If you’re in the market for a new speaker system, your first thought should be about size. Room size. With gaming systems and home theater stereo setups, it’s imperative not to under- or overdo it; buying a speaker that is too big for your room will lead to sound distortion, and one that’s too small will sound washed out and hollow.
To talk best practices in speaker buying, we consulted with Adam Pelz, Senior Design Engineer at REAL Audio Video in Salt Lake City, Utah. Pelz said that in regards to speakers, rooms are split into four categories tied to room size and listening distance from speakers. The first category is media/PC gaming, where the speakers are located very close to the listener. The next three categories are for rooms where the speakers are 6–8 feet away, 10–12 feet away (up to 2,000 cubic feet), and above 12 feet away (up to 3,000 cubic feet). To pick out the perfect speaker for your room size, follow our guide below. With Pelz’s help, we picked three speakers for each category that are sure to please the ears.
Desktop speakers are designed to provide high-quality sound to listeners who are at a very close distance. If you try to fill a room with them, you’ll have less-than-ideal sound output and the quality will sound hollow. Keep these to your desktop and keep reading if you want to fill a room.
Hampden by Polk Audio $249
MR1 by Ruark Audio ~$390
MM-1 by Bowers & Wilkins $500
We’re classifying a “small room” as a room with 8-foot ceilings, in which the speakers are situated 6–8 feet away from the listener. These speakers are all designed to fill a room of that size and provide the highest quality sound. It’s a lot of common sense, here. If you have a small room, you don’t need massive floor speakers. They’ll be too much power, and you’ll end up listening to them at the lower volumes in their range, leading to sound distortion.
Playbar by Sonos $699
Mu-so by Naim $1,500
Stockholm by Vifa $1,699
If your room is large enough that the speakers will sit 10–12 feet away from the listener, we’ll classify this as a medium-sized room. It can be tempting to go all out in a medium-sized room and get a massive pair of speakers that look rad. But don’t go for massive statement speakers. Not only will this overpower your room and lead to sound distortion, but it will also likely take up more space than necessary.
CM6 S2 by Bowers & Wilkins $2,000
BeoSound 35 by Bang & Olufsen $2,785
M6 by Meridian Audio $9,000 (per pair)
If you have enough space where your speakers are farther than 12 feet from the listener, you’re permitted to go big. To fill a large space, you need to move a decent amount of air with your drivers. You’ll also need either a set of floor speakers that have built-in subwoofers or a standalone sub. It’s important to note, however, that just because a speaker is large, doesn’t mean that it delivers high-quality sound. It’s worth it to splurge a bit on a high-quality pair of floor speakers if you have a large room. Your ears (and friends) will thank you.
Reference Premier RP-280: by Klipsch $3,174
BeoLab 20 by Bang & Olufsen $6,300
Beethoven Concert Grand Symphony Edition by Vienna Acoustics $8,498 (per pair)