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What Home Theater Speakers Should I Buy? – Buyer’s Guide for Speakers

In Buyer's Guides, Speakers by Jonah MatthesLeave a Comment

Choosing what home theater speakers to buy is typically a really difficult decision. There are tons of different options available at varying price points. One will most certainly ask, what home theater speakers should I buy? I know this because I did at one point in time.

In this article, we will go over what things to look at before purchasing any type of speaker. We will also go over different recommended speakers at lower and higher price points. Buying speakers shouldn’t be overly complicated and scary. I hope to ease any worries you may have and help you make an educated decision on purchasing new home theater speakers.

What to Consider When Purchasing Home Theater Speakers

So what home theater speakers should you buy? Choosing the right speakers for your home theater is dependant upon a few things. Here are some things to consider when making your next speaker purchase.

  1. What type of speakers do you want to use for your system? Do you plan to use bookshelf, floor-standing, in-wall, or wall mounted speakers? Would you like to include a subwoofer as well?
  2. Are you going to mix and match speakers?
  3. Determine the number of audio channels and power available from your AV Receiver.
  4. What is your budget for your speaker system?

What Type of Speakers Should You Buy and Use?

Determining the type of speakers you should use is very dependent on a few things. A lot of this decision is personal preference and how you want things to look and sound. But different types of speakers are used for different types of rooms.

First off, the size and shape of the room is a big factor. The bigger the room that you have, the bigger the speakers that you can use. If you have a small home theater room, then it’s really not ideal to have very large speakers taking up a ton of room.

Next, we’re going to look at the different types of speakers used in home theater surround sound setups. I’ll explain each type of speaker, what scenarios they are typically used in, and

Bookshelf Speakers

What Home Theater Speakers Should I Buy

Bookshelf speakers are the most common type of speaker out there. They are not very large, usually having a driver no bigger than 6 to 6.5 inches. It will most likely contain one larger driver and one tweeter. Bookshelf speakers are usually set on an entertainment center, but some can be mounted to the wall.

They are typically used as the front left, front right, surround left, and/or surround right speakers. Depending on the quality and brand, these speakers can produce an impressive amount of sound or be slightly disappointing.

Floor-standing / Tower Speakers

What Home Theater Speakers Should I Buy - Floor-Standing or Tower Speakers

Floor-standing and tower speakers are exactly as they sound. They are tall speakers, built at the optimal listening height, and are placed directly on the ground. They usually contain multiple different sized drivers inside to cover a wide frequency range! These speaker drivers can range anywhere from 1 to 10 inches in diameter. Floor-standing and tower speakers are built in a variety of sizes. Some contain smaller drivers and are very thin, while others contain larger drivers and are very wide.

Floor-standing and tower speakers are typically used as the front left and front right speakers. They can be used as surround left and surround right speakers as well, but that can be difficult for some setups with multiple rows of seats.

Wall Mounted or On-Wall Speakers

Wall mounted speakers are very similar, to bookshelf speakers, except they are slightly smaller and made to be mounted on a wall. Not all bookshelf speakers are naturally wall mountable, but wall mounted speakers most certainly are! These speakers are used in the same locations as bookshelf speakers, except I would recommend using them as rear surrounds and not front. Additionally, the smaller speakers can be used as height channel speakers. These are mounted to the ceiling or high up on a wall about the front channel speakers.

On the downside, you will need to do some in-wall cable runs for these units, unless you don’t mind cables hanging down your wall. These speakers aren’t too large, therefore, their driver sizes will generally be smaller as well.

In-wall / In-Ceiling Speakers

In-wall and in-ceiling speakers are pretty self explanatory. These speakers are usually mounted inside of a wall or ceiling where they are almost flush with the wall. If you don’t mind cutting the holes and running the cables, then these are an outstanding option for home theater usage.

These speakers use the space inside of a wall or ceiling as a speaker enclosure. This drastically improves the amount of sound produced by the speakers. In-wall and in-ceiling speakers are also very discrete. Unlike tower speaker or bookshelf speakers, these take up almost no space at all in a room! The drivers come in a variety of sizes, but usually aren’t any bigger than 8 inches.

We have used these in many home theater setups where we put the speakers behind an acoustically transparent projector screen. This allows you to completely hide the speakers and makes it feel as if the sound is coming from the projector screen itself! Check out my article on acoustically transparent screens and how they work.

Center Channel Speakers

Center channel speakers are very important to a home theater surround sound system. It produces almost all of the dialogue and a lot of the soundtrack in movies. Therefore it is extremely important in any great surround sound setup. A center channel speaker typically includes a variety of different sized drivers to cover a large frequency range.

