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Home speakers 101

Learn about the different types of home speakers that Crutchfield offers

In this article: We break down the different types of home speakers that Crutchfield offers ...

  1. Passive speakers for music and home theater, including: bookshelffloor-standing, center channel, and surrounds.
  2. Custom-installed in-wall and in-ceiling speakers.
  3. Weather-resistant outdoor speakers.
  4. Powered speakers, including: subwooferssound barsstereo speakersportable Bluetooth® speakers, and wireless home speakers.

... plus we'll offer tips on choosing the right amplification for your system.

Crutchfield offers more than 1,000 home speakers. With so many choices, it's hard to know where to start. This guide will get you on the right track.

We'll start with conventional speakers that get their power from an external amplifier, then look at models that have amplification built-in. 

We'll finish with a short guide on matching up stereo and home theater speakers with the right amplification.

Non-amplified (passive) speakers

This section covers our passive speaker selections — models that get their power from an external amplifier. Below you'll find concise descriptions of the different types.

For in-depth info about surround sound, read our intro to home theater speakers. Building a stereo music system? Read our guide to stereo speakers.

Curious about how they sound? Our exclusive SpeakerCompare™ technology lets you audition different speaker models to help you choose the right ones.

Bookshelf speakers

Bookshelf speakers deliver clear, detailed sound, yet are compact enough to fit on shelves or stands

Bookshelf speakers are commonly used in a stereo music system. They're also ideal for the front or rear channels of a home theater in a small- to medium-sized room.

Eric gaming

Use a pair of sturdy stands to bring bookshelf speakers to ear level for excellent sound with movies, music, and video games.

Floor-standing speakers

Floor-standing speakers are several feet tall and are relatively narrow. That's why you'll often hear them referred to as "tower speakers."

Floor-standing speakers combine large cabinets with multiple drivers for dynamic full-range sound. Their excellent bass response makes them a great choice for both music and home theater.

Polk Audio LSi M 705 floor-standing speakers

Floor-standing speakers are ideal for room-filling sound in large spaces.

Center channel speakers

A home theater's center channel reproduces dialogue and center-stage sound effects in movies and TV shows. The center channel is often the hardest-working speaker in a home theater setup, so it pays to get a good one.

Your center channel should share the same tonal qualities as your left and right speakers. "Voice matching" them together ensures consistent sound throughout your room. Take a look at our center channel speaker buying guide for more info on what to look for. 

Klipsch RP-440WC Reference Premiere HD Wireless

This voice-matched home theater system uses Polk Audio Signature Series speakers for each channel.  

Surround speakers

Surround speakers go beside and/or behind your seats to provide wraparound sound effects. They help create that believable sonic bubble that makes home theater so immersive.

Surround speaker options include bookshelf speakers placed on stands, custom-installed in-wall speakers, or specialized bipole/dipole speakers that fire sound in multiple directions. Find out how these specialized surround speakers compare to traditional bookshelf speakers in our article on rear channel speakers for home theater.

7.1-channel surround sound system

Position surround speakers beside and/or behind your seating position for immersive sound effects.

Speakers for a Dolby Atmos home theater system

In a Dolby Atmos or DTS:X system, in-ceiling speakers are ideal for overhead sound effects. But there's an alternative if you aren't able to install speakers in your ceiling. Atmos enabled speakers reflect sound off your ceiling to reproduce overhead effects — these are also a good choice for adding an additional layer of sound to your system.

In-wall and in-ceiling speakers

Want great sound for music or movies, but don't want to clutter your space with conventional speakers? Check out our selection of in-wall speakers and in-ceiling speakers.

In-wall speakers are ideal for space-saving surround sound. In-ceiling speakers are great for multi-room music systems, or as overhead effects channels in a Dolby Atmos home theater system.

Our in-wall and in-ceiling speakers buying guide can help you choose the right ones for your application.

Klipsch CDT-5800-C II

In-ceiling speakers offer stealthy overhead sound for music or home theater.

Outdoor speakers

Want to add music to your back yard, porch, patio, or pool area? Weather-resistant outdoor speakers give you lots of ways to enjoy your music in the great outdoors. 

If you only have room for one outdoor speaker, a stereo-input speaker gives you two-channel sound from a single speaker. Rock speakers blend into the scenery, and there are even outdoor subwoofers to round out the bass. 

If you're looking to set up your own outdoor speaker system, our outdoor speakers buying guide is a great place to start.

Sonos and Tara's treehouse

Weather-resistant outdoor speakers let you enjoy music in the back yard, on the porch, or inside a treehouse.

Speakers with built-in amplification

Years ago, just about all home speakers needed a separate amplifier. Now, there are plenty of speakers that have an amp built in.

Powered stereo speakers

Powered stereo speakers have built-in amplification, and typically use an included cable to connect the left and right channels together.

They offer one big benefit that a single speaker can’t — stereo separation. Two well-spaced speakers can make you feel like you're sitting in front of a live musical performance.

Most models have inputs for a CD player or other music sources. Some even offer Wi-Fi®, Bluetooth, and turntable support. Learn more by reading our guide to powered stereo speakers.

Klipsch Reference R-15PM powered bookshelf speakers

Powered stereo speakers feature built-in amplification. The Klipsch Reference R-15PMs even have a turntable input.

Sound bars

Sound bars are an easy way to improve the sound quality of TV shows, video games, and movies. They increase the volume range of your TV and make dialogue clearer and easier to understand. 

Many sound bars include a wireless subwoofer for improved bass. Some also have Bluetooth or Wi-Fi for wireless music streaming.

