Con­sider these tips be­fore you part with your cash

All you need to know about buy­ing and car­ing for your boxes

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Contents -

As you’re read­ing this fea­ture, we guess you al­ready know the value of the What Hi-fi? re­view. Trust us, then, when we urge you to have a read of the rel­e­vant prod­uct re­views be­fore you en­ter the deal­er­ship.

We don’t want you sim­ply to agree with us – but, as well as help­ing you rule out cer­tain prod­ucts that don’t match your needs, it might guide you as to what you should lis­ten out for.

If we say tre­ble is a lit­tle coarse, for ex­am­ple, and that it might be­come wear­ing on your ears over ex­tended lis­ten­ing, that might not be im­me­di­ately no­tice­able in the shop.

Check the speak­ers are run in

Con­firm that the demon­stra­tion speak­ers you hear have been run in. Per­for­mance can change with use, with some units tak­ing longer than oth­ers to bed in and reach their op­ti­mum.

Lis­ten to tracks you know

Are you the per­son who kills the party by seiz­ing con­trol of the speak­ers and putting on that B-side no­body’s heard of? Well this is your time to shine: take your own mu­sic with you. It’s sim­ply the best and eas­i­est way for you to judge a speaker’s per­for­mance.

The bet­ter you know a piece of mu­sic, the bet­ter you know its ar­range­ment, mo­men­tum and dy­nam­ics. Ef­fec­tively, you know how it should sound and if a pair of speak­ers is ren­der­ing it faith­fully.

Lis­ten with your own elec­tron­ics

You want the dealer to set up a sys­tem that’s close to yours at home, so if you have an old amp, or par­tic­u­larly ob­scure kit, ring ahead to check they have some­thing sim­i­lar in the shop. If not, take your own with you. Yes, it’s a pain, but bet­ter than dis­cov­er­ing they don’t sound right when you get them home. It’s what we do when we’re test­ing speak­ers in our lis­ten­ing rooms, and you should fol­low the same rules.

Take an ex­tra pair of ears

Our re­views are writ­ten by a sin­gle per­son, but test­ing is very much a group ex­er­cise. It isn’t that we don’t trust our own ears, but your mood or fo­cus can al­ter your per­cep­tion of a prod­uct on any given day. We’d rec­om­mend tak­ing some­one along with you for bal­ance. It’s easy to make a rash de­ci­sion and re­gret it later.

Be open to al­ter­na­tives

There may be a re­view you’ve not seen in our mag­a­zine or web­site, some­thing we’ve not yet tested, or a pair of speak­ers you’ve dis­re­garded be­cause of its four-star rat­ing – but wait! It’s pos­si­ble that a prod­uct with four stars may suit your needs bet­ter than a ve-star Award-win­ner.

A good dealer will be able to sug­gest some­thing you hadn’t con­sid­ered. Don’t take their word as gospel – it’s you who’ll be lis­ten­ing to these speak­ers – but you needn’t go into the shop as­sum­ing they will flog you a dead horse.

Get to know your dealer

If you’re se­ri­ous about your sys­tem, you’re prob­a­bly go­ing to be a reg­u­lar cus­tomer – that’s why they want to look af­ter you. So don’t go into a deal­er­ship, pick a pair of speak­ers, then go home and scour ebay to get them cheaper.

That’s not us stick­ing up for our mates – just don’t sour a re­la­tion­ship with some­one will­ing to help you as much as you need. Equally, don’t feel pres­sured into mak­ing a de­ci­sion straight away, or that buy­ing on­line is some­how wrong.

Buy­ing on­line

The ben­e­fit to shop­ping on­line is more op­tions than on the High Street. Don’t dis­count last year’s models – there are some great deals on prod­ucts that man­u­fac­tur­ers may have re­placed. Some are still among the best speak­ers around.

Re­fer to our re­views and you’ll be able to tell if an older prod­uct has fallen be­hind. If they’re still on sale, there’s a good chance they haven’t.

Check the T&CS

As with any on­line pur­chase, buy from a trusted source – re­tail­ers fea­tured next to our re­views are a good start. Check the re­turns pol­icy too.

If you find a deal that seems too good to be true, it al­most def­i­nitely is and there’s un­likely to be any way of get­ting your money back.

