All About Sound: How to Evaluate and Compare Speakers

Here are some tips to help you evaluate speakers. And remember, when evaluating speakers don’t let what you SEE influence what you HEAR. For example:

Speaker Size

Is bigger better than smaller, or smaller better than bigger?

Driver Size

Are bigger drive units better than smaller ones?

Design Type

Which design type is better — bass reflex (ported) or acoustic-suspension (sealed)? Dynamic drivers or panels?


Are exorbitantly priced speakers better than more affordable ones?

None of these factors is necessarily related to sound quality. When it comes to speakers, what counts most is how they sound.

Here are some tips to help you compare speakers: Make side-by-side comparisons

Our acoustic memory is short. It’s hard to remember the sound of speaker “A” if you have to go to a different room to compare it to speaker “B.”

Listen at equal volumes

Even small variations in loudness can easily be mistaken for differences in sound quality.

Turn the video off

Eliminating visual distraction will help you focus on sound, especially in a home-theater


Listen for clarity

Are the speakers clear, natural-sounding and intelligible with instruments and voice?

Listen for a “seamless” soundstage

The speakers should present a broad, cohesive image of the original sound.

Listen to the bass

Is it deep, tight and well-defined?

Sit up straight, then slouch

If you hear distinct changes in sound quality the speakers may have a deficiency in their vertical dispersion.

Move around

Good speakers disperse sound over a wide listening area. Move around the room to find out what others in different listening positions will hear.

Following these tips will help you compare ‘apples to apples’. Take your time and trust your ears.