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Loudspeaker: tests & test winners

Floorstanding speakers are ideal for large rooms, bookshelf speakers for small ones. There are also flexible WLAN boxes and Bluetooth speakers for on the go. We are currently showing you best boxes on the market. For that we have Tests and opinions evaluated and offset to an overall grade. The last test is from.

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Guide: boxing

Which box is the right one?

Key facts at a glance:
  1. Classic: bookshelf and floorstanding speakers
  2. Modern: WLAN and Bluetooth speakers
  3. Passive speakers need amplifiers, active speakers don't
  4. Stereo for music lovers, surround for film fans
  5. Subwoofers support bass reproduction
  6. Compact soundbars simulate all-round sound

Loudspeakers take on the most difficult task in a playback chain because they convert electrical signals into sound. For the user the question arises: which box is the right one, what are the differences? In order to answer this admittedly not very easy question, you first have to consider where and how the loudspeakers should be used.

Compact housing, balanced sound: the Dali Oberon 3, a classic 2-way bookshelf speaker, is suitable for rooms from 10 to 20 square meters (image source: dali-speakers.com)

Big boxes, big sound?

For small living spaces, we recommend using the bookshelf loudspeaker, wall loudspeaker or - particularly ingenious - a chassis that is built into the wall or ceiling. Such compact boxes can be discreetly integrated into the facility and still deliver a decent sound. Only in the bass range you shouldn't expect top results due to the lack of a large-volume housing. Ideally, the speakers should be supported by an external subwoofer that is exclusively responsible for the lowest part of the frequency range.
But it can be made even smaller: the mini speakers, sometimes known as “howler cubes”, nowadays mostly with Bluetooth, are mainly used on smartphones, MP3 players or notebooks, ie on the go. Often these are simple 1-way systems in which a single chassis has to cover the entire frequency range. With a 2-way system, better results can usually be achieved, because here the high and low frequency tones are output separately from each other, which leads to a more precise reproduction, especially with the high tones. A 3-way system - which is rare with bookshelf or mini loudspeakers - reproduces the frequency spectrum even more precisely because, in addition to the tweeter and woofer, a separate chassis takes over the midrange.

Level-proof floorstanding speaker for larger rooms up to approx. 25 square meters: the Canton Vento 886.2 DC (source: canton.de)

For larger rooms: floorstanding speakers

3-way systems are mainly found in floorstanding speakers. Several chassis can be built into the large-volume housing of such boxes, with which the frequency ranges are covered separately. Even 4-way systems or an additional woofer are not uncommon with floorstanding speakers, so that a separate subwoofer is not absolutely necessary for the bass range. You should keep in mind that floor-standing speakers like to be placed freely in the room - in tests, a wall distance of 50 centimeters or more is usually recommended. Otherwise the bass will add up and the speaker will start to boom. If you also keep in mind that the loudspeaker and listening position ideally form the corner points of an isosceles triangle, one thing becomes clear: a floorstanding loudspeaker only makes sense where there is sufficient space. Like all boxes, floorstanding speakers are also differentiated according to the shape of the housing. Bass reflex and closed systems are particularly common. Bass reflex systems are characterized by one or more openings on the front, back or underside of the housing. The rear sound of the woofer can escape through these openings, which promises more volume in the bass range and higher efficiency.

Simulate surround sound and are becoming increasingly popular: Soundbars, here using the example of the Samsung HW-Q800T (image source: samsung.com)

Stereo and surround systems for music and film fans

If you want to use your speakers primarily for music playback, stereo speakers are the best choice. However, if the playback of film sound or multi-channel concert recordings is in the foreground, then it is worth taking a look at the surround system. Here - in combination with a suitable AV receiver - six or more boxes ensure that you feel like a spectator right in the middle of the action. A 5.1 set consists of two front and two surround speakers as well as a center speaker and a subwoofer. 6.1 and 7.1 sets with an additional back center or two additional back surrounds promise even more intense experiences. It remains to be seen whether a system with six or more boxes can be discreetly integrated into the living space. For this reason, numerous manufacturers offer compact solutions, including soundbars with or without a separate subwoofer, which also want to generate all-round sound. The surround sound is only simulated, keyword "virtual surround", so the quality of the playback does not reach the level of a real surround system.

Modern or classic, active or passive?

In contrast to passive speakers, the classic loudspeaker variant, the chassis of active loudspeakers sit together with one or more amplifiers and sometimes with active crossovers in a single housing. Advantage: The individual components can be better coordinated with one another, which reduces the risk of frequency overlaps or sound distortions. In addition, the cable runs between the amplifier and the membrane are shorter and the power losses are correspondingly lower. Disadvantage: Active speakers are more expensive than their passive competition because of the built-in electronics. But you can do without a power amplifier, which should reduce the cost again. Active boxes are available in different designs: as hi-fi speakers for use at home, as studio monitors or as PA systems (public access) for sound reinforcement in large halls.

Top 3 of the best active speakers:


Almost a classic among WLAN speakers: the Sonos One (Image source: sonos.com)

Music without cables: radio, bluetooth and WLAN speakers

The trend is towards active loudspeakers that do not supply you with signals via cables, but wirelessly. In addition to wireless loudspeakers for use at home, portable Bluetooth boxes in particular are offered. Smartphones, tablets, notebooks and MP3 players are recommended as Bluetooth sources, but only one speaker can be controlled in this way - unless the Bluetooth box supports stereo pairing, i.e. it makes contact with other Bluetooth boxes itself on. Please note, however, that the range via Bluetooth is limited. Slightly more expensive, but no less popular: speakers that receive signals in the 2.4 and sometimes also in the 5 gigahertz band via WLAN. The range via WLAN is higher, the quality of the transmission is usually better. In the case of WLAN speakers, which also include smart speakers with integrated voice assistants, a distinction is made between open and proprietary streaming standards. The DLNA standard is open, while AirPlay and Sonos are proprietary.

The highest criterion when buying a box: Expectations and tastes are different. So you would do well to listen to the loudspeakers extensively before buying them. In addition, factors such as wattage, efficiency or impedance should be taken into account. We explain here what the technical specifications are all about.

Author: Jens Claaßen