Audio Buying Guide: What do you Need?

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Built-in speakers on your laptop, phone, or tablet never get the job done. Any serious sound lovers should consider investing in audio equipment– you’ll never be able to go back. However, choosing the right speaker for your needs can be a daunting task. Speaker systems come in a myriad of costs, form factors, and purposes.  Here are some things to keep in mind while shopping for speaker systems.


Think of what you’d want in a speaker system. Do you want it to be portable, or would the system stay in place? Would you use it for general listening, home audio, or music-on-the-go? There’s a speaker for every need out there just for you.

Portable speaker systems are great for anyone who wants to be mobile with their music. These systems are battery powered and come in a variety of sizes. They support wireless bluetooth connections or audio imput via 3.5mm jack. Some speakers are water and shock resistant in order to stand up to the great outdoors.

Stationary speakers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. All-in-one docks provide an incredibly easy setup and a charging cradle for your iPhone or iPod (Android phones don’t usually support audio-via-USB so it’s tough to find a dock). However, this means that you’re hosed if Apple decides to move away from the iPhone’s current Lightning cable standard.

People looking to power a multimedia, gaming, or home theater system could consider a 2.1 (two speakers and a subwoofer), 5.1 (five speakers and a subwoofer) or 7.1(seven speakers and a subwoofer) depending on how much auditory detail and power they need.

Understanding Terms

Speaker specifications are not for the layman. You have to understand what you’re buying– you don’t want to overspend if you only need a little.

Stereo speakers have only left and right speakers while 2.1 speakers have an additional subwoofer included. 5.1 systems and 7.1 systems have five and seven speakers respectively along with a subwoofer to create a top-notch audio experience. Subwoofers cover deep bass frequencies and are recommended for users who love music and want a cinematic movie experience.

Onboard Controls

Some speakers provide on-unit audio controls  so you can tweak your listening experience. This hardware equalizer allows you to adjust your total volume, treble, mid-bass, and low-bass levels.

You can alter the settings to tailor the sound to your type of music and environment. Some speakers also come with a remote control, and while not necessarily a make-or-break feature, it’s a nice thing to have.


Price is an important factor that determines your audio experience. You can find audio equipment starting at around $30-$50, but the sky’s the limit. However, there’s no point in buying a high-end speaker system if you only watch the occasional YouTube video.

Unless you have a home theater, a gaming station, or a recording studio set up at home, investing in audio is like flying a fighter jet to work– you can do it, but you’re not using the equipment to its potential. Mid-range speakers at a $100-$200 provide a rich audio experience for the average users.

Here are a few reliable speaker brands for a rich audio experience:

  • Bose
  • Harmon Kardon
  • Sony
  • Klipsch
  • Logitech

Those willing to get down and dirty can create a great custom system– you can save a lot of money but it’s more complicated. Expect a guide in the coming weeks.


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About the Author
Divya Palaniappan is an engineer and an avid techie who considers information worthless unless verified. When she isn't wracking her brain over machines she loves spending time in her garden.

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