In the high-end audio world, people often want to know what audiophile speakers are for the perfect speaker system. If you’re looking at a pair of high-end speakers for your listening environment, you need to define what having the best speakers means for you.

The first question, is are you looking at a traditional two-channel hi-fi system or a multichannel two-way home theater system? Are you looking for wireless speakers or bluetooth speakers? Next, are you upgrading from your home audio setup, or starting from the beginning with your sound system? There’s really no such thing as “audiophile speakers,” per se, so don’t be fooled by all the internet chatter, even if you’re at the point of obsessing over speaker placement in your listening space.

Once you know where you’re headed, the next big issue that needs to be sorted is the size of your listening room or living room, and if there are any problems with acoustics in said room.

Assuming you have a somewhat normal room, bigger speakers don’t mean better sound quality.

We suggest doing as much research as possible, and if you can work with a dealer and arrange a demo, that will be a big help too. While amplifiers and source components definitely affect the audio quality of your hi-fi system, speakers are the biggest variable.

To make this easy, let’s consider potential rooms as small (around 10 x 12 feet), medium (about 13 x 18 feet) large (about 16 x 24 feet), and super-size (a lot bigger than that) In order to create a realistic soundstage between a pair of stereo speakers, and maybe a subwoofer, getting properly-sized loudspeakers for the room is key.

Are Audiophile Speakers Active or Passive?

As a side note, are you working within the traditional framework of an amplifier and a pair of speakers – this can also be a receiver, or a hi-fi system made up of all separate components, amp, preamp, and phono preamp if necessary? If you don’t require or would like to abandon the more commonplace rack full of gear, or if space is really at a premium, consider a pair of active speakers. These will have the amp and preamp inside the speaker cabinet.

Some even have a DAC (digital audio converter) and even a basic phono preamplifier inside. All you need to add at that point is your phone and maybe a turntable to spin records.

From the outside, active speakers look nearly identical to passive ones. They’ve got the same woofers, tweeters, and midrange drivers.

They can come packaged as floorstanding loudspeakers or bookshelf speakers. The main difference is that you don’t need the outboard components. With active speakers the amplification and crossover networks (the thing dividing the audio signal into separate signals for the woofer, midrange treble, and tweeter) are all optimized specifically for your speakers, leaving a big part of the guesswork out. You get a full-range frequency response and high performance from even a small consumer amplifier

And if you have active speakers with a built-in DAC, chances are high that they use the latest version of Bluetooth. Bottom line, you’ll be amazed by the sound quality you can get today, streaming from a mobile device or even your TV.

Does Size Matter for Speakers?

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Like your room, speakers come in all shapes and sizes, from ones that you can hold in your hand, to speakers bigger than you are. Every speaker has its own sonic signature as unique as a fingerprint – no two sound completely alike. Making a choice between them, will either be an adventure or drive you to madness.

Assuming you’re still with us, a good concept to keep in the back of your head is that speakers reproduce sound by moving air or sound waves. Larger rooms typically need larger speakers that are capable of moving more air. Again, we can cheat this a bit by adding a subwoofer or two.

Either end of the spectrum will give you less than optimum results. Huge speakers in a small room usually generate too much sound and end up not being able to deliver what they are capable of. While the opposite is equally disappointing. Small speakers in a large room, tend to be swallowed up and unable to create any serious sound pressure. You’ll know when you’ve got it just right.

Conversely, small to medium speakers are usually easier to set up in your room strictly because of their physical size. If you have a large pair of floor-standing speakers and perhaps a subwoofer or two, be ready for the commitment that will entail.

What are the Design Differences in Audiophile Speakers?

Thousands of articles have been written in hi-fi magazines about the various aspects of speaker design, hand-made speakers like what Sonus faber builds, how the shape and materials all make a difference, and whether they’re on a bookshelf or stand-mount changes the sound. Once you feel more comfortable relating to what you’d like to accomplish with yours, do as much reading as you can and talk to hi-fi retailers in person if possible.

Don’t get overly concerned about nit-picky measurements like whether or not speaker A has a dome tweeter and speaker B has a ribbon tweeter. That’s a good subject for further down your audiophile journey.

One measurement that will be somewhat of importance to you is how much power you have available with your amplifier or receiver, and how sensitive (or efficient) your speakers are. Speakers usually always have a sensitivity specification expressed in decibels (dB) produced with one watt of power, something like 88db/1-watt, also usually expressed at a 1-meter distance from the said speaker.

Most of today’s speakers have a sensitivity rating in the area of 86db – 92db with one watt. Again, for the sake of simplification, if you’ve got at least about 50 watts per channel of amplifier power, you should be good to go. As we mentioned, speakers move air, and the more air they have to move the more power they need. A modest-sized pair of speakers in a medium room might only need 10 or 20 watts per channel to make serious noise when speakers in a large room might not appear to be playing that loud with 100 watts per channel.

So you might need a speaker and an amplifier upgrade if you really want to go down this audiophile journey. Deeper down the rabbit hole, you can start learning about moving coil vs moving magnet cartridges and whether or not your phono preamp is right for you.