Have you ever experienced a truly great sound system? I have been fortunate enough to experience it and it’s a transformative experience, making music and movies come to life in a whole new way. But with so many options on the market, it can be tough to know where to start.
If you’re just starting out, you don’t need to worry about complex hi-fi systems. There are great all-in-one solutions such as the Denon Home range of wireless speakers, Sonos’ speakers that offer great sound, streaming capabilities and the option to expand your audio experience throughout your home, or select from the vast range of offerings from Sony.
When choosing your speakers, you need to focus on quality over quantity while also ensuring that you’re getting the correct speakers for your usage. If you’re just looking to hear your favourite album in better quality, then a pair of high-quality bookshelf speakers can be a smart starting point. In this case, you might want to look for speakers from reputable brands like Monitor Audio, Klipsch, or Bowers and Wilkins or take a look at the Sonos Era 100.
If you’re a bit further in your audio journey, then “a good pair of speakers can be considered an investment starting point which will keep giving back audio enjoyment for every component added thereafter,” says Warren Husband, solutions architect and client liaison at Homemation.
This might be a bit surprising for some but don't forget the cables — a point that was emphasised by multiple experts, including those from Sony. They've said that cables often get overlooked, but they can have a big effect on sound quality. Make sure that you’re allocating a portion of your budget to high-quality cables and connectors — after all, a dish is only as good as the quality of the ingredients and the same thing applies to the components for your audio set-up.
Finally, you’re going to need to pay attention to room acoustics. Soft furnishings such as couches, curtains and carpets can help improve the sound in your room. This is beneficial for just listening to music or for creating a home entertainment set-up.
If you’re at the S-tier of audio aficionados, also known as an audiophile, then you're going to want to create a balanced system that maximises audio fidelity. I’m not at that level yet, but I have been told that at that stage of your journey, you’re going to want to avoid fixating on a single component and instead focus on creating a harmonious set-up that emphasises your love of music. One of the components that helps with this are Digital-to-Analogue Converters (DACs). Dedicated DACs can excel at converting digital signals to the highest-quality analogue output, elevating your listening experience. When pairing audio components, it's important to understand the tonality each brand or solution offers. This will ensure that your hardware complements each other for the best results.
If you’re primarily interested in watching movies and TV shows, you’ll need to consider different factors than if you’re mainly listening to music.
If you want earth-shattering audio when watching your favourite movies, then you should think about the size of the room you’re turning into your own mini cinema as well as your speaker set-up. According to Sony, you also need to factor in whether or not your set-up is able to play Dolby-quality audio, which is now available on most streaming services. The Sony HT-A9 is great for this as it offers immersive 360 audio. If that isn’t quite your vibe then you may want to consider the Sonos Era 300.
Alongside this, you need to get a great soundbar to help enhance your audio; after all, who wants to listen to tinny audio when watching the latest Hollywood blockbuster at home?
If you’re anything like me, you want a set-up that can provide the best of both worlds — great audio for music consumption as well as for a home theatre. Husband says that if this is the case, you should “choose a speaker system that caters both for your musical taste (tonality) and cinematic experience (sensitivity and dynamic range) so that you get the best of both worlds.”
You’re also going to want to ensure that your speakers are set up correctly in a multichannel set up. Husband says that “your front left and right speakers should be placed at about a 30-degree offset angle to the left and right of the listener. This should create a triangle in which the listener will sit. Doing this should give you a good stereo image for music listening.”