Your speakers are the most important link in your home audio chain. After all, they make the sound.
Below you'll find some shopping tips and category definitions. For more detailed info, read our home speaker buying guides.
Most home speakers need a separate amplifier. But now some models have their amplification built in. These include:
Battery-powered Bluetooth speakers stream tunes from your smartphone, tablet, or computer. There are compact models that fit in your backpack. Larger ones are perfect for hanging out at the pool or the campground. Many models are dirt-proof and waterproof.
Unlike portable Bluetooth speakers, these must be plugged into an AC outlet. They connect to your phone via Bluetooth, or to your network through Wi-Fi®. Many of these speakers offer app control for switching sources, picking songs, and adjusting volume. Some (like Sonos, Bluesound, HEOS, and MusicCast) are designed to function as part of a wireless multi-room audio system.
A pair of powered stereo speakers gives you the kind of listening experience the artists worked hard to create. The built-in amplifier is usually housed in one of the two speakers. The left and right speakers then connect to each other with an included wire. Most models have inputs for stereo source components such as a CD player or turntable. Some offer Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth connections.
Like the name implies, sound bars are horizontal enclosures designed to sit below your TV. Your TV's built-in speakers pale in comparison. You'll hear crisp clear dialogue and dynamic sound effects. Watch a lot of movies? Look for a bar that can simulate surround sound. Many sound bars include a wireless subwoofer for deep bass. And some let you play music through a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection.
Also known as desktop speakers or multimedia speakers, computer speakers are designed for “near-field” listening. That means they sound good when you're sitting up close. Some models have Bluetooth for wireless connection to your laptop. And some have a built-in digital-to-analog converter, which greatly improves the sound of the music coming from your computer.
What makes a speaker smart? Wi-Fi connectivity and a built-in voice assistant like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.
A powered subwoofer adds powerful bass to most any stereo or home theater system. They easily connect to any receiver, amplifier, or powered stereo speakers that have a subwoofer output.
Non-powered speakers, formerly known simply as “speakers,” require an external amplifier or receiver. This group includes the following types:
Also known as tower speakers, floor-standing speakers are just the ticket for large rooms and anyone who lives life out loud. Their large enclosures help tower speakers deliver more bass than their smaller bookshelf cousins.
Want clear, detailed sound from a compact set of speakers? Look at bookshelf speakers. Perfect for stereo music systems, they're also good for the front or rear channels of a home theater system.
The center channel of a home theater system is full of important sounds, including most of what the actors have to say. That's why you'd be wise to get a good center channel speaker. Look for one that's "voice matched" with your left and right speakers. That means all three speakers should all be from the same brand and the same series within the brand and series.
Surround speakers create the dramatic sonic envelope that makes home theater so much fun. Placed beside and/or behind you, they transport you into the story unfolding on your big-screen TV. What kind of speakers work as surround speakers? Good question! The most popular options are bookshelf speakers, in-wall speakers, and special bipole/dipole models that fire sound in multiple directions. Dolby Atmos-enabled speakers provide overhead sound effects by bouncing sound off your ceiling.
The easy way to get a well-matched home theater speaker setup is to buy a prepackaged 5- or 6-piece system. All these bundles include front left and right speakers, a center channel speaker, and two surround speakers. Most also include a powered subwoofer.
Weather-resistant speakers help you bring the joy of music to your outdoor living spaces. You can install speakers on an exterior wall above your deck or patio. Or scatter them throughout your landscape. Some are disguised as rocks, so they blend in to your garden scenery. You can even get an outdoor subwoofer to accentuate the bass.
Want great sound without the clutter of conventional speakers? Consider in-wall speakers. Most are paintable. Basic models are designed to install vertically and are perfect for background music. Some are purpose-built for hidden home theater and can mount horizontally for use on the center channel.
Want music flowing throughout your home like light from the windows? Ceiling speakers are the answer. They're even less conspicuous than in-wall models. Wondering how many you need to adequately cover your listening spaces? Contact our A/V Design team for help with a system plan.
Most bookshelf speakers can be mounted on a wall. But this special collection consists mainly of speakers that were designed with wall mounting in mind.
Passive speakers use speaker wire to connect to their source of amplification. Our speaker wire guide has detailed information on choosing the right wire for your speakers.
You'll need a subwoofer cable to connect your powered subwoofer to your receiver's subwoofer output. Many stereo receivers and amps also have subwoofer outputs. For more information, read our article on subwoofer setup.