How to choose the ultimate piece of audio: FAQs, tips and advice!

July 16th, 2013

Audio Soundbars Stereo Systems TV, Audio & Electronics

zakk1Want a great piece of audio – but bewildered by all the choices?

Well, right now we’re gonna offer you some no-holds-barred, tell-it-like-it-is, shut-up-and-listen advice. It should be music to your ears.

First, thing’s first – go back to basics.

Ask yourself some fundamentals. Of which we suggest questions such as:

•  Do you have enough space for a big set-up? Or do you want something more compact yet very powerful?

Short on space but still wanna rock? Barely room to move in your apartment, but you’d still like something to crank up for a summer house party or two?

You might wanna check out a Mini/Micro Systems.

Don’t let the dubious connotations of words such as “mini” and “micro” put you off. In a lot of cases, these things offer a ridiculously HUGE amount of sound – they do so from convenient, compact units. (We would say “it’s not the size that counts but what you do with it” if we were the kind of people to say that – but we’re not, so we won’t.)zakk-n1-1

There are few different configurations and styles to choose from but a typical set-up incorporates a CD player and twin detached speakers.

Some models will also include iPod/iPhone/iPad docks, Digital Radio, the ability to wireless stream using technology such as AirPlay and Bluetooth and more.

Sony MHCEC609I iPhone_iPod Dock Mini HiFi System

• Or maybe you want something portable – but still powerful, with extreme amounts of connectivity?

The you might want to check out Appliances Online’s range of Docking Speakers and Wireless Speakers which offer a heap of connectivity and functionality.

Features will vary from model to model (iPod/iPhone docks, Digital Radio, and Alarm Clock capability are amongst the goodies you will discover) plus the wireless functionality of AirPlay and Bluetooth.

• Or are you in the mood to enhance your TV’s sound? And want something compact and convenient?

Dissatisfied with the sound from your flat-panel TV – and looking for a single, stylish affordable solution? Maybe you want a Soundbar?

Samsung HW-F551 Series 5 Soundbar Audio System

Not actually the kind of place to rest your drinks while you rock out, these are slim and elongated units with one or more speakers built into them. Offering a dramatic way to improve the sound you get from your flat screen TV. Designed to be placed above or below the screen, they commonly offer enhanced stereo-sound – with some configurations including an additional subwoofer (thereby representing a 2.1 Channel set-up).


Or do you want some big stuff – multi-speaker style – stuff that will blow you away?

Multi-component set-ups designed to help you get incredible surround sound for your music, movies and gaming.


At Appliances Online we sell a range of “out-of-the-box” home theatre systems. These are pre-packaged speaker set-ups, often partnered with a media device such as a Blu-ray player.

A home theatre system is not just for tunes – it’s also designed to be integrated into your movie-watching experience. This is where buzz-terms such as “immersive thrills” come (annoyingly?) to the fore. We get that, don’t worry. Dialogue booming outta the centre channels, surround effects delivering atmospheric effects or heralding the noise of an oncoming juggernaut … while the subwoofer makes you feel that (on-screen) explosion.


Well, there’s an outline of your choices – now let’s get down to:

Frequently asked questions

… and clear up a few pieces of mystification …


How much power does your audio equipment need?!

Raw power, dude! And the more watts (generally marked in the specs with a “W”) the merrier, right?

Actually, NOT QUITE. The truth is more complex now bear with us while we explain why:  

What are watts?

A unit of power. With audio, it’s describing the energy output of a receiver or amplifier used to power the speakers.  

(NB Always refer to the “RMS” watt figure. It’s based on continuous performance of your audio device at a high volume rather than isolated peaks).


To take it to an extreme: why would you want to invest in a mammoth 7.2 Channel Home Theatre Systempacking the kind of muscle that’d make Stallone feel like a wuss – when you live in a small apartment with bare floor-boards … and your taste runs mainly to pan-flute relaxation music?

• How much do you really need?! Less than you’d think.