This speaker should be around the same size as your other two front speakers. If you are using bookshelf speakers, then the center channel should be on the smaller side. If you have two larger tower speakers, then this one should be around the same size, maybe a little smaller. If the center channel mismatches the other front channel speakers, you could run into issues where the sound is inconsistent across the front of the room.

Subwoofer

What Home Theater Speakers Should I Buy - Subwoofer

A subwoofer is an almost necessary addition to a surround sound setup. The subwoofer handles the very low or bass frequencies in a sound system with driver sizes including 8, 10, 12, or 15 inches in diameter. These subwoofer drivers are much larger than all of the other speakers. The larger size is necessary to produce the very low-frequency sounds. Subwoofers have a great impact to a surround sound setup and should always be included.

Soundbar Integrations

What Home Theater Speakers Should I Buy - Soundbar Integration

Soundbars are becoming increasingly popular! They have drastically enhanced the audio experience for many people. But can you use one in a home theater system? The answer is yes! Many soundbars are able to wirelessly connect surround speakers. This is an extremely convenient setup, however, the sound produced will likely be subpar when compared to traditional speakers. If you want very high-quality sound from a soundbar and wireless surround speakers, then expect to pay a hefty premium.

If you would like to use a soundbar as a center channel speaker, then check out my article on connecting a soundbar to a receiver. It details exactly how to perform this type of setup.

Is it Okay to Mix and Match Speakers?

Generally, I suggest sticking to a single brand when purchasing speakers for a complete system. The subwoofer can be a different brand, but the other 5+ speakers should be the same brand. This ensures that they have similar dynamic ranges and sensitivity ratings. If these specs are different for all of your speakers, then it could cause additional headache when configuring your system.

Here’s an article detailing the pros and cons of mixing and matching speakers in a home theater speaker system. If for whatever reason you have to mix and match your speakers, then try to use the same brand on the fronts, and a different brand for the rears.

How Much Power Can Your A/V Receiver Deliver?

First, you will need to identify how many channels your A/V receiver supports. You should be able to tell this by looking up the model of your receiver or simply looking at the back. The most common numbers are 5.1, 7.1, 7.2, and 9.2. The first number represents the number of normal speaker outputs available while the second number represents the number of subwoofer outputs available. For example, a 7.1 A/V receiver is capable of outputting to 7 different speaker channels and has 1 subwoofer output.

Don’t Worry About The Specs Too Much

Finding the number of available channels on a receiver is very simple. However, finding out how much power each of those channels is capable of outputting is slightly more complicated. When I say slightly, I actually mean ridiculously complicated. For years manufacturers have toyed with consumers in regards to specifications and how they are measured. Each manufacturer does it differently, so its very difficult to know exactly what they mean.

My suggestion is to make sure you have a somewhat recent A/V receiver that fits your input and output needs and you should be perfectly fine. You likely will not be powering massive speakers with this receiver so power shouldn’t be an issue. If you want to learn more about amplifier/receiver power out put specs, then check out this article by lifewire (I have no affiliation with lifewire, this is simply a very informative article).

What is Your Budget?

Knowing your budget is very important when purchasing home theater speakers because they can get expensive very quickly. If you already have everything except speakers then it’s pretty easy. Set the budget, decide on how many speakers you want to get, then search through some recommended speakers that fit your price point. If you haven’t purchased an A/V receiver yet, then expect to pay between $350 – $600 for a good unit. Here are some of our recommended A/V receivers.

Recommended Home Theater Speakers

Home Theater Speaker Top Choices

Here’s a list of all of the different types of speakers with our recommended options. I’m not putting ridiculously priced speakers on this list because I’m looking to maximize the quality while keeping the price as reasonable as possible. Of course, an $800 Klipsch speaker is going to outperform most other models, but being realistic, 95% of people are not looking to invest that kind of money into speakers. I love great surround sound, but there’s no need to overspend on an entire system. There are many great options out there at amazing prices.

For the “quality options”, I have chosen Klipsch speakers. They have made a name for themselves in the speaker industry because they make outstanding speakers and have done so for many years. They have a wide variety of speakers all at varying price points. Some ridiculously expensive, and some that are very reasonably priced! The ones mentioned below are speakers I believe to be reasonably priced.

For the “quality-budget options”, I have chosen Polk speakers. Like Klipsch, they have been in the speaker industry for a very long time and have a great reputation for making quality speakers.

Recommended Bookshelf Speakers

As mentioned earlier, these are more low profile than tower or floor-standing speakers, but they still pack quite a punch! Any of these recommended bookshelf options would work great as front left and right channel speakers. They would also work well as a full surround setup! Matching the front and rear channels (minus the center channel) adds a nice evenness to the listening experience.

