Why No One Can Really Tell You Which Speakers You Should Buy
You ask online for speaker recommendations and you get them. But there is no consensus and lots of disagreements between people. Isn’t one speaker objectively better than another? Surely there are speakers that you can buy that are the best at their price point? How can there be so many different recommendations out there? Just tell me the best speakers to buy!
People are Liars
Let’s start with the obvious – people lie. You’ll see people post online how they have experienced both sets of speakers. They are convinced that one was clearly better. A second person will say the same but will have a different opinion. Chances are, both are being dishonest if not outright lying.
People want to feel important. One way to do that is to misrepresent yourself online knowing that no one can really confirm or deny what you are saying. Telling people what speakers to buy based on your “extensive experience” is just one of many ways to set yourself up as an expert.
Even those that aren’t outright lying are usually being dishonest. They are overstating their experience or understating all the reasons why that experience might have led them to erroneous conclusions. Comparing home theater speakers is difficult to do correctly. Even when you do, your results rarely can be extrapolated to other people. Why?
Your Ears are Your Own
Too often we’ve heard stories of people buying speakers based on personal recommendations and being disappointed with the results. Just because someone else loves their speakers doesn’t mean you will as well. Many speakers have a specific sound signature. If a person has had speakers with that “sound” for a long time, then they will be used to it. That familiarity will translate into a preference. Now speakers that don’t sound like theirs sound “bad” to them.
But you don’t have that same experience. You may hear that same speaker and not like it. Maybe because of speakers you’ve owned in the past or maybe because you are more sensitive to certain sound profiles. It doesn’t matter. You may not like the speakers your friend told you to buy simply because they don’t sound good to you. And that’s reason enough.
Room Acoustics Will Make a Massive Difference
Even if you have a similar-sized room, no two rooms are identical. Your speakers will be placed in different locations. Your furniture will be different as will all your decorations. Maybe your room has a door while the person telling you to buy the speakers has an open-concept space. Heck, just setting up your microphone for your room correction can make a substantial difference. Not to mention having dual subwoofers (or improperly setting up your speaker configuration) can seriously affect how you perceive a speaker’s performance.
Most of all, how your room affects the sound will play a huge factor. Placing acoustic panels around a room can make one room sound significantly better than another. The fact that someone preferred one speaker over another often has more to do with how they set up their speakers, what room they were in, and how they acoustically treated that room than it does with the speakers’ actual raw performance.
Are Some Speakers Better Than Others?
Your real question might be, “Are some speakers objectively better than others.” We’d say yes but it would depend on your definition of “better.” If by better you mean more accurate, then you might be able to set up a test to show that one has an output that is more true to the original signal than another. But how you use a speaker is more than that. You have to now consider off-axis response. A speaker might be totally accurate dead on, but be completely inaccurate the minute you move just a few degrees to the side.
And there are about a thousand other variables that you might want to include in your measure of “objectively better.”
The reason no one can tell you which speakers would be best for you to buy is that no one knows exactly how all these factors (and more) will affect how you experience any specific speaker. They can only tell you how they experienced the speakers in their room. This is why we so highly recommend testing speakers in your own home before you buy. It’s the only way to know for sure.