There are many simple stereo system upgrades and techniques that will greatly improve sound quality. Many of the upgrades are very affordable and easy to install.
Many companies offer high-end speaker cables, some of them costing hundreds of dollars per foot or meter. The benefits of these cables are many, especially for very high-end stereo systems but are out of reach for many buyers. Fortunately, in most cases you can improve the sound of your system simply by installing larger gauge speaker wires. Many speakers and stereo systems come with speaker wire that is only slightly larger than dental floss, which prevents the system from performing at its best. Speakers should be connected with a minimum of 12 to 14 gauge speaker wire, especially systems with power output of 50-75 watts per channel or greater. Upgraded speaker wires are one of the best investments to improve performance.
Speaker stands affect sound quality at least as much as speaker placement. Speakers, including bookshelf speakers should be positioned at ear level while seated and not on a shelf or inside of an entertainment center. To get the best performance from bookshelf speakers, place them on a stand sitting on the floor. Speaker stands come in a variety of sizes and types and take little floor space.
Correct speaker placement is almost as important as choosing the best speakers. Speakers emit sound waves that interact with the listening room and its furnishings. Correct placement can help get the best performance. Correct placement costs nothing except some of your time, but is well worth it.
Audio cables connect source components (CD, DVD, tape players, etc.) to a receiver or amplifier and are as important as good speaker cables. Audio cables carry low level signals that are subject to interference and noise and upgraded cables can improve overall system performance and sound quality. Better cables can improve audio detail, imaging and soundstaging, as well as extending frequency response.
Speaker spikes are metal spikes on the bottom of floorstanding speakers that decouple the speaker from the floor. Spikes reduce secondary vibrations of other objects in the room and allow the listener to hear only the speaker and not other vibrating objects. Speakers that can use spikes have recessed threads in the bottom of the cabinets, or you can place the speaker on a stand or platform with spikes on the bottom. In general, bass is improved with the use of speaker spikes.
Room acoustic treatments are one of the best ways to improve the sound of any system. Bass traps, absorbers and diffusers allow the listener to hear the speakers and not the reflections from the walls, ceilings and other objects in the room. Room acoustic treatments come in many styles and colors to fit almost any room decor. To learn more about room acoustics and acoustic treatments, read this article.
A powered subwoofer is required for a home theater system because film soundtracks have a separate channel devoted to bass for special effects. Subwoofers also have benefits for stereo systems. A powered subwoofer reduces the amount of amplifier required to drive the left and right channel speakers because the subwoofer is amplifying the bass. A subwoofer also reduces the strain on woofers to produce low, deep bass, especially woofers smaller than 8 inches in diameter.
A power conditioner provides steady, filtered voltage and current to stereo system components allowing them to perform at their best. Amplifiers and disc players have electronic components and microprocessors that are sensitive to small fluctuations in voltage caused by power providers. Supplying a constant, clean voltage to these components improves their performance. Many power conditioners also have surge protection, a vital necessity in areas where lightning is common.
Speakers are the most important factor in determining the sound of a stereo or home theater system and the best upgrade to get the most bang for your buck. Before replacing an entire system try upgrading speakers first. Speakers come in a variety of types and sizes including floorstanding, bookshelf, in-wall, on-wall and in-ceiling. Check out my article about how to choose speakers
and read a few speaker reviews
to find the best speakers for your system.
Bi-wiring a speaker is an inexpensive way to improve sound quality by running two identical lengths of wire to each speaker, or by purchasing a set of bi-wire speaker cables. Not every speaker can be bi-wired, but if the feature is available on your speakers, take advantage of it. Learn more about bi-wiring speakers by clicking on the link.