Bookshelf Quality Option

The Klipsch RB-51 II Bookshelf Speaker is an amazing work of art! It has a 5.25″ cerametallic woofer, a 1″ titanium tweeter, looks outstanding, and has very exceptional sound quality. This speaker is best for a small to medium sized room, if you have a larger room, then maybe consider its bigger brother, the RB-81 II. Keep in mind that these speakers are sold individually and not as a pair.

  • Frequency Response: 50Hz-24KHz ± 3dB
  • Sensitivity: 92dB
  • Drivers: 5.25″ Woofer, 1″ Tweeter
Bookshelf Quality-Budget Option

The Polk Audio S20 Signature Series Bookshelf Speakers provide high-quality audio at a very reasonable price point. This pair of speakers usually costs below $230, but the price changes frequently, so click the link to see their current price. And you read that correctly, these speakers are sold as a pair! They produce solid bass and clear vocals. I highly suggest these if you want to save some money, but still get a great set of speakers!

  • Frequency Response: 39Hz-40KHz
  • Sensitivity: 88dB
  • Drivers: 6.5″ Woofer, 1″ Tweeter
  • Recommended Amp Power: 20 – 125 Watts/Channel

Recommended Floor-Standing / Tower Speakers

Floor-Standing or tower speakers are what really make a great surround sound experience. These speakers produce a wide range of frequencies and that’s why they are so great! They mainly excel at producing mid-range frequencies. Unfortunately, the bass they produce usually isn’t ground shaking, but it’s crisp, clean, and still sounds very good.

Floor-Standing Quality Option

The Klipsch RP-260F Floorstanding Speaker is an incredible unit to include in any surround sound system. It contains two 6.5″ drivers and a 1″ tweeter, and boy does it pack a punch. This speaker is highly reviewed and it is very reasonably priced when compared to some of their other models. Side note, it is also an absolutely beautiful looking speaker!

  • Frequency Response: 34Hz-25KHz
  • Sensitivity: 97dB
  • Drivers: 2x 6.5″ Woofers, 1″ Tweeter
Floor-Standing Quality-Budget Option

The Polk Signature Series S55 Floor Standing Speaker is a bit on the higher end of a “budget” option, but this is a piece I really think you should “splurge” on. The price is just slightly lower than the Klipsch RP-260F, but it’s such an outstanding speaker. One as your left channel and one as your right channels will transform the sound of any size room. However, if this stretches your budget too much, then check out the Polk T50 floor-standing speaker. The price is much less than the S55, still has great specs, but has lower quality drivers and enclosure.

  • Frequency Response: 32Hz-40KHz
  • Sensitivity: 90dB
  • Drivers: 2x 6.5″ Woofers, 1″ Tweeter
  • Recommended Amp Power: 20 – 200 Watts/Channel

Recommended Wall Mounted or On-Wall Speakers

I typically only recommend using wall mounted speakers for your rear surround channels and not as your front channels. This is because they are smaller than bookshelf speakers which means their drivers will be smaller. This leads to less volume and power coming from the front (which is the most important area).

Keep in mind that some bookshelf speakers are “wall mountable”. Just make sure they are capable of this before doing it. Some bookshelf speakers project audio out of the back and wall mounting it would severely hurt the audio quality.

Wall Mounted or On-Wall Quality Option

Klipsch doesn’t make very many on-wall speakers, so the options for this type of speaker are very slim. Speaking of slim, the Klipsch RP-240D Speaker is a great on-wall solution for people that need something with a small footprint, while still providing superb audio quality! It has a depth of 2.4″ which is extremely low profile. This speaker actually comes with a stand, but it capable and usually mounted to a wall with it’s built-in horizontal and vertical mounting options. Again, know that this unit is not going to produce a massive amount of sound, but will still be very exceptional compared to lower quality units that are much bigger.

  • Frequency Response: 67Hz-25KHz ± 3dB
  • Sensitivity: 94dB
  • Drivers: 2x 3.5″ Woofers, 1″ Tweeter
Wall Mounted or On-Wall Quality-Budget Option

Just like Klipsch, Polk also doesn’t make too many on-wall speakers. The best quality-budget option is the Polk Audio OWM5 speaker. This is a slim on-wall speaker with a depth of 4.1″. With its small footprint, it is still capable of producing high-quality audio within its range. It comes at a very reasonable price point for a pair, so no worries about busting the bank for this one!

  • Frequency Response: 80Hz-22KHz ± 3dB
  • Sensitivity: 91dB
  • Drivers: 2x 4.5″ Woofers, 1″ Tweeter

Recommended In-wall Speakers

As I mentioned before, in-wall speakers are typically only used in two different scenarios. If you need to conserve space and don’t have a lot of room for bookshelf or tower speakers, then these are a great substitute. In-wall speakers also work extremely well behind acoustically transparent projector screens! Just make sure that you’re okay will cutting some decent sized holes in your wall to fit the speakers.