If you don’t have a deal­er­ship near you, visit your near­est hi-fi show, where you can lis­ten to a whole range of the lat­est prod­ucts.

“Avoid plac­ing your new speak­ers in a cor­ner. It may be con­ve­nient, but you’ll get lumpy bass that will skew the whole bal­ance”

When you get them home…

So you’re back home, in the dog­house for spend­ing twice your orig­i­nal bud­get and fac­ing six months of beans on toast in or­der to be able to pay for it – but with a new pair of speak­ers.

Un­for­tu­nately, they aren’t go­ing to do any­thing for you un­less you do some­thing for them first.

Let your speak­ers run in

It’s ex­tremely im­por­tant for speak­ers to be prop­erly run in be­fore you judge them, so don’t sub­ject them to an ex­tended test­ing ses­sion as soon as you’ve lifted them from their box and linked them to the rest of your sys­tem.

Some speak­ers can take al­most 100 hours to come on song, though 24 hours should suf­fice for most.

All this re­ally means is you leave them play­ing, al­low­ing the com­po­nents to warm up, stretch out and get into their stride.

It’s un­likely you’d want to do this at any ex­treme vol­ume any­way, but be care­ful not to push them too hard straight away. Let them ease into a walk be­fore you ask them to run.

Get the po­si­tion­ing right

If task one was es­sen­tially plug­ging your speak­ers in and wait­ing, you’ll need to spend a lit­tle more time get­ting the po­si­tion­ing of your sys­tem right. Small dif­fer­ences in po­si­tion can make big dif­fer­ences to the sonic bal­ance.

Plac­ing your speak­ers close to the back wall will give you more bass, while putting them fur­ther away will de­crease the low end, but should of­fer more con­vinc­ing stereo imag­ing. This should be a bal­ance, rather than a com­pro­mise, though rear-ported speak­ers – those with a re­flex port fir­ing back­wards – tend to be more sen­si­tive to prox­im­ity to a rear wall. Try to avoid plac­ing your speak­ers in a cor­ner. It may be con­ve­nient spa­tially, but you’ll al­most cer­tainly get lumpy bass that will skew the whole bal­ance.

Imag­ing is also af­fected by the an­gle of the speak­ers. Most speak­ers sound best toed-in to­wards your reg­u­lar lis­ten­ing po­si­tion, which should be equidis­tant to each speaker for peak sound dis­per­sion, though some man­u­fac­tur­ers de­sign their prod­ucts to fire straight ahead.

Check the man­ual to see what’s sug­gested for your speak­ers, in­clud­ing how far apart to space them and the rec­om­mended dis­tance from each sur­round­ing wall, then ad­just and tweak to get the best out of your room.

In­vest in stands and ca­bles

Now, are you sit­ting com­fort­ably? Well your speak­ers would like to as well. They may have been ad­ver­tised as ‘book­shelf’ but the sup­port upon which they sit is vi­tally im­por­tant.

Buy some qual­ity stands. The per­for­mance of a stand­mount speaker de­pends hugely on the qual­ity of its sup­port, and this is an­other area where you shouldn’t com­pro­mise.

Like­wise, if you’ve opted for floor­stand­ing speak­ers, make sure you fit the spikes; if you have wooden floors you’ll likely have been sup­plied with coin-shaped pieces to put the spikes on to avoid scratch­ing the boards. If you don’t have any of those, use ac­tual coins.

Per­haps an ob­vi­ous point, but it’s equally im­por­tant that your speak­ers are level and don’t rock. Even if that seems painfully ap­par­ent, there’s a chance you haven’t con­sid­ered speaker ca­bles. Some peo­ple ig­nore the sig­nif­i­cance of good-qual­ity wiring al­to­gether, or are tempted to skimp on the last few quid. But trust us when we say a good speaker ca­ble can be the best value way to up­grade your au­dio ex­pe­ri­ence.

Sit back and re­lax

Fi­nally, and most im­por­tantly, put some mu­sic on, sit back and en­joy your new speak­ers. That was the point of all this ef­fort, af­ter all.

Treat them with a lit­tle re­spect, and in turn they will look af­ter you for a long, long time.

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