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The Worst Residential Sound System Advice We've Ever Heard

The Worst Residential Sound System Advice We've Ever Heard

When designing a residential sound system, one simple mistake can drastically decrease your sound quality. You don't want to end up with a system that blows you out of the room, doesn't have the sound quality you were expecting, or does not put out the volume you were expecting, even with the volume turned all the way up. How do you avoid these mistakes? Here's a look at the some things you should never do: the worst residential sound system advice we've ever heard. 

Worst Advice #1: Purchase a sound in a box system

It might be enticing, it might seem cost-efficient, but a sound in a box sound system, also commonly referred to as an all-in-one-home-theater, is not what you need to invest your money in. There's very little likelihood that everything included in an all-in-one home theater package is going to work well in your home because this "all-in-one" solution cannot account for the nuances of your system such as room size, sub-woofer specifications, and number of speakers needed. Additionally, they tend to be far less than 50 watt RMS and even those specs are "fudged". That means they won't be suitable in most rooms, especially medium to large ones. This type of product often seems like a good deal, but when you consider cost versus quality, they simply don't deliver. You will end replacing everything in that system eventually and generally other components will not integrate with them.

Worst Advice #2: Buy speakers because they "look cool"

Don't be swayed by looks alone when deciding on the right speakers for your residential sound system. A lot of popular brands (especially the ones found at big box retailers) sell speakers that look cool. Looks though, don't provide sound quality and rarely live up to their design. There are some great manufacturers that have mastered form and function, and you shouldn't settle for anything less. Some that we recommend are: Marantz AudioPeachtree AudioPSB Speakers , Speakercraft, and Totem Acoustics. These are the speakers and components that we always use for residential sound systems because they feature innovative designs, superior quality, and offer solutions for projects of all sizes and budgets.

Worst Advice #3: Mounting your speakers in the wrong place.

Where you decide to mount or hang your wall speakers should be determined by multiple factors. Some of those are the size of the room, the shape of the room, and even where windows and large pieces of furniture are. Some tips for choosing where to place speakers include:

  • Keep speakers several feet away from large pieces of furniture and corners (except subwoofers, then corners can be good - they can also be bad) 

  • Front speakers need to be slightly above or equal to ear level when sitting down on your couch - a common mistake is to mount them in the lower compartment of a theater cabinet

  • Speakers ideally should be more than 3-5 feet apart when hanging on the wall. Especially on TV's less than 60" if your speakers are not separated enough you will lose the big wrap around sound. Too far apart and the results can be just as bad. This decision should be made based on how far the seating if from the speakers. 

  • A good guide line for speaker height is to place your speakers equal to or above your TV if it's on a TV stand

  • If the TV is hanging on the wall, the lower you can mount the speakers the better. Some in wall speakers can be "aimed" to help compensate for the height. If not, your speakers are playing to someone that would be 7-8' tall and standing.  

Worst Advice #4: A simple surge protector is sufficient

Maybe it's because we operate in Tampa, Florida, where lightning strikes on average 100 days of the year, but we prefer to never install a residential AV system without protecting it from power surges. When buying a surge protector, look for high Joule ratings, and invest in one that can protect all of your new residential sound system equipment. When buying a surge protection device you get what you pay for. If you are spending less than a few hundred dollars you are probably just wasting your money. We recommend brands like Panamax for good and Surgex for stellar protection.

Worst Advice #5: Buy something because it's a famous brand 

There are several very famous and very popular audio and video brands that have a far better reputation than they deserve. I'll bet if I asked you one of the best audio brands, you might name one of these companies. However, the reality is you pay far more for these types of brands and actually get far less. Just because a track is optimized to sound awesome in an in-store demo display does not mean it is going to sound great in your home. These demonstration displays are made to sound awesome; a lot of the frequencies the system can not properly produce are actually removed or altered. If you think about it, who would make a demo display that shows the faults in a system? Our clients can get far more for their money by listening to good advice, not good marketing.    

Now that you know a few pieces of advice to avoid, you can start thinking about the right way to design and install a residential sound system that works for your needs, your room, and your budget.