In-Wall / In-Ceiling Quality Option

The Klipsch R-5502-W II is an outstanding low profile in-wall speaker! This speaker is very versatile and can be used a left, right, or center channel home theater speaker. It is built to be mounted vertically or horizontally to fit different needs. This unit comes with a magnetic cover that can be painted to match the color of the wall. It can definitley output an impressive amount of sound for being an in-wall unit.

  • Frequency Response: 46Hz-20KHz
  • Sensitivity: 92dB
  • Drivers: 2x 5.25″ Woofers, 1″ Horn
In-Wall / In-Ceiling Quality-Budget Option

The Polk Audio 265-RT performs similarly to a smaller tower speaker, except it fits snugly inside of a wall! These units are built-to-last and come at an extremely reasonable price point for the drivers that it contains. Similar to the Klipsch unit, this speaker also comes with a grill that can be painted match your current wall color. This speaker is really a steal at its price!

  • Frequency Response: 45Hz-25KHz
  • Sensitivity: 91dB
  • Drivers: 2x 6.5″ Woofers, 1″ Tweeter

Recommended Center Channel Speakers

Remember, the center channel speaker produces almost all of the dialogue as well as much of the background music in movies. Therefore, this speaker is very important and should be one of the bigger investments for a surround sound system.

Center Channel Quality Option

The Klipsch RP-440C is an extremely high-quality center channel speaker. The mid-range and treble sound absolutely amazing, however, it doesn’t have the deep thumping bass that some people really want. So make sure you have a dedicated subwoofer when using this unit. It has outstanding reviews and won’t disappoint!

  • Frequency Response: 59Hz-25KHz
  • Sensitivity: 97dB
  • Drivers: 4x 4″ Woofers, 1″ Tweeter
Center Channel Quality-Budget Option

The Polk Audio S35 is one of best reviewed center channel speakers out there. The amount of quality you get for the price is truly outstanding! Below you’ll see that there are six, yes a total six 3″ woofers. Because the woofers are smaller, the bass will be slightly weaker. However, you can expect the mid-range and treble from this unit will sound great and completely fill a room!

  • Frequency Response: 53Hz-40KHz
  • Sensitivity: 88dB
  • Drivers: 6x 3″ Woofers, 1″ Tweeter

Recommended Subwoofers

As mentioned, subwoofers produce most of the bass and very low-end frequencies in surround sound systems. This makes them an essential part to any great sound system. Subwoofers can get quite large, so make sure you have enough room for it. Most people place them in the front of a room to make the connection easy. Others like to place them near the back of a room or close to the main seating area. This provides more of that deep bass rumble that makes the listening experience much more immersive.

Subwoofer Quality Option

The Klipsch R-110SW is a highly recommended subwoofer by many out there! It’s not overly priced, and definitely doesn’t lack in lower frequency audio production. It is an active subwoofer with a dedicated all-digital amplifier. This increases power efficiency and makes sounds reproduction more accurate. If you would like to place this sub near the back of a room without dealing with the cable run, then check out Klipsch’s WA-2 wireless subwoofer kit. This kit eliminates the need for the headache of another long cable.

  • Frequency Response: 27Hz-125Hz
  • Built-in Amplifier Output: 200 Watts
  • Driver: 10″ Cerametallic Woofer
Subwoofer Quality-Budget Option

The Polk Audio PSW505 subwoofer is one of the best subwoofers out there for the budget price tag. It is an active subwoofer, with a dedicated amplifier providing 300 watts of continuous power to the driver. This quality-budget unit has over 2,000 reviews on Amazon, averaging 4.3 out of 5 stars! This goes to show how much people really love this subwoofer. The specs compare to units that are hundreds of dollars more and it still outperforms them in almost every aspect.

  • Frequency Response: 23Hz-160Hz
  • Built-in Amplifier Output: 300 Watts
  • Driver: 12″ Woofer

Conclusion

I know we went over a lot of different things in regards to speakers, specs, recommendations, etc. I hope this has helped you make an informed decision next time you choose to purchase some speakers.

If a lot of this just seems too complicated, and you don’t want to spend more time researching different units, then I highly suggest sticking to a single product line. Get all of the necessary speakers from that same line because this ensures that the speakers will all work and sound great together. You shouldn’t run into any issues when doing this. Also, maybe consider purchasing a “home theater in a box“. This is basically a prepackaged surround sound speaker setup, which includes all of the speakers for a complete system. This can really take the headache out of picking and choosing different units.

If you want to see more of our recommended products, then check out our recommended products page. This page includes all of the different home theater products we recommend, so you can make an informed decision before making any purchase!

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