by Kevin O'Brien on 02/17/2012

The age old question of which speakers to look at for your system is a tricky one. Speakers are very personal and as a rule of thumb they are the most important part of your system and I feel should have the most money AND time invested in them. It's fairly easy to swap out amps and sources but usually the speakers are the one component that remains the same in the "constant tweaker's" system.

I prefer to first make a list of manufacturers you like (Von Schweikert, Vandersteen, Wilson Audio, Acoustic Zen) and are willing to demo IN YOUR OWN LISTENING ROOM. If you are not willing to put in a little extra work in this department you may get frustrated. The work you put into this stage of your system is directly what you will get out. It's never fun hauling big, awkward, and heavy transducers from your local stereo shop into your listening room. Unfortunately, what other option do you have if you really want to know what each speaker is going to sound like in your room? There is no other way.

Find a local shop that will let you demo their offerings for at least 30 days and try and find speakers that have been on loan previously so they are fully broken in. You will not have sufficient time to break in most speakers within the 30-day demo period most high end shops offer so this is very important. Or you could buy your speakers on the used market to avoid this as well. Break-in is not fun and can be excruciatingly painful to perform when all you really want to do is LISTEN to them in your system!

Back to the list. I have found that talking directly to the designer of the speakers you are looking into is the best way to figure out which makes and models are suitable for your room. For instance, you would not want to place Wilson MAXX 2's in a tiny listening environment and vice versa. Ask the designer what the specific recommended models are tuned for music-wise. If you listen to classical and chamber music you do not want a speaker that sounds great with dance music and nothing else. This sounds super-obvious but I've seen it happen before more times than I like to admit.

Your listening room is really your biggest constraint. Money is your next biggest constraint and that is really where most of us just cannot go the extra mile especially in today's economy. This is OK. That is what used gear is for as you can always find somebody looking to upgrade who will be willing to unload their current speakers at a drastically marked down price.

So, narrow down your search to 2 or 3 manufacturers and then contact them and describe your room and listening preferences. They will most likely want to know whether you have room treatment as well. [This is where we come in] They will be able to guide you in the proper direction and they should be able to tell you which models are in your price range and which will perform best for your needs.

Your final step in this process is to LISTEN to them IN YOUR ROOM and make your final decision after letting your system "settle in" to the changes you have made. I would listen for at least two weeks and confirm you have made the correct choice. If not, get a hold of the manufacturer and let them know what your issues are and they should be able to help you find your perfect speaker.

THANKS for reading and keep on listening!

- KOB

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