What Speakers Do I Need?

Options for mounting speakers

Speaker placement is a vital consideration any time you're setting up a stereo or home theater system. The number of speakers you'll use in a home setup typically ranges from two to seven, with two speakers providing basic left-channel, right-channel playback and seven speakers supporting 7.1 surround sound formats. While optimal speaker placement will be determined by the nature of your sound system to some degree, it's still a good idea to understand how putting speakers in certain places will impact your listening or viewing experience.

Common Placements for Speakers

Here's a run-down of the most common speaker placements:

  • In-wall speakers. These speakers are physically installed inside your wall, and are typically only used in dedicated media rooms. In-wall speakers are costly, and are not commonly found in homes; rather, they are more usually seen in educational, commercial and institutional settings.
  • Floor standing speakers. Floor speakers have been around for decades, and though technological improvements have allowed them to decrease in size, they still tend to be among the largest types used in home audio setups.
  • Wall mounted speakers. Unlike speakers designed for use on floors, wall mounted speakers are specifically engineered to deliver optimal sound in a lightweight, thin and sleek package. With wall mounted speakers, size and weight are primary considerations, as the brackets used to mount them can only bear a relatively small amount of weight.
  • Ceiling mounted speakers. Like wall mounted speakers, ceiling mounted speakers are designed to be lightweight and small, yet powerful. They are most commonly used as part of a 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound system.

If your living room has shelves and space is at a premium, you can also get bookshelf speakers, which are specially designed to offer a full audio experience in a compact package. The key characteristic of bookshelf speakers is that they are small enough to fit in tight spaces, yet deliver every bit as much sound as a larger model.

You should always consult the manufacturer or your owner's manual to make sure a given speaker is rated for the application in which you intend to use it. Trying to mount a speaker on the wall or ceiling when it is only intended for use on a floor, for example, can be dangerous and it can also invalidate your warranty coverage.

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