TIP: Our recommendation (as a basic rule of thumb) for a room between five and six metres square with ceilings about 3 metres high, is that a minimum of about 25 watts (per channel) is all you need. 40 watts with less efficient ones.

Still, if you really want some thumping fat bass from your subs or you really LOVE TO ROCK – an extra 100 watts or so won’t go amiss!

zakk5• NB: The relationship between watts and volume is not clear-cut.

Don’t think something with 100 watts will be twice as loud as 50 watts.

That’s ‘cos your ears don’t pick up loudness in a neat, linear fashion. Which is why they came up with “Decibels”, which uses a nutty logarithmic calculation to provide a measure of relative volume.

In fact, for an amplifier to produce twice as much sound as another (measured in Decibels), you are going to need 10 times more wattage output. An audio device with a rating of 1000W will be twice as loud as one with 100W.

Our point is that wattage is worth considering but, when it comes down to a decision between a sound system with 520W and another one with 480W (for example) … well, you’re better off basing your choice on another feature that one product has that the other hasn’t.

Audio Quality

Which kinda neatly leads us to the point: quality is more important than quantity.

Just because the speaker has big guns … doesn’t mean it knows how to use ‘em. You want to know all those watts are being put to good use, right?




TIP: It’s a general rule of thumb if you only want to spend a limited amount on your sound you will be making a compromise between Quality and Wattage. So if you’re looking for something with a lot of wattage, and it’s at a very low price, you might have to brace yourself for it to sound, well, as rough as guts.



What’s far more important is the sensitivity and quality of the speakers. Think about spending less money on something with a lot less power and you’ll enjoy great sound… without forking out for watts you’re probably not gonna use anyway.

• How do you determine quality?

When it comes down to it, sound is very subjective. The word is:

Only YOU know what YOU  like!!

And one person’s “damn that’s lame”, is another dude’s “man, that’s a sweeter sound than Jimi Hendrix’s version of the Star-Spangled Banner.”  


• We admit it, it’s just a bit hard to make a judgement call about sound when you’re online (even though we can tell you, hand on heart, that Appliances Online only stocks the best in hi-fi).

And there isn’t really a technical specification that’s going to give you a dead-set clear-cut barometer of how much you’re going to like the quality of the sound.

Nor is going in-store going to help. It’s going to sound different in their space, they’ll have a different set-up from you and they may well be unwilling to crank it up for you to test-drive.

BUT there are still ways to do a quality check. Our advice: suss out on-line reviews, have a look at  what your friends/family have and if you dig that. Or you could ring up one of our experts at Appliances Online for a quick chin-wag!

• Consider: how much space do you have – and how much do you need for a good set-up?

Not only think about how much space you have to work with – but the kind of space-arrangement the room has.

Placement and room:

Taking these factors into consideration will obviously be a bigger deal when it comes to the BIGGER set-ups.


Why bother buying a whopping 5.1 Surround Sound System if you have to cram all the speakers together? These things need SPACE otherwise the whole shebang will sound like it’s coming from a single source. It won’t surround you, which is – like – the name of the game.

If you only have a minimal amount of space to position a speaker package – you’d probably be better off with a more compact alternative with a couple of speakers.

Okay, so that’s a broad overview guide to get you kick-started on your audio odyssey. May your listening experience be bodacious, annoy the neighbours and make all your rock n roll dreams come true!


Artwork: Eric M. Strong/Richie Black for Appliances Online.

Richie is a Sydney based writer with sophistication, flair and hair. Aside from blogging and writing for Appliances Online and Big Brown Box, he is also a new playwright who had his first play, ‘The Local’ performed last year at the Sydney Fringe Festival. He is also the wicketkeeper for the Gladstone Hotel Cricket Club and his favourite appliance is any 3D Blu-ray Home Theatre System that can be delivered to his house free-of-charge in the near future. He was the lead singer of Van Halen in 2002. Google+

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