. The other type is the down fire model, which beams the sound downwards. These are more suitable if you live in a house, if your neighbours don't mind the music or if you have a concrete floor.
Discover our selection of subwoofers
1-Way, 2-Way, 3-Way Systems and More
Crossing the whole spectrum, from high to deep tones
1-way systems are sometimes found in mini speakers. The entire sound range comes from one single box. In a 2-way system, two boxes are responsible for producing the sound: a tweeter for the high tones and a woofer for the deep tones. If a mid-range speaker comes into play, then you have a 3-way system, which is usually found with floor-standing speakers. It is also not uncommon to find 4-way systems or an additional woofer on floor-standing speakers.
Powered or Passive Speakers
Depends on the amplifier
In contrast to a passive speaker, in a powered speaker an output amplifier responsible for the performance is already built into the product. Powered speakers are commonly found in the computer sector and are rare in hi-fi equipment. They are one of the most expensive types of speaker and usually produce excellent sound. A head amplifier is needed to control powered speakers while an output amplifier is not required.
Bass Reflex or Enclosed Systems
Two different designs
It is important to know that there are two distinct speaker designs. In contrast to enclosed designs, bass reflex systems have one or more apertures on the front, rear or underside of the housing. This design reduces the distortion of bass tones and provides more volume and better efficiency.
5. How to Choose
Which system is suitable for which room?
There are always exceptions but in general, small speakers go well with small and medium-sized rooms while large floor-standing speakers are recommended for large rooms. Small speakers can also produce excellent sound and make a powerful impression--for example, if you combine them with a subwoofer. If you have a small home cinema that is only four seats wide, two surround speakers on the rear wall may be a little too much. Despite the better sound quality of a 7.1 system, it is sometimes best to be sensible and not go beyond a 6.1 system.
Watts, efficiency and capacity
When choosing a speaker, the adage of "the more watts, the better" is not necessarily true. Nor is "the bigger, the louder". If volume is a priority, another characteristic of the speaker is much more important: the efficiency, which is measured in decibels (dB). The higher this value is, the louder the speaker's volume will be. Information relating to musical and continuous output is highly significant. The musical performance, or maximum capacity, provides the maximum value produced by a speaker over 2 seconds. The continuous output corresponds to the performance at which the speaker can play uninterruptedly. Another important factor is the resistance, which is measured in ohms. Speakers and amplifiers should ideally be in the same resistance class.
Wired or Wireless?
Sound suited to your taste
You can choose either a wired speaker or one that works wirelessly. With wired speakers, short cables are fundamentally better than long ones, and thick cables produce better sound than thin ones. Use the same cable for all speakers. Wireless speakers save tedious cable laying as they communicate using radio waves. You also have the freedom to set up your speakers wherever you like. However, strictly speaking, these speakers are not 100% wireless since the receiver--as well as a power amplifier if you have one--requires a mains power supply.
Operate Using Your Smartphone
Wireless music pleasure, anytime, anywhere
If you have a streaming speaker connected to a home network you can easily activate all or selected speakers using your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or Android smartphone or tablet, and you can stream music all over your house. It is easy and quick to use, making your music easily accessible.