Terrible Reasons for Buying (or Not Buying) Speakers

Welcome to part three in my screed about bad reasons people give for their AV purchases. If you are wondering the genesis of this series, search no further than your nearest AV forum or subReddit. This week, we’ll be looking at terrible reasons people use for buying their home theater (and other) speakers. Strap in. I’m about to make some enemies.

Basing Your Speaker Purchase on Aesthetics

Most of you knew this one was coming. How many of us have a friend that used aesthetics as the reason for their speaker choice? You know the ones. They have cubes all over their room. They have all their speakers in the ceiling. They’ve bought and installed in-wall speakers in terrible locations all because of aesthetic reasons.

Yes, aesthetics alone is one of the most terrible reasons for buying one set of speakers over another. But when you point a finger, there are three more pointing back at you.

In-ceiling speakers
I’m told there are speakers in this room. I don’t need to be told how bad they sound

Because for every home theater I’ve been in that has speakers that are too small or in the ceiling, I’ve seen just as many that have tower speakers when they shouldn’t. That’s right, it just isn’t people buying home theater speakers to hide them, there are just as many buying too large speakers because of “reasons.” That reason? They think they look cool.

Even though they sit a couple of feet away. Even though their room is way too small. These people are just as guilty of using the terrible reason of aesthetics to buy their tower speakers. If you want to mock people for their cube speakers, you better not be rocking tower speakers in a home theater the size of a closet.

Buying Floorstanding Speakers Because of Kids/Pets

Okay, I’ll admit that I’ve never owned a cat. I understand that cats like to climb things like speaker grilles. But I refuse to admit that you “need” to buy tower speakers because of your pets or kids. It just doesn’t add up.

I have kids and I’ve had my speakers out in the open (on stands) for all of their lives. None of them have been crushed by a speaker yet. I’ve also owned dogs. Large and small. All of them have survived the “dangers” of bookshelf speakers on stands. Of the terrible reasons for buying speakers, this one is the clear winner of the “yeah, right, you just wanted to buy tower speakers because of aesthetics” award.

I can haz climb?!?

That’s right. I see through your ruse. You just wanted tower speakers and your spouse did not. So you use the safety of your child/pet as a reason. For shame! You know that you can get stands that can be filled with material to make them much heavier than nearly any tower speaker. You are probably also aware that museum putty will make your speaker stick to that stand. Plus, this makes the speaker grill much farther away from the ground (and your cat). So stop it.

Buying Speakers Based on Size Rather than Performance

All of these terrible reasons given for buying speakers get my blood boiling. It is hard for me to say which is the worse. But shopping for speakers based on your current furniture or layout is up there. Don’t tell me you want “great sound” and “convincing surround” and then limit your purchase options to speakers that are 3″ high because of an entertainment center you bought 24 years ago. That’s not how this works Chad.

satellite speakers in home theater
Right size, wrong performance

It isn’t that smaller (or oddly-shaped) speakers aren’t available. They are just exceedingly rare and mainly built for their shape and not sound quality. If you want good sound, you buy a speaker that sounds good and make it fit. You don’t ask for a weird shape and then demand that it also sound good.

And don’t tell me you can’t. We’ve got articles that help you place your speakers in cabinets, tell you which speakers to buy if you want to install them in furniture, and even how to increase the height of your TV for a larger center speaker. So your terrible reason for wanting to buy weirdly shaped speakers is just that.

Buying Outdoor Speakers Full Stop

Again, I’m not going to make any friends here. I even have an article on which outdoor speakers are the best. But my personal opinion is that they are all pretty much a waste of money.

That’s right, I said it.

It isn’t because your reasons for buying outdoor speakers are inherently terrible. It is because I feel like you don’t get enough bang for your buck. Let me explain.

Looks great for now. Have fun trying to replace it with something with the exact same mounting hole configuration if it breaks.

Getting good sound outdoors is either impossible or impossibly expensive. Bass is non-existent. You can walk five feet and go from being way too close to the speaker to “I can’t hear it.” On top of that, if you live in any place with seasons, those speakers aren’t going to last forever. You’ll need to replace them sooner or later. And that is going to be expensive and a hassle.

No, it is better to get a portable speaker. They cost far less, can be transported anywhere, and are pretty much weatherproof. They will get the sound exactly where you want it and are more than good enough for any outdoor event.

Buying a Subwoofer Based On Its Size

If you want really bad bass in your room, look at where your want to put your subwoofer and buy one that fits. Almost guaranteed to be awful. A subwoofer should be chosen based on its abilities and the size of your room. Of the terrible reasons for buying speakers (including subwoofers), picking based on its footprint has to be one of the worst.

We get that you like where your furniture lives. You’ve gotten used to it. But it isn’t like it is nailed down. It could move a couple of inches to one side or the other. Plus, it isn’t like this is the furniture you are going to have for the rest of your life. Someday it will change. And when it does, are you going to limit the purchase of your new couch because of the shape of your sub? I doubt it!

Pictured: Options

And it isn’t like there aren’t perfectly capable options out there in a variety of shapes. Need something short? You can find that (it’ll be very wide though). Need something with a small footprint? Pick a cylinder subwoofer! But one thing you will not be able to find in a subwoofer that is tiny, very loud, and inexpensive. So if you are going to be a stickler about the size and performance, be ready to shell out the big bucks.

Got Some Suggestions?

Do you have favorite terrible reasons people give for buying speakers? Let me know in the comments. I’ll be happy to include them in future articles. Until then, happy shopping!

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