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An Audio Expert Reveals: How to Buy The Right Sound System

January 19, 2018

Whether it’s listening to your favourite tunes or enjoying a cinematic experience (sans cinema), a living room just doesn’t feel complete without an audio system.

But with countless brands, types and models to choose from, what’s really best for your home (and worth the money?) Thankfully, you won’t have to be a full-on audiophile to know! From picking the right audio system to spotting a quality model (from the bad), retailer and audio expert Absolute Sound answers 7 of our – and everyone’s – biggest questions about sound systems.

1. Will my listening needs affect which audio system I should buy? Does it make a difference?

Absolute Sound (AS): Yes. Your listening habits determine what kind of audio set-up you should go for. There are two main audio system types – home stereo system and home theatre system.

Absolute Sound Audio System Guide

If you enjoy listening to music at home, get a home stereo system, which is designed to play music files the way it’s originally recorded, with 2 speakers/channels - left and right. Having central sound, clarity, separation and musical timing are essential in a home stereo system – so you’ll also need a dedicated stereo amplifier to provide that effect.

Absolute Sound Audio System Guide

Interior Designer: AgcDesign

If you’re more tuned into movies – go for a home theatre set-up, which consists of more than 6 speakers placed around a living area to create an immersive, surround-sound effect. Because movies are typically recorded in multi-channel, this layout allows sound effects to travel all around you, playing a supportive role to visuals.

2. So, can I use a home theatre or home stereo system interchangeably?

Absolute Sound Audio System Guide

AS: You can, but overall sound quality and effect would not be as good. Playing an action movie on your stereo system would not give the surround effect that complements movies well. However, if you’re simply watching TV, a stereo system can double as an upgrade to your television screen’s built-in speakers.

A home theatre system can be used as a stereo system for music by toggling its settings to stereo mode. But, sound quality is likewise lowered when music is being played through a home theatre AVR.

3. What kinds of speakers are there on the market?

Absolute Sound Audio System Guide

AS: After deciding the type of audio set-up you’re going for (home theatre/home stereo system), the next step is picking the right speakers. There are 4 kinds of speaker models – in ceiling/in wall, satellite, bookshelf and floor standing. Depending on your interior style, renovation progress and budget, some might be better suited than others. Here’s a quick breakdown of each below:

Absolute Sound Audio System Guide

4. When’s the best time to buy a sound system – before or after a renovation?

AS: The best time to start shopping for a sound system is actually before your renovation. Why? Many types of speakers require some form of concealing or wiring work – which can throw a wrench into your plans if your home is already done up.

Absolute Sound Audio System Guide

AS: Considering a sound system before renovation also allows you to prep in terms of space and electrical planning. Are there sufficient electrical power points for your electronics? Is there enough wall, floor or tabletop space for your speakers? Likewise, you might need to install another LAN cable to provide a strong internet connection for network audio players as LAN cable connections are more stable than Wifi connections. This ensures also you have maximum enjoyment with your music or media with no occasional drop outs.

5. What if my place is renovated? What are some options for me?

Absolute Sound Audio System Guide

AS: Go for non-built in or mounted speakers which require less hardware installation. Or, consider bookshelf speakers – which can be easily placed on a TV console or propped up on a speaker stand. As for other electronics like your amplifier – get dedicated equipment racks that are specially designed to fit in multiple audio devices and improve isolation for crystal-clear sound.

Absolute Sound’s Picks:

Naim Audio – Fraim Equipment Support System

Absolute Sound Audio System Guide

Featuring a cup-and-cone interface that isolates sounds on each level, the multi-tiered Fraim is made from toughened glass, stainless steel pipes and zinc-plated steel nuts to provide complete isolation for clear sound quality.

6. My home is tiny, can I still fit in an audio system?

Absolute Sound Audio System Guide

AS: While the usual portable speakers do their job in cramped spaces – they aren’t the best for getting quality sound. Instead, consider getting smaller-scale bookshelf, wall-mount or in-wall speakers that don’t take up much space visually and physically. Or even better - save on the clutter of multiple speakers + an amplifier, by going for all-in-one players that combine both.

Absolute Sound’s Picks:

For Home Theatre: Focal Dimension Sound Bar

Absolute Sound Audio System Guide

Using phase and delay sound technologies to create the effect of surround sound without the use of multiple speakers, FOCAL Dimension soundbar offers 5-ch immersive sound in a sleek, minimalist package.

For Home Stereo: Naim Mu-so All-In-One Wireless Music System

Absolute Sound Audio System Guide

Complete with an an amplifier, mid-range drivers and a 32-bit digital signal processor that provides clarity and separation within its compact body the Naim Mu-so also allows you to wirelessly stream your favourite tunes via Bluetooth, Spotify, Tidal, Airplay and more.

7. How can you tell a good quality audio system between one that’s not?

Absolute Sound Audio System Guide

AS: One telltale sign is the distinct layers of sounds being heard. It should feel like you’re listening to a live band in front of you – where you can make out various levels (voice, instruments, beats and effects) played out clearly. Also, a deep, booming bass does not always equate to a good sound system. A quality one should provide a balanced sound level with control and shouldn’t be jarring on the ears.

Absolute Sound Audio System Guide

AS: Of course, the best way is always to experience the difference yourself. Head down to a showroom (like ours!), test a sample track between various sound systems to compare and see which keeps you engaged.

8. What other things should I look out for when getting a sound system?

AS: Just because it’s a top-notch system – doesn’t mean it can do wonders. It’s important that you use high quality music/video files for the best performance. A smaller, low-quality clip will always sound rough and compressed, no matter the model or make.

Have more questions? Ask an audio specialist here.

Picking the perfect audio system can be tough, but you don’t have to be a full-on audiophile to know what’s good for you! Music lovers first, Absolute Sound’s team of audio specialists are always happy to share their knowledge (and passion) for all things sound.

Absolute Sound Audio System Guide

Visit Absolute Sound’s showrooms at The Adelphi and Singapore Shopping Centre to test out and experience a wide range of premium home entertainment products, or to speak to experienced staff for a consultation and personalized audio solutions based on your lifestyle, interior design and budget. To serve you better, it is recommended to make an appointment (here) before dropping by.

Absolute Sound Adelphi (Home Theatre)

1 Coleman Street
The Adelphi, #01-14A
+65 6337 0636

Absolute Sound Adelphi (Home Stereo)

1 Coleman Street
The Adelphi, #03-37/38
+65 6337 6337

Absolute Sound SSC (By Appointment Only)

190 Clemenceau Ave
Singapore Shopping Centre, #04-24
+65 6339 0330

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