Speakers for Music and Movies – The Same or Different?

Depending on where you search on the Internet, or which store you walk into, you may have heard that a speaker is better for either music or movies. You probably nodded your head knowingly while wondering what exactly that meant. It’s all sound, right? If a speaker can do one well, shouldn’t it be just as capable with the other? What’s the truth? Can you use the same speakers for music and movies or do you need completely different speakers?

Occam’s Razor

You may have heard of Occam’s Razor. This is the idea that the simplest explanation is often correct. This is one of those situations. A speaker (or subwoofer) that is good for music is also good for movies. The claim about being better at one than the other is simply to convince you to buy one. The claim is trying to convey a sense of quality. Or to denigrate another, often less expensive, speaker.

All the qualities we want in speakers that play music are identical to those that are used for movies. Flat frequency response, good off-axis performance, extension down to 80Hz (for speakers) or 20Hz (for subwoofers), and transient response are all important. A speaker that can do these well will sound great for music or movies.

But What Do They Mean When They Say That Speakers Are Good For Music Or Movies?

So, there is a little more to some of these claims. In a store, you can rest assured they are just trying to convince you to buy the more expensive speaker. Usually by telling you what they think you want to hear. If they are not sure, they’ll identify the more expensive speaker as more for music because that tends to be shorthand for quality. But if you walked in saying you were looking for a home theater speaker system, you can bet those expensive “music” speakers would suddenly become better for movies!

The most musical speakers I can get you to buy by telling you that they are musical.

The problem is that there really isn’t any real rhyme or reason behind these claims other than to make one set of speakers sound better. For example, let’s say a speaker has very low extension. It can play down to 40Hz flat. Is that speaker better for music or movies?

Well, if you are going to use the speakers in a two-channel setup, the lower extension might mean it would be better for music rather than movies. Especially if you are not going to use a subwoofer. But couldn’t the same claim be made for movies? Movies have tons of very low sound effects. Wouldn’t a speaker with lower extension, by definition, be better for movies? Even if you are going to use a subwoofer, the lower extension means you have the ability to cross over your speakers into your subwoofers at a lower point. That would be good for…well, either really.

Take Away

There is no such thing as speakers that are inherently better for movies versus music. Anyone that tells you differently is selling you something. Literally. They may be a store employee trying to sell you a speaker or a random person on the Internet trying to “sell” you that the speakers they own are actually good (for their own psychological reasons). Don’t listen to them. A good speaker is a good speaker full stop.

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