the big one: how do you choose speakers? By what features, data?

I am curious how the experts choose speakers when upgrading? What are the priorities, what would make you stretch your budget?

Based on e.g....

  • brand/company’s reputation
  • price
  • sensitivity
  • crossover frequency
  • compatibility with existing amp, etc.?

I don’t have buyer’s remorse for my last pair but I sure made some stupid choices until I got there, that I could have avoided if I had known about this forum sooner.



Nobody in this hobby was born an expert. You need to sample as many speakers and combinations as you can. I believe that a good speaker is good on any type of music. If it isn't then it is coloring or detracting from the sound. For me my number one priority is vocals. If familiar female vocals don't sound real to me I'm out right there. Some speakers do a wonderful job on everything but the lowest audible octave (20 Hz to 40 Hz). That usually is the most expensive to reproduce accurately and typically requires the addition of a sub-woofer. Anything lower than 20Hz is felt more than heard, but can add to realism. Piano is also a good test of a system. If you live in an apartment you may not want that lowest octave. Bass is the most likely to cause a standing wave which is dependent on your room measurements. A standing wave can double or half the bass output, and sometimes you just can't relocate the speakers to eliminate that effect. Bass traps and corner treatments of acoustic foam can transform a room. The speakers are only one link in the audio chain. Trust your ears! 

In the early ‘80s I found some 3 year old Klipschorns for $1,600 (pair).

A local audio shop owner (NOLA) recommended tubes and I got the lower end CJ amp/preamp combo that was fantastic to my ears.

the audio shop guy was invited to hear my setup and, on a whim, he brought along a pair of small Spendor speakers that he set on top of the K-horns.

Those little Spendors darn near replicated the sound of the K-horns, with slightly less bass, and I was stunned.

the point is, don’t be blinded by the speaker size.

(I kept the horns but never forgot that in-house demo)

My two cents is to figure out what type of speaker you are looking for first. Initially that is a question of floor standing vs bookshelf, ribbon, horn, planar, open baffle, box speaker etc. Then there are the different types of speaker voicings that are in some English or other foreign (to the US) countries that emphasize different things. 

Then research, research, research to find out the best in the categories you like, can you find those speakers to listen to?, price, performance, reliability etc. 

Obsess, obsess obsess over what you should do. Consider the price of the speaker and whether that would mean you have to invest in other things like stands, amplification, etc. What is the highest model you can afford and how long you can survive on macaroni and cheese before getting sick of it? Do the sellers allow for in home trials? 

Compulsively pull the trigger. Be happy for a year or so. Rinse and repeat.



My order of preference in deciding on speakers is

1) Sound

2) Price

3) brand/company’s reputation

4) compatibility with existing amp, etc.?

I do not care about:

  • sensitivity
  • crossover frequency

I have equipment that can handle the last 2 with ease.