Choices range from compact models to large, powerful systems that can simulate surround sound. Our sound bars buying guide will help you find the right one for your room.

Bluesound Pulse Soundbar

Most sound bars can be wall-mounted for a small-footprint sound system.

Powered subwoofers

Powered subwoofers add impactful bass to music and movie soundtracks. They connect to your receiver or amplifier via a subwoofer cable, and connect to a wall outlet for power.

Add a powered sub to complement any of the passive speakers mentioned above. You can also add one to many of the powered stereo speakers discussed as well.

Our subwoofer buying guide offers a deep dive into your options.

ELAC Debut S10EQ powered subwoofer

The bass from a powered subwoofer is an essential part of the home theater experience.

Portable Bluetooth speakers

Want a portable music system that you can take anywhere? Bluetooth speakers have built-in rechargeable batteries, and stream tunes from your smartphone, tablet, or computer. 

There are tiny ones that clip to your backpack. And there are big, beefy ones made for hanging out at the beach or at the campground.

Check out our Bluetooth speaker buying guide to learn more.

JBL Charge 4

Bluetooth speakers are an easy way to enjoy music anywhere you go.

Wireless home speakers

Wireless speakers stream music through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. 

Many offer app control for switching sources, picking songs, and adjusting volume. Some can even be controlled by your voice.

Wireless speakers have stronger amplification and larger drivers than most portable Bluetooth speakers. Some models can run on rechargable batteries, but most are designed to plug in and stay put.

See our wireless speakers buying guide for a closer look.

Bowers & Wilkins Formation Wedge

Wireless home speakers give you access to a huge selection of music in any room of the house.

Amplification for passive speakers

If your speakers don't have built-in amplification you'll use an external amp to power them. The type of amp you need depends on your application. 

Stereo receivers

Stereo receivers are an excellent way to power a pair of speakers for music. They combine a radio tuner, two-channel power amplifier, and a preamp section for control over source selection, volume, tone, and balance. 

Our stereo receivers buying guide walks you through how to choose.

McIntosh MAC6700 stereo receiver

Stereo receivers offer a tuner, amplification, and source control in a single component.

Integrated amplifiers

Integrated amplifiers are like stereo receivers, but with no tuner section. They typically offer better internal construction and use more robust power supplies than stereo receivers.

See our integrated amplifiers buying guide to find the right one for your system.

Denon PMA-150H

Integrated amps combine an amp and preamp section together for pristine music playback.

Preamplifiers and power amplifiers

Want the best possible sound from your speakers? Go with a separate preamp and power amp for top-notch performance.

A separates-based system gives you long-term flexibility. You can upgrade your stereo or home theater preamp for the latest feature set while keeping the same power amp in your system for many years.

Cambridge Audio Azur 851N preamp and Cambridge Audio Azur 851W power amp

Pair a high-quality preamp with a robust power amp for an exceptional listening experience.

Home theater receivers

A home theater receiver powers five or more speakers for enveloping surround sound while also providing connections for your A/V gear. 

Check out our home theater receivers buying guide to find the right one for your system.

Marantz SR7013

Home theater receivers provide A/V processing and amplification for surround sound systems.

Speaker wire

Passive speakers use speaker wire to connect to their source of amplification. Our speaker wire guide has detailed information on picking the right type.

Keep your gear protected

We recommend using power protection with virtually all home electronics, but especially with amplifiers, TVs, computers, and gaming systems.

Our power protection buying guide has tips on what to look for.

Expert help a call or click away

Have questions about choosing the right speakers? Contact one of our expert Advisors today.

Free lifetime tech support is included with your Crutchfield purchase.

Advisor best powered subwoofer

Give us a shout today for free, personalized advice.

Last updated 3/2/2021
  • Efrain Vidal from Cibolo

    Posted on 5/24/2021

    Im wondering how i could repair or replace Two standing Kenwood LS-P7200 4Way 6_speakers System

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 5/28/2021

    Hi Efrain, thanks for reaching out. I recommend giving one of our Advisors a shout to discuss your options.
  • Dermot Meuchner from Westport,CT.

    Posted on 3/31/2021

    Do you recommend speaker cables or is 16 gauge fine? Thanks

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 4/7/2021

    Hi Dermot, 16-gauge wire is fine for most speakers. Thicker-gauge wire is useful for long runs, or if you have a high-current system and want a bigger "pipeline" from your amp to your speakers.

    I do recommend using banana connectors with your wire if your speakers have binding posts. You can add them on to bulk wire, or buy cables that are pre-terminated. They're simple, and secure.
  • FRED from FLORIDA

    Posted on 2/18/2021

    LOOKING FOR LCD PANASONIC TV SPEAKERS FOR - MODEL TH-50PX60U TV??

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 2/23/2021

    Hi Fred, thanks for reaching out. Please give one of our Advisors a shout for personalized advice on choosing the right options for your system.
  • Azfar from Dubai

    Posted on 8/13/2018

    I am in process of building my first 5.1 home theater system and I am confused which type of speaker will be best for HTS (music not a priority). Big 6.8" speaker or smaller 4-5.5"? which type of speakers sound clear and deliver more details for movies. Similarly a warm with more bass extension speaker would be better for movies or flat, neutral sounding speakers?

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 8/14/2018

    Hi Azfar, larger drivers are always going to be a better choice in terms of audio performance. So unless you have specific size constraints, I'd lean towards the bigger speakers. They'll produce fuller sound, and will be able to handle more power. Good luck with